It was, admittedly, a small group that came to hear Roy Fox, caretaker of the King Manor museum, talk about Rufus King at the Flushing library Sunday.
After a bunch of jokes to loosen up the crowd, Fox went on to talk about this years Citizenship Day, which fell on Sept. 17, only six days after the World Trade Center terrorist attack.
Sept. 17 was the day when the Constitution was finally signed, and is the day when new Americans are sworn in. Rufus King was a framer of the Constitution, but few know about him now.
He was one of a core group of delegates called to Philadelphia to fix up the Articles of Confederation in 1787; out of the 74 people who were delegated, about 50 came to the conference.
Though he was a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, King became a senator from New York in 1788, thanks to some maneuvering by Alexander Hamilton one does not want to think carpetbagger in reference to such an august gentleman as King. He served three terms as senator. He also served as minister plenipotentiary, which is now called ambassador, to Great Britain and in many other distinguished positions. King was so respected that during the War of 1812 (during which the Brits, in an earlier act of terrorism, burnt down the White House and tried to burn down the Capitol) editorials openly wished he was the president instead of Mr. Madison.
But it was Kings stout opposition to slavery, according to Fox, that made him stand out. Influenced by the British politician and abolitionist William Wilberforce,King began to speak out against slavery, especially during the Missouri Compromise, which threatened to extend the monstrous institution into new states in the 1820s. King was an architect of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which barred slavery in the new territories. He in fact bought a slave woman named Margaret, then freed her, and Fox claimed that if other founding fathers had done the same, the issue of slavery would have been settled much earlier in the nations history, and presumably with much less bloodshed.
But King was furious at the Missouri Compromise and brought his fury to the Senate; when they heard him speak, according to one chronicler, the
slaveholders there were seized with cramps. King in turn inspired Denmark Vesey, a freed slave from Charleston, to lead his ultimately failed slave revolt in the 1820s. King, according to Fox, who quoted Conrad Adenauer, was right, on time.
Of course, now one can see whats left of Kings estate 122 acres whittled down to a pleasant 11, plus the original house with its polished creaky floorboards in Jamaica, on 153rd Street and Jamaica Avenue.
Call (718) 206-0545 for information about upcoming events at the Manor.
Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.
©2001 Community News Group
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