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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elbridge Thomas Gerry

In office
March 4, 1813 – November 23, 1814
President James Madison
Preceded by George Clinton
Succeeded by Daniel D. Tompkins

In office
June 10, 1810 – March 4, 1812
Lieutenant William Gray
Preceded by Christopher Gore
Succeeded by Caleb Strong

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Shearjashub Bourne, Peleg Coffin, Jr. and David Cobb (General ticket)

Born July 17, 1744(1744-07-17)
Marblehead, Massachusetts
Died November 23, 1814 (aged 70)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Ann Thompson Gerry
Alma mater Harvard College
Religion Episcopalian

Elbridge Thomas Gerry (pronounced /ˈɛlbrɪdʒ ˈɡɛri/) (July 17, 1744 – 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.[1] He was the first Vice President not to run for President of the United States.

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 known best for being the namesake of gerrymandering, a process by which electoral districts are drawn with the aim of aiding the party in power, although its initial ‹g› has softened to /dʒ/ from the hard /g/ of his name.


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 of heart failure in Washington, D.C. and is buried there in the Congressional Cemetery.


The political cartoon that led to the term "gerrymander"

Gerry's 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 "gerrymander" was coined when the Massachusetts legislature redrew the boundaries of state legislative districts 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 Democratic-Republicans, took control of all the other districts in the state. The term eventually became part of world political vocabulary, and the practice is still in use today.

The upstate New York town of Elbridge, sitting just west of Syracuse, NY, with a population of roughly 6,000 is named in his honor, as is the western New York town of Gerry, in Chautauqua County, between Buffalo, NY, and Jamestown, NY, with a population of about 2,000.

In the 2008 HBO miniseries John Adams, Gerry is depicted in the first two episodes, portrayed by Tom Beckett.


  • "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are dupes of pretended patriots"[2]
  • "What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins."


  1. ^ He was the second Vice President to die in office; the first was his immediate predecessor, George Clinton.
  2. ^ 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

Political offices
Title last held by
George Clinton
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1813 – November 23, 1814
Title next held by
Daniel D. Tompkins
Preceded by
Christopher Gore
Governor of Massachusetts
June 10, 1810 – June 1812
Succeeded by
Caleb Strong
United States House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district

March 4, 1789 — March 4, 1793
Succeeded by
3rd district, plural:
Shearjashub Bourne, Peleg Coffin, Jr.
At-large district: David Cobb
Party political offices
Preceded by
George Clinton
Democratic-Republican vice presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Daniel D. Tompkins


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote


Elbridge Thomas Gerry (pronounced /ˈɡɛri/) (July 17, 1744November 23, 1814) was an American statesman and diplomat, and Vice President of the United States of America, serving under James Madison.


  • The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
  • A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.
    • Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now, it must be evident, that, under this provision, together with their other powers, Congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as to make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ELBRIDGE GERRY (1744-1814), American statesman, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on the 17th of July 1744, the son of Thomas Gerry (d. 1774), a native of Newton, England, who emigrated to America in 1730, and became a prosperous Marblehead merchant. The son graduated at Harvard in 1762 and entered his father's business. In 1772 and 1773 he was a member of the Massachusetts General Court, inwhich he identified himself with Samuel Adams and the patriot party, and in 1773 he served on the Committee of Correspondence, which became one of the great instruments of intercolonial resistance. In 1 7741 775 he was a member of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. The passage of a bill proposed by him (November 1 775) to arm and equip ships to prey upon British commerce, and for the establishment of a prize court, was, according to his biographer, Austin, " the first actual avowal of offensive hostility against the mother country, which is to be found in the annals of the Revolution." It is also noteworthy, says Austin, as " the first effort to establish an American naval armament." From 1776 to 1781 Gerry was a member of the Continental Congress, where he early advocated independence, and was one of those who signed the Declaration after its formal signing on the 2nd of August 1776, at which time he was absent. He was active in debates and committee work, and for some time held the chairmanship of the important standing committee for the superintendence of the treasury, in which capacity he exercised a predominating influence on congressional expenditures. In February 1780 he withdrew from Congress because of its refusal to respond to his call for the yeas and nays. Subsequently he laid his protest before the Massachusetts General Court which voted its approval of his action. On his return to Massachusetts, and while he was still a member of Congress, he was elected under the new state constitution (1780) to both branches of the state legislature, but accepted only his election to the House of Representatives. On the expiration of his congressional term, he was again chosen. a delegate by the Massachusetts legislature, but it was not until 1783 that he resumed his seat. During the second period of his service in Congress, which lasted until 1785, he was a member of the committee to consider the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and chairman of two committees appointed to select a permanent seat of government. In 1784 he bitterly attacked the establishment of the order of the Cincinnati on the ground that it was a dangerous menace to democratic institutions. In 1786 he served in the state House of Representatives. Not favouring the creation of a strong national government he declined to attend the Annapolis Convention in 1786, but in the following year, when the assembling of the Constitutional Convention was an assured fact, although he opposed the purpose for which it was called, he accepted an appointment as one of the Massachusetts delegates, with the idea that he might personally help to check too strong a tendency toward centralization. His exertions in the convention were ceaseless in opposition to what he believed to be the wholly undemocratic character of the instrument, and eventually he refused to sign the completed constitution. Returning to Massachusetts, he spoke and wrote in opposition to its ratification, and although not a member of the convention called to pass upon it, he laid before this convention, by request, his reasons for opposing it, among them being that the constitution contained no bill of rights, that the executive would unduly influence the legislative branch of the government, and that the judiciary would be oppressive. Subsequently he served as an Anti-Federalist in the national House of Representatives in 1789-1793, taking, as always, a prominent part in debates and other legislative concerns. In 1797 he was sent by President John Adams, together with John Marshall and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, on a mission to France to obtain from the government of the Directory a treaty embodying a settlement of several long-standing disputes. The discourteous and underhanded treatment of this embassy by Talleyrand and his agents., who attempted to obtain their ends by bribery, threats and duplicity, resulted in the speedy retirement of Marshall and Pinckney. The episode is known in American history as the " X Y Z Affair." Gerry, although despairing of any good results, remained in Paris for some time in the vain hope that Talleyrand might offer to a known friend of France terms that had been refused to envoys whose anti-French views were more than suspected. This action of Gerry's brought down upon him from Federalist partisans a storm of abuse and censure, from which he never wholly cleared himself. In 1810-1812 he was governor of Massachusetts. His administration,which was marked by extreme partisanship, was especially notable for the enactment of a law by which the state was divided into new senatorial districts in such a manner as to consolidate the Federalist vote in a few districts, thus giving the Democratic-Republicans an undue advantage. The outline of one of these districts, which was thought to resemble a salamander, gave rise in 1812, through a popular application of the governor's name, to the term Gerrymander ". In 1812, Gerry, who was an ardent advocate of the war with Great Britain, was elected vice-president of the United States, on the ticket with James Madison. He died in office at Washington on the 23rd of November 1814.

See J. T. Austin, Life of Elbridge Gerry, with Contemporary Letters (2 vols., Boston, 1828-1829).

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