Richard Bassett, Delaware

Richard Bassett, Delaware

Richard Bassett lived between April 2, 1745 and August 15, 1815. A lawyer by profession, Basset was active in the fight for American Independence from the British. He represented Delaware in the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention as a Federal Party member and later served as the Governor of Delaware and Senator from the state.

Born at Bohemia Ferry in Cecil County in Maryland, Basset's father, Arnold Bassett, who was a farmer, deserted the family when he was young leaving him in the care of his mother Judith Basset. Richards's mother was able to afford his upbringing having been an heiress of the first owner of a massive Estate in Cecil County known as Bohemia Manor. He subsequently inherited the estate and other properties in Delaware's New Castle County.

Basset was to marry Ann Ennals and get three children, Richard Ennals, Mary and Nancy. He married Betsy Garnett, with whom he participated in Methodist Church's affairs, in 1776 following Ann's death.


Basset was admitted to the bar in 1770 after receiving legal training from Judge Robert Goldsborough of Dorchester County in Maryland and began his law career in Kent County. He kept his interest in Agriculture, religion and charity. This is part of the reason he was able to establish a reputation that gained him entry into the local gentry.

Richard's name as a revolutionary politician appears alongside people like George Read who is said to have been a reluctant revolutionary leader. This is in comparison with Basset's neighboring Kent County's revolutionaries such as John Haslet and Creaser Rodney. He however got elected to the local Boston Relief Committee in 1774 and served in the Delaware Council upon the organization of a new government in Delaware.

He was a key personality in the drafting of Delaware 1776 Constitution that was adapted in September 20th 1776. He served in the Delaware Legislative Council between 1776 and 1780 and as a member of the House of assembly between 1780 and 1782. He was to return for another stint at the Legislative Council between 1782 and 1785. He came to the end of his legislative career 1787, presenting the Kent County in one session that also saw the adoption of the U.S. Constitution by the Delaware General Assembly.


Basset's major achievement in the revolution is notable in his drive to establish military groups in Delaware. His name appears besides those who were instrumental in planning and staffing the state's 1st Regimen, under John Haslet's command. Historian David McCullough in his book 1776 notes that the army known as "Delaware Blues" or "Delaware Continentals" came out in blue coats with red trims, buckskin breeches, white woolen stockings and white waste coats. The 800 men strong army from the smallest state went to service between July and August 1776 after months of training.

Alongside serving in the battle field as a volunteer, he joined forces with John Dickson in redrafting the Delaware Constitution that was adopted in 1792 before becoming the first Chief Justice of the Court of Common Places in the state of Delaware. He became Delaware's Governor in 1799 during which he showed interest in industrialization as Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours began his gunpowder business in the state during Basset's tenor.

Thomas Jefferson's rise to U.S. presidency after John Adams raised debate on the future of the Federalist Party to which Basset was affiliated. Adams appointed Basset as judge in the Third Circuit of the U.S. legal system shortly before his retirement. His term in this position was however short lived as he was taken off the position in July 1, 1802 following the Jeffersonian 7th Congress amendments. This was the last time Basset held a public position.

For the remainder of his life, he directed his efforts towards building the Methodist Church alongside Francis Asbury who he met in 1778. The life long friendship with Asbury instilled an abolitionist spirit in Basset. This made him set his own slaves free and called for emancipation of slaves across United States.

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