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[A portion of the subjoined biographical sketch vas 'written four years ago, and has been extenivel-y circulated in newspapers and pamphlets.
It lias been revised by the author, with correcions and additions, to accompany the portrait of he Hon. Jlillard Fillmore, presented to our reada-s in this number of the Review.]
It is the peculiar boast of our country Jiat its highest honors and dignities are the legitimate objects of ambition to the humblest in the land, as well as those most favored by the gifts of birth and fortune. Ours is a government of the people, and from the people, emphatically, have sprung those who in the army or navy, on the bench of justice, or in the halls of legislation, have shed the brightest lustre on the page of our country s history. So universally almost is this the case, that, when we find an instance to the contrary, of one born to a fortune and enjoying the advantages of influential connections, rising to a high place in the councils of the nation, the exception deserves especial note for its rarity. No merit therefore is claimed for Millard Fillmore, on account of the fact that from comparatively humble parentage, he has attained his present eminent position. His history, however, affords a useful lesson as showing what may be accomplished in the face of the greatest obstacles, by intellect, aided and controlled by energy, perseverance, and strict integrity, in a public and private capacity.
John Fillmore, the great-grandfather of Millard Fillmore, and the common ancestor otf all of that name in the United States, was born about the year 1700, in one of the New England States, and feeling a strong propensity for a sea-faring life, at the age of about nineteen went on board a fishing vessel, which sailed from Boston. The vessel had been but a few days out when it was captured by a noted pirate ship, commanded by Capt. Phillips, and young Fillmore was kept as a prisoner. He remained on board the pirate ship nine months, enduring every hardship which a strong constitution and firm spirit was ca
pable of sustaining; and, though frequently threatened with instant death unless he would sign the piratical articles of the vessel, he steadily refused until two others had been taken prisoners, who also refusing to join the crew, the three made an attack upon the pirates, and after killing several took the vessel and brought it safe into Boston harbor. The narrative of this adventure has been for many years in print, and details one of the most daring and successful exploits on record. The surviving pirates were tried and executed, and the heroic conduct of the captors was acknowledged by the British Government. John Fillmore afterwards settled in a place called Franklin, in Connecticut, where he died.
His son, Nathaniel Fillmore, settled at an early day in Bennington, Vermont, then called the Hampshire Grants, where he lived till his death in 1814. He served in the French war, and was a true Whig of the Revolution, proving his devotion to his country's cause by gallantly fighting as a Lieutenant under Stark, in the battle of Bennington.
Nathaniel Fillmore, his son, and father of Millard, was born at Bennington, in '71, and early in life removed to what is now called Summer Hill, Cayuga county, where Millard was born, Jan. 7th, 1800. He was a farmer, and soon after lost all his property by a bad title to one of the military lots he had purchased. About the year 1802, he removed to the town of Sempronius, now Niles, in the same county, and resided there until 1819, when he removed to Erie county, where he still lives, cultivating a small farm with his own hands. He was a strong and uniform supporter of Jefferson, Madison, and Tompkins, and is now a true Whig.
The narrow means of his father deprived Millard of any advantages of education beyond what were afforded by the imperfect and ill-taught eoramon schools of the county. Books were scarce and dear, and at the age of fifteen when more favored youths are far advanced in their clasical studies, or enjoying in colleges the benefit of well-furnished libraries, young Fillmore had read but little except his common school books and the Bible. At that period he was sent into the then wilds of Livingston county, to learn the clothier's trade. He remained there about four months, and was then placed with another person to pursue the same business and wool-carding in the town where his father lived. A small village library that was formed there soon after, gave him the first means of acquiring general knowledge through books. He improved the opportunity thus offered; the appetite grew by what it fed upon. The thirst for knowledge soon became insatiate, and every leisure moment was spent in reading. Four years were passed in this way, working at his trade, and storing his mind, during such hours as he could command, with the contents of books of history, biography, and travels. At the age of nineteen he fortunately made an acquaintance with the late Walter Wood, Esq., whom many will remember as one of the most estimable citizens of Cayuga county. Judge Wood was a man of wealth, and great business capacity; he had an excellent law library, but did little professional business. He soon saw that under the rude exterior of the clothier's boy, were powors that only required proper development to raise the possessor to high distinction and usefulness, and advised him to quit his trade and study law. In reply to the objection of a lack of education, means and friends to aid him in a course of professional study, Judge W. kindly offered to give him a place in his office, to advance money to defray his expenses, and wait until success in business should furnish the means of repayment. The offer was accepted. The apprentice boy bought his time, entered the office of Judge Wood, and for more than two years applied himself closely to business and study. He read law and general literature, and studied and practised surveying.
Fearing he should incur too large a debt to his benefactor, he taught school for three months in the year, and acquired the means of partially supporting himself. In the fall of 1821 he removed to the county of Erie, and the next spring entered a law office in Buffalo.
There he sustained himself by teaclis and continued his legal studies until ih spring of 1823, when he was admitted » the Common Pleas, and being too diffidti, of his then untried powers to enter in: competition with the older members of ti bar in Buffalo, he removed to Auroni s that county, where he commenced '.a practice of law. In 1826 he was Eiried to Abigail Powers, the youngest cL<: of the Rev. Lemuel Powers, deceased, is whom he has two children, a son a&i i daughter. She is a lady of great wonk, modest and unobtrusive in her deporuadn. and highly esteemed for her many tirtaa.
In 1827 Mr. Fillmore was admitted » an attorney, and in 1829 as a council* of the Supreme Court. Previous to h time his practice had been very fini^ but his application to judicial studies L* been constant and severe, and it is not & be doubted that during these few jesmd comparative seclusion, he acquired tbsi general knowledge of the fundamna principles of the law which has mari; contributed in after-life to give him,»r. elf vated rank among the members of th* liberal profession. His legal acquirenw* and skill as an advocate, soon attiaci* the attention of his professional bretbre in Buffalo, and he was offered ft higah advantageous connection with an ete member of the bar in that city, which b accepted, and removed there in the spr~ of 1830, in which place he continued » reside until his election as Comptroller a-' removal to Albany last winter.
His first entrance into public life wis i January, 1829, when he took his seal * a member of the Assembly from *•"* county, to which office he was lW'ef!*T the two following years. The W-«1W democratic party in those three sesa-'1* as for many years before and after, M» triumphant sway in both houses « * legislature, and but little opportunity ** afforded a young member of the opF*9' tion to distinguish himself. But talol integrity, and assiduous devotion to Pntl business will make a man felt and resp>iV ed, even amidst a body of opposing p* sans; and Mr. Fillmore, although m j> hopeless minority, so far as MVf16?1'? of a political or party bearing was inw on all questions of a general chantf soon won the confidence of the Hous*