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Page 4

Roger Sherman

1721-1793


   Under this new Constitution, he was elected a representative to congress, from the state of Connecticut. At the expiration of two years, a vacancy occurring in the senate, he was elevated to a seat in that body, an office which he continued to hold, and the duties of which he continued to discharge with honor and reputation to himself, and with great usefulness to his country, until the 23rd day of July, 1793, when he was gathered to his fathers, in the 73d year of his age.
   In estimating the character of Mr. Sherman, we must dwell a moment upon his practical wisdom. This, in him, was a predominant trait. He possessed, more than most men, an intimate acquaintance with human nature. He understood the springs of human action in a remarkable degree, and well knew in what manner to touch them, to produce a designed effect. This practical wisdom, another name for common sense, powerfully contributed to guide him to safe results, on all the great political questions in which he was concerned; and assisted him to select the means which were best adapted to accomplish the best ends. With the habits and opinions, with the virtues and vices, the prejudices and weaknesses of his countrymen, he was also well acquainted. Hence, he understood, better than many others, who were superior to him in the rapidity of their genius, what laws and principles they would bear, and what they would not bear, in government. Of the practical wisdom of Mr. Sherman, we might furnish many honorable testimonies and numerous illustrations. We must content ourselves, however, with recording a remark of President Jefferson, to the late Dr. Spring, of Newburyport. During the sitting of Congress at Philadelphia, the latter gentleman, in company with Mr. Jefferson, visited the national hall. Mr. Jefferson pointed out to the doctor several of the members, who were most conspicuous. At length, his eye rested upon Roger Sherman. "That," said he, pointing his finger, "is Mr. Sherman of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life." Not less complimentary was the remark of Mr. Macon, the aged and distinguished senator, who has recently retired from public life: "Roger Sherman had more common sense than any man I ever knew.">
   Another distinguishing trait in the character of Roger Sherman, was his unbending integrity. No man, probably, ever stood more aloof from the suspicion of a selfish bias, or of sinister motives. In both his public and private conduct, he was actuated by principle. The opinion which appeared correct, he adopted, and the measure which appeared the best, he pursued, apparently uninfluenced by passion, prejudice, or interest. It was probably owing to this trait in his character, that he enjoyed such extraordinary influence in those deliberative bodies of which he was a member. In his speech, he was slow and hesitating. He had few of the graces of oratory; yet no man was heard with deeper attention. This attention arose from the solid conviction of the hearers, that he was an honest man. What he said, was indeed always applicable to the point, was clear, was weighty; and, as the late President Dwight remarked, was generally new and important. Yet the weight of his observations, obviously, sprung from the integrity of the man. It was this trait in his character, which elicited the observation of the distinguished Fisher Ames. "If I am absent," said he, "during the discussion of a subject, and consequently know not on which side to vote, I always look at Roger Sherman, for I am sure if I vote with him I shall vote right."
   To the above excellent traits in the character of Mr. Sherman, it may be added, that he was eminently a pious man. He was long a professor of religion, and one of its brightest ornaments. Nor was his religion that which appeared only on occasions. It was with him a principle and a habit. It appeared in the closet, in the family, on the bench, and in senate house. Few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention; few were more intimately acquainted with the doctrines of the gospel, and the metaphysical controversies of the day. On these subjects, he maintained an extended correspondence with some of the most distinguished divines of that period, among whom were Dr. Edwards, Dr. Hopkins, Dr. Trumbull, President Dickenson, and President Witherspoon, all of whom had a high opinion of him as a theologian, and derived much instruction from their correspondence with him.
   If the character of a man's religion is to be tested by the fruits it produces, the religion of Mr. Sherman must be admitted to have been not of this world. He was naturally possessed of strong passions; but over these he at length obtained an extraordinary control. He became habitually calm, sedate, and self-possessed. The following instance of his self-possession is worthy of being recorded.

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Last modified January 1, 2004