James Madison Papers

Thomas S. Hinde to James Madison, 27 August 1829

Urbana, August 27, 1829.

Dear Sir—

Your esteemed favor of the 17th instant was received yesterday morning. I thank you, sir, for the opportunity afforded me of making a deposit of an important document relating to national affairs. I feel deeply and sensibly, sir, for many reasons, the honor conferred on me in affording me the opportunity of doing so; for we live for posterity, and set up beacons for the next generation. So soon as I have a little leisure and can seize an opportunity, (to use an expression once applied to yourself by the tall colonel Jos. H. Daviess,) and "can burn tallow," I will commence the task. This letter will be a kind of introduction to the subject. Aware of the propriety of doing so, I will condense the matter both for the present and future communications.

I stated in my first letter, that I was a pioneer of the west from a lad. You may, perhaps, form some idea of the fact, if I can present to your inspection, in a condensed form, a view of the scene. I present you my venerable parents at an early period, at the head of a large family, climbing the "cloud-cap’t mountains" to seek an asylum for their rising progeny in the wilderness of Kentucky,--my father, the surgeon of Wolfe and Henry, in his declining years recommencing his professional services in a region but recently the scene of carnage; at the age of eleven or twelve years, myself placed at the country school, to gather what little education the country could afford. Having combatted a wolf on the top Souill’s mountain and came off victor, I was not greatly terrified by their yells, or the screams of panthers, along my lonely school-path.

At sixteen, I placed myself in the office of the superior judicial tribunal of Kentucky, which held its terms twice a year at the metropolis. Pursuing the course recommended by Mr. Jefferson to his grandson (Mr. Randolph,) I had the good fortune to acquire the friendship and good will of all the principal men of that country; among others, your esteemed relatives, the late governor Madison and his nephew, (the latter, Dr. John Madison,) than whom worthier men are not to be found, from personal attachment, which continued till his (governor Madison’s) death, and at his request my youngest son bears the name of the latter.

In 1805, Messrs. Wood and Street, from Richmond, Va., found their way to Kentucky. Friendly considerations led me to patronize them. This was done through the solicitations of a young friend from Virginia. They commenced a paper, published in 1806, called the Western World. Imbibing strong prejudices against slavery, perhaps from my mother’s repeating, in my infancy, the nurse’s songs composed by Cowper, designed to make such impressions. In June, 1806, to the great astonishment of my friends, I left Kentucky, with all the flattering prospects a youth could have, and hastened to Ohio. Connecting circumstances, and from hints that fell from Wood and others, a deep impression had been made on my mind, that an eventful period was fast approaching.

The 16th of June, the sun was eclipsed--all nature appeared to mourn; both animate and inanimate creation were overcast with a gloomy shade. I thought this an awful omen of approaching events. One source of amusement was to call my new comrades to the summit of an Indian mound.* Here I called their attention to the surrounding scenery, my former pursuits, my friends, my country, my prospects--all these had been abandoned for the pride of opinion, against the entailment and perpetuation of slavery upon the rising generation! I remember their looks when I remarked, that after all, (pointing to the sun eclipsed,) I spoke of the gloom that overshadowed my future prospects!

In September, the cloud indeed began to appear--it rose in the East. The first rumbling of thunder was heard from the hills of Marietta. Herman Blennerhassett marshaled all his strength in the Querist. This brought forth the "Fredonian," that sprang from numbers into a newspaper: it poured destruction upon the ranks of choice spirits until colonel Burr was arrested in Florida. The subsequent operations are all known. The noted John Wood had withheld the information disclosed by the Fredonian; I believe he received a douceur, fled to Washington city, and commenced his Atlantic World, 1807.

The first numbers of the Fredonian was published in a paper which still exists, the Scioto Gazette. I preserved the numbers, and in 1825 I forwarded them to Mr. Clay, to be deposited in the office of the secretary of state; before he left that office these papers had unaccountably disappeared. Mr. Berryman, of Newmarket, Highland county, Ohio, kept a file. At his death, Mr. John H. James, of this place, purchased it. These numbers had been taken out! Mr. John Bailhache, now public printer at Columbus, succeeded Hinde and Richardson (my nephew) in the Fredonian; the paper that continued the subject was taken from his office. Captain R. D. Richardson, who kept the only file of the Fredonian, had his file slipt from him whilst residing in Newport, Kentucky. This is a strange combination of circumstances, which has induced a desire on my part, of seeking some safe depository of facts, and therefore so cheerfully embrace the opportunity thus afforded.

With the most ardent wishes for your present and future welfare, and that your last days may be your best days; and that, after having discharged the important duties recently assigned you, your sun, while setting, may cast beams of light of a new era in my beloved and native state, is both the wish and prayer of

Th. S. Hinde.

* Windship’s mound, Chillicothe.

Printed copy (American Pioneer [Cincinnati, 1843], 2:364-68). Accompanied by a note by Hinde: "The statement in full, but in a condensed form, was forwarded from Springfield, Ohio, to Mr. Madison, while the Virginia convention was in session, and acknowledged by him by forwarding to me a copy of the first impression of the new constitution of the Old Dominion. T. S. H."

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