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The only Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence

In 1906, the University of Notre Dame, my alma mater, dedicated a new dormitory called Carroll Hall. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, its namesake, was the only Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Born in Annapolis, Maryland on September 19, 1732, he left for Europe at the age of eleven to continue his studies with the Society of Jesus, Jesuits. Over the course of seventeen years, he earned a law degree and then practiced law in London for several years before returning to the colony. Carroll wrote in favor of Independence from Great Britain under the pseudonym of First Citizen in the Maryland Gazette. Although his faith made him ineligible to hold and serve public office, he considered that his education and wealth made it a civic virtue to add his voice to the injustices of British rule. He was considered the wealthiest and best educated of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll, fluent in five languages, knew that only an armed conflict would secure Independence from the British crown.

After the Declaration of Independence, he served on the Continental Congress, then the Maryland and United States Senate. He resigned from the latter as his home state law would not allow one to serve at the federal and state level simultaneously. Carroll was the longest-lived signatory of the Declaration of Independence; he outlived four of the first six presidents of the United States of America. He came out of retirement to help launch the Baltimore Ohio Railroad. His statue represents Maryland in the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC. Carroll died on November 14, 1832. The last living signer of Declaration of Independence embodied his Catholic faith in the principle of subsidiarity and our nation as a patriot.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Very Reverend Carlos Alvarez, V.F., pastor at Sacred Heart--Alamosa

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