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Roger Sherman

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

Born April 19, 1721(1721-04-19)
Newton, Massachusetts
Died July 23, 1793 (aged 72)
Nationality USA
Political party Pro-Administration
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Hartwell
Rebecca Minot Prescott
Alma mater Yale University
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Religion Congregationalist

Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721–July 23, 1793) was an early American lawyer and politician. 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]

Sherman was also the patriarch of one of America's oldest, most powerful and prolific U.S. political families, the Baldwin, Hoar & Sherman family as ranked by Political Graveyard.


Early life

Sherman was born in Newton, Massachusetts, but his family moved to Stoughton, Massachusetts (a town located seventeen miles, or 27 km, south of Boston) when he was two. The part of Stoughton where Sherman grew up was later incorporated in 1797 to Canton, Massachusetts. Sherman's education did not extend beyond his father's library and grammar school, and his early career was spent as a shirt designer. However, he was gifted with 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, 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 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

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 wrote [A Caveat Against Injustice][1] and was 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. 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. Only one other person, Robert Morris, signed 3 of these documents (not the Articles of Association).

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

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, summoned into existence to amend the Articles of Confederation, Sherman offered what came to be called the Great Compromise or Connecticut Compromise. In this plan, the people would be represented in the house by proportional representation in one branch of the legislature, called the House of Representatives (the Lower 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 30,000 people. On the other hand, in the upper house each state was guaranteed two senators, no matter their 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."[4]


Roger Sherman's descendants, in the third and fourth generations and later, via the associated Baldwin, Hoar & Sherman families have been influential political participants and office holders in United States history, especially in the 19th century, and is considered by Political Graveyard to be the 4th largest US political family. One distant relative of Sherman's is William Tecumseh Sherman.

Roger Sherman was a first cousin twice removed of Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. Sherman's mother Mehitable Wellington and Whitney's great-grandmother Elizabeth Wellington were siblings. It has been suggested that both of them were descended from Edward I of England.

Watergate-era prosecutor Archibald Cox, famous for his firing during the Saturday Night Massacre was a direct descendant of Roger Sherman.

Roger Sherman's grandson and namesake, Roger Sherman Baldwin earned his place in history as US Senator, Governor of Connecticut and one of two lawyers descended from members of the original Committee of Five who successfully argued for the freedom of approximately 50 Mende men, women, and children involved in the Amistad Supreme Court case of 1841. Two other grandsons, George F. Hoar and William M. Evarts were also US Senators. Evarts also served US Attorney General and was succeed by his first cousin Ebenezer R. Hoar, the brother of Senator George F. Hoar.

He is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, and his grave is the center of the city's 4 July celebrations.

Places and things named in honor of Roger Sherman

  • Naturally, there is a Sherman Avenue in New Haven, which extends into neighboring Hamden.
  • The town of Sherman, Connecticut is named in honor of Roger Sherman.
  • Sherman Street in Canton, Massachusetts is named in honor of Roger Sherman.
  • Sherman Avenue in central Madison, Wisconsin is named in honor of Roger Sherman. Most of the main streets in downtown Madison are named after signers of the United States Constitution.
  • The official name of the policy debate team at Western Connecticut State University is the "Roger Sherman Debate Society".
  • Roger Sherman Inn of New Canaan, Connecticut is named in honor of Roger Sherman.
  • The Roger Sherman House on Howe Street in New Haven is named in honor of Roger Sherman.
  • Aside from his grave, there is only one statue known to have been made of Roger Sherman. His statue is located at the National Constitution Center[2] in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, he has a statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol, one of two allowed the state of Connecticut in the collection, and a statue of him also graces the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford.



  • 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: An Old Puritan in a New Nation." In Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark David Hall, and Jeffry H. Morrison, ed. The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009)
  • 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

Political offices
Preceded by
Mayors of New Haven, Connecticut
Succeeded by
Elizur Goodrich
United States Senate
Preceded by
William S. Johnson
United States 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

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ROGER SHERMAN (1721-1793), American political leader, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born at Newton, Massachusetts, on the 19th of April 1721 (O.S.). He removed with his parents to Stoughton in 1723, attended the country school there, and at an early age learned the cobbler's trade in his father's shop. Removing to New Milford, Connecticut, in 1743, he worked as county surveyor, engaged in mercantile pursuits, studied law, and in 1754 was admitted to the bar. He represented New Milford in the Connecticut Assembly in 1 7551 75 6 and again in 1758-1761. From 1761 until his death New Haven was his home. He was once more a member of the Connecticut Assembly in 1764-1766, was one of the governor's assistants in 1766-1785, a judge of the Connecticut superior court in 1766-1789, treasurer of Yale College in 1765-1776, a delegate to the Continental Congress in1774-1781and again in 1783-1784, a member of the Connecticut Committee of Safety in1777-1779and in 1782, mayor of New Haven in 1784-1793, a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 and to the Connecticut Ratification Convention of the same year, and a member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1789-1791 and of the United States Senate in 1791-1793. He was on the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence, and also on that which drafted the Articles of Confederation. His greatest public service, however, was performed in the Federal Constitutional Convention. In the bitter conflict between the large state party and the small state party he and his colleagues, Oliver Ellsworth and William Samuel Johnson, acted as peacemakers. Their share in bringing about the final settlement, which provided for equal representation in one house and proportional representation in the other, was so important that the settlement itself has come to be called the "Connecticut Compromise." He helped to defeat the proposal to give Congress a veto on state legislation, showing that it was illogical to confer such a power, since the constitution itself is the law of the land and no state act contravening it is legal. In the Federal Congress (1789-1793) he favoured the assumption of the state debts, the establishment of a national bank and the adoption of a protective tariff policy. Although strongly opposed to slavery, he refused to support the Parker resolution of 1789 providing for a duty of ten dollars per head on negroes brought from Africa, on the ground that it emphasized the property element in slavery. He died in New Haven on the 23rd of July 1793. Sherman was not a deep and original thinker like James Wilson, nor was he a brilliant leader like Alexander Hamilton; but owing to his conservative temperament, his sound judgment and his wide experience he was well qualified to lead the compromise cause in the convention of 1787.

Two of Sherman's grandsons, William M. Evarts and George F. Hoar, were prominent in the later history of the country. Lewis H. Boutell's Life of Roger Sherman (Chicago, 1896), based on material collected by Senator Hoar, is a careful and accurate work.

<< John Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman >>

Simple English

Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 – July 23, 1793) was an American politican. He was from Connecticut. He is the only person to have signed the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution; the four great documents of the starting of the United States. He served in the Continental Congress for several years. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Robert Livingstone, he was one of the people who helped write the Declaration of Independence. Sherman created the Great (Connecticut) Compromise at the Constitutional Convention. After the Constitution was passed, he was a Congressman and Senator from Connecticut.


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