You are on page 1of 4

Roger Sherman – Observatio

ons On The New


w Federal Consstitution
 

Obs
servatiions On
O The New
N F
Federall Consttitution

Rogeer Shermann
Decem 88
mber 25, 178

New Ha
aven Gaze
ette, 25 De
ecember 11788

In order to form a goood Constituution of Gov


vernment, tthe legislatuure should bbe properlyy
organized, and be vestted with pleenary poweers for all th
he purposess for which the govern
nment
was institu
uted, to be exercised
e fo
or the publicc good as occcasion maay require.

The greatesst security that


t a peopple can havee for the enjjoyment of their rightss and libertties, is
that no law
ws can be made
m to bindd them nor any taxes im mposed upon them wiithout theirr
consent byy representa atives of theeir own chu
using, who w will particip
pate with th
hem in the p public
burthens and benefitss; this was the
t great po oint contend ded for in oour controvversy with G
Great
Britain, and this will be
b fully secuured to us by
b the new cconstitution n. The righ
hts of the peeople
will be secu
ured by a reepresentatio on in propoortion to theeir numberrs in one brranch of thee
legislature,, and the rig
ghts of the particular
p states
s by th
heir equal reepresentation in the otther
branch.

The President and Vicce-Presiden nt as well ass the memb bers of Conggress will bee eligible fo
or the
fixed periods, and ma ay be re-elecct as often as a the electoors shall th
hink fit, which will be a great
security forr their fidellity in officee, and give greater
g stab
bility and ennergy to goovernment tthan an
exclusion by
b rotation, and will bee an operatiive and effeectual securrity againstt arbitrary
governmen nt, either monarchial
m or
o aristocratic.

The immed diate securiity of the civ


vil and dom
mestic rightss of the peoople will be in the
governmen nt of the parrticular stattes. And as the differennt states haave differen
nt local inteerests
and customms which ca an be best regulated byy their own laws, it sho ould not bee expedient to
admit the federal
f goveernment to interfere with
w them, aany farther than may b be necessarry for
the good off the whole. The great end of the federal
f govvernment iss to protect the severall states
in the enjoyyment of th
hose rights, against forreign invasiion, and to preserve peeace and a
beneficial intercourse
i e among theemselves; an nd to regulate and pro otect our coommerce wiith
foreign nattions.
Page
P 1 of 4 
 
Roger Sherman – Observations On The New Federal Constitution
 
These were not sufficiently provided for by the former articles of confederation, which was the
occasion of calling the late Convention to make amendments. This they have done by forming
a new constitution containing the powers vested in the federal government, under the former,
with such additional powers as they deemed necessary to attain the ends the states had in
view, in their appointment. And to carry those powers into effect, they though it necessary to
make some alterations in the organization of the government: this they supposed to be
warranted by their commission.

The powers vested in the federal government are clearly defined, so that each state still
retain its sovereignty in what concerns its own internal government, and a right to exercise
every power of a sovereign state not particularly delegated to the government of the United
States. The new powers vested in the United States, are, to regulate commerce; provide for a
uniform practice respecting naturalization, bankruptcies, and organizing, arming and
training the militia; and for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States; and
for promoting the progress of science in the mode therein pointed out. There are some other
matters which Congress has power under the present confederation to require to be done by
the particular states, which they will be authorized to carry into effect themselves under the
new constitution; these powers appear to be necessary for the common benefit of the states,
and could not be effectually provided for by the particular states.

The objects of expenditure will be the same under the new constitution, as under the old; nor
need the administration of government be more expensive; the number of members of
Congress will be the same, nor will it be necessary to increase the number of officers in the
executive department or their salaries; the supreme executive will be in a single person, who
must have an honourable support; which perhaps will not exceed the present allowance to the
President of Congress, and the expence of supporting a committee of the states in the recess
of Congress.

It is not probable that Congress will have occasion to sit longer than two or three months in a
year, after the first session, which may perhaps be something longer. Nor will it be necessary
for the Senate to sit longer than the other branch. The appointment of officers may be made
during the session of Congress, and trials on impeachment will not often occur, and will
require little time to attend to them. The security against keeping up armies in time of peace
will be greater under the new constitution than under the present, because it can’t be done
without the concurrence of two branches of the legislature, nor can any appropriation of
money for that purpose be in force more than two years; whereas there is no restriction under
the present confederation.

The liberty of the press can be in no danger, because that is not put under the direction of the
new government.

If the federal government keeps within its proper jurisdiction, it will be the interest of the
state legislatures to support it, and they will be a powerful and effectual check to its
interfering with their jurisdiction. But the objects of federal government will be so obvious
that there will be no great danger of any interference.

The principal sources of revenue will be imposts on goods imported, and sale of the western
lands, which will probably be sufficient to pay the debts and expences of the United States
while peace continues; but if there should be occasion to resort to direct taxation, each state’s
Page 2 of 4 
 
Roger Sherman – Observations On The New Federal Constitution
 
quota will be ascertained according to a rule which has been approved by the legislatures of
eleven of the states, and should any state neglect to furnish its quota, Congress may raise it in
the same manner that the state ought to have done; and what remedy more easy and
equitable could be devised, to obtain the supplies from a delinquent state?

Some object, that the representation will be too small; but the states have not thought fit to
keep half the number of representatives in Congress that they are entitled to under the
present confederation; and of what advantage can it be to have a large assembly to transact
the few general matters that will come under the direction of Congress.—The regulating of
time, place and manner of elections seems to be as well secured as possible; the legislature of
each state may do it, and if they neglect to do it in the best manner, it may be done by
Congress;—and what motive can either have to injure the people in the exercise of that right?
the qualifications of the electors are to remain as fixed by the constitutions and laws of the
several states.

It is by some objected, that the executive is blended with the legislature, and that those
powers ought to be entirely distinct and unconnected, but is not this a gross error in politics?
The united wisdom and various interests of a nation should be combined in framing the laws.
But the execution of them should not be in the whole legislature; that would be too
troublesome and expensive; but it will not thence follow that the executive should have no
voice or influence in legislation. The executive in Great Britain is one branch of the
legislature, and has a negative on all laws; perhaps that is an extreme not to be imitated by a
republic, but the partial negative vested in the President by the new Constitution on the acts
of Congress and the subsequent revision, may be very useful to prevent laws being passed
without mature deliberation.

The Vice-President while he acts as President of the Senate will have nothing to do in the
executive department; his being elected by all the states will incline him to regard the
interests of the whole, and when the members of the senate are equally divided on any
question, who so proper to give a casting vote as one who represents all the states?

The power of the President to grant pardons extends only to offences committed against the
United States, which can’t be productive of much mischief, especially as those on
Impeachment are excepted, which will include offenders from office.

It was thought necessary in order to carry into effect the laws of the Union, to promote justice,
and preserve harmony among the states, to extend the judicial powers of the United States to
the enumerated cases, under such regulations and with such exceptions as shall be provided
by law, which will doubtless reduce them to cases of such magnitude and importance as
cannot safely be trusted to the final decision of the courts of particular states; and the
constitution does not make it necessary that any inferior tribunals should be instituted, but it
may be done if found necessary; ’tis probable that the courts of particular states will be
authorized by the laws of the union, as has been heretofore done in cases of piracy, &c., and
the Supreme Court may have a circuit to make trials as convenient, and as little expensive as
possible to the parties; nor is there anything in the constitution to deprive them of trial by
jury in cases where that mode of trial has been heretofore used. All cases in the courts of
common law between citizens of the same state, except those claiming lands under grants of
different states, must be finally decided by courts of the state to which they belong, so that it

Page 3 of 4 
 
Roger Sherman – Observations On The New Federal Constitution
 
is not probable that more than one citizen to a thousand will ever have a cause that can come
before a federal court.

Every departure and officer of the federal government will be subject to the regulation and
control of the laws, and the people will have all possible securities against oppression. Upon
the whole, the constitution appears to be well framed to secure the rights and liberties of the
people and for preserving the governments of the individual states, and if well administered,
to restore and secure public and private credit, and to give respectability to the states both
abroad and at home. Perhaps a more perfect one could not be formed on mere speculation;
and if upon experience it shall be found deficient, it provides an easy and peaceable mode to
make amendments. It is not much better to adopt it than to continue in present
circumstances? Its being agreed to by all the states present in Convention, is a circumstance
in its favour, so far as any respect is due to their opinions.

Roger Sherman (1721 – 1793) was a longtime and influential member of the Continental
Congress (1774-81 and 1783-84). He won membership on the committees that drafted the
Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, as well as those concerned
with Indian affairs, national finances, and military matters. To solve economic problems, at
both national and state levels, he advocated high taxes rather than excessive borrowing or the
issuance of paper currency.

While in Congress, Sherman remained active in state and local politics, continuing to hold the
office of judge of the Connecticut Superior Court, as well as membership on the council of
safety (1777-79). In 1783 he helped codify Connecticut's statutory laws. The next year, he was
elected mayor of New Haven (1784-86).

Although on the edge of insolvency, mainly because of wartime losses, Sherman could not
resist the lure of national service. In 1787 he represented his state at the Constitutional
Convention, and attended practically every session. Not only did he sit on the Committee on
Postponed Matters, but he also probably helped draft the New Jersey Plan and was a prime
mover behind the Connecticut, or Great Compromise, which broke the deadlock between the
large and small states over representation. He was, in addition, instrumental in Connecticut's
ratification of the Constitution.

Sherman concluded his career by serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1789-91) and
Senate (1791-93), where he espoused the Federalist cause. He died at New Haven in 1793 at
the age of 72 and is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery.

###

Page 4 of 4