King, Rufus

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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King, Rufus

Rufus King, 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 1787 and was chiefly responsible for the exclusion of slavery from the Northwest Territory. At the Federal Constitutional Convention (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 Treaty. 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 Compromise 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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