Elbridge Gerry: Behind the Compromise of the Constitution

Rebecca Cote


Elbridge Gerry was a delegate from Massachusetts at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Our American history courses do not often refer to the role played by Gerry in shaping the Great Compromise. Roger Sherman is usually accredited with the genius of the bicameral national legislature that holds equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House. However, there are those who put forth great ideas and those who lead others to compromise in order to reap the success of a great idea. Gerry was a persuasive advocate for the necessity of compromise. When Gerry was the last delegate in the room to speak during the representation deliberations, the vote followed by passing in his favor. It is noteworthy to recognize the uniquely effective leadership style of Elbridge Gerry during the Constitutional Convention because it exhibits that being the last voice to debate is more influential to others than being the first to get a point across. For this topic, I have addressed the notes of James Madison and Robert Yates on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in volume I of Farrand (1966).


Constitutional debates; Elbridge Gerry; Representation

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