Austin A. King

Austin A. King (1802-1870)

Governor of Missouri 1848-1853

Austin Augustus King attended the 1855 Lexington Convention, lending his prestige as a former governor of Missouri to the gathering. King was born in Sullivan County, Kentucky where he attended the public schools. He studied law and practiced in Jackson, Tennessee before moving to Columbia, Missouri in 1830 where he continued his practice. He served as a colonel in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1834.

From 1837 until 1848, King was circuit court judge, living in Richmond in Ray County. His most famous case was the hearing for Mormon prisoners arrested in the "Mormon War" of 1839. King released or admitted to bail all but ten of the more than fifty prisoners from the Mormon town of Far West who had been charged with "treason, murder, arson, burglary, robbery, larceny and perjury." [McCandless, History of Missouri, 110]

In 1848, King was selected by the state Democratic convention as a compromise candidate for governor. The sitting governor M.M. Marmaduke, Central Clique leader Claiborne Jackson, and James M. Hughes of St. Louis opposed him. Despite the growing division over expansion of slavery, King led a united party to victory over the Whigs, winning the statehouse and all five congressional districts. [McCandless, History of Missouri, 245]

The Whig candidate in 1848, James S. Rollins, charged Missouri Democrats with failing to fund internal improvements. King, a "soft money" Democrat less committed to traditional Jefferson-Jackson anti-debt theory than the "hard-money" majority of his party, favored public works but urged caution and guarding against impairing the credit of the state. The General Assembly approved appropriations for river improvements and money to survey the route of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. "A new era of state financial aid began" later when King signed a bill authorizing state bonds to aid the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and the Pacific Railroad Company in securing capital for construction. [McCandless, History of Missouri, 256]

The Jackson Resolutions attempting to instruct United States Senator Benton in his votes on expansion of slavery were passed by the General Assembly in 1847. Governor King signed them, thus helping to divide the Democratic Party between Bentonites and anti-Bentonites. [Phillips, Missouri's Confederate, 171] King returned to Richmond to practice law in 1853 practice of law, was elected as a Unionist to the United States Congress in 1863, but was not reelected in 1865.

Charles Clark