As we observe Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts, I keep thinking of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland.
During his first years in school he was joined by his cousin, John Carroll, who would later become the first Archbishop of Baltimore. His Jesuit education continued in philosophy and law in France. Upon his return, he inherited an enormous fortune, but was still barred from entering politics, practicing law or voting due to his Catholicism. As a result, he assumed the pen name "First Citizen" and and wrote extensively in the Maryland Gazette.
In his history of the Patriots, Lord Brougham writes that, due to his wealth, Carroll was an unlikely Patriot. Indeed, of the day on which Carroll signed the Declaration of Independence, Broughman writes:
“He was among the foremost to sign the celebrated declaration of independence. All who did so were believed to have devoted themselves and their families to the Furies. As he set his hand to the instrument, the whisper ran round the hall of Congress, ‘There goes some millions of property!’ And there being many of the same name, when they heard it, said: Nobody will know what Carroll it is,’ as no one wrote more of his name, and one at his elbow remarked, addressing him: ‘You’ll get clear, there are several of that name, they will not know which to take.’ ‘Not so!’ he replied; and instantly added his residence, ‘of Carrollton.’”
Charles Carroll lived longer than any of the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, and is said to have uttered these remarkable words in his last days:
“I have lived to my ninety-sixth year; I have enjoyed continued health; I have been blessed with great wealth, property, and most of the good things which the world can bestow, public approbation, applause; but now what I look back on with the greatest satisfaction to myself is that I have practiced the duties of my religion.”