Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic

Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic

Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic

Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic

Synopsis

Roger Sherman was the only founder to sign the Declaration and Resolves (1774), Articles of Association (1774), Declaration of Independence (1776), Articles of Confederation (1777, 1778), and Constitution (1787). He served on the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and he was among the most influential delegates at the Constitutional Convention. As a Representative and Senator in the new republic, he played important roles in determining the proper scope of the national government's power and in drafting the Bill of Rights. Even as he washelping to build a new nation, Sherman was a member of the Connecticut General Assembly and a Superior Court judge. In 1783, he and a colleague revised all of the state's laws. Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic explores Sherman's political theory and shows how it informed his many contributions to America's founding. A central thesis of the work is that Sherman, like many founders, was heavily influenced by Calvinist political thought. Thistradition had a significant impact on the founding generation's opposition to Great Britain, and it led them to develop political institutions designed to prevent corruption, promote virtue, and protect rights. Contrary to oft-repeated assertions by jurists and scholars that the founders advocateda strictly secular polity, Mark David Hall argues persuasively that most founders believed Christianity should play an important role in the new American republic.

Excerpt

I began this study with the belief that Roger Sherman’s contributions to the founding of the American republic have been neglected, that he has been ignored as a political thinker, and that the significance of his religious convictions has been overlooked. Addressing these concerns remain at the core of this book. However, as the work progressed, I was intrigued by Sherman’s extensive knowledge of, and commitment to, Reformed Christianity. (“Reformed,” in this context, refers to the theological and broader cultural traditions that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, especially that branch of the Reformation associated with John Calvin. Accordingly, the terms “Reformed” and “Calvinist” are used interchangeably throughout this book.) As I delved into his correspondence and the world in which he lived, I became convinced that there was a larger story to tell. Sherman represents well the many founders influenced by the Reformed political tradition, a tradition that dominated New England and which had a significant presence throughout the rest of the nation.

As this study evolved from being a narrow account of Sherman to include a broader argument for the influence of Reformed tradition in the American founding, I found it necessary to trace the development of Reformed political theory. Like many students of American political theory, I was trained broadly in political philosophy and so was familiar with great political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Although I had read excerpts from Calvin’s Institutes and Brutus’s Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, I knew little about Reformed political theory. Perhaps it is as a result of this shortcoming, which I suspect is not uncommon among students of America’s founding, that the influence of the Reformed tradition on American political theory is neglected. There are notable exceptions to this rule which will be discussed in the chapters to come, but these works are lost in a sea of books and articles contending that the founders were primarily influenced by . . .

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