HARDIN BURNLEY was born in Orange County, Virginia. After attending the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, he studied law and began private practice in his native county in March, 1785. Six months later he joined the county militia, and in 1787 he was elected to the first of four successive one-year terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. Burnley opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution and worked with friends of James Madison on behalf of the amendments that were submitted to the states in 1789, ten of which became the Bill of Rights when the Virginia legislature ratified them in December 1791. In 1790, Burnley was elected by the state assembly to the Council of State to replace Thomas Madison, who had resigned. Eight years later he won election as President of the Council, and in that position served for three days as governor pending James Madison’s swearing in. He then left the Council due to ill health, retiring to his 1,000-acre plantation in Hanover County. Until his death a decade later, he returned to Richmond on a number of occasions to sit on the grand jury of the U.S. District Court.
Bearss, Sara B. et al., eds. Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2. Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 2001.
Leonard, Cynthia Miller, comp. The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619-January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members. Richmond: published for the General Assembly of Virginia by the Virginia State Library, 1978.
Salmon, Emily and Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr. Hornbook of Virginia History. 4th ed. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1994.