There were 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, but only one signer is buried in the Congressional Cemetery. In fact, he’s the only signer buried in the District of Columbia. In honor of Independence Day, we’re highlighting the final resting place of Elbridge Gerry.
Gerry was born in Massachusetts in 1744. He attended Harvard and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1772. In 1776, Gerry was elected to the second Continental Congress, where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. However, Gerry, along with two other delegates, George Mason and Edmund Randolph, refused to sign the Constitution because it did not yet contain a Bill of Rights.
In 1813, Gerry became President James Madison’s vice president, remaining in that role until he died in office in 1814 at the age of 70. Madison is the only president to have two vice presidents die while in office, the first being George Clinton in 1812. Today, Gerry is often remembered as the creator of the Gerrymander.
There are 169 cenotaphs in the Congressional Cemetery. While each commemorates the death of a member of Congress, many of these members are interred elsewhere. The dedication of cenotaphs was discontinued in 1876 after Rep. Hoar stated, “the thought of being buried beneath one of those atrocities brought new terror to death.”