This is the first of several paintings inspired by the Maryland families whose children crossed the Atlantic under the most perilous conditions to attend Catholic schools in current-day France and Belgium and returned to become leaders in a new country. Maryland was founded during a centuries-long persecution of Catholics in Great Britain. Because of this, Lord Cecil Calvert sought to provide a place where everyone could practice their faith free of the persecution they faced at home. However, by the end of the 17th century, Protestants were in power in Maryland and the Catholic minority was struggling to survive. With no system of Catholic education available in the colony, Marylanders began to spirit their children to Europe for schooling but, by the middle of the eighteenth century, the number of children going overseas for schooling had dwindled to a trickle. Enter English Jesuit Father George Hunter of St Thomas Manor who served as Superior of Jesuits in Maryland and Pennsylvania from 1756 through 1768. Father Hunter used his connections on both sides of the Atlantic to engineer a “convoy system” for students. One particular voyage of 12 students is well documented, and while it does not appear that the voyage originated on the Port Tobacco River as I have shown, children from Port Tobacco were involved. The four girls and eight boys sailed October 1, 1760 on the Chippenham under the command of a Captain Kelty. The ship was owned by a Scottish Company, Perkins, Buchanan, and Brown, who were well respected in the Colonies. The students arrived in London in late December and then left in early January 1761 for their destinations in Austrian Flanders. The Colleges of St Omer, Bruges and Liège were successive expatriate institutions for the Catholic education of English boys and were run by the Jesuits. Young women went to Carmelite, Benedictine, Dominican, and Poor Clare monasteries in Brussels, Lierre, Antwerp, Hoogstraet, and Aire.
Oil on canvas 24x36 inches