Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas King Carroll (1793-1873)
MSA SC 3520-1452

Governor of Maryland, 1830-1831

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 97-99.

"THOMAS KING CARROLL, described by Elias Jones as a 'gifted and cultured man of unimpeachable integrity and lofty character,' was born at 'Kingston Hall,' in Somerset County on April 29, 1793, the son of Cot. Henry James and Elizabeth (Barnes) King Carroll.1 A typical aristocrat, his family had retained at 'Kingston Hall,' many of the old English customs including the wearing of livery by the servants, as well as the family custom of traveling with a coach and four with outriders.

"For a time, Carroll attended Charlotte Hall School in St. Mary’s County. In 1802, he entered Washington Academy in Somerset County shortly after the Academy’s new building had been erected near Dashiell’s Creek. Here he remained for the next eight years, leaving there to become a junior at the University of Pennsylvania from which he was graduated in 1811. He was then only seventeen years of age. In the fall of the same year, he commenced the study of law, first in the office of Ephraim King Wilson in Snow Hill, then under Robert Goodloe Harper in Baltimore. Carroll determined to practice law, and to become a resident of Baltimore. On June 23, 1814, he had married Julianna Stevenson, daughter of Dr. Henry Stevenson, a widely known and distinguished physician of that city. They had nine children, one of whom was Anna Ella Carroll, the Civil War propagandist.

"The death of Colonel Carroll changed the course of Thomas King Carroll’s life. Following his father’s death, he returned to 'Kingston Hall' where he became the manager of the family’s estate.

"Shortly after his return to Somerset County, he became active in the political affairs of that county. During the sessions of 1816 and 1817, Carroll was elected without opposition to the House of Delegates. He was a member of the Levy Court of Somerset County between July 1825 and February 1826, when he was appointed Judge of the Orphans’ Court. He was serving in that office when he was elected Governor in December 1829. He had also served as a Senatorial elector in 1821 and 1826.

"On January 4, 1830, Thomas King Carroll was elected governor over [p. 98] the incumbent Daniel Martin, defeating him by a vote of 50 to 43. He was inaugurated on January 15, 1830, hut as a result of the elections held in the fall of that same year, the Democrats were defeated and Daniel Martin again returned to office. Carroll’s term, therefore, lasted only one year and he had to retire from his gubernatorial office on January 13, 1831. James H. Fitzgerald Brewer characterizes him as one who 'patronized the spoils concept of government, a slave owner of wealth, [and] an ardent advocate of African colonization.' He attributed Carroll’s defeat in 1830 to 'patronage, the pressure of some mild nullification and secession sentiment, and the inadequate representation of Baltimore, plus zealous work on the part of the Clay faction in the state.'2 Carroll did not accomplish too much during his term except to espouse the cause of education, express his concern for Revolutionary soldiers, and to advocate penal reform. As governor, Carroll opposed militia displays. 'All who have witnessed such militia musters in the country, must be satisfied of their perfect inutility and of their injurious effects, upon the morals of the people.'3 His chief complaint seems to have been that the militia drew large crowds from their labor and resulted in dissipation.

"Governor Carroll gave considerable thought to the subject of education. He joined in the movement to improve the collegiate department of the University of Maryland, as well as that of advocating an educational system in the State. 'To the enlightened representatives of the people of Maryland, it will scarcely be necessary to urge the propriety of appropriating liberally on this object, whenever the finances of the State will justify the expenditure,' he announced to the Legislature on December 29, 1830. He went on to say that 'the free school fund has been productive of great benefits, wherever it has been distributed. Many children, within our knowledge, who would otherwise have remained in ignorance from their unfortunate condition in life, have been taught those branches of learning, which may lay the ground work of their future usefulness.'4

"Carroll aided the veterans of the Revolutionary War, in their efforts to receive much-needed attention from the Federal government. Now aged men, 'their services deserve the grateful reward of their countrymen.' He went on to point out that 'no provision by Congress has ever yet been made for them. We need not add a remark to induce you to bestow notice to a subject which relates to the alleviation of the sufferings of those who assisted in achieving the independence of the country.'5

"Carroll felt strongly about the penal system of the State. He insisted that 'the great object should be. . . to punish crime—to deter by example, and to produce reform. The expense of an institution that would effect these objects, would be trifling in contrast with the permanent benefits arising from it; and the expenses must necessarily decrease with the diminution of criminal offences.'6

[p. 99] "Thomas King Carroll retired to “Kingston Hall” at the close of his administration. He lived there until 1840, when he moved to Dorchester County, residing on a large estate near Church Creek. Governor Pratt appointed Carroll a lottery commissioner for Maryland, and when Zachary Taylor became president in 1849, he appointed Carroll Naval Officer of the Port of Baltimore. He seems not to have served in any other public service capacity, and after 1850 he retired from public life completely. Early in his life, Carroll had become a member of Somerset Lodge #49 of Masons in Princess Anne. He served as the Master of his Lodge in 1822, and was for the remainder of his life an active member.

"He died at an advanced age at his home “Walnut Landing,” in Dorchester County on October 3, 1873, 'held in the highest esteem throughout Maryland for the many virtues which have signalized his entire life.'7 He was buried in Old Trinity Church Cemetery following Masonic burial serviccs."

Notes on sources

Return to Thomas King Carroll's introductory page

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