© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

People

Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) was the Vice President of the United States during the James Madison administration and a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. Gerry attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate from Massachusetts and was an active participant in the debates, but refused to sign the completed Constitution because he thought it centralized too much power at the federal level. His name is the source of the term 'gerrymander,' which refers to the drawing of electoral district boundaries in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Since the Revolution, Gerry had been an opponent of a large standing army and a strong central government, but Shays's Rebellion in his home state forced him to reconsider some of his positions. Gerry agreed to attend the Constitutional Convention and chaired the committee that voted in favor of Roger Sherman's Connecticut Compromise in late July 1787. He recognized the need for a stronger government, but in the end, he felt that his colleagues had gone too far with the Constitution. Most of his objections were later satisfied by the Bill of Rights, but he also found fault with the long term of office for senators and the fact that congressmen were empowered to determine their own salaries. He went on to serve from 1789-93 in the first two U.S. Congresses.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
back to top