Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Fifth Vice President of the United States. b. 1744 d. 1814
Elbridge Gerry (one of countless historical figures with a first name for a last name and vice versa) was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts on July 17, 1744. His father was a sea captain from England who came to America to set up a shipping and import business. Gerry graduated from Harvard in 1765 at the age of 20 after entering what was then Harvard College at the age of 14. He felt it was his calling to go into medicine and become a doctor, but after graduating went into business with his father and brothers and became rather wealthy as a result.
In 1773 he entered the realm of politics as a representative to the general court of Massachusetts. Gerry became closely acquainted with Samuel Adams while part of the general court and took an active part in Adams' movement towards American independence. The Boston Tea Party enraged Gerry, which he labeled "savage mobility" on the part of the colonists. He left politics briefly at that time, but because the English had closed Boston to shipping, Gerry returned soon after his departure.
Gerry became actively involved in the armed resistance against the British. He took on the duty of gathering food, clothing, ammunition and other supplies for the American troops. While the British were marching on Lexington and Concord in 1775, Elbridge Gerry could be seen running from an inn in nearby Arlington in just his sleepytime clothes with a detachment of redcoats on his tail.
He was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress on February 9, 1776 and continued to be a member until 1785. He was absent from the Continental Congress on August 2, 1776, the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He did not affix his signature to the document until November 19th of that year. There is a possibility that another mishap involving running around in the streets in sleepytime clothes caused the delay in signing.
He was involved very deeply in revolutionary government undertakings, including discipline in the army, construction of a general hospital and examination of the financial situation in the country.
He married a highly respectable and educated European woman known to her friends, family and creditors as Ann Thompson. They had three sons and four daughters together.
He retired from Congress in 1793, was nominated for governor of Massachusetts in 1800, but did not win that office until 1810. In 1812 he became the vice presidential candidate on the ticket with James Madison, who was seeking his second term. They won the election, and Elbridge Gerry became the Fifth Vice President of the United States. He became well liked and respected in his position, especially in his role as President of the Senate.
Then, as Elbridge Gerry was taking his carriage towards the Capitol on November 23, 1814, to take up his reigns over the Senate, he died suddenly and was gone.
JudyT: Thanks for pointing out that I forgot to mention that the term "gerrymander" was named for Elbridge Gerry, even though he supposedly had nothing to do with it... it just meandered around him.
Part of TheDeadGuy's Vice Presidents Project