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American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll (Lives of the Founders) Hardcover – February 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Before his death in 1832, Charles Carroll of Carrollton was widely regarded as among the most important of the American founders. Today, however, Carroll’s signal contributions to the American founding are largely overlooked.
In the fascinating new biography American Cicero, historian Bradley J. Birzer rescues Carroll from this unjust neglect. Drawing on his considerable archival research and study of Carroll’s extensive correspondence, Birzer shows how this man of supreme intellect, imagination, and integrity recognized the necessity of independence from Great Britain well before most other founders, advocated a proper understanding of the American Revolution as deeply rooted in the Western tradition, inspired the creation of the U.S. Senate, and helped legitimize his religion, Roman Catholicism, in the American republic.
Born a bastard, Carroll nevertheless became the best educated and wealthiest founder. His analysis of the situation in the colonies in the run-up to the Revolution, though ignored by almost all historians, was original and brilliant, Birzer shows. Carroll eventually served as one of the main informants for Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic work Democracy in America.
American Ciceroreveals why founders such as John Adams assumed that Charles Carroll would one day be considered among the greats—and also why history has largely forgotten him.

About the Author

Bradley J. Birzer holds the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College. The author or editor of four other books, he has written and taught extensively on the American experience. Birzer also serves as chairman of the board of academic advisors for the Center for the American Idea in Houston and as a Non-Resident Fellow for the McConnell Center, University of Louisville.  He and his family live in Michigan.


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Product Details

  • Series: Lives of the Founders
  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (February 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193385989X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933859897
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Normally, I hold the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies and am Professor of History at Hillsdale College, Michigan. I proudly serve on the boards of the Free Enterprise Institute and The Center for Cultural Renewal. I am also happily a "Fellow" and/or "Scholar" with the Foundation for Economic Education, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, The McConnell Center for Public Policy, the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, and the Center for Economic Personalism (Brazil). In 2010, I co-founded The Imaginative Conservative website, and, in 2012, I co founded, a site dedicated to the exploration of music in all of its various forms. I also write for Ignatius Insight, Catholic World Report, and CatholicVote. In 1990, I earned my B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and, in 1998, I earned my PhD from Indiana University. I have had the great privilege to study with such excellent scholars as R. David Edmund, Bernard Sheehan, Russ Hanson, Anne Butler, Walter Nugent, Greg Dowd, and Marvin O'Connell. I am author of several books (please see below) and scholarly articles. Currently, I am completing an intellectual biography of Russell Kirk to be published by the University Press of Kentucky under the editorship of Steve Wrinn. Most importantly, though, my lovely wife (Dedra) and I have seven children and two cats.

For the 2014-2015 school year, I have the wonderful honor of being the "Scholar in Residence" and "Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy," University of Colorado-Boulder. I'm thrilled.

I have lots of loves: human liberty and dignity; baking; cooking; playing Legos with my kids; hiking and backpacking; good writing; Christian Humanism; Panera bagels; Apple products; and progressive rock and progressive jazz.

I've also been an customer since the fall of 1997.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By William H. Chellis on June 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Brad Birzer's excellent biography of Charles Carroll is a much need contribution to our understanding the origins of the American Republic. Charles Carroll is one of our forgotten founders. John Dickenson is another. Ironically, those whom we have forgotten offer some of the greatest resources to meet the intellectual challenges of the early 21st Century. Birzer has done us a favor be reacquainting us with Carroll.

Charles Carroll was a Roman Catholic, a Marylander, scion of one of early America's largest fortunes. Educated in Europe by he Jesuits, Carroll returned to his native country a disenfranchised alien. Birzer's biography paints a delightful picture of a cautious reformer whose "revolutionary" actions were aimed at preventing a revolution against the inherited rights of Anglo-Americans. Carroll, friend and disciple of Burke, stood for old ways and rooted rights. Not an abstract speculator, Carroll took his stand with the great Western tradition. Identified by Birzer as the "last of the Romans," Carroll's mind was able to transcend the limitations of the Whig tradition by seeing its continuity, not only with the Roman Republic, but uniting the classical patrimony with the insights of the Church Fathers, the medieval scholastics, and the modern (i.e. the 17th and 18th century republican tradition). Thus, by understanding the mind of Carroll we are able to better understand America's continuity with, and reform of, the tradition of Western Christendom. Carroll, like his biographer, was a man of the West and friends of the great tradition will be edified by this fine book.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mirabilis on July 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Given Charles Carroll's important contributions to the development of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the success of American Revolution, the shaping of the early American government and the founding of the United States of America, it defies explanation that our historians have virtually forgotten him. While he remained an enigma in his own time in the colonies, and particularly in Maryland as wealthy Catholic landowner, Carroll's roll in shaping the fledgling nation is undeniable.

Bradley Birzer has once again succeeded in restoring the place of a forgotten spirit in American history. As with his earlier Sanctifying the World, the beautiful biographic of Christopher Dawson, American Cicero reveals both the politics and the person of it's central figure, this time in the man of Charles Carroll of Maryland. Birzer weaves Charles Carroll's rise as leader of the fledgling republic with his filial ascendancy to a Maryland landowning dynasty. Through Carroll's letters and editorial acumen the reader discovers a youthful and passionate statesman who gave a large part of his life and livelihood to help establish a republic which could withstand the dynamic forces of the multiplex culture.

Though Carroll's role in shaping the young nation is made clear, Birzer's portrayal of Carroll does not whitewash the leader's often contentious relationship with those who at this turning point of history were unable to see it continuity with political tradition. Carroll's support of independence from the British Empire was balanced with a concern for the abandonment of the virtuous republic advocated by those pursuing a radical democracy. Carroll recognized the necessity of foundations laid by past generations and the necessary stability which such foundations offer.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. Jaksetic on November 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting biography of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The author compares Charles Carroll to Marcus Tullius Cicero, a prominent citizen of the Roman Republic who used his rhetorical skills to vigorously engage in Roman politics.

As a Roman Catholic, Charles Carroll suffered various legal disabilities under Maryland colonial law, including not being able to vote, not being able to hold public office, and not being able to claim citizenship in Maryland. Despite those legal impediments, Charles Carroll actively engaged in Maryland colonial politics by writing public letters and advocating positions on important issues that were leading up to the American Revolution. Charles Carroll's public advocacy led to his becoming accepted by many of his fellow Marylanders and being allowed to actively participate in Maryland politics. Also, Charles Carroll became involved in political activities beyond Maryland that were in support of the American Revolution, including his signing of the Declaration of Independence. After the American Revolution, Charles Carroll served in the Maryland Senate and the U.S. Senate.

In general, the author supports his commentary and contentions with references to various historical sources. One flaw with the book is the author's occasional attempt to speculate about matters for which he acknowledges there is no documentary evidence or other support. The effect of that flaw is minimized because the author is open and candid about when he is engaging in such speculations, so the reader can be aware of when the author is speculating.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joe Butson on October 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Initially, the book's jacket caught my eye as it promoted Charles Carroll as "America's Cicero." Then the forgotten "Founding Father" pulled me in further. This book will not disappoint.

Carroll's role in building an intellectual framework for Independence from England, his epic letters in the Maryland Gazette under the nom de plume "First Citizen" and his Catholic faith marked his State and his new country in a most formative manner.

Bradley Birzer's book is a compelling history of a remarkable man and I recommend it as a primary reference to the American revolution from a Catholic perspective in General, and a Maryland context in particular. Birzer brings to life in the pages of his book the "Annapolis Tea Party", which I am sure many Americans have never heard of although it is an important milestone on the path American Independence,

Carrol's classical education in France with the Jesuits caused much suspicion in the Protestant majority when he returned to Maryland, though they certainly didn't mind his logical dismantling of the authority and control of taxation by the Colonial oligarchs through his letters in Maryland's Gazette. Catholic landowners were denied the franchise in the colonial period and so the rigorous support Charles Carrol provided to the cause of independence [intellectually and financially], as the book posits, greatly contributed to the reversal of the prejudice against his religion and may be thought to have led Congress to the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.
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