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Charles Carroll of Carrollton
From what has been observed respecting Mr. Carroll, it may justly be inferred that his mind was made up at an early day, as to the course duty required him to take in respect to this coming storm. An anecdote is related of him, which will illustrate his influence with the people of Maryland. By a resolution of the delegates of Maryland, on the 22d day of June, 1774, the importation of tea was prohibited. Sometime after, however, a vessel arrived at Annapolis, having a quantity of this article on board. This becoming known, the people assembled in great multitudes, to take effectual measures to prevent its being landed. At length the excitement became so high, that the personal safety of the captain of the vessel became endangered. In this state of things, the friends of the captain made application to Mr. Carroll, to interpose his influence with the people in his behalf. The public indignation was too great to be easily allayed. This Mr. Carroll perceived, and advised the captain and his friends, as the only probable means of safety to himself, to set fire to the vessel, and burn it to the water's edge. This alternative was indeed severe; but, as it was obviously a measure of necessity, the vessel was drawn out, her sails were set, her colours unfurled, in which attitude the fire was applied to her, and, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, she was consumed. This atonement was deemed satisfactory, and the captain was no farther molested.
In the early part of 1776, Mr. Carroll, whose distinguished exertions in Maryland had become extensively known, was appointed by congress, in connection with Dr. Franklin and Samuel Chase, on a commission to proceed to Canada, to persuade the people of that province to relinquish their allegiance to the crown of England, and unite with the Americans in their struggle for independence.
In the discharge of their duties, the commissioners met with unexpected difficulties. The defeat and death of Montgomery, together with the compulsion which the American troops found it necessary to exercise, in obtaining the means of support in that province, conspired to diminish the ardour of the Canadians in favour of a union with the colonies, and even, at length, to render them hostile to the measure. To conciliate their affections, and to bring to a favourable result the objector their mission, the commissioners employed their utmost ingenuity and influence. They issued their proclamations, in which they assured the people of the disposition of congress to remedy the temporary evils, which the inhabitants suffered in consequence of the presence of the American troops, so soon as it should be in their power to provide specie, and clothing, and provisions. A strong tide, however, was now setting against the American colonies, the strength of which was much increased by the roman catholic priests, who, as a body, had always been opposed to any connection with the united colonies. Despairing of accomplishing the wishes of congress, the commissioners at length abandoned the object, and returned to Philadelphia.
The great subject of independence was, at this time, undergoing a discussion in the hall of congress. It has been already noticed, that the Maryland delegation, in that body, had been instructed by their convention to refuse their assent to a declaration of independence. On returning to Maryland, Mr. Carroll resumed his seat in the convention, and, with the advocates of a declaration of independence, urged the withdrawal of the above instructions, and the granting of power to their delegates to unite in such a declaration. The friends of the measure had at length the happiness, on the 28th of June, of procuring a new set of instructions, which secured the vote of the important province of Maryland in favour of the independence of America.
Designed and Edited by John Vinci