Roger Sherman

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For other people named Roger Sherman, see Roger Sherman (disambiguation).
Roger Sherman
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
June 13, 1791– July 23, 1793
Preceded by William S. Johnson
Succeeded by Stephen M. Mitchell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 4, 1791
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Amasa Learned
Delegate to the Continental Congress from Connecticut
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1721-04-19)April 19, 1721
Newton, Massachusetts
Died July 23, 1793(1793-07-23) (aged 72)
New Haven, Connecticut
Nationality American
Political party Pro-Administration
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Hartwell
Rebecca Minot Prescott
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Religion Congregationalist

Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 – July 23, 1793) was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a Founding Father of the United States. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic. He was the only person to sign all four great state papers of the U.S.: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.[1] Thomas Jefferson said of him: "That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life."[2]

Early life[edit]

Sherman was born in Newton, Massachusetts near Boston, but his family moved to Stoughton (a town located seventeen miles, or 27 km, south of Boston) when he was two. The part of Stoughton where Sherman grew up became part of Canton in 1797. Sherman's education did not extend beyond his father's library and grammar school, and his early career was spent as a shoe-maker. However, he had an aptitude for learning, and access to a good library owned by his father, as well as a Harvard-educated parish minister, Rev. Samuel Dunbar, who took him under his wing.

In 1743, due to his father's death, he moved (on foot) with his mother and siblings to New Milford, Connecticut, where in partnership with his brother, he opened the town's first store. He very quickly introduced himself in civil and religious affairs, rapidly becoming one of the town's leading citizens and eventually town clerk of New Milford. Due to his mathematical skill he became county surveyor of New Haven County in 1745, and began providing astronomical calculations for almanacs in 1788.

Painter Ralph Earl's depiction of Sherman was described by Bernard Bailyn as "one of the most striking portraits of the age."[3]

Legal, political career[edit]

Despite the fact that he had no formal legal training, Sherman was urged to read for the bar exam by a local lawyer and was admitted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, during which he wrote A Caveat Against Injustice[4] and was chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761. In 1766 he was elected to the Governor's Council of the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served until 1785.

He was appointed justice of the peace in 1762, judge of the court of common pleas in 1765, and justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from 1766 to 1789, when he left to become a member of the United States Congress. He was also appointed treasurer of Yale College, and awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree. He was a professor of religion for many years, and engaged in lengthy correspondences with some of the greatest theologians of the time.

In 1790 he and Richard Law were appointed to massively revise the confused and archaic Connecticut statutes, which they accomplished with great success. In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New Haven, which office he held until his death. He is especially notable for being the only person to sign all four great state papers of the United States: the United States Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Association, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Robert Morris, who did not sign the Articles of Association, is the only other person to sign even three of these documents.

Declaration independence.jpg

In John Trumbull's famous painting, Sherman is literally front and center– of those standing up near the desk, he is the second person from the left. The painting depicts the Committee of Five presenting its work to the congress.

Constitutional Convention[edit]

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, summoned into existence to amend the Articles of Confederation, Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth offered what came to be called the Great Compromise or Connecticut Compromise.

In this plan, designed to be acceptable to both large and small states, the people would be represented proportionally in one branch of the legislature, called the House of Representatives (the lower legislative house). The states would be represented in another house called the Senate (the upper house). In the lower house, each state had a representative for every one delegate. In the upper house each state was guaranteed two senators, regardless of its size.

Sherman is also memorable for his stance against paper money and his authoring of Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution.

Mr. Wilson & Mr. Sherman moved to insert after the words "coin money" the words "nor emit bills of credit, nor make any thing but gold & silver coin a tender in payment of debts" making these prohibitions absolute, instead of making the measures allowable (as in the XIII art) with the consent of the Legislature of the U.S. ... Mr. Sherman thought this a favorable crisis for crushing paper money. If the consent of the Legislature could authorize emissions of it, the friends of paper money would make every exertion to get into the Legislature in order to license it."[5]


Several of Roger Sherman's children and descendants achieved prominence.

A son, Roger Sherman, Jr. (1768–1856), a 1787 graduate of Yale College served in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1810–1811.

A daughter, Rebecca Sherman, was married to Simeon Baldwin, whose career included service in the United States Congress (1803–1806), as an Associate Judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, 1806–1817, and who became Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut in 1826. Following the death of Rebecca Sherman, Baldwin married another of Roger Sherman's daughters, Elizabeth Sherman Burr. Another daughter, Sarah Sherman, married Samuel Hoar, who was a member of the Massachusetts state legislature and the U.S. Congress. Sherman's daughter Martha was married to Jeremiah Day who was the President of Yale University from 1817 to 1846.

Three grandsons, Roger Sherman Baldwin, George F. Hoar, and William M. Evarts served in the U.S. Senate. Baldwin also was Governor of Connecticut. Evarts also was a United States Attorney General, and was succeeded in that office by his first cousin Ebenezer R. Hoar, a brother of George F. Hoar.

Direct descendant Archibald Cox served as a U.S. Solicitor General and special prosecutor during President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal.

Death and burial site[edit]

Sherman died in his sleep on July 23, 1793 after a two-month illness diagnosed as typhoid fever.[6] The Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Aug. 17, 1793, p. 508, reported an alternate diagnosis, "He was taken ill about the middle of May last, and from that time declined till his death. His physician supposed his disorder to be seated in his liver."

He was buried in New Haven Green; and in 1821, when that cemetery was relocated, his remains were moved to the Grove Street Cemetery.[7]

Places and things named in honor of Roger Sherman[edit]

See also[edit]

U.S. Constitution, floor leader in Convention.


  1. ^ Roger Sherman Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
  2. ^ Waln, Robert (1824). "Biography of the lobster time of the Declaration of Independence". Port Folio 18: 450. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  3. ^ Bailyn, Bernard To Begin the World Anew
  4. ^ Sherman, Roger A Caveat Against Injustice
  5. ^ Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.
  6. ^ Rommel, John G. (1979). Connecticut's Yankee patriot,. Hartford: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut. p. 53. ISBN 0-918676-20-7. 
  7. ^ Boardman (1938). : Signer and Statesman. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 336. 


  • Dictionary of American Biography
  • Boardman, Roger Sherman, Roger Sherman, Signer and Statesman, 1938. Reprint. New York: Da Capo Press, 1971.
  • Boutell, Lewis Henry, The Life of Roger Sherman, Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1896.
  • Hall, Mark David, Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Gerber, Scott D., "Roger Sherman and the Bill of Rights." Polity 28 (Summer 1996): 521-540.
  • Hoar, George Frisbie, The Connecticut Compromise. Roger Sherman, the Author of the Plan of Equal Representation of the States in the Senate, and Representation of the People in Proportion to Numbers in the House, Worcester, MA: Press of C. Hamilton, 1903.
  • Rommel, John G., Connecticut’s Yankee Patriot: Roger Sherman, Hartford: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1980.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mayors of New Haven, Connecticut
Succeeded by
Elizur Goodrich
United States Senate
Preceded by
William S. Johnson
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Oliver Ellsworth
Succeeded by
Stephen M. Mitchell
Honorary titles
Preceded by
William S. Johnson
Oldest living U.S. Senator
June 13, 1791– July 23, 1793
Succeeded by
William S. Johnson