When celebrating Independence Day, take a moment to remember Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737–1832). Though not typically mentioned as a founding father, he might as well have been, given his outstanding contributions. So how many of the following do you know about the pioneering political Catholic?
1. He was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
2. In fact, he was the last surviving signer of the Declaration.
3. Perhaps obviously, he also served on the Second Continental Congress.
4. He was asked to accompany Benjamin Franklin on his diplomatic mission to Canada.
5. During this journey he kept a journal, which is still studied by scholars today.
6. His cousin, Fr. John Carroll, also went on that trip.
7. That same cousin would become America’s first Catholic bishop.
8. He’s referred to as Charles Carroll of Carrollton to distinguish him from his father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis (1702 – 1782), one of the richest people in Maryland and a well-known Catholic.
9. He was educated at the second school opened by the Jesuits in the colonies.
10. One scholar says that Carroll was “perhaps the single most influential person in persuading Maryland to support the cause of independence.”
11. His grandfather Charles Carroll the Settler (1661 – 1720) owned nearly 48,000 acres in Maryland and was, according to one writer, “the most influential and visible Catholic in the colony.”
12. He was the first United States Senator for Maryland (1789 – 1792).
13. In that capacity, he tried to end slavery in Maryland.
14. Carroll read widely and even dangerously, so to speak. He was, writes one scholar, “especially fond of Montesquieu and Voltaire, both of whose works had been placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.”
15. His wife gave birth to seven children.
16. He wrote a letter to George Washington volunteering his only son for military service.
17. For putting his vast wealth on the line in the service of American freedom as a politician, Charles Carroll of Carrollton is widely recognized as an upstanding Catholic revolutionary.