Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355 CE) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian, Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years.

“If we cannot know God’s essence, we can stand in God’s place … 
on the high mountain, in the lonely desert, at the point where 
terror gives way to wonder. Only here do we enter the abandonment, 
the agnosia, that is finally necessary for meeting God.”

The Solace of Fierce Landscapes (1998)
Belden C. Lane


The Sceilig Mhichíl (Skellig Michael or Great Skellig) rock off the south-west coast of Ireland is probably as “fierce” a landscape that you will ever encounter in Ireland, subject, often without respite for weeks on end, to Atlantic storms and the isolation of less-than-forgiving seas. It is also a very special “landscape” that I have wanted to travel to for nearly 40 years and having been turned back previously 4-5 times by either weather or sea conditions, or by the more recent UNESCO imposed restrictions on visitor numbers, I finally managed to make it from Port Magee across the gannet-pierced waves west of Valentia Island’s Bray Head to the monastery island on the 27th May last.

Looking east towards Little Skellig over half-wall of Monastic Cell G

Even without a belief in a Supreme Being, I find it easy to admire, indeed wonder at, mankind’s architectural conversations, mankind’s communal constructs, in an attempt to get closer to God or the Gods. I think of the 10,000 BCE temple complex of Gobekli Tepe, the Pyramids, The Parthenon, Hagia Sofia, Angkor Wat, Chartres Cathedral, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat…. to name just a few. All places of wonderment… all places that were not designed for separation from community, but spaces which can tolerate the noise, and which encourage the volume of communal worship.

Roofless St Michael's Church Skellig Michael.
Little Skellig to right and Puffin Island close to mainland
directly ahead.

In every religion however, monotheist or polytheist, or I suspect in any form of “beyond us” worship, from time immemorial, there have been those individuals who have been quietist, those who have sought an alternative way of communicating with their God or Gods in isolated contemplative silence or in small communities where the volume of exhortation, of expectation even, was turned right down. In many cases this involved removing themselves from their societies and finding a space for reflection in “Fierce Landscapes”.

The "Fierce Landscape" of the northern shores of
Little Skellig (foreground) and Skellig Michael (distance).
Monastery just visible on top left of Skellig Michael.

The lines quoted above from The Solace of Fierce Landscapes,  are from a book written by Belden C. Lane, a Presbyterian theologian, which is an academic exploration, and affirmation of the history and purpose of the extreme abandonment of an individual from society, the agnosia, in the pursuit of encountering God.

This desire for quietness, for agnosia, a desire for remoteness from self in a way, amongst certain individuals, was evident from very early on in the Christian church and the absolute contradiction in a faith perspective between the demands of service to others and service to self was evident from the very beginning of the Christian faith when one considers the Gospel of Mark’s description of the feeding of the 5,ooo.

“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they 
had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves 
to a desolate place and rest awhile.’ People were coming and 
going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. 
So they went off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place.”
Mark 6: 30-32

Jesus Christ appeared to demand that the disciples deliberately withdraw to a desolate place to rest, to contemplate.

Taking the “permission to withdraw” passage of Mark’s gospel as guidance the Desert Fathers, particularly following the example of St Anthony the Great around 270 CE, established the first contemplative monastic communities in the desert west of the Nile Delta. Although true hermits existed, and indeed even more extreme forms such as anchorites (those walled up in cells in monastic communities) and styilites (like St Simeon in Syria. See: Rihla 54, November 2015 at ) were to evolve in the future the vast majority of these early contemplative monastic hermitages were actually communities with male and female adherents, and properly termed coenobitic (from the Greek words for Common [koinos] and Life [bios]), and a little later adopted the Coptic Rules of St Pachomius for their actual function.

East Steps from Blind Man's Cove


This theological model for monastic communities established in the desolate places of the 4th century Western Desert of Egypt or the more formalised architectural lavra of the 5th and 6th century Judean Desert such as Mar Saba in the Kidron valley, was to be the model adopted in Sceilig Mhichíl where the early 7th century penitent monks – in contrast to the missionary "wandering" monks, like St Columba, and collectively  known as the Peregrini –really did take Mark’s Gospel at its word and “went off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place.”

Skellig Michael originally called the Green Skellig ( sceilg in old Irish is a reef of rocks at sea or a sheer cliff face) and was part of the territory of the Corcu Duibne petty Kingdom in west Kerry. The Corcu Duibne were subject to their overlords the Kings of Íarmumu (west Munster), the Eóganachta Locha Léin centred in Killarney who in turn were subject to the High Kings of Munster, generally the Eóganachta Chaisil, ruling from Cashel. There is some archaeological evidence for the presence of a hill fort just above the monastery complex and it is postulated that Skellig Michael was originally established as a costal island hill fort, like Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands, and that no longer functioning as such by the mid-6th century it was given to the early monks by the Corcu Duibne for them to establish their community. Saint Fionán is the member of the Corcu Duibne ruling dynasty most associated with the island.

The "hermitage" on top of Skellig Michael South Peak

Skellig Michael is a lavra or laura, a cluster of beehive cells centred on narrow alleyway beside in its case two oratories, with stout protective walls surrounding the complex. I say protective rather than defensive, because the walls were designed to prevent visitors or penitents in “great numbers” entering the monastery at random. Very unlikely in Skellig Michael’s case but perhaps even one visitor making his way up the south, north or eastern steps was one visitor to many. The visitor’s dormitory cell is located outside the enclosure walls on the edge of a precipice that was certain to create feelings of terror more than wonderment in that visitor. If the weather was bad he could have been stuck in this eerie for some time and almost certainly unlikely ever to return. But that is the nature of pilgrimage.

Gannet Colony on Little Skellig

Of very particular interest in Skellig Michael’s construction is that there is an even more desolate oratory or hermitage located high on the south peak of the island with two further praying platforms constructed nearby on the edge of oblivion. It is certain that the monastery primarily catered for monks who wished to exist in community but that there was room for the individual who wished to “withdraw” even from them for a period of time, or forever was a real incorporation of the Desert Father’s example. This is conjecture of course. There is no documentary evidence and we know very little however about the workings of the main monastery (apart from the fact that it had an abbot called Étgal in 884 who was abducted and starved to death by the Vikings) and even less of the south peak eagle’s nest hermitage that looked down on it.

The Ruin of the Guest Accommodation
outside Monastery Walls

There is no doubt however that the Skellig Michael monastery complex was very influential. The success of establishing it on a remote, storm-swept, almost inaccessible island created the 8th century precedent for the metaphorical and Christian-orientated prose-poem immrama voyages to strange islands and in particular the later stories of the Voyages of St Brendan the Navigator, where reality and metaphor are fully fused.

(See Rihla 29, June 2012 at )

In a real sense of monastic voyage achievement the monks success on Skellig also encouraged other monks to follow Jesus Christ’s instructions in Mark’s Gospel to “…go off in a boat by themselves to a deserted place” to establish 7&8th century monastic communities on other remote islands such as the Faroes and Iceland, 100 years before the Norse migrations to those places. 

Faroe Island stamps commemorating
St Brendan's "discovery" of the Faroe Islands (top) and Iceland (below).

By the mid-12th century however the full time coenobitic character of Skellig Michael had changed, and inhibited by Viking raiding, disputes over patronage and protection, or perhaps by more severe weather making even a marginal existence impossible, the monks decided to relocate. The island by this stage had become a significant place of summer pilgrimage and a new wooden-roofed church dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, was built amongst the cloister of stone-corbelled beehives, to cater for these pilgrims, around 1044.

A Skellig Puffin

Sometime after this date the monks of Skellig appeared to have relocated to the mainland. A little later they abandoned the “Desert Fathers” monastic rules of St. Anthony and St. Pachomius and adopted the Rules (Arrosian) of St Augustine and with the encouragement of Malachy Ó Morgair, the papal legate between 1140-1148, established on the coastline near Ballinskelligs an Augustinian Priory, also dedicated to St Michael. In contrast to the coenobitic existence of Skellig Michael however, Ballinskelligs Priory engaged in a public ministry and although the nature of their monastic calling had changed because they continued to live in community the monk/priests were now known as Canons Regular. Canon is derived from Kanon, a Greek word meaning “rule”.

Map of Ancient sites in Waterville/Ballinskelligs area by Seán O'Shea
in Butler Arms Hotel, Waterville

Skellig Michael remained in the hands of the Augustinians until 1578 when following the Desmond rebellion the Ballinskelligs monastery was dissolved and Queen Elizabeth I gave the islands over to the Butler family. The Commissioner of Irish Lights compulsory purchased the island in 1820 from the Butlers to build two lighthouses on the island and in 1826 on completion of the lighthouses the OPW, took over the care of the monastic site.


Our rihla to Skellig Michael ends on the mainland at the less known and even less investigated Oratory at Kildreelig. Situated about 5 km to the west of the Priory ruins in Ballinskelligs, the oratory is to be found to the left hand side of the road to Bolus Head about a half a kilometre the Cill Rialig Arts Centre and artists’ retreat in the refurbished pre-famine village at Dungeagan.

The oratory is a corbelled construction aligned east-west and there are two associated cross-slabs and a leacht (raised outside altar or marker stones for a graveyard) at the eastern end of the site looking towards the priory in Ballinskelligs below. The cross on one slab is that of a Tau or Coptic-type cross. The site itself is a cashel, or caher, a circular level piece of ground about 40 metres in diameter with a raised dry stone wall, at almost 2 metres high at extreme of slope surrounding the entire area. Typical of defensive or protective cahers there are two, perhaps three, basic souterrains on the site. It is likely that Kildreelig caher was given over to the monks of Skelligs at an early stage, perhaps 9th century, that they could have a main-land base to sit out the weather until they could attempt the crossing to the island.

Cross Slab 1

It is uncertain whether the oratory continued to be used as a “hermitage” after the Priory was established but what is certain is that the oratory derived its name from the monks in the mainland Priory.

Cross Slab 2 (Tau-type cross)

Kildreelig gets its name from Cill Rialaigh or Cill Riaghlach, meaning the Church of the Rules (religious). This in turn refers to the “Black” or Canons Regular of the Augustinian Priory, canons itself deriving from Gr. kanon (rule), and who were subject to the strict Arrouaisian interpretation and application of the Rule and who gave their name to the townland.  Another interpretation of the name, but less likely, is that of Cill Réidhleach (Rae), the Church of the flattened area of ground on a slope, which of course the caher with its rampart walls was.

Kildreelig is well worth a visit, appearing as it does to be a time capsule of an early Christian monastic site, supplanting the souterrains and buildings of an even earlier caher ring fort.   Now that the excavation and restoration of Skellig Michael is complete perhaps some attention to excavating the "daughter" oratory at Kildreelig should be undertaken.

Eastern doorway of Roofless Kildreelig Oratory

Standing on the caher looking at the ruins of the Priory to the east, with the Skelligs behind you to the west you are caught in a timeline, a timeline of faith and stone, of both withdrawal and of engagement, and even though the sun might be shining, it is a landscape that is fierce.

One large "puffin" on Skellig Michael!

Friday, June 02, 2017



Thursday, May 04, 2017


Three photographs taken this morning on my iPhone within a 10 minute window.

"Parchment Heaven!!"

Either way this particular shop has closed its doors.


There is an interesting confluence of the three pictures above (Tigh Neachtain's Pub and Yes Flowers are across the road from the closed-down fish shop) in that Guinness have recently announced that it is ceasing the use of Cod fish bladders (isinglass) in their keg brewing process. Isinglass, a form of collagen originally derived from sturgeon fish, accelerates the removal of residual starch after the fermentation of beers. 

Taking the book imagery a little further Isinglass when mixed with a few drops of honey is a great adhesive when repairing parchment, i.e. the writing material made from the untanned skins of calves, goats... and even Yes Flower's sheep

Another "sea" angle to the Guinness decision is that in the future the Irish sea algae Carragheenan Moss may be more utilised as a "fining" agent in the brewing process although it is more effective against the haze caused by proteins rather than starch.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


The Potomac

Rihla (The Journey) – was the short title of a 14th Century (1355 CE) book written in Fez by the Islamic legal scholar Ibn Jazayy al-Kalbi of Granada who recorded and then transcribed the dictated travelogue of the Tangerian, Ibn Battuta. The book’s full title was A Gift to Those who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling and somehow the title of Ibn Jazayy's book captures the ethos of many of the city and country journeys I have been lucky to take in past years.

This Rihla is about a journey from a small rural part of Ireland to the very centre of American political existence, to the very centre of American democracy. It can be considered a SCÉAL EILE, meaning yet “another story” but more accurately it should be considered a SCÉAL ÉILE, in other words the accent on the capital "É" making it a story about the “Kingdom of Éile” and how the remnants of this small Gaelic kingdom came to be at the very heart of the establishment of the USA.

Arthur M. Schlesinger's Baedeker Guide to USA


The bold man falters when asked to define American idealism, but four of its affirmative attributes are assuredly a deep abiding faith in the common man, the right of equality and opportunity, toleration of all creeds and religion, and a high regard for the rights of weaker nations.
The great mass of immigrants came to the New World to attest their devotion to one or all of these ideals – they came as protestants against tyranny, injustice, intolerance, militarism, as well as economic oppression. … neither they or their sons rested until these great principles were firmly woven into the fabric of American thought and political practice.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Snr.
Essay: The Influence of Immigration in New Viewpoints in American History (1922).
Arthur M. Schlesinger Snr

These thoughts of Arthur Meir Schlesinger Snr. – the husband of Elizabeth Bancroft, a suffragist and women’s historian, and the father of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jnr., special assistant and historian to and of John F. Kennedy – have come increasingly to mind recently when considering, ignoring of course foreign engagement in Syria and North Korea, the move towards isolationism and USAism being perpetuated by it’s 45th President, a product himself of German and Scottish emigration, Donald J. Trump. The US’s base opposition to the lifeblood that brought it into existence is not new of course, but the fault line has become exposed, spewing xenophobic magma of pyroclastic hate and divisiveness.

Throughout the period of national independence, immigration continued to exert a profound influence on the development of American institutions, political ideals and industrial life… The Federalist party, dominated by aristocratic sympathies, was determined to deal a death blow to the heresy known variously as “mobocracy” or “democracy”; and so it passed the the Alien and Sedition Acts and the Naturalisation Law in 1798 for the purpose of preventing aliens from cultivating this dangerous doctrine in the United States. ”
Arthur M. Schlesinger Snr,
New Viewpoints in American History.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric and agenda prompted me to reflect on my own visit to Washington D.C. a number of years back, to remember a sense of isolationism on one side of a freeway in relation to another, and to examine in more detail how Washington DC in general and the Capitol in particular owe their existence to Irish immigrants made good – in this case the Carrolls of Maryland – who did not, as Schlesinger states, rest until their “idealism” of freedom (it must be noted that the same consideration was not necessarily given to the Carroll slaves) was attained.

I have an 1899 revised second edition of Baedeker’s guide to the United States, which was previously owned and used by Schlesinger which describes Washington D.C. as the “City of Magnificent Distances”, some “distances” of which are not so “magnificent”, nor do they satisfy social historian Schlesinger’s post-Great War aspirations for an American idealism.

Many years ago now, I drove to Washington DC with a friend of mine – in an 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4-door hardtop we had bought for $150 from a guy who needed money to go to a wedding in Mexico – on the second last leg of a road trip that had taken us from San Francisco, to Los Angeles, to the Grand Canyon, to Albuquerque, to Oklahoma, to Dallas, to Baton Rouge, to New Orleans, to Pensacola, to Jacksonville, to Savannah and Richmond. New York and tickets to hear George Benson in concert was all that was left of that wonderful summer.

I was immediately struck, after crossing over the 14th Street Bridge and continuing eastwards on Dwight D. Eisenhower SW Freeway (Hwy 395) to first join the Southeast Freeway (Hwy 695), somewhere between 3rd and 4th SW streets, and then the Anacostia Freeway (Hwy 295) that skirted the eastern bank of the Anacostia River in the south east of the city, by what appeared to be the “magnificent distance” between the uber-entitlement of neighbourhoods to the north of Highway 395/695 and the bleak disenfranchisement of the neighbourhoods to the south.

Demographic data over the years has shown less income and a higher percentage of African-Americans in the wards south of the Freeway than those to the north. The area south of 395/695 is now generally referred to as Southwest Washington but before the foundation stone of Washington DC was laid the area was known firstly as Cerne Abbey Manor and then as the Pastures of Carroll of Duddington and Young. To the north of 395/695, which in 1770 was the road to the river ferry at Widow Wheelers on the Anacostia, were the pasture lands of New Troy, another tract of Daniel Carroll land and the future site of the Capitol Building of the new city of Washington.

US Constitution Signatories


The purpose of this Rihla is to specifically look at the involvement of two Daniel Carrolls in the foundation and establishment of Washington DC. Although distantly related, and both the product of the 17th Century emigration of Carrolls to Maryland, the fact that in 1790 there were two Daniel Carroll’s intimately involved often causes a great deal of confusion as to their specific contribution when people are writing about the city’s history (and its foundation myths!).

I will give some of the basic background of the conditions that prompted the exodus of the Carrolls but for a very detailed and scholarly examination of the Elizabethan, Cromwellian and Williamite impact of English Anglican settlement and control of Irish Catholic families in what used be the Kingdom of Éile I would refer the reader to the book the Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782 by Ronald Hoffman in collaboration with Caroline Mason (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press  2002).

This Rihla in essence takes up, where two of the Carrolls are concerned, where the Hoffman study ends.


The ancient small Kingdom of h-Éile Muman in the centre of Ireland was a Munster kingdom controlled in the main by two families. The dominant family however, for most of its recorded history, were the Éile Uí Chearbhaill (the Ely O’Carrolls of the plain of Birra – Birr), who according to the Annals were descended from Cian, the third son of Olioll Olum, King of Munster. The O’Carroll powerbase was primarily centred in the northern part of the Kingdom where there were 8 tuath of subservient clans: the Clan Cenél Farga (O’Flanagan); Clan Rooney; Clan Crioch Chein (O’Hagan); Clan Maoinaigh (O’Dooley); Clan Conligan (MacGuilfoyle); Clan Hy Deki (O’Banan); Clan Ui Cairin or Ilkerrin (O’Meagher); and Clan Tuath Faralt (O’Hailchen).

The Ely O’Fogartys had patrimonial control of the southern part but paid tribute to the O’Carrolls although they briefly retained the Kingdom in 1072 CE before Ua Fogarta was killed by Toirdelbach O’Brien, the King of Munster.

The O’Carrolls of Éile are first mentioned in the annals in 571 CE and from 1000 CE the annals constantly refer to internecine strife as well as perpetual conflict with the Kingdom of neighbouring Osraighe (Ossary). They were successful against the Anglo-Normans (the Grey Foreigners) and post Magna-Carta English for a time but in 1443CE Maelruanaid O’Carroll, the last King of Éile, died one year after he lost much of his territory in a war with the Butler Earl of Ormond.

In the 1530s Henry VIII instituted, during the Tudor conquest of Ireland, a policy of “surrender and regrant” of traditional lands that depended on speaking English, wearing English dress, obeying English law and converting to the Anglican church in return for English title and protection. It was one of the O’Carrolls closest neighbours, Brian Óg Mac Giolla Phádraig of northern Osraighe (Ossory) who was the first Gaelic chieftain to take up this offer and in 1541 he was created Baron of Upper Ossary with the English name of  Sir Barnaby Fitzpatrick.

By the 16th Century the dynasty continued to be riddled with internal disputes and it was a Donal McTeige Óg O’Carroll who changed sides many times in the clashes with those family members for and against the mid 16th century English settlement. Eventually he dropped the “O” from the O’Carroll name as a paean to the Elizabethan “surrender” policy and accepted a land re-grant in Ballymooney. Succeeding generations however lost their lives and lands fighting in the Catholic cause both in Ireland and on the Continent and it was this attachment to their faith that, and as a consequence of the Penal Laws, that caused Charles “The Settler” Carroll’s father Daniel to end up being a tenant farmer at Aghagurty, on land where once they had been “Kings”, and for his son Charles to accept the opportunity to emigrate to Maryland, an American colony established to allow freedom of worship and founded by the Catholic Calvert family.


The first Daniel Carroll to appear in the story of Washington DC is Daniel Carroll (1730-1796) of Rock Creek, an area now known as Forrest Glen, Montgomery, Maryland to the north-west of present day Washington. Carroll was a large Catholic landowner whose family had sold the land on which Baltimore, the capital of Maryland had been laid out. The family with the proceeds had then bought the Joseph tobacco plantation at Rock Creek, Maryland. Some of the Carroll “Rock Creek” property at Forest Glen and specifically at the Forest Glen Annex is today the home to the Walter Read Army Institute of Research.

Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek, after the anti-Catholic laws of Maryland were repealed by the Maryland Constitution of 1776, became a Maryland Senator and in 1789 represented Maryland as a congressman at the First US Congress. He was a long time friend of George Washington and one of five men to sign both the 1777 Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (a little later than most other state delegates in March 1781!) and the US Constitution in September 1787. His brother John was the founder of the first Catholic university, Georgetown University; the first Catholic cathedral, in Baltimore, and was the first Catholic Bishop in the United States. Because John had studied in St Omer in France and spoke fluent French he had also travelled with his distant cousin Charles Carroll of Carrolton to Quebec in 1776 at the behest of the Continental Congress to try and get the French Canadians to join the Revolution.

In 1791 following the passing of the 1790 Residency Act establishing the basis for a Federal Capital, Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek was appointed under the 1791 amended Residency Act as one of the three Commissioners, along with Dr David Stuart (Washington’s family physician) and General Thomas Johnson (the member of the Continental Congress who had proposed Washington as Commander of the Revolutionary armies), to oversee the survey, purchase of land, and construction of public buildings of the new Federal City. It was also a degree of compensation for Carroll as he had lost his seat in Congress for supporting Hamilton’s “assumption” plan, the compromise for which had brought about the Residency Act. All three were acquaintances of Washington and all three were investors in the Potomac Company that Washington had chaired before coming President. At a meeting on the 8th September, 1791, the Commissioners along with Jefferson and Madison, decided to call the new Federal City “Washington”, and the Federal District “Columbia”.

Daniel Carroll was, as were the vast majority of Carrolls of Maryland were, a very devout Catholic but, of note, like Washington, he was also a Freemason, having been initiated into Lodge No. 16 of Maryland in May 1780. Pope Clement XII in 1738 and Pope Benedict XIV in 1751 had condemned Masonic Lodge practices and Catholic involvement in them, but the Churches full prohibition on Catholics involvement in the practices of Masonic lodges, did not really take effect in the American states until the 1820s in the time of Pope Pius VI.


Daniel Carroll of Duddington, the “landowner”, was the great grandson of Charles “The Settler” Carroll (1661-1720); the great-great grandson of Daniel Carroll of Aghagurty in Offaly; and the great-great-great grandson of Anthony Cian Carroll of Litter Lúna. He had inherited from his father and grandfather nearly 1500 acres of land, divided into three lots, one of which was called New Troy, which had been originally granted to George Thompson in 1663, in the area that was chosen to house the new federal city.

Daniel Carroll of Duddington, was the second cousin (3 times removed) of Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek (the Commissioner), their genealogical relationship extending back to the half-brothers Anthony Cian Carroll and Keane Carroll of Litter Lúna, near Kinnity in Co. Offaly, Ireland. Their common ancestor was a Daniel Teige Carroll of Baile an Mhéoinéin (Ballymooney) Castle in Co. Offaly the son of Donal McTeige Og O’Carroll of Litter Lúna and Ballymacadam Castle. The families were to reunite again in Jan 1834 when Henry Johnson Brent, a writer and grand-nephew of Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek married Elizabeth Carroll, daughter of Daniel  Carroll of Duddington.

Site Of "new" Duddington Manor 1791

Daniel Carroll of Duddington Lands 1790

Daniel Carroll of Duddington’s great-grandfather, Charles “The Settler” Carroll of Doughoregan (the manor house named after the glen of his forefathers in Offaly; meaning Black Ford on the River Regan), was a French-trained Catholic lawyer who had been disenfranchised by the Penal Laws in Ireland and who had emigrated to Maryland to take up the position as Attorney General to George Calvert, the Catholic founder of Maryland. Shortly after his arrival however, in 1691, in echoes of the situation in Ireland, the Protestants took control of Maryland and again Carroll was disenfranchised and could not vote or work as a lawyer. He turned to trade and as the laws did not stop him owning land by the time of his death he was the biggest landowner and slave-owner in Maryland. To show how quickly the Carrols had moved from penury in Ireland to enormous wealth and power in the New World in his lifetime Charles “The Settler” Carroll had moved from 147 tenant acres in Aghagurty to 47,000 acres and the ownership of 112 slaves at the time of his death in 1720.

Each succeeding generation of the Carrolls expanded their influence and power. In particular Charles “the Settler” Carroll’s grandson Charles Carroll of Carrolton (1737-1832) became the only Catholic Signatory of the Declaration of Independence and was the largest slave owner in the Colonies at the time of the Revolution. He also helped develop the Baltimore and Ohio railway.


Following the Treaty of Paris in September 1783 George Washington resigned as Commander-in-chief of the revolutionary Continental Army and returned to private life at Mt Vernon. Washington, the owner of about 40,00 acres in western Virginia and Pennsylvania and a professional surveyor, became chairman of the Potomac (Potowmac) Company, a company which planned a series of locks to make the Potomac river navigable. He was not away from federal politics for long, and in the background was scheming to have ratified a defined federal district and already had a fair idea where he wanted it to go. The Constitution was ratified in 1789, and Washington was elected the first President of the United States.

In January 1788 in deliberations on the proposed Constitution, at Washington’s private behest, James Madison had acted as front man and had put forward the case for a territorial defined but separate Federal District that would be entirely distinct from the States remit. The proposal was subsequently included in the Constitution in Article 1. Section 8 as,

“The Congress shall have the power to exercise Legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States”.
Although the choice of a 10 mile square territory on the Potomac as a site for the Federal District was seen as essentially a trade off between Northern and Southern States; between Democrat-Republicans and Federalists; and between those promoting and opposing Alexander Hamilton’s plans for a national financial governance structure – including taking over at a Federal level the Revolutionary war debts of the States of $21,500,000 and which became known as the “assumption” – the location on the Potomac peninsula was always Washington’s intent. In 1790 Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, after a compromise brokered between Madison and Hamilton by Thomas Jefferson, and with the very active support of Washington, proposed in cabinet that the permanent location for the new government should be on the Potomac (a similar proposal had been mooted as early as 1783 by the Congress of the Confederation but no agreement was reached).

As part of the compromise to accept Hamilton’s “assumption” the States of Virginia ($120,000) and Maryland ($75,000) provided the seed capital – thereby sparing any expense for the 1st United States Congress – and the Residence Act of 1790 authorising a Potomac location somewhere between the Anacostia River to the east and Connogochegue to the west was passed by a narrow majority of 2, in both the senate and the House of Representatives. Washington was given the authorisation under the Act to pick and survey the exact 10 square mile location between these points, to accept money if gifted but also allowed to borrow money up to $100,000 to get the project completed. There was also a requirement under the Act for the Commissioners appointed under the Act to have suitable buildings for Congress and government offices ready by the first Monday in December 1800, a 10-year project time-constraint.

James Madison

Truth be told there were a number of assumptions that were soon undermined. Jefferson, a very active supporter of the project, which included submitting a detailed grid map and a later anonymous architectural plan for the proposed Capitol to the Commissioners, assumed that the Federal City was going to be a direct extension of the already established Georgetown. He and Madison had met with Washington in Mount Vernon in September 1790 to decide on the location. Interestingly the very first person that Jefferson and Madison tried to get on board to support their choice was Charles Carroll of Carrolton, the only Catholic who had signed the declaration of Independence.

Charles Carroll of Carrolton
& Declaration of Independence Signatories

Charles Carroll of Carrolton, "The Signer", was the grandson of Charles Carroll the "Settler", and his relative Daniel Carroll of Duddington, was a further generation removed and thus the great-grandson of Carroll “the Settler”. Jefferson in a letter to Washington wrote, that “He (Carroll) came into it (agreed with the choice of land) with a shyness not usual in him.” Charles Carroll perhaps had already recognised the benefits that would accrue to his kinsman but appeared, despite the value of his opinion to Jefferson, not to become directly involved with the future development of the Federal City.

Philadelphia (which was hosting the “temporary” Congress) in particular and the State of Pennsylvania in General felt that building a Federal Capital on the Potomac was “pie-in-the-sky” and would not be achieved and that the Congress would eventually settle for a permanent home in Philadelphia. Baltimore was also vying heavily.

Washington was not to be too disappointed in his grand plan however. On January 22, 1791 he had determined that the Federal District would include not only Georgetown and Alexandria but also about 1200 acres of woodland he owned on the Virginia shore. Congress had been aware of the possibility of a conflict of interest and stipulated in the Residency Act that no “Public” buildings were to be built on the Virginian side thus Washington would not be seen to profit by the choice of site. This decision, however, was to impact severely on the economy of “poor neighbour” Alexandria, and allied to concerns about the abolition of slavery and Alexandria’s slave trading income Virginia voted in 1846 to take back the land given to the District of Colombia in a process known as “retrocession’. As a consequence the District of Columbia is 68.34 sq miles rather than the planned and legislated for 100.

Al of that was in the future but as early as February 1790 Washington was to leave little to chance in his planning. Before even the proclamation declaring the site of the Federal City 0n the 29th March 1791 he had instructed William Deakins Jr and Benjamin Stoddert in a letter Of February 3rd 1791 to start buying up tracts of land in the “most perfect secrecy” so as “to excite no suspicion” that they were doing so on behalf of Washington’s grand project.  
In late March 1791 Washington set out from Annapolis to Georgetown to ensure that his plans for the Federal District and City were put into operation. The Commissioners had just been appointed under the amended 1791 Residency Act and he had instructed them to meet him in Georgetown. On Monday 28th March 1791 Washington wrote in his diary that prior to a dinner with the mayor and Corporation of Georgetown in Suter’s Tavern near the waterfront he had,

“examined the Surveys of Mr. Ellicot who had been sent to lay out the district of ten miles square for the federal seat; and also the works of Majr. L’Enfant who had been engaged to examine, & make a draught of the grds. In the vicinity of George town and Carrollsburg on the Eastern branch…” 
as well as making arrangements to inspect the are the following day himself. Although the area for the entire Federal District was being surveyed by Andrew Ellicott and his African-American colleague Benjamin Banneker (they also had a mutual interest in clock making), Washington specifically entrusted the laying out of “his” new Federal city to Major Pierre Charles l’Enfant, a French military engineer and Revolutionary soldier who had proposed himself for the task as early as Sept 1789, well before the Residency Act had been passed. L’Enfant had previously and successfully brought the temporary home of Congress in New York (before it’s move to Philadelphia) to completion and had a vision for the core of the Federal City that resembled the layout of Versailles.

The secrecy that Washington had hoped for (unrealistically given that most of Virginia and Maryland were aware that a Negro surveyor was mapping out their land!) in terms of final lay-out of the Federal City was not maintained and Washington soon became frustrated with the competing landowners. He was determined, however, to try and avoid the undue influence of one group or the other by placing his new Federal City in between and incorporating both, but not before some hard negotiation. He wrote on the 29th March in his diary that he found,

“the interests of the landholders about George town and those about Carrollsburg much at varience and that their fears & jealousies of each other were counteracting the public purposes”.
Of note whereas Georgetown was a “real” town two other “new towns”, Carrollsburg and Hamburg had been planned for the peninsula but not yet been built. The Germans subsequently moved their planned town upstream to Hagerstown and Daniel Carroll’s of Duddington’s plan for Carrollsburg was soon put aside in favour of a much bigger endeavour (and potential profit) when he offered the 160 acre site to the Government for the new Federal City in January 1790.

Washington was adamant that nether the Georgetown or Carrollsburg offers were big enough in acreage to accommodate what he envisaged and went about brokering an agreement between the competing landowners on the evening of the 29th January 1791 in Suter’s Tavern in Georgetown where he was staying. It is certain that Commissioner Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek would have been directed by Washington to get Daniel Carrol of Duddington on board. The negotiations, late into the night were successful and in his diary entry for the following day, the 30th March 1791 – the day that Washington issued the Proclamation establishing the Federal District – he noted that both the Georgetown burghers and Daniel Carroll and Notley Young of Duddington pastures in particular had recognised that if they continued “contending for the shadow they might loose the substance” of the proposed Federal City entirely. They therefore entered into an articled agreement to “surrender for public purposes” one half of the land they possessed within the Federal City plan. One other landowner David Burns, a doughty Scot, proved more obstinate, and it was only when Washington threatened a confiscation of his lands without compensation that he also agreed.

The plan envisaged dividing the entire area between Rock Creek and the Anacostia River (Eastern Branch as it was called then) into a grid of public and private lots. Landowners would get £25 ($67) for each acre of land used for public buildings (But not the streets! Jefferson in a letter to Washington on April 10, 1791 calculated that based on the plans the land for actual building would only cost the federal planners about £19 per acre.). In regard to the private lots on every acre, as per the agreement brokered by George Washington, half the plots would be appropriated and sold by the government to investors and the other half would remain with the landowners for sale at their leisure. Everyone assumed that because the chosen site was going to be the nation’s capital that there would be little difficulty in raising the $4 million required from investors to construct the public buildings and that the “half” retained by the landowners would prove very valuable. The landowners did not even balk at L’Enfant’s plan of multiple and very wide avenues which used up about 55% of the acres of prime real estate but which, under the purchasing agreement they would not be paid for.

It did not prove to be the case. In addition to the land owners continuing to use their “sold” land for crops there was a poor take-up with the first public auctions of the plots because no map of the planned grid had been released to investors – L’Enfant refused to hand over a detailed plan of the city (he wanted to ensure that the speculators would not destroy his vision before it was complete) or even a specific plan for the new Capitol to the Commissioners – L’Enfant relationship with the Commissioners was fraught.

Where the Commissioners were concerned it centred on two major issues. The first was L’Enfant’s belief that he had the direct mandate and ear of Washington and could bypass the Commissioners in all planning. The second was to prove more problematical and that was L’Enfant’s approach to the employment of labourers to build the city. The Commissioners, being slave owners, were determined to maintain the status quo and decided that the owners of slaves seconded to building (including their own) would be paid but not the slaves. In addition, and with Washington’s approval, they looked to ensure that all imported workers and tradesmen were not free but indentured, another form of ‘slavery’. The Commissioners, with Federalist aristocratic pretension, also determined that no labourers, no lower classes in other words, were to be offered plots in the new city. L’Enfant on the other hand fully believed in the rights, equality and dignity of men and treated all of his workers extremely well from a payment and provision perspective, at a significant cost to the Commissioners.

Daniel Carroll of Duddington ran into a more specific conflict with L’Enfant. With the decision made in regard to the general layout of the city, and a determination of what land he would sell and hold onto decided to build a new mansion closer to the proposed site of the new Capital. However (he like most landowners) had not a view of L’Enfant’s finalised plan and started to erect his mansion slap bang in the centre of one of L’Enfant’s planned Grand Avenues (New Jersey). In the middle of the night L’Enfant got his own construction crew to tear down the half-built Carroll building. Carroll complained directly to Washington and Washington ordered the Commissioners to pay Daniel Carroll of Duddington $4,000 in damages.

 Washington then wrote directly to L’Enfant and said,

“In future I must strictly enjoin you to touch no man’s property without his consent, or the previous order of the Commissioners”
L’Enfant was subsequently fired, after being offered $2000 for his work to date – which he refused– and it was Andrew Ellicott, the national surveyor who took over and arranged for L’Enfant’s plan to be engraved. L’Enfant died in poverty and was buried in Green Hill cemetery near Daniel Carroll’s farm at Rock Creek. In 1909 his contribution to the design of Washington was recognised and he was reinterred in Arlington Cemetery overlooking “his” great plan.

Andrew Ellicott with his brother Benjamin Ellicott was to prepare two engraved maps which revised L’Enfant’s designs and these were finally ready for inspection by Congress in March 1792. In 1797 Washington sanctioned a further “approved” map of the new Federal City, which was engraved by James Dermott.


On September 18, 1793 Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek, the Commissioner and Freemason participated in a very Masonic ritual held in the “year of Masonry 5793”, when lead by George Washington he marched from Georgetown to the site of the Capitol building along with the other Commissioners; members of the Grand Lodge of Maryland and the Maryland Grand Master pro tem Joseph Clark; and members of Lodge No.22 from Virginia and fellow members of Lodge No.9 of Georgetown led by their Master Valentine Reintzel. The procession from Georgetown was met somewhere on Philadelphia Avenue by members of the newly formed Federal Lodge No. 15 (nowadays Federal Lodge No.1) whose Master was none other than James Hoban, another Catholic Freemason, and the architect (on one occasion) and contractor (on two occasions as he rebuilt it again after the British had burnt it down in 1814) of the White House. Of note Hoban disappears off the Lodge rolls by 1799 and perhaps by then the nascent Catholic Church in the US was beginning to exert its prohibition on freemasonry involvement.

James Hoban however was the one person to come out of the early period of Washington development with his reputation intact and enhanced. He also was to supervise the building of the Capitol taking over from other architects (including the original designer Dr William Thornton, who was good on vision but short on detail. Thornton was later appointed one of the Three Commissioners) on three occasions and being the resident architect when President Adams and his family moved in in November 1800. Hoban was also a good businessman and owned the house that was rented out to Betsy Donoghue and her carpenter husband for use as a brothel to serve the men building the White House and he also built the “Little Hotel” close by the site of the Capitol.

Washington's Masonic Memorial 
Alexandria, Virginia

All of that was in the immediate future and the members of the combined Masonic Lodges then proceeded to the site of the planned North wing of the Capitol building. Here they formed a circle around the foundation trench while Washington, who stood in the foundation trench, was handed an engraved dedication plate, which he laid on the ground followed by the foundation corner stone. The foundation stone was then consecrated by three “worshipful” master masons with corn, wine and oil. A good deal of chanting followed Washington out of the trench before the artillery ceremonial volley noise drowned them out.

This was not the first time that Masonic ritual had been used in the course of the Federal District’s development. On April 15, 1791 the corner stone of the district was set with Masonic ceremony. The Rev James Muir gave prayer and said, “From this stone may a superstructure arise, whose glory, whose magnificence, whose stability, unequalled hitherto, shall astonish the world…” Not so in reality! That very foundation stone, despite the chanting and fine words, no longer exists in the District of Columbia as it is in that part of the Federal District that Virginia later retrocessed!

Jefferson had always referred to the planned Federal Building to house the Congress as the Capitol in a hark back to the days of the Roman Empire, and yet in a strange way this determination also complemented the eccentricity of Francis Pope, who had been first granted the land in this part of Maryland. He had called his farm “New Rome”, named the hill that he built his house on the “Capitoline Hill” (which may or may not have been the same as L’Enfant’s Jenkins Hill) and the creek that flowed below his house the “Tiber”, the Goose Creek of the future Federal City.

The Capitol name of course directly refers to the Capitoline Hill on which Rome’s primary Temple the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus was placed. The Capitoline Hill however had two peaks and on the slightly higher peak to the north-east was the Arx, the early citadel within whose enclosure was the Temple of Juno Moneta, an early treasury, whose name derived from monere or “warning” but whose treasury functions in the early Republic was to give us the modern words “mint”, “monetary” and “money”. Also within the Arx enclosure was an area of open ground that could be cordoned off to become the auguraculum, or the site of the gathering of the auguries

Tomb of the Augurs Ficheiro

The auguries, who had their origins in the pre-Roman divination skill-set of the Etruscans, were a group of priests, who would look to the skies for the flight and call of specific birds or who made animal sacrifices to inspect the entrails and to offer their interpretation on whether a propitious outcome might be expected before any public building or undertaking was commenced upon. From the “Augurs” we have the words “auspicious and inauspicious”, and “augur” as in ‘It does not augur well’ and “inauguration” from the Roman ceremony when the “Augurs” were appointed. Auguraculuae also existed in township citadel areas right across the empire for local rather than central divination ceremonies. They were always uncovered spaces with a small central tent where the augur would be enclosed so that he could make a minds-eye map of the sky before he walked out to make a prediction by looking at that sky.

On that September day, 1793 when the “High Priests” of the Freemasons, including George Washington, James Hoban and Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek, gathered round the construction trench of the Capitol, they were in essence acting exactly as the hooded “Augurs” of old reading the skies and the flight of birds, and trying to ensure an auspicious future for the Capitol by inaugurating its foundation stone. They were not to know of course that when Richard Nixon was “inaugurated” as President for the second time on its steps he insisted on anti-pigeon measures to prevent them flying about during the ceremony. The secret service unfortunately used a strong poison and Pennsylvania Avenue was littered with dead and dying birds for the duration.

The first Capitol was to have a chequered history both in terms of location, design and construction. Firstly L’Enfant called the area Jenkins Hill after the person he presumed to own and pasture on the area of high ground in New Troy. In fact Jenkins farmed in an area known as Expense to the north west of Goose Creek (The Tiber) and the hill should have been called Carroll’s Hill instead.

Daniel Carroll of Duddington did not remain idle during this phase of public building construction and was determined, in addition to building (and rebuilding after L’Enfant tore it down!) a new mansion for himself to maximise his privately held land. Firstly he built a row of houses on First Street, which by 1800 were known as Carroll’s Row and which faced the south-east corner of the Capitol. The houses and an incorporated hotel called Longs provided fashionable accommodation for Congress members.

In the early development of his land near the Capitol Daniel Carroll of Duddington had also left a corner lot on First and A Street SE vacant next to Tunnicliff’s old Washington City Hotel. In 1814 following the burning of the Capitol by the British there were great concerns that Congress would abandon Washington and the Capitol Hotel Company was formed to erect a building to temporarily house the Congress. Instead of selling the land Daniel Carroll took stock in the new company and Congress occupied the building until 1819. It was known as the “Old Brick Capitol” and subsequently became a boarding house and then a prison, The Old Capitol Prison during the American Civil war. In 1932 this lot was razed to make way for the Supreme Court Building. On the opposite side of East Capitol Street the row of houses developed by Daniel Carroll also served as a Civil War prison; Carroll Prison and it was in 1887 that these buildings were torn down to make way for the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Another development by Daniel Carroll was between 1313 and 1321 41/2 street in the SW district known as “Wheat Row” as it was close to the granary storage area, and at 470 N street SW. Carroll developed the area as part of a syndicate with Robert Morris, John Nicholson, James Greenleaf and Thomas Law. Interestingly they used bricks produced by the kilns of a “David Carroll”. Another house built by Daniel Carroll was on Delaware Ave NE between B and C streets and which later became the Senate Office Building.


When the first settlers arrived in Maryland the most powerful Indian tribe in the Potomack peninsula that subsequently became the territory of Washington DC were the Nacotchtank tribe of the Algonquian people. The Anacostia – the anglicised version of the Nacotchtank name is said to mean trading village and they have given their name to the eastern branch of the Potomac – when their main palisaded settlement was visited by John Smith in 1608 had about 80 fighting men and 300 hundred other residents. The Anacostia were great fur traders but as a tribal group were wiped out of existence by European endemic diseases such as smallpox and measles and had to abdondon their villages and hunting grounds on the penninsula. In the 1660s the remnants of the tribe first moved to Anacostine Island (Mason Island opposite Georgetown) before merging with the Conoy or Piscataway Indian Nation peoples.

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jnr. and JFK

James Madison, with Jefferson and Washington, one of the prime movers or founders of the Federal City and District was to distinguish, in the Federalist Papers the early American idealism as trade-off between a "pure" democracy, where citizens turned up, represented themselves and governed in person from that of a "republic" where the majority expressed their desires for government through "a scheme of representation". The difficulty was that the Federalist vision of democracy in the 1780s was not sustainable and that it was already dead. As Arthur M. Schlesinger Jnr wrote in an essay for the 75th Anniversary of Foreign Affairs, 

"Democracy requires capitalism, but capitalism does not require democracy. at least in the short run." 

The early founders of Washington were to misunderstand this to their cost. The Federalist masonic "day-dreamers" were soon sidelined by the unbridled capitalism of the Democratic Republicans they invited to share in their vision, the speculators put in favourable position to profit by their "representation" of the masses, people like  Robert Morris and James Greenleaf.

The Carroll’s had prospered in their move from Aghagurty to Anacostia but the distances, like those between the Federalists and Democratic Republicans, between them and the foundation of Washington would soon begin to grow. Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek, “The Commissioner” retired due to ill health as a Commissioner in May 1795 and was replaced by Alexander White. He died the following year and is buried in St John the Evangelist Chapel Cemetery in Forest Glen, Maryland. Daniel Carroll’s son Daniel III, and his grandchildren William, Ann and George Carroll are also buried in the same cemetery.

Daniel Carroll of Duddington, the “Landowner”, appeared to withdraw from further land speculation and development after 1820. He quietly retired to his home, Duddington Manor, and as a recluse died there in the company of his unmarried daughters in 1849. I'm not sure what happened to Carroll "The Brickmaker"!

Washington DC and the District of Columbia were conceived and perhaps contrived as a Masonic temple to a "democratic" idealism that has on occasions fluttered brightly, but unfortunately and increasingly more often left us with the sight of dead pigeons. The Carrolls left Ireland because they had been disenfranchised, depersonalised from any sort of "democracy" and used that anger to build a New Troy for themselves in Maryland. But this "achievement" was at the cost of disenfranchising, depersonalising a whole new set of people: the African-American slave. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jnr. in 1997 pointed out that the most crucial challenge to American democracy is Du Bois' "colour line". That "colour line", that Freeway 395/695 disenfranchisement is still notable in the Washington DC of today.

The Almanac of Benjamin Bannaker, the Afro-American
Surveyor who, with Ellicott, surveyed the new Federal District in 1790.

TIME puts the greatest distance between achievement and remembrance, and selective amnesia becomes its fuel!