Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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DE SMET, Peter John - A Stan Klos Company
of Carrollton, last surviving signer of the Declaration of
Independence, born in Annapolis, Maryland, 20 September, 1737; died in
Baltimore, 14 November, 1832.
The sept of the O'Carrolls was one of the most
ancient and powerful in Ireland. They were princes and lords of Ely from the
12th to the 16th century. They sprang from the kings of Munster, and
intermarried with the great houses of Ormond and Desmond in Ireland, and Argyll
Charles Carroll, grandfather of Carroll of
Carrollton, was a clerk in the office of Lord Powis in the reign of James II,
and immigrated to Maryland upon the accession of William and Mary in 1689. In
1691 he was appointed judge and register of the land-office, and agent and
receiver for Lord Baltimore's rents. His son Charles was born in 1702, and died
in 1782, leaving his son Charles, the signer, whose mother was Elizabeth Brook.
Carroll of Carrollton, at the age of eight
years, was sent to France to be educated under the care of the Society of Jesus,
which had controlled the Roman Catholics of Maryland since its foundation. He
remained six years in the Jesuit College at St. Omer's, one year in their
College at Rheims, and two years in the College of Louis Le Grand. Thence he
went for a year to Bourges to study civil law, and from there he returned to
College at Paris. In 1757 he entered the Middle Temple, London, for the study of
the common law, and returned to Maryland in 1765.
In June, 1768, he married Mary Darnall,
daughter of Col. Henry Darnall, young lady of beauty, fortune, and ancient
family. Carroll found the public mind in a ferment over many fundamental
principles of government and of civil liberty. In a province founded by Roman
Catholics on the basis of religious toleration, the education of Catholics in
their own schools had been prohibited by law, and Carroll himself had just
returned from a foreign land, whither he had been driven by the intolerance of
his home authorities to seek a liberal education.
Not only were Roman Catholics under the ban of
disfranchisement, but all persons of every faith and no faith were taxed to
support the established church, which was the Church of England. The discussion
as to the right of taxation for the support of religion soon extended from the
legislature to the public press. Carroll, over the signature " The First
Citizen," in a series of articles in the "Maryland Gazette," attacked the
validity of the law imposing the tax.
The church establishment was defended by
Daniel Dulany, leader of the colonial bar, whose ability and learning were so
generally acknowledged that his opinions were quoted as authority on colonial
law in Westminster hall, and are published to this day, as such, in the Maryland
In this discussion Carroll acquitted himself
with such ability that he received the thanks of public meetings all over the
province, and at once became one of the "first citizens." In December 1774, he
was appointed one of the committee of correspondence for the province, as one of
the initial steps of the revolution in Maryland, and in 1775 was elected one of
the council of safety. He was elected delegate to the revolutionary convention
from Anne Arundel County, which met at Annapolis, 7 December, 1775.
In January, 1776, he was appointed by the
Continental congress one of the commissioners to go to Canada and induce those
colonies to unite with the rest in resistance to Great Britain. On 4 July, 1776,
he, with Matthew Tilghman, Thomas Johnson, William Paca, Samuel Chase, Thomas
Stone, and Robert Alexander, was elected deputy from Maryland to the Continental
On 12 January, 1776, Maryland had instructed
her deputies in congress not to consent to a declaration of independence without
the knowledge and approbation of the convention, Mainly owing to the zealous
efforts of Carroll and his subsequent colleagues, the Maryland convention, on 28
June, 1776, had rescinded this instruction, and unanimously directed its
representatives in congress to unite in declaring "the united colonies free
and independent states," and on 6 July declared Maryland a free, sovereign,
and independent state.
Armed with this authority, Carroll took his
seat in congress at Philadelphia, 18 July, 1776, and on 2 August, 1776, with the
rest of the deputies of the thirteen states, signed the Declaration of
Independence. It is said that he affixed the addition "of Carrollton" to
his signature in order to distinguish him from his kinsman, Charles Carroll,
barrister, and to assume the certain responsibility himself of his act.
He was made a member of the board of war, and
served in congress until 10 November, 1776. In December, 1776, he was chosen a
member of the first senate of Maryland, in 1777 again sent to congress, serving
on the committee that visited Valley Forge to investigate complaints against
General Washington, and in 1788 elected the first senator from the state of
Maryland under the constitution of the United States. He drew the short term of
two years in the federal senate in 1791, and was again elected to the state
senate, remaining there till 1801.
In 1797 he was one of the commissioners to
settle the boundary-line between Maryland and Virginia. On 23 April, 1827, he
was elected one of the directors of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, and
on 4 July, 1828, laid the foundation-stone of the beginning of that undertaking.
His biographer, John H. born Latrobe, writes
to the senior editor of this Cyclopaedia:
"After I had finished my work I took it to
Mr. Carroll, whom I knew very well indeed, and read it to him, as he was seated
in an arm-chair in his own room in his son-in-law's house in Baltimore. He
listened with marked attention and without a comment until I had ceased to read,
when, after a pause, he said: 'Why, Latrobe, you have made a much greater
man of me than I ever thought I was; and yet really you have said nothing in
what you have written that is not true.' . . . In my mind's eye I see Mr.
Carroll now--a small, attenuated old man, with a prominent nose and somewhat
receding chin, small eyes that sparkled when he was interested in conversation.
His head was small and his hair white, rather long and silky, while his face and
forehead were seamed with wrinkles. But, old and feeble as he seemed to be, his
manner and speech were those of a refined and courteous gentleman, and you saw
at a glance whence came by inheritance the charm of manner that so eminently
distinguished his son, Charles Carroll of Homewood, and his daughters, Mrs.
Harper and Mrs. Caton."
The accompanying view represents his spacious
mansion, known as Carrollton, still owned and occupied by his descendants.
--His son, Charles
Carroll, married Harriet, daughter of Benjamin Chew, of
Philadelphia, who, as well as her sister, Mrs. Philips, was a great favorite of
General Washington. In 1796, when Gilbert Stuart painted his portrait for Mrs.
William Bingham, she frequently accompanied the general to the artist's house,
"as her conversation," said Washington, "will give to my countenance its most
agreeable expression." Her portrait, as Harriet Chew, was executed by Col. John
Trumbull, who also painted portraits of her sister Sophia Chew, Cornelia
Schuyler, Julia Seymour, and many other celebrated beauties of that period. See
Griswold's "Republican Court" (New York, 1879).
--The granddaughters of Charles Carroll of
Carrollton became respectively Marchioness Wellesley, Duchess of Leeds, and Lady
--A grandson, John
Lee, governor of Maryland, born at Homewood, near Baltimore,
Maryland, in 1830, was educated in the Roman Catholic Colleges at Georgetown,
District of Columbia, at Emmettsburg, Maryland, and at Harvard law school, was
admitted to the bar in 1851, removed to New York in 1859, where he served as
United States commissioner, returned to Baltimore in 1862, was elected to the
state senate in 1867 and again in 1871, and in 1875 elected governor. He married
a daughter of Royal Phelps, of New York.
Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by
John Looby Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM