King, Rufus (1755–1827)

Author:Dennis J. Mahoney

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Rufus King, a Harvard-educated lawyer who had been an officer in the Revolutionary War, represented Massachusetts in the Congress of the Confederation from 1784 to 1787. He was a principal author of the NORTHWEST ORDINANCE, and wrote its provisions prohibiting SLAVERY and protecting the OBLIGATION OF CONTRACTS against legislative impairment.

Although he originally opposed either calling a convention or radically altering the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, he represented Massachusetts at the CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1787. King soon became a spokesman for those who favored a strong national government and for the interests of the large northern states. Very early in the debates he advocated consolidation rather than confederation: although he recognized that it was impossible to annihilate the states, he thought they should be stripped of much of their power. He argued against equal representation of the states in the SENATE, and he favored popular election of the President. King proposed the CONTRACT CLAUSE, and, although it was voted down in the Committee of the Whole, he saw that it was inserted into the Constitution by the Committee on Style, of which he was a member. In opposition to GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, he supported the admission of new states on terms of equality with the old. King was also one of the first to recognize publicly that the politically important division of the country was not between large and small states, but between North and South.

Almost immediately after attending the Massachusetts ratifying convention, he moved to New York and was elected one of its original United States senators. King served in the Senate from 1789 to 1796, and was a leading spokesman for ALEXANDER HAMILTON (his political patron) and the Federalist administration.

King returned to the Senate in 1813. Although an opponent

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of the War of 1812, he refused to attend the HARTFORD CONVENTION, denounced...

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