Gerry, who refused to sign the Constitution because of the lack of a Bill of Rights, is unhappy with the result and can’t wait to leave Philadelphia.
“Indeed I would not remain here two hours, was I not under the necessity of staying to prevent my colleagues from saying that I broke up the representation, & that they were averse to an arbitrary system of government; for such it is at present & such they must give their voice...
“Indeed I would not remain here two hours, was I not under the necessity of staying to prevent my colleagues from saying that I broke up the representation, & that they were averse to an arbitrary system of government; for such it is at present & such they must give their voice to, unless it meets with considerable alterations.”
After the Revolution, the 13 newly independent states continued to be governed under the Articles of Confederation. This document gave little power to the national government, which found it close to impossible to coerce the states to contribute funds for its operations. This hindered everything, including foreign policy, and led to innumerable disputes between the states, some of them quite contentious. By 1786, it was clear that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate for running a nation, and James Madison suggested that state governments should appoint commissioners "to take into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the relative situation and trade of said states; to consider how far a uniform system in their commercial regulations may be necessary to their common interests and permanent harmony.” In September 1786, at the resulting Annapolis Convention, five states called for a national convention to meet in Philadelphia the next spring in order to discuss possible improvements to the Articles.
What has became known as the Constitutional Convention took place at Independence Hall in Philadelphia from May 25 to September 17, 1787, with George Washington presiding. Once at work, the delegates saw that amending the Articles would be inadequate, and instead they created the Constitution of the United States, making the gathering one of the most significant events in American and world history.
Fifty five delegates attended the Constitutional Convention, one of whom was Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a delegate from Massachusetts to the Convention. In the end, only 39 of the delegates actually signed the U.S. Constitution, with most of the balance leaving early for home. However, three of them famously refused to sign because the document lacked a Bill of Rights that would protect the rights of states and the freedom of individuals. These three were George Mason, Edmund Randolph, and Elbridge Gerry.
The Convention was nearing its conclusion on September 17, and Gerry was finding the results less and less to his liking. Moreover, he was impatient to return home to Cambridge and his wife Ann, who was ailing. Autograph letter signed, Philadelphia, September 1, 1787, to his wife, expressing his homesickness, giving her the gossip and of his movements, but most importantly relating his disillusionment with the new U.S. Constitution.
“Saturday 1 Sep. I am distressed my dearest girl exceedingly, at the information in yours of the 29th & 30th of your indisposition, & shall prepare myself to leave this city on the arrival of your next post unless you are better. indeed I would not remain here two hours, was I not under the necessity of staying to prevent my colleagues from saying that I broke up the representation, & that they were averse to an arbitrary system of government; for such it is at present & such they must give their voice to, unless it meets with considerable alterations. I think it probable that the Convention will rise in ten days, but in case of my absence my dearest Life I think it will be proper & indeed necessary for you to take Rhubarb two of three evenings successively, & drink gruel morning & evening with cold camomile tea when thirsty to remove that sickness & pain in your stomach. likewise have a chicken boiled every day & drink the broth without fat on it or much thickening, taking care that it is not weak & that it is seasoned with such herbs as you like. I am glad you have quitted tea, but milk is not good for the bile, which affects you at present. I am very happy to hear our little darling is so thriving & wish most ardently to have the same good tidings respecting yourself. it has been very warm here, but I have suffered much – as to Hellus I am done thinking of him: I have had two other offering their services since he went away, but servants in general are a pack of such idle fellows, that without the best recommendations I am not disposed to take any of them. I sent you two letters for Miss Stanford & you mention the receipt of only one. the silk is not a good bargain by any means. I will desire Miss Dally to look out for some here & will shop myself – what quantity is sufficient for a suit. Sunday.Yesterday I dined with General Pinckney & Mrs Pinckney made particular enquiry for you & the baby. there was considerable company, & she was very agreeable & attentive. the General is as we always tho’t the cleverest being alive. I love him better every time I meet him. Mrs Pinckney says Mrs Butler proposes to return to New York from Newport having been there some time without being introduce to a person. I am sorry for this, but she should not have gone or remained there without Letters to some of the citizens. Mrs Rinlaugh landed at New York; did you hear of it or was her stay too short for you to know it or for her to know your was there? he had an infant about the age of ours, which died on the passage. it was ill when they left Charlestown & she had hopes by the voyage of saving it. I have not seen her, but had this from Mrs Pinckne. don’t omit what I have recommended for restoring you health as I am persuaded there is no necessity for your taking nauseous draughts of physicians, & they generally make their patients invalids – give my sincere Regards to your mamma Sisters brothers & papa if he has returned; kiss our delightful little darling plentifully for me & be assured I am ever your most affectionately.”
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, referenced above, was a Revolutionary War veteran, a statesman from South Carolina, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was twice nominated by the Federalist Party as their presidential candidate, but he did not win either election.
A search of public sale records going back 40 years turns up only two other letters written from the Constitutional Convention by a delegate related directly to its work. This, then, is an extraordinary rarity from a formative moment in American history.
Gerry was not the only person who felt that the lack of a Bill of Rights was a defect in the new Constitution. One was added in 1791, as amendments 1-10. As for Gerry himself, he was later elected governor of Massachusetts, and then served as U.S. Vice President under President James Madison.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services