Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Charles Carroll
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
March 4, 1789 – November 30, 1792
Preceded by Office Created
Succeeded by Richard Potts
Personal details
Born September 19, 1737(1737-09-19)
Annapolis, Maryland
Died November 14, 1832(1832-11-14) (aged 95)
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Mary Darnall
Alma mater College of St. Omer
College of Louis the Grand
Religion Roman Catholic

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (September 19, 1737 – November 14, 1832) was a wealthy Maryland planter and an early advocate of independence from Great Britain. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and later as United States Senator for Maryland. He was the only Catholic and the longest-lived (and last surviving) signatory of the Declaration of Independence, dying at the age of 95.



The Carroll family were descendants of the Ó Cearbhaill lords of Éile[1] (Lords of Ely) in Kings County Co Offaly. Carroll's grandfather was the Irish-born Charles Carroll the Settler (1660–1720) from Litterluna; he was a descendant of Daniel O Carroll of Aghagurty Clareen three miles south of Kinnitty, and a clerk in the office of Lord Powis.[2] Carroll left his native Ireland (Kings County) around the year 1659,[3] and immigrated to St. Mary's City, capitol of the colony of Maryland, in 1689,[4] with a commission as Attorney General from the colony's Catholic proprietor, Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore.

Charles Carroll the Settler was the son of Daniel O'Carroll of Litterluna. The "O'" in Irish surnames was often dropped due to the Anglicisation policy of the occupying English, particularly during the period of the "Penal Laws".[citation needed] Charles Carroll the Settler had just one son, born in 1702 and also named Charles. To distinguish himself from his father he was known as Charles Carroll of Annapolis.[5]

Early life

The Carroll family seat of Doughoregan manor, now a National Historic Landmark.

Carroll was born on September 19, 1737, in Annapolis, Maryland, the only child of Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702–1782) and Elizabeth Brooke (1709–1761). He was born illegitimate, as his parents were not married at the time of his birth, for technical reasons to do with the inheritance of the Carroll family estates. They eventually married in 1757.[6]

The young Carroll was educated at a secret Jesuit preparatory school known as Bohemia Manor in Cecil County on Maryland's Eastern Shore,[6] though this cannot be confirmed from contemporary records[citation needed], and he may have been schooled at home before departing for Europe, where he attended the College of St. Omer in France, and graduated from the College of Louis the Grand in 1755. He continued his studies in Europe, and read for the law in London before returning to Annapolis in 1765.[6]

Charles Carroll of Annapolis granted Carrollton Manor to his son, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. It is from this tract of land that he took his title, “Charles Carroll of Carrollton.” Like his father, Carroll was a Roman Catholic, and as a consequence of this he was barred by Maryland statute from entering politics, practicing law, and voting.[6] This did not prevent him from becoming one of the wealthiest men in Maryland (or indeed anywhere in the Colonies),[6] owning extensive agricultural estates, most notably his large manor at Doughoregan, and providing capital to finance new enterprises on the Western Shore.[7]

American Revolution

Voice for independence

The burning of the Peggy Stewart at the Annapolis Tea Party, October 19, 1774.

Carroll was not initially interested in politics [6] (and was in any event barred by his faith from active participation) but as the dispute between Great Britain and her colonies intensified in the early 1770s, Carroll would become a powerful voice for independence in Maryland. In 1772 he engaged in a debate conducted through anonymous newspaper letters, maintaining the right of the colonies to control their own taxation. Writing in the Maryland Gazette under the pseudonym "First Citizen," he became a prominent spokesman against the governor's proclamation increasing legal fees to state officers and Protestant clergy. Opposing Carroll in these written debates and writing as "Antillon" was Daniel Dulany the Younger, a noted lawyer and loyalist politician.[8][9] In these debates, Carroll argued that the government of Maryland had long been the monopoly of four families, the Ogles, the Taskers, the Bladens and the Dulanys, with Dulany taking the contrary view.[9] Eventually word spread of the true identity of the two combatants, and Carroll's fame and notoriety began to grow.[10] Dulany soon resorted to highly personal ad hominem attacks on "First Citizen", and Carroll responded, in statesmanlike fashion, with considerable restraint, arguing that when Antilles engaged in "virulent invective and illiberal abuse, we may fairly presume, that arguments are either wanting, or that ignorance or incapacity know not how to apply them".[10]

Following these written debates, Carroll became a leading opponent of British rule, and served on various committees of correspondence.[11] He also played an important role in the burning of the Peggy Stewart, a ship which had been carrying tea to Maryland, and was destroyed on October 19, 1774 as part of the tea party protests against British excise duties.[12]

In the early 1770s Carroll appears to have embraced the idea that only violence could break the impasse with Great Britain. According to legend, Carroll and Samuel Chase (who would also later sign the Declaration of Independence on Maryland's behalf) had the following exchange:

Chase: "We have the better of our opponents; we have completely written them down."
Carroll: "And do you think that writing will settle the question between us?"
Chase: "To be sure, what else can we resort to?"
Carroll: "The bayonet. Our arguments will only raise the feelings of the people to that pitch, when open war will be looked to as the arbiter of the dispute".[12]

Annapolis Convention

From 1774 to 1776, Carroll was a member of the Annapolis Convention. He was commissioned with Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and his cousin John Carroll in February 1774 to seek aid from Canada.[11] He was a member of Annapolis' first Committee of Safety in 1775. In early 1776, while not yet a member, the Congress sent him on a three-man diplomatic mission to Canada, in order to seek assistance for the confrontation with Britain. Carroll was an excellent choice for such a mission, being fluent in French and a Roman Catholic, and therefore well suited to negotiations with the French speaking colonists of Quebec.[12]

Signatory of the Declaration of Independence

When Maryland decided to support the open revolution, he was elected to the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, and remained a delegate until 1778. He arrived too late to vote in favor of it, but was able to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was the last living signatory of the Declaration of Independence at the time of his death. It is reputed that the First Amendment to the Constitution was written in appreciation for his financial support during the American Revolutionary War by his peers discerning his contributions in such stark contrast to the denial of civic rights due to his Catholicism.[citation needed]

His signature reads "Charles Carroll of Carrollton", to distinguish him from his father, "Charles Carroll of Annapolis" who was still living at that time, and he has often been referred to this way by historians. At the time he was one of the richest men in America. Throughout his term in Congress, he served on the board of war.

Member of the U.S. Senate

Carroll returned to Maryland in 1778 to assist in the drafting of a constitution and forming a state government. Carroll was re-elected to the Continental Congress in 1780, but he declined. He was elected to the state senate in 1781 and served there continuously until 1800.

In November 1779 The House of Delegates moved to pass a bill confiscating the property of those who had sided with the Crown during the Revolution. Carroll opposed this measure, questioning the motives of those who pressed confiscation and arguing that the measure was unjust. However, such moves to confiscate Tory property had much popular support and eventually, in 1780, the measure passed.[13]

When the United States government was created, the Maryland legislature elected him to the first United States Senate. In 1792 Maryland passed a law that prohibited any man from serving in the State and national legislatures at the same time. Since he preferred to be in the Maryland Senate, he resigned from the U. S. Senate on November 30, 1792.

Attitude to slavery

The Carroll family were slaveholders, and Charles Carroll was himself a substantial and wealthy planter. Like many Southerners, Carroll was opposed in principle to slavery, asking rhetorically "Why keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil".[14] However, although he supported its gradual abolition, he did not free his own slaves, perhaps fearing that they might be rendered destitute in the process.[15] Carroll introduced a bill for the gradual abolition of slavery in the Maryland senate but it did not pass.[16] In 1828, aged 91, he served as president of the Auxiliary State Colonization Society of Maryland,[17] the Maryland branch of the American Colonization Society, an organization dedicated to returning black Americans to lead free lives in African states such as Liberia.

Death and legacy

Cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad laid by Carroll on July 4, 1828, now displayed at the B&O Railroad Museum

Carroll retired from public life in 1801. After Thomas Jefferson became president, he had great anxiety about political activity, and was not sympathetic to the War of 1812. After both Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826, he became the only surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He came out of retirement to help create the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1827. His last public act, on July 4, 1828, was the laying of the cornerstone of the railroad.[18] In May 1832, he was asked to appear at the first ever Democratic Convention but did not attend on account of poor health.[19]

He died on November 14, 1832, in Baltimore. His funeral took place at the Baltimore Cathedral (now known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Baltimore, and he is buried in his Doughoregan Manor Chapel at Ellicott City, Maryland. He was the last survivor of the Declaration of Independence signers.

Carroll funded the building of what is known today as Homewood House, a 140 acre (570,000 m²) estate in northern Baltimore, Maryland as a wedding gift to his son, Charles Jr. and Harriet Chew. Charles Jr. then oversaw the design and construction of the house, which began construction in 1801 and had mostly finished by 1808. Research shows that he incorporated suggestions from his wife. It took five years to build and cost $40,000, four times the budgeted expense. The house never fulfilled the family's expectations, as it did nothing to cure Charles Jr.'s idleness and alcoholism, factors which led to the failure of the marriage by binding separation.

Homewood was donated to Johns Hopkins University in 1876 and later became its main campus. Today, Johns Hopkins operates Homewood House as a museum, and its Federal-style architecture serves as the inspiration for Hopkins campus architecture.

His son-in-law Richard Caton's home Brooklandwood in Baltimore County, Maryland was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[20]

He is remembered in the third stanza of the state song 'Maryland, My Maryland'.

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,


Thy beaming sword shall never rust,


Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Monuments and memorials

The bronze statue located in the United States Capitol crypt in the United States Capitol

Named in his honor are counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia, as well as East and West Carroll Parishes, Louisiana. Carroll County, Kentucky and its county seat, Carrollton, are both named for him. Also named for him are the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn and the Greater Carrollwood neighborhoods of Tampa; as well as the city of New Carrollton, Maryland, home to Charles Carroll Middle School.

Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana was named in his honor. The surrounding neighborhood formerly made up the separate town of Carrollton, but was incorporated into the city of New Orleans 1833.

In 1877, the first fair in the United States was held in Philadelphia. The Catholic Abstinence society has built a statue of Charles Carroll in this park.[where? ]

In 1903 the state of Maryland added a bronze statue to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. It is located in the Crypt.[11]

In 1906, the University of Notre Dame constructed what is now known as Carroll Hall, a residence hall named after Charles Carroll.


Arms of Carroll of Maryland

Charles Carroll of Carrollton married Mary Darnall, known as Molly, on June 5, 1768. She was a grand-daughter of Henry Darnall. They had seven children before Molly died in 1782, but only three survived infancy:

  • Mary Carroll, who married Richard Caton. From 1820 to 1832, Carroll would winter with the Catons in Baltimore. One of Mary's daughters married the British statesman Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was the brother of the legendary military commander Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. A sister-in-law of Mary was Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte.
  • Charles Carroll Jr. (sometimes known as Charles Carroll of Homewood because he oversaw its design and construction), who married Harriet Chew and lived in Philadelphia. Harriet was the daughter of Benjamin Chew, the chief justice of Pennsylvania, and her sister married John Eager Howard who had served in the Senate with Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Charles Jr. was an alcoholic who reportedly consumed up to two quarts of brandy a day. This led to erratic behavior that resulted in his separation from Harriet.
  • Catherine ("Kitty") Carroll, who married Robert Goodloe Harper, a lawyer and U.S. senator.

Today, Carroll's descendants continue to own Doughoregan Manor the largest parcel of land in Howard County, Maryland, with over 1000 acres (4 km²) of valuable, but historically preserved land in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Carroll's signature

In the 1940s, newspaper journalist John Hix's syndicated column "Strange As It Seems" published an interesting, but apocryphal, explanation for Charles Carroll's distinctive signature on the Declaration of Independence. Every member of the Continental Congress who signed this document automatically became a criminal, guilty of sedition against King George III. Carroll, because of his wealth, had more to lose than most of his companions. Some of the signators, such as Caesar Rodney and Button Gwinnett, had unusual and distinctive names which would clearly identify them to the King; other signators, with more commonplace names, might hope to sign the Declaration without incriminating themselves.

According to Hix, when it was Carroll's turn to sign the Declaration of Independence, he rose, went to John Hancock's desk where the document rested, signed his name "Charles Carroll" and returned to his seat. At this point another member of the Continental Congress, who was prejudiced against Carroll because of his Catholicism, commented that Carroll risked nothing in signing the document, as there must be many men named Charles Carroll in the colonies, and so the King would be unlikely to order Carroll's arrest without clear proof that he was the same Charles Carroll who had signed the Declaration. Carroll immediately returned to Hancock's desk, seized the pen again, and added "of Carrollton" to his name.

In fact, Carroll had been appending "of Carrollton" to his signature for over a decade, the earliest surviving example appearing at the end of a September 15, 1765, letter to his English friend William Gibson. Carrollton Manor was the name of a tract of more than twelve thousand acres in Frederick County, Maryland, which the Carroll family leased to tenant farmers.[21]

Carroll in fiction

Charles Carroll was portrayed by actor Terrence Currier in the 2004 film National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage. He is accurately described as the last living signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Although the film does not explicitly state it, it is implied that Carroll died in Washington, D.C.[22] It is inaccurately stated that Carroll was a Mason; Catholics weren't allowed to be members of the Masons. A scene which did not make the final cut of the film (but appears as a deleted scene on the DVD) shows then-President Jackson rushing out of the White House to find Carroll's body in a carriage. Carroll is mentioned in the movie Gone with the Wind.

See also


  1. ^ Ireland's History in Maps - Tuadmumu, Kingdom of Thomond
  2. ^ Charles Carroll, Signer of Declaration of Independence
  3. ^ Colonial Hall: Biography of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Page 1
  4. ^ The Charles Carroll House of Annapolis
  5. ^ History of Independence Hall (1859)
  6. ^ a b c d e f McClanahan, Brion T., p.199, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Retrieved November 2010.
  7. ^ Andrews, Matthew Page, p.270, History of Maryland, Doubleday Doran & Co, New York (1929)
  8. ^ Williamson, Claude, p.247, Great Catholics, Williamson Press (March 15, 2007). Retrieved November 2010.
  9. ^ a b Warfield, J. D., p. 215, The Founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland. Retrieved November 2010.
  10. ^ a b McClanahan, Brion T., p.203, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Retrieved November 2010.
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^ a b c McClanahan, Brion T., p.204, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Retrieved November 2010.
  13. ^ Andrews, Matthew Page, p.374, History of Maryland, Doubleday Doran & Co, New York (1929)
  14. ^ Quotes by Carroll. Retrieved November 2010.
  15. ^ Miller, Randall M., and Wakelyn, Jon L., p.214, Catholics in the Old South: Essays on Church and Culture Mercer University Press (1983). Retrieved Jan 21 2010.
  16. ^ Leonard, Lewis A. p.218, Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton New York, Moffat, Yard and Company, (1918). Retrieved Jan 21 2010
  17. ^ Gurley, Ralph Randolph, Ed., p.251, The African Repository, Volume 3 Retrieved Jan 15 2010
  18. ^ J.E. Hagerty. "Catholic Encyclopedia: Charles Carroll of Carrollton". Retrieved April 24, 2006. 
  19. ^ Dees Stribling. "First Democratic Pary Convention". Retrieved May 21, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Maryland Historical Trust". National Register of Historic Places: Brooklandwood. Maryland Historical Trust. 2008-10-05. 
  21. ^ Hoffman, Ronald, Sally D. Mason and Eleanor S. Darcy, Eds. Dear Papa, Dear Charley: Vol. I, pp. 344, n. 2, 378, and 378, n. 9. Chapel Hill, NC. The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
  22. ^ Christopher Plummer (playing John Adams Gates) (2004). National Treasure. Event occurs at 00:01:54. 

Further reading

  • Hoffman, Ronald; Sally D. Mason (2000). Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-807825-56-5. 
  • McDermott, Scott (2002). Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary. Scepter. ISBN 1-889334-68-5. 
  • Heaney, Paddy (2004). At the Foot of Slieve Bloom. Kilcormac Historical Society. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Matthew Tilghman
President of the Maryland State Senate
Succeeded by
Daniel Carroll
Preceded by
Daniel Carroll
President of the Maryland State Senate
Succeeded by
George Plater
United States Senate
Preceded by
United States Senator (Class 1) from Maryland
Served alongside: John Henry
Succeeded by
Richard Potts
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Thomas Sumter
Oldest living U.S. Senator
June 1, 1832 – November 14, 1832
Succeeded by
Paine Wingate

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton —     Charles Carroll of Carrollton     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Charles Carroll of Carrollton     American statesman, b. at Annapolis, Maryland, 19 September 1737, d. at Doughoregan manor near Baltimore, Maryland, 14 November, 1832.     His… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Charles Carroll of Carrollton — Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Charles Carroll of Carrollton (* 19. September 1737 in Annapolis (Maryland), † 14. November 1832 in Baltimore) war katholischer Politiker in Maryland und einer der Gründerväter der USA. Er war der einzige… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll de Carrollton — Charles Carroll Retrato de Charles Carroll …   Wikipedia Español

  • Charles Carroll de Carrollton — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Charles Carroll et Carroll. Charles Carroll de Carrollton (1737 1832) Charles Caroll, dit Charles Carroll de Carollton, né le …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Carroll — of Carrollton Charles Carroll of Carrollton (* 19. September 1737 in Annapolis (Maryland); † 14. November 1832 in Baltimore) war katholischer Politiker in Maryland und einer der Gründerväter der USA. Er war der einzige katholische und der letzte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll — may refer to: Charles Carroll (barrister) (1723–1783), Continental Congressman from Maryland Charles H. Carroll (1794–1865), U.S. Congressman for New York Charles Carroll Middle School, a middle school in New Carrollton, Maryland, named after the …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll the Settler — For information about other persons with the name Charles Carroll, see Charles Carroll. Charles Carroll the Settler Charles Carroll the Settler Attorney General of the Maryland Colony …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll (barrister) — For information about other persons with the name Charles Carroll, see Charles Carroll. Charles Carroll (March 22, 1723 – March 23, 1783) was an American lawyer and statesman from Annapolis, Maryland. He was the builder of the Baltimore Colonial… …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll of Annapolis — For information about other persons with the name Charles Carroll, see Charles Carroll. Charles Carroll of Annapolis Charles Carroll of Annapolis, painted by John Wollaston Born 1702 Annapolis, Maryland …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Carroll d'Annapolis — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Charles Carroll et Carroll. Charles Carroll d Annapolis Charles Carroll, dit Charles Carroll d Annapolis, né en 1702, mort …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”