Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832)
MSA SC 3520-209

Delegate to the Continental Congress, Signer of the Declaration of Independence; U.S. Senator


Charles Carroll of Carrollton did not make his political debut as an elected official, but rather as "First Citizen," Daniel Dulany's chief antagonist in the Fee Bill controversy. (Carroll's public challenge to Dulany during the Fee Bill controversy in 1773 was a daring step for a Roman Catholic, and it won him the gratitude and respect of the leaders of the anti-proprietary party.) This was one of a series of "firsts" for Carroll: the first Roman Catholic to hold public office in Maryland for nearly a century, a member of the first Maryland Senate, and one of Maryland's first two United States Senators.

The only son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Charles Carroll of Carrollton stood heir to a vast fortune which enabled him an extraordinary education. Carroll was sent abroad for his education, first attending the French colleges of St. Omer's and Louis-le-Grand where he received a civil law degree, and then the Middle Temple in London where he was a student of English common law. Carroll returned to Maryland seventeen years later, in 1764.

In 1774, Carroll served in the Maryland Convention and on the Committee of Correspondence. He was a member of the Council of Safety in 1775, and a member of the committee which drafted the Maryland Constitution in 1776. Because of his legal disabilities as a Catholic, Carroll was not a delegate to the First Continental Congress, but did join the delegates at Philadelphia as an unofficial observer and advisor. In March of 1776, Carroll accompanied Samuel Chase and Benjamin Franklin on their unsuccessful mission to Canada. He was chosen for this venture, as John Adams later reflected, not only for his French fluency, but also because "he continues to hazard his all, his immense Fortune...and his life."

 At the June 1776 session of the Maryland Convention, Carroll introduced the resolution which finally rescinded the instructions restricting the congressional delegates. On July 4, Carroll was at last selected as an official delegate to the Continental Congress. He arrived in Philadelphia on July 18 and signed the Declaration on August 2, "most willingly" manifesting his long-held intention "to defend the liberties of my country, or die with them..." He remained a delegate until 1778.

In 1800, after twenty-three years in the Maryland Senate, Carroll retired from public life, and spent the last three decades of his life as a businessman and entrepreneur. When John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland's "First Citizen," became America's last surviving Signer of the Declaration of Independence.


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