Elbridge Gerry

Burial Location Visited Vice President Grave #
Washington, D.C. November 12, 2011 31st Visited


Amid the rows of cenotaphs in Congressional                                             Gerry was vice president during
Cemetery is the grave of Elbridge Gerry, the                                               James Madison's second term.
fifth vice president.                                                                                  He died midway through it, in


While Gerry the man has long been forgotten,                             The statesman's wife, Ann Gerry, was the
his name has lived on through gerrymandering.                           last widow of a Declaration signatory to
The term means reorganizing district boundaries                          pass away. After her death in 1849, she
for political advantage.                                                              was interred in New Haven, Connecticut.

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* Three of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 later became vice president. Two of those men, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, went on to become president as well. The other one, Elbridge Gerry, is one of the many historical figures who has simply fallen into obscurity. He was from Marblehead, Massachusetts, born there in 1744. Gerry's father, an immigrant from England, was a merchant and one of the most respected members of the community. In his early teens, Gerry was admitted to Harvard College, which he graduated from in 1762. Later pursuing his master's degree, he argued in his thesis that the colonists were justified in their anger about the taxes implemented by the British on various goods.

* As a member of his father's mercantile business, Gerry was able to amass a reasonable amount of wealth and establish himself as a prominent resident in Marblehead. In 1770, he joined a local committee that promoted the boycott of tea, one of the more notable goods being taxed by Great Britain. That would be his first major public stand against King George III and the British. Gerry became popular enough that he was elected to the Massachusetts General Court (state legislature) in 1772 and also served some time in its successor body, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. He was first elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and served for several years, departing in 1780. He returned in 1783 and remained a member until 1785. During his tenure, Gerry signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.

* Always eager to aid his fellow countrymen, Gerry was part of a select group of people to attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Though described as "one of the most active participants", Gerry, in the end, did not sign the Constitution. He was wary of several sections of the document and was dismayed about the lack of a Bill of Rights. Though his stance upset many, he was elected to the 1st Congress as a U.S. representative. He served from 1789 to 1793, declining a third term to retire to his home in Cambridge.

* Gerry's retirement would prove to be short-lived. In 1797, his former colleague John Adams, now president, sent Gerry, John Marshall, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to France to meet with French agents in what would be dubbed the XYZ Affair. The diplomatic mission ended poorly and resulted in the two year Quasi-War. Then, in 1810, the citizens of Massachusetts elected him their governor. While his first term was spent trying to stop feuding between the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, his second was very different. He became very intolerant toward outspoken Federalists opposing President James Madison's foreign policy. Many of his actions during his second term were questionable, but none more so than his approval of a redistricting plan. The bill reorganized district lines so that they would favor members of his own party in state senatorial elections. In response, Federalists released a political cartoon depicting the electoral districts, one of which resembled a salamander. The result was the term gerrymandering (pronounced with a soft g sound, unlike the vice president's name). It is his most notable legacy.

* The controversial behavior of Governor Gerry during his second term resulted in his failure to be re-elected in April of 1812. However, he had impressed James Madison, who was in need of a vice president after the death of George Clinton. After the party's first choice, John Langdon, declined due to his age, they nominated Gerry. He and Madison defeated Federalist candidates DeWitt Clinton and Jared Ingersoll that November. Gerry took office four months later, being sworn in at his Massachusetts home. Spending a difficult year and a half as vice president, Gerry died on November 23, 1814 in Washington. The Senate subsequently approved legislation to provide his widow with his salary until what remained of Gerry's term was finished. It was put down in the House.

Second Lady: Ann Thompson Gerry
      - Spouse: Ann Thompson Gerry (m. 1786-1814)

Political Party: Democratic-Republican Party

Served Under:
James Madison (1813-1814)

Last Words:

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