Kurt's Historic Sites

Elbridge Gerry

Elbridge Gerry

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Washington, D.C. November 12, 2011 11th Articles Signer visited; 29th Declaration Signer visited; 31st Vice President visited

Photographed November 12, 2011.

Gerrymandering refers to the manipulation of electoral boundaries, often into atypical shapes, which is conducted in order to affect the allocation of votes from particular constituencies and thereby bring about a desired election result. Though people tend to pronounce the word gerrymandering with a soft G sound (like giraffe), the surname of its namesake is pronounced with a hard G sound (like gorilla). It is best to know this distinction in case you decide to visit Elbridge Gerry’s gravesite in the U.S. capital.

An interesting array of characters are interred within Washington’s Congressional Cemetery, located in the southeast quadrant of the city. Besides Gerry, residents include Lincoln assassination conspirator David Herold, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, political journalist Cokie Roberts, and composer John Philip Sousa. The cemetery is also home to a great number of boxy monuments dedicated to members of Congress who died in office. Some function as cenotaphs, or empty memorial tombs, while others mark true gravesites. These cuboid structures designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe dominate the area in which Gerry is laid to rest.

Photographed November 12, 2011.
Photographed May 31, 2015.

When Gerry took the oath of office as vice president in March 1813, he did not succeed an outgoing VP. The position had been vacant since the previous April, when George Clinton died. Like Clinton, Gerry did not see his term to its conclusion. He too died in office, on November 23, 1814, during his second year on the job. The deaths of Clinton and Gerry both occurred during the administration of James Madison.

This stone at the foot of Gerry’s monument recognizes him as the only signer of the Declaration of Independence interred in the District of Columbia. He holds the distinction of being the lone vice president laid to rest in D.C. as well. George Clinton was once buried mere feet from Gerry, but his remains were exhumed in 1908 and relocated to New York.

Photographed May 31, 2015.
Photographed November 12, 2011.

In January 1823, eight years after the vice president’s passing, Senator James Lloyd of Gerry’s native Massachusetts submitted a bill to dedicate funds to the erection of a monument over his grave. Lloyd’s measure passed through Congress, and William and John Frazee of New York were commissioned for the project. The end result was a twelve-foot memorial made of Massachusetts marble. Although the proposed idea of having Gerry’s likeness incorporated into the structure was not implemented due to additional cost, it does sport a number of flourishes. These include the “towering and animated flame” rolling out of the Grecian vase, a feature which took nearly two months to craft.

Fast Facts

Born: July 17, 1744 in Marblehead, Massachusetts

Spouse: Ann Thompson Gerry (m. 1786-1814)

Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

Gubernatorial Term: 1810-1812

Vice Presidential Term: 1813-1814 under James Madison

Died: November 23, 1814 in Washington, D.C.

Age: 70

Interment: Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

"The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots."
- Elbridge Gerry

May 31, 1787 during a debate concerning direct elections for members of the Legislative Branch at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Madison, James. “Madison Debates May 31.” May 31, 1787. Yale Law School, The Avalon Project. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_531.asp.

Verheyen, Egon. “William and John Frazee’s Gerry Monument in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 52 (1989): 92–103. Accessed January 17, 2022. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40067861.
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