Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 3

Charles Carroll of Carrollton


   On the same day on which the great question was decided in congress, in favour of a declaration of independence, Mr. Carroll was elected a delegate to that body from Maryland, and accordingly took his seat on the eighteenth of the same month.
   Although not a member of congress at the time the question of a declaration of independence was settled, Mr. Carroll had the honour of greatly contributing to a measure so auspicious to the interests of his country, by assisting in procuring the withdrawal of the prohibiting instructions, and the adoption of a new set, by which the Maryland delegates found them selves authorized to vote for independence. He had the honour, also, of affixing his signature to the declaration on the second of August, at which time the members generally signed an engrossed copy, which had been prepared for that purpose. From the printed journals of congress, it would appear, that the declaration was signed on the fourth of July, the same day on which the final question was taken. This is an error. The declaration, as first published, had only the name of Hancock affixed to it; and it was only on the nineteenth of July, that a resolution was adopted, directing the declaration to be engrossed on parchment, with a view to a general signature on the part of the members.
   The truth of this statement may be inferred from the following letter, addressed by Mr. Secretary Adams to Mr. Carroll, on the twenty-fourth of June, 1824:

   "In pursuance of a joint resolution of the two houses of congress, a copy of which is hereto annexed, and by direction of the president of the United States, I have the honour of tl'ansmitting to you two fac simile copies of tile original declaration of independence, engrossed on parchment, conformably to a secret resolution of congress of nineteenth July, 1776, to be signed by every member of congress, and accordingly signed on the second day of August of the same year. Of this document, unparalleled in the annals of mankind, the original, deposited in this department, exhibits your name as one of the subscribers. The rolls herewith transmitted, are copies as exaet as the art of engraving can present, of the instrument itself, as well as of the signers to it.
   "While performing the duty thus assigned me, permit me to felicitate you, and the country, which is reaping the reward of your labours, as well that your hand was affixed to this record of glory, as that, after the lapse of near half a century, you survive to receive this tribute of reverence and gratitude, from your children, the present fathers of the land.
"With every sentiment of veneration, I have the honour," &,c.

   A signature to the declaration, was an important step for every individual member of congress. It exposed the signers of it to the confiscation of their estates, and the loss of life, should the British arms prove victorious. Few men had more at stake in respect to property than Mr. Carroll, he being considered the richest individual in the colonies. But wealth was of secondary value in his estimation, in comparison with the rights and liberties of his country. When asked whether he would annex his name, he replied, "most willingly," and seizing a pen, instantly subscribed "to this record of glory." "There go a few millions," said some one who watched the pen as it traced the name of "Charles Carroll, of Carrollton," on the parchment. Millions would indeed have gone, for his fortune was princely, had not success crowned the American arms, in the long fought contest.

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Last modified January 2, 2004