Richard Bassett - The First Senior Member of the Senate

Richard Bassett - The First Senior Member of the Senate

Richard Bassett was a signer of the United States Constitution from Delaware.

Bassett held several other positions, notably as both Governor and Chief Justice of his home State.

Richard Bassett

When researching yesterday’s article on James A. Bayard, I was reminded that his father-in-law was a signer of the United States Constitution. That seemed as good as any reason to make Richard Bassett the Founder of the Day.

Richard Bassett and his mother were abandoned by his father while he was still young. Fortunately, his mother came from a wealthy family whose money he inherited.

After studying law under Robert Goldsborough, Bassett became a politician in his home colony of Delaware.


Bassett was considered a conservative during the early Revolutionary Period. He was slow to warm to the idea of independence and considered making amends with Great Britain in the best interest of the colonies.

That being said, as soon as the United States became a separate nation, Bassett threw himself in with his countrymen. He was elected to the State Assembly where he spent the entirety of the war. Additionally, he assisted in crafting the first Delaware Constitution.

Furthermore, Richard excelled at raising and supplying soldiers. Due to his work, Delaware men were known to have some of the finest uniforms (and best weapons) in the Continental Army.

Constitutional Convention

In 1787, Richard Bassett was sent to represent Delaware at the Constitutional Convention.

Bassett was in Philadelphia for almost the entire summer. Although he was one of the few participants who did not make any speeches, he became one of only forty people who have their signature on the United States Constitution.

Two years later, Richard was elected as an inaugural member of the United States Senate.

Due to his prior experiences, Bassett is often considered the original senior member of the Senate.


After his term ended, Richard Bassett was selected as the Chief Justice of the Delaware Court of Common Pleas. This position would be equal to the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court today.

By the end of the eighteenth century, Bassett was chosen as Governor of Delaware.

At the closing of his Presidency, John Adams chose Richard as one of the ‘Midnight Judges.’ These were a large group of Federalists who were stuffed in to newly created court positions.

Adams made Bassett a Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Third Circuit. He held this position for a year and a half, until President Jefferson had the Federal Justice laws changed.

After leaving office, Richard Bassett retired from politics and focused on charity and community.

If you would like to learn about some of the other signers of the Constitution, might I recommend my articles on Richard Dobbs Spaight and Nathaniel Gorham.

If you’d prefer to read brief biographies on ALL the singers, pick up a copy of ‘Signing Their Rights Away’ through the affiliate link below.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to subscribe to my email list to receive a new Founder every day.

Jonathan Russell Gets 'Eviscerated' By John Quincy Adams

Jonathan Russell Gets 'Eviscerated' By John Quincy Adams

James A. Bayard Does Hamilton's Dirty Work

James A. Bayard Does Hamilton's Dirty Work