Thomas Jefferson Papers

Notes on Conversation on Rufus King, 25 December 1791

Notes on Conversation on Rufus King

Dec. 25. 1791.

Colo. Gunn (of Georgia) dining the other day with Colo. Hamilton said to him, with that plain freedom he is known to use, ‘I wish Sir you would advise your friend King, to observe some kind of consistency in his votes. There has been scarcely a question before Senate on which he has not voted both ways. On the Representation bill, for instance, he first voted for the proposition of the Representatives, and ultimately voted against it.’ ‘Why’ sais Colo. H. ‘I’II tell you as to that Colo. Gunn, that it never was intended that bill should pass.’ Gunn told this to Butler, who told it to Th:J.

MS (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand. Entry in SJPL reads: “[No]te. King and Hamilton as to Representation bill.” Included in the “Anas.”

Senator James Gunn’s perplexity in trying to account for Rufus King’s votes on the bill to reapportion congressional representation in accordance with the census of 1790 is understandable. Between 7 and 20 Dec. 1791 King alternately favored and opposed the House proposal to award each state one representative for every 30,000 inhabitants as well as a Senate amendment to change the ratio to one representative for every 33,000 inhabitants, a curious voting pattern that even his most recent biographer is at a loss to explain (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, Gales, 1820–1821, 5 vols. description ends , i, 342, 351, 354, 358; Robert Ernst, Rufus King: American Federalist [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1968], p. 170). For a discussion of reapportionment, see TJ’s Opinion on the Bill for Apportioning Representation, 4 Apr. 1792.

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