Biography of Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Resident of the Mansion and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Charles Carroll of Carrollton was born on September 19, 1737 in Annapolis Maryland to Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a prominent gentry farmer and agitator for Catholic equality, and Elizabeth Brooke. In 1748, Charles Carroll of Carrollton was sent to Europe by his father to receive a Catholic education denied to him by Maryland law. He studied first at the College of St. Omer in France, before moving on to several prestigious French universities. He concluded his education in London, where he studied law at the Temple.
Carroll returned to America in 1765. In 1768, he married Mary Darnell. During their fourteen years of marriage they had seven children, three of whom survived to adulthood. Mary Darnell died in 1782, ten days after her father-in-law died in a horse riding accident.
Carroll came to the public’s attention in 1772 when he publicly opposed the actions of Governor Robert Eden, who ignored the General Assembly’s proclamation on office fees and established them himself. Carroll and one of the governor’s supporters exchanged a series of five letters in which they debated the merits and validity of the governor’s actions. Using the pen name “First Citizen” Carroll argued that the governor’s usurpation of legislative power would lead to tyranny. His argument received wide public approval.
In1775, Carroll was appointed to the Committee for Public Safety. This made him the first Catholic official in Maryland since his grandfather, Charles Carroll the Settler, was deposed from his position as the Maryland colony’s Attorney General in 1715.
On July 4th, 1776, Carroll was elected to represent Maryland at the Continental Congress. He was the sole Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and served on the war board, which acquired supplies for the American army. In 1778, he returned to Maryland and assisted in the drafting of the Maryland Constitution. In this capacity, he created what would become the Electoral College system.
After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Carroll became the first Catholic senator. He served until 1792, when he was forced to resign his seat due to a change in Maryland law limiting politicians to either a seat in the state or federal legislature, but not both. Carroll, who preferred the Maryland Senate, gave up his U.S. Senate seat.
In 1800, Carroll lost reelection and retired from political service. He remained active, serving as a founding director of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, helping to establish the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and the First and Second National Banks. He also provided money for the construction of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the establishment of Georgetown University, and other civic projects .Carroll died on November 14th, 1832 at the age of 95. He was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence.