On Being a First Citizen
President Miller, members of the Senate, ladies and gentlemen:
First Citizen is the name by which Charles Carroll of Carrollton chose to sign several articles published in the Maryland Gazette beginning in February of 1773. Carroll, legally a non-citizen who could neither vote nor hold office because he was a Roman Catholic, wrote in response to an unsigned article by the best known lawyer of the day, Daniel Dulany. Dulany held appointed office under Lord Baltimore and did not believe the General Assembly had the right to question or set the fees he charged for his services to the public. In those days public officials generally were not on salary and had to live off the fees they collected. Carroll strongly disagreed. In his first foray into the arena of public debate as 'First Citizen,' he argued that public officials were answerable to the Legislature, and that the Legislature had the right, in fact the responsiblity, to be constantly adjusting the Constitution to make it work better for the benefit of all.
Daniel Dulany had met his match. He would try to answer Carroll three more times. He even assumed the fictitious name of Antilon to help people know who he was. It was unseemly in those days for opinions expressed in print to be signed by their authors, but Dulany, on the defensive, wanted to remind his readers that he had once eloquently defended them against the hated Stamp Tax. He chose to call himself 'Antilon' which combines 'anti' and an old english word for unfair taxes, but it was to no avail.
What began as a simple exchange of views published in the Maryland Gazette by Anne Catherine Green, Maryland's first woman Printer to the State, grew into a series of eight letters in which Charles Carroll not only had the last word but also began a public career that would not end for nearly another 60 years. As First Citizen, Carroll strongly defended an independent legislature. He was among the first to advance a new concept of government that soon would sweep through the colonies like wild fire. No longer would the people of America allow themselves to be ruled arbitrarily from abroad. While extolling traditional community rights and liberties, Carroll launched a call for a radical restructuring of government based on the advice and consent of the people that led to one of the most creative experiments in defining self-government that the world has ever witnessed. Although not yet fully articulated in the First Citizen letters, Carroll was beginning to ask all citizens to think about much needed changes in the structure of government, changes that would allow people like him "freedom of speech and thought," that would prevent office holders from having seats in the Legislature, and that would ensure that taxation could not be imposed by anyone not subject to the laws passed by the Legislature. Indeed, by his words as First Citizen he was launching a crusade for a change in the very definition of the meaning of representative government that would reach far beyond his own understanding of his world and would ultimately lead to the overthrow of the evil institution of slavery on which his personal fortune depended.
To Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Constitution was not something fixed somewhere in the distant past, consisting of principles not to be altered, changed or improved upon, but was, rather, a set of guidelines to be written down, debated, and tested by time. To Carroll and others like his cousin Charles Carroll the Barrister, Samuel Chase, and William Paca, all future members of the Maryland Senate, making government work for the good of the whole meant a thoughtful reworking of the structure of government by writing it all down, debating the results, and crafting the final product in committees separately and of the whole.
In effect, Carroll as First Citizen, saw government much as every citizen should see it today, in constant need of attention and thoughtful legislative revision.
Public life could be wearying. At one point in 1786 Carroll confided to his colleague and cousin, then Senate President Daniel Carroll, "I am heartily sick of politicks and wish to retire from all public business. I have domestic cares enough to engage my whole attention." Most public servants at one time or another probably echo those sentiments, but fortunately for Maryland, both chose to continue to serve.
Not only did Charles Carroll of Carrollton write as a 'First Citizen,' he, also lived his life as a First Citizen. With the publication of the First Citizen articles he launched a career of public service that would not end until his death at the age of 95. In fact, one of Carroll's last acts as a responsible 'Citizen' was to vote for another man who would dramatically alter the face of American politics and American democracy, Andrew Jackson.
In addition to helping draft Maryland's first Constitution and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Carroll served as a member of the Maryland Senate from 1777 to 1801, and frequently as its president. He also served as one of the first United States Senators from Maryland and became one of the staunchest advocates of the B & O Railroad which did so much to further the economic development of Maryland. He taught by word and by example. He was willing to put his ideas, his fortune, and his time on the line in favor of better, more responsive government. It is in that spirit that the Maryland Senate presents the First Citizen Awards to individuals like Carroll, who have taken up the challenge to make government work better for the benefit of all.
This morning, on behalf of the Senate of Maryland, it is my privilege to present the First Citizen Awards to two distinguished Marylanders.
The first is to the departing president of the University
of Maryland, William E. "Brit" Kirwan. As the Chairman of the
Board of Regents eloquently expressed it, Dr. Kirwan's 34 years at the
University of Maryland, beginning in 1964 as an assistant professor of
mathematics, and concluding with nearly a decade as its president, is
a 'legacy unmatched in the history of the University. Central to that legacy
is a commitment to quality that now permeates the university and has become
a great source of pride for all Marylanders.' As a former member
of the faculty expressed it, Dr. Kirwan "has stood for everything.
He's in favor of athletics, higher academic standards, and diversity, teaching
and research. Among some people [those values] would be contradictory.
Kirwan just embraced them all." It is with great regret at his leaving
but with pride in his considerable contributions to the present and future
of this state, that the Senate of Maryland presents William E. "Brit" Kirwan
with its First Citizen award.
The second presentation this morning is to the Honorable
Melvin A. Steinberg, a former colleague well known to this
body for his sense of humor and productive leadership. His long career
in the Senate, beginning in 1967 and concluding as president in 1987,
and his eight years as Lt. Governor, are a legacy of
public service in the tradition of the First Citizen deserving of the highest
praise. A man of principle skilled in the art of compromise, able
to evoke concensus from even the most ardent of opponents, 'Mickey' Steinberg
has led the fight for the reorganization of the University of Maryland
system and has championed the cause of culture in his successful efforts
to save the Peabody Institute. Willing to take a stand on issues
when others shied from them because they were unpopular upstairs and elsewhere,
'Mickey,' has always been an advocate of good, efficient, and responsive
government, with but one further example being his concern for the delivery
of effective emergency medical services. It is in appreciation for
his noble career of public service and his continuing willingness to give
good advice that the Senate of Maryland presents the Honorable Melvin A.
"Mickey" Steinberg with its First Citizen award.