Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the most remarkable men of revolutionary times. He was born on April 19, 1721, in Newton, Massachusetts. The family moved to 1723 to Stonington, Massachusetts, where they lived until Roger’s father died in 1741. Roger was only 19 when his father passed away but had to assume the entire care and support of a large family. He had previously been an apprentice to a shoemaker, but he left that job to care for his father’s small farm. The family stayed on the farm until 1744 when they sold it and moved to New Milford, Connecticut, to be near an older married brother. Roger made this journey on foot and carried his shoemaker’s tools with him. He worked as a shoemaker for some time in New Milford.
Roger had very limited education, but he had a naturally strong and active mind. During his apprenticeship, he did much studying. The report is that he had a book open before him on the bench, so placed so that he could study at times when his eyes did not need to be on his work. He gained a good knowledge of mathematics by his study. When only 27 years old, he made astronomical calculations for an almanac published in New York.
Soon after he moved to New Milford, Roger and his brother opened a mercantile business. Roger was always very studious while on this job also. He began the study of law during his times of leisure. He did not have any instructor and had to borrow books, but he became so proficient in legal knowledge that he was admitted to the bar in December 1754. He became a very successful jurist.
Roger was elected as a representative of New Milford in the General Assembly of Connecticut in 1755. That same year, he was appointed to be a Justice of the Peace. About five years after he started practicing law, he was appointed Judge of the County Court for Litchfield County. When these appointments were made in 1761, Roger moved to New Haven. He was also selected to be treasurer of Yale College, which bestowed an honorary degree upon him in 1765.
Roger was elected to be a senator in the upper house of the Connecticut legislature in 1766. The Stamp Act had recently been passed, and American politicians were taking a defiant stand against Great Britain. Roger was a fearless leader among the patriots even before war started. He was chosen to be a delegate to the Continental Congress and was present when Congress opened on September 5, 1774. He was very active in the Congress and was appointed to the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. After the document was adopted by Congress, he joyfully signed the document.
During the Revolutionary War he was very busy as a member of Congress, but Roger was also a member of the Committee of Safety for Connecticut. In 1783 he joined Judge Law of New London and used his great abilities in revising the statutes of the State. He was a delegate from Connecticut to the Convention in 1787 when the Constitution was framed. He was also a member of the Convention in Connecticut that ratified the Constitution.
Two years after the government of the United States organized under the Constitution, Roger was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He was “promoted” to the office of Senator and held that office until his death. Roger simultaneously held the office of mayor of New Haven until his death.
Roger was married twice. At age 26, he married Elizabeth Hartwell of Stoughton, Massachusetts, in 1749. This couple was blessed with seven children before Elizabeth died in 1760. When Roger was 42, he married Rebecca Prescott, age 20, on May 12, 1763. This couple was blessed with eight children, seven of whom grew to maturity.
Roger was the only man to sign all four of the great state papers: The Address to the King, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. He died on July 23, 1793, at age 72
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