|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 3, 1791
|Succeeded by||Amasa Learned|
|Delegate to the Continental Congress from Connecticut|
|1st Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut|
1784 – July 23, 1793
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Samuel Bishop|
April 19, 1721|
July 23, 1793 72) (aged|
New Haven, Connecticut
Grove Street Cemetery|
Rebecca Minot Prescott
Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 – July 23, 1793) was an early American lawyer and statesman, 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.
While Sherman was a "terse, ineloquent speaker leaving few memorable quotes", Thomas Jefferson said this of him: "That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life."
Sherman was born into a farm family located in Newton, Massachusetts near Boston. His father was William and mother Mehetabel Sherman. Mehetabel's father was Benjamin Wellington and her mother was Elizabeth Sweetman, whose christening date was 4 Mar 1687 (or 1688), and she died on the 12 Apr 1776. William and Mehetabel had seven children, William Jr., Mehetabel, Roger (1721), Elizabeth (married James Buck), Nathaniel (became a Reverend), Josiah (also became a Reverend), and Rebecca (married Joseph Hartwell jr.). After Elizabeth was born (1723) the Shermans left Newton and settled in the south precinct of Dorchester, that three years later became the township of Stoughton and located 17 miles (27 km) south of Boston, when Roger was two. William married Rebecca Cutler 15 Jul 1714. Josiah was Chaplain of the 7th Connecticut from 1 January to 6 December 1777.
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, the Rev. Samuel Dunbar, who took him under his wing.
In 1743, due to his father's death, Sherman moved (on foot) with his mother and siblings to New Milford, Connecticut, where in partnership with his brother William (wife Ruth), 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 1759.
Marriages and family
Roger Sherman was married two times and had a total of fifteen children with thirteen reaching adulthood.
Roger married Elizabeth 17 Nov 1749. She was born 31 Aug 1726 in Stoughton, her father was Deacon Joseph Hartwell (born 11 Aug 1698, died 6 Feb 1786) and her mother was Mary Hartwell, (née Tolman) who was born 4 Oct 1697 and died 10 Nov 1782. Roger and Elizabeth were married by Samuel Dunbar and they had seven children. Elizabeth died 19 Oct 1760.
Roger married Rebecca (also spelled Rebekah) Prescott 12 May 1763. She was born 20 May 1742 in Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts. Roger and Rebecca had eight children, Rebecca; married Baldwin, Elizabeth; married same Baldwin, Roger, Mehitabel (1st), Mehitabel (2nd); Married Evarts, Oliver, Martha; married Jeremiah Day, and Sarah; married Hoar. The first Mehitabel and Oliver died in infancy. Rebecca died August 1814.
A son, Roger Sherman, Jr. (1768–1856), a 1787 graduate of Yale College served in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1810–1811.
A daughter, Rebeca 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 1817-1846.
- Henry Sherman (the older or 1st) born about 1512, married Agnes around 1539 (whose father may have been Thomas Butter) died 14 Oct 1580 in Dedham, England.
- Henry Sherman (the younger or 2nd): Great-great-great grandfather
- John Sherman: Great-great grandfather,
- John Sherman jr. Great-grandfather, whose christening date was 3 Sep 1612, married Martha Palmer (before 1638), and died 25 Jan 1690 (or 1691). Referred to as Captain John Sherman (also Shearman)
- Joseph Sherman: Grandfather, born 14 May 1650, married to Elizabeth Winship 12 Apr 1776.
Legal, political career
Sherman is especially notable in United States history 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, signed the other three. John Dickinson also signed three, the Continental Association, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. He was involved with the Declaration of Independence but abstained, hoping for a reconciliation with Britain.
Despite the fact that Sherman had no formal legal training, he 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.
Sherman was appointed justice of the peace in 1762 and judge of the court of common pleas in 1765. During 1766, Sherman was first elected to the Governor's Council of the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served until 1785.
Sherman served as Justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from 1766 to 1789, when he left to become a member of the United States Congress.
Sherman 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 theologians of the time.
During February 1776, Sherman, George Wythe, and John Adams were members of a committee responsible for establishing guidelines for U.S. embassy officials in Canada with the committee instructions that included, "You are to declare that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion. And...that all civil rights and the rights to hold office were to be extended to persons of any Christian denomination."
In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New Haven, which office he held until his death.
In 1790 both Sherman and Richard Law were appointed to revise the confused and archaic Connecticut statutes, which they accomplished.
Throughout his life, Sherman was a major benefactor of Yale College, acting as the university’s treasurer for many years and promoting construction of a college chapel. Roger Sherman died in 1793.
Constitutional Convention and 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 was a "terse, ineloquent speaker" who never kept a personal record of his experience, unlike other prominent figures at the convention such as James Madison, and at 66 years of age, Sherman was the second eldest member at the convention following Benjamin Franklin (who was 81 years old at the time). Yet as one of the most active members of the Convention, Sherman made motions or seconds in reference to the Virginia Plan 160 times. His opponent Madison made motions or seconds 177 times.
Roger Sherman came into the Convention without the intention of creating a new constitution. Sherman, an original signer of 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 a 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 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 – and feared that "...the mass of people lacked sufficient wisdom to govern themselves and thus wished no branch of the federal government to be elected directly by the people". Sherman, Elbridge Gerry (himself later recognized as the namesake of American political gerrymandering) and others were of the shared opinion that the elected composition of the national government should be reserved for the vote of state officials and not for election by the will of the people. Sherman was wary of allowing ordinary citizen participation in national government and 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 emerged in the deliberations. One 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 with his authoring of Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution and his later opposition to James Madison over the "Bill of Rights" amendments to the U.S. Constitution in his belief that these amendments would diminish the role and power of the states over the people.
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 due to 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.
Sherman opposed appointment of fellow signer Gouverneur Morris as minister to France because he considered that high-living Patriot to be of an "irreligious nature".
Sherman was instrumental in securing the addition of "or to the people" in the wording of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and caused the cent to be used in the financial system. In a letter to Oliver Wolcott (21 May 1777) he wrote, "I think it dangerous to admit citizens not connected to the army to be tried by a Court Martial".
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."
He was buried in New Haven Green. In 1821, when that cemetery was relocated, his remains were moved to the Grove Street Cemetery.
Several of Roger Sherman's 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.
Descendant Archibald Cox served as a U.S. Solicitor General and special prosecutor during President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal.
Great-granddaughter Elizabeth Thacher Kent was an environmental and women's suffrage activist. She was married to William Kent, congressman from California who authored the bill establishing the National Park Service, and donated the land for Mount Tamalpias State Park and Muir Woods.
Great-great-grandson, Roger Kent was Chairman of the California Democratic State Central Committee.
Husband of great-great-granddaughter Mabel Wellington White, Henry L. Stimson was Secretary of War under President Taft, Secretary of State under President Hoover, and Secretary of War under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Stimson was the major decision-maker on the atomic bomb and both Presidents followed his advice about using it as the weapon that led to the ultimate end of World War II.
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.
- Roger Sherman—The Forgotten Founder http://www.whatwouldthefoundersthink.com/roger-sherman%E2%80%94the-forgotten-founder
- Waln, Robert (1824). "Biography of the lobster time of the Declaration of Independence". Port Folio. 18: 450. Retrieved 2009-01-16.
- Roger Sherman's family: The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence -Retrieved 2016-05-13
- Rev. Josiah Sherman: From Archive.org pp 364
- Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, p 142; published 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-16
- Elizabeth Hartwell Sherman- American History by the University of Groningen: Retrieved 2016-05-21
- Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, p 150; published 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-17
- Rebecca Sherman Book: Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, pp. 153-154; 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-21
- Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, p 141; published 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-16
- New England Historical and Genealogical Register, (New England Historic and Genealogical Society), 2012, Vol. 166, p. 245-259
- Agnes: The American Genealogist, New Haven, Connecticut: D. L. Jacobus, 1987, Vol. 62, p. 77- Retrieved 2016-05-16
- Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, p 121; published 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-16
- Sherman, Roger A Caveat Against Injustice
- America on the Cusp of God's Grace: The Biblical Connection to the Stars and Stripes. Dennis G. Hurst, 2010. iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana.
- Robertson, David B. "Madison's Opponents and Constitutional Design." The American Political Science Review 99.22 (2005): 225–43. JSTOR. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.
- Boyd, Julian P. "Roger Sherman: Portrait of a Cordwainer Statesman." The New England Quarterly 5.2 (1932): 221–36. JSTOR. Web. 12 Feb. 2015.
- Collier, Christopher, and James Lincoln Collier. Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787. New York: Random House, 1986. Print.
- Outline of American History – Chapter 4: The Formation of a National Government http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/history/ch4.htm
- Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1996. Print.
- Sherman. http://fas-history.rutgers.edu/clemens/constitutional1/sherman.html
- Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.
- Roger Sherman Connecticut. http://www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ss/sherman.htm
- Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England, p 187; published 1920, author Sherman, Thomas Townsend (born 1853)- Retrieved 2016-05-17
- Rommel, John G. (1979). Connecticut's Yankee patriot, Roger Sherman. 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): 521–40.
- 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
- United States Congress. "Roger Sherman (id: S000349)". 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
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sherman, Roger". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|Mayors of New Haven, Connecticut
| Succeeded by|
|United States Senate|
William S. Johnson
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Oliver Ellsworth
| Succeeded by|
Stephen M. Mitchell
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large congressional district
| Succeeded by|
William S. Johnson
|Oldest living U.S. Senator
June 13, 1791 – July 23, 1793
| Succeeded by|
William S. Johnson