King, Rufus

King, Rufus,

1755–1827, American political leader, b. Scarboro, Maine (then a district of Massachusetts). He served briefly in the American Revolution and practiced law in Massachusetts before serving (1783–85) as a member of the Massachusetts General Court. He was (1784–87) a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he helped draft the Ordinance of 1787Ordinance of 1787,
adopted by the Congress of Confederation for the government of the Western territories ceded to the United States by the states. It created the Northwest Territory and is frequently called the Northwest Ordinance.
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 and was chiefly responsible for the exclusion of slavery from the Northwest Territory. At the Federal Constitutional ConventionConstitutional Convention,
in U.S. history, the 1787 meeting in which the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. The Road to the Convention

The government adopted by the Thirteen Colonies in America (see Confederation, Articles of, and Continental
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 (1787), he was an effective supporter of a strong central government and helped to secure Massachusetts's ratification of the Constitution. Moving to New York City, King was elected to the state assembly and was chosen (1789) as one of New York's first two U.S. Senators. He strongly supported Alexander Hamilton's financial measures and later defended Jay's TreatyJay's Treaty,
concluded in 1794 between the United States and Great Britain to settle difficulties arising mainly out of violations of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and to regulate commerce and navigation.
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. As minister to Great Britain (1796–1803) he reconciled many differences between the two countries and proved himself an able diplomat. He was the unsuccessful Federalist party candidate for Vice President in 1804 and 1808 and for President in 1816. From 1813 to 1825 he again served as U.S. Senator. Although at first an opponent of the War of 1812, he later came to support the administration's war measures. King opposed the Missouri CompromiseMissouri Compromise,
1820–21, measures passed by the U.S. Congress to end the first of a series of crises concerning the extension of slavery.

By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state.
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 and advocated solving the slavery problem by emancipating and colonizing blacks outside the country on the proceeds of the sale of public lands. In 1824 he declined reelection but was again minister to Great Britain (1825–26). Charles King (1789–1867) was his son.


See C. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King (6 vol., 1894–1900, repr. 1971); biography by E. H. Brush (1926); study by R. Ernst (1968).

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King, Rufus

(1755–1827) politician, diplomat; born in Scarboro, Maine (then part of Mass.). A lawyer, he represented Massachusetts at the Continental Congress (1784–87) and the Constitutional Convention (1787) where he played an influential role in arguing for a strong central government. Having moved to New York City, he became a U.S. senator (Fed.; 1789–96), continuing his eloquent advocacy of Federalist positions. He resigned to serve as ambassador to Great Britain (1796–1803), then returned to run unsuccessfully for the vice-presidency (1804, 1808). He returned to the Senate (Fed., N.Y.; 1813–25) and was the last Federalist to run for the presidency (1816). In the Senate, he continued his lifelong opposition to the spread of slavery, resisted the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and even supported the emancipation of the slaves. Retiring from the Senate, he went back to Great Britain in 1825 as the U.S. ambassador, but illness forced him to come home (1826) where he soon died.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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