“When, in 1761, Roger Sherman moved to New Haven, he found himself in what served as a metropolis for the colony, insofar as its fifteen hundred or so shopkeepers, artisans, and farmers could enable it to do so. Sitting quietly by the sea, the little port was outside the main currents of commerce and politics of the British Empire. She trafficked a little with Boston, New York, and the West Indies, but hardly any with England.
Her inhabitants, like those of all other towns in Connecticut, were contented, self-reliant, narrow, and independent in their isolation. The legislature, which met here every other sesion in the stately brick building on the commons, enacted laws whose main object was the preservation of the Puritan status quo. The judges who intrepreted these laws did so with the same end in view, and, if doubt arose, confied themselves to ‘some plain and clear rule of the Word of God’ rather than trust themselves to the untried expedient of the English Common Law. The teachers in the rural academy called Yale College, who each year took a few farmer boys and made them over into Congregational ministers or schoolmasters, traveled the same road of orthodoxy.
The town common was the center of village life. On, or near it, were the court-house, the grammar-school, and the jail, with its stocks, whipping-post, and gibbet. Horses, cows, geese, and occasional pigs wandered about the green and added their barn-yard cacophony to the quiet bustle of the town. Cumbersome cartwheels cut deep ruts into the turf in the early spring. Youngsters, clad in leather breeches and spatter-dashes, played about the pond. Down at the harbor was the hum of an infant commerce. On the wharves were barrels of molasses and rum, stacked in rows of military precision, and close by one could detect the pungent smell of hickory smoke blending with the pleasant aroma of rum in the process of distillation.”
-Excerpt from “Roger Sherman: Portrait of a Cordwainer Statesman”, by Julian P. Boyd, The New England Quarterly, 1932. (top) Image courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library, McGill University, “Sketches of revolutionary worthies: with fine portraits,” by J. Grout Jr., 1861