Roger Minott Sherman

Roger Minott Sherman

Sherman painted c.1840 by Nathaniel Jocelyn
Born (1773-05-22)May 22, 1773
Woburn, Massachusetts
Died December 30, 1844(1844-12-30) (aged 71)
Fairfield, Connecticut
Education Yale College
Litchfield Law School
Occupation Jurist

Roger Minott Sherman (May 22, 1773 – December 30, 1844) was the youngest of six children of Rev. Josiah Sherman (Princeton College - 1754), a brother of the distinguished Roger Sherman; and his mother was Martha Minott, the daughter of James and Elizabeth (Merrick) Minott (who were the aunt and uncle of Roger Sherman's second wife Rebecca Minot Prescott) of Concord, Massachusetts. His eldest sister married the Reverend Justus Mitchell (Yale - 1776); great-grandparents of US Senator Chauncey Depew.

By this even the son was thrown upon his own resources, except so far as his uncle, for whom he was named, assisted him. Through his sophomore (2nd) year he boarded at his uncle's house and for the later years of his Yale College course he supported himself by teaching in New Haven, CT.

After graduation he began the study of law in Windsor, under the direction of Oliver Ellsworth, and at the same time taught an academy. After about two years he removed to the Litchfield Law School, where he continued his studies with Tapping Reeve, while teaching a common school.

In February, 1795, he was elected a tutor at Yale College, and on March 12 began his duties succeeding James Gould, of the Class of 1791, in the instruction of the sophomore (2nd year) class, and at the same time continuing the study of law with the Roger Sherman's son-in-law, Simeon Baldwin (Yale 1781). He united with the church in Yale College by profession of his faith on May 1, 1796, and ever after made the advancement of the interests of religion a prime object.

He was admitted to the bar in New Haven early in 1796, and in May of that year resigned his tutorship and settled in the profession of the law in Norwalk, Connecticut.

On December 13, 1796, he married Elizabeth (or Betsy) (the daughter of Dr. and Colonel William Gould), but at that time of New Haven, and sister of Dr. Orchard Gould (Yale 1783) and of Judge James Gould (Yale 1791) of the Litchfield Law School.

His eminence in his profession was early acknowledged, and his influence exerted in other relations. He represented the town in the General Assembly in the two sessions of 1798.

In 1807, he removed to Fairfield, in the same county, where the principal courts were at that time held, and where he resided until the time of his death.

He continued at the bar for forty-three (43) years, and his business as an advocate was very extensive.

It is believed that he argued more causes than any other lawyer who practiced in Connecticut during the first half of the nineteenth century. He did comparatively little office-business, but devoted his time to the trial of causes in court, and he also for more than twenty-five years attended the Legislature as an advocate in cases pending before that body. He was deeply interested in the administration of justice as provided for by legislative enactment, and many of the statutes of the State in the Department of municipal law during his active life were drawn up and their passage procured by him.

In 1814, he was elected to the Connecticut Governor's Council, and continued in that office until May, 1818, when the constitution of the State was altered. During this time he declined a nomination to the United States Congress. In 1814, he was appointed a delegate to the Hartford Convention, in the proceedings of which he took an active part. He had been actively interested also in the steps preliminary to the call of the Convention, and was the author of the Report to the Connecticut Legislature, of the Committee which had recommended the appointment of delegates.

After the death of Yale College President Timothy Dwight in 1817, he was considered by some as a candidate for the presidency of Yale.

In 1829, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by the Corporation of Yale College. He was a representative of Fairfield in the General Assembly in 1825 and 1838.

In May, 1839, he was appointed a Judge of the Superior Court and of the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, but resigned in May, 1842, on account of ill health. His legal knowledge, his thoroughness and independence, and his inflexible integrity contributed to make his tenure of this office highly successful.

During the last years of his life he suffered from acute disease, and consequently lived in retirement, though his intellectual powers remained unimpaired.

In December, 1844, he was seized with more severe illness, and declined rapidly until his death, in Fairfield, on December 30, in his 72d year. The discourse preached at his funeral by his pastor, the Rev. Lyman Hotchkiss Atwater (Yale 1831), was afterwards published. Judge Sherman had been elected deacon in the church in Fairfield in 1810, but resigned before his death.

His widow died in Fairfield, after years of feeble health, on August 3, 1848, in her 75th year.

Their only children were twin sons, both of extraordinary promise, whose health failed early.

Mrs. Sherman's will, made in pursuance of her husband's, bequeathed their homestead (which was when built first built, the finest home in town), with an endowment fund to the First Ecclesiastical Society of Fairfield. Among other public bequests was one of $4,000 to Yale College. The value of the entire estate was over $71,000.

There is no doubt that Mr. Sherman's rank as a lawyer was among the very first in the country, --to be compared with that of Jeremiah Mason and Daniel Webster.

He published:

1. Letter to the Honorable Elisha Phelps, Controller of Public Accounts, Hartford, Connecticut dated Fairfield, March 22, 1832. 1 sheet. [Y.C.]

On the banking system of the state.

2. Letters to the Honorable Levi Woodbury, Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. New York, 1837. 8°, pp. 24. [Y.C.]

Anonymous. Recommending the establishment of a national bank.

His opinions as Judge are included in the Connecticut Reports (vols. 13 and 14). He uniformly declined all invitations for the delivery of public addresses.

His correspondence and other private papers are deposited in the rooms of the County Historical Society in Fairfield.

A copy of his portrait, painted by Jocelyn in 1840, belongs to the College, --the original still hanging in his mansion in Fairfield.

Source: Roger Minott Sherman Papers Biographical Sketch (with paraphrasing).

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