Roger Sherman

From Academic Kids

Roger Sherman (April 19 (O.S.) = April 30 (N.S.), 1721 - July 23, 1793), was a signer of the United States' Declaration of Independence and a member of the committee which drafted it, a member of the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation, and signed the United States' Constitution as a representative of Connecticut. He was the only Member of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federal Constitution. His biography serves as yet another example of the impressive qualities of those involved in winning independence for the United States.

He was born in Newton, Massachusetts; when he was two years old his family moved to Stoughton, Massachusetts, then the western frontier of America, where his father was able to carve a farm out of the wilderness. Sherman had only informal schooling past grammar school and began his career as a shoemaker, but was blessed with the combination of an active thirst for learning, and access to a good library owned by his father as well as a Harvard educated parish minister, Rev. Samuel Danbar, who took him under his wing. In 1743, after 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 immersed 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 1748, publishing a popular Almanac himself from 1750 to 1761.

Although he had no formal legal training, he was urged to read for the bar by a local lawyer and was accepted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, and chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761. In 1766 he was elected to the Upper House 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 1783 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.

At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1759 Sherman was appointed to the Connecticut Governor's Council of Safety and also commissary to the Connecticut Troops. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, where he served very actively throughout the War, earning high esteem in the eyes of his fellow delegates and serving on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776, Sherman requested Connecticut governor Trumbull to relieve him of his other duties due to poor health, while remaining on the Continental Congress. He eventually left the Congress in 1781, but returned in 1783 and 1784, serving on the committee forming the Articles of Confederation in 1787. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1785 where he was credited by Madison with 138 speeches, helping to preserve the rights of the smaller states, such as Connecticut. In 1787, Sherman helped resolve a crucial debate regarding Congressional representation. Larger states insisted that seats in the Congress be apportioned soley on the basis of population, while smaller states such as New Jersey sought to apportion seats to each state equally. Sherman was instumental in developing the Connecticut Compromise which invisioned a legislature with two houses, one in which seats would be apportioned based on population and another in which seats would be apportioned equally. Sherman played an important role in the development of the Constitution and, although he admitted that the final document was not perfect, he nevertheless held that it was the best that could have been produced at the time, and was instrumental in its acceptance by the residents of Connecticut.

Sherman was elected as a Representative to the First United States Congress, and then served as a Senator from 1791 until his death of typhoid in 1793 in New Haven, Connecticut at the age of seventy-two. He is interred in Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, near the Yale campus.

Sherman is the only person to have signed all four basic documents of American sovereignty: the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said about him,

"That is Mr. Sherman of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life."

Sherman married Elizabeth Hartwell of Stoughton in 1749 and had seven children; after her death he married a second time in 1760, to Rebecca Minot Prescott of Danvers, Massachusetts, and had another eight children. He was grandfather of Roger Sherman Baldwin, George Frisbie Hoar, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, Sherman Day and William Maxwell Evarts.

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Preceded by:
William Samuel Johnson
Class 3 Senators of Connecticut
Succeeded by:
Stephen M. Mitchell

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