Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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BENNET, or BENNETT, Richard, colonial governor of Virginia in the 17th century. He was a Virginia planter who, with William Clayborne, was appointed by the "Long parliament" in 1651 to act with English commissioners in reconciling the colony to the administration of Oliver Cromwell in England. Many of the colonists favored the Stuarts, and the parliament wisely sought to conciliate rather than coerce them. Bennet was a Roundhead, as was also his fellow-commissioner. All opposition did not disappear, however, until the British frigate "Guinea" arrived, in March 1652, with orders to carry out the instructions of the commissioners, and if necessary to enforce the authority of parliament. Virtual independence was, in fact, guaranteed to Virginia, and it was agreed that the people should have all the liberties of free-born Englishmen, should enact their own laws, should remain unquestioned as to their past loyalty, and should have "as free trade as the people of England." So much was granted by parliament, but an article confirming her ancient bounds, prohibiting taxation without representation, and agreeing that no forts should be erected without the consent of the colony, was never approved. Until the restoration, Virginia was nominally independent, although actually under the rule of the commissioners. The executive officer became electire, and Bennet was chosen governor. Members of the house of burgesses were required to take oath that they would especially provide for the "general good and prosperity" of Virginia and its inhabitants. Governor Bennet had been treated oppressively by the late royalist governor, Sir William Berkeley, but nobly refrained from taking the revenge that was made easy by his official position. Under Bennet's administration the house of burgesses claimed the right to define the powers of the governor and council, and declared "that the right of electing all the officers of this colony should appertain to the burgesses as the representatives of the people." Maryland was not so easily pacified, being more aggressively loyal, and Bennet with Clay-borne went over in the "Guinea" frigate with the English commissioners, and enforced submission. In 1654 the Maryland royalists or proprietaries, under the instigation of Lord Baltimore, again revolted, and overthrew the parliamentarians, and intercolonial hostilities followed by land and sea, resulting in victory for the Virginians under Governor Bennet. The decisive action took place on 25 March 1655, and many prisoners, including the royalist Governor Stone, were taken captive. At least four of these were executed. During the same year Governor Bennet retired from public life.
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