|United States Senator
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
March 4, 1789 – March 4, 1791
|Succeeded by||Amasa Learned|
|Delegate to the Continental Congress from Connecticut|
April 19, 1721|
|Died||July 23, 1793
New Haven, Connecticut
Rebecca Minot Prescott
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. Thomas Jefferson said of him: "That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life."
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.
Legal, political career
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 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.
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.
Roger Sherman was one of the most influential members of the Constitutional Convention. He is not well-known for his actions at the Convention because he never kept a personal record of his experience, unlike other prominent figures at the convention such as James Madison. At 66 years, he was the eldest member at the convention following Benjamin Franklin, who was 81 years old. He was from a particularly isolationist state; Connecticut operated almost without much need from other states, using its own ports to trade with the West Indies instead of utilizing ports in Boston. Yet as one of the most active members of the Convention, and made motions or seconds in reference to the Virginia Plan 160 times. His opponent Maddison made motions or seconds 177 times.
Roger Sherman came into the Convention without the intention of creating a new constitution. Sherman, an original signer or the Articles of Confederation, saw the convention as a means to modify the already existing government. Part of his stance was concerned with the public appeal. He defended amending the articles declaring that it was in the best interest of the people and the most probable way the people would accept changes to a constitution. Sherman saw no reason for a bicameral legislature, as proposed by the Virginia Plan. “The problem with the old government was not that it had acted foolishly or threatened anybody’s liberties, but that it had simply been unable to enforce its decrees”. Sherman further advanced the idea that the national government simply needed a way to raise revenue and regulate commerce. Sherman was a big defender of an unicameral legislature. He defended the unicameral legislature of the Articles of Confederation by stating that the large states had not “suffered at the hands of small states on account of the rule of equal voting”. Ultimately, when Sherman saw his initial goals of the convention as unattainable he organized compromises and deals in order to enact some of his desirable legislation.
Sherman was of the opinion that the the that national government should be for the states and not for the people. Sherman was wary of allowing the average or less than average citizen participate in national government. Sherman stated that the people “should have as little to do as may be about the Government They want information and are constantly liable to be misled”.
The two proposed options for the formation of the legislative branch was to form a bicameral legislature in which both chambers had representation proportional to the population of the states, which was supported by the Virginia plan. The second was to modify the unicameral legislature that had equal representation from all of the states, which was supported by the New Jersey plan. Roger Sherman was a devout supporter of a Unicameral legislature, but when he saw that goal as unattainable he motioned to compromise. In terms of Modes of election “Sherman moved to allow each state legislature to elect its own senators”. Additionally, in the house Sherman originally proposed that the suffrage of the House of Representatives should be figured according to the “numbers of free inhabitants” in each state.
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."
In terms of the executive Sherman had very little interest in giving the executive much authority. Sherman suggested that no constitutional provision needed be made for the executive because it was “ nothing more than an institution for carrying he will of the Legislature into effect”.
Originally opposed to Slavery with his personal beliefs and puritan views, Sherman used the issue of slavery as a tool for negotiation and alliance. Sherman was of the opinion that slavery was already gradually being abolished and the trend was moving southward. Sherman saw that the issue of slavery could be one that threatened the success of the constitutional convention. Therefore Sherman decided to help pass legislation to benefit slave states in order to obtain unlikely allies from South Carolina. The two forces joined together because they both, due to the economies of their home states, benefitted from their being no export tax.
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
Sherman died in his sleep on July 23, 1793 after a two-month illness diagnosed as typhoid fever. 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."
Places and things named in honor of Roger Sherman
- Sherman Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut
- Sherman and Sherman Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut
- Sherman Street in Canton, Massachusetts
- Sherman Avenue in central Madison, Wisconsin. Note: Most of the main streets in downtown Madison are named after signers of the United States Constitution.
- Roger Sherman Street in Orange Park, Florida Heritage Hills neighborhood.
- Roger Sherman House on Howe Street in New Haven
- "Roger Sherman Debate Society" - official name of the policy debate team at Western Connecticut State University
- Roger Sherman Elementary School of Fairfield, Connecticut
- Roger Sherman Elementary School of Meriden, Connecticut
- Roger Sherman Inn of New Canaan, Connecticut
- Sherman House, residence hall on University of Connecticut Storrs campus in Mansfield, Connecticut
U.S. Constitution, floor leader in Convention.
- Roger Sherman Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Waln, Robert (1824). "Biography of the lobster time of the Declaration of Independence". Port Folio 18: 450. Retrieved 2009-01-16.
- Bailyn, Bernard To Begin the World Anew
- Sherman, Roger A Caveat Against Injustice
- Boyd, Julian P. "Roger Sherman: Portrait of a Cordwainer Statesman." The New England Quarterly 5.2 (1932): 221-36. JSTOR. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
- Robertson, David B. "Madison's Opponents and Constitutional Design." The American Political Science Review 99.22 (2005): 225-43. JSTOR. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
- Collier, Christopher, and James Lincoln Collier. Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787. New York: Random House, 1986. Print.
- Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1996. Print.
- Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.
- Rommel, John G. (1979). Connecticut's Yankee patriot,. Hartford: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut. p. 53. ISBN 0-918676-20-7.
- 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.
- From Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, 1856
- Roger Sherman at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Sherman Genealogy Including Families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England By Thomas Townsend Sherman
- Hoar-Baldwin-Foster-Sherman family of Massachusetts at The Political Graveyard
- History of Sherman's boyhood home of Stoughton, Massachusetts
- Roger Sherman at Find a Grave
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sherman, Roger". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|Mayors of New Haven, Connecticut
|United States Senate|
William S. Johnson
|U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Oliver Ellsworth
Stephen M. Mitchell
William S. Johnson
|Oldest living U.S. Senator
June 13, 1791 – July 23, 1793
William S. Johnson