By Bill Korach. The Report Card in cooperation with Jacksonville’s First Coast Tea party presents profiles of the 39 signers of the Constitution in honor of its 224th Anniversary.
Sherman was born on April 19, 1721 in Newton, Massachusetts near Boston, Sherman’s education did not extend beyond his father’s library and grammar school, and his early career was spent as a shoe-maker. However, he was gifted with an aptitude for learning, and access to a good library owned by his father, as well as a Harvard educated parish minister, Rev. Samuel Dunbar, who took him under his wing. Despite the fact that he had no formal legal training, Sherman was urged to read for the bar exam by a local lawyer and was admitted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, during which he wrote “A Caveat Against Injustice” and was chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761.
Sherman was an early supporter of the Revolution. He understood, that the contest would have to be terminated by a resort to arms. So, he felt the paramount importance of union among the colonies. He believed, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Sherman was a longtime and influential member of the Continental Congress (1774-81 and 1783-84). He won membership on the committees that drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, as well as those concerned with Indian affairs, national finances, and military matters. To solve economic problems, at both national and state levels, he advocated high taxes rather than excessive borrowing or the issuance of paper currency.
While in Congress, Sherman remained active in state and local politics, continuing to hold the office of judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, as well as membership on the council of safety (1777-79). In 1783 he helped codify Connecticut’s statutory laws. The next year, he was elected mayor of New Haven (1784-86).
Although on the edge of insolvency, mainly because of wartime losses, Sherman could not resist the lure of national service. In 1787 he represented his state at the Constitutional Convention, and attended practically every session. He helped draft the New Jersey Plan and was a prime mover behind the Connecticut, or Great Compromise, which broke the deadlock between the large and small states over representation. He was, in addition, instrumental in Connecticut’s ratification of the Constitution.
Sherman concluded his career by serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1789-91) and Senate (1791-93), where he espoused the Federalist cause. Historian Benjamin Morris said of him: “In Congress, he advocated the Christian duty and propriety of appointing days of fasting and prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God.”
He died at New Haven in 1793 at the age of 72 and is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery.
He was the only person to sign all four great state papers of the U.S.: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson said of him: “That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”