Independence Week 2013: Roger Sherman

Posted by Mike Merritt in Independence Week on

Portrait of Roger Sherman by Ralph EarlBeing that today is Independence Day, it just seemed appropriate to feature as the topic a figure that was instrumental in the development of the Declaration of Independence.  I could, of course, choose Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, or Benjamin Franklin, or John Adams, but as I’m from Connecticut, it’d be silly of me to not pick Roger Sherman.

Sherman was a native of Massachusetts, but in early adulthood moved to Milford, and with his brother, opened the town’s first store.  He also became a surveyor for New Haven County, and was generally regarded among the top figures of the area. In 1754, he gained admission to the bar, and a year later was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives, where he served three years. In later life, he was elected Mayor of New Haven, followed by four years total in the then-new U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Of course, one of his most prominent posts was as a delegate to the Continental Congress for Connecticut to discuss independence from Britain. While there, he was assigned to the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration. Although no records of the drafting process exist, he was likely involved in discussing at least some of the elements and arguments that would be used in the document, as well as editing it once the first draft was written by Jefferson. After it was completed, Sherman presented it to Congress with the rest of the committee, as depicted in the famous painting by John Trumbull.

Later, Sherman was appointed to the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution of the United States. Sherman, along with fellow Connecticut delegate Oliver Ellsworth, presented the Connecticut Compromise that helped solve the dispute in the design of the Legislative Branch. A, perhaps less great contribution of his (though the Constitution probably wouldn’t have gotten the ratification of enough states without it) was the Three-Fifths Compromise, which defined representation of  slaves to the House of Representatives, which he created with James Wilson of Pennsylvania.

He had a long list of accomplishments, but you never hear much about him. Without his work, the Constitution may not have passed, and yet he really never gets a mention in the affairs. This guy is one of the heroes of the Revolution and Constitution, and deserves more recognition than he gets. So I’m happy to do what I can to make it happen.

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