Sunday, November 14, 2010

Charles Carroll: Catholic Founding Father

Al at Is Anybody There? has written a great preview of a biography of Charles Carrol, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence.
The Life of Charles Carroll
Bradley J. Birzer
2010 ISI Books
(Part of the Lives of the Founders series)

On this day in 1832 at the age of 95, Charles Carroll of Carrollton died. For those who actually know who he is, their knowledge is limitted to some or all of the following facts:
1: He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence
2: He was the only Catholic to do so
3: He was the last surviving signer outliving only Thomas Jefferson & John Adams
4: His cousin Daniel Carroll attended the Constitutional Convention & signed the Constitution (He also signed the Articles of Confederation in 1781)
5: Another cousin, John Carroll, was the 1st American Bishop (& later 1st Archbishop)

For the most part, he has been 1 of the forgotten Founding Fathers. In recent years we have seen plenty of books on John (& Abigail) Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson & George Washington. There has even been a book on Betsy Ross. But beyond mention in these books most of the other Founding Fathers, including some of the most influential, have been ignored. In 2009 Carroll was listed as 1 of those who was forgotten but shouldn't be in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers. Fortunately that oversight has been corrected. In recent years 2 biographies of Charles Carroll that I know of have come out. The latest is this book by Bradley. J. Birzer which came out earlier this year.
Charles Carroll was born in Annapolis, Maryland on 19 September 1739. His father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis (CCA), was not married to his mother, Elizabeth Brooke, at the time of his birth. Eventually his father did marry his mother & officially acknowledge Charles as his son. While he wasn't officially acknowledged as CCA's son until after getting his education, CCA did insure that Charles Carroll an excellent education. In 1748 Charles Carroll sailed to France to attend the College of St. Omer's. The Jesuit run school was known as the 'seminary of martyrs-the school of confessors. After finishing there he studied at Rheims & Louis-le-Grand in Paris. This Christian humanist education was the key that enabled him to accomplish all he did later in life to help start & establish the USA. In 1759 he went to London to study law.
Coming back to the Maryland in 1765, he soon found himself caught up in the events leading up to the American Revolution. He also found himself in a very unusual position of speaking out for freedom in a state where he was disenfranchised. But that didn't stop him. He kept writing & speaking out. Early in 1776 he found himself appointed by the Continental Congress as a member of a delegation to go to Catholic Quebec. Other members of the delegation were Fr. John Carroll & Benjamin Franklin. While they were not able to win Quebec to the cause, the trip did have some long reaching effects. Fr. Carroll stuck up a strong friendship with Ben Franklin. After the war, the Papal nuncio to France met with Franklin to sound out reaction to the establishing of a hierarchy in the USA. Based on Franklin's recommendation Fr. Carroll was appointed "Superior of the Mission" in the USA & later became the 1st US Bishop. 
Read the rest here.