Jim Dalton: The Man Behind the Gerrymander

Roundup: Talking About History

[Jim Dalton is a founding board member of the Salem History Society and is a professor of music theory and music education at The Boston Conservatory.]

Storms of criticism at once descended upon the Constitution. "Fraudulent usurpation!" exclaimed Gerry, who had refused to sign it. "A monster" out of the "thick veil of secrecy," declaimed a Pennsylvania newspaper. – from History of the United States" by Charles Austin Beard, Mary Ritter Beard

It had been four long months in the making, and spring had matured into fall, when the Convention delegates presented their creation to their fellow citizens at the Pennsylvania State House, in Philadelphia (now Independence Hall). And now, more than halfway through September, 1787, after all the weary days and nights of argument, compromise and craft, the ship of state suddenly seemed about to founder while yet on its launch ramp.

Vociferous among those who protested the Constitution’s acceptance was Marblehead native and Massachusetts delegate, Elbridge Thomas Gerry. He simply refused to sign the document. His stated reasons? Well, partly because it lacked a bill of rights, and partly because he felt that the Executive branch was being given too much power by putting the Vice President in the role of President of the Senate.

Ironically, this man would later become the fifth Vice President of the United States under James Madison....

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