William Schoolcraft Sherman was an American politician who served as the 27th Vice President of the United States during the administration of William Howard Taft. Sherman, a member of the United States House of Representatives, was regarded as a formidable leader and adept parliamentarian. His serene demeanor, sunny disposition, affable nature, and buoyant disposition enabled him to navigate his political career with such ease that he earned the nickname Sunny Jim. However, his affable demeanor should not be confused with incompetence, as he was a man with a strong sense of character, firm views, and straightforward judgments. Sherman also possessed a stubbornness that kept him true to his convictions, ideals, and objectives. Sherman’s old-guard conservatism offered the perfect balance to Taft’s progressivism in the Republican Party during the Taft era. He was praised for his deft approach and tenacious tact. Because of this, Sherman became the only incumbent Vice President to be renominated, following John C. Calhoun. However, his poor health prevented him from running, since he passed away days before the parliamentary elections.
Youth and Early Life
James Schoolcraft Sherman was born in Utica, New York, on 24 October 1855 to Richard U. Sherman. Accordingly, his father had a food canning business and wrote a Democratic newspaper.
Prior to entering Hamilton College in 1874, young Sherman finished his basic education at Whitestone Seminary. In college, his abilities as an orator and debater came to the forefront. In addition, he joined the Sigma Phi fraternity.
After finishing his studies in 1880, he was admitted to the bar. He was an attorney with the firm Cookingham & Martin. Sherman also served as president of Utica Trust & Deposit Co. and New Hartford Canning Co.
During his early years as an attorney, Sherman developed his own political philosophy. As a result, he severed relations with the Democrats in order to support the Republicans. At age 29, Sherman was elected mayor of Utica.
In 1886, he was elected to represent the 23rd congressional district of New York. Except for his re-election in 1890, when the Republican Party was divided over William McKinley’s protective tariff, he served in national public office for the entirety of his life. However, he returned to Parliament in 1892 after defeating Henry Bentley, the Democratic candidate.
During his early political career, Sherman neither held a position of party leadership nor chaired a key committee. He also served on the Judiciary, Census, Industrial Arts and Expositions, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, and Indian Affairs Committees.
Sherman’s neutrality and absence from other committees gained him the position of chairman of the Committee on the State of the Union. By disregarding some regulations, the committee’s primary objective was to expeditiously adopt legislation and legislation. Sherman was qualified for the position due to his robust demeanor, upright decisiveness, and balanced temperament. In 1895, he presided over the State Republican Convention.
Under the administration of McKinley, Sherman fought vehemently to defend the Gold standard against ‘free silver’ Even against Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s efforts to reduce the tariff, he resisted.
In 1900, Sherman attempted to attain the position of Speaker but was defeated by David Henderson. However, he served as Henderson’s right-hand man during the latter’s time in office and continued to do so under Henderson’s successor, ‘Uncle Joe’ Cannon. He chaired the Republican state convention for a second time.
As a result of McKinley’s killing and Roosevelt’s rise to prominence, the party demanded advancement and change. Sherman remained a conservative of the Old Guard and opposed the national reform effort.
In 1906, he led the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee during congressional elections. According to his profile, he successfully raised a large sum of money from commercial interests for his campaigns, garnering him recognition.
In 1908, Sherman presided over the Republican state convention for the third time. When Roosevelt declined to seek a third term as President and appointed William Howard Taft as his successor, Sherman had the opportunity to assume the position of Vice President. Charles Evans Hughes was nominated as the Republican nominee on the ticket of William Howard Taft due to the lack of enthusiasm from rival candidate Charles Evans Hughes.
Sherman appeared to be the most typical Old-guard chieftain in the House when he was appointed vice presidential candidate. In addition, as an easterner, he provided a sense of balance to Taft’s profile, who was a progressive-minded westerner.
The Republicans won the elections of 1908 by a substantial majority. Sherman was inaugurated as Vice President of the United States on March 4, 1909. When William Taft assumed the presidency, the Republican Party was divided between progressivism and conservatism. While Taft was a staunchly progressive leader, Sherman was a member of the Old Guard. Keeping the two sections of the Republican Party united became the most significant obstacle.
In the early days following the Republican Party’s victory, Sherman and Taft were at odds with one another due to their divergent values. From the tariff policy to the vice-presidential position, they disagreed on everything. However, over time, Taft’s liberalism made room for conservatism, which improved his relationship with Sherman.
Taft attributed Sherman’s achievements on Capitol Hill to the latter’s personal integrity, appealing mannerisms, lively sense of conciliation, and principled stubbornness. In addition, Sherman was lauded for his sound judgment, calm demeanor, definite dignity, and sense of humor.
As a result of the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy, the Republican Party was divided between Taft and Sherman and former President Roosevelt, who supported his buddy Pinchot against Ballinger, Taft’s secretary of the interior. However, Sherman supported Taft’s decision.
Following Charles Evan Hughes’ retirement from the position of Supreme Court justice, a significant civil war broke out between conservatives and progressives in the Republican Party. Sherman was designated as a rival to Roosevelt for the position of interim chairman of the state convention. Sherman’s support from President Taft and the party’s Old guard was insufficient to combat Roosevelt’s popularity. Thus, he was defeated by Roosevelt.
Taft and Sherman ran on the same ticket in the 1912 presidential election against Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. During the campaign, Sherman became the second vice president to be renominated after John C. Calhoun. However, his re-nomination occurred at a time when his health was deteriorating. He passed away two days prior to the election.
Personal History and Legacy
Sherman wed Carrie Babcock of East Orange, New Jersey, in 1881. Three sons were bestowed upon the couple.
Toward the end of the 1900s, Sherman’s health condition deteriorated significantly. He was afflicted with Bright’s illness, which impaired his kidney condition.
Sherman expired at his home in Utica on October 30, 1912. His passing occurred just days prior to the 1912 presidential election.
Estimated Net Worth
This Republican Party politician who served as the 27th Vice President of the United States was so well-liked for his affable demeanor and affable disposition that he was dubbed “Sunny Jim” for the rest of his life.