Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Rufus King papers

Call Number

MS 1660


1766-1899 (Bulk 1783-1826), inclusive


King, Rufus, 1755-1827


17.5 Linear feet (40 boxes and 66 volumes)

Language of Materials

The documents in the collection are primarily in English, but also include French.


The collection contains the papers documenting the political career and private interests of Federalist statesman Rufus King. The collection includes official and private correspondence with other political figures in the early history of the United States, letterbooks, account books, notebooks, financial documents, diaries, memoranda, and essays.

Biographical Note

Missing Title

1755 March 24: Rufus King born in Scarborough, Maine, then a section of Massachusetts, the eldest son of farmer-merchant Richard and Isabella King.
1777 Graduates from Harvard.
1778 Serves as an aide to General Sullivan during the unsuccessful expedition to Rhode Island. He is honorably discharged.
1780 After studying law at Newburyport, Massachusetts, under Theophilus Parsons, King is admitted to the bar and opens up a practice Newburyport.
1783-1785 Serves as a delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.
1784-1786 Elected as a delegate to Congress from Trenton, New Jersey. King urges for a resolution against the expansion of slavery into the Northwest Territory and presses for all states to financially contribute to a national government.
March 30,1786 Marries Mary Alsop, daughter of John Alsop, a New York merchant and fellow member of the Continental Congress.
1787 King represents Massachusetts in the Constitutional Convention. He attends the convention unconvinced that the Articles of Confederation, which advocated states' rights, needed to be altered. He leaves the convention an advocate for change to a powerful central government. King works on the final draft of the Constitution and is one of its signers.
1788 King leaves his law practice in Massachusetts to move to New York.
1789 Elected to the New York Assembly and chosen to be a United States senator with Philip Schuyler.
1791 Elected as a Director for the Bank of the United States.
[1794] Siding with the Federalists, King supports the Jay Treaty between Great Britain and the United States. With Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, he publishes a series of letters detailing the treaty under the pseudonym "Camillus."
1795 Reelected to the US Senate.
1796-1803 During his second term in the Senate, King is appointed by George Washington to succeed Thomas Pinckney as Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain.
1804 King is nominated to be the Federalist candidate for vice-president, with Charles C. Pinckney as the presidential candidate. After the candidates lose to Thomas Jefferson and George Clinton, King retreats to his estate, King Manor, in Jamaica, Long Island.
1808 King and Pinckney are again nominated as Federalist candidates and lose to James Madison and George Clinton.
1813 King elected again to be a United States senator from New York. Although he was originally opposed to the War of 1812, he becomes a supporter after the British attack on Washington.
1816 Runs for President as the Federalist candidate and loses to James Monroe. King leads opposition in the Senate against the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States.
1818 Author of Navigation Act of 1818.
1820 Reelected by the New York legislature as United States Senator from New York. While in the Senate, he opposes the extension of slavery and the Missouri Compromise.
1825 King retires from the Senate due to ill heath. With the persuasion of President John Quincy Adams, he returns to England for another position as Minister to Great Britain.
1826 King falls ill again and returns to America.
1827 April 29: Dies at the age of 72 and is buried in the cemetery of Grace Church in Jamaica, Long Island. He is survived by his children John Alsop, Charles, James Gore, Edward, Frederic Gore.

For further information see:

Brush, Edward Hale, Rufus King and His Times. New York: Nicholas Brown, 1926.

Ernst, Robert, Rufus King: American Federalist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.


The material is loosely arranged by format and then chronologically. Most of the correspondence is numbered and the numbers generally correspond to the chronological order. Most of the undated items are unnumbered. Much of the material has been item level catalogued.

The material in a envelope previously listed as "Misc. Mss." is now in box 90. Material previously listed in "Box A' is now boxes 24, 26, 27. Contact the manuscript reference desk for more information.

Microfilm: Material in boxes and volumes 24, 26, 28, 31, 46-48, 51-54, 56, 58, 59-62, 73, 81, and 87 is on microfilm.

Scope and Content Note

The Rufus King collection documents the career of Federalist Rufus King as a New York Assemblyman, U.S. Senator, US Minister to Great Britain, Federalist party leader, and candidate for Presidency and Vice-Presidency. Although the bulk of the collection is official and private correspondence, it also consists of notes, memoranda, diaries, essays, account books, newspaper articles, and a few legal documents. The collection also has the notes and letters dated from 1894-1899 of Charles R. King, Rufus King's grandson, who edited his grandfather's papers for the six volume The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. Many of Rufus King's notebooks include later memoranda from Charles R. King commenting on the text.

The collection principally covers eighteenth and early nineteenth century politics in early America and England. Specific topics documented include the Constitutional Convention of 1787, King's opposition to the War of 1812, the Navigation Act of 1818, the Missouri Compromise, and the administration and sale of public lands. It also describes negotiations between the United States and Great Britain over the Jay Treaty, Barbary affairs, South American independence, the East India Trade, the Fugitive Slave Acts, and the British-French negotiations in 1803.

A large amount of material is correspondence with American political figures such as John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Alexander Hamilton, William Hindman, Charles Jared Ingersoll, John Jay, John Alsop King, Charles King, Nicholas Low, James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, Timothy Pickering, Thomas Pinkney, Granville Sharp, John Trumbull, George Washington, and Noah Webster. Others represented in the correspondence include Francisco de Miranda, Joseph Pitcairn, John Alsop, Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzman, George Canning, and Henry Clay. The collection also contains documents and correspondence of family members Richard King, John A. King, and Charles King.

The personal material of Rufus King includes his correspondence, household account books, a 1802 diary kept while traveling in Europe, and an inventory of his library. It also consists of notebooks, diaries, and essays containing King's observations on his contemporaries and domestic and foreign politics. Some of his notebooks include extracts from books read by King along with his own comments and observations.

This collection supports research on the nuances of King's lengthy political career as well as the early political history of the United States.


Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Portions of the collection that have been microfilmed will be brought to researchers in that format and can be made available via interlibrary loan.

Use Restrictions

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 20 exposures of stable, unbound material per day. Researchers on site may print out unlimited copies from microfilm reader-printer machines at per-exposure rates. See guidelines in Reading Room for details. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Rufus King Papers, The New-York Historical Society.


Donation by Mrs. Charles R. King, 1902. Supplemental material (Volumes 93-103), 1979.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Additional material related to Rufus King can be found in the King Family Papers and the Erving-King Family Papers at the New-York Historical Society.

Much of this material can also be found in the six volume, The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, Comprising his Letters, Private and Official, his Public Documents and his Speeches, edited by his grandson, Charles R. King.

Transcriptions of the notes of Rufus King in the Federal Convention of 1787 can be found at the website of the Avalon Project of Yale University Law School.

Collection processed by

Processed by Maurita Baldock

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:48:58 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived fromRufusKing01mb.xml


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024