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Rufus KING, the eldest son of Richard King, an opulent and worthy merchant of Scarboro', Maine, was born in the year 1755. After due preparation, he was placed in the Byfield Academy, at Newbury, Massachusetts, where, under the severe discipline of the “classical Samuel Moody," he finished his elementary studies: and in 1773, entered Harvard College. In 1777, he received his first degree; with great reputation for his classical attainments, and more especially, for his extraordinary powers of oratory; an accomplishment in which he was particularly desirous to excel, and to the acquisition of which he applied himself with the highest enthusiasm. On leaving college he went to Newburyport, and commenced the study of law in the office of the celebrated Theophilus Parsons, with whom he remained until his admission to the bar in the year 1780. A short portion of this period of his life, however, was devoted to the cause of his country, as, in 1778, he took the field as a volunteer, was appointed an aid to General Sullivan, and acompanied that officer in his enterprise with Count D'Estaing, against the British at Rhode Island.
Mr. King appeared at the bar in his first cause, under peculiar circumstances. His opponent was his great instructor, Parsons. Fully aware of the gigantic powers with which he was to contend, he called forth his best efforts, and evinced such talent, both as a lawyer and a speaker, that immediate and confident predictions were made of his future eminence. It is stated, that “the effect of his address upon the court, the bar, and the audience, was electrifying.” Soon after this successful entrance upon professional life, he was elected to represent the town of Newburyport in the Legislature of Massachusetts, in which assembly he soon rose to distinction. In 1784, Congress recommended to the several States to grant to the general government, "full authority to regulate their commerce, both external and internal, and to impose such duties as might be necessary for that purpose.” A debate arose in the legislature, in which Mr. King supported the grant, and finally prevailed.
During the same year, 1784, he was elected, by an almost unanimous vote of the legislature, A delegate to the Continental Congress, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and on the sixth of December, joined that body, then in session at Trenton, New Jersey. In 1785 and 1786, he was reëlected to Congress, and took an active and important part in its transactions. On the sixteenth of March, 1785, he submitted to Congress and advocated the passage of the following proposition: "That there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in any of the States, described in the resolve of Congress of the twenty-third of April
, 1784, otherwise than in punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been personally guilty; and that this regulation shall be an article of compact, and remain a fundamental principle of the constitutions hetween the thirteen original States, and each of the States described in the said resolve ty-third of April
, 1784.” By this resolution, slavery was prohibited in the terri
of the Ohio.* I
was a mamber of the Convention held in Philadelphia, for the purpose
of framing the Federal Constitution, and on the reference of that instrument to the several States for their consideration, he was chosen by his old constituents of Newburyport, a delegate to the Massachusetts Convention. In both of those assemblies, he bore an active and prominent part. In the latter, he and Fisher Ames took the lead. For their wise and patriotic labors here, they are entitled to the deepest gratitude of their countrymen. “The history of the world," says a modern writer, “records no case of more interest, than that which pervaded the United States in 1788. Thirteen independent sovereignties, seriously alarmed for their preservation against each other, more alarmed with the apprehension that they might give up the liberty which they had gained with the utmost exertion of mind and body from foreign tyranny, to one of their own creation, within their own limits, called into the deliberative assemblies of the time all the able men of the country. Some union of the States was admitted by all to be indispensable ; but in what manner it was to be effected, what powers should be given, and what powers rese
eserved,—how these should be modified, checked, and balanced,—were points on which honest men might zealously contend. Here was a case in which a whole people, unawed by any foreign power, in peace with all the world, sorely experienced in what may be the exercise of civil authority, dependent on no will but their own, convinced of the necessity of forming some government, were called on to settle, by peaceful agreement, among themselves, the most important questions which can be presented to the human mind.” *
An intense interest was manifested in the proceedings of the Massachusetts Convention, and it was believed that, if that body rejected the constitution, its adoption by a requisite number of the other States would not be made. There was a great difference of opinion among the members; each one had his own objections, and “there is no doubt,” says Sullivan, “if the question had been taken without discussion, there would have been a large majority against the adoption.” At this crisis, Mr. King and Mr. Ames, advocated the ratification. “Every day they made converts, and became more popular, until at last the question was carried against the declared determination of those who entered the convention for the express purpose of defeating it.” The next year, 1788, Mr. King removed to the city of New York, where he was chosen a member of the State Legislature, and during the summer of the same year, was elected one of the first senators to Congress under the Federal Constitution.
In 1794, during the excitement consequent on the promulgation of the British treaty, Mr. King appearing, with his friend Alexander Hamilton, at a public meeting in New York, attempted to explain and defend it, but the people refused to listen, and a short time after the sentiments which were to have been offered, were conveyed to the people through the press, in a series of essays under the signature of Camillus ; the first ten numbers of which were written by Hamilton, and the rest, which treated of navigation, trade, and maritime law, by Mr. King.
About this time a warm and protracted controversy arose in the Senate of the United States, relative to the eligibility of Albert Gallatin,t who had been elected a Senator from the State of Pennsylvania. A petition was presented against his taking his seat, in which it was set forth that he was not legally qualified by having been a citizen of the United States a sufficient number of years. Owing to the various modes of naturalization adopted by different States, the question was involved in some obscurity: at the same time it was one of the highest importance. Among the debaters on the subject were the ablest men of both parties. The opponents of the petition, who maintained the right of the returned member to his seat, were Mr. Monroe, Mr. Burr, and John Taylor, of Virginia; opposed to these, were Ellsworth, Strong, King, and their political friends; and to Mr. King, it was assigned to answer Mr. Burr, if he should take part in the debate. Mr. Burr opened the case in "a discourse of considerable ingenuity." When he had finished, Mr. King immediately replied, in a speech which is said to have been one of the most gigantic displays of eloquence of modern times. One of his auditors says, "he worked himself up into such a fervor, that he leapt from the floor, and that, extravagant as this action
* Familiar Letters upon Public Characters, by William Sullivan, page 61. + See the sketch of Albert Gallatin, in the subsequent pages of this work.
may appear, it was no more then, than the action suited to the word.'' The debate resulted in the exclusion of Mr. Gallatin.
Early in the year 1796, he was appointed by President Washington, minister to the Court of Great Britain, in which service he remained seven years. While abroad his relations with the literary and public men of the day, were intimate and distinguished. By the “mild dignity of his manners, and his capacity for public business, he acquired and maintained a powerful personal influence, which he exerted to advance the interests of his country.” He returned to New York in 1803, and five years after removed to his estate on Long Island, where he resided nntil the commencement of the war of 1812, when he again entered the scenes of political life. In 1813 he was chosen by the legislature of New York, a Senator of the United States. The nation was at that time involved in a war with England. “At this momentous crisis," says one of his cotemporaries, “when many of the stoutest hearts were appalled, and the weak despaired of the Republic, Mr. King was neither idle nor dismayed. His love of country dispelled his attachments to party. No habit of opposition could induce him to forget that the United States was his country, and that the rights and honor of that country he ought to support and maintain. It has been observed that the conduct of the British, exhibited in their destruction of Washington, tended to unite all parties in America. The speech of Mr. King, in the Senate, on this occasion, while it may compare with any of his former efforts, in eloquence, has the rare and enviable distinction of being approved and applauded for its sentiments also, by the entire nation."
During his attendance at Congress, in 1816, he was nominated for the office of Governor of New York. With reluctance, and after much solicitation, he acquiesced in the nomination. The result, however, was unfavorable to the expectations of his friends. In 1820 he was again returned to the Senate, where he continued until the expiration of the term, in March, 1825. The most important measures originated by him during his senatorial term are, the law requiring cash payments upon sales of the public lands, and the act of 1818, which is the foundation of the navigation system of the United States.
On his retirement from Congress, he intended to close his political career; but, with the hope of contributing to the adjustment of several disputed questions between Great Britain and the United States, he accepted the mission to the British Court, tendered him by President Adams. His appointment proved satisfactory to the ministers of the British Court. On his arrival in England he was treated with distinguished and respectful consideration; but his health was so impaired, by a disease often the consequence of a voyage, that he never entered apon the active duties of his office. After remaining abroad a year, in the hope of re-establishing his health, without any improvement, he returned to his native land, where, cheered by the attentions of an affectionate family, and with resignation, he died on the 29th of April, 1827.7
THE NAVIGATION ACT.
This speech on the “ American Navigation power of nations. Agriculture is the chief and Act," I was delivered by Mr. King, in the well rewarded occupation of our people, and Senate of the United States, on the third day of yields, in addition to what we want for our own
use, a great surplus for exportation. ManufacApril, 1818:
tures are making a sure and steady progress ;
and, with the abundance of food and of raw Agriculture, Manufactures, and Foreign Com- materials
, which the country affords, will, at no merce are the true source of the wealth and distant day, be sufficient, in the principal * Delaplaine's Repository: Article Rufus King.
States should be and should remain closed against every + Maryland Gazette, 1818, and the American Annual Regis- vessel owned, wholly or in part, by a subject or subjects of ter. Curtis's History of the Constitution of the United States. His Britannic Majesty, coming or arriving from any port or
1 The first section of this Act provided, "that from and place in a colony or territory of His Britannic Majesty, that after the 30th of September, 1818, the ports of the United was or should be by the ordinary laws of navigation and
branches, for our own consumption, and furnish / war. According to this system the colonies a valuable addition to our exports. But, with were depressed below the rank of their fellow out shipping and seamen, the surpluses of subjects, and the fruits of their industry and agriculture and of manufactures would depre- their intercourse with foreign countries, placed ciate on our hands: the cotton, tobacco, bread under different regulations from those of the stuffs, provisions and manufactures would turn inhabitants of the mother country. It was the out to be of little worth, unless we have ships denial to Americans of the rights enjoyed by and mariners to carry them abroad, and to dis- Englishmen, that produced the American revotribute them in the foreign markets.
lution—and the same cause, greatly aggravated, Nations have adopted different theories, as is producing the same effect in South America. respects the assistance to be derived from navi- Among the navigators and discoverers of the gation; some have been content with a passive sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Dutch foreign commerce-owning no ships themselves, became highly distinguished, and, by enterprise, but depending on foreigners and foreign vessels economy and perseverance, made themselves to bring them their supplies, and to purchase of the carriers of other nations, and their country them their surpluses; while others, and almost the entrepot of Europe-and it was not until the every modern nation that borders upon the middle of the last mentioned century, that ocean, have preferred an active foreign trade, England passed her Navigation Act, which had carried on, as far as consistent with the recip- for its object, to curtail the navigation of the rocal rights of others, by national ships and Dutch and to extend her own. seamen.
According to this act, the whole trade and A dependence upon foreign navigation sub- intercourse between England, Asia, Africa and jects those who are so dependent, to the known America, were confined to the shipping and disadvantages from foreign wars, and to the mariners of England; and the intercourse beexpense and risk of the navigation of belligerent tween England and the rest of Europe was nations—the policy of employing a national placed under regulations which, in a great shipping is, therefore, almost universally ap- measure, confined the same to English ships proved and adopted: it affords not only a more and English seamen. This act was strenuously certain means of prosecuting foreign commerce, opposed by the Dutch, and proved the occasion but the freight, as well as the profits of trade, of the obstinate naval wars that afterwards folare added to the stock of the nation. The value lowed. England was victorious; persisted in and importance of national shipping and seamen, her Navigation Act, and, in the end, broke have created among the great maritime powers down the monopoly in trade which the Dutch and particularly in England, a strong desire tó had until then possessed. acquire, by restrictions and exclusions, a dis- That in vindication of her equal right to navproportionate share of the general commerce of igate the ocean, England should have resisted the world. As all nations have equal rights, the monopoly of the Dutch, and freely expendand each may claim equal advantages in its ed her blood and treasure to obtain her just intercourse with others, the true theory of inter- share of the general commerce, deserved the national commerce is one of equality, and of approbation of all impartial men. But, having reciprocal benefits: this theory gives to enter accomplished this object, that she should herprise, to skill and capital, their just and nat- self aim at, and in the end establish, the same ural advantages; any other scheme is artificial; exclusive system, and on a more extended scale, and so far as it aims at advantages over those is neither consistent with her own laudable who adhere to the open system, it aims principles, nor compatible with the rights of profit at the expense of natural justice. others; who, relatively to her monopoly now,
The colonial system being founded in this are in the like situation towards England, as vicious theory, has, therefore, proved to be the England was towards the Dutch, when she asfruitful source of dissatisfaction, insecurity and serted and made good her rights against them.
By the English Act of Navigation, the trade
of her colonies is restrained to the dominions trade, closed against vessels owned by citizens of the United of the mother country; and none but English States ; and every such vessel, so excluded from the ports of ships, “whereof the master and three-fourths the United States, that should enter, or attempt to enter the of her mariners are English,” are allowed to same, in violation of the act, should, with her tackle, apparel,
engage in it. and furniture, together with the cargo on board such vessel,
So long as colonies are within such limits as be forfeited to the United States."
leaves to other nations a convenient resort to The second section provided, substantially, “ that any foreign markets for the exchange of the goods British vessel entering any port of the United States, should which they have to sell, for those they want to on her departure, if laden with the productions of the United States, give bond not to land her cargo at any of the British buy, so long this system is tolerable; but if the ports prohibited in the first section, and to forfeit vessel
, power of a state enables it to increase the numtackle, &c., if she should attempt to sail without so giving ber of its colonies and dependent territories, so bond."
that it becomes the mistress of the great miliThe third section enacted the manner of recovering the tary and commercial stations throughout the penalties, accounting for them, &c.- History of Congress, globe, this extension of dominion, and the con1817-1819, vol. 1, page 812.
sequent monopoly of commerce, seem to be in
compatible with, and necessarily to abridge the the Navigation Act, which she was at liberty equal rights of other states.
to do, by opening a direct intercourse between In the late debates of the English Parliament, the colonies and a foreign country, but controlthe minister in the House of Lords stated, ling, which she had no authority to do, the " that instead of seventeen thousand men, em- reciprocal rights of the United States to employ ployed abroad in 1791, forty-one thousand were their own vessels to carry it on. then (1816) required, exclusive of those that Colonies, being parts of the nation,* are subwere serving in France and in India. That ject to its regulations, and, according to the England now has forty-three principal colonies, practice of Europe, they have been considered in all of which troops are necessary ; that six- as a monopoly of the mother country; but, as teen of these principal colonies were acquired has been stated in former discussions of this since 1791, and six of them had grown into subject, when an intercourse and trade are that rank from mere colonial dependencies." once opened between colonies and a foreign And in the House of Commons the minister, country, the foreign country becomes a party, alluding to the acquisitions made during the and thereby has a reciprocal claim to employ late war with France, said, " that Englard had its own vessels and seamen equally in the inacquired what, in former days, would have tercourse and trade with such colonies, as with been thought a romance—she bad acquired the any other part of the nation to which they keys of every great military station."
belong. Thus the commercial aggrandizement of Eng Governments owe it to the trust confided to land has become such, as that the men who them, carefully to watch over, and by all protested against monopoly, and devised the suitable means to promote, the general welNavigation Act to break it down, could never fare ; and while, on account of a small or have anticipated. And it may, ere long, con- doubtful inconvenience, they will not disturb a cern other nations to inquire whether laws and beneficial intercourse between their own people principles, applicable to the narrow limits of and a foreign country, they ought not to omit English dominion and commerce, at the date the interposition of their corrective authority, of the Navigation Act, when colonies and com- whenever an important public interest is inmerce, and even navigation itself, were com- vaded, or the national reputation affected.paratively in their infancy; laws and principles “ It is good not to try experiments in states aimed against monopoly, and adopted to secure unless the necessity be urgent, or the utility to England her just share in the general com- evident; and it is well to beware, that it be the merce and navigation, ought to be used by Eng- reformation that draweth on the change, and land to perpetuate in her own hands a system not the desire of change that pretendeth the equally as exclusive, and far more comprehen-reforination." In this case the importance of sive, than that which she was the chief agent the reformation is seen and acknowledged by to abolish.
every one, and the delay that has occurred in Our commercial system is an open one-our the making of it may call for explanation. ports and commerce are free to all. We neither We are unable to state with accuracy the possess, nor desire to possess, colonies ; nor do tonnage and seamen employed before the revowe object that others should possess them, sub-lution, in the trade between the territories of ject to the ordinary rules and regulations of the United States and the other English colonies; the colonial system, unless thereby the general but it is known to have been a principal branch commerce of the world be so abridged, that we of the American navigation. The colonies that are restrained in our intercourse with foreign England has since acquired from France, Spain, countries wanting our supplies, and furnishing and Holland, together with the increased popuin return, those which we stand in need of. lation of the old colonies, require more ships
It is not, however, to the colonial system, and seamen to be employed in the trade now, but to a new principle, which, in modern than were engaged in it before the independtimes, has been incorporated with those of the ence of the United States. Without reference Navigation Act, that we now object. Accord to the tonnage and trade between the United ing to this act, no direct trade or intercourse States and the English West India colonies, can be carried on between a colony and a during the late wars between England and foreign country; but yet, by the free port bill
, France, which, by reason of the suspension of passed in the present reign, the English contra- the English Navigation Act, and the neutrality band trade, which had been long pursued, in of the United States, will not afford a correct violation of Spanish laws, between the English standard by which the tonnage and trade in and Spanish colonies, was sanctioned and regu- time of peace can be ascertained : our customlated by an English act of parliament; and, house returns are the best documents that we since the independence of the United States, England has passed laws, opening an inter
* England alone excludes our vessels and seamen from the course and trade between her West India colo- trade opened between her West India colonies and tho nies and the United States, and, excluding the United States. shipping and seamen of the United States, has States and the colonies of France, Spain, Holland, Denmark, confined the same to English ships and seamen ; and Sweden, our vessels and seamen are alike employed, as thus departing not only from the principles of those of the parent countries respectively.
In the same trade between the United