Daniel Carroll was a prominent member of one of America's great colonial families, a family that produced a signer of the Declaration of Independence in Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a cousin, and the first Catholic bishop in the United States, Daniel's brother John. Daniel Carroll was a patrician planter who fused family honor with the cause of American independence, willingly risking his social and economic position in the community for the Patriot cause. Later, as a friend and staunch ally of George Washington, he worked for a strong central government which could secure the achievements and fulfill the hopes of the Revolution. Ironically, for one whose name was synonymous with the colonial aristocracy, Carroll fought in the Convention for a government responsible directly to the people.
CAREER BEFORE THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Typical of wealthy colonial Catholics, Carroll went abroad for his education. Between 1742 and 1748 he studied under the Jesuits at St. Omer's in Flanders. After his return, he only gradually joined the Patriot cause. A large landholder, he was concerned lest the Revolution fail economically and bring about not only his family's financial ruin, but mob rule as well. Furthermore, he was initially prevented from becoming involved in Maryland politics by laws that excluded Catholics from holding public office. Once these laws were nullified by the Maryland constitution of 1776, the way was cleared for his election to the upper house of the Maryland legislature (1777-81). At the end of his term, he became a member of the Continental Congress (1781-84), where, in 1781, he signed the Articles of Confederation. His involvement in the Revolution, like that of other Patriots in this patrician's extended family, was inspired by the family's ancient motto: "Strong in Faith and War."
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Carroll was an active member of the Constitutional Convention, despite the fact that illness prevented him from attending the early sessions. Like his good friend James Madison, Carroll was convinced that a strong central government was needed to regulate commerce among the states and with other nations. He also spoke out repeatedly in opposition to the payment of members of Congress by the states, reasoning that such compensation would sabotage the strength of the new government because "the dependence of both Houses on the state Legislatures would be compleat . . . .The new government in this form is nothing more than a second edition of [the Continental] Congress in two volumes, instead of one, and perhaps with very few amendments." He wanted governmental power vested in the people, and he joined James Wilson in campaigning for popular sovereignty. When it was suggested that the President should be elected by the Congress, it was Carroll, seconded by James Wilson, who moved that the words "by the legislature" be replaced with "by the people." His signature on the Constitution made him one of two Catholics to sign the document, a further symbol of the advance of religious freedom in America during the Revolutionary period.
CAREER AFTER THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Following the Convention, Carroll immersed himself in state and national affairs. He was a key participant in the Maryland ratification struggle. He also defended the Constitution in the pages of the Maryland Journal, most notably in his response to the arguments advanced by the well-known Antifederalist Samuel Chase. After ratification was achieved in Maryland, Carroll became a representative in the First Congress, where, reflecting his concern for economic and fiscal stability, he voted for the assumption of state debts by the federal government.
He later served in the Maryland senate and as one of three commissioners appointed to survey the District of Columbia. He then became a commissioner (co-mayor) of the new capital city, but advanced age and failing health forced him to retire in 1795. Even then, interest in the good of his region kept him active. In the last year of his life he became one of George Washington's partners in the Patowmack Company, a business enterprise intended to link the middle states with the expanding west by means of a Potomac River canal.
BIRTH: 22 July 1730, at Upper Marlboro, Maryland
DEATH: 5 July 1796, at "Rock Creek" (Forest Glen), Montgomery County, Maryland
INTERMENT: St. John's Catholic Cemetery, Forest Glen, Maryland