Roger Sherman

One of the most remarkable men of the Revolution, was Roger Sherman. He was born in Newton, Massachusetts, on the nineteenth of April, 1721. In 1723, the family moved to Stonington, in that State, where they lived until the death of Roger’s father, in 1741. Roger was then only nineteen years of age, and the whole care and support of a large family devolved on him. He had been apprenticed to a shoemaker, but he now took charge of the small farm his father left. In 1744, they sold the farm, and moved to New Milford, in Connecticut, where an elder brother, who was married, resided. Roger performed the journey on foot, carrying his shoemaker’s tools with him, and for some time he worked industriously at his trade there.

Mr. Sherman’s early education was exceedingly limited, but with a naturally strong and active mind, he acquired a large stock of knowledge from books, during his apprenticeship1. Not long after he settled in New Milford, he formed a partnership with his brother in a mercantile business, but all the while was very studious. He turned his attention to the study of law, during his leisure hours; and so proficient did he become in legal knowledge, that he was admitted to the bar in December, 1754 2.

In 1755, Mr. Sherman was elected a representative of New Milford, in the General Assembly of Connecticut, and the same year he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. After practicing law about five years, he was appointed Judge of the County Court for Litchfield county (c. May 1759). He moved to New Haven in 1761, when the same appointments were conferred a May, upon him, and in addition, he was chosen treasurer of Yale College, from which institution, in 1765, be received the honorary degree of A. M. In 1766, he was elected to the senate, or upper house of the legislature of Connecticut; and it was at this time that the passage of the Stamp Act was bringing the politicians of America to a decided stand in relation to the repeated aggressions of Great Britain. Roger Sherman fearlessly took part with the patriots, and was a leader among them in Connecticut, until the war broke out. He was elected a delegate from Connecticut to the Continental Congress, in 1774, and was present at the opening on the fifth of September. He was one of the most active members of that body, and was appointed one of the Committee to prepare a draft of a Declaration of Independence; a document to which he affixed his signature with hearty good will, after it was adopted by Congress.

Although his duties in Congress, during the war, were almost incessant, yet he was at the same time a member of the Committee of Safety of Connecticut. In 1783, he was appointed, with Judge Law, of New London, to revise the statutes of the State, in which service he showed great ability. He was a delegate from Connecticut in the Convention in 1787 that framed the present Constitution of the United States; and he was a member of the State Convention of Connecticut which assembled to act upon the ratification of that instrument. For two years after the organization of the government under the Constitution, he was a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was then promoted to the Senate, which office he filled at the time of his death, which took place on the twenty-third of July, 1793, in the seventy-third year of his age. He had previously been elected mayor of New Haven, when it was invested with city powers and privileges, and that office he held until the time of his death 3.

1 – It is said that while at work on his bench, he had a book so placed that he could read when It was not necessary for his eyes to be upon his work. He thus acquired a good knowledge of mathematics, and he made astronomical calculations for an almanac that was published in New York when be was only twenty-seven years old.

2 – Mr. Shaman had no instructor or guide in the study of the law, neither had he any books but such as he borrowed, yet he became me of the most profound jurists of his day.

3 – He was twice married, the first time to Elizabeth Hartwell, of Stoughton, and the second time to Rebecca Prescott, of Danvers. By his first with he had seven children, and eight by his last.