American political leader, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born at Newton, Massachusetts, on the 19th of April 1721 (old style.) He removed with his parents to Stoughton in 1723, attended the country school there, and at an early age learned the cobbler's trade in his father's shop.
Removing to New Milford, Connecticut, in 1743, he worked as county surveyor, engaged in mercantile pursuits, studied law, and in 1754 was admitted to the bar. He represented New Milford in the Connecticut Assembly in 1755-1756 and again in 1758-1761. From 1761 until his death New Haven was his home.
He was once more a member of the Connecticut Assembly in 1764-1766, was one of the governor's assistants in 1766-1785, a judge of the Connecticut superior court in 1766-1789, treasurer of Yale College in 1765-1776, a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774-1781 and again in 1783-1784, a member of the Connecticut Committee of Safety in 1777-1779 and in 1782, mayor of New Haven in 1784-1793, a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 and to the Connecticut Ratification Convention of the same year, and a member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1789-1791 and of the United States Senate in 1791-1793.
He was on the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence, and also on that which drafted the Articles of Confederation. His greatest public service, however, was performed in the Federal Constitutional Convention. In the bitter conflict between the large state party and the small state party he and his colleagues, Oliver Ellsworth and William Samuel Johnson, acted as peacemakers. Their share in bringing about the final settlement, which provided for equal representation in one house and proportional representation in the other, was so important that the settlement itself has come to be called the "Connecticut Compromise." He helped to defeat the proposal to give Congress a veto on state legislation, showing that it was illogical to confer such a power, since the constitution itself is the law of the land and no state act contravening it is legal.
In the Federal Congress (1789-1793) he favored the assumption of the state debts, the establishment of a national bank and the adoption of a protective tariff policy. Although strongly opposed to slavery, he refused to support the Parker resolution of 1789 providing for a duty of ten dollars per head on negroes brought from Africa, on the ground that it emphasized the property element in slavery. He died in New Haven on the 23rd of July 1793. Sherman was not a deep and original thinker like James Wilson, nor was he a brilliant leader like Alexander Hamilton; but owing to his conservative temperament, his sound judgment and his wide experience he was well qualified to lead the compromise cause in the convention of 1787.
Two of Shermans grandsons, William M. Evarts and George F. Hoar, were prominent in the later history of the country.