Elbridge Gerry
Painting: by Henry Sandham, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1810-1812

Elbridge Gerry is best known for his redistricting plan, which divided political districts in a way, which disproportionately advantaged his party, the Democratic-Republicans. It is from this that the expression "Gerrymandering" is derived, the act of drawing irregularly shaped districts to advantage a particular group.

Born in Marblehead, Mr. Gerry participated in the shipping business with his father and brothers before being elected a Representative in the General Court (1772-1775). He was named President of the U.S. Treasury Board (1776-1779) and signed the Declaration of Independence. He participated in the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, though withheld his signature because he worried that making the Vice President the President of the Senate would assign too much influence to the Executive branch.

Gerry served in the U.S. House (1789-1793) and went to France on a diplomatic mission before returning to his business during most of the first decade of the nineteenth century. He ran for Governor in 1810, defeating incumbent Governor Christopher Gore, who he faced and defeated for reelection. Gerry attempted to reconcile the bitterly divided Federalist and Republican parties, by allowing many Federalist appointees to continue in office during this first term. Eventually Gerry found himself unable to tolerate disagreements with the Federalists, which led to the redistricting exploits, which drew criticism and led to his defeat by Caleb Strong.

The next year, Mr. Gerry was elected Vice President of the United States, serving in the President James Madison's administration. He was a tireless supporter of Madison and the War of 1812. Gerry labored greatly to influence the Senate in the role of Vice President, the very role that, ironically, had so troubled him during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.