Dinwiddie, Robert, governor of Virginia (November 20, 1751 to January, 1758), was born in 1693, at Germiston, near Glasgow. He came of an ancient Scottish family, and his immediate ancestors were denizens of Glasgow. His father was a reputable merchant of that city and bore the same name. His mother was Sarah Cumming, daughter of Matthew Cumming, who was bailie of Glasgow in 1691-96-99 and the owner of the lands of Carderock in the contiguous parish of Cadder.
Robert Dinwiddie, their son was brought up in his father's countinghouse and was probably for a time merchant in Glasgow. He was appointed December 1, 1727, a collector of customs in the island of Bermuda, which position he held till 1738, when in recognition of his exposing a long practiced system of fraud in the collecting of the customs of the West India Islands, he received the appointment of "surveyor-general of customs in the souther parts of the continent of America." He was named as his predecessors had been a member of all the councils of the American colonies. Though his claim to sit in the Virginia council was resisted by the councillors, the board of trade in May, 1742, ordered that the royal purpose should be enforced. On August 17, 1746, he was specially commissioned inspector general to examine into the duties of the collector of customs of the Island of Barbadoes. In the discharge of his duties he exposed a great defalcation in the revenues there. In 1749 he appears to have resided in London as a merchant engaged in trade with the colonies. He was appointed lieutenant-governor of Virginia, July 29, 1751 and with his wife Rebecca née Affleck and two daughters, Elizabeth and Rebecca, arrived in the colony November 20, 1751. His administration began rather inauspiciously, as he almost immediately fell into altercation with the house of burgesses over the fee of a pistole which he required for issuing patents. A similar fee had been exacted by Lord Culpeper many years before, and the remonstrance of the assembly had caused the king to forbid its collection. The Virginians regarded the present fee as a tax, and they sent John Randolph to England to represent their cause. The board of trade, after hearing the argument on both sides, recommended a compromise, and the fee was only permitted to be charged for large grants of land, and for none whatever beyond the mountains, where nearly all the ungranted land lay at this time. This altercation had an important influence upon the endeavors of Dinwiddie in another direction. Dinwiddie had become a member of the Ohio Company and he had a direct interest in the destinies of the western country. When, therefore, the French began to plant settlements on the Ohio and occupied Venango, and Indian trading post at the junction of the Alleghany river and French creek, Dinwiddie sent George Washington to protest to the French commandant at Fort Le Boeuf. When no satisfactory answer was brought back, he sent orders to Captain William Trent to build a log fort at the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela, where Pittsburgh now stands. This position was considered on all hands as the key to the situation in the West. The French were not long in driving the Virginians out and occupying the post themselves. While this was occurring, Washington with some 300 troops was marching to the assistance of Trent, when meeting with a scouting party of the French he attacked and killed some twenty of them, with a loss of only one man. This was the beginning of a war which was to spread practically over the whole civilized world. Dinwiddie more than any one else realized the situation, and he displayed prodigious energy in his efforts to arouse the British government and the colonists to the importance of the crisis. The home government was slow to move and the other colonies generally were indifferent, as was the Virginia assembly itself, who distrusting the purposes of Dinwiddie and deeming him too precipitate would not grant the money asked for, except on conditions calculated to humble the pride of the governor. So during the time that Dinwiddie held the government of Virginia, the war with the French and Indians proved very disastrous. In the attempt to take Fort Duquesne, as the French called the captured post at the forks of the Monongahela and Alleghany, Braddock's army was destroyed, and in the north the French captured Oswego and Fort William Henry. For four years the evil days followed one another, but amid the most disheartening conditions, Robert Dinwiddie remained undismayed. The ardent task of raising unwilling troops and directing the defense of 350 miles of frontier fell to him, and while he did not escape the charge of improper interference at times, on the whole, he discharged his duties ably and nobly.
To the excitement in the colony produced by the French war more was added by the passage in 1755 of the first of the Two Penny Act by the assembly, making the tax for salaries of the ministers payable either in tobacco or in money at two pence per pound, at the option of the tax payer. The ministers tried to get Governor Dinwiddie to veto the bill, but he was beginning to learn the lesson of noninterference with the legislature, and he declined. Worn out at length with the harassing duties of his office, he solicited from the authorities in England permission to return, and so in January, 1758, he departed from the colony, bearing with him the commendations of the assembly and the people of Virginia in general. He marked his interest in the colony by contributing many books to the College Library. He survived his return to England by twelve years, and finally died at Clifton, Bristol, whither he had gone for the benefit of the baths, July 27, 1770, in the 78th year of his age. His brother John was a merchant on the Rappahannock river in Virginia. he married Rosa Enfield Mason, of Stafford county, and is numerously represented in the South.