Image: William Claiborne

William Claiborne (1600?-1677?)

William Claiborne (1600?-1677?), American colonist in what is now the state of Maryland, born in Kent, England. He went to Virginia as official surveyor in 1621 and was appointed secretary of state for the colony four years later. In 1631 he purchased Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay (now part of Maryland), where he established a trading post. Meanwhile, Cecilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, claimed Kent Island as part of the land grant given his family by royal charter. He organized a group of colonists in England, whom he sent to the Maryland colony under the command of his younger brother Leonard, the first proprietary governor of Maryland. Lord Baltimore`s aim was to provide a refuge for England`s persecuted Roman Catholics. From his island stronghold Claiborne fought the colonists after they arrived in 1634. Despite his efforts, however, Kent Island was seized in 1638.

During the next decade

During the next decade, anti-Catholic sentiment increased in Maryland, and in 1644 Claiborne overthrew Leonard Calvert and drove him from the colony. Claiborne held Maryland for the next two years. The English strongman (later Lord Protector) Oliver Cromwell formalized Claiborne`s rule by appointing him to a parliamentary commission that governed Maryland from 1652 to 1657. Even before Cromwell`s death, however, Lord Baltimore`s claim to the colony was upheld, and Maryland was returned to him. Claiborne`s influence waned, and he died in obscurity.

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