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Leonard Calvert was commissioned by Lord Baltimore in 1637 to be Maryland's first governor. The office was the center of all local administration, provincial chief executive, as well as agent of Lord Baltimore. The governor served at the pleasure of the proprietor.
Colonial governors exercised executive as well as legislative and judicial powers. As chief executive they granted land and issued patents, chartered corporations, appointed civil and military officers, and played a key role in relations with Indians. Furthermore, the governors acted as commander-in-chief of the military and keeper of the great seal of Maryland. Before 1692, the colonial governors' power over the legislature was absolute. Governors could call, adjourn, prorogue, or dissolve the assembly. Governors also acted as chancellor in equity cases and chief justice of the Provincial Court. From 1692 to 1715, governors were appointed by the royal government. After proprietary rule was restored in 1715, the assembly assumed some control over the colony's financial and military affairs.
The Constitution of 1776 restricted further the governor's authority. Many of his former administrative powers were assumed by the legislature. The governor was chosen annually by joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly (Maryland Constitution of 1776, sec. 25). He was limited to three successive one-year terms and in the four years thereafter could not serve again (Maryland Constitution of 1776, sec. 31). The first popular election for governor was held in 1838, in accordance with a constitutional amendment (Chapter 197, Acts of 1836). That amendment divided the state into three gubernatorial election districts: Eastern, Northwestern, and Southern. The governor was to be elected every three years by the voters of one district on a rotating basis. In 1838, voters from the Eastern district elected the governor. Three years later voters from the Northwestern area chose a governor. In 1844, the governor was elected by voters from the Southern district. This process continued until 1864. Additionally, from 1838-1895, the governor oversaw election returns. The Constitution of 1851 lengthened the governor's term from three to four years and strengthened his administrative position. The governor oversaw the election of commissioners to the newly created Board of Public Works that supervised all public works in which the state was a stockholder or creditor. Under the Constitution of 1864, the Board of Public Works was comprised of the governor, comptroller, and treasurer. Additionally, gubernatorial election districts were eliminated. Thereafter, beginning in 1868, the governor was elected by vote of the entire state's electorate (Maryland Constitution of 1864, Art 2, sec. 2).
Under the 1867 constitution, the governor gained more power, including wider appointment authority and supervision of the comptroller and treasurer. Most significant, however, Maryland's fourth constitution granted the governor the power of the veto. In 1916, Maryland adopted by constitutional amendment, an executive budget. Thereafter, the governor submitted a comprehensive state budget to the legislature (Chapter 159, Acts of 1916, ratified November 7, 1916). The governor was limited to two consecutive terms by a constitutional amendment ratified in 1848 (Chapter 109, Acts of 1947).
As business of the executive branch grew in the 20th century, the governors expanded their staff and established offices to deal with specific matters such as appointments, special projects and programs, legislation, and public relations.
The first policy regarding the transfer of State Agency records to the Archives, apart from those required to be transferred by the original law creating the Hall of Records, was formulated by Dr. Morris Radoff in 1946-1947. It concerned Governors' Records. See the policy statement, an article on the first transfer under the policy, and the excerpt from the Annual Report for 1947, and current guidelines for those records.
For information about the published records of the Governors see the Executive Records section of The Archives of Maryland On Line.
Biographical links for governors will also be found at The Archives of Maryland On Line under the subheading of 'Biography' .