The unsung Founder and the Constitution (and his unknown dynasty)

Today, September 17, is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the day 39 men signed the U.S. Constitution. 

To many Americans, James Madison is the father of the U.S. Constitution.  They know that Madison was instrumental in organizing the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia.

Relatively few Americans know that a Pennsylvania delegate to the Convention, Gouverneur Morris, put together the final wording of the U.S. Constitution.

But one man stands above the rest in terms of influencing America’s founding.  Without the work and influence of a Connecticut delegate, Roger Sherman, America might not exist today, or at least it would be a very different place.

Roger Sherman is the only Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and the Articles of Association.  Sherman was behind the Connecticut Compromise, guaranteeing that the small states would have an equal vote in the U.S. Senate.  It is the most important provision in the U.S. Constitution; it’s the only provision in the Constitution that can’t be changed.

Americans like to think of their nation’s founding as a clean break from the British monarchy.  But Roger Sherman and his descendants represent the closest thing America has to a royal family.

Roger Sherman was married twice and had fifteen children.  The law of large numbers has surely helped Sherman’s legacy.  But nothing can fully account for the amazing influence his descendants have had on America’s legal history and political system, particularly in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York politics.  For example:

William Evarts: Roger Sherman’s grandson, William Evarts, was one of the most influential lawyers of the 19th century, and one of the key founders of the Republican Party.  He defended President Andrew Johnson during Johnson's impeachment trial.  He served at President Grant’s attorney general from July 1868 to July 1869 and declined to prosecute Confederate president Jefferson Davis.  In the controversial election of 1876, Evarts was lead counsel for Rutherford B. Hayes before the Electoral Commission, which threw the election to Hayes.  President Hayes rewarded Evarts with the position of secretary of state (1877-1881).  William Evarts was also a key founder of the New York Bar Association, serving as its first and longest-serving president from 1870 to 1879.  Evarts was a major force in New York politics, chairing the New York delegation for the Republican Party at the 1860 convention.  He was selected by the New York state legislature to be a U.S. senator from 1885 to 1991 with the help of his cousin, Chauncey M. Depew, Roger Sherman’s great-great nephew.  Depew, a top railroad lawyer for the Vanderbilts, served as a U.S. senator from New York between 1899 and 1911.

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar & George Frisbie Hoar: After serving as Grant’s attorney general, William Evarts was succeeded by his first cousin, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, who served as Grant’s attorney general from 1869 to 1870.  Ebenezer also was a congressman from Massachusetts from 1873 to 1875.  Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar wasn’t the only Sherman grandson from Massachusetts who went far.  Hoar’s brother, George Frisbie Hoar, was a U.S. congressman from Massachusetts from 1869 to 1873 and 1873 to 1877.  George Frisbie Hoar also served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts from 1877 to 1904, as a major force in the U.S. Senate.  Senator George Frisbie Hoar was one of the five senators appointed to the 1876 Electoral Commission giving Hayes the nod and aiding in making his first cousin a counselor for Hayes.

Roger Sherman Baldwin: While the Hoars were a major political force in Massachusetts, their first cousin, another Roger Sherman grandson, went far in Connecticut politics.  Roger Sherman Baldwin was a governor of the state of Connecticut from 1844 to 1846.  He served in the U.S. Senate from 1847 to 1851 and had a son, Simeon, who also went far politically.

Simeon E. Baldwin: Roger Sherman’s great-grandson went on to be governor of Connecticut from 1911 to 1915.  Simeon E. Baldwin also was an influential law professor at Yale Law School for 47 years, became chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and was co-founder of the American Bar Association with his cousin William Evarts.  Simeon E. Baldwin served at president of the ABA from 1890 to 1891.

Edward Baldwin Whitney: Whitney, Roger Sherman’s great-great-grandson, was appointed assistant attorney general from 1895 to 1897 by President Grover Cleveland.

Maxwell Evarts: William Evarts had a son, another of Roger Sherman’s great-grandsons, Maxwell Evarts.  He became a top railroad lawyer for E.H. Harriman in the infamous Northern Securities case, one of America’s most important anti-trust cases.

Thomas Day Thacher: When Herbert Hoover needed a solicitor general, he appointed Thacher, a great-great grandson of Roger Sherman.  Thacher served as solicitor general from 1930 to 1933, and then as president of the New York Bar Association from 1933-1935.

Archibald Cox: William Evarts defended President Johnson in his impeachment trial.  Evarts’s great-grandson, Archibald Cox, served as president Kennedy’s solicitor general from 1961 to 1965.  Later, in May 1973, he was appointed Watergate special prosecutor.

These are just a few of Roger Sherman’s direct descendants.  Some married persons who became famous in the political and legal world include:

His great-great granddaughter, Mabel White, daughter of Charles Atwood White – a great grandson of Roger Sherman – married Henry Stimson.  Stimson was William Howard Taft’s secretary of war, Herbert Hoover’s secretary of state, FDR’s secretary of war, and Harry Truman’s secretary of war.  Stimson served as New York City Bar Association president from 1937 to 1939.  Ohio senator John Sherman, and his brother William Tecumseh Sherman, are distant relatives of Roger Sherman, as is President William Howard Taft’s vice president, James S. Sherman.

To summarize, on Constitution Day, we celebrate Roger Sherman’s Constitution and the legal legacy of his descendants.  As America considers replacing Alexander Hamilton’s face on the ten-dollar bill, we might look upon the American legacy of Roger Sherman – a man who fathered a host of influential Americans.  

Steve Bartin is the editor and publisher of Newsalert and Overpaid Government Worker.

Today, September 17, is Constitution Day, the anniversary of the day 39 men signed the U.S. Constitution. 

To many Americans, James Madison is the father of the U.S. Constitution.  They know that Madison was instrumental in organizing the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Philadelphia.

Relatively few Americans know that a Pennsylvania delegate to the Convention, Gouverneur Morris, put together the final wording of the U.S. Constitution.

But one man stands above the rest in terms of influencing America’s founding.  Without the work and influence of a Connecticut delegate, Roger Sherman, America might not exist today, or at least it would be a very different place.

Roger Sherman is the only Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution, and the Articles of Association.  Sherman was behind the Connecticut Compromise, guaranteeing that the small states would have an equal vote in the U.S. Senate.  It is the most important provision in the U.S. Constitution; it’s the only provision in the Constitution that can’t be changed.

Americans like to think of their nation’s founding as a clean break from the British monarchy.  But Roger Sherman and his descendants represent the closest thing America has to a royal family.

Roger Sherman was married twice and had fifteen children.  The law of large numbers has surely helped Sherman’s legacy.  But nothing can fully account for the amazing influence his descendants have had on America’s legal history and political system, particularly in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York politics.  For example:

William Evarts: Roger Sherman’s grandson, William Evarts, was one of the most influential lawyers of the 19th century, and one of the key founders of the Republican Party.  He defended President Andrew Johnson during Johnson's impeachment trial.  He served at President Grant’s attorney general from July 1868 to July 1869 and declined to prosecute Confederate president Jefferson Davis.  In the controversial election of 1876, Evarts was lead counsel for Rutherford B. Hayes before the Electoral Commission, which threw the election to Hayes.  President Hayes rewarded Evarts with the position of secretary of state (1877-1881).  William Evarts was also a key founder of the New York Bar Association, serving as its first and longest-serving president from 1870 to 1879.  Evarts was a major force in New York politics, chairing the New York delegation for the Republican Party at the 1860 convention.  He was selected by the New York state legislature to be a U.S. senator from 1885 to 1991 with the help of his cousin, Chauncey M. Depew, Roger Sherman’s great-great nephew.  Depew, a top railroad lawyer for the Vanderbilts, served as a U.S. senator from New York between 1899 and 1911.

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar & George Frisbie Hoar: After serving as Grant’s attorney general, William Evarts was succeeded by his first cousin, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, who served as Grant’s attorney general from 1869 to 1870.  Ebenezer also was a congressman from Massachusetts from 1873 to 1875.  Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar wasn’t the only Sherman grandson from Massachusetts who went far.  Hoar’s brother, George Frisbie Hoar, was a U.S. congressman from Massachusetts from 1869 to 1873 and 1873 to 1877.  George Frisbie Hoar also served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts from 1877 to 1904, as a major force in the U.S. Senate.  Senator George Frisbie Hoar was one of the five senators appointed to the 1876 Electoral Commission giving Hayes the nod and aiding in making his first cousin a counselor for Hayes.

Roger Sherman Baldwin: While the Hoars were a major political force in Massachusetts, their first cousin, another Roger Sherman grandson, went far in Connecticut politics.  Roger Sherman Baldwin was a governor of the state of Connecticut from 1844 to 1846.  He served in the U.S. Senate from 1847 to 1851 and had a son, Simeon, who also went far politically.

Simeon E. Baldwin: Roger Sherman’s great-grandson went on to be governor of Connecticut from 1911 to 1915.  Simeon E. Baldwin also was an influential law professor at Yale Law School for 47 years, became chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and was co-founder of the American Bar Association with his cousin William Evarts.  Simeon E. Baldwin served at president of the ABA from 1890 to 1891.

Edward Baldwin Whitney: Whitney, Roger Sherman’s great-great-grandson, was appointed assistant attorney general from 1895 to 1897 by President Grover Cleveland.

Maxwell Evarts: William Evarts had a son, another of Roger Sherman’s great-grandsons, Maxwell Evarts.  He became a top railroad lawyer for E.H. Harriman in the infamous Northern Securities case, one of America’s most important anti-trust cases.

Thomas Day Thacher: When Herbert Hoover needed a solicitor general, he appointed Thacher, a great-great grandson of Roger Sherman.  Thacher served as solicitor general from 1930 to 1933, and then as president of the New York Bar Association from 1933-1935.

Archibald Cox: William Evarts defended President Johnson in his impeachment trial.  Evarts’s great-grandson, Archibald Cox, served as president Kennedy’s solicitor general from 1961 to 1965.  Later, in May 1973, he was appointed Watergate special prosecutor.

These are just a few of Roger Sherman’s direct descendants.  Some married persons who became famous in the political and legal world include:

His great-great granddaughter, Mabel White, daughter of Charles Atwood White – a great grandson of Roger Sherman – married Henry Stimson.  Stimson was William Howard Taft’s secretary of war, Herbert Hoover’s secretary of state, FDR’s secretary of war, and Harry Truman’s secretary of war.  Stimson served as New York City Bar Association president from 1937 to 1939.  Ohio senator John Sherman, and his brother William Tecumseh Sherman, are distant relatives of Roger Sherman, as is President William Howard Taft’s vice president, James S. Sherman.

To summarize, on Constitution Day, we celebrate Roger Sherman’s Constitution and the legal legacy of his descendants.  As America considers replacing Alexander Hamilton’s face on the ten-dollar bill, we might look upon the American legacy of Roger Sherman – a man who fathered a host of influential Americans.  

Steve Bartin is the editor and publisher of Newsalert and Overpaid Government Worker.