Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, RIP

The last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, died on November 14, 1832, at the age of 91! He was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration and he did much to support the cause of independence:

Carroll’s position in the emerging revolutionary politics became clear in 1773 as a result of a series of letters published in the Maryland Gazette. Signing himself “First Citizen,” he publicly debated “Antilon,” the powerful provincial official Daniel Dulaney, on freedom of conscience and the rights of the elected assembly versus the powers of appointed government. Carroll gained public acclaim for embracing the principle that the people are the true foundation of government and emerged as the citizens’ “patriot.” He was then appointed to the Annapolis Committee of Correspondence and Council of Safety. Charles Carroll was soon elected to the 2nd Maryland Convention in 1774, his first elected office. In effect, the ban on Catholics serving in Maryland politics ended with Carroll’s election to the 2nd Convention in November, 1774. In 1775, he became a member of the Maryland Committee of Correspondence and Council of Safety.

Early in 1776, Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase and Benjamin Franklin were appointed as commissioners to Canada. Along with Carroll’s cousin John Carroll, they were challenged to enlist Canadian support and alliance in the growing conflict with Great Britain. Although, this delegation returned unsuccessful, Carroll, with growing prestige, was given credit along with Samuel Chase for their successful efforts to persuade Maryland to instruct its delegates to vote in favor of independence. He was elected as a Maryland representative and joined the other delegates, from a now unified thirteen colonies, at the 2nd Continental Congress,to sign the Declaration of Independence document in Philadelphia on August 2, 1776. . . .

Charles Carroll leased his Annapolis house in 1821 and moved to his daughter (Mary Caton) and son-in-law’s home on Lombard Street in Baltimore (now known as the Carroll Mansion of the Baltimore City Life Museums). By 1822, the first sanctioned Catholic Church in Annapolis, St. Mary’s, was erected and built on the Carroll property. In 1826, Charles Carroll of Carrollton became the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence with the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4th. Two years later at the age of 91, Carroll laid the cornerstone for the B&O Railroad. He died in his 96th year on November 14, 1832, at the Caton home. Following a national day of mourning, he was interred at the family country seat, Doughoregan Manor.

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