The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (September 19 1737November 14 1832) was a lawyer and politician from Maryland who was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later a United States Senator. He was the last surviving and only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.

He was born on September 19, 1737 at Annapolis, Maryland. His reputed attendance at the Jesuit preparatory school at Bohemia in Cecil County cannot be confirmed from contemporary records, 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.

Carroll was a voice for independence in Maryland. In 1772 he engaged in a debate conducted through anonymous newspaper letters and maintained the right of the colonies to control their own taxation. 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 mission to Canada. 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. His signature reads "Charles Carroll of Carrollton", which is why he has thusly gone down in history. Throughout his term in Congress he served on the board of war.

He returned to Maryland in 1778 to help in writing 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.

When the United States government was created, the Maryland legislature elected him to the first United States Senate. In 1792 Maryland passed a law the 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.

Carroll retired from public life in 1801, although he did help to create the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1827. After Jefferson and Adams died, on July 4, 1826 he became the only surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. He died in November 14, 1832 at Baltimore, and is buried in the Doughoregan Manor Chapel at Ellicott City, Maryland.

His 140 acre (570,000 m²) estate in northern Baltimore, Homewood, was made the main campus of Johns Hopkins University in 1876. The Carroll family manor is preserved as a museum, and its beautiful Georgian architecture serves as a model for the university halls.

Named in his honor are counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia, as well as East and West Carrol Parishes, Lousiana.

Family Life

Charles married Mary Darnall, known as Molly, on June 5, 1768. They had seven children before Mary died in 1782, but only three survived infancy: Mary, Charles, and Kitty. Mary was married to Richard Caton, and Charles lived with them and their four children after his wife died. Charles (known as Charles Carroll of Homewood) 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.

Carroll in Fiction

Charles Carroll was portrayed in the 2004 film National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage. He is accurately described as the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll was also described as a Freemason in the film, but was not really a member of the fraternity in real life.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:57:11
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04