Richard Bassett

Richard Bassett born April 17, 1745 and died August 15, 1815, he was an American lawyer and political figure from the state of Delaware who, as a veteran of the Revolutionary War and delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Bassett studied law under Judge Robert Goldsborough of Province of Maryland’s Dorchester County and, in 1770, was admitted to the Bar.


He moved to Delaware and began a practice in Kent County’s court town of Dover, which, in 1777, became the newly independent state’s capital city.


At the age of 29 in 1774, Richard married Ann Ennals and they had three children, Richard Ennals, Ann (known as Nancy) and Mary. After Ann Ennals’ death he married Betsy Garnett in 1796.


He was then one of the conservatives elected to 1st Delaware General Assembly, and served for four sessions, from 1776-77 through 1779-80.


Subsequently, he was a member of the House of Assembly for the 1780-81 and 1781-82 sessions, and returned to the Legislative Council, for three sessions from 1782-83 through 1784-85. He concluded his state legislative career with a final term in the House of Assembly during the 1786-87 sessions.


Bassett was one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and, without supplying much input, signed the Constitution. Meanwhile, the Delaware Constitution of 1776 was in need of revision, and Bassett once again joined with another of Delaware’s Founding Fathers, John Dickinson in leading the convention to draft a revision, which became the Delaware Constitution of 1792.


He was ordained deacon in 1801 and priest in 1802, becoming curate of St Athan and Llandow in Glamorgan. In 1832, he became rector of Eglwys Brewis.


Bassett was elected Governor of Delaware and continued in that post until 1801. That year, he became one of President Adams’ “midnight” appointments as a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court. Subsequently, the Jeffersonian Republicans abolished his judgeship, and he spent the rest of his life in retirement.


Beginning in 1792 elections was held the first Tuesday of October. The State President became the Governor and was popularly elected. He takes office the third Tuesday in January and had a three-year term. Judges of the Courts of Common Pleas were also selected by the General Assembly for the life of the person appointed.


He was very fashionable and influential in society. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he was described as “gentlemanly, a religious enthusiast and a man of plain sense” with “modesty enough to hold his tongue”. Bassett was a stout man of medium build. He was very fashionable and influential in society.


Richard Bassett was a respectable man, a man that is remembered even in recent times, he was a devout Methodist, held religious meetings at Bohemia Manor, and supported the church financially.


He died in 1815 at the age of 70and is buried at the Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware. The lifelong friendship with Asbury instilled an abolitionist spirit in Basset.


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