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Maryland ( MERR[email protected]) is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It shares borders with Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean to its east. The capital of the state is Annapolis, while Baltimore is the largest. Among its occasional nicknames are Old Line State, the Free State, and the Chesapeake Bay State. It was named after Henrietta Maria (French-born Queen of England and Scotland) who was then known in England as Mary.
Before its coastline was explored by Europeans in the 16th century, Maryland was inhabited by several groups of Native Americans – mostly by the Algonquin, and, to a lesser degree, by the Iroquois and Siouian. As one of the original Thirteen Colonies of England, Maryland was founded by George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore, a Catholic convert who sought to provide a religious haven for Catholics persecuted in England. In 1632, Charles I of England granted Lord Baltimore a colonial charter, naming the colony after his wife, Henrietta Maria. Unlike the Pilgrims and Puritans, who rejected Catholicism in their settlements, Lord Baltimore envisioned a colony where people of different religious sects would coexist under the principle of toleration. Accordingly, in 1649 the Maryland General Assembly passed an Act Concerning Religion, which enshrined this principle by penalizing anyone who “reproached” a fellow Marylander based on religious affiliation. Nevertheless, religious strife was common in the early years, and Catholics remained a minority, albeit in greater numbers than in any other English colony.