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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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John Carroll

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CARROLL, John, R. C. archbishop, born in Upper Marlborough, Maryland, in 1735; died in Georgetown, District of Columbia, in 1817. He was descended from the first family of Carrolls, whose representatives immigrated to Maryland about 1689, and whose members became possessed of vast landed estates in that province prior to the revolution. He was a cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and sympathized with him in his patriotic resistance to the British crown.

At the time of his birth, as the laws of Maryland prohibited Roman Catholics from maintaining schools for the education of their youth in the province, young Carroll, who had attached himself to the Society of Jesus, was sent to the Jesuit College of St. Omer's in French Flanders, and thence to Liege for his training under the severe regimen of that order. He was ordained priest at Liege in 1759, having first surrendered his property to his brother and sisters. Up to 1771 he was professor of moral philosophy in St. Omer's and Liege, and in the same year admitted as a professed father into that society. The next two years were occupied in a tour through Europe, in company with the son of Lord Stourton, to whom he was appointed tutor. Father Carroll filled the office of prefect to the Jesuit College at Bruges in 1773, having been obliged to leave France by reason of the decree of the parliament of Paris expelling the Jesuits.

The society having been suppressed by the pope in the same year. He was forced to abandon the continent, and, in company with the English Jesuits of Flanders, took refuge in England, whence he conducted important negotiations with the French government in reference to the property held by the society in France. He was appointed chaplain to his kinsman Lord Arundel, and performed missionary duties in the neighborhood of Wardour Castle up to the middle of June, 1774. The agitation in Maryland and America for resistance to the crown enlisted his earliest sympathies. The condition of the Roman Catholics of Maryland was so unhappy that their leaders, the Carrolls, were looking for some other place of refuge. The celebration of the Mass was forbidden by law, Roman Catholic schools for the education of their youth were prohibited, and they were denied the right to bear arms, at that time the insignium of social position and gentle breeding. This, in a province founded by Roman Catholics, under the patronage of the Society of Jesus, on the principle of religious toleration, and as a refuge for their co-religionists from all the world, was unbearable, and consequently Charles Carroll, who represented great wealth, and John Carroll, who represented the church, applied to the king of France for a grant of land beyond the Mississippi, in the territory of Louisiana, where they might found a new Roman Catholic and Jesuit refuge and lead a second exodus as Caecilius Calvert had done to Maryland.

The issue between the crown and the colonies opened another way of relief, and John Carroll returned at once to his native country, where he threw himself with his whole heart into the patriotic cause, which was at the same time to his people the cause of liberty of conscience and freedom of thought. He was pious, learned, eloquent, and patriotic, and represented a powerful family in Ireland and in Maryland, the great order which was strongly entrenched in landed estates and in the affections of the people. No greater power of combined wealth, intellect, and enthusiasm existed anywhere in America than the union of the Carrolls and the Jesuits in Maryland in the person of John Carroll.

He quitted England 26 June, 1774, and, on his arrival in America, devoted himself to missionary duty in Maryland and Virginia. In February, 1776, he was appointed by the Continental congress commissioner, with Carroll of Carrollton, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin, to go to Canada and endeavor to secure the co-operation of the French Roman Catholics of that province with their friends and co-religionists in Maryland, in the common cause. But he was not successful in this mission. The health of Dr. Franklin having become enfeebled by the journey, Father Carroll returned with him, nursing him with a care that laid the foundation of their lifelong friendship.

During the struggle for independence he rendered important services to his country by his letters to friends in every part of Europe, explaining the situation. At the close of the war the Roman Catholics of the United States were anxious to be freed from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the vicar-apostolic of London, and the clergy petitioned the pope to appoint a superior over them who would owe allegiance to the government of their country alone. The papal nuncio at Paris consulted with Dr. Franklin, and, at the latter's request, Father Carroll was appointed superior of the clergy of the United States in 1784.

The bishopric of Baltimore was established in 1788 in accordance with a second petition of the clergy, and, Dr. Carroll being their choice for bishop, he was consecrated in England in 1790. The diocese of Baltimore remained for years the only Roman Catholic diocese in the United States, and embraced all the states and territories of the union. The first care of the new bishop was to visit all the towns of his diocese that contained Roman Catholic congregations, and he also gave attention to the French settlements in the west, which had heretofore depended on the bishop of Quebec. His efforts were at first impeded by the want of priests; but the French revolution resulted in the emigration of several French priests, among them a considerable body of Sulpicians, by whose aid he was enabled to provide for the Indians and the French inhabitants of the northwest. The arrival of a colony of English Dominicans supplied him with priests for such stations as were most in need of them, and he also received a community of Carmelite nuns, and another of Poor Clares.

Georgetown College, of which he had laid the foundation in 1788, was completed in 1791, principally through the aid he received from his English friends. He established a theological seminary in connection with it, which in 1792 was merged in that of St. Mary's, Baltimore. Bishop Carroll was appointed one of the three commissioners charged by the state of Maryland to establish St. John's College at Annapolis, from whose faculty he afterward received the degree of L.L.D. On 7 November, 1791, the first synod of the Catholic clergy of the United States was held under his presidency; and the statutes of this assembly and the pastoral letter of Bishop Carroll explaining them have made a permanent impression on the legislation of the American church. But the enormous extent of his diocese, as well as the turbulence and scandalous lives of some of his clergy, was a serious obstacle to the spread of religion, and Dr. Carroll solicited the pope either to divide his see into several dioceses, or appoint a coadjutor-bishop of Baltimore; and, in compliance with this request, the Rev. Leonard Veale was appointed his coadjutor in 1800.

Congress unanimously selected Bishop Carroll to deliver a panegyric on Washington on 22 February, 1800, In 1803 he performed the marriage ceremony between Prince Jerome Bonaparte and Miss Patterson. By his aid and encouragement, Mrs. Seton founded an institution of the Sisters of Charity at Emmettsburg in 1803. In 1805 he transferred Georgetown College to the Jesuits, and restored to them their former missions in Maryland and Pennsylvania. In 1806 he laid the foundation of the present cathedral of Baltimore, which he was enabled to dedicate before his death. The number of Catholics had increased so much that it became impossible for a single bishop to attend to their wants, and, owing to his representation, Pope Plus VII, erected Baltimore into an archiepiscopal see in 1808, with four Episcopal sees as suffragans.

Dr. Carroll was created archbishop in the same year, consecrated the newly appointed prelates at Baltimore, and, in conjunction with them, framed additional rules for the government of the growing church. The remainder of his life was devoted to the interests of his diocese, which now embraced Maryland, Virginia, and the southern states as far as the gulf and the Mississippi. Although not taking an active part in politics, Archbishop Carroll was an ardent federalist, and always voted with his party. His writings are mostly controversial. Among them are "An Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America," "A Concise View of the Principal Points of Controversy between the Protestant and Roman Churches," "A Review of the important Controversy between Dr. Carroll and the Rev. Messrs. Wharton and Hawkins," and "A Discourse on General Washington."


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