Charles Carroll (September 19, 1737 – November 14, 1832), known as Charles Carroll of Carrollton or Charles Carroll III to distinguish him from his similarly-named relatives, was an American statesman, a wealthy Maryland planter, an early advocate of independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence. The sole Catholic signer of the Declaration, he is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Carroll was known contemporaneously as the "First Citizen" of the American Colonies, a consequence of his editorials in the Maryland Gazette. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and Confederation Congress. Although he was not involved in framing the United States Constitution, it is believed that Freedom of Religion in the Constitution's First Amendment was included to show gratitude to Carroll because Carroll gave financial support from his personal funds for the American Revolutionary War. Carroll later served as the first United States Senator for Maryland. Carroll was the wealthiest and possessed the highest formal education of all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A product of his 17-year Jesuit education in France, Carroll spoke five languages fluently.
Wealthy Maryland Slave Owner
Born in Annapolis, Maryland, Carroll inherited vast agricultural estates and was regarded as the wealthiest man in the American colonies when the American Revolution commenced in 1775. His personal fortune at this time was reputed to be 2,100,000 pounds sterling. In addition, Carroll presided over his manor in Maryland; a 10,000 acre estate that included approximately 1,000 African slaves (or approximately one-third of the approximately 3,000 Catholic slaves in the United States at the time).
Statesman and Continental Congress Member
Though barred from holding office in Maryland due to his religion, Carroll emerged as a leader of the state's movement for independence. He was a delegate to the Annapolis Convention and was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776. He was part of an unsuccessful diplomatic mission, which also included Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Chase, that Congress sent to Canada in hopes of winning the support of French Canadians.
Carroll served in the Maryland Senate from 1781 to 1800. He was elected as one of Maryland's inaugural representatives in the United States Senate, but resigned from the United States Senate in 1792 after Maryland passed a law barring individuals from simultaneously serving in state and federal office.
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
After retiring from public office, he helped establish the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was the longest-lived and last surviving signatory of the Declaration of Independence, dying 56 years after the document was signed. Carroll laid the first stone when construction on the track began at Baltimore harbor on July 4, 1828.