Elbridge Gerry was born 17 July 1744 in Marblehead, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States to Thomas Gerry (1702-) and Elizabeth Greenleaf (1716-1755) and died 23 November 1814 in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of unspecified causes. He married Ann Thompson (1763-1849) 12 January 1786 in New York City, New York, United States.
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American statesman and diplomat. As a Democratic-Republican he was selected as the fifth Vice President of the United States (1813–1814), serving under James Madison. He is known best for giving his name to "gerrymandering", a process by which electoral districts are drawn with the aim of aiding the party in power.


Offspring of Thomas Gerry and Elizabeth Greenleaf (1716-1755)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thomas Gerry (1735-)
Samuel Russell Gerry (1737-1810)
Elizabeth Gerry (1740-1740)
John Gerry (1741-)
Elbridge Thomas Gerry (1744-1814) 17 July 1744 Marblehead, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States 23 November 1814 Washington, District of Columbia, United States Ann Thompson (1763-1849)

Daniel Gerry (1758-)


Offspring of Elbridge Gerry and Ann Thompson (1763-1849)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Elbridge Gerry (1769-1829)
Catharine Gerry (1784-1850)
Elizabeth A Gerry (1790-1851)
Ann Gerry (1791-1831)
Thomas Russell Gerry (1794-1845)
Helen Maria Gerry (1796-1855)
Eleanor Sandford Gerry (1800-1860)
Meily Luisa Gerry (1802-1894)
Sandford Gerry (1804-1839)


Born into a wealthy merchant family, Gerry vocally opposed British colonial policy in the 1760s, and was active in the early stages of organizing the resistance in the American Revolutionary War. Elected to the Second Continental Congress, Gerry signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He was one of three men who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 but refused to sign the United States Constitution because it did not then include a Bill of Rights. After its ratification he was elected to the inaugural United States Congress, where he was actively involved in drafting and passage of the Bill of Rights as an advocate of individual and state liberties.

Gerry was at first opposed to the idea of political parties, and cultivated enduring friendships on both sides of the political divide between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. He was a member of a diplomatic delegation to France that was treated poorly in the XYZ Affair, in which Federalists held him responsible for the breakdown in negotiations. Gerry thereafter became a Democratic-Republican, running unsuccessfully for Governor of Massachusetts several times before winning the office in 1810. During his second term, the legislature approved new state senate districts that led to the coining of the word "gerrymander"; he lost the next election, although the state senate remained Republican. Chosen by Madison as his vice presidential candidate in 1812, Gerry was elected, but died a year and a half into his term. He is the only signer of the Declaration of Independence who is buried in Washington, DC.

Gerry is generally remembered for the use of his name in the word gerrymander, for his refusal to sign the United States Constitution, and for his role in the XYZ Affair. His path through the politics of the age has been difficult to characterize; early biographers, including his son-in-law James T. Austin and Samuel Eliot Morison, struggled to explain his apparent changes in position. Biographer George Athan Billias posits that Gerry was a consistent advocate and practitioner of republicanism as it was originally envisioned, and that his role in the Constitutional Convention had a significant impact on the document it eventually produced.

Gerry is depicted in John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence. The painting was reproduced on the reverse of the two-dollar bill beginning in 1976.

Early family life

Elbridge Gerry was born on July 17, 1744, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. His father, Thomas Gerry, was a merchant operating ships out of Marblehead, and his mother, Elizabeth (Greenleaf) Gerry, was the daughter of a successful Boston merchant. Gerry's first name came from John Elbridge, one of his mother's ancestors. Gerry's parents had eleven children in all, although only five survived to adulthood. Of these, Elbridge was the third. He was first educated by private tutors, and entered Harvard College shortly before turning fourteen. After receiving a B.A. in 1762 and an M.A. in 1765, he entered his father's merchant business. By the 1770s the Gerrys numbered among the wealthiest Massachusetts merchants, with trading connections in Spain, the West Indies, and along the North American coast. Gerry's father, who had migrated from England in 1730, was active in local politics and had a leading role in the local militia.

Little is known of the childhood of Elbridge Gerry. He entered Harvard College at the age of 14 and graduated in 1762, ranking 29th in a class of 52. Elbridge went on to receive a Master’s degree in 1765 at the age of 20. His Master’s dissertation argued that America should resist the recently passed Stamp Act.

Upon graduation Elbridge entered his father’s counting house. The Gerrys owned their own vessels and shipped dried codfish to the Barbados and Spanish Ports, and returned with bills of exchange and goods. He eventually became one of the wealthiest and most enterprising merchants in Marblehead.


In the summer of 1787, he was one of two delegates representing New Hampshire at the Constitutional Convention.

A Harvard educated wealth merchant who served in both the Massachusetts state legislature and the national Congress. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. However, he constantly opposed measures leading to an overly strong centralized government and quit the Convention at the very end after failure of his proposal to include the Bill of Rights into the Constitution itself.

Tomb of Elbridge Gerry

Gerry’s monument in the Congressional Cemetery at Washington, D.C. bears this inscription:

The Tomb of ELBRIDGE GERRY Vice President of the United States Who died suddenly in this city on his way to the Capitol, as President of the Senate November 23, 1814, Aged 70


Gerry’s great-great-grandfather, Edmond Greenleaf, was born in Malden, England, came to America in 1635 and settled in Newbury. He and his family removed to Boston in 1650.

See also his /tree subpage.


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 (1879–1957), was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a United States Senator from Rhode Island. One of his descendants was the famous New England poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

Footnotes (including sources)


  MainTour, Robin Patterson