Nov. 19, 1819: Former President Thomas Jefferson writes a letter to William King, a leading Maine statehood advocate and future Maine governor, thanking him for sending Jefferson a draft of the proposed Maine Constitution, being prepared in conjunction with Maine’s anticipated admission to statehood in 1820.

While praising most of the document, Jefferson faults its terms on representation. “Equal representation is so fundamental a principle in a true republic that no prejudices can justify its violation because the prejudices themselves cannot be justified,” Jefferson writes from Monticello, his Virginia estate.

William King, painted in 1806 by Gilbert Stuart. Image courtesy of the Maine State Museum, Maine State House Portrait Collection 72.19.93

The two men already were acquainted with each other. King visited Jefferson the previous winter at his home, where King solicited the former president’s ideas on what to include in the Maine Constitution.

Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and a mentor of James Madison, who was a driving force behind the U.S. Constitution.

Jefferson’s letter to King is now part of the Maine Historical Society’s collections.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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