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He went to New Milford, in Connecticut, where he followed shoemaking three years, living within the strictest rules of economy, contributing from his earnings to the support of a widowed mother, with a family of small children. The education of his young brothers and sisters, also received his attention. Every leisure moment he devoted to books, often having one open before him when using his lap stone. With each succeeding day, his mind expanded, unfolding beauties rich and rare. Every obstacle to the pursuit of knowledge, melted before his untiring industry; he ascended the hill of science with a firm and steady pace.
In June, 1743, he removed his mother and her family to New Milford, and entered into the mercantile business with an elder brotherstill pursuing his studies as opportunities permitted. He soon stored his capacious memory with a fund of rich and useful information, that ultimately placed him on the pinnacle of public esteem and useful
About that time, he made a public profession of religion, which he adorned through subsequent life. In 1745, he was appointed surveyor of Litchfield county, having made himself familiar with mathematics. Like his contemporary and friend, Benjamin Franklin, he made the calculations of an almanac several years, for a publisher in New York.
At the age of twenty-eight, he married Miss Elizabeth Hartwell, of Staughton, Massachusetts, who died in 1780, leaving seven children. He subsequently married Miss Rebecca Prescott, who lived to have eight children, all of whom, with those by his first wife, he carefully trained in the ways of wisdom and virtue. He also supported his mother, and a maiden sister whose health was poor, until death relieved them, at an advanced age, from the toils of life.
In the prosecution of his literary pursuits, he turned his attention to the study of law, in which he made astonishing proficiency. In 1754, he was admitted to the bar, better prepared to act well his part and do justice to his clients, than many who are ushered into notice under the high floating banners of a collegiate diploma.
The following year he was appointed a justice of the peace and elected a member of the colonial assembly; an honour that was conferred upon him during the remainder of his residence at that place. He was highly esteemed by his fellow citizens. His reputation as a lawyer and statesman stood high, and his private worth enabled him to exercise a salutary influence upon those around him. For industry, sound logic, prudence, and discretion, he stood unrivalled in the colony. Strong common sense, the true helm of human action, marked his whole career; rendering him substantially and extensively useful to his fellow men and his country. He was a philanthropist of the highest order, a patriot of the purest water.
În 1759, he was appointed a judge of the county court of Litchfield, and discharged his official duties with great faithfulness and impartiality, correcting vice and promoting virtue.
Two years after, he removed to New Haven, where he was appointed justice of the peace, elected to the assembly, and, in 1765, was placed upon the judicial bench of the county court. He received the degree of master of arts from Yale College, of which he was treasurer for many years, fulfilling the trust with scrupulous honesty and fidelity.
In 1766, he was elected a member of the executive council, which was hailed as an auspicious event by the friends of liberal principles. The mother country had manifested a disposition to impose unjust taxation upon the Americans. . It required discernment, experience, nerve and decision, to comprehend and oppose the corrupt plans of an avaricious ministry. The colonies had borne the main burden of the French war, in which they had sacrificed large sums of money and fountains of their richest blood. After years of incessant toil, the foe had been conquered, an honourable peace for England obtained, the frontier settlements in a measure relieved from danger, and the soldier again became the citizen.
Whilst their rejoicings on that occasion were yet on the wings of echo, oppression from the crown threatened to blast their fond anticipations of happiness and repose, and bind them in chains, more to be dreaded than the tomahawk and scalping knife.
This colony had furnished more money and men, and lost more of her bravest sons in the French war than any other with the same population. Mr. Sherman had been an active member of the assembly during the period of its prosecution, and remembered well the sacrifices that had been made to gratify the king. He understood perfectly the rights of his own country and those of the crown. He was eminently prepared to discover approaching danger and sound the alarm. He was well calculated to probe the intrigues and venality of designing men, although the Atlantic rolled between him and them.
Mr. Grenville, who was at the head of the British ministry, determined to reduce his long-nursed theory of taxing the American colonies, to immediate practice. The alarm was immediately spread. Appeals for redress, petitions, and remonstrances, numerously signed, were forwarded to parliament; but all in vain. Reason and justice were dethroned and mercy banished from her seat. The car of oppression moved onward; the stamp act was passed; the indignation of the colonists was roused. After much exertion and excitement, this law was repealed, to the great joy of the Americans; but they soon found that the storm was only lulled to gather new strength, and pour down its wrath upon their devoted heads with tenfold fury. The year following a duty was laid upon tea, glass, paper, and paints. High toned chords were then touched, and their reverberation reached the heart of every freeman. The tea was hurled into the ocean and the law set at open defiance. This spirited opposition induced a repeal of these duties, except on the first named article. This exception was death to the colonial power of England; to America, freedom. Popular fury increased; kindred spirits united to repel the injury, determined to defend their liberty, regardless of consequences. Amidst these commotions, Mr. Sherman remained undaunted at his post, watching, with a calm and prophetic mind, the moving elements. Although elevated to the bench of the superior court, he remained in the executive council, a firm and consistent advocate of his country's
rights; a lucid delineator of Britain's wrongs. He viewed the gathering clouds as they rolled in fury; he saw the lightning of revenge streaming fearfully, without the tremor of a muscle, coolly awaiting the event, relying on Heaven, trusting in God.
High handed and tyrannical measures were now adopted by Parliament. Laws were passed, violating the chartered rights of the colonists, subversive of reason, humanity, and justice. A volcanic storm gathered; the British lion prowled in anger: the Albion Goliah buckled on his armour; the shining steel dazzled in the sun; the sword of vengeance was drawn; colonial blood was spilt; popular fury was roused; allegiance was dissolved; America was free.
At this momentous, this thrilling crisis, a band of sages and patriots assembled at Philadelphia, to devise means for the safety of their bleeding country. In the front rank stood Roger Sherman, in all the dignity of his native greatness. He was a member of the first continental Congress, and remained firm and unwavering at his post, during the trying scenes of the revolution, the formation of the new government, and the adoption of the federal constitution. gigantic mind, improved and enlarged by a rich fund of useful knowledge, inured to all the toils and intricacies of legislation, the history of his country and of nations spread upon his memory, the ingratitude and insults of a foreign monarch preying upon his soul, he was prepared to render his country services, equalled by few, exceeded by
His capacity was equal to every emergency: he shrunk from no duty; discharged every responsibility assumed; moving, with the mathematical precision of a planet, within the orbit of sound discretion. He was familiar with men and things, acquainted with the minutiæ of human nature, traced causes and results to their true source, and viewed, with a philosophic eye, the secret springs of human action; the arcana of economies was open before him;
he solved problems, demonstrated principles, placing them in the full blaze of illustration, as irresistible as the pages of Euclid. Such was the selftaught Roger Sherman.
The session of 1775 was one of great labour, anxiety, and embarrassment. None but hearts of oak, and nerves of steel,” could have sustained the tremendous shock, the fearful onset. An army was to be raised and organized, military stores provided, fortifications erected, rules of government adopted, plans of operation matured, internal enemies encountered, and legions of Britain's bravest veterans to be repelled. To meet these emergencies, the members of Congress had hearts full of courage, but a treasury empty and bare. A forlorn hope was before them—a revenging foe on their shores. But they had resolved on liberty or death. Nor did they “split on the rock of resolves, where thousands live and die the same.” They met the fury of the king, encountering his vials of wrath with a firmness, wisdom, and patriotism, before unknown; placing them above all Greek, all Roman fame. Their course was onward towards the goal of FREEDOM. No threats of vengeance dismayed them--the shafts of terror fell harmless at their feet.
In 1776, with the colonies bleeding at every pore; a picture of sad reverses before them; a conquering enemy sweeping over their land like a destructive torrent; the streams purpled with the blood of their brethren; the cries of widows and orphans ringing in their ears; the sky illuminated by the streaming blaze of their towns; this band of patriots conceived the bold and towering plan of independence-a plan that stamped their heads, their hearts, their names, with’immortal fame.
Early in the summer, Messrs. Sherman, Adams, Franklin, Livingston and Jefferson, were appointed a committee to draft a declaration of rights. After much deliberation, it was prepared, reported, and, on the memorable 4th of July, 1776, received the hearty sanction of the Continental Congress, amidst the transporting joys of freemen, who hailed it as the bright, the morning star; to them, a prelude of future bliss; to tyrants, a burning meteor, threatening to devour them.
Illustrious in all their actions, the signers of the declaration were eminently so, when, assuming their native dignity, they rose, in all the majesty of greatness, bursting their servile chains; cutting asun
cords of oppressive allegiance; sublimely passing the grand Rubicon; and, in view of an approving Heaven and an admiring world, declared their country free and independent. The era was one of resplendent glory, sacred to the cause of human rights, enduring as the tablet of time, brilliant as the meridian sun. The sages whose signatures grace the chart of our liberty placed themselves on the loftiest spire fame could rear. By their own consciences, by their countrymen, by Heaven, and in view of gazing millions, they stood approved, applauded, and admired.
No member of the Continental Congress had studied more closely and comprehended more clearly finance and political economy than Judge Sherman.. His mind was moulded in system, his plans were judicious, and his habits frugal. He was a practical man and conversant with every department of government. He was an efficient member of the board of war, ordnance, and the treasury. In short, he was placed on the most important committees during the long and bloody struggle of the revolution. His plans for replenishing the treasury, regulating expenditures, and disbursing moneys, were based on rules of economy and frugality, corresponding with the emergency of the times. Fraudulent contractors shrunk before his penetrating scrutiny; speculations upon government were often paralyzed by his torpedo touch; and he guarded, with an eagle eye and a father's care, the interests of the young republic.
In the estimation of Washington, the members of Congress, and of the nation, the talents of Roger Sherman, for sterling integrity and substantial usefulness, were second to none among the bright constellations that illuminated the memorable era of "76. In those days the ladder of fame was firmly based on honest merit and modest worth. It required no stump speeches or bar-room harangues to gain popular favour. The tree was judged by its fruit; principles and not men, were the political land marks. It was also a tir of labour. Inglorious ease was not known in the legislative halls; long
written speeches were not read to the speaker and walls of the house: the business of the nation was the order of the day; that business was done faithfully, promptly, and effectually. Posts of honour were then posts of duty; profit was out of the question. The motives and actions of the revolutionary sages and heroes were not based on the seven principles of five loaves and two fishes, but on love of country, social order, and human rights.
By the citizens of his own state the virtues and talents of Mr. Sherman were held in high estimation. In addition to his congressional honours, they continued him a member of council during the
In 1784, when New Haven received a city charter, he was elected mayor, filling the office with dignity and usefulness to the close of his life, when not absent on more important public duties.
At the termination of the war, he, in conjunction with Judge Law, was appointed to revise the judicial code of Connecticut, which duty was performed with great ability, and to the satisfaction of all concerned. He was a member of the general convention that framed the federal constitution. From a manuscript found amongst his papers, it appears that this instrument of union received many of its original features from Mr. Sherman. To his conceptive mind and practical wisdom, we are much indebted for the towering greatness and unparalleled prosperity we so eininently enjoy, and which will endure so long as we are faithful to ourselves. With all the local and conflicting interests of the colonies spread open to his view, he was enabled to exercise a salutary influence in reconciling difficulties between the members, that, for å time, threatened to hurl back the elements of government into original chaos, and prostrate the fair fabric of liberty.
By examining the profound discussions, the variety of opinions, the multifarious interests, the intense anxiety, the agony of soul, and sacrifices of private views that characterized the formation of the federal constitution, we discover wisdom, discretion and patriotism of the purest, loftiest kind, shining in all the grandeur of bold relievo.
Based upon the declaration of rights, it forms a superstructure towering in sublimity above all others, radiating its heart-cheering influence over sixteen millions of freemen, revered at home, respected abroad, and without a rival in the annals of legislation.
Judge Sherman did much to remove the objections made against this important document by the people of his own and adjoining states. He showed them clearly, and convinced them fully, that to effect and perpetuate the union, private feeling and interest must yield to public policy and public good; and that each state should strive to produce an equilibrium in the government of the whole. The wisdom of the sages who framed, and by their continued exertion and salutary influence effected the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, deserves our admiration quite as much as when they guided our nation through the storms of the revolution. It is often easier to acquire a particular object than to properly enjoy and preserve it.
Judge Sherman was elected a member of the first congress under the new government, and resigned his judicial station that he might