James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Mark Langdon Hill, 17 April 1820

From Mark Langdon Hill

Washington April 17th. 1820.


When I came to this City for the first time at the commencement of the present session, I intended to do myself the honor to call and pay my respects to you & President Jefferson & pass by the way of Williamsburg to see my friend Col. Basset;1 but oweing to the press of business and the procrastinated time of adjournment, will oblige me to return home, without enjoying the pleasure intended.

This I deplore the more, because during your administration, I was in the minority of the Senate of Massachusetts, where, during the late war, we had to contend “with principalities & powers,”2 and at times, not without some fears for our personal safety; this with other considerations has created a sympathy & feeling, which I cannot well describe.

Mr. R. Cutts of this City, who was a native of the same town with myself, I often see with his Lady, and who are, with their family, now enjoying good health.

I take the liberty to send you for your perusal & amusement a letter written by Mr. Jefferson to Gov. Langdon,3 who was an uncle of mine, and with whom you were well acquainted, but he has gone to “the land from whose bourne no traveller returns.”4

I asked permission of Mr. Jefferson to publish the letter at some proper time, but his answer, which I also enclose for your perusal,5 is in the negative; of course I am strictly bound to comply with his wishes, and I have suffered no copy to be taken thereof, but one at the request of President Monroe.

After you shall have perused, I will thank you to return them to this City to Your most obedient hume. Servant.

Mark Langdon Hill6

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Burwell Bassett (1764–1841) served in the Virginia legislature, 1787–89, 1793–1805, and 1819–21, and in the U.S. House of Representatives first as a Jeffersonian Republican, 1805–13, 1815–19, then as a Jacksonian, 1821–29.

2“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” Eph. 6:12 (AV description begins The Bible. Authorized (King James) Version. description ends ).

3The letter was Thomas Jefferson to John Langdon, 5 Mar. 1810, in which Jefferson excoriated the British government for both its hereditary monarchy and its policies (Lipscomb and Bergh, Writings of Thomas Jefferson description begins Andrew A. Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (20 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1905). description ends , 12:373–79).

4“The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns,” Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.1.78–79 (Riverside description begins G. Blakemore Evans, ed., The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston, 1974). description ends ).

5Hill requested Jefferson’s permission in a letter of 28 Mar. 1820. Jefferson replied in the negative on 5 Apr. 1820, noting that the letter “was written in warm times, and is therefore too warmly expressed for the more reconciled temper of the present day” (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

6Mark Langdon Hill (1772–1842), a resident of Maine, served in the Massachusetts legislature as a Republican, 1797–1808, 1810, 1813–17, as a Massachusetts member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1819–21, and as a member from Maine, 1821–23. He was appointed collector of customs at Bath, Maine, in 1824.

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