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Page 2

Roger Sherman

1721-1793


   In 1754, Mr. Sherman was admitted as an attorney to the bar. It is a trite remark, that great effects often proceed from small causes, and that not infrequently some apparently trivial occurrence, exercises a controlling influence over the whole after life of an individual. Both these remarks are eminently verified in the history of Mr. Sherman. While yet a young man, and, it is believed before he had relinquished his mechanical occupation, he had occasion to go to a neighboring town to transact some business for himself. A short time previous to this, a neighbor of his, in settling the affairs of a person deceased, became involved in a difficulty which required the assistance of legal counsel. The neighbor stated the case to young Sherman, and authorized him to seek the advice of the lawyer of the town to which he was going.
   As the subject was not without intricacy, Sherman committed the case to paper, and on his arrival in the town, proceeded with his manuscript to the lawyer's office. In stating the case to the awyer, he had frequent occasion to recur to his manuscript. This was noticed by the lawyer, and, as it was necessary to present a petition in the case to some court, Sherman was requested to leave the paper, as an assistance in framing the petition. The modesty of young Sherman would scarcely permit him to comply with this request. "The paper," he said, "was only a memorandum drawn by himself to assist his memory." He gave it, however, into, the hands of the lawyer, who read it with surprise. He found it to contain a clear statement of the case, and remarked, that with some slight verbal alterations, it would be equal to any petition which he himself could draft.
   The conversation now passed to the situation and circumstances of young Sherman. The lawyer urged him seriously to think upon the profession of law. At this time, he was deeply involved in the care of his father's family, which, as before noticed, were left in a great measure destitute at his decease. The suggestion, however, appears not to have been lost upon him. A new direction was given to his thoughts. A stronger impulse was added to his energies. His leisure hours were devoted to the acquisition of legal knowledge, and in 1754, as already remarked, he entered upon a professional career, in which few have attained to greater honor and distinction.
   From this date, Mr. Sherman soon became distinguished as a judicious counselor, and was rapidly promoted to offices of trust and responsibility. The year following his admission to the bar, he was appointed a justice of the peace for New-Milford, which town he also represented the same year in the colonial assembly. In 1759, be was appointed judge of the court of common pleas for the county of Litchfield, an office which he filled with great reputation for the two following years.
   At the expiration of this time, that is in 1761, he became a resident of New-Haven, of which town he -.vas soon after appointed a justice of the peace, and often represented it in the colonial assembly. To these offices was added, in 1765, that of judge of the court of common pleas. About the same time he was appointed treasurer of Yale College, which institution bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts.
   In 1766, he was elected by the freemen of the colony a member of the upper house, in the general assembly of Connecticut. The members of the upper house were called assistants. This body held their deliberations with closed doors. The precise rank, therefore, which Mr. Sherman held among his colleagues, or the services which he rendered his country, cannot now be ascertained. Few men, however, were better fitted for a deliberative assembly. During the same year, the confidence of his fellow-citizens was still further expressed, by his appointment to the office of judge of the superior court. The offices, thus conferred upon him, during the same year, were not then considered as incompatible. He continued a member of the upper house for nineteen years, until 1785, at which time the two offices which he held being considered as incompatible, he relinquished his seat at the council board, preferring his station as a judge. This latter office he continued to exercise until 1789, when be resigned it, on being elected to congress under the federal Constitution.
   At an early stage of the controversy between Great Britain and her American colonies, Mr. Sherman warmly espoused the cause of his country. This was to be expected of him. the man of so much integrity and consistency of character, of such firmness and solidity, would not be likely to be wanting in the day of trial. It was fortunate for America that she had some such men in her councils, to balance and keep in check the feverish spirits which, in their zeal, might have injured, rather than benefited the cause. Mr. Sherman was no enthusiast, nor was he to be seduced from the path of duty by motives of worldly ambition, or love of applause. He early perceived, that the contest would have to be terminated by a resort to arms. Hence, he felt the paramount importance of union among the colonies. He felt the full force of the sentiment, "United we stand, divided we fall." From the justice or clemency of Great Britain, he expected nothing; nor, at an early day, could be perceive any rational ground to hope that the contest could be settled, but by the entire separation of American and British interests. He was. therefore, prepared to proceed, not rashly, but with deliberate firmness, and to resist, even unto blood, the unrighteous attempts of the British parliament to enthrall and enslave the American colonies.

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