Sunday, July 5, 2009

Charles Carroll of Carrolton

"The following is a brief article regarding the life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Although born in the colonies, he was of Irish descent. He was not the only signer who was of Irish descent, but the only one who was Catholic. He was also the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Charles signed the Declaration of Indenpendence "Charles Carroll" walked away, then went back and added "of Carrollton" to his signature. There were several Charles Carrolls in the Colonies at the time. As he knew he was likely signing his death warrant, he wanted the British to know exactly which Charles Carroll signed the document."

Happy Fourth of July!
MIKE ( (thanks to Mike of the Ohio AOH)

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737 - 1832)

"To obtain religious as well as civil liberty, I entered zealously into the Revolution.. . God grant that this religious liberty may be preserved in these States, to the end of time, and that all who believe in the religion of Christ may practice the leading principle of charity, the basis of every virtue."

When the signatories of the Declaration of Independence pledged their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor,” few men had more to lose than Charles Carroll of Carrollton. A wealthy landowner, businessman, and member of a prominent Maryland family, Carroll risked the confiscation of his estate and the loss of his life if the British had prevailed. Yet when asked if he would sign or not, he replied, “Most willingly,“ and ratified what he called ”this record of glory.” Reflecting on that act fifty years later, Carroll – by then the last surviving signer – concluded that the civil and religious liberties secured by the Declaration and enjoyed by that present generation were “the best earthly inheritance their ancestors could bequeath to them.”

As a Roman Catholic – the only one to sign the Declaration – Carroll also had much to gain. Though many American colonists harbored intense suspicion toward Catholics (it was widely believed that Catholic doctrine was incompatible with republicanism) , Carroll and his contemporary co-religionists presciently perceived that the American understanding of liberty entailed not only political and economic freedom but religious freedom as well. Carroll himself held the hope that among sects in the new regime, “no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State.” As he continued, “that hope was thus early entertained because all of them joined in the same cause with few exceptions of individuals.”

Father John Carroll, Charles’s cousin and the first bishop of the United States, agreed: “In 1776, American Independence was declared and a revolution effected, not only in political affairs but also in those relating to Religion. For while the thirteen provinces of North America rejected the yoke of England, they proclaimed, at the same time, freedom of conscience and the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the spirit of the religion to which each one should belong.”

In such a context of freedom, Charles Carroll become one of the early Republic’s most prominent and respected statesmen. Early in 1776, he joined Samuel Chase, Benjamin Franklin, and Father John Carroll on a diplomatic mission to Catholic Quebec to ask for its aid in the Revolution. Carroll also served in the Continental Congress (1776—1778), the Maryland state senate (1777-1800), and the United States senate (1789—1792).

Sources: “Faith of Our Fathers” by Matthew Spalding in Crisis (May 1996), and Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence by Charles A. Goodrich (H. E. Robins, 1849).