Elbridge Gerry

Elbridge Gerry

Infobox Governor
name = Elbridge Thomas Gerry

order = 5th
office = Vice President of the United States
term_start = March 4, 1813
term_end = November 23, 1814
predecessor = George Clinton
successor = Daniel D. Tompkins
president = James Madison
birth_date = birth date|1744|7|17|mf=y
birth_place = Marblehead, Massachusetts
death_date = death date and age|1814|11|23|1744|7|17|mf=y
death_place = Washington, D.C.
party = Democratic-Republican
spouse = Ann Thompson Gerry
profession =
religion =
alma_mater=Harvard College
order2 = 9th Governor of Massachusetts
term_start2 = June 10, 1810
term_end2 = March 4, 1812
lieutenant2 = William Gray
predecessor2 = Christopher Gore
successor2 = Caleb Strong
order3 = Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd district
termstart3 = March 4, 1789
termend3 = March 3, 1793
predecessor3 = None
successor3 = Shearjashub Bourne, Peleg Coffin, Jr. and David Cobb (General ticket)


Elbridge Thomas Gerry (pronEng|ˈgɛri) (July 17, 1744ndash November 23, 1814) was an American statesman and diplomat. As a Democratic-Republican he was selected as the fifth Vice President of the United States, serving under James Madison, from March 4, 1813 until his death a year and a half later. [He was the second Vice President to die in office; the first was his immediate predecessor, George Clinton.]

Gerry was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He was one of three men who refused to sign the Constitution because it did not then include a Bill of Rights. Gerry later became Governor of Massachusetts. He is most famous for being the namesake of gerrymandering, a process by which electoral districts are drawn with the aim of aiding the party in power.

Early life

Born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the third of twelve children, he was a graduate of Harvard College, where he studied to be a doctor, attending there from age fourteen. He worked in his father's shipping business and came to prominence over his opposition to commerce taxes. He was elected to the General Court of the province of Massachusetts in May 1772 on an anti-British platform.


Gerry was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress from February 1776 to 1780. He also served from 1783 to September 1785 and was married in 1786 to Ann Thompson, the daughter of a wealthy New York merchant, 21 years his junior. In 1787 he attended the United States Constitutional Convention and was one of the delegates voting against the new constitution (joining George Mason and Edmund Randolph in not signing it). He was elected to the U.S. House under the new national government, and served in Congress from 1789 to 1793.

He surprised his friends by becoming a strong supporter of the new government, and so vigorously supported Alexander Hamilton's reports on public credit, including the assumption of state debts, and supported Hamilton's new Bank of the United States, that he was considered a leading champion by the Federalists. He did not stand for reelection in 1792. He was a presidential elector for John Adams in the 1796 election, and was appointed by Adams to the critical delegation to France that was humiliated by the French in the XYZ Affair. He stayed in France after his two colleagues returned, and Federalists accused him of supporting the French. He returned in October 1798, and switched his affiliation to Democratic-Republican party in 1800.

He was the unsuccessful Democratic-Republican nominee for governor of Massachusetts in 1800, 1801, 1802 and 1803. In 1810 he was finally elected Governor of Massachusetts as a Democratic-Republican. He was re-elected in 1811 but defeated in 1812 over his support for the redistricting bill that created the word gerrymander. He was chosen as vice president to James Madison. He died in office in Washington, D.C. and is buried there in the Congressional Cemetery.


Gerry's longtime home, Elmwood Mansion in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the birthplace of noted poet James Russell Lowell, who was born there a few years after Gerry's death. His grandson, Elbridge Gerry (1813–1886), was a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine; his great-grandson, Peter G. Gerry, was a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives and United States Senator from Rhode Island.

In 1812 the word Gerrymandering was coined when the Massachusetts legislature redrew the boundaries of state legislative districts in order to favor Governor Gerry's party. The Governor's strategy was to encompass most of the state's Federalists, allowing them to win in that district while his party, the Anti-Federalists, took control of all the other districts in the state. The term eventually became part of the American political vocabulary, and the practice is still in use today.


*"The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are dupes of pretended patriots" ["Government by the People, The Dynamics of American National, State, and Local Government", James MacGregor Burns & Jack Walter Peltason, 6th edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1963. pg 50.]



*Austin, James, "Life of Elbridge Gerry", 1970; Da Capo Press (ISBN 0-306-71841-3).
*Billias, George, "Elbridge Gerry, Founding Father and Republican Statesman" 1976, McGraw-Hill Publishers (ISBN 0-07-005269-7).
*Kramer, Eugene F. "Some New Light on the XYZ Affair: Elbridge Gerry's Reasons for Opposing War with France." "New England Quarterly" 1956 29(4): 509-513. ISSN 0028-4866
*Trees, Andy. "Private Correspondence for the Public Good: Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 26 January 1799" "Virginia Magazine of History and Biography" 2000 108(3): 217-254. ISSN 0042-6636 shows Gerry ignored Jefferson's 1799 letter inviting him to switch parties.

External links

* [http://www.mass.gov/statehouse/massgovs/egerry.htm Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Biography]
* [http://www.colonialhall.com/gerry/gerry.php Biography by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856]
* [http://elections.lib.tufts.edu/aas_portal/index.xq A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825]
* [http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/marrymass.html Delegates to the Constitutional Convention: Massachusetts] (Brief Biography of Gerry)
* [http://info.hartwick.edu/library/archives/gerry/moreinfo.html Gerry family archive] at Hartwick College
*Find A Grave|id=388

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