On Being A First Citizen

Remarks of Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist
on the occasion of the presentation of the First Citizen Awards
February 25, 2003

President Miller, members of the Senate, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here with you again today to present the First Citizen awards. The First Citizen award was created in 1992 by the Archives, at the request of the President of the Senate. Since its inception, the award has been presented to some of Maryland's most distinguished citizens. You can now see the roll call of these honored men and women in the lobby of the new Senate office complex on a plaque describing the award and giving the names of awardees for each year. This exhibit was designed as a permanent reminder of the quality of thoughtful devotion to service that was the hallmark of Charles Carroll of Carrollton's long career in public service.

The text of the award says best what it means to be a First Citizen and a worthy successor to Charles Carroll of Carrollton:

"First Citizen is the name that Charles Carroll of Carrollton chose to sign a series of articles published by Ann Catherine Green in the Annapolis Maryland Gazette in 1773.  They form a strong defense of an independent legislature and were among the earliest arguments for a new concept of government based upon traditional community rights and liberties that protected its citizens from arbitrary rule.  At the time, Carroll, as a Roman Catholic, could neither vote nor hold public office. With the publication of these articles, Carroll launched a career of public service that would not end until his death at the age of 95 in 1832.  In addition to helping draft Maryland's first Constitution and signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Carroll served as President of the Maryland Senate, of which he was a member from 1777 to 1800,  and as one of the first United States Senators from Maryland (1789-1792).  To be a First Citizen is to be a dedicated and effective participant in the process of making government work for the benefit of all."

Although not yet fully articulated in the First Citizen letters, Carroll was beginning to ask all citizens to think about much needed changes in government, changes that would allow people like him "freedom of speech and thought," changes that would separate the powers of the Executive and the Legislature, and that would ensure that taxation could not be imposed by anyone not subject to the laws passed by the Legislature. Carroll was among the first people in the colonies to advance a new concept of government based on the advice and consent of the people. This led to one of the most creative experiments in defining self-government that the world has ever witnessed and which abides well with us still.

To Carroll, and to others such as his distant cousin, Charles Carroll the Barrister, Samuel Chase, and William Paca, all of whom served in 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.  Carroll as First Citizen, saw government much as every citizen should see it today, in constant need of attention and thoughtful legislative action.

During his long career, Charles Carroll of Carrollton lost an important election.  He wanted to be a member of the Convention that met down the hall in April of 1788 to debate and ratify the Constitution of the United States.  He wrote a great speech for the occasion, laboring over it for many weeks prior to the election. It is still one of the best defenses of ratification that can be found today, but he was unable to give it.   Yet he did not permit defeat to remove him from the political arena.  He returned to the Senate, where he oversaw the passage of Maryland's first comprehensive Public Safety Law, the Militia Law of 1798.

Today, two distinguished First Citizens are to be honored. The first is a man who, in many ways, has embodied the ideals of a First Citizen over the 28 years that he served in, and led, the House of Delegates. He entered the House in 1975 and, in 1994, was elected Speaker, a position he held until this year. During his tenure as speaker, he was widely respected for his wise, thoughtful leadership and his devotion to the principle of making a democratic government work for the good of all. His concept of One Maryland guided his vision of the state and how it should be managed. At the same time, he was an effective advocate for his native Western Maryland. Casper R. Taylor, Jr. has been a friend and colleague for many years, and it is my great pleasure to present him, on behalf of the Senate, with this First Citizen award, in honor of his years of dedicated service to Maryland and to the General Assembly of Maryland.

The next recipient is a man who has also served Maryland and its citizens as a dedicated public servant, beginning as a foot patrol officer in Baltimore. Through his extraordinary skills of leadership, he rose through the ranks to become Police Commissioner under Mayor William Donald Schaefer. He then served three consecutive terms as Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and one term as Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice. In these positions, he has pioneered nationally recognized programs for young and low risk offenders, and he has been an outspoken advocate of education as a bulwark against the rising tide of crime. His career of caring, effective public service has truly made Bishop L. Robinson a worthy successor to the ideals symbolized by First Citizen Charles Carroll of Carrollton. I am delighted to present him with the First Citizen Award, on behalf of the Senate of Maryland.

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