James Hillhouse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Hillhouse
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
February 28, 1801 – March 3, 1801
Preceded byJohn E. Howard
Succeeded byAbraham Baldwin
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
December 6, 1796 – June 10, 1810
Preceded byOliver Ellsworth
Succeeded bySamuel W. Dana
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1791 – December 5, 1796
Preceded byBenjamin Huntington
Succeeded byJames Davenport
Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
BornOctober 20, 1754
Montville, Connecticut Colony, British America
DiedDecember 29, 1832(1832-12-29) (aged 78)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting placeGrove Street Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut
Political partyFederalist
Alma materYale University
Professionlawyer, realtor, politician

James Hillhouse (October 20, 1754 – December 29, 1832) was an American lawyer, real estate developer, and politician from New Haven, Connecticut. He represented the state in both chambers of the US Congress. From February to March 1801, Hillhouse briefly served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate.

Early life[edit]

Hillhouse was born in Montville in the Connecticut Colony, the son of William Hillhouse and Sarah (Griswold) Hillhouse.[1] At the age of seven, he was adopted by his childless uncle and aunt, James Abraham and Mary Lucas Hillhouse. He attended the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College in 1773. At Yale, he was a member of the Linonian Society. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1775, and practiced law in New Haven.

Commission for James Hillhouse in the Governor's Foot Guards, June 1779

Revolutionary War[edit]

During the Revolutionary War, Hillhouse served as captain of the Second Company of the Governor's Foot Guard. During the successful British invasion of New Haven on July 5, 1779, he commanded troops alongside Aaron Burr, with Yale student volunteers.[2]


Hillhouse was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1780 to 1785. He was a member of the Connecticut council of Assistants from 1789 to 1790 and was elected as a US representative from Connecticut at large for the Second, Third, and Fourth Congresses and served from March 4, 1791, to his resignation, in the fall of 1796.[2] He also served as a judge of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors from 1789 to 1793.[3]

Elected as a US senator on May 12, 1796, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Oliver Ellsworth, Hillhouse was re-elected in 1797, 1803, and 1809, and he served from December 1796 to June 10, 1810, when he resigned. During the Sixth Congress he was President pro tempore of the Senate.[4]

In 1803, Hillhouse and several other New England politicians proposed secession of New England from the union because of the growing influence of Jeffersonian Democrats, especially after the Louisiana Purchase, which would further diminish Northern and Federalist influence.

Hillhouse was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.[5]

In 1814, he was a Connecticut delegate to the Hartford Convention, and he was treasurer of Yale College from 1782 to 1832.[6]

He died in 1832 in New Haven.

Hillhouse was a slaveholder.[7]


Hillhouse made major contributions to the beautification of New Haven.[6] He was active in the drive to plant the elm trees, which gave New Haven the nickname of "Elm City." Hillhouse Avenue and James Hillhouse High School, in New Haven, are named after him.

He was a nephew of Matthew Griswold and an uncle of Thomas Hillhouse.


  1. ^ "James Hillhouse". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "James Hillhouse". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  3. ^ Day, Thomas (1809). Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Errors, of the State of Connecticut, in the years 1805, 1806, and 1807. Vol. 2. p. xii-xiii.
  4. ^ "James Hillhouse". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ a b "James Hillhouse" (PDF). Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  7. ^ "More than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation"Washington Post, January 10, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2022.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by U.S. Representative from Connecticut
(at large)

March 4, 1791 – December 5, 1796
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Jonathan Trumbull Jr., Uriah Tracy, Chauncey Goodrich
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President pro tempore of the United States Senate
February 28, 1801 – March 3, 1801
Succeeded by