Gunning Bedford, Jr.
Burial Location Visited Constitution Signer Grave #
Wilmington, Delaware December 19, 2018 26th Visited

Gunning Bedford, Jr., an attorney and signer
of the U.S. Constitution, is interred at
Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetery in
Wilmington, Delaware. One of the state's
other four signers, Richard Bassett, rests
in a tomb close by.

At the time of my first visit to Wilmington &
Brandywine Cemetery in 2011, Bedford was
not interred there, but at the Masonic Home
Cemetery elsewhere in the city. When the
home was sold in 2013, Bedford's body was
exhumed and relocated to Wilmington &
Brandywine. I finally paid my respects to
Bedford in December 2018.

* Background on Gunning Bedford, Jr. *

* From 1767 to 1771, Gunning Bedford, Jr. attended the College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton University, where he was classmates with James Madison. Both men would later sign the United States Constitution, of which Madison was the primary author. Three other signatories attended the same school, though at a different time than Bedford: William Paterson, David Brearley, and Jonathan Dayton.

* At the onset of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Bedford did not favor the creation of a new document to reform government. Instead, he wished to amend the ineffectual Articles of Confederation that were already in place. As the convention proceeded and the arguments for a new constitution emerged, Bedford spoke out in opposition. He decried delegates from more populous states for their self-advocacy at the expense of the less populous states, and warned that such action might push smaller states to seek alliances with foreign powers. Bedford's threats were not well-accepted. Massachusetts delegate Rufus King chastised that Bedford "declared himself ready to turn his hope from our common Country, and court the protection of some foreign land."

* Two significant proposals developed at the convention for the structure of the legislative branch. The Virginia Plan suggested that there be two legislative bodies and that a state's representation in each be proportionate to population. The members of the upper house would be elected by state legislatures, while those in the lower house would be elected via popular vote. Bedford's concerns about favoritism toward more populous states led him to support William Paterson's New Jersey Plan that called for a single legislative body with equal representation. Bedford sat on the committee that was formed to reach a consensus, and the result was the Connecticut Compromise: a bicameral legislature where the House of Representatives' numbers were determined by population, and the Senate, where states had equal representation. Once the compromise was accepted into the proposed document, Bedford was willing to support and sign it. After the conclusion of the convention, he actively advocated for its ratification in Delaware. Delaware became the first state to adopt the Constitution on December 7, 1787.

Spouse: Jane Ballareau Parker Bedford (m.    -1812)

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Quinn, Brother C. Edward, FSC. The Signers of the Constitution of the United States. Bronx: Bronx County Historical Society, 1987.

Wright, Robert K., Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr. Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington: Center of Military History, 1987.

Website Builder