College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Samuel C. Smith


founding father, Connecticut, American Revolution, Roger Sherman, Constitution, founding documents




Roger Sherman is perhaps the most important forgotten founder of the United States. Best known for creating the Connecticut compromise which reconciled the VA and NJ plans by having the House of Representatives be based on population and having each state have one vote in the Senate, he also was instrumental throughout the founding. He was the only man to sign and help draft every major founding document of the United States, one of a select group of self-taught founders and a man who served in practically every civil service position imaginable. Born in Massachusetts, Sherman would move to Connecticut upon his father’s death at age 19, rising from shoe-maker and farmer to notable judge in the colony. The awkward New Englander was frequently called up to serve, publishing almanacs and engaging with Connecticut culture economically, socially, religiously, intellectually, and politically. His opposition to the Stamp Act won him greater acclaim and from there he would go on to serve in both Continental Congresses. His involvement during the Revolution focused on logistics of supply, finance, and drafting the Declaration and Articles of Confederation. Throughout this service, Sherman's high esteem in Congress was seen in his notable appointments and praise from his colleagues. However, tension and animosities played a significant part in his service with personal alliances and adversaries in Congress. Some of these factions would wrestle with Sherman as he became a member in the Constitutional Convention. Sherman served in this body as America's First Great Compromiser, brokering deals and maneuvering for agreements to keep the nation intact and on the road to post-War stability. The most notable of these arrangements dealt with representation, what we now call the Connecticut (or Sherman) Compromise. Sherman's last days featured a tired representative, who served in both national and state office until his death. His funeral was attended by people impacted by Sherman's many different offices and actions. One of Congress' oldest representatives, he died before he could serve in a major position in the Executive. The awkward and ineloquent Sherman, who did not write much on his own contributions, became reserved to local and familial remembrances as time passed. This fate would have been unthinkable at the time of his death, and historians must reinvestigate this "Mount Atlas of Independence" (as John Adams would call him), to better understand the founding as a whole.

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