Robert Dinwiddie

Biography of Robert Dinwiddie

Robert Dinwiddie by Unknown artist
Robert Dinwiddie by Unknown artist

Robert Dinwiddie, a former alumnus of the University in 1707 and colonial administrator, was conferred an honorary degree by the University of Glasgow in 1754.

Born in Glasgow around 1692, his father was listed by historian John M'Ure in 1732 as concerned with ‘the great company which arose, undertaking the trade to Virginea (sic), Carriby-islands, Barbadoes, New England, St. Christophers, Monserat, and other Colonies in America’.

Robert Dinwiddie worked as a merchant before entering British government service in 1727 as collector of the customs for Bermuda. He was appointed surveyor general (of revenues) for the southern part of America in 1738, and in 1741 became a member of the Governor’s Council of Virginia. Afterwards he was made Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Whilst lieutenant governor of colonial Virginia from 1751 to 1758, Dinwiddie was the personal owner of enslaved people who were sold on his departure. In 1753 he was said to have played a role in precipitating the French and Indian War though his support of the Ohio Company's land claims against the French.

In conferring an honorary degree to Dinwiddie, the University of Glasgow Minutes of 20 December state "it would be very proper to confer the Degree both as he was an Alumnus of this Universitie and a Native of this City, and who by the high office he bears does Honour to both, and may have occasion to promote their Interest."

In 1758 Dinwiddie returned to England, where he died at Clifton, on 1 August 1770. As 'Granter of Dinwiddie Mortification' on his death, he left a bequest of £100 for the procurement of books for the University of Glasgow Library. The Dinwiddie Mortification was included in the list of slavery-tainted gifts in the report ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’ (2018). Robert Dinwiddie was also mentioned frequently in Thackeray's novel, The Virginians.

Summary

Robert Dinwiddie
Born 1692.
Died 1 August 1770.
University Link: Honorary Graduate, Student
GU Degrees: LLD, 1754; Arts, 1707;
Occupation categories: civil servants; colonial administrators; merchants
Record last updated: 1st Jul 2019

University Connections

University Roles

  • Honorary Graduate
  • Student

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