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Gerry, Elbridge

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Gerry, Elbridge

(1744–1814) Born July 17, 1744, at Marblehead, Massachusetts, son of Elizabeth Greenleaf of Boston and Thomas Gerry (English shipmaster who settled in America and became a merchant). Graduated from Harvard College in 1762. Joined his father and two older brothers in successful shipping business in Marblehead. Elected representative to the Massachusetts General Court in 1772. Influenced by Samuel Adams and became active in state politics. When the Boston port was closed, used Marblehead as base to receive supplies for the beleaguered city. Elected to the provincial congress in 1774–76. Helped raise troops and procure munitions and supplies. Delegate with John Adams to the Second Continental Congress in 1776. Favored independence before arriving, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Maintained friendships with Samuel and John Adams and with Jefferson and Madison even during the extremely partisan 1790s. Delegate to Continental Congress 1776–81 and 1782–85, and was an active member except for the years 1780–83, when he returned to trade and privateering and served in the state assembly. In January 1786, he married Ann Thompson, daughter of a New York merchant, with whom he had three sons and four daughters who survived him. Retired from business with a comfortable income from investments in government securities and real estate. Delegate from Massachusetts to Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, where he actively participated but refused to sign or support the Constitution, which he thought gave the federal government too much power. Gerry was not elected to the Massachusetts ratifying convention, but his advice was solicited by that body and by the state legislature. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the first and second Congresses and served 1789–93. Presidential elector for John Adams in 1796. Appointed by Adams in 1797 to diplomatic mission to France, with Marshall and C. C. Pinckney, which led to XYZ Affair. Remained in France until 1798, after the other two returned home in disgust. Unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts in 1801, 1802, and 1803. Presidential elector for Jefferson in 1804. Elected governor of Massachusetts in 1810 and 1811. Defeated for a third term after extreme redistricting of state that gave rise to term “gerrymandering.” Elected vice-president of the United States under Madison in 1812, served until his death in Washington, D.C., on November 23, 1814.