There go millions. (Odds & Ends).
Even though Independence Day is celebrated religiously on July 4--one of the few holidays that has not migrated to a Monday--only two people, John Hancock and Charles Thompson, actually signed the Declaration of Independence on that day. Most everyone else signed it the next month, on Aug. 2, 1776. Few Americans know this little historical fact and practically none celebrate this August day.
Charles Carroll was an only child born Sept. 19, 1737 to an extraordinarily wealthy family. He initially was educated by Jesuits at Bohemia Manor Academy, a school operating illegally in the then religiously restrictive colony of Maryland. At the age of 11 he was sent to Europe along with his cousin "Jacky" for further schooling. Charles spent the next 17 years studying there. Cousin Jacky became a priest and eventually bishop of Baltimore, the first Roman Catholic bishop of the United States, John Carroll.
When Charles Carroll eventually arrived back home in 1765, his dad gave him a 10,000-acre plantation, which became known as Carrollton Manor--not a bad homecoming gift. Three years later he married a cousin, Mary Darnall.
Charles Carroll harbored thoughts of American freedom well before he signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1763, in a letter to his dad, he wrote from Europe, "America is a growing country; in time it will and must be independent." There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that 13 years later when he approached the table to sign the declaration, one of the other signers was heard to say, "There go millions," not only alluding to his great wealth, but also its loss should the revolution fail.
After the Constitution was ratified and the U.S. government established, Charles Carroll was elected senator from Maryland in 1789. He held that office until 1792 when it be came illegal for the same person to sit in both state and federal legislatures simultaneously. He preferred the state house of Maryland to the federal Congress. While in the U.S. Senate, he observed, "We murder time, and chat it away in idle, impertinent talk ... fond of talking and not much addicted to thinking." Seems not much has changed in the hallowed halls of Congress since those days.
Charles Carroll eventually owned about 75,000 acres of land and was said to be the richest man in America. Yet he always kept busy with many interests. He spoke fluent French and taught it to his great-grandchildren. He served as president of the American Colonization Society, which founded Liberia. He developed an interest in the comparative study of religion. At the age of 89 he sat for the great portrait painter Thomas Sully.
Although he was considered delicate and sickly as a boy, and always subject to chills and fevers, he lived an incredible 95 years. He had affixed his signature, "Charles Carroll of Carrollton," to the Declaration of Independence when he was 39 years old. In his latter years, as the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, many people beat a track to his door. Charles Carroll, the only Roman Catholic signatory to the Declaration of Independence, died Nov. 14, 1832.
So let's not end the celebration of this country's origins with Independence Day. Let's also celebrate August 2. And let's remember particularly Charles Carroll.
PETER GILMOUR (Pgilmou@wpo.it.luc.edu) teaches at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago.
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|Title Annotation:||Roman Catholic Charles Carroll signed Declaration of Independence|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2002|
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