James Hillhouse (October 21, 1754 - December 29, 1832) was a United States Representative and Senator from Connecticut, and treasurer of Yale University. He was responsible for the development of the City of New Haven, along with the first "tree ordinance" in the United States, leading to New Haven, Connecticut's nickname as The Elm City.

Hillhouse was born in Montville, Connecticut to William Hillhouse, who was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Connecticut. James was raised in New Haven, and attended college (at Yale) there. At Yale, he studied law, graduated in 1773, and established a practice in 1775. He was commander of the Second Company Governor's Foot Guard, a Revolutionary War regiment which included other notables such as Aaron Burr, Ethan Allen, and Benedict Arnold. On June 5, 1779 Hillhouse led his regiment in defense of the town of New Haven from British invasion. After his military service, he was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1780 to 1786, and the Connecticut State Council from 1789 to 1790. Although he was elected a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congresses of 1786 and 1788, he did not attend.

Hillhouse started his national political career (he was a Federalist) after his election to the House of Representatives, where he served from 1791 to 1796. In 1796 he was elected to the United States Senate, and served until 1810. During the sixth congress, he was the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Hillhouse was also an abolitionist. He opposed the expansion of slavery into new territories, notably the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. He introduced legislation to congress barring slavery in the new territory, but it failed. He continued to fight against slavery until he left congress, and afterwards.

During the War of 1812, Hillhouse was a delegate to The Hartford Convention of 1814, a meeting of New England states opposed to the war. They met to air grievances against the Madison administration and to propose constitutional amendments which would balance power between the North and South (which were never implemented). Hillhouse was a secessionist, as were many of the men (all Federalists) at the Hartford Convention. They felt that the South was given too much power in the original Constitution of the United States, and that South and North were no longer compatible. This convention led to the decline of the Federalist Party in national politics.

Back home in New Haven, Hillhouse continued as treasurer of Yale University, a position he held from 1782 until his death. He was also involved in the architectural development of New Haven. He and his son, James Abraham Hillhouse, were responsible for the development of the Sachem Wood neighborhood, north of New Haven Green. This included Hillhouse Avenue, which was called the most beautiful street in America by Charles Dickens. It still runs from Grove Street to Sachem Street at the base of Science Hill, where the Hillhouse Mansion (built by James Abraham in 1830) stood before construction of the Yale science complex. Hillhouse also established the Grove Street Cemetery, where Eli Whitney, Noah Webster, and Hillhouse himself are buried. It contains many graves which were originally on New Haven Green, relocated due to concerns of town residents about disease. Recently, Hillhouse's grave at Grove Street Cemetery was listed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail, and the Cemetery itself, founded by Hillhouse, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

Hillhouse is also famous, along with John Trumbull, for the many Elm trees they planted around New Haven. The original trees on New Haven Green stood for over a hundred years, until they succumbed to Dutch Elm disease, and to a major hurricane in 1938. As part of his project, Hillhouse was also responsible for a city "tree ordinance" to protect his elms, which fined horse owners if their animals chewed on trees. Though most (if not all) of Hillhouse's trees have since died, the City of New Haven continues to care for trees in and around the city.

Trivia: as President of the Senate in 1801, he administered the oath of office to Aaron Burr, Vice President in the Jefferson administration (Jefferson's oath was administered by Chief Justice John Marshall). Hillhouse was known as "Sachem," which meant "chief" in the local native dialect. It was an apt title given that he owned a huge chunk of land in and around the city of New Haven. Eli Whitney, Hillhouse's friend and fellow New Havenite, owned a large parcel of land north of his, covering much of what is today Hamden, CT, and they worked together to develop the city of New Haven. Hillhouse's daughter-in-law donated land in his honor to Yale College to establish an astronomical observatory for the University in the mid-nineteenth century.

Sources:
http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~.phall.hauser.ksg/newhistory.html
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000618
http://www.footguard.org/histori.html
http://www.yale.edu/opa/v30.n1/story3.html
http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~sjboyd/lc/freeman.htm
http://www.astro.yale.edu/DEPT/excerpt.html
http://www.ctpa.org/works.htm
http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/hilla-hillhouse.html (google cache)
http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=1963

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