Sunday, July 11, 2010

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Missionaries are not the only Catholics who contributed to the founding of our country. Several Catholic statesmen did as well.

The most distinguished of these would be Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

His family had moved to Maryland to flee the persecution of Catholics in England. There he became a large landowner.

At the age of eight he was sent to France to begin his formal education eventually earning a law degree in England.

On his return to the colonies, however, he was not allowed to vote, practice law or enter politics because of his Catholic faith.

Nonetheless, he entered into debate with the colonial authorities through anonymous letters to newspapers to protest the British tax policies and urge separation of the colonies from England.

Sadly, as one of the richest men in the colonies and a large plantation owner, Charles Carroll was also a slave owner. It should be noted that the slave trade had already been condemned by the Catholic Church in 1435 (nearly sixty years before Colombus landed in the New World) by Pope Eugene IV in the papal bull, Sicut Dudum, and later by Pope Paul III in the bull, Sublimis Deus. To his credit, he introduced a bill in the Maryland Senate to provide for the gradual abolition of slavery, but it was voted down.

He is best known as the only Catholic signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

His cousin, John Carroll, became the first bishop of Baltimore.

Charles Carroll died at the age of 95, being the last surviving signatory of Declaration of Independence.

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