1703 – 1882,


  Transcribed by Richard M. Clarke
New Milford .

                Hon. David Sherman Boardman was the youngest child of Deacon Sherman and Sarah (Bostwick) Boardman, and was born Dec. 8, 1768 . He died Dec. 2, 1864 , at the advanced age of 96, greatly venerated and loved. There have been few, if any, of the inhabitants of New Milford since its settlement, who deserve to be honored more than this pure-minded, sagacious, and noble-hearted man. He was born at the farm called ( Maryland ), and his father’s house was singularly isolated, situated as it was some two and a half miles from the village, with only one or two farms between, and approached from the north by one of the loneliest roads in New England , extending some four and a half

miles along the Housatonic , with scarcely a single house or field. The farm itself was overlooked by “ Candlewood Mountain ,” rugged and picturesque, making a home more than usually fitted to act upon the imagination of a sensitive boy, such as he must have been, and to stimulate a poetical nature to thoughts of nature and of God. He records the fact with emphasis, that he was cut off from school-life and the companionship of boys, walking to school in the village and home again only two different seasons till severe illness in each case ensued, barely sparing his life at the second attack, and taking away a beloved sister, the companion of his childhood, at the age of ten, whose loveliness he never could allude to without manifest emotion. Attendance at school in his father’s house for a few months, and

              ‘This sketch was written by President Porter of Yale College , upon the request of the author of this book.

  in the village for four months at the age of fourteen, gave him all the common-school education which he enjoyed. But he commemorates with gratitude the attention to reading and study which he enjoyed at home during the winter months, doubtless under the dictates of his mother, who had herself been a trained teacher before her marriage. His paternal home, however, gave him manifold opportunities for education, being the resort of guests from far and near, and being also constantly enlivened by the facetious talks and bright remarks of his cheerful and vivacious father. When about seventeen years old he attended a select school taught by Col. William Taylor, then recently graduated from Yale College , devoting his attention to English studies, and in the following winter he studied the Latin language with great zeal under the tuition of his uncle, Rev. Daniel Farrand, in Canaan . At this period a temporary but serious failure of his eyesight discouraged his expectations of a college education. He somewhat reluctantly gave himself up to labors upon the farm, submitting himself to what seemed the decision of necessity and duty that his life was to be a farmer’s. After he was twenty-one years of age, his brother Elijah proposed to assist him in the prosecution of law-studies, with a view to his entering speedily upon the practice of the profession. His father having given his consent to the arrangement, he became a member of the family of Rev. Stanley Griswold in January, 1791, and prosecuted his studies tinder his dictation, chiefly in Latin till May. In these few months he made surprising progress, as we may interpret his own modest statement of the books which he read. In May, he was entered as a student with Elizur Goodrich, Esq., in New Haven , with the request that he should, so far as possible, perfect hint in a short course of classical and scientific study. At the college commencement in September, as he was about to return home, Mr.

Goodrich advised him to spend the winter with him, and enter the junior class in May. He accepted this advice, and devoted the winter chiefly to the study of Greek. He entered the junior class at the beginning of the summer term, near the end of which he was elected member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a circumstance which indicated that he at once made his mark upon his classmates and instructors.         

            He graduated in 1793, and in 1796 President Dwight proposed to nominate him as a tutor, pressing him to consent. But he had already been admitted to the Bar, and declined the flattering and significant offer. After traveling west as far as the Genesee river, and north through the new settlements in Vermont , he concluded, with some hesitation, to open an office in his native town. Here he spent his days in the faithful and successful practice of his profession, and where he earned from men of all parties the reputation of being a thoroughly “honest lawyer.”

He practiced freely in Litchfield and Fairfield counties, and was personally acquainted with all the eminent men who resided in both, of whose personal and professional life he could recite an inexhaustible store of anecdotes. After practicing as an attorney for thirty-six years, he was appointed for five successive years Chief Judge, of the County Court for Litchfield county, when he was displaced for political reasons. He was made Judge of Probate for the district of New Milford in 1805, and held the place by successive annual appointments for sixteen years. He was Justice of the Peace for thirty-two years. He was elected Representative to the General Assembly eight times. In 1808, he was elected a member of the Connecticut Society of Arts and Sciences, and was Vice-President of the Connecticut Historical Society from its first establishment.

                He married May 18, 1806 , Charlotte Taylor, the daughter of Nathaniel Taylor, Esq., and there were born to them seven children. John Taylor, April 17, 1807 ; Catharine Ann, Dec. 12, 1808 , died Oct. 9, 1811 ; George William, Feb. 26, 1811, died Sept. 23, 1815; Charles Sherman, Dec. 4, 1812, died Oct. 26, 1815 ; Augustus, April 19, 1814, died Oct. 31, 1815; Frederick, July 20, 1817, died July 17, 1876; Mary Cornelia, May 29, 1819.

                Of three of these children he wrote in extreme old age” Thus in the short space of six weeks were these three scions of fair

 promise and cherished hopes cut off by that fell destroyer of infancy and childhood, the Dysentery. A blight recorded with deep emotion, mingled it is hoped with humble submission.’

                In March, 1838, he was admitted with his wife to the fellowship of the Congregational Church. He had nearly reached his seventieth birthday, but all his life long his conduct had been singularly upright and blameless, and his attention upon the public duties of religion had been constant and exemplary. During all his active life he was one of the most devoted supporters and officers of the Congregational Society and from the first had been one of its pillars in times of difficulty. His interests in Christian truth had been unaffected, I doubt not from his childhood, and his love for all good men was ardent. Intellectually he was highly gifted by nature, and during all his professional life he maintained the habits of a diligent scholar. After he relinquished active service he was a constant reader, taking special

delight in history and geography. There were few men living in the state of Connecticut who had so familiar an acquaintance with English and American history. His memory of facts of this kind was singularly comprehensive and tenacious. For the last forty years of his life he spent most of his time in his office, and always with a book in band, and after his eyesight began to fail, he would hold his candle for hours over against the page in his unwearied patience to master the contents of books and periodicals new and old. In conversation he was never wearied, always copious to overflowing, and abounding in brilliant and humorous anecdotes. The history of New Milford , and of every man and woman who had ever lived in it, lay pictured before him like an atlas of many pages, to any one of which he could turn in an instant, and beguile his hearers for an hour. He was tender-hearted and affectionate as a child. Indeed it would seem as though the hard passages of life had not in the least hardened his feelings and no contact with its corruptions had stained the childlike delicacy of his affections. He would laugh and weep alternately with unfeigned pathos at scenes and tales of joy and sorrow—he was always most reverent before God and Christ, and tenderly softened with that charity which is the bond of perfectness. His modesty was excessive. This, doubtless, prevented him from making a more distinguished mark in his profession, and from asserting his claims to honor and office among his fellowmen. He was from the first to the last a Washingtonian Federalist. When a boy of ten years he had seen the father of his

country in an encampment some twenty miles to the west of his home, and for two hours fixed and feasted his eyes upon the great general, of whom he never could speak except with uncovered head. When in his ninetieth year he gave to the public a minute account of this memorable passage of his life and of Washington ’s person as imprinted on his childish memory, and also what he saw and felt of a subsequent interview when he was twenty-two years old. A local party of Jeffersonians was early organized in New Milford and supported by two of his brothers, but this circumstance did not abate the form of his allegiance to federalist principles, nor on the other hand did it weaken the tenderness of his fraternal love. His was most touching towards his noble brother Homer, himself one of the noblest specimens of manhood whom the writer has known. In very advanced life he was ready to correct the errors and add to the narratives of not a few historical and biographical writers, and the files of his letters testify to a very extended and laborious correspondence with many eminent men in remote parts of the country.

                Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster were the objects of his profoundest admiration, and he did not easily accept the new ideas which in spite of him brought new parties into existence in place of the old Whig principles in respect to slavery. He was emphatically a politician from conviction, sturdy, tenacious, formal, and unselfish in adherence to his principles and his party, and despising meanness, trickery, and office seeking in all forms. He rarely wrote for publication. He contributed however a few papers of great value for the newspapers, and for the New Englander of November, 1858, a review of Mr. J. C. Hamilton’s History of the United States, as traced in the writings of Alexander Hamilton, also for the American Quarterly Church Review for January, 1859, a review of Parton’s Life and Times of Aaron Burr, and in 1860 a pamphlet entitled Early Lights of the Litchfield Bar.

                It is impossible within the limits prescribed for this sketch to give any inadequate picture or impression of the personal excellence and beneficent influence of this truly noble, modest, and lovely man. It was the privilege of the writer to know him most intimately for the seven years of his own pastorate iii New Milford and subsequently to see him not infrequently till his death, and to observe his demeanor in a great variety of interesting scenes and events of joy and of sorrow, of public and private interest, when jubilant with irrepressible humor, or convulsed with personal or sympathetic grief. He knew him when in the full possession of his sagacious intellect and groping in the shadow land in

which were blended the pictures of the past, the realities of the present and the anticipations of the future life, and in all them he was the same true-hearted, loving, and devout soul, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.

                For sixty-five years and more, he was known of all the inhabitants of the village, almost literally seen daily by almost all of its inhabitants, and was even recognized as a living example of benignity, uprightness, and truth, a witness for all goodness by his own example, against manifold influences and examples of a less elevated character. His influence was not limited to the village, but all over the surrounding hills and through the secluded alleys far and near the light of his pure life shone like a peaceful star serene and bright. All who knew him connected with his person many of the sayings in the Scripture about the truly good man, as finding in him their happiest illustration. In this way his presence was always a benediction; his life was a blessing, and his memory a perpetual inspiration to more than two generations.

                Hon. Elijah Boardman, the third son of Sherman Boardman, and grandson of the Rev. Daniel Boardman, first minister in the town, was born in 1760, and was educated in his father’s home and under the tuition of Rev. Nathan Taylor. When sixteen years of age, in March, 1776, by the consent of his father, he enlisted for one year in the Revolutionary War. The regiment in which he served was commanded by Col. Charles Webb, and was one of the sixteen regiments first raised by authority of the Continental Congress; the officers being commissioned by that Congress. The officers of the company to which he belonged were, Capt. Isaac Bostwick, Lieut. Kimball, Lieut. Elisha Bostwick, and Ens. Amos Bostwick, all except the first lieutenant being from New Milford . The first destination was Boston ; from which they were sent to New York ; in and about which place the regiment remained until the city was evacuated by the Americans in the month of October. Shortly before which event Mr. Boardman was seized with a dangerous illness, from which he had but partially recovered when the retreat of the army from the city seemed to

render his situation hopeless. In this extremity, observing a wagon to stop near the house in which he was, he, while the

driver was momentarily absent, exerting the utmost effort of his wasted strength, succeeded in throwing himself into the wagon from which the heartless driver was about to eject him, when an officer passing ordered him to desist and suffer the sick man to ride as far as he, the Wagoner, was going, which was to the neighborhood of King’s bridge, where Mr. Boardman was left lying on the ground, incapable of further exertion. Here he was found by a neighbor of his father who had come to the city for the purpose of helping a sick relative home. He removed him to a place of safety where, leaving him, he returned home and gave immediate notice to his father, who hastened to his relief. He was brought home in a deplorable state of health; from which, though he slowly recovered, he thought his constitution received such a shock as had an abiding effect.

                In the autumn of 1777 he went on another tour for a few months with the militia to the Hudson River , in the defense of his country.

                After being at home two years, attending to study and light work as he was able, he went as clerk into the store of Elijah and Archibald Austin, then prominent merchants in New Haven , and in the fall of the year 1781 he commenced business as a merchant at New Milford .

                From 1782 to 1793 he and his brother Daniel conducted the store as partners then he continued it alone until 1812, from which time he was associated with Elijah Bennett until 1819, when the store was sold to Stanley Lockwood, and after that Mr. Boardman did not engage in mercantile business.

                In September, 1795, Mr. Boardman became a member of the Connecticut Land Company, and as such, one of the purchasers of the Connecticut Western Reserve, now forming the northern part of the State of Ohio . That part of the purchase lying east of the Cuyahoga River was divided into townships, and a partition was made among the purchasers in May, 1799. By this partition Mr. Boardman and his immediate associates became entitled to two entire townships and the equalizing lots of land (as they were called) annexed thereto. His interest extended to somewhat more than half of each township; number one of the second range was named after him, Boardman, and number two of the sixth range was called Palmyra , with their respective equalizing annexations. Some years after the Land Company, having completed the survey of that part of their purchase lying west of the Cuyahoga, made, in the same manner as before, a partition among the purchasers. By this Mr. Boardman and his associates became the proprietors of the town of Medina , which afterwards was largely settled by families from Litchfield County , Conn. , quite a number of families going from New Milford . In 1799, soon after the first partition, he went to Ohio , and spent much time there, in causing the two towns first named to be surveyed into lots, preparatory to a partition of them between himself and his immediate associate owners. This partition was made in 1800. After this he repeatedly went to Ohio , and spent a very considerable portion of the season of active business in attending to his concerns there. In the year 1823 he died there, on the 18th of August, and his body was brought to New Milford for interment.

                About the year 1800, Mr. Boardman became quite prominent as a politician in Connecticut . But having embraced the principles of the Democratic Party, which was then, and for a considerable period of time after, in the minority in the State, he received no higher appointment than that of a member of the Lower House of the State Legislature, to which he was six times elected: May, 1803; October, 1803; May, 1804; October, 1804; May, 1805, and May, 1816. When the political party to which he was attached gained a partial ascendancy, he was elected, in May, 1817, and in May, 1818, an assistant, or member of the Upper House, as it was then styled. In May, 1819, when

the New Constitution of the State of Connecticut went into operation, he was elected to the State Senate, and was continued a member of it, until elected to the Senate of the United States , in May, 1821. He occupied his seat in the United States Senate, during the two sessions of the Seventeenth Congress; and, having been elected for six years, he was a member of the Senate at the time of his decease in 1823.

                From nature, education, and habit, he was emphatically a practical man in all respects. His business talents were uncommon; and his constancy in their exercise was rarely if ever surpassed. His natural temperament inclined him to hilarity, but his strictly moral and industrious habits so far repressed this natural propensity as to give him rather the appearance of gravity than of its opposite, in the latter period of his life. Yet his natural and acquired ease and urbanity render him a pleasing companion both to the grave and the gay.

                He was baptized in infancy in the Congregational church, and confirmed, in the year i8i6, by Bishop Hobart of New York , while temporarily officiating in the diocese of Connecticut .

                In September, 1792, he married Mary Anna Whiting, the eldest daughter of the Hon. William Whiting of Great Barrington, Mass., who long survived him, and to them were born three sons and three daughters. She was a very excellent woman, and had in large degree the care and training of her children, since Mr. Boardman was many times absent three and four months at a time in Ohio attending to the interests of the land company, and was away on business as a merchant.

                A memoir of her was written by her son-in-law the Rev. J. F. Schroeder, D.D.; a volume of nearly 500 pages; which is largely historical of the Boardman and Whiting families.

  Colonel Elisha Bostwick of New Milford .

Col. Elisha Bostwick, son of Samuel Bostwick, was born in 1748, on his grandfather's, Major John Bostwick, home-stead, where now Mr. John R. Bostwick resides. This home-stead therefore has been in the same family over 170 years, and so far as appears is the only piece of land in the town that has remained so long in the same family name.

Elisha Bostwick was not educated at college as were his brothers Jared and Samuel, but he received a good education, and was a much better scholar in spelling than many graduates of colleges of that day. His fine penmanship has never been surpassed, nor half equaled by any town clerk in New Milford . In this respect the author of this book, as well as the whole town of New Milford, owes him a debt of immense gratitude; but it is gratifying to know, through several town votes, that the town was not slow to express its gratitude while Mr. Bostwick was living and serving it in his noble, efficient, and most complete manner. He filled with his quill pens 21 volumes of land records, besides doing all the other writing as a town clerk, during the service of 55successive years. He wrote an index of Grantees in a separate book for the first twelve books of land records, and also an index of both grantees and grantors for each of the first 35 volumes of land records. He planned and wrote an index of all the highways in this large town that were made before his resignation, which is of great value, and is continued to be kept in complete form at the present time.

For these services he received at various times certain considerations of value from the town and also from individuals. His allowance for recording a deed was one shilling, and in the absence of ready money he received a due bill for this amount. After his decease something like one thousand of these bills it is said were found, still unpaid.

He was justice of the peace many years, and the list of marriages he attended, as such, is still preserved-the first date being in 1799 and the last in 1819, the whole number being 92.

It is related that in performing one of these ceremonies he had to go to the lower part of the Neck, a distance of six or seven miles, on a very cold day in winter, the snow being very deep and still falling, and for this journey and service he received only the sum of twenty-five cents; but he afterward enjoyed telling the story so much that probably no wedding service ever afforded him so much pay by way of amusement as this one.

He was a soldier in the Revolution, and was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of the militia in 1793, and afterwards Colonel.

Col. Bostwick married Betty Ferriss, May 14, 1786, when in the thirty-eighth year of his age. When he was in his twentieth year, he heard that a daughter was born to David Ferris, who resided across the river near the old Quaker burying-ground, and he went over and called to see the baby. While looking at it in the cradle he said to the mother, "'It is a very nice baby; keep her until she is grown up and I will marry her.'' "All right," said the mother, "you shall have her." And so, when the Colonel had been through the war of the Revolution, and was securely settled in his home, and the young lady was eighteen years of age, lacking eleven days, they were married. She was a beautiful young lady, as represented by the family portrait, having charming black eyes, dark brown hair, and a complexion clear and as beautiful as the sunlight.

Col. Bostwick was a fine appearing man, a full, manly form, with somewhat of a military bearing, intelligent and benevolent in the expression of his countenance, religious and noble in his character; a man in whom all the people of the town took much honor and delight; and when, after fifty-five years of service as town clerk, he declined a further election, there was a most affecting scene at the town meeting. He wrote his letter of resignation and placed it in the hands of Judge D. Sherman Boardman, a life-long and intimate friend, to read in the meeting, Mr. Boardman being then 66 years of age, and only eighteen years younger than Col. Bostwick. This letter Judge Boardman began to read, but was so much overcome with emotion that he handed it to the clerk of the meeting, took his seat, and with great effort restrained a further expression of the pathetic feelings which were induced by a sense of the final separation between the town and a long-tried, faithful and cheerful servant, while the entire audience was in the same state of mind with the Judge.

Col. Elisha Bostwick's Letter.


GENTLEMEN:-The time I think has now arrived which in course of Divine
Providence renders it proper that some other person should be appointed to the office of Town Clerk; the failure of my eye-sight compels me to make this statement.

I am now in the 84th year of my age. You, Gentlemen, and your venerable fathers (now no more) having appointed me to that office for 55 years in succession; and I have in that time filled 21 volumes of land records; and now, borne down as I am with old age, and with afflictions, and with sorrows, I deem it my duty to decline further appointment.

And now, alas! Where shall I find words to express my gratitude and thankfulness to the Town for all their past favors, and above all, to my God for all his mercies: so that my present feelings, and the tender emotions of my mind are such that I lose the power of utterance ! I add no more, and must close abruptly.

NEW MILFORD , 1st Monday of October, 1832.

Upon the presentation of this letter, the town meeting caused the following record to be made:- "At an Annual Town Meeting of the inhabitants of the town of New Milford, legally warned and held at the Town house in said New Milford on the 1st Monday of October, 1832; Nathaniel Perry chosen moderator, Oliver W. Pickett clerk pro tern. Voted that the thanks of the Town be presented to Col. Elisha Bostwick for his long and faithful services in the office of Town Clerk, and that his communication this day made to this meeting declining a reappointment be recorded upon the Record Book of the Town."

Colonel Bostwick was Representative from the town of New Milford to the Assembly fourteen sessions, and served his native town in many ways, quite to the satisfaction of the people. He was surveyor of lands, and did so much service in that capacity that he was familiar with the boundaries of nearly every farm and locality in the town, and by reason of which he was of great service to the inhabitants, and saved them much expense. One of the most beautiful transactions in the life of this good man and public servant of the people took place in 1833, when he was eighty-five years of age. At that time the new Congregational meeting-house was just opened for worship where it now stands, and on the morning that Anan Hine was to commence tearing down the old meeting-house, which stood in the middle of the green, Col. Bostwick went into the old house, took his usual seat, looked around on the seats where his kindred and neighbors had sat for worship during eighty years of his own memory; then rising with the hymn-book in his hands, he sang a hymn, knelt and offered the last prayer in the old house, then arose and departed in peace to his own home. In the next year, on Dec. 11, 1834 , when eighty-six years of age, he departed from his own "earthly tabernacle," and the spirit returned to God who gave it. His faithful and honored wife had departed just six months before him.

                        Hon. Roger Sherman was born at Newton , Mass. , April 19, 1721 . His father, William Sherman, died when he was twenty years of age, and a little more than a year later Roger came to New Milford , whither his brother William had preceded him about three years. William was then engaged as a farmer at a place called New Dilloway, in the north part of the town of Sherman , and Roger made his home with him for several years. In 1746, he bought of his brother William land to the amount of L 6o, in the north part of the town of New Milford, and in May, 1748, he purchased of Gamaliel Baldwin land to the amount of L 1,500, in what is now Park Lane, and continued to buy land without selling, for several years, and after this he bought and sold land to a large extent while in the town.

                The first occurrence of Roger Sherman’s name on the town records is in connection with the town meeting, Feb. 6, 1744, when by a vote he was granted the privilege of crossing the Great Bridge for one year by paying ten shillings and becoming subject to taxes for its repairs, a courtesy extended for many years to persons just settled in the town; but from that time on, for sixteen years, his name is a very prominent one on both town and church records, and especially on the former as surveyor of lands. He was very active in the first church, where, among other positions

of usefulness, he was “chosen to the office of Deacon on trial” in 1755, and in 1757, was “established Deacon of this church.” He was clerk of the Ecclesiastical Society some years, and treasurer of the same while the third meeting-house was being built and completed and for this last service was paid £30, in 1755.

                His first place of residence in New Milford was at Park Lane , where his mother resided in the same house with him, and after that he removed to New Milford village into a house that stood nearly where the Town Hall now stands.

                As a citizen he was an exceedingly busy man, being engaged in every useful and improving enterprise. Besides accepting office in the church, the ecclesiastical society, and the town, he entered into every good work. Not long after he came here, the “Great Bridge” over the Housatonic, being new, and the first one constructed over that river, was carried away by a flood, and he rallied a few of the leading men of the town to venture with himself in rebuilding it arid making it a toll-bridge. Before he left the town, a proposition was discussed to set up inoculation for small-pox, and he was the one with a few others to venture on this hazardous, but benevolent work, as an experiment.

                He was appointed by the general assembly county surveyor in 1745, for New Haven county, in which he continued until Litchfield county was organized in 1752, and then he was appointed to the same office in that county, which position he held until 1758. In this office he did a great amount of work, as the records of the towns and state show. During this time he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1754; was appointed county judge in 1757, and judge of the quorum in 1759—60—61, and was a representative in several sessions. He removed to New Haven

in 1761, where he entered upon his profession, and the next year was chosen the Governor’s Assistant and appointed Judge of the Superior Court, which office he held 23 years.

                He was elected a member of the first Continental Congress, which met Sept. 5, 1774 , and continued a member of Congress 19 years, until his death, being in the Senate the last two years. He was a member of the committee to prepare the Declaration of Independence, of which document he was one of the signers, the committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. In the same year he was placed on the committee to prepare articles of confederation, which were adopted in April, 1777. During the

revolutionary war, he was a member of the board of war, and a member of the Governor’s Council of Safety in Connecticut . He was a member of the convention which formed the Constitution of the United States .

                He was mayor of the city of New Haven a number of years, and was associated with another judge in codifying the laws of Connecticut .

                He was elected Senator of the United States in 1791, and died in that office July 23, 1793 , at the age of 72 years.

                One of the most appreciative, summary statements of the characteristics of this very noted statesman is found in Hollister’s History of Connecticut,’ which is here repeated, because of its precise truthfulness and completeness

                “Roger Sherman was of a grave and massive understanding, a man who 1ooked at the most difficult questions, and untied their tangled knots, without having his vision dimmed or his head made dizzy. He appears to have known the science of government and the relations of society from his childhood, and to have needed no teaching, because he saw moral, ethical, and political truths, in all their relations, better than they could be imparted to him by others. He took for granted as self-evident the maxims that had made Plato prematurely old, and had consumed the best hours of Bacon and Sir Thomas More in attempting to elaborate and reconcile the anomalies and inconsistencies of the British constitution. With more well-digested thoughts to communicate than any other member of the convention [to form the

constitution] he used fewer words to express his sentiments than any of his compeers. Indeed, his thoughts can hardly be said to he expressed, but were rather incorporated with his language. His views, uttered in a plain though didactic form, seemed to be presented not so much in a course of reasoning as to be an embodiment of pure reason itself.”

                “With a broad-based consciousness, extended as the line of the horizon, where calm philosophy and wild theory meet and seem to run into each other, he saw at a glance the most abstruse subjects presented to his consideration, and fused them down, as if by the heat of a furnace, into globes of solid maxims and demonstrable propositions. Nor did he look merely at the present hour, but, with a sympathy as lively as his ken was far-reaching,

he penetrated the curtains that hid future generations from the Sight of common men, and made as careful provision for the unborn millions of his countrymen as for the generation that was then upon the stage of life. With no false pride to sustain at the expense of virtue, or schemes of grasping ambition to gratify, with no favorites to flutter around him and claim the first fruits of his confidence and labors fearless to announce an opinion as he was modest and delicate in his mode of doing it, he was able at a moment’s warning to bring his best intellectual resources into the field of debate.

                “These traits of character belonged to Sherman by the double tenure of inheritance and the endowments of nature. He was descended from the Shermans of Yaxley, in the county of Suffolk , England , as well as from the Wallers, the Yaxleys, and other families in the maternal line belonging to the solid landed gentry who had helped to, frame the British constitution. Three members of the Sherman family emigrated to America in 1634. Two of them, Samuel Sherman, who soon removed to the valley of the Connecticut and was one of the strongest pillars of the

colony, and the Rev. John Sherman, who was famous throughout New England as the best mathematician and astronomer of the colonies, and one of the most eloquent preachers of that day, were brothers, and are not unknown to fame. The other emigrant, designated in our old books as Captain John Sherman, was their first cousin, and not inferior to them in moral worth, if indeed he could be said to be in intellectual ability. He was a soldier of high courage, and that his education had not been neglected, his beautifully legible and clerkly hand, which still perpetuates the records of Watertown, in Massachusetts, as well as the phraseology of the records themselves, bear ample testimony. Roger Sherman was a great grandson of this gentleman, and inherited the best traits of the family.  But good lineage and

intellectual powers of a high order were not adequate of themselves to form such a character as Sherman s. It was to be

tried in the school of poverty, and to buffet the waves of adversity, before it could gain nerve and strength enough to baffle the sophistries of the British ministry, defy the sword of a tyrant, or successfully oppose itself to the headlong flood of popular passions.

                This last reference to “the school of poverty “has been understood in an extreme sense, which is very far from the facts in the case. Because Roger Sherman worked as a shoemaker in those days, it must not be inferred that he could be said, strictly, to be in poverty, for he was not. Soon after he came to New Milford, while yet a single man, he was appointed a surveyor of lands for New Haven County, a more than ordinarily remunerative office in those days, and in 1752, when Litchfield county was organized, he was appointed to the same office in that county. One commission which he executed as surveyor, in 1751, for the government, brought him £83 14s., and this was only one of a number of orders he fulfilled for the government within a few years. For ten years, his employment by private individuals to resurvey tracts of land, which had been laid out “by estimation at first, in New Milford, must have taken a large amount of his time and brought him a remuneration that but few people obtained at that date. In the case of many of these surveys, he drew a plan of the tract surveyed upon the pages of the land records, where they are abundantly evident still, and they are executed according to the measurement of distances.

                He was a man of great business ability and energy, and could not have been idle if he had possessed millions; his moral as well as intellectual and physical qualities forbade it. He was appointed on various committees for churches and adjoining towns, and entrusted with all sorts of commissions which needed care and responsibility. It is said that his introduction to the study of law came from having been sent by a judge of a court on a considerable journey to obtain certain information, take it down in writing, and deliver it. When the judge saw it he was amazed, and asked him, “Did you ever study law?“ “Never,” replied Mr. Sherman. “Well,” said the judge, “You ought to have been a lawyer long ago, for your report is as good as any lawyer’s would have been.” Hence, Mr. Hollister’s statement,

that “he knew law by instinct,” was historically true.

                Mr. Sherman was also the owner of several hundred acres of land, including a dwelling-house, which he purchased before he had been here seven years, and for which he paid in old tenor money to the amount of £2,000. A part of this money, perhaps, came from his father’s estate in his own right and inheritance, that estate having been worth several hundred pounds, for he gave his mother one-third of his dwelling-house and home -lot, for her thirds of her husband’s estate; so says the deed. All this land he had purchased without selling any.

                The superiority of Roger Sherman’s intellectual qualities and perfect self-control was illustrated while in Congress, in an impromptu reply to one of the Randolphs during a debate in that body. The Randolphs prided themselves in being descended from Pocahontas, the celebrated daughter of an Indian chief, and while in debate Mr. Randolph took exception to something Mr. Sherman had said, which he supposed to be a personal reflection on him, and called upon Mr. Sherman, who had been a shoemaker by trade: “What has the gentleman from Connecticut done with his leather apron?“ Mr. Sherman, remaining perfectly unmoved by the intended reflection, replied: “Cut it up to make moccasins for the descendants of Pocahontas.”

                Mr. Sherman’s influence in forming national sentiments of liberty and government is well represented in the following extracts from Hollister’s History of Connecticut.

                “He had represented Connecticut in Congress at New York in the year 1774, where he had met the first men of the continent. The address of that body to the king remonstrating against the course pursued by the ministry and the parliament toward the American colonies, flowed mainly from his fervent soul, and was most of it penned by him. It is still preserved among the British archives, and evinces a lofty spirit of patriotism that might have breathed life into the dry bones of any administration based upon other principles than the spoils of office and the obstinacy of disappointed ambition. The very next year, the University of Oxford made him a doctor of laws, notwithstanding his efforts in behalf of American liberty. His fame as a lawyer was also pre-eminent. In 1782 he had appeared as counsel for Connecticut in the celebrated Wyoming controversy, where he met the ablest advocates that Pennsylvania could bring into the field against him, and was acknowledged to have exhibited on that occasion unrivaled powers both of reasoning and eloquence.

                “He was one of the master spirits of the general convention which adopted the Federal Constitution, and his keen and farsighted intellect was of great aid in securing the peaceful adoption of that instrument.

                “The smaller states, of which Sherman was a principal champion, were afraid of being overwhelmed by the larger ones, and insisted that the upper or second branch of the legislature should be made of an equal number of members from each state, without regard to population. Sherman entered into this debate with his whole soul, and was ably seconded by his colleagues. The discussion on this question grew more and more exciting as it advanced, and at last became bitter and vehement, and as the result seemed to be opposed to the interests of the smaller states, the pent-up flames, that had been so long smothered in the breasts of the delegates from the smaller states, burst forth like the fires of a volcano. Discord reigned for awhile in the chamber, and the convention seemed about to be shattered in pieces by its own explosive elements. Deeply as he felt the poison of the sting inflicted by this vote upon the bosom of the state for which he would gladly have died, Sherman was calm and self-possessed as if he had been placed there to represent the motions of the planets in their orbits or the unrelaxing grasp of the law of gravitation. Determined not to resort to extremes until the resources of reason and argument, and all the ordinary appliances by which men are wrought upon, had been exhausted, determined the most of all to govern himself that he might the better control others, he rose and moved that a committee of conference should be appointed of one delegate from each of the states represented. This motion at once prevailed, and the convention adjourned for three days. The fourth of July was celebrated during the period of the adjournment, and lent the warm light of liberty to the temperate counsels of the more moderate members of the convention.

                Dr. Franklin proposed to the committee of conference, that the states should be equally represented in the second or upper branch of the legislature, and that all bills of appropriation should originate with the first or popular branch, which was to be chosen in accordance with the three-fifths ratio, and upon a basis of one representative to every forty thousand inhabitants. The delegates from the larger states were deeply chagrined that they should have fallen into the net spread for them by Sherman , before their eyes, while the members of the old minority were delighted at the result of the experiment. These propositions seemed about to be adopted, when the question arose as to how the future apportionment should be made, and this brought up the most delicate and still-vexed question of negro slavery.

It was then, when the convention was again in confusion, that the gentlemen representing Connecticut came forward as mediators. Johnson expressed it as his opinion that population was the surest measure of wealth. He said he was willing that blacks as well as whites should be counted, and upon this, that all the whites and three-fifths of the blacks should constitute the basis of taxation, and that taxation should be the basis of representation. The proposition finally prevailed. Sherman , however, claimed that the number of free inhabitants, without regard to the property of the citizens, should form the basis of representation. This recognition of the rights of citizenship, disconnected with any consideration of land or money, shows how much he was in advance of the other members of the convention, and of

the age in which he lived, in all that related to the elective franchise.”

                All objections to the Constitution vanished before the learning, discernment, and eloquence of Johnson, Sherman , and Ellsworth, and it was adopted by a vote of 128 yeas to 40 nays.

                In the senate of the U. S. , in 1847, Calhoun of South Carolina said, “that it was owing mainly to the states of Connecticut and New Jersey that we have a federal instead of a national government; the best government instead of the most intolerable on earth. Who are the men of these states to whom we are indebted for this admirable government? I will name them; their names ought to be engraven on brass and live forever. They were Chief-Justice Ellsworth, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut , and Judge Patterson of New Jersey . To the coolness and sagacity of these three men, aided by a few others not so prominent, we owe the present Constitution.”


This page was created by Linda Pingel on January 17, 2004
copyright 2004 - all rights reserved
This page may be freely linked but not copied.