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Biographical Sketches

Daniel Carroll
Daniel Carroll

Carroll, a distinguished Maryland planter-aristocrat, was one of two Roman Catholic signers of the Constitution. He served on the Convention's committee on postponed matters and took a moderate nationalist stance. His public career included service in the Continental Congress, the Maryland senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. He was also one of the first commissioners of the District of Columbia.

Daniel Carroll was a member of one collateral branch of a prominent Maryland family of Irish descent. The other was led by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Daniel's older brother was John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States.

Daniel was born in 1730 at Upper Marlboro, Md. Befitting the son of a wealthy Roman Catholic family, he studied for 6 years (1742-48) under Jesuits at St. Omer's in Flanders. Then, after a tour of Europe, he sailed home and soon married Eleanor Carroll, apparently a first cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Not much is known about the next two decades of his life except that he only reluctantly backed the War for Independence and remained out of the public eye. No doubt he lived the life of a gentleman planter.

In 1781 Carroll entered the political arena. Elected to the Continental Congress that year (1781-84), he carried to Philadelphia the news that Maryland was at last ready to accede to the Articles of Confederation, to which he soon penned his name. During the decade, he also began a tour in the Maryland senate that was to span his lifetime and helped George Washington promote the Patowmack Company, a scheme to canalize the Potomac River so as to provide a transportation link between the East and the trans-Appalachian West.

Carroll did not arrive at the Constitutional Convention until July 9, but thereafter he attended quite regularly. He spoke about 20 times during the debates, and served on the committee on postponed matters. Returning to Maryland after the Convention, he campaigned for ratification of the Constitution, but was not a delegate to the State convention.

In 1789 Carroll won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he voted for locating the National Capitol on the banks of the Potomac and for Hamilton's program for the Federal assumption of State debts. In 1791 George Washington named his friend Carroll as one of three commissioners to survey and define the District of Columbia, where Carroll owned much land. Ill health caused him to resign this post 4 years later, and the next year at the age of 65 he died at his home near Rock Creek in the present village of Forest Glen, Md. He was buried there in St. John's Catholic Cemetery.

Drawing: Oil (ca. 1758) by John Wollaston. Maryland Historical Society.

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Last Updated: 29-Jul-2004