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Charles Carroll, founding father and "an exemplar of Catholic and republican virtue" [Ecumenical]
InsightScoop.com ^ | on webiste July 4, 2011 | interview with Dr. Bradley J. Birzer

Posted on 07/04/2011 7:05:39 PM PDT by Salvation

Charles Carroll, founding father and "an exemplar of Catholic and republican virtue"

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, was born in 1737 and died in November 1832. He was the lone Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence and the last of the signers to die. Last year I interviewed Dr. Brad Birzer, Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College and author of American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (ISI, 2010). Here is some of that interview:

Ignatius Insight: In what ways was Charles Carroll an "American Cicero"?

Dr. Birzer: Beginning sometime in his teenage years, Carroll fell in the love with the life, the ideas, and the writings of Cicero. From that point until his death in 1832, Carroll considered Cicero one of his closest friends and, as he put it, a constant companion in conversation. After the teachings of Christ and the Bible, he said toward the end of his life, give me the works of Cicero. Again, as Father Hanley has argued, Carroll truly was a Christian Humanist, blending the Judeo-Christian with the
Greco-Roman traditions of the West quite nicely in his person as well as in his intellectual life.

The founders, overall, greatly respected Cicero. Not only had he served as the last real bulwark against the encroachment of tyranny and empire in ancient Rome, but he represented the best a republic had to offer, then or now. Probably Carl J. Richard, author of The Founders and the Classics and Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts, has presented the most extensive and best work on this. Forrest McDonald, too, has done yeoman's work. Classicists Christian Kopff and Bruce Thornton have published excellent studies on this as well.

In many ways, Carroll resembled Cicero not at all. Certainly, no leader ever hunted down Carroll, as Marc Antony did to the great Roman senator. And, while Carroll could speak with force, dignity, and clarity, his oratorical skills could in no way match Cicero's.

But, like Cicero--and, indeed, inspired in large part by the example and words of Cicero--Carroll always put the needs of the res publica ahead of his own personal self interest. In fact, I couldn't find an instance in Carroll's public life where he did not always put the good of the republic ahead of his own good. He served as a model leader.

When I first sent the manuscript to ISI, I had wanted to name the book, "The Last of the Romans: The Life of Charles Carroll." The title, "Last of the Romans" was given to Carroll at his death. It's fitting. Jed Donahue, ISI's new editor, rightfully thought Carroll too obscure a figure to give such a title to his biography; an audience might justly believe the book to be about ancient history. My close friend and colleague, Dr. Mark Kalthoff, came up with the clever title "Papist Patriot." While Kalthoff's title is certainly catchy and edgy, I didn't want to have to explain to Catholic audiences why I was using a term usually associated with an insult.

In the end, American Cicero seemed fair and just, as it tied the founding to the ancient world without forgetting the medieval or the early modern worlds. As another close friend of mine, Thomas More and Shakespeare scholar, Stephen Smith, has argued in private conversation, "Cicero serves as a key to true reform and progress in the western world." And, of course, Smith is right. We can't even imagine St. Augustine, Petrarch, or Thomas More without the Ciceronian element. The same should be true of the American founding. To my mind, among the American founders, Charles Carroll best continued the Ciceronian legacy.

Ignatius Insight: In the Introduction, you describe Carroll as "an exemplar of Catholic and republican virtue." What are some examples of each?

Dr. Birzer: Just as figures (some mythical, some historical, most a combination of both) such as Cincinatus and Cicero served as exemplars for the American founders, so Carroll should serve as an exemplar for us. Carroll devoted his considerable resources and gifts to the common good.

We live, however, in an age of cynicism and scandal. Such men as Washington or Carroll seem like cardboard figures to us, mostly because we can no longer imagine what real service and sacrifice means, especially to something so "old fashioned" as the republic. All we have to do is give a sidelong glance toward Washington or Wall Street to see where our society as "progressed": deals, corruption, and the radical pursuit of self-interest infect, inundate, and adulterate almost every aspect of our institutions and so-called leadership. A figure who stands for right seems the fool, the buffoon, or the flighty romantic, merely positioned to be stepped upon or used.

And, of course, this isn't true for everyone in what remains of our constitutional republic. Just this past weekend, I learned that 13 of our roughly 280 graduates of the Hillsdale Class of 2010 have joined the Marines. At least one graduate is heading off to a Catholic monastery; another is off to Orthodox seminary to become a priest. So, a few good men and women remain.

Sadly, though, these Hillsdale students serve as exceptions in a larger culture that puts security and material comfort above eternal certainties.

Throughout his public career, Carroll defended the soul and nature of the republic. Like many of the founders, he believed that no people could enjoy the blessings of liberty without the virtue necessary to maintain it. If a man cannot order himself, how can we expect him to order his community?

For Carroll, republican virtue would have flowed neatly into a Catholic understanding of the world. Virtue--our English equivalent of "virtu" or "manly power"--animates a person as well as a society. During the revolution, Carroll used much of his own wealth to maintain armies as well as governments. Never did he expect to be paid back for any of this. As he saw it, God placed him in that time and that place. His material wealth, a blessing, could only be sanctified by using it for God's greater glory. In the providence of history, Carroll believed, the American revolution served not only to give an example of religious liberty to the world, but also a representation and manifestation of God's desire for man to reform, to purify, and to bring society back to first principles.

Read the entire interview on Ignatius Insight.



TOPICS: Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: america; independenceday; moral
Carroll always put the needs of the res publica ahead of his own personal self interest. In fact, I couldn't find an instance in Carroll's public life where he did not always put the good of the republic ahead of his own good. He served as a model leader.

What an outstanding stateman!

1 posted on 07/04/2011 7:05:45 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Happy Independence Day Ping!


2 posted on 07/04/2011 7:06:54 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Hey , I am related to that guy, Really.


3 posted on 07/04/2011 7:13:04 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: Venturer

Not everyone can say that! LOL! Wow, to have a founding father as a relative!


4 posted on 07/04/2011 7:20:52 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Venturer

Interesting. Me, too.


5 posted on 07/04/2011 7:21:39 PM PDT by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: Venturer

A decendent of Charles Carroll?


6 posted on 07/04/2011 7:25:18 PM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

Of course the most important thing he did was hide the treasure map on the back of the Declaration.

Oh, wait, that was a movie.


7 posted on 07/04/2011 7:26:04 PM PDT by ConservativeDude
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To: Venturer

Hey , I am related to that guy, Really.


Me, too. Really.


8 posted on 07/04/2011 7:27:30 PM PDT by unkus
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To: Biggirl

Yes, I suppose there are a lot of us.

Generations have been born.


9 posted on 07/04/2011 7:28:31 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: Venturer

Today I had heard on the local radio news an organization that is for the decendents of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards I looked up the organization and had posted an article about it on FR about one of the signers, a Whipple from New Hampshire who does not have direct decendents. Here is an article about Charles Carroll:

http://www.dsdi1776.com/Signers/Charles%20Carroll.html


10 posted on 07/04/2011 7:29:21 PM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Biggirl

Thank you.


11 posted on 07/04/2011 7:59:23 PM PDT by unkus
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To: unkus

Your welcome!


12 posted on 07/04/2011 8:02:07 PM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: unkus; Venturer

Maybe you are cousins or even closer?


13 posted on 07/04/2011 8:04:59 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Very distant, for certain.


14 posted on 07/04/2011 8:13:05 PM PDT by unkus
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To: Biggirl
Thanks good reference. Hadn't read about Carroll much in recent years, but went through those bios of all the signers long ago.

They had a bright and shining vision of what could be and they set about doing what they could to create that future.

A note to folks with a Charles Carroll ancestry, that's not the only Catholic in the family ~ by the time the Brits set about de-establishing the Catholics in the Maryland colony there were more than enough mixed marriages (Catholic/Protestant) to allow the broader families to protect most of the estates from loss.

What you might want to look at are the Smallwood families ~ one of their number also signed the Declaration but left no progeny ~ but his relatives did. They and others are associated with the core Catholic community centered on St. Mary's Maryland. That particular community sent its own "colonies" West into Kentucky and other locations over the years ~ and many of those colonies still send their kids back to the local college.

They maintained that same pattern of mixed marriages, but always a concern for the Catholics that they not be extinguished.

I think you'll find a number of the Carroll descendants ALSO mixed up in the Smallwoods.

One of my ancestors was named Mary Ann Elizabeth Smallwood Murphy ~ and if you've ever had a nightmare tracking genealogy, looking for a particular Mary Murphy is definitely in that category. That's still one of the all time favorite American names.

15 posted on 07/04/2011 8:18:40 PM PDT by muawiyah
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To: muawiyah

What a shining example this man has been for the generations that followed him.


16 posted on 07/04/2011 8:26:46 PM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: Salvation; Tolerance Sucks Rocks

MD ping.

Great Founders, Great MDers.


17 posted on 07/04/2011 8:53:39 PM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Technological progress cannot be legislated.)
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To: Salvation

His cousin, John Carroll, 1st archbishop of the USA, consecrated the United States to Mary.


18 posted on 07/04/2011 8:58:54 PM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Technological progress cannot be legislated.)
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To: the OlLine Rebel

I didn’t make that connection. Thanks.


19 posted on 07/04/2011 9:02:39 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Venturer
I am into genealogy. I have never seen so many people related to someone as there are to this family. Nearly every family in my tree are related to him in some way or another. Never found our just how many kids, grandkids, etc he had but there had to be many.
20 posted on 07/04/2011 11:12:34 PM PDT by MamaB
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To: Salvation

Richest man in the colonies, too.


21 posted on 07/05/2011 5:27:17 AM PDT by Tax-chick (There is no satire that is more ridiculous than the reality of our current government.~freedumb2003)
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To: Salvation

Excellent! Thanks for the ping. Another book I must have.


22 posted on 07/06/2011 10:07:01 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Palin in 2012)
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