Like most public men of his time, Bassett held a commission in the county militia, but his service was largely perfunctory and social except during the British invasion of the Chesapeake in 1814, when he briefly took the field as lieutenant colonel of the 68th Virginia Militia Regiment. Bassett entered politics in 1787 and represented New Kent County in the House of Delegates for three years. His father was then representing the district comprising Charles City, James City, and New Kent counties in the Senate of Virginia, and following his death Bassett succeeded him in the seat and served from 1793 until 1805.
In 1821 he was elected to Congress again and remained until 1829. Early in that year he announced his second retirement, but friends persuaded him to seek one more term. In the meantime, however, many of the district's leading Democrats had already pledged themselves to the candidacy of Richard Coke, who defeated Bassett in the April 1829 election. Shortly thereafter Bassett came in a poor last in a field of eight candidates for four seats in the Convention of 1829–1830. During his years in Congress he spoke occasionally, taking a special interest in reducing the naval establishment, but served only once on a standing committee, chairing the Committee on Claims during the first session of the 12th Congress. Bassett generally supported states' rights positions advocated by his fellow Virginia Republicans, and during the 1820s he was sharply critical of the administration of John Quincy Adams.
Bassett remained in many ways a man of the eighteenth century. A grandniece wrote many years later that he had been "perhaps the last man in Virginia who wore small clothes and powdered hair in a queue." He could be condescending toward people he regarded as beneath him in social standing or too obtuse to share his opinions. In 1837 he sold his property in James City County and moved back to Eltham. Bassett died at Eltham on February 26, 1841, and was probably buried in the family cemetery there.
1820–1821 - Burwell Bassett serves in the House of Delegates, representing James City County.
March 18, 1764 - Burwell Bassett is born at Eltham, in New Kent County.
1787–1790 - Burwell Bassett serves in the House of Delegates, representing New Kent County.
January 10, 1788 - Burwell Bassett and Elizabeth McCarty, of Westmoreland County, marry.
1793–1805 - Burwell Bassett serves in the Senate of Virginia, representing Charles City, James City, and New Kent counties.
1805–1813 - Burwell Bassett serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1815–1819 - Burwell Bassett serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1821–1829 - Burwell Bassett serves in the U.S. House of Representatives.
1827 - Burwell Bassett is named a trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
February 26, 1841 - Bruwell Bassett dies at Eltham, his New Kent County estate.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Buckley, T. E., S.J., & Tarter, B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Burwell Bassett (1764–1841). (2017, April 13). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bassett_Burwell_1764-1841.
- MLA Citation:
Buckley, Thomas E., S.J., Brent Tarter and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Burwell Bassett (1764–1841)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 13 Apr. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 29, 2017 | Last modified: April 13, 2017