Elbridge Gerry: Defense of Conduct in Constitutional Convention

Massachusetts Centinel

January 05, 1788

Mr. Russell.

You are desired to inform the publick from good authority, That Mr. GERRY, by giving his dissent to the proposed constitution, could have no motive for preserving an office, for he holds none under the United States, or any of them;—that he has not, as has been asserted, exchanged continental for State securities: and if he had, it would have been for his interest to have supported the new system, because thereby the States are restrained from impairing the obligation of contracts, and by a transfer of such securities, they may be recovered in the new federal court:—That he never heard in the Convention a motion made, much less did he make any for “the redemption of the old continental money,” but that he proposed, the publick debt should be made neither better or worse by the new system, but stand precisely on the same ground as it now does by the articles of confederation—that had there been such a motion, he was not interested in it, as he did not then, neither does he now own the value of ten pounds in old continental money;—that he never was called on for his reasons for not signing, but stated them fully in the progress of the business:’ 1 His objections are principally contained in his letter to the legislature: 2—that he believes his colleagues men of too much honour to assert what is not truth, that his reasons in the convention “were totally different from those which he has published:”—that his only motive for dissenting from the new constitution, was a firm persuasion that it would endanger the liberties of America:—that if the people are of a different opinion, they have a right to adopt it; but he was not authorised to an act which appeared to him a surrender of their liberties:—that as a representative of a free State, he thought he was bound in honour, to vote according to his idea of her true interest, and that he should do the same in similar circumstances.

Cambridge, Jan. 3, 1788.

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