Elbridge Gerry: Letter to the Massachusetts Legislature on the U.S. Constitution

(1787)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Those who considered whether Massachusetts should ratify the U.S. Constitution were as wary as any others about what sort of government would emerge from the document. In general, the delegates knew what they did not want: the lack of direction that had emerged from the Articles of Confederation. Thus, in their consideration of the Constitution, which seemed to offer a more unified nation, they wanted to hear from Gerry, an outspoken opponent of the document who was also one of the most respected statesmen from Massachusetts. In response to a request to declare his objections to the Constitution, Gerry wrote an open letter to the legislature, dated October 18, 1787, providing a summary of concerns that were not only his own but also those of many who feared that the lack of a bill of rights would make the new Constitution an outline for tyranny.

Gerry had been publicly expressing his opinions at least since 1765, when he advocated...

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Elbridge Gerry (Library of Congress)

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