Richard Bassett


Richard Bassett

Infobox Officeholder
honorific-prefix =
name = Richard Bassett
honorific-suffix =


imagesize =
small

office = Governor of Delaware
term_start = January 15 1799
term_end = February 20 1801
predecessor = Daniel Rogers
successor = James Sykes, Jr.
office2 = Chief Justice
Court of Common Pleas

term_start2 = 1793
term_end2 = January 15 1799
predecessor2 = new position
successor2 = James Booth, Sr.
office3 = U.S. Senator from Delaware
term_start3 = March 4 1789
term_end3 = March 3 1793
predecessor3 = new position
successor3 = John M. Vining
birth_date = birth date|1745|4|2|mf=y
birth_place = Cecil County Maryland
death_date = death date and age|1815|8|15|1745|4|2
death_place = Cecil County Maryland
spouse = Ann Ennals
Betsy Garnett
party = Federalist
residence = Dover Delaware
alma_mater = new position
occupation =
profession = lawyer
religion = Methodist

Richard Bassett (April 2 1745ndash August 15 1815) was an American lawyer and politician from Dover, in Kent County Delaware. He was a veteran of the American Revolution, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, and a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as Governor of Delaware, and as U.S. Senator from Delaware.

Early life and family

Bassett was born April 2 1745 at Bohemia Ferry in Cecil County, Maryland, son of Arnold and Judith Thompson Bassett. His father was a part time tavern owner and farmer, but deserted the family when Bassett was young. He married Ann Ennals in 1774 and they had three children, Richard Ennals, Ann (known as Nancy), and Mary. After his first wife’s death he married Betsy Garnett in 1796. They were active members of the Methodist Church, and gave the church much of their time and attention.

Fortunately, Bassett’s mother was the great granddaughter and an heiress of Augustine Herrman, the original owner of Bohemia Manor, a massive estate in Cecil County, and her family raised Bassett. Eventually this heritage provided him with inherited wealth and a plantation, Bohemia Manor, in Cecil County, and much other property in New Castle County, Delaware.

Early political career

Bassett studied the law under Judge Robert Goldsborough of Dorchester County, Maryland and in 1770 was admitted to the Bar. He moved to Dover, Delaware, then just the court town of Kent County, and began a practice there. By concentrating on agricultural pursuits as well as religious and charitable concerns, he quickly established himself amongst the local gentry and “developed a reputation for hospitality and philanthropy.” [ [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/RevWar/ss/Bassett.htm Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution ] ]

Bassett was a reluctant revolutionary, more closely in tune with the approach of George Read than with his neighbors from Kent County, Caesar Rodney and John Haslet. Nevertheless, in 1774 he was elected to the local Boston Relief Committee. When the new government of Delaware was organized, Bassett served on the 1776 Delaware Council of Safety, and was a member of the convention responsible for drafting the Delaware Constitution of 1776, which was adopted September 20 1776. He was then one of the conservatives elected to Delaware's first Legislative Council, 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 session. He thereby represented Kent County in all but one session of the Delaware General Assembly from independence to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution of 1787.

American Revolution

However, Bassett’s most notable contributions during the American Revolution were his efforts to mobilize the state’s military. Some sources credit him with developing the plans for raising and staffing the 1st Delaware Regiment, with his neighbor John Haslet at its command. Known as the "Delaware Continentals" or "Delaware Blues," they were from the smallest state, but at some 800 men, were the largest battalion in the army. David McCullough in "1776" describes them "turned out in handsome red trimmed blue coats, white waistcoats, buckskin breeches, white woolen stockings, and carrying fine, 'lately imported' English muskets. Raised in early 1776, they went into service in July and August 1776. Bassett also participated in the recruitment of the reserve militia that served in the “Flying Camp” of 1776, and the Dover Light Infantry, led by another neighbor, Thomas Rodney.

When the British Army marched through northern New Castle County, on the way to the Battle of Brandywine and the capture of Philadelphia, Bassett “appears to have joined his friend Rodney in the field as a volunteer.” Once the Delaware militia returned home after the British retired from the area, Bassett continued as a part-time soldier, assuming command of the Dover Light Horse, Kent County's militia cavalry unit.

Federal Constitution and United States Senate

From his wartime experience, Bassett quickly came to realize the shortcoming of the government under the Articles of Confederation, and was an early supporter of reforms. He was among those representing Delaware in 1786 at the Annapolis Convention, and again was part of the same delegation at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. Although he never spoke, and served on no committees, he was a strong supporter of the Great Compromise promoted by another neighbor, John Dickinson. With this agreement incorporated into the resulting document, Bassett made his major contribution to the effort by leading the effort to quickly gain its ratification in Delaware. He was so successful that Delaware formally agreed just five months after the Philadelphia Convention, and before any other state. Because of this, Delaware has ever since been known as “the First State.”

With the establishment of the new government the Delaware General Assembly elected Bassett as one of the first new U.S. Senators. While there were no parties at the time he served, he was a supporter of a strong central government, and was allied particularly with the positions of Vice President John Adams. He “supported President George Washington's right to control the internal workings of the executive branch through the power of dismissing appointed officials, but he opposed some of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's more extreme proposals for advancing the powers of the presidency.” He was also among the first to advocate removing the federal capital to a new city on the Potomac River. Recent scholars have therefore classified him among the “Anti-Administration” members of the 1st Congress, but among the “Pro-Administration” members of the 2nd. In all he served in those two sessions, from March 4 1789, to March 3 1793, during the administration of U.S. President George Washington. [ [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/RevWar/ss/Bassett.htm Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution ] ]

Later political career

Meanwhile, the Delaware Constitution of 1776, was in need of revision, and Bassett once again joined with John Dickinson, in leading the convention to draft a revision, which became the Delaware Constitution of 1792. Upon his retirement from the United States Senate in 1793 he began a six-year term as the first Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Delaware. At the time it was a court of general civil jurisdiction and the predecessor of the present Delaware Superior Court. By this time Bassett was formally a member of the Federalist Party, and as such was elected Governor of Delaware in 1799. It was during his time in office that Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours first came to Delaware to begin his gunpowder business.

However, it was also during his term that Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States, causing great concern for the future of the country among the Federalists. The retiring President John Adams, rushed the Judiciary Act of 1801 through the Federalist Congress, creating a number of new judgeships on the United States circuit courts. Being a staunch Federalist and old political ally, Adams appointed Bassett on his last day in office in 1801 to one of the positions. He was one of the so-called midnight judges. But the legislation was repealed by the new Jeffersonian Congress, and his tenure ended quickly in April 1802. He never again held public office.

{|class=wikitable style="width: 94%" style="text-align: center;" align="center"
-bgcolor=#cccccc!colspan=12 style="background: #ccccff;" |Delaware General Assembly
"(sessions while Governor)"
-!Year!Assembly!!Senate Majority!Speaker!!House Majority!Speaker
-
1799
23rd|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |Isaac Davis|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |Stephen Lewis
-
1800
24th|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |James Sykes|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |Stephen Lewis
-
1801
25th|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |James Sykes|
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |Stephen Lewis
###@@@KEYEND@@@###

Methodism

In addition to his high profile in government, Bassett was a devout and energetic convert to Methodism. Having met Francis Asbury in 1778 at the home of their mutual friend, Judge Thomas White, Bassett soon had a conversion experience, and for the remainder of his life devoted much of his attention and wealth to the promotion of Methodism. He and Asbury remained lifelong friends. This association caused him to become linked in many people’s minds to the loyalists, as both White and Asbury were viewed to be opposed to the war. But it also led to a strong abolitionist belief, which led him to free his own slaves and advocate the emancipation of others.

Death and legacy

Bassett died August 15 1815 at "Bohemia Manor" in Cecil County, Maryland and was first buried there. In 1865 his remains were moved to a Bassett and Bayard mausoleum in the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.

Bassett was a stout man of medium build. 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’s daughter, Anne married James A. Bayard, a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator, and they were the ancestors of the branch of the Bayard family that has played a prominent role in Delaware politics ever since. His niece and adopted daughter, Rachel McCleary, married Governor Joshua Clayton of yet another family long prominent in Delaware politics.

Almanac

Elections were held the first Tuesday of October. Before 1792, members of the General Assembly took office on the twentieth day of October. Legislative Councilors had a three year term and the Assemblymen had a one year term. After 1792, the Governor was popularly elected and took office the third Tuesday in January, for a term of three years. The General Assembly chose the delegates to the U.S. Constitution Convention. They also chose the U.S. Senators, who took office March 4th, and normally served for a six year term. However, Bassett's term was for only four years to establish a rotation.

{|class=wikitable style="width: 94%" style="text-align: center;" align="center"
-bgcolor=#cccccc!colspan=7 style="background: #ccccff;" | Public Offices
-! Office! Type! Location! Elected! Term began! Term ends! notes
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Delegate
State Convention
Dover|
August 29 1776
September 20 1776
Delaware
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Legislative Councilor
Legislature
New Castle
1776
October 20 1776
October 20 1779|
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Legislative Councilor
Legislature
Dover
1779
October 20 1779
October 20 1780|
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Assemblyman
Legislature
Dover
1780
October 20 1780
October 20 1781|
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Assemblyman
Legislature
Dover
1781
October 20 1781
October 21 1782|
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Legislative Councilor
Legislature
Dover
1782
October 21 1782
October 20 1785|
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Assemblyman
Legislature
Dover
1786
October 20 1786
October 21 1787|
-Party shading/Anti-Masonic
Delegate
Convention
Philadelphia|
May 14 1787
September 17 1787
United States
-Party shading/Anti-Masonic
U.S. Senator
Legislature
Philadelphia|
March 4 1789
March 3 1793
class 2
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Delegate
State Convention
Dover|
November 1792
June 12 1792
Delaware
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Chief Justice
Judiciary
Dover|
1793
January 9 1799
Court of Common Pleas
-Party shading/Anti-Jacksonian
Governor
Executive
Dover
1798
January 9 1799
February 20 1801
resigned
-Party shading/Anti-Masonic
Judge
Judiciary
Dover|
February 20 1801
April 1802
U.S. Circuit Court
###@@@KEYEND@@@###

{|class=wikitable style="width: 94%" style="text-align: center;" align="center"
-bgcolor=#cccccc!colspan=7 style="background: #ccccff;" |Delaware General Assembly "service"
-! Dates! Assembly! Chamber! Majority! Governor! Committees! District
-Party shading/Federalist
1776/77
1st
State Council
"non-partisan"
John McKinly|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1777/78
2nd
State Council
"non-partisan"
George Read|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1778/79
3rd
State Council
"non-partisan"
Caesar Rodney|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1779/80
4th
State Council
"non-partisan"
Caesar Rodney|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1780/81
5th
State House
"non-partisan"
Caesar Rodney|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1781/82
6th
State House
"non-partisan"
John Dickinson|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1782/83
7th
State Council
"non-partisan"
Nicholas Van Dyke|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1783/84
8th
State Council
"non-partisan"
Nicholas Van Dyke|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1784/85
9th
State Council
"non-partisan"
Nicholas Van Dyke|
Kent "at-large"
-Party shading/Federalist
1786/87
11th
State House
"non-partisan"
Thomas Collins|
Kent "at-large"
###@@@KEYEND@@@###

{|class=wikitable style="width: 94%" style="text-align: center;" align="center"
-bgcolor=#cccccc!colspan=7 style="background: #ccccff;" |United States Congressional "service"
-! Dates! Congress! Chamber! Majority! President! Committees! Class/District
-Party shading/Federalist
1789-1791
1st
U.S. Senate
"non-partisan"
George Washington|
class 2
-Party shading/Federalist
1791–1793
2nd
U.S. Senate
"non-partisan"
George Washington|
class 2
###@@@KEYEND@@@###

{|class=wikitable style="width: 94%" style="text-align: center;" align="center"
-bgcolor=#cccccc!colspan=12 style="background: #ccccff;" |Election results
-!Year!Office!!Subject!Party!Votes!%!!Opponent!Party!Votes!%
-
1798
Governor|
Party shading/Federalist |Richard Bassett
Party shading/Federalist |Federalist
Party shading/Federalist |2,490
Party shading/Federalist |52%|
Party shading/Democratic-Republican |David Hall
Party shading/Democratic-Republican |Democratic-Republican
Party shading/Democratic-Republican |2,068
Party shading/Democratic-Republican |44%
###@@@KEYEND@@@###

Notes

References

*cite book |title=History of the State of Delaware |last=Conrad |first=Henry C. |coauthors= |work= |publisher=Wickersham Company |location=Lancaster, Pennsylvania |pages= |year=1908 |id=
*cite book |title=Democracy in Delaware |last=Hoffecker |first=Carol E. |coauthors= |work= |publisher=Cedar Tree Books |location=Wilmington, Delaware |pages= |year=2004 |id=ISBN 1-892142-23-6
*cite book |author=Munroe, John A. |title=Federalist Delaware 1775-1815 |publisher=Rutgers University, New Brunswick |year=1954 |id=
*cite book |title=History of Delaware Through its Governors |last=Martin |first=Roger A. |coauthors= |work= |publisher=McClafferty Press |location=Wilmington, Delaware |pages= |year=1984 |id=
*cite book |title=Memoirs of the Senate |last=Martin |first=Roger A. |coauthors= |work= |publisher=Roger A. Martin |location=Newark, Delaware |pages= |year=1995 |id=
*cite book |title=History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols |last=Scharf |first=John Thomas |coauthors= |work= |publisher=L. J. Richards & Co |location=Philadelphia |pages= |year=1888 |id=ISBN 0-87413-493-5


=

* [http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=B000226 National Portrait Gallery]

External links

* [http://www.nga.org/portal/site/nga/menuitem.29fab9fb4add37305ddcbeeb501010a0/?vgnextoid=9eca224971c81010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD&vgnextchannel=e449a0ca9e3f1010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD Richard Bassett at the "Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States"]
*CongBio|B000226
* [http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/basset-bastin.html#R9M0IOW8J Richard Bassett at the "Political Graveyard"]
*Find A Grave|id=4720
* [http://www.russpickett.com/history/delgov1.htm#bassett Richard Bassett at "Delaware’s Governors"]
* [http://www.russpickett.com/history/bassbio.htm Richard Bassett biography by Russell Pickett]
* [http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_founding_fathers_delaware.html Richard Bassett biography at the "National Archives"]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/RevWar/ss/Bassett.htm Richard Bassett biography at "U.S. Army Center of Military History"]

Places with more information

* [http://www.hsd.org/ Historical Society of Delaware] , 505 Market St., Wilmington, Delaware (302) 655-7161
* [http://www.lib.udel.edu/ University of Delaware Library] , 181 South College Ave., Newark, Delaware (302) 831-2965


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