In this season of Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be thankful for Founding Father Roger Sherman. Sherman might not get as much press as Washington or Franklin, but his legacy is an important part of our national heritage. He holds the singular distinction of being the only man to sign all four of America’s revolutionary founding documents, including the Continental Association of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States. However, his legacy goes far beyond putting his name on a few pieces of parchment. It is no exaggeration to say that our Constitution never would have come into existence without his help.
The biggest point of contention at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was over what representation the states should have in the federal government. Smaller states wanted to have equal representation for each state. Their vision was called the New Jersey Plan. States with large populations obviously wanted representation based on population. They called their vision the Virginia Plan. The convention completely stalled over this one pivotal issue. When the New Jersey Plan was officially rejected, delegates from the small states threatened to withdraw from the convention. Had they done so, the Constitutional Convention could have fallen apart, taking our nation down with it.
In that critical moment of crisis, Delegate Roger Sherman of Connecticut stepped forward to offer a plan that would come to be known as the “Great Compromise of 1787.” In it, he called for a legislature comprised of one body with representatives based on population and another giving equal representation to each state. After minimal modification, Sherman’s compromise was adopted by the convention.
You may not recognize his name, but Roger Sherman saved the miracle known as the U.S. Constitution before it ever even came into existence. This Thanksgiving, be thankful for the courage, wisdom, and patriotism of Roger Sherman. American history is filled with heroes and heroines most people today have never heard of. Young people need to hear more about these men and women so the next generation of Americans can be filled with heroes too. Our rich national history is worth exploring and honoring.