University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Role of Elbridge Gerry at the Massachusetts Convention

On 14 January 1788 nondelegate Elbridge Gerry was invited to take a seat and respond to questions about the Constitutional Convention, of which he had been a member. Gerry accepted the invitation and attended for the first time on 15 January. On Friday, 18 January, Gerry was asked a question (on representation and taxation) for the first and only time, and the Convention requested his answer in writing. The next day, Gerry’s written response was read and the Convention continued its debate on the U.S. Senate. When Gerry heard his name mentioned during the debate, he began preparing a letter on the Senate. After writing for about half an hour, he rose and informed the delegates that he was preparing such a letter. A heated discussion on the propriety of Gerry’s interruption consumed the remainder of the session. After the Convention adjourned for the day, an altercation occurred between Gerry and Francis Dana, who had vociferously objected to Gerry’s interruption. Gerry never returned to the Convention, nor was he invited to return. On 21 January, from his Cambridge home, Gerry wrote a letter to Vice President William Cushing, the Convention’s presiding officer, giving his version of the events of 19 January, protesting his treatment by the Convention, and criticizing Dana.

  • Criticism of Elbridge Gerry’s Actions in the Massachusetts Convention on 19 January 1788