Did you know… Charles Carrol of Carrolton?

posted in: History Makers | 1

Continuing series on the Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Charles Carroll of Carrolton

Charles Carrol of Carrolton ( September 19, 1737 – November 14, 1832) is referred to this way because of the numerous other Charles Carrol relatives. His ancestor, also Charles Carrol, emigrated from England on October 1, 1688, to escape the persecution of Catholics after the Glorious Revolution in England that overthrew James II, and installed William and Mary. In the year he arrived in the colonies, the third Lord Baltimore Charles Calvert, a Catholic, was stripped of his rights and Maryland was made a royal colony.

Charles was born to Charles Caroll and Elizabeth Brooke. His father was a wealthy landowner, who championed Catholic rights in the colony, usually on the losing end. Coming from a wealthy family, he had a first-class education – first at the Jesuits in Bohemia, Harmon’s Manor Maryland, at age ten, and in 1748,  St-Omer in France. After six years at the hands of the Jesuit priests, he matriculated to the Jesuit college at Reims, and then College Louis le Grand in Paris. After a year studying civil law in 1753 at Bourges, he went to London and studied law for several more years.

In 1765, he returned to his estate in Maryland, On June 5, 1768, he married Mary (Molly) Darnal, a young lady of beauty, fortune, and ancient family. He operated the estate with good management, until 1770 when matters turned for the worse for the colonists. The royal governor of Maryland sought to impose fees and taxes which the colonists had no voice in, and Charles became a vocal advocate against the unjust taxes. In 1770, when the royal governor attempted to impose fees that the colonists regarded as taxes without their approval or vote, Charles took up the gauntlet and defended popular interests against the tyranny of the Crown. In 1774, Carroll was elected with six others by the citizens of Anne Arundel County and of Annapolis, with full power to represent them in the provincial convention. Catholics had been disfranchised and declared ineligible to a seat in the Assembly, but by this act, the prejudice against them was lessened. Carroll maintained that Catholics had as much right as any other people to be represented in the halls of power. He represented his locality in matters of importance, including the manufacture of saltpeter, a component of gunpowder.

” By a resolution of the delegates of Maryland, on the 22d day of June, 1774, the importation of tea was prohibited. Sometime after, however, a vessel arrived at Annapolis, having a quantity of this article on board. This becoming known, the people assembled in great multitudes, to take effectual measures to prevent its being landed. At length the excitement became so high, that the personal safety of the captain of the vessel became endangered. In this state of things, the friends of the captain made application to Mr. Carroll, to interpose his influence with the people in his behalf. The public indignation was too great to be easily allayed. This Mr. Carroll perceived, and advised the captain and his friends, as the only probable means of safety to himself, to set fire to the vessel, and burn it to the water’s edge. This alternative was indeed severe; but, as it was obviously a measure of necessity, the vessel was drawn out, her sails were set, her colours unfurled, in which attitude the fire was applied to her, and, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, she was consumed. This atonement was deemed satisfactory, and the captain was no farther molested. “


On the 11th of January 1776, he was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress. He served on the Board of War, while simultaneously aiding the composition of a Constitution for the new state of Maryland. He signed the Declaration in August 1776.

Charles was instrumental in drafting the article in the Maryland constitution that assured freedom of religion, his family having been victims of religious persecution.

 “That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come. Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place.” (the last sentence was added in 1970).

Maryland state constitution, article 34
Georgia plaque commemorating Charles Carroll

Charles served in the state senate 1777-1800; was elected to the United States Senate in 1789; reelected in 1791 and served from March 4, 1789, to November 30, 1792, when, preferring to remain a State senator, he resigned because of a law passed by the Maryland legislature disqualifying the members of the State Senate who held seats in Congress; retired to private life in 1801; involved in establishing the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company in 1828; died in Baltimore, Md., November 14, 1832; at the time of his death was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence and the only Catholic.

  1. Lis

    This is my husband’s ancestor. The name is still in the family. His middle name is Carroll. LOVE this post.

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