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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1700
AUTHOR: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
QUOTATION: But this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror.
ATTRIBUTION: THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820.—The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 10, p. 157 (1899).

Jefferson refers to the Missouri question, whether to admit Missouri as a slave state but prohibit slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase.

Holmes was a representative from Massachusetts from 1817 to March 15, 1820, when he resigned to attend the Maine constitutional convention. He was elected to the Senate from Maine and served from June 13, 1820, to 1827, and 1829–1833.