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Richard Bassett

Gov. Richard Bassett

  • January 9, 1799 - March 3, 1801
  • Federalist
  • April 2, 1745
  • August 15, 1815
  • Maryland
  • Married twice--Ann Ennalls, Betsey Garnett; four children
  • Resigned
  • Senator
  • Army


RICHARD BASSETT, Delaware’s fourth governor, was born in Cecil County, Maryland, on April 2, 1745. His father abandoned his family, and subsequently Peter Lawson, a maternal relative, reared Bassett. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1770, and started a law practice in Dover, Delaware. Bassett served during the Revolutionary War, as a captain of the Dover Light Horse Regiment and the Delaware State Militia. He also served on the Delaware Council of Safety from 1776 to 1777, and on the Governor’s Council, a position he held for 10 years. Bassett entered politics as a member of the 1776 and the 1792 Delaware Constitutional Conventions. He served in the Delaware State Senate in 1782, was a member of the Delaware House of Representatives in 1786, and was a delegate to the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention. He also served in the U.S. Senate from 1789 to 1793, and was appointed chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas, serving from 1793 to 1799. On October 2, 1798 Basset was elected Governor of Delaware, and on January 9, 1799 he was sworn into office. During his tenure, he worked to advance the establishment of the continental army. The U.S. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but the constitutionality of the acts were negated by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and strongly opposed by the Delaware Legislature. On March 3, 1801 Bassett resigned from the governor’s office to take an appointment to the bench of the U.S. Circuit Courts for the Third Circuit, a position he held until 1802. Governor Richard Bassett died on August 15, 1815, and is buried at the Brandywine Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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