1643-44 Betts-35 Cecil Calvert Medal, XF
Betts-35. 1643-1644 Cecil Calvert Maryland Map Medal.
Extremely Fine. Used as an Indian Peace Medal with the
Susquehannock Indians. Silver oval, 35.2 x 32.4 mm, 240.1 grains.
By Thomas Simon.
Maryland Map Medal
The First Indian Peace Medal
Obv. Armored bust l. of Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore with tiny engraver's signature "S" below. Latin legend + CAECILIUS: BALTEMOREVS. +* C. Wyllys Betts noted, "The rosette after the cross on the obverse of 35 is a mint-mark." A similar rosette was used on coins of King Charles I from 1643-1645 at the Mints of Oxford, Shrewsbury and Worcester.
Rev. Relief map of Maryland and adjoining Virginia (north is to the Viewer's left). This map is virtually identical to one drawn up by Captain John Smith in 1612 and to the 1632 Maryland map by Jerome Hawley and John Lewger (Secretary of the Province of Maryland). A shield bearing the Calvert family Arms crowned with an earl's coronet appears between the Chesapeake and Potomac, just above the site of the colonial capital, Saint Mary's. Stretching across Maryland is the Latin TERRA MARIAE, Land of Mary, the name honoring Queen Henrietta Maria, Catholic spouse of King Charles I, born a princess of France. At the left over Virginia is a blazing sun shining upon Maryland. A tiny inscription that may be VIRGINIAE appears above the sun at right; to the lower left on the banks of the Potomac Simon has again placed his "S" mark. The surrounding Latin legend states + VT: SOL: LVCEBIS: AMERICAE., As the Sun shall you illuminate America.
Betts called this the Maryland Settled Medal but offered no theory for its possible use. The Ford Collection cataloger in 2006 dated it to the 1650's. More of its actual history was unveiled when this medal last appeared at auction in 2009. There was described as the first known Indian Peace Medal, dating from 1676 or possibly even earlier, 1644. If the obverse rosette were indeed a mintmark, it would date the medal to 1643-1645, matching the history recorded in the Archives of Maryland.
George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, died just before the granting of a royal charter for Maryland on June 20, 1632. The first Proprietor was therefore his son Cecil, Second Lord Baltimore, who was to enjoy far-reaching powers including that of coinage. While Catholicism was subject to severe legal penalties in England, Maryland was to be a refuge for persecuted Catholics, the first band arriving on the ships Ark and Dove on St. Clement's Island, March 26, 1634. The Proprietor enjoined peace with the neighboring Protestant settlers of Virginia and with the Indians, both Powhatan on the south bank of the Potomac and the mighty Susquehannock to the north.
The Susquehannock became famous for their great stature and power, John Smith noting in 1608 "Such great and well-proportioned men are seldom seene, for they seemed like giants to the English yea and to their neighbours, yet seemed of an honest and simple disposition, with much adoe restrained from adoring us as Gods."
Smith described their Chief or Werowance as being nearly seven feet tall and included a drawing of him on his Virginia map, "The picture of the greatest f them is signified in the mappe. The calfe of whose leg was three quarters of a yard about, and the rest of his limbes so answerable to that proportion that he seemed the godliest man we ever beheld."
Maryland adopted a prudent policy of avoiding all-out war with the Susquehannock, who were believed to subject captives to lingering torture and cannibalization. By June 18, 1644 all warlike expeditions against this mighty tribe had failed and Provincial Secretary John Lewger instructed the experienced Indian negotiator Captain Henry Fleete to pursue peace with this caution, "If you shall not think best to treate (treaty) or truce with them you are to vse all law full & discreet eanes (means) you can to pillage, or take them, of if shall seeme best to kill them..."
Fleete had negotiated the purchase of the land on which Saint Mary's now stood. His non-violent 1644 agreement was effectively sealed by the presentation of two instruments of peace, a written "passport" for safe passage signed by Provincial Governor Giles Brent and an accompanying "Maryland Medal" suspended from a black and yellow ribbon, the Calvert-Maryland colors. The agreement stipulated that "... the Indian bearer or bearers hereof of the sesquisahanow nation, not exceeding 3 in number, safe & free passage too & fro through my province without any harme or molestation of any of the English."
This agreement was referred to in the more formal peace treaty of July 5, 1652, which clearly referred back to the medal and passport of 1644, including the requirement that Indians passing through must carry the medal, "the Indians shall come by Water and not by land, that there shall not be above Eight or ten at the most at one tyme, And that they bring with them the token given them by the English for that purpose, by which they may be knowen and entertained."
However, the great years of the Susquehannock were now past as smallpox and other European diseases decimated them and the aggressive northern the Iroquois attacked them and nearby English settlements, deeds now blamed on the weakened Susquehannock. On June 16, 1674 Maryland formally declared war on the weakened former ally, joined by their hereditary Mattawoman enemies. A Maryland force led by Major Thomas Truman (reportedly an ancestor of Harry S Truman) and a Virginia force under Colonel John Washington (great-grandfather of George Washington) with its Indian allies besieged the Susquehannock fort.
On the evening of Sept. 25, 1675, a delegation of Susquehannock Chiefs emerged from the fort to answer the Virginians' charges and prove their longstanding alliance and friendship with the English. They presented the original 1644 passport and Calvert Medal, complete with its original black-yellow ribbon "as a pledge of peace given and left with them by the former Governor as a token of amity and friendship as long as the sun and moon shall last." The delegation returned to the fort.
The next day five Chiefs prepared to resume their discussion, unaware that Major Truman had determined to implement a final solution to the perceived Susquehannock problem. The bodies of slain Virginia settlers had been brought into the camp and without warning, the Virginians fell on the chiefs, killing five with their own tomahawks. The fort held out another six weeks before the Susquehannock escaped and ravaged the colony in their flight.
Major Truman was tried and condemned to death by the upper and lower Houses of the Maryland legislature for exceeding his authority and not conferring with his colony's governor before murdering the chiefs. He escaped execution and gained a pardon in June 1676.
Two days later this historic "Peace Medal" reappeared, now presented to Maquata, King of the Mattawoman. The medal is finally described in the Archives of Maryland, "hereupon as a mark of his Lordships kindness, and a pledge of friendship, his said Lordship gave onto the King of Mattawoman a medal, with the effigies of his Right Honorable Cecilius, His Lordship's father lately deceased on the one side, and a map of Maryland on the other side with a black and yellow ribbon." In the event, the Mattawoman died out before the decimated Susquehannock but the "medal of destiny" survived both tribes.
Today, only three examples of this medal are known: the present example, one in the British Museum without loop and one in the Maryland Historical Society (this last a different variety and size, without the rosette mint mark). The medal offered here is the only specimen retaining its attached hanger or loop and is almost certainly the piece that spent more than 30 years in the hands of the powerful Susquehannocks, who could have easily overrun the new and under-populated colony of Maryland but for the pledge of peace represented by this historic piece of silver.
Researcher Tony Lopez has written, "To consider this incredible medal as simply an historic medal, or even an Indian Peace Medal - and it was the first Indian Peace medal created specifically for use with the Indians - is to underestimate the importance and significance of what this magnificent item actually is - something more than a medal. In one way of thinking, this medal is an amulet - a talisman - passed through time; carrying with it promises of friendship and peace, as well as a history of betrayal and murder. The legacy of this medal and its broken trust would be repeated throughout the history with the native peoples for centuries to follow."
From The John W. Adams Collection.
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