Robert Dinwiddie, lieutenant governor of Virginia, born in Scotland about 1690, died at Clifton, England, Aug. 1, 1770. While acting as clerk to a collector of the customs in the British West Indies, he was instrumental in detecting frauds practised by his principal, and as a reward was soon after appointed lieutenant governor of Virginia. He arrived in the colony in 1752, and remained until January, 1758, when he returned to England. Although totally ignorant of military affairs, he discerned the capacity of Washington, whom in 1753 he appointed adjutant general of one of the four military districts of Virginia, and sent as a commissioner to expostulate with the French commander on the Ohio for his aggressions upon British territory. At the outbreak of hostilities with the French and Indians, he called upon the governors of the other provinces to make common cause against them, and convened the house of burgesses of Virginia. Entertaining peculiar notions of the royal prerogative and of his own importance, he was highly incensed at the tardiness of the latter body in voting money for the public defence, and at their refusal to put it under his absolute disposal.
In 1754 he suggested to the British board of trade the propriety of taxing the colonies for the purpose of raising funds to carry on the war, and in the succeeding year he was one of the five colonial governors who memorialized the ministry to the same effect. After the defeat of Braddock he continued to busy himself with the military operations on the frontiers, displaying great incapacity, and wearying Washington, then in command of the colonial troops, by frequent exhibitions of ill temper, folly, or caprice. He enjoyed little popularity, and his arrogance brought him into collision with the legislature, while his avarice led him to exact illegal or obsolete fees. At the time of his departure he was charged with having appropriated to his own use £20,000 of public money, which he never satisfactorily accounted for.