While the whole nation was celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence, on the 4th of July, 1826, “the year of Jubilee,” there remained but three surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. These three names were mingled with the songs of national joy, and saluted with peals of artillery. But two of the illustrious trio saw not another sun. Adams and Jefferson passed from the scenes of the earth that same day. Charles Carroll alone remained— the sole survivor of the fifty-six patriots of 1776!The undivided homage of the United States was now reserved for the last of that glorious band. In the words of Lossing, “the good and the great made pilgrimages to his dwelling, to behold with their own eyes the venerable political patriarch of America; and from the rich storehouse of his intellect he freely contributed to the deficiencies of others.” Six years more rolled by, and the great and good Charles Carroll of Carrollton went to receive the reward of the faithful servant. “Death softly touched him and he passed away,” on the 14th of November, 1832.
In his last days he uttered these remarkable words: “I have lived to my ninety-sixth year; I have enjoyed continued health; I have been blessed with great wealth, prosperity, and most of the good things which the world can bestow; public approbation, esteem, applause — but what I now look back on with the greatest satisfaction to myself, is that I have practiced the duties of my religion.”
In Charles Carroll of Carrollton all true Americans recognize one of the most patriotic, learned, and very greatest men of the Revolution. His fearless integrity and political wisdom were unsurpassed. He always carried our holy faith as a sacred shield about him. In the “Last of the Signers” we see the fruits of Catholic life and Catholic education—a man without fear and without reproach.
John O’Kane Murray
A Popular History of the Catholic Church in the United States