The Life Of William Rufus King

Hampton University
Hampton, VA 23668
The Life and Times of William Rufus de Vane King
Mr. Gene Moore
In Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements
POL 399-01
Sharri D. Mapp
April 18, 2001
William Rufus de Vane King was a distinguished politician who concluded his remarkable political career by being elected the Vice-President under Franklin Pierce's pro-slavery ticket. However, he is the only person to be elected to that office that never actually served as vice-president. Without doing this, King is known through history as a popular and pre-eminent politician from Alabama.
Besides being the only vice-president elected to not serve his term, he is the only United States official to take the oath of office on foreign land. Instead of taking the oath of office in the nation's capital, William King took the oath in Havana, Cuba. Unfortunately, less than one week after Inauguration Day, King died at the age of sixty-seven of tuberculosis. In those years prior to his death, King made several pertinent contributions to the United States political system.
King began his life on April 7, 1786. He was born on a lovely spring day in Sampson County, North Carolina. His inheritance from different backgrounds was evident. The values and morals that his parents instilled within him caused young King's actions. His father was of Irish descent that was a planter who sometimes served in the state legislature. His father also served dutifully during the Revolutionary War and was a member of the convention that was called to adopt the federal constitution. His mother had a touch of Huguenot ancestry.
William King was a tall and slender man. His physique was gracefully erect, and he was always generous and courteous. This characteristic came from the upbringing from his parents. He was very humble. He was not arrogant or boasted about his accomplishments.
King never married. However, there were rumors spread that there was a relationship between him and President James Buchanan. It was known that King and Van Buren shared a twenty-year intimate friendship. They shared quarters in Washington, D.C. for many years, and Buchanan called their relationship a communion. A law partner of James K. Polk labeled the two Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan.
King was born when the United States was young and developing. Three years after his birth, the United States Constitution was ratified, creating a stronger central government. Therefore, the political system was of great importance as many adapted to the new form of government. The nation was divided on the concept of federalism and most had to ponder when it came to taking sides. There were many instance of duels when heated debates over federalism arose.
Like most distinguished politicians, King studied profusely to gain ample knowledge. He was educated in Chapel Hill. He graduated from the University of North Carolina. Later he moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina to read the law in the office of the Honorable William Duffy. At the tender age of nineteen, King was admitted to the bar. He opened an office in Clinton.
Three years later, he entered the public spotlight. He served as a state legislature as a member of the House of Commons from Sampson County. He was re-elected to a second term, but did not serve because he was elected to the office of the city solicitor for Wilmington. Reluctantly, he resigned from his legislature duties.
At the age of twenty-four, King entered the national political scene. He was chosen to represent North Carolina in Congress in 1811. As a Representative, he worked along with other political giants of time. Many started their careers around the same time that King did. These distinguished gentlemen consist of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and William Lowndes.
As a rookie in Congress, King gave ample support to the Madison administration and the use of tariffs to promote American manufacturing. During that time, the United States had prohibited trade with Britain and France. These controversies led up to the impressment of American seamen by the British. Shortly afterwards, the United States engaged in the War of 1812.
He remained popular during those times. The War of 1812 was not declared a failure. Most of this was because of contributions from Andrew Jackson. In light of his support during these times, he was elected to the Twelfth, Thirteenth,