Anna Bennett Bland (d. 1687)

Anna Bennett Bland was a principal in a court case that resulted in the Virginia General Assembly losing its status as the court of last appeal in the colony. Bland was involved in a nine-year series of lawsuits, petitions, and counterpetitions regarding ownership of the property of her first husband, Theodorick Bland, who died in 1672. She prevailed in the Virginia courts, but in 1682 the Privy Council decided that all future appeals were to be made to the Privy Council in England rather than the General Assembly. The suit was ultimately settled in a manner that was unsatisfactory to Bland, although she was able to preserve her first husband's properties for their sons. She died about November 1687 in Maryland. MORE...

 

Bland was born in Virginia, the daughter of Richard Bennett and Maryann Utie Bennett. Occasionally her first name appears as Ann or Anne. Her birth date is unknown, but the death of John Utie, her mother's first husband, occurred probably in the summer of 1637, and later in the decade Maryann Utie married Bennett, a wealthy Puritan who served on the governor's Council for an indefinite period starting in 1642, was governor of Virginia from 1652 to 1655, and sat on the Council again from 1658 until his death in 1675. Sometime in 1660 Anna Bennett married Theodorick Bland, the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, who was about ten years her senior. Her father deeded the couple his house in James City County in 1662, and in 1665 her husband purchased the Charles City County property known as Westover and moved the family there. Theodorick Bland and Anna Bland had three sons, so far as is known, before his death on April 23, 1672. About four years later she married St. Leger Codd, a widower with three children from his first marriage. They had one son and one daughter.

Anna Bennett Bland undertook a prolonged legal defense of the estate of her first husband, and as one consequence the General Assembly of Virginia lost its status as the court of last appeal in the colony. The case pitted against each other two remarkable, powerful women skilled in the use of political patronage. Anna Bland faced a complicated task in managing property that Theodorick Bland had owned outright or controlled as agent or estate administrator. He had settled in Virginia to manage the large landed estate of his brother John Bland, who remained in England. After Theodorick Bland's death, John Bland sent his own son Giles Bland to the colony to take control of the property, but in this capacity Giles Bland laid claim to land that Theodorick Bland had clearly owned, including Westover. Anna Bland fought back, enlisting powerful allies in Virginia, among them her father and Thomas Ludwell, who, like her second husband, was a political ally of Governor Sir William Berkeley.

Her principal adversary was John Bland's wife, Sarah Greene Bland, who had influence at court and with members of the Privy Council. Sarah Bland became her husband's legal representative and launched a counteroffensive in England in 1676. Giles Bland had meanwhile become a leader in Bacon's Rebellion, in the aftermath of which he was executed and his property confiscated. Sarah Bland traveled to Virginia in 1678 as her husband's representative. The claims and legal actions of Giles Bland and Sarah Bland subjected Anna Bland Codd and her second husband to lawsuits, petitions, and counterpetitions for nine years, during part of which they retired to his property in Maryland to avoid legal harassment.

Anna Bland Codd prevailed in the Virginia courts, where Sarah Bland lost both an appeal to the General Court and a further appeal to the General Assembly. Her allies in England were more powerful than those of Anna Bland Codd and St. Leger Codd, however, and in 1682 the Lords of Trade ordered the parties to appear at a hearing in London. Virginia's new governor, Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham, implemented the order by proclamation and also announced the Privy Council's decision that all future appeals from rulings of the General Court be made to the Privy Council in England rather than to the General Assembly. The assembly was unable to challenge the proclamation, which thus terminated the last vestige of that body's judicial powers and thenceforth gave Virginia litigants with powerful English connections a big advantage over those lacking such ties. St. Leger Codd went to England to support his wife's case and the Privy Council ordered the matter to arbitration, but the arbitrators finally settled the suit in 1686 in a manner generally satisfactory to Sarah Bland and unsatisfactory to Anna Bland Codd.

Although the legal battles exhausted much of the Codds' estate, Anna Bland Codd succeeded in preserving Westover and other of Theodorick Bland's properties for her sons, who became wealthy planters and prominent public men. Anna Bennett Bland Codd died in Maryland probably about November 1687.

Time Line

  • 1660 - Anna Bennett marries Theodorick Bland, the Speaker of the House of Burgesses. They will have three sons.
  • April 23, 1672 - Theodorick Bland, husband of Anna Bennett Bland, dies.
  • ca. 1673 - Giles Bland travels from England to Virginia to serve as customs collector and to resolve claims against his family for settlement by his uncle's widow, Anna Bennett Bland.
  • ca. 1676 - Anna Bennett Bland marries St. Leger Codd, a widower with three children. They will have one son and one daughter.
  • 1676 - Sarah Greene Bland, wife of John Bland, launches a counteroffensive against Anna Bennett Bland's claim of her late husband's estate.
  • 1682 - The Lords of Trade order Sarah Greene Bland and Anna Bennett Bland Codd to appear at a hearing in London.
  • 1682 - The Privy Council decides that all future appeals from rulings of the General Court must be made to the Privy Council in England rather than to the General Assembly.
  • 1686 - The arbitrators in the court case between Anna Bennett Bland Codd and Sarah Greene Bland settle the suit in a manner unsatisfactory to Codd and satisfactory to Bland.
  • ca. November 1687 - Anna Bland Codd dies in Maryland.
Further Reading
Billings, Warren M. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2004.
Gundersen, Joan R. "Bland, Anna Bennett." In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss et al., 3–4. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Gundersen, J., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Anna Bennett Bland (d. 1687). (2013, August 9). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bland_Anna_Bennett_d_1687.

  • MLA Citation:

    Gundersen, Joan and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Anna Bennett Bland (d. 1687)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 9 Aug. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: May 3, 2013 | Last modified: August 9, 2013


Contributed by Joan Gundersen and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography