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Page 3

Roger Sherman


   Of the celebrated congress of 1774, Mr. Sherman was a conspicuous member. He was present at the opening of the session; and continued uninterruptedly a member of that body for the long space of nineteen years, until his death in 1793.
   Of the important services which he rendered his country, during his congressional career, it is difficult and even impossible to form an estimate. He served on various committees, whose deliberations often involved the highest interest of country. During the continuance of the war of the revolution, the duties of committees were frequently arduous and fatiguing. No man adventured upon these duties with more courage; no one exercised a more indefatigable zeal than did Mr. Sherman. He investigated every subject with uncommon particularity, and formed his judgment with a comprehensive view of the whole. This, together with the well known integrity of his character, attracted universal confidence. He naturally became, therefore, one of the leading and most influential members of congress, during the whole period of his holding a seat in that body.
   Of the congress of 1775, Mr. Sherman was again a member; but of this day of clouds and darkness, when the storm which had long lowered, began to burst forth on every side, we can take no further notice than to mention, with gratitude and admiration, the firmness of those assembled sages who with courage, breasted themselves to the coming shock. They calmly and fearlessly applied themselves to the defense of the liberties of their country, having counted the cost, and being prepared to surrender their rights only with their lives.
   In the congress of 1776, Mr. Sherman took a distinguished part. He assisted on committees appointed to give instructions for the military operations of the army in Canada; to establish regulations and restrictions on the trade of the United States; to regulate the currency of the country; to furnish supplies for the army; to provide for the expenses of the government; to prepare articles of confederation between the several states, and to propose a plan of military operations for the campaign of 1776.
   During this year, also, he received the most flattering testimony of the high estimation in which he was held by congress, in being associated with Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Livingston, in the responsible duty of preparing the Declaration of Independence.
   The reputation of Mr. Sherman abroad, was cordially reciprocated in the state in which he resided. Few men were ever more highly esteemed in Connecticut. The people understood his worth. They respected him for his abilities, but still more for his unbending integrity. During the war, he belonged to the governor's council of safety; and from the year 1784 to his death, he held the mayoralty of the city of New-Haven. In 1783, he was appointed, with the honorable Richard Law, both of whom were at this time judges of the superior court, to revise the statutes of the state. This service, rendered doubly onerous to the committee from their being instructed to digest all the statutes relating to the same subject into one, and to reduce the whole to alphabetical order, was performed with great ability. Many useless statutes were omitted; others were altered to correspond to the great changes which had then recently taken place in the state of the country, and the whole reduced to comparative order and simplicity.
   Another expression of the public confidence awaited Mr. Sherman in 1787. Soon after the close of the war, the inefficacy of the old confederation between the states was apparent. The necessity of a federal constitution, by which the powers of the state governments and of the general government should be more nicely balanced, became everyday more obvious. Accordingly, in 1787, a general convention of the states, for forming a new constitution, was called, and Mr. Sherman, in connection with the learned Mr. Ellsworth and Dr. Johnson, were appointed to attend it, on the part of Connecticut. In this assemblage of patriots, distinguished for their political wisdom, Mr. Sherman was conspicuous, and contributed, in no small degree, to the perfection of that constitution, under which the people of America have for more than forty years enjoyed as much civil liberty and political prosperity as is, probably, compatible with the lapsed condition of the human race. Many of the convention, who warmly advocated the adoption of the constitution, were not, indeed, well pleased with every feature of that instrument. To this number Mr. Sherman belonged. He was of the opinion, however, as were others, that it was the best which, under existing circumstances, the convention could have framed. On his return to Connecticut, when the question respecting the adoption of the Constitution came before the convention of that state, its adoption, according to the testimony of the late Chief Justice Ellsworth, was, in no small degree, owing to the influence of Mr. Sherman. On that occasion, he appeared before the convention, and, with great plainness and perspicuity, entered into an explanation of the probable operation of the principles of the Constitution.

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Last modified January 1, 2004