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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by 


In the Clerk's office of the District Court for the Northern District 

of New York. 

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16 Spnico StreeV, 'S. Y. 




Birth of Millard Fillmore — Family reminiscences — Early propensi- 
ties — Is started to a primary school — Makes rapid progress — 
Enters a higher school — Studies grammar and mathematics — 
Is apprenticed to a clothier — His thirst for knowledge — Eeturns 
home — Again apprenticed to a clothier — His assiduous apphca- 
tion — Masters his trade — He teaches school — Studies survey- 
ing — Personal appearance — Manners, etc., 11 



He resumes his trade — Determines to study law — Reflections upon 
the importance of the step — Reads with Judge 'Wjocd'-j-^ketch 
of that gentleman — Goes to Bufa.,lo — - jyi,7es -mth^/his me^ns — 
State of society — Pohtical matters — Is p4i^itted to the bar — 
Goes to Aurora, and engages in pra>;dce — Sis first ease — Teaches 
school — Is married — Is regarded as a lawyer vif ^.tility — Nature 
of his eloquence — Prospects bri^'hten, ........ 25 


At the head of his profession — Is offered an excellent connection in 
Buffalo — Admitted to the supreme court — Individual sketches — 
Legal profundity — Is elected to the Assembly — Sketch of that 
body — Evinces legislative capacities — Party pohtics — Adherence 
to Ills principles — His naturo as a debater — Adjournment of the 


Assembly — His devotion to liis profession — Re-elected to that 
body— On the committee on Public Defence— The law of im- 
prisonment for debt — Governor Throop — Mr. Fillmore's active 
endeavors for the repeal of the imprisonment law — His success — 
Important measures in the Assembly — Close of the session — 
Sketch of Mr. FiUmore in that body— Remarks thereon, . 85 


Mr, FiUmore as a lawyer — Brief review of his legal career — His view- 
of the law as a science — Advantages of his connection — Spurns 
aU artifice and chicanery— Responsibihties of the law— His views 
of its morality —His capacities as a lawyer — His ardent desire 
to promote justice — His weight of character — His faithfukiess to 
his clients — In speaking, not a Patrick Henry— Examples of his 
success in civil cases — The Cattaraugus Reservation — The great 
importance of that case — The remarkable Ontario Bank case — 
His argument before the Supreme Court— His success in both, 130 


State poUtics— Political Anti-masonry— The Morgan outrage — The 
CUntonians and Bucktails — Anti-masonic convention — How the 
action* of ,^tlifi'«A.nti-ma'30iis'sljqul«l be construed — National poli- 
tick -of 18^2 — iLeaistng^ mo^siir^s of the Whig party — Mr. FiU- 
more is ■el'edted ;t(';'C<.ngi»5sj3 — Sketch of that body — Jacksonism 
and its fe2bets-.'-Mw.'Kilml)re's view of the U. S. Bank, and the 
removsVoJC'the-'ae^ogifs-^'Mr* Clay's Compromise Tariff of 1833 — 
Excitedielits bccksi'oued "by-tbe removal of the deposits — Internal 
improvements — Mr. FiUmore's efforts to reduce high salaries — 
Mr. FiUmore and Mr. Polk — Mr. FiUmore's quahties as a legisla- 
tor — Other measures of Congress — Its adjournment, . . 166 


Reelected to Congress — Van Burenisni— Distinguished characters — 
Polk elected speaker — Fourth installment of the Deposit Act — A 



bill to postpone tlie payment of the installment — It passes tho 
senate — Mr. Fillmore's opposition — His able speech against the 
bill — Mr. Fillmore gives his views of the U. S. Bank — The pas- 
sage of the bill — Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Clay — Slavery in the 
District of Columbia — The right of petition — Mr. Clay its cham- 
pion in the senate, and Mr. Fillmore in the house — His views on 
the subject of slavery at that time — The North and the South — 
Mr. Fillmore's conciliatory nature as a statesman — His patri- 
otism, 212 


His views on the subject of pubhc defence — The outrageous conduct 
of British officers — ^Awful fate of the Caroline — Mr. Fillmore's 
resolution urging redress — A committee reports upon the out- 
rage — He opposes the report — Prompt, but not excitable — • 
His soHcitude for the northern frontier — The celebrated Jersey 
case — Its importance — Mr. Fillmore's determination to investi- 
gate it fairly — Proceedings of the committee on elections — Foul 
play — Democratic contestants successful — Letter to his constit- 
uents — Twenty-seventh Congress — Great change — Party poU- 
tics — Harrison and the Whig party — The nominal president — 
John Tyler's treachery — Committee of ways and means — Dis- 
tress of the coun'^ry — Giant efforts of the twenty-seventh Con- 
gress — Equal to the emergency — Great innovations, . . 244 


Tariff of 1842 — A remedy for an existing evil — Protective tariff as 
a feature in politics — Tariff men in aU parties — Jackson's views — 
Early statesmen's views — Clay calls it the American system — 
Mr. Fillmore's speech on the Tariff — Conclusions to be drawn 
from his course in regard to the Tariff — His high position in Con- 


gross — The Morse Appropriation — Cave Johnson — Close of his 
congressional career— J. Q. Adams and Mr. Fillmore— Campaign of 
1844 — Trospccts of the whig party — Mr. Fillmore urged as a 
candidate for the vice-presidency— Defeat of Clay— Causes which 

led to that result — Mr. Fillmore nominated for governor 

Letter to Thurlow Weed — Foreign influence — Letter to Henry 
Clay — Extracts showing the cause of defeat — The Comptroller- 
ship — Its arduous duties — His report to the state — Its ability— 
ni3 sympathy for the sufferers of the Emerald Isle, . . . 273 


Another national convention — Great changes — Military glory — 
General Taylor nominated for the presidency— Millard Fillmore 
for the vice-presidency — Their election — Sketch of the U. S. 
Senate — Illustrious names — Cahfornia asks admission — Section- 
alism in the senate — One man at the head — The "omnibus 
bill"— Death of President Taylor — Mr. Filhnore communicates 
the fact to the senate — Proceedings of the two houses — Mr. 
Fillmore takes the oath — Assumes the chief magistracy — 
Funejal obsequies, gQ^ 


Mr. FiITlmoke's Administration — He selects a cabinet — Wisdom 
of his selection— Excitement m the senate — Defeat of the omni- 
bus biU — The North and the South — Struggle for supremacy — 
Three parties in the senate —Wisdom and patriotism — The great 
crisis— Mr. Fillmore's firmness and patriotism — Dimculties in 
New Mexico and Texas — Passage of the compromise measures — 
Their submission to the president — A civic Callimachus— 
Fugitive Slave Law— Attorney General — Mr. Fillmore signs tho 
compromise measures — la violently assaUed in consequence — 
Judge MtLeau^e opinion ~ Fiiet annual mets^age — Its ability, 821 



Fillibustering — The Cuban movement — Proclamation of the presi- 
(ient — Progress of the adventurers — Their delusion — General 
Quitman — The Lopez expedition — Condensed history of that 
movement — Its disastrous termination — The Crescent City and 
Captain General of Cuba — European interference — Their pro- 
posals in regard to Cuba — Mr. Fillmore's views — A second 
Hulsemann letter — Mr. Fillmore's course in regard to Cuba — 
Kossuth— His mission — His interviews with Mr. Fillmore and Mr. 
Clay _ Their views of his mission — Sound views in regard to 
foreign and domestic policy— Wisdom of Mr. Fillmore's admmis- 
tration —The American party— Its rise and progress —Causes that 
led to the defeat of the whig party— Mr. Fillmore's American- 
ism—His tour to Europe — Reflections, etc.— His nomination 
for the Presidency— Mr. Filhnore at home, 352 


Character of Mr, Fillmore as a domestic man — His adaptation for 
the family circle —Amiability and industry of Mrs. Fillmore — Mr. 
Fillmore as a philanthropist — As a neighbor — His love of 
home — Mr. Fillmore as a husband — As a parent — His resi- 
dence and its sociabilities — His manners — His order and regu- 
larity— His industry— His temperance— His morahty— Mr. Fillmore 
as a statesman —As a patriot —And as a man — Conclusion, 386 


In presenting to the public the life of so distinguished 
a man as the subject of this memoir, the publishers deem 
it unnecessary to offer any apology for its appearance, 
either politically or generally, as it is not the object of 
this publication to inculcate the peculiar principles or 
views of any party. 

The subject matter has been carefully and thoroughly 
prepared by the author, after having had free access to 
every aid necessary to render the work authentic and 

American citizens have always evinced much interest 
in the history of those men whose public course has 
reflected credit on the times in which they have lived, 
and especially when such men have risen from the hum- 
ble walks of life to the highest and most honorable posi- 
tion in the gift of an intelligent and enterprising people. 

The author knows full well how to present a truthful 

and interesting record of one, whose early life, imtar- 


Dished cliaracter, and public career, have created a bright 
cxami)le for the encouragement of American youth. 

This work is designed especially for young men, and, 
with the hope that many may find in its pages an incen- 
tive to just ambition, we cheerfully submit it to the con- 
sideration of the reading public. 

Buffalo, August 20, 1856. 



Birth of Millard Fillmore — Family reminiscences — Early propensi- 
ties — Is started to a primary school — Makes rapid progress — 
Enters a higher school — Studies grammar and mathematics — 
Is apprenticed to a clothier — His thirst for knowledge — Returns 
home — Again apprenticed to a clothier — His assiduous applica. 
tion — Masters his trade — He teaches school — Studies survey- 
ing — Personal appearance — Manners, etc. 

Millard Fillmore, the oldest son of Nathaniel and 
Phoebe Fillmore, and one of nine children, was born on 
the seventh day of January, in the year 1800, at the town 
of Locke, Cayuga county, in the state of New York. 

For a number of years, his parents remained the 
residents of his birth-place, and here he received the 
rudiments of his education. His parents, though very 
poor, and obliged to combat the fierce elements of adver- 
sity in their darkest aspects, were universally esteemed 
as among the most respectable inhabitants of the country. 

His father, Nathaniel Fillmore, was a native of Ben- 
nington, in the state of Vermont, and well recollects the 
victory gained by the immortal Starke, at that place, in 
1776. The grandfather of Millard Fillmore was one of 


the early settlers of the New England States, and hero- 
ically participated in all the hardships and privations 
incident to the pioneers of "western civilization. With a 
strong arm, and a stronger heart, he endured all the back- 
woods' privations of pioneer life, undismayed by the ditli- 
culties that surrounded him. A family growing up 
around him, of whom he was the head — a devoted wife, 
who shared all his toils, and to whom he was ardently 
attached, appealing to him for legitimate protection, and 
nothing but a wilderness before him, where that protection 
was to be sought, in the peaceful asylum of a home, it 
must be confessed the prospects were gloomy indeed. 

But his was not the heart to quail before such difficul- 
ties as these. "With that energetic perseverance and 
prompt decision that characterized the early settlers of 
the New England States, and has ever been a marked 
development of his family, no difficulty was too great to 
be overcome, no obstacle too great for him to surmount. 
At length, the footprints of civilization began to impress 
the soil of his adoption, farms opened in the wilderness, 
cottages supplanted the rude wigwam of the savage, 
abundant crops and well-stored granaries began to reward 
the husbandman for his labor. But scarce had these in- 
dications of peaceful prosperity received the acclaim of 
welcome from the grateful colonists, when, from across 
the Atlantic, the news of the infamous Stamp Act 
announced the commencement of new troubles. The 
call to arms met a response in the breasts of many brave 
New Englanders. Among these was the grandfather of 
Millard Fillmore, 


Seeing the jewel of Colonial Independence in danger 
of extermination, and fearing the triumphant exactions 
of tyranny upon the fields of his virgin home, he needed 
no other incentive. In obedience to the dictates of a pa- 
triot heart, he espoused the cause of the colonists, and 
rendered efficient service in their resistance to the en- 
croachments of foreign aggression. Gallantly did he 
defend his country's flag, at the battle of Bennington, and 
other ensanguined fields, consecrated by the hero dust of 
the Eevolution. He lived, I believe, to see victory percH 
upon the banners of his country, and to reap the rewards 
of his labors. He lived to see a numerous offspring 
growing up around him, universally esteemed as orna- 
ments to society. He died at an advanced age, beloved 
by all, leaving to his descendants the rich legacy of a 
name without a blemish. 

Nathaniel Fillmore, the father of Millard, inheriting 
all the noble qualities of his ancestry, commenced life 
with nothing but an inflexible determination to succeed 
for his heritage. He spent his early years in the place 
of his nativity; acquiring what knowledge his limited 
means would permit, and following the industrial pur- 
suits* to which he had been carefully reared. His voca- 
tion being that of a farmer, wholly dependent upon his 
own resources for whatsoever he acquired, he was in a 
position admirably calculated to develop a naturally good 
physical organization. His habits, from early youth, 
were exceedingly regular and temperate — so much so 
that he refrained entirely from the use of all stimulants. 
So early, indeed, were the formation of his strictly tem- 


perate habits, that in his boyhood he was designated as 
a model for the boys of his neighborhood. 

At the age of sixteen, he evinced considerable judg- 
ment, in regard to the future value of New York lands, 
by persuading his father to go to Syracuse, and purchase 
lands which were then selling at ten shillings per acre. 
His father declined this good advice, assigning as a rea- 
son, that " it was too far from market." 

He continued the industrial pursuits of his vocation 
in his native county, without that accumulation of wealth 
he desired, for a number of years. By pursuing a course 
of scrupulous integrity toward his fellow men, and cher- 
ishing the nicest sense of honor, with an ardent desire to 
render himself agreeable and useful, he won the confi- 
dence and esteem of all with whom he mingled in the 
intercourse of every day life. Though possessing but a 
limited education, with naturally a good practical mind, 
he had been especially careful to avail himself of every 
facility within his reach to improve it, and to acquaint 
himself, as far as possible, with the institutions of 
his country and the history of the times. Born on the 
eve of the Revolution, and cradled amid the thunders of 
an enemy's cannon, he learned the lessons of patriotism 
on the very battle-fields of liberty. Peace had perched 
upon the American banner, and prospects more brilliant 
were then before the youth of the land than had hitherto 
been known on the continent. Surrounded by the vast, 
fertile fields of North America, free to make his own 
selection for a home, at the age of twenty-five, Nathaniel 


Fillmore began to look around him with a view to a per- 
manent settlement. 

Consequently, in his twenty-sixth year, he mar- 
ried Miss Phoebe Millard, daughter of Dr. Millard, of 
Pittsford, in the state of Vermont. He in his twenty- 
sixth and she in her seventeenth year, unknown to fortune 
or to fame, possessing nothing but honest, determmed 
hearts, rich in the possession of each other's love, they 
commenced the journey of life — the destined parents of; 
Millard Fillmore. 

After marriage, he remained in his old county but a 
short time. In February, 1798, in company with his 
brother, he left his native home, and went to Cayuga 
county. New York, in quest of that independency which 
seemed so difficult to procure at the home of his youth. 
Here, from February, 1798, to January, 1799, he and 
his brother lived, alone and almost in the woods, endur- 
ing many hardships and privations in making preparations 
for the reception of their families, whom they designed 
removing the ensuing spring. Scarcely awaiting the 
coldest of winters to abate its rigor, he commenced the 
difficult process of his family's removal from the state of 
Vermont to Cayuga county, New York. Through many 
difficulties, however, and after much labor, the task of 
removal was accomplished, and the parties installed in 
their new home. 

Here, active measures were early taken, to perform 
the varied duties of practical life, in procuring a compe- 
tency, which they required as heads of a young and 
growing family. Mr. Fillmore, as he had ever been, by 


his kind and courteous demeanor, and irreproachable in- 
tegrity, was eminently successful in getting the entire 
confidence of his fellow citizens. With such undeviating 
rectitude did he pursue the course marked out by vir- 
tuous honor, that his words were regarded as bonds by 
all who knew him. 

As a proof of the high appreciation on the part of bis 
fellow citizens for his sound judgment and exalted moral 
worth, I will state that he was created a justice of the 
peace for Cayuga county, the duties- of which office he 
disicharged to the satisfaction of all, and to the promotion 
of public justice, for the period of eleven years. The 
incumbents of those offices were then invariably selected 
from the best men of the country. He held the scales of 
justice with an even hand, and often evinced a sound 
judgment and a nice discrimination rarely excelled even 
by those gifted in the elucidation of legal technicalities. 

His early friends in Cayuga county were among the 
first citizens, possessing those high traits of character for 
which the early fathers of the New England States were 
so proverbial. His interests being identified with theirs — 
his love of virtue being in common with theirs — he early 
became domesticated in their families, and had a place 
assigned him in their afi'ections. He had been, as he 
thought, successful, too, in accumulating a portion of that 
property which the wants of a growing family required. 
He had, in fact, by investing the proceeds of his labors in 
Cayuga county lands, become the proprietor of quite a 
handsome property ; but a deficiency in the title by which 
those lands were held being subsequently discovered, it 


was seen that the means which he thought judiciously 
appropriated were a total loss: and the lands passed 
into other hands. About a year after his removal to Cay- 
uga county, Millard was born. Like Washington and 
Clay, he was born with no silver spoon in his mouth — 
and like them, he was destined to become an enduring 
monument of his own architectural genius. Nathaniel 
Fillmore continued a resident of Cayuga county for a 
number of years, but being deprived of his lands by the 
deficiency of title before alluded to, and having quite a 
large family to support, he resolved on removing to Erie 
county, in the more western portion of the state. He 
reached the city of Buffalo with his family, on the 
tenth of March, 1830. Buffalo was then becoming a 
place of commercial importance, and offered excellent 
inducements to the settlers in every department of busi- 
ness. He resided near Buffalo for a number of years, 
universally beloved and respected. He now lives at the 
beautiful village of Aurora, twenty miles from Buffalo, 
regarded by all as an embodiment of virtuous integrity. 
Though he has reached the advanced age of eighty-six 
years, he is in the vigorous possession of his mental fac- 
ulties, is in excellent health, and never feels a pain, though 
somewhat enfeebled by age. Thus, in the peace and 
quiet of healthful old age, as he approaches the grave of 
his fathers, he 

" Looks back upon life from its dawn to its close, 
Nor feels that he 's squandered its treasures away." 

Phoebe Fillmore was a lady of prepossessing appear- 
ance, and richly ciidowed with the amiable qualities of 


soul for whicli the ladies of Xew England were pro- 
verbial in the early days of the republic. 

Her father, Doctor Millard, was, in that day, regarded 
as an able physician, and a man of considerable attain- 
ments in various departments of useful knowledge. 

A sympathizer with the colonial sufferers through the 
scenes of the Ee volution, after a peaceful adjustment of 
the difficulties between the two countries, he was anx- 
iouslv solicitous that his children should receive all the 
blessings of our free institutions. 

Phoebe Millard, was, therefore, blessed with all the 
educational facilities the country could afford, and re- 
ceived the kindness of the best of parents. 

Thus, in early girlhood, she evinced an amiable dispo- 
sition, a spirit of meek forbearance, and a richly stored 
intellect, that eminently qualified her for the position she 
was destined to occupy. 

At the age of sixteen, she became the wife of Nathaniel 
Fillmore, and left the paternal home to share the for- 
tunes of the j^oung pioneer. Though young in years, 
she fully understood the duties and responsibilities of a 
wife. Devotedly attached to her husband, she was ever 
careful to promote his happiness. With clear concep- 
tions of her responsibilities as a mother, she was tenderly 
careful to instill into the minds of her children lessons of 
virtuous wisdom for their guidance. How much influ- 
ence the examples of such parents have had in shaping 
the career of their distinguished son eternity alone can 
tell. It is a remarkable fact, that, in the perusal of our 
great men's early histories, wo find they all had excellent 


mothers. Nathaniel Fillmore was peculiarly a domestic 
man; he knew no joys to compare with those that eradi- 
ate around the green vales of home. He was ever grati- 
fied, therefore, to find his wife endeavoring to make hap- 
piness the inmate of his humble abode. She shared his 
fortunes with the changeless devotion of a faithful wife, 
gladdened his path with the sunshine of her smiles, and 
gave into his arms a son, the glory of whose name will 
live forever. 

In company with her husband, she arrived at the city 
of Buffalo on the 10th of March, 1820, where she con- 
tinued, zealous in the discharge of every duty, smoothing 
the cares of her husband with devotional kindness, and 
impressing upon the minds of her children the deathless 
example of a virtuous life. 

At the time of their arrival in Buffalo, the family had 
become quite numerous, and required all the efforts their 
parents could bestow. Mrs. Fillmore, by the zeal with 
which she guarded the welfare of her children, proved 
herself worthy the position she occupied. 

During her residence in the vicinity of Buffalo, she won 
the esteem of ail with whom she became acquainted. Sho 
lived to see her children the recipients of public confidence. 
She died on the 2nd day of April, 1831. Heavily, indeed, 
did this bereavement weigh upon the minds of her hus- 
band and children — he lost the best of wives, they the 
best of mothers. Mrs. Fillmore had five brothers and 
four sisters : her brothers are good citizens, and her sis- 
ters beloved by those who knew them. Nathaniel 
Fillmore has several brothers, who are regarded as excel- 


lent citizens in their respective neighborhoods. Colonel 
Calvin Pillmore was a captain under General Scott, in 
the war of 1812. 

The family of Mr. Fillmore are remarkable for their 
strictly temperate habits, and great physical vigor and 
longevity. I have deemed it necessary to say this 
much of the parentage and relations of Millard Fillmore. 
I presume it will be thought quite sufficient to say of a 
man's parentage, who owes no part of his fame to an 
illustrious ancestry, who plucks no laurels from the 
" lineal tree," but who is essentially the architect of his 
own fortunes — the builder of his own temple. True, the 
ancestry of Mr. Fillmore vies with the oldest and most 
respectable of the early New England settlers, but still 
their brows are circled with the chaplets of no civic or 
military fame. They present themselves to our view 
panoplied in the gorgeous drapery of no illustrious deeds, 
wherewith to decorate the page of history. Yet, as im- 
personations of the purest virtue and patriotism, as men 
who strictly abstain from all vicious habits, and, by an 
adherence to the principles of temperate morality, live a 
life of irreproachable rectitude, and reach an old age in 
the full possession of all their faculties, they should 
elicit our esteem and emulation. 

Men who thus live, careful to leave upon the minds of 
their posterity the impress of virtuous example, are 
the true noblemen of the country. 

Millard Fillmore, in early childhood, possessed a se- 
date gravity of manners and a peaceful quietude of dis- 
position that was extraordinary in a child of his age. 


Possessing little taste, in common with other children, 
for the amusements incident to that age, he was rarely 
seen engaged in the sports which were a source of enjoy- 
ment to the other boys in the neighborhood. He loved 
his young associates, but had no desire to participate in 
their frolicsome pastimes. The quality of his disposi- 
tion was steady and earnest, yet mild and gentle. These 
traits of character, thus indicated at so early an age, 
have, to a great extent, grown with his growth, and be- 
come marked developments of his maturer manhood. In 
childhood, he doted on his parents with an ardor that 
knew no abatement, and loved to render implicit obedi- 
ence to their commands. He was industriously assidu- 
ous in the performance of every duty, and evinced, at a 
very early age, a determined spirit of energy, whose rest- 
less activity no discouragement could suppress. . 

Prompted in his earliest undertakings by an e#Qulative 
ambition to excel, his efforts were characterized by such 
a spirit of vigilant perseverance, that he seldom knew 
such a word as " failure," in childhood. His intercourse 
with his playmates was quiet, kind, and agreeable. The 
acknowledged favorite of his young companions, he was 
often chosen arbiter of their little disputes, which he 
seldom failed to settle in a manner entirely satisfactory. 
From his earliest childhood, he was remarkable for these 
peaceable traits of disposition. 

He was never known to quarrel with other boys, or to 
use language in the least exceptionable to any one. At 
six years of age, he was sent to school, in the immediate 
neighborhood of his father's, where he commenced learn- 


ing to read and write. At this school he began to mani- 
fest a love for books, and to evince a thirst for useful 
knowledge, that has been characteristic of his whole 
subsequent life. 

At the time of which I am now speaking, there existed 
in the New England States no efficiently, organized school 
system, as at the present day, possessing all the facilities 
to rapid advancement in every department of useful knowl- 
edge ; and even had such advantages existed, the father 
of young Fillmore was too poor to avail himself of them. 
The name of the first teacher to whom young Fillmore 
was sent was Amos Castle, who, I believe, was a native 
of Connecticut. Mr. Castle was a very religious man — 
observing the strictest principles of the early Puritans — 
but was a man of no extraordinary attainments as a 
scholar. He had a good school, and was careful to advance 
his pupils as fast as possible ; he was especially careful 
in the rigid enforcement of his rules regulating the mor- 
als of his school. He was beloved as a teacher of a pri- 
mary school, and as a Christian of exemplary piety. At 
this school, young Fillmore made such rapid progress in 
the elementary branches of learning, that all the scholars, 
and even his teacher and father, were surprised at the 
ease and facility with which he mastered his lessons. In 
a very short time, so rapid had been his progress, that 
he was enabled to stand at the head of his classes, and 
compete for the prize with the best scholars in the school. 
His rapid progress soon became manifest to the whole 
school, and though it excited the envy of some, with the 
encouragement of his father and his teacher, the spark of 


ambition was kindled in his breast, that was destined to 
blaze its light across the world. 

Under the parental direction of his father, who had 
opened his young mind, thus early, to the importance of 
mental culture, and filled his soul with exalted concep- 
tions of future success, he soon learned to read and 
write, and acquired a superficial knowledge of many 
things that were eminently useful. He made considera- 
ble proficiency in the different branches of his primary 
school, displaying in childhood a strong predilection for 
whatever pertained to books. He was extremely careful 
to avail himself of all the advantages thrown in his 
way, and, passionately addicted to the attainment of 
knowledge — so much so that it became the one absorb- 
ing desire of his soul, to which all others were subor- 
dinate. For the hardships of confinement in a school- 
room, he regarded himself richly remunerated by the 
acquisition of knowledge as the fruits of such coercion. 
Hence, though very young, instead of the desultory, 
irregular efforts at progress, usual among boys of his 
age, his mind became engaged in its one absorbing 
idea, until the manner of his studies assumed the regu- 
larity of system. He did not engage in the prosecution 
of his studies as though it was a task imposed upon 
him : to him, study was a delightful occupation. He was 
never seen engaged in those frivolous occupations of 
fishing or hunting, so usual among boys when uncontrolled 
by coercive authority. Instead of participating in these 
boyish sports, he would pore for whole days over the 
pages of a book, with a taste that seemed increased rathei 


than diminislied by tho perusal of his pages. His grow- 
ing passion for books and ardent thirst for knowledge 
became a theme of observation and comment on the part 
of his acquaintances and associates. They perceived 
that his progress was unchecked by any desire to en- 
gage in the amusements of his companions, or by his 
assiduous application to his studies, and ultimately con- 
cluded he loved to study, as his greatest source of enjoy- 
ment. He was frequently, when very young, known to 
pore for whole days over the pages of a book, the peru- 
sal of which could scarcely be imposed upon most boys of 
his age as a task, and yet, to him its perusal was a source 
of gratification. This love of books and taste for reading, 
in his early boyhood, was often a subject of remark. 
Ko scenes of mirthful festivity or boyish sport could 
allure him from his favorite pursuit. If asked to par- 
ticipate in the amusements of his young companions, he 
preferred to remain at home, where, undisturbed and 
alone, he could enjoy the glorious luxury of reading. 
Not that he had an aversion to the society of his young 
friends at this early age ; he had a species of zest for 
social intercourse, but never participated in the wild 
sports incident to that age. He was calm and social, 
but never gay and boisterous. This love of quietude 
has always been characteristic of Mr. Fillmore. It seems 
a part of his nature. 

While young, his enjoyments were somewhat of a pe- 
culiar nature. Reading, and reflecting upon what he had 
read or seen around him, were for him enjoyments that 
far surpassed the transient gaieties of the festive throng. 


Wlien very young, he was a close observer, and loved 
particularly to study the traits of different characters 
with whom he came in contact, and form his own conclu- 
sions in regard to the same. Many of those early con- 
clusions evince great justness and accuracy, while the 
correctness of many of his early delineations of character 
would have done credit to a moralist of an older growth. 

These traits of close observation seemed peculiarly 
manifest in Mr. Fillmore at a very early age, and have 
doubtless contributed much to form that correct basis 
for his actions through life. At ten years of age, he was' 
sent to school to a Mr. "Western, in the village of Sem- 
pronius, Cayuga county, New York. Of this gentleman 
I have been able to learn but little, save that he was a 
man of correct habits, and was regarded there as a well 
educated man. 

At this school, young Fillmore commenced the study 
of grammar and mathematics. He took the lead in his 
classes, and mastered his studies with an ease and facil- 
ity that evinced an intellectual capacity of the first order, 
and an indomitable perseverance in overcoming obstacles 
to his progress, that would quail before no discourage- 
ments. Of young Fillmore it may be truly said, that he 
possessed in youth a mind eminently susceptible of an 
indefinite expansion in the various departments of scien- 
tific literature. Possessing no choice, particularly, for 
one branch of learning over another, he had only to seo 
that it was knowledge and become convinced of its util- 
ity, when he mastered its intricacies as by the glance ef 

intuition. About this time* his youthful predilection for 



books developed itself in its true light. So great was 
this propensity that it seemed an inherent one — born 
with him ; the moment a new subject presented itself for 
his investigation, his active mind exerted itself with the 
promptness of instinct, until its abstrusities were thor- 
oughly understood. 

The vigorous powers of his intellect thus cultivated 
by all the means of which he had been able to avail 
himself, became more and more incessant in its restless ac- 
tivity to acquire knowledge until those of an intellectual 
nature were, at length, the only pursuits in which he took 

From the career of Mr. Fillmore, let the youthful 
reader deduce an argument in favor of early application, 
to qualify himself for the exalted position of his destiny. 
Let him remember that obscure soever as may be his 
birth, that it is a distinguishing feature of our social and 
political organism to open the avenues to wealth, fame, 
and honor, to all who, by application, deserve being the 
recipients, irrespective of name, distinction, or birth. Let 
him remember when adverse circumstances darken around 
his young aspirations, and " chill penury freezes the genial 
current of his soul," how like a star young Fillmore arose 
from the gloom that enshrouded him, and gradually 
ascending, radiant with light, until he took his place 
among the brightest that constellate in the horizon of 
mmd. Let him remember too, that the secret of his suc- 
cess and his immortality lies in the fact that the high- 
toned resolves of his early boyhood kept him entirely 
free from the -witching sorcery of evil habits — and that, 


by close application, to qualify himself for the discharge 
of after duties, in the prosperity of subsequent life he 
never had to look back to the days of his youth, to com- 
mune with " the ghosts of his departed hours." 

Up to this time, young Fillmore, by assisting his father 
on the farm during the spring and summer months, was 
enabled to attend school during the fall and winter months 
of each year ; and thus his thirst for knowledge had been 
partially supplied by the means offered for its gratifica- 
tion. But owing to the limited means of his father, who 
was unable to support so large a family as was accumu- 
lating upon his hands, he was compelled to quit school, 
and smother for a while his young ambition, except when 
opportunities presented themselves for its gratification in 
the sphere of an apprentice, of which he was sure to 
avail himself. It was a source of bitter regret to young 
Fillmore, to leave his school-room, where he had made 
such rapid progress, and to lay aside his books that had 
been his most delightful and familiar friends. He was 
the oldest son of a growing family, however, who had no 
resources for a support but the labors of his father, and 
saw clearly the imperative necessity of being early quali- 
fied not only to support himself, but to render his father 
assistance in supporting the younger members of the 
family. With this view, in his fifteenth year he was 
placed under the care of Mr. Hungerford, in the town of 
Sparta, Ontario county, (now Livingston,) New York, 
for the purpose of learning the clothier's business. Un- 
til about this age, he had been timid and diffident, with 
no indications of that buoyant health and physical vigor 


whicli he ultimately attained. Taking into consideration 
the destitute circumstances of his father, and hoping he 
might be enabled to alleviate them, \vith a stout heart 
young Fillmore cheerfully submitted to the mandate of 
necessity, bade adieu to his school-room, left his com- 
panions and his home, to commence the arduous duties 
of an apprenticeship. Thus, at the tender age of four- 
teen, dependent entirely upon his own resources — an 
ancestry without a blemish his only legacy — the aristoc- 
racy of an honest heart that no evil influences could 
corrupt, his only guide — and an indomitable energy that 
no diificulties could subdue, his only capital, he com- 
menced a career that was destined to become immortal. 
His connection with Hungerford, in the capacity of an 
apprentice, resulted in no abatement of his thirst after 
useful knowledge. Aided by the attainments he had 
subsequently made, with a mind whose conceptions be- 
came elevated and enlarged, as he advanced in years he 
seized those books he could procure best calculated to 
familiarize himself with examples of the great and the 
good, and devoured their contents with avidity. Care- 
fully assiduous to appropriate every moment of his time 
not required by the duties of his apprenticeship to the 
cultivation of his mind, he accumulated a large amount 
of useful information in regard to his own and other 
times. One of his favorite pursuits at this time was the 
study of history. He loved to confer with the dead as 
well as the living, and upon the records of the past to 
see the imperishable impress of departed worth. 

Though at times young Fillmore longed for better 


opportunities to cultivate Ms mind than presented them- 
selves as a clothier's apprentice, and wished relief from 
the coercive restraint under which his aspiring soul was 
fettered, he never uttered a murmur of discontent, or 
mourned at his lot. His was not a genius whose spark 
of inspiration could be extinguished by adverse winds 
that assailed it. With a firm reliance upon the happy 
result of his continued efforts, and the ultimate triumph 
of virtuous perseverance, he pressed steadily forward to 
the consummation of his wishes. Many bright geniuses, 
situated under circumstances similar to those that sur- 
rounded the youth of Mr. Fillmore, have slumbered for- 
ever in obscurity. Many sensitive minds, gifted with all 
the natural endowments of talent requisite to success, 
have been crushed by difficulties of less magnitude than 
weighed upon the aspirations of young Fillmore. With 
struggling genius thus fettered, we can not sympathise 
too deeply. Ko condition of life is, perhaps, so fraught 
with mental suffering as that of a young student who as- 
pires to a name and is conscious of his own inherent 
worth, but feels every energy palsied by the icy chill of 
poverty that binds him forever to his original sphere. 
Such commence their careers full of bright hopes for 
the future ; they breast the storms of adversity for a while 
with true courage, but they have no influential friends to 
si)eak well of their efforts ; they possess no combination 
of influences favorable to their advancement, and having 
to turn aside from their chosen profession to earn the ne- 
cessities of life, they see those more favored of fortune 
outstripping them, and becoming the recipients of public 


confidence, and finally, depressed and discouraged, the 
word " failure " becomes impressed upon their minds — 
they pass into obscurity, or become votaries of dissipation. 
This is the fate of hundreds — the history of thou- 
sands. The main cause of these disastrous results is a 
want of moral covrage on the part of young students thus 
situated to press steadily forward, over all obstacles, and 
wait with patience the reward of merit. Herein consists 
an essential element of Mr. Fillmore's greatness; he was 
one of the immortal few who had the moral courage to 
combat every difficulty, to resist every temptation, and 
to await with patience the reward of his labors. He 
knew that success was not the creation of an hour, but 
the result of labor, of studv, and of thouoht. For all 
young men thus situated, he stands a beacon light to 
immortality, enduring as the Pyramids. How worthy 
their emulation is his example for the American youth. 
The stay of our young apprentice with Hungerford was 
a very short one. That gentleman, not having saificient 
work in his clothier's business to require the services of 
his apprentices more than half the time, would send them 
to other work, when not engaged in the business of the es- 
tablishment. This did not suit young Fillmore. He had 
left home, and entered the establishment for the purpose 
of learning the trade, and when he found that his services, 
instead of bein2: confined to that exclusivelv, were chieflv 
required in the labors of another vocation, he resolved on 
returning home. This resolution was not without good 
reasons — he was anxious to learn a trade, in order to ^ 
render his father that assistance, in the support of his 


family, which his limited means required, and to promote 
his own advancement. The duties required at his hands, 
by his employer, when not engaged in his regular busi- 
ness, were of the most onerous nature. Everything, there- 
fore, being satisfactorily arranged with Hungerford, he 
started for his home in Cayuga county, where he arrived, 
after an absence of only a few months. It was in the 
fall of the year when he reached home. During the en- 
suing winter he remained with his father, cheerfully 
assisting him in his out-door labors, and contributing 
much to the happiness of their humble home. The homo 
■of Mr. Fillmore was, at this time, comparatively speak- 
ing, situated in little less than a wilderness. The country 
was but sparsely inhabited, with few indications of the 
subsequent prosperity it has attained. What improve- 
ments had been made were of a rustic nature, and upon 
the strictest principles of economy and simplicity. So- 
cial intercourse was restricted to only a few families, 
which were the entire community. Schools were few in 
number, and not very well sustained. There were none 
of those facilities, in fact, for the youthful student, that 
are thrown so profusely around the young men of our 
day. Books without number, school systems, libraries, , 
lyceums and Sunday schools, etc., that render such 
efficient assistance to young men of the present day, were 
advantaores unknown to the vouth of Mr. Fillmore. Yet, 
unaided with these facilities, during the winter, while at 
his father's, by applying his leisure moments to reading 
what books he was enabled to procure, he added a large 
amount of useful information to what he had previously 


acquired. He had a great passion for readiKg, and a 
liappy faculty of tldnldng on what he read. lie thus 
treasured from the records of the historian, the leading 
events, the virtues and wisdom of other times. With 
Grecian and Roman history he became somewhat convers- 
ant, and thoroughly imbued with the sentiments of vir- 
tuous patriotism of the ancient sages. He was fond of 
perusing their history, he loved to treasure their deeds of 
renown, and read, with delight, the pages of their match- 
less oratory. He fully understood the advantages, in his 
youth, of reading; but as a distinguishing trait in his 
youthful character from that of most youths, he bestowed' 
^much thought upon what he read. In his reading, he 
would compare characters, and seek for the existence of 
analogy, or view the beauties of virtue, when contrasted 
With the deformities of vice. He loved to analyze the 
actions of those of whom he read, and trace the motives 
of their origin. By this course, he was seldom incorrect 
in the opinions he formed of different characters. He 
possessed, in youth, an extraordinary memory. The 
most casual occurrence he would never forget, while the 
details of all conversations in his presence were remem- 
bered with minute accuracy. Though his opportunities 
were limited, owing to the scarcity of books, his passion 
for reading and general observation, combined with these 
retentive faculties of memory, resulted in the accumula- 
tion of a vast fund of facts and information, embracing 
a portion of almost every department of useful knowledge. 
Though deprived of those means of enjoyment so 
prized by youth and incident to thickly settled commu- 


nities, the boyhood of Mr. Fillmore was not wholly with- 
out its pleasantries. With the youths of the neighbor- 
hood, when he could get time and his own consent to 
forego the pleasure of his studies, he would have consid- 
erable pastime. In their little excursions, the peaceable 
and quiet disposition of young Fillmore was always man- 
ifest. He never gave way to anger, nor permitted his 
associates to do so, if he could possibly prevent it. As 
illustrative of his peaceful disposition, I will insert the 
following incident, that occurred in his thirteenth year. 
The peculiar domestic habits of his father often induced 
him to have the children of the neighborhood around him, 
whose playful gambols were to him a source of delight, 
unknown to the morose and misanthropic. Living on 
terms of entire sociability with all his neighbors, he had 
frequent opportunities of getting all their children to- 
gether at his house, for an evening's amusement. It was 
on one of those occasions, when quite a number of the 
neighbor boys and girls had assembled for the purpose of 
enjoying their sports ; when at the height of their enjoy- 
ment, however, a sudden misunderstanding occurred 
among the juveniles, and a quarrel ensued. Young Fill- 
more, who had taken no active part in the amusements 
of the occasion, on seeing the disturbance, approached 
the parties with great gravity, and chided them in the 
mildest possible manner for their conduct, and gave 
them a moral lecture upon good behavior, telling them 
"it was unmanly," — "it was not ladylike," thus to in- 
terrupt their evening's entertainment. In this way, he 

soon succeeded in restoring quiet, and making the quar- 


relsome parties heartily ashamed of their conduct. He 
thus, at a very early age, evinced the desires and capaci- 
ties of *' peacemaker " that have been eminently charac- 
teristic of his subsequent career. 

So conspicuous, indeed, was his peaceable, quiet dispo- 
sition, that the parents of the community, in correcting 
their children for any exhibition of rudeness or ill-tem- 
per, would refer to him as an example they should follow. 
He was quite a favorite, not only among those of his own 
age, but among the elder inhabitants of the neighborhood, 
who always felt happy in having him associate with their 
children. But the time was near at hand when again he 
gjiad to quit his books and leave his friends, for the duties 
of an apprenticeship. A portion of the fall and winter 
had passed since he left his first employer, embracing a 
period of six months. His time had not been wasted or 
misapplied. With characteristic energy he had made use 
of it to {he best advantage. In the spring of his six- 
teenth year, he was, for a second time, apprenticed to a 
clothier. For the business of a clothier young Fillmore 
expressed a preference, from the time he became con- 
vinced of the necessity of learning a trade, though he 
doubtless entertained intentions of a vocation bevond that 
at no distant day. As an available facility^ to promote his 
advancement, in the selection of his trade, he could not, 
perhaps, under the circumstances, have been more for- 
tunate. If he expected to follow it, it was a business in 
which there existed but little competition ; it was a busi- 
ness in the pursuit of which his physical powers were called 
into requisition, and his constitutional development and 


Vigor promoted ; then, withal, in learning the business, 
his application was only required during the spring and 
summer months of each year, while he could devote the 
fall and winter to other pursuits, and to the cultivation 
of his mind. These are the considerations, it is pre- 
sumed, whereby he was actuated in his expressed pre- 
ference of this for his trade. The most successful results 
have demonstrated the wisdom of the selection. The 
infinite utility of combining physical with mental labor, 
will scarcely be called in question by any one — certainly 
not by the intelligent, thinking reader. 

The position now occupied by young Fillmore necessa- 
rily insured this successful combination. His application 
during the time required to the arduous duties of his trade, 
resulted in the expansion and development of his physical 
powers ; while, during the fall and winter months, the 
same spirit of persevering application to his studies re- 
sulted in a still happier development of his mental pow- 
ers : hence, though his mental capacities are entitled to 
superior claims, as being eminently preponderant, both 
are remarkable for their vigorous elasticity. 

The name of the gentleman under whose charge he 
was this time placed was Cheney. He lived in the im- 
mediate neighborhood of his father's, so that the regret 
it was natural for him to feel on leaving home was not 
aggravated by the idea of a distant separation. Of this 
gentleman's traits of character I have not been able to 
acquaint myself in detail. So far as I have been able to 
learn, he was a man highly respected for his business 
habits, and many other good qualities of citizenship. 


His business was somewbat extended in its nature, and 
required in its prosecution bis personal care and super- 
vision. In tbe pursuit of bis vocation, be bad amassed 
considerable property, and been strictly economical in 
busbandiug bis resources. Being ever watchful in guard- 
ing tbe interests of bis establishment, tbe conduct of 
bis apprentices came under bis immediate observation. 
"Wbetber be was naturally kind to bis apprentices, or tbe 
dictates of feeling prompted bim to give tbem encour- 
agement, I cannot say. Certain it is, however, he became 
attached to young Fillmore immediately after his entrance 
into bis service. There was, in fact, between Cheney 
and his father, an explicit stipulation, to the effect that 
bis labors should be confined exclusivelv to the duties of 
bis trade. In a strict conformity to this stipulation on 
tbe part of bis employer, young Fillmore was, of course, 
deeply interested. Not being discouraged by those drafts 
upon bis time made by bis former employer, he pros- 
ecuted bis trade with an energetic determination to assume 
its complete mastery. Cheney was not repulsive and 
overbearing towards those in bis employ, though be re- 
quired at their bands a faithful discharge of every duty. 
Instead of assuming the haughty arrogance of a master, 
in bis intercourse with those over whom be exercised 
control, be was uniformly kind and courteous. Far from 
being exacting and tyrannous toward young Fillmore, 
be held out to bim every inducement, and manifested 
great willingness to do all in his power caculated to pro- 
mote bis advancement in a thorough knowledge of his 


Young Fillmore, as lie had ever done toward difficulties 
ove'r which he assayed to assume the mastery, evinced a 
perceptive aptitude in understanding the peculiarities of 
his new vocation. In the pursuit of his trade, he was as 
anxious to succeed as when in the pursuit of knowledge, 
and applied himself to the duties of his apprenticeship 
with the same spirit of assiduity that characterized his 
efforts in the school-room. 

From his trade, as hefore indicated, he expected much 
assistance in the prosecution of his plans for the future, 
and through it, as a medium of support, hoped to reap 
the rewards of their effectual maturity. For him to bend 
every energy, therefore, to its successful prosecution, the 
incentive was a very great one. It was his boyhood lad- 
der, whereby he was to climb from obscurity. That he 
should be particularly careful in the construction of an 
article whereby he was to make an ascent so difficult 
should be no matter of suprise, when we take in consid- 
eration the laudable nature of his aspirations. During 
this time, while making these exertions, he was not for- 
getful of his mind ; but whenever occasion offered, he 
would turn aside, and drink draughts from the fountain of 

These opportunities, however, did not often occur, 
except at night, when after a hard day's toil, instead of 
giving way to " tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy 
sleep," from his books, by the midnight lamp, he would 
cull the jewels of literature. Xights were the only times 
he now had to indulge in these, his favorite pursuits ; 
for, while in the performance of his duties in the estab- 


lishmeiit, by day he made every thing subordinate to the 
Diaiii desire of becoming master of his trade. Watchful 
of his employer's interests as though they were his own, 
he was always careful to promote them by all passible 
means in his power. During his entire apprenticeship, 
he was scrupulous in the observance of every regulation. 
Conducting himself with the strictest propriety, in every 
particular, he acted in accordance with every requirement, 
and performed the taslis assigned him with cheerful fidel- 
ity. He very well knew that in promxOting the interests 
of employers he was paving the way to his own, and 
that, in discharging his duties to them, he was discharg- 
ing them to himself. From the dawning of his earliest 
aspirations, he acted upon the principle that he had 
something to do in life — some duty to perform — some 
sphere to fill. He has always felt that, as a citizen of a 
free country, he had something to do for that country — 
as a member of society, he felt there was a debt due soci- 
ety from him : and in order to have just conceptions of 
those relative duties, and to qualify himself for their 
faithful discharge, he has left no means untried. Ambi- 
tious as he was to excel in his undertakings, it was not 
that selfish, groveling ambition that glories in the eleva- 
tion of self at the prostration of others, and exults at the 
consummation of its ends, even though it be at the entire 
sacrifice of all moral principle. His was an ambition of 
a nobler stamp, whereon the Divinity has left the signet 
of approval. 

His ambition was of that laudable nature, to cultivate 
the faculties that God had given him, to understand fully 


the duties incumbent upon him, and be enabled properly 
to discharge them — to make himself worthy the confi- 
dence of his fellow men, and be useful to his country. Of 
this nature was Mr. Fillmore's youthful ambition — of 
this nature it still is. It was this kind of ambition that 
actuated the efforts of his boyhood, made him the con- 
queror of every difficulty, and ultimately secured his 
triumphant success. By pursuing the praiseworthy course 
he did during his apprenticeship, he won the unlimited 
confidence, not only of his employer, but of every one 
connected with the establishment, before the labors of 
the first year were concluded. 

At the expiration of the summer, the busy season of 
his employer being over, he returned he oe, where he 
spent the fall and winter pretty much as he had the pre- 
ceding ones — dividing his time between his studies and 
his labors on the farm with his father. Than the father 
of Mr. Fillmore, no one was ever more careful toward a 

son. He was gratified at his ambition, and did every- 
thing in his power to promote its gratification. He encour- 
aged his taste for books, and strengthened his virtuous 
resolves by the strongest fortifications of precept and exam- 
ple. Without the remotest idea of the future eminence 
foreshadowed in his son's ardent thirst for knowledge, 
he was careful to keep alive the spark of his ambition. 
Seeing his strong inclination for books, he gave him 
all the assistance his straitened circumstances would 
allow, and watched with pride the development of his 
young mind. On one occasion, while his son was intently 
absorbed in the contents of some book, ht was known to 


ask Mrs. Fillmore, "with a degree of pleasantry, the 
following question : " Wife," he remarked, " who knows 
but Millard will some day be President 1 " 

Let us go, in thought, for a moment, to one of the 
most thinly populated portions of Cayuga county, New 
York, in the year 1813. There, amid almost a wilder- 
ness, surrounded with the fearful echo of the wolf's howl, 
In a rudely constructed cabin, we see a middle-aged man, 
clad in his home-spun, just from his work ; near him, 
busily engaged in her household duties, clad with equal 
simplicity, we see his wife : that rustic boy at the table, 
poring over the pages of a half-worn book, is their son. 
We hear the father ask his wife the question, " Who knows 
but our son will be President ? " and smile that the old 
man should have such a thought. 

Yet, it was literally true — that rustic boy was des- 
tined to be President. It was j^oung Fillmore ; those 
were his parents. From that rude cabin, he was destined 
to deal justice to his fellow men at the bar — from the 
pages of that worn book, he was destined to become the 
expounder of international law, and enlighten his coun- 
trymen in the congressional halls of the nation. From 
that rude cabin he was destined to be transferred to the 
presidential chair — the highest position on earth — and 
make the monarchs of Europe stand abashed in his 
presence. Henceforth, who can tell what cabin walls 
inclose our presidents 1 

There is, in contemplating the lives and characters of 
such men as Mr. Fillmore, something sublime and enno- 
bling, that teaches us man is immortal, and stamped with 


the impress of Deity. When emerging from the obscu- 
rity of his boyhood, we see him, with a bold hand, dash 
every obstacle from his pathway, as though they were 
but threads of gossamer, and advancing with the strides 
of an intellectual giant, from one post of honor to an- 
other, until he stands foremost in the galaxy of patriotic 
greatness, we are bound to endorse the sentiment that 
*' there is a divinity that shapes our ends." 

In the spring of his seventeenth year, he returned to 
his employer and resumed the labors of his apprentice- 
ship. He devoted himself to business with the same 
assiduous application he had evinced the previous season, 
and manifested an anxiety in no way abated by the relax- 
ation of his energies in that peculiar" sphere. In the 
meantime, the same successful results that attended his 
efforts in the school-room began to be manifested in his 
new sphere. Like all of his other undertahings, he com- 
menced learning his trade with " success " engraven upon 
Ms mind for his motto, and resolved by continued perse- 
verance to win its valued insignia. So rapid, indeed, 
was his progress, that he outstripped his fellow appren- 
tices, and was advanced to the position of master work- 
man. In this position, he was relieved from that portion 
of the labor usually devolving upon apprentices in an 
establishment of this sort. The business of the master 
workmen, as they were called, was of a more particular 
nature, which none but experienced hands were allowed 
to perform. The advancement of young Fillmore to this 
position, before he had served anything like the time 
usually allotted to boys to attain it, certainly speaks well 


of the manner in wbicli he had applied himself to busi- 
ness, and shows that he possessed the entire confidence 
of his employer. As a master workman, he was entitled 
to all the privileges, though not the wages, of journey- 
man. The business of finishing, that devolved upon his 
hands, though of a less arduous nature than the part of 
the labor in which he had been previously engaged, 
required the no less strict attention of his mind, nor 
permitted any cessation of his labors. Yet, he was highly 
pleased at his progress and good fortune, especially as 
it afforded a 'good opportunity to become thoroughly 
acquainted with the finer and more difficult part of the 

But this was not the only good fortune attendant upon 
Ms labors during that season. His strict adherence to 
the principles of justice and honor resulted in such a 
high appreciation for the correctness of his character, on 
the part of his employer, that he was intrusted with the 
books of the establishment. The proper performance of 
these duties was a task of no small magnitude. In keep- 
ina: a series of books, ree"ulative not onlv of the finances 
but of every department of an extensive business in its 
minutest branches, there was, of course, a necessity for 
the strictest accuracy, on the part of the individual in 
whose hands they were intrusted. 

When not engaged in the rendition of accounts or 
making entries of transactions upon his books, he was 
still expected to discharge the duties devolving upon him 
as a master workman. Young Fillmore proved himself 
equal to the tasks, and discharged the complicated duties 


of his combined capacities in a manner that reflected 
great credit to himself, and to the entire satisfaction of 
all concerned. His books were kept with an accuracy 
and nicety that evinced considerable financiering capaci- 
ty, while his finishing work indicated a complete mas- 
tery of his business. The reviewal of his books by the 
employer resulted in the detection of no inacuracies, 
even of the smallest nature, until, thoroughly convinced 
of the correctness of his young book-keeper, he felt entire- 
ly satisfied that the financial department of his business 
was in safe and reliable hands. In keeping the books, 
he was obliged to keep a correct record of the transac- 
tions of each day, by making charges and entering credits 
upon his day-book, as they occurred, then drawing them 
off in his ledger, assigning to each its proper head. 
Thus, when wages were to be drawn, bills to be paid, or 
'accounts to be collected, pertaining to any department 
of the establishment, at the clerk's desk, they were prop- 
erly made out, with the nicest accuracy. In this, his 
■ employer was relieved from all anxiety in regard to the 
correct management of his business, while the whole 
department was conducted with regularity and system. 
Thus, in a very short time, he not only gained the 
complete mastery of a trade that would insure him a 
competency through life, if called into requisition, but, by 
his regular habits and correct industry, was actually the 
financier of an extensive business establishment, possessing 
the unlimited confidence of everv one connected there- 
with. Such men are born to success — their iron energy 
cannot be subdued. Be they placed in whatsoever 


capacity they may, tliongli it be of the humblest nature, 
and though assigned to them be its most obscure position, 
by arousing their latent energies, they will make them- 
selves lino\Yn, and take the lead. 

The capacities and energetic perseverance of young 
Fillmore would have advanced him to the head of any 
vocation. Eegardless of the honors conferred upon indi- 
viduals by rank or station, instead of expecting to be 
honored by his vocation, his ambition, in whatsoever en- 
terprise he embarked, was to honor his calling. What 
intelligent reader will say this is not the true principle of 
action, to insure success ? That individual who aspires 
to a position, with a desire to honor it by the faithful 
discharge of the duties it involves, and to be useful to 
his country, if he succeeds in attaining it, and evinces a 
capacity in performing its responsibilities, that reflects 
credit upon the station, and proves the usefulness of the 
incumbent to the people, that individual finds but few 
impediments to his rapid advancement from one position 
of trust to another, by his fellow citizens. They see that 
the manner in which he guards the interests reposed in 
his keeping reflects credit to the station, and is ameliora- 
tive of its condition ; consequently, they are ready to 
endorse his aspirations as the offspring of a noble patri- 
otism, that aspires to make itself useful to the country, 
in any and every shape. TVhile, on the other hand, that 
individual whose aspirations to a station are actuated 
merely by a contracted desire for self-elevation, and the 
honors he expects to derive from the station, instead of 
those he expects to confer upon it, though he may, for a 


"while, by a species of demagoguery, succeed in deluding 
his fellow citizens and reaching some post of honor, 
they will ultimately perceive that all his protestations 
of patriotism are but a glossy film, which he weaves for 
the concealment of his real character ; and such an one, 
instead of occupying a place in the affections of the peo- 
ple, and being endorsed, as the embodiment of his preten- 
sions, finds himself subjected to the whims and caprices 
of unstable friends, who forsake him the moment fortune 
begins to wane, and leave him hopelessly wrecked upon 
the reefs of his own ambition. 

Of the former nature have ever been Mr. Fillmore's 
aspirations. We have seen that, in his childhood, regard- 
ing obedience as heaven's first law, he was careful to 
honor his parents in the filial discharge of every duty. 
Afterward, when endeavoring successfully to master the 
branches of his primary school, we have seen his anxious 
solicitude to honor his teacher, by his own rapid pro- 
gress. In the capacity of a clothier's apprentice, we 
have seen the ardent desire he manifested to honor his 
employer and his business, by assuming its complete 
mastery. Thus we have shown, that, up to this time, 
every situation in which he had been placed was honored 
by the faithful and correct manner in which he discharged 
his duties ; and to the reader who follows us through the 
pages of this book, we expect to show that every position 
he occupied, from the commencement of his alpha, at 
the wild-wood home, in Cayuga county, until he vacated 
the presidential chair of the United States, was essen- 
tially honored by his being the incumbent. 


He is now about to be introduced to tbe reader in an 
entirel}' new sphere — one, however, that has been the 
starting point of many of our greatest men. In the fall 
of*his eighteenth year, he opened a three months' school, 
in the town of Scott, about six miles from his father's 
residence, and assumed, at this early age, the responsible 
duties of a teacher. Among those of our great men 
"who have figured conspicuously in the history of their 
times, and formed the brightest jewels of our national 
adornment, whose earlv vocation was that of school 
teaching, we may number a Cass, an Underwood, and a 
host of others who made this the commencement of a career 
that was to end in their being recipients of the highest 
offices in the gift of the people. 

Alongside with such names as these, then, we find 
young Fillmore's, at their age. The town of Scott was 
but a small place, containing no great number of inhabi- 
tants. They had possessed but few educational facilities, 
and the manners and customs of the nlace bore unmis- 
takable marks of rustic simplicity. The citizens of the 
place, as was the case of most places, in that day, were 
but illy prepared to appreciate the advantages of a good 
school. Yet for the high moral character, and indomita- 
ble energy of young Fillmore, in the prosecution of his 
undertakings, they entertained the highest respect. He 
opened his first school, therefore, under circumstances 
somewhat favorable to entire success. As a remunera- 
tion for his services as a teacher of this school, he re- 
ceived ten dollars per month, with the privilege of 
"boarding around" — it being the custom of teachers to 


board with the different patrons of their schools. His 
school was liberally patronized by the citizens of the 
town, and he as a teacher became universally beloved. 
As a teacher, he was fully aware that his position was 
one of no ordinary responsibility, and resolved on devot- 
ing his entire energies to the duties it required. Among 
his pupils there were but few who had made any consid- 
erable proficiency in the acquisition of knowledge, though 
many of them evinced a strong desire to advance them- 
selves as fast as possible. His intercourse with his 
scholars was marked with a courteous amiability of tem- 
per, and a mild dignity of feeling well calculated to elicit 
their warm esteem. He set them an excellent example, 
anjd was careful to inculcate the necessity of its observ- 
ance. Acting upon the principle that it " was better to 
rule hy love than fear," in conducting his school, he uni- 
formly manifested a gentleness of disposition which would 
infuse itself into the minds of his scholars, by unvarying 
principles of assimilation. 

Though scrupulously strict in the enforcement of the 
rules he adopted for the regulation of his school, his 
reproofs to his pupils for their transgression were mild, 
yet firm and decisive. He was very careful to give them 
clear conceptions of the future duties devolving upon 
them as men, and to create a desire in their minds to 
become qualified for their discharge. Among the pupils 
attending his school, were several overgrown boys, much 
older than himself, who, notwithstanding his courteous 
demeanor toward them, but illy brooked their submission 
to one so much their junior in years, and rosolved on 


creating a spirit of insubordination throughout the entire 
school. The manner by which this was to be accom- 
plished was about this : one of the older boys was pur- 
posely to transgress the rules of the school, and instead 
of submitting to correction for the offence, was to refuse, 
and show resistance, when the other boys were to come 
to his rescue. Such a plan, liowever, was not matured 
without being detected by the vigilant observation of their 
teacher, who awaited patiently for them to put it into 
execution. Accordingly, during an afternoon, while en-- 
gaged in recitation, the older boy who was designated for 
that purpose violated a positive rule of the school, in 
the grossest manner. His teacher called him forward, 
and the boy peremptorily refused to come. Mr. Fillmore 
approached him in the sternest manner, and demanded 
an apolog3^ which the boy refused to grant. The inflic- 
tion of a blow on the back of the refractory pupil was 
the preconcerted signal for action, among the boys who 
understood the secret. But instead of punishing him 
that way, he sternly placed one hand on the boy's shoul- 
der, and gave him a cut across the knees with his switch 
in the other ; then turning to the other boys, with a look 
of stern resolution, that told he knew all about it, and 
with a motion of his hand, he so awed them into sub- 
mission that they dared not move, while their companion 
received a pretty severe castigation for his conduct- 
After the excitement had subsided and the boys began 
to be ashamed of themselves, he took occasion, in a very 
firm, effective manner, to let them know that he would 
have order, and be obeyed, and was determined to punish 


Jill ^ho refused obedience ; but hoped that in future there 
would exist no necessity for the infliction of punishment. 
From this time, he saw no more exhibitions of insubor- 
dination. His patrons commended him very highly, for 
the prompt efficiency with which he had quelled the first 
indications of disorder in his school, which, had they been 
suffered to spread, would have infected the whole school, 
and resulted disastrously to its prospects of success. 

Thenceforth, all his scholars became ardently attached 
to him ; he taught a good school, and succeeded in getting 
the good will of all. In the town of Scott, he was uni- 
versally beloved as a teacher, and as a young man of 
unexceptionable habits. 

Let it not be supposed that while Mr. Fillmore was 
thus engaged in the vocation of teaching others he was 
forgetful of his own improvement. His active mind, 
ever restless in the acquisition of whatever would tend 
to its vigorous expansion, suffered no diminution in its 
desires to become decorate-d with the treasures of knowl- 
edge. About this time, he evinced a great taste for the 
pure mathematics, and, in the solution of the most diffi- 
cult problems, gave evidences of a mind, strong, compre- 
hensive, and analytic. 

His aptitude in mastering the science of mathematics 

was, indeed, extraordinary. For in this department of 

scientific investigation, the reasoning, analytical faculties 

of his mind were brought into requisition. Among the 

mental attributes of Mr. Fillmore, these strong reasoning 

faculties and deep profundity of power have ever been 

to some extent, predominant. In reasoning from cause 


to effect, and inTestigating perplexing subjects, where the 
powers of perceptive analysis are required, to understand 
their intricacies, he has had few equals, and no superiors. 
There was, perhaps, in this respect, a closer analogy in the 
mental organism of Daniel Webster to that of Mr. Fill- 
more's than any one else whom I can now call to mind. 
He studied the theory of surveying, at this time, under a 
gentleman by the name of Taylor Stowe. So completely 
did he master both the theory and practice of this useful 
branch of science, that in a very quick time he became the 
best surveyor in the county. This valuable acquisition to 
Ms previous attainments, to say nothing of its great util- 
ity to him in his future practice as a lawyer, was subse- 
quently of eminent service to Mr. Fillmore ; it was a safe 
medium to which he could resort to relieve his pecuniary 
difficulties. In personal appearance, at this time, Mr. 
Fillmore is described to have been rather slim, with his 
proportions undeveloped, and exceedingly awkward in his 
movements. The circumstances by which he had been 
all his life surrounded prevented him from mingling 
much in society, and he was, consequently, entirely des- 
titute of those refined graces which are so much the- 
result of social intercourse. 

-In a sparsely inhabited community of an interior- 
county there was, in fact, no finely cultivated society 
with which to mingle, and even had there been, the tem- 
perament of Mr. Fillmore would not have adapted itself 
to it. His mind at that time was peculiarly sensitive, 
and somewhat averse to participating in the gaieties of 
fashionable life. He was poor, with nothing prepossess- 



Ing in his appearance, and deprived of the means that 
were available to those with whom his associations were 
confined, he seemed to feel keenly the disadvantages of 
his position. These disadvantages, so far as personal 
appearance and capacities for society were concerned, 
were doubtless greatly magnified by the peculiar sensi- 
bility of his temperament. He was exceedingly modest 
and diffident, especially when in the presence of superioi's, 
and the inclination of his sensitive nature was to assign 
to almost every one that position, though very far from 
deserving it. Another, and the main reason why he 
mingled so little in the social circle, and was so seldom 
a participant of its enjoyments, was the want of time. 
No youth ever had juster conceptions of the value of 
time, or made better use of it than did young Fillmore. 
The enjoyments he derived from his studies in his leisure 
moments he would sacrifice for no other. Save a lofty 
expression of feature that bespoke a consciousness of his 
own inherent worth, and a mild, steady eye, that beamed 
with a natural love for his fellow men, his countenance 
exhibited no extraordinary indications of the great man. 
Such is the appearance he presented to the c^asual ob- 
server ; but I am told that the close and observant reader 
of human character with no great difficulty could then 
discover beneath that uncouth covering the workings of a 
mightv soul. 

In manners he was at this time no Chesterfield. Spurn- 
ing the mere show of exterior politeness, unadorned by 
good qualities of heart, the natural dictates of his feel 
ings, while they have subdued all semblance of pride 
and ostentation, have ever made him the kindest of men; 



He resumes his trade — Determines to study law — Reflections upon 
the importance of the step — Reads with Judge Wood — Sketch 
of that gentleman — Goes to Buffalo — Lives within his means — 
State of society — PoUtical matters — Is admitted to the bar — 
Goes to Aurora, and engages in practice — His first case — Teaches 
school — Is married — Is regarded as a lawyer of ability — Nature 
of his eloquence — Prospects brighten. 

The conclusion of the last chapter brings us to the 
nineteenth year of Mr. Fillmore's life. When we take 
into consideration the difficulties under which he labored 
in the prosecution of his undertakings, we must conclude 
that much had been accomplished, and be impressed with 
admiration for the energetic spirit displayed in all his 
actions up to this time. In the spring of his nineteenth 
year, he resumed for the last time the duties of his trade. 
Notwithstanding he had been so very careful to acquaint 
himself with the mysteries of his trade, with a view to 
the assistance he expected to derive from it in the prose- 
cution of his studies, he was so successful in his chosen; 
profession that its advantages were never called intoj 
requisition. He had for some time conceived the idea of' 
reading law, a profession for which he seemed naturally] 
to have entertained a strong predilection. And, in fact,j 
a part of his leisure moments, during the latter portion of ^ 
his services in the clothier's establishment, was devote( 
to the study of the law. During the spring and summei 


of 1818, he prosecuted his business with his employer in 
his former double capacitj^ of master workman and book- 
keeper. He performed his duties with the same spirit of 
prompt alacrity he had evinced in the preceding years, 
zealous to acquit himself to the entire satisfaction of every 
one connected with the business. 

During that fall, so ardent had become his desire to 
engage in the study of the law, without the hindrance 
imposed by the duties of his trade, that he ventured to 
communicate them to his father. His father had for 
some time watched his zealous application to his books, 
and had often been very desirous of giving him increased 
facilities for the improvement of his mind. He was dis- 
posed, therefore, to view the wishes of his son in a light 
rather favorable than otherwise. 

It was about this time he attracted the notice of Judge 
Wood, a lawyer of estimable worth, residing at no grer^t 
distance from his father's, who persuaded him to devote 
his studies to the law. 

Mr. Fillmore accordingly communicated his intentions 
to Cheney, his employer, and expressed a wish to pur- 
chase the remaining portion of the time for which he was 
obligated. So earnest had young Fillmore's endeavors 
been to promote the interest of his business from his 
earliest connection therewith, that he began to hope his 
services would be retained as a fixture to the establish- 
ment. He did not, therefore, at first, relish very well a 
proposition that was to deprive him of an apprentice 
whose sei:vices had become so important in the prosecu- 
tion of his business. He at first rather dissuaded him 


from abandoning a business for ^vbicb be bad been so 
careful to prepare bimself, and in tbe prosecution of 
whicb an independency, if not a fortune, was in store 
fur bini in tbe future. But young Fillmore was not to 
be dissuaded : be bad familiarized bimself witb.tbe exam- 
ples of those wbo bad gone before bim; be bad seen tbem 
embark in tbe study of tbe same profession, under circum- 
stances equally discouraging to tbose witb wbicb be 
was surrounded ; be bad seen tbeir efforts crowned with 
triumphant success ; bis young bosom bad swelled with 
animation at the exhibitions of power and patriotism, 
displayed by Clay and' others, who commenced the law 
under tbe same circumstances, with nothing for their 
reliance but tbeir own determined will, and he longed to 
try bis own powers. 

His conference with bis employer in reference to bis 
contemplated engagement in tbe study of the law, 
resulted in obtaining his consent to allow him to purchase 
tbe residue of bis time. This consent, however, was not 
procured without some reluctance. Tbe position occu- 
pied by Mr. Fillmore in the establishment was one of 
no ordinary importance ; and he very well knew that, to ; 
get another incumbent, who would be equally careful in 
the discbarge of its varied duties, would be exceedingly , 
difficult. But he sacrificed all these considerations, and 
after young Fillmore had obligated himself to remunerate 
bim for tbe loss be sustained by bis withdrawing from his 
services before tbe expiration of the time specified in 
their original agreement, he quit forever the business to 


which he had applied himself with so much zeal and 

Cheney was doubtless perfectly honest in his convic- 
tions, as regarding the impolicy of the step talien by his 
apprentice — throwing all considerations out of the ques- 
tion, but those for his own good. He was essentially a 
practical man, and much attached to Mr. Fillmore ; and 
when he saw him sacrifice the certain profits of a trade, 
the entire mastery of which he had attained, to embark in 
the uncertainty of a profession, to qualify himself for 
the duties of which would require months and years of 
close application, he was no doubt honest in his misgiv- 
ing, and in thinking the movement exceedingly unwise. 

To represent, in its true light, the exact way, not only 
in which he looked upon this, as he thought, injudicious 
movement, on the part of Mr. Fillmore, but the exalted 
opinion which he had conceived for him during their 
intercourse, I give the following remark, which he is said 
to have made to a friend, a short time after he had leffc 
his employ. He and his friend were together in the yard, 
engaged in conversation, when young Fillmore passed 
along in sight, on some business in the neighborhood. 
" Do you see that young man, yonder ? " said €heney, 
pointing to young Fillmore. " Yes," was the reply, 
'' Well," continued Cheney, "he is, for a sensible young 
man, pursuing a very foolish course ; he has been engaged 
with me in business for some time ; he was far the best 
apprentice I ever had, and the best worknian I ever had; 
he understands the business perfectly, yei he has aban- 
doned his trade, and go7ie to reading law I " Herein 


consisted the extreme folly of his course, in the concep- 
tions of his employer. Time, however, dispelled the illu- 
sion, and demonstrated the course of 3Ir, Fillmore to have 
been most wise. Young Fillmore had not, however, come' 
to the determination to embark in the study of the law 
without mature deliberation, in his own mind, as to the 
propriety of such a course. It was a step in which too 
much was at stake for him to take without reflecting well 
upon the weighty considerations it involved. On the suc- 
cess of such a step, he very well knew, depended, to an 
immeasurable extent, that of his eventual destinv. Be- 
fore his embarkation, therefore, in a pursuit so pregnant 
with the^ fate of his most cherished hopes, he was par- 
ticularly careful to weigh well the chances of success 
and defeat, to place them all in the balance, and see which 
stood the best chance for predominance. Subjected to 
this investigation, the chances of success, contrasted with 
those of defeat, would have been extremely diminutive, 
had not their proportions been greatly magnified by the 
weight of talent, zeal, and energy, on its side, that were 
more than sufficient to counteract all the discouraging 
circumstances penury and adversity could array against 
him. There are few steps so pregnant with the fate of 
a young man's destiny, and the decision of his happiness 
or his misery, as the choice he makes of his vocation. It 
is certainly one of life's most important events. Young 
men who are compelled to rely upon their own judgment, 
in a selection so replete with the fate of their eventual 
destinies, cannot be too cautious against an inappropriate 
investiture of their talents and capabilities. Such invest- 



mentshave resulted disastrously to the prospects, success, 
and happiness of hundreds, who, had their efforts been 
directed in a proper channel, more congenial with their 
talents and qualifications, would have been useful, good 
citizens. If, in a hasty preference for a profession, based 
mainly upon the dignity and eclat attac^hed to it in the 
minds of many, an individual embarks in it without pos- 
sessing the requisite qualifications for the discharge of 
its duties, he not only sul)jects himself to infinite mortifi- 
cations, by a misapplication of his time, but often takes 
the first step that eventuates in his ruin. By such mis- 
application of time, they are prostrating their talents, 
and rendering them entirely useless for the performance 
of duties in a sphere for which they are naturally adapted, 
while they are certainly making no progress whatever in 
a sphere wholly uncongenial to their entire capacities. 

It is not unfrequently the case, we see young men of 
the finest mechanical minds, possessing a peculiar con- 
structive aptitude, put into some profession to which their 
energy, capacity, and feelings are entirely uncongenial, 
where they scarcely succeed in attaining a position of 
mediocrity, who, had they, chosen a vocation f,)r which 
they possessed a natural turn, would have been eminently 
useful to the country. Again, we find abstract, metaphys- 
ical minds, whose powers of language are scarcely suffi- 
cient to elucidate their smallest ideas, engaged in the 
study of the law — a profession wherein a fluency of 
speech, a retentive memory, and perceptive, analytical 
powers of mind, are essentially necessary to success. To 

this cause is attributable the larger portion of failures 


of Youns: men in the outset of tlfeir career. HaTing no 
natural taste for their profession, they embark in its duties 
as though it was an arduous task imposed upon them, and 
devote their leisure to something for which they have a 
taste, until they are outstripped by those who ar.e adapted 
by nature to their profession. Nothing is more ruinous 
in its influence upon a young man in the outset of his 
career, than for failure to become associated with his 
undertakings. Not that young men should expect entire 
success in their early efforts in their vocation, as an inva- 
riable consequence of .energy; it takes time, study, and 
patience to overcome the inexperience and incapacities of 
youth ; and in combating these difhculties, they should 
not be too easily discouraged by an unsuccessful effort, or 
a defeat in an undertaking — they are occurrences incident 
to the careers of the greatest. But the kind of failure to 
which I have reference, as being peculiarly disastrous in 


its results to their aspirations, is their entire failure in a 
profession to which they are by nature wholly inadapted. 
Before, therefore, young men embark in a vocation, the 
discharge of whose duties is to- receive the attention of a 
lifetime, and which is to foria the source of their enjoy- 
ment in every condition, and upon the prosecution of 
which depends alj. their hopes of influence and prosperity^ 
they should have a very just appreciation of the import- 
ance of the event, and be well assured, by unmistakable 
indications, that they have some natural adaptation to its 
pursuit. Then, with energy and perseverance, in using 
the appliances thrown in their way, their chosen vocation 
being the foeus where centre both effort and natural 


inclination, triumphant success will follow as an invariable 

From considerations, therefore, of the vast importance 
resulting from his choice of a profession, he felt it a 
responsible duty to arrive at safe and correct conclusions. 
He knew that the step about to be taken was a decisive 
one, and though, with spirit and industry, he hoped for 
the best, he felt many misgivings in regard to future suc- 
cess. He viewed the difficulties with which he knew he 
would be surrounded, carefully counted the costs, and 
summed up the strength of the opposition against him, 
then, like an experienced mariner, setting his compass to 
the pole, spreading his sails to the breeze, he launched 
upon the uncertain voyage of professional life — willing, 
with patient industry, to bufPet the turbulent sea, and to 
combat the adverse storm, could he but reach the haven 
of success in the future. 

Kobly triumphant has been the success of the voy- 
ager. Proudly did his craft emerge from the mist that 
enshrouded it, and speed onward in a course of unsurpassed 
success, till she anchored in the proudest harbor of fame. 
Gallantly, now, with sails full-spread to the breeze, the 
stars and stripes floating from her mast, the constitution 
of his country engraven on her sails, "America" written 
across her prow, and religious liberty for her propulsion, 
she glides onward in triumph, a life-boat of the Union, 
carrying more than " Caesar and his fortunes." 

The considerations connected with his profession being 
well weighed, and their importance thoroughly appre- 
ciated, Mr. Fillmore entered the office of Judge Wood, 


Judge Wood was a man of considerable eminence in the 
legal profession, and very correct and accurate in the 
transaction of all business entrusted to his care. He 
"was one of the early settlers of that part of the country, 
and was proverbial for his integrity and high toned moral 
"worth. He had amassed immense wealth in the pursuit 
of his profession, and been exceedingly judicious in his 
investments. There was, at that time, a considerable 
amount of litigation in that section of the state of New 
York; but Judge Wood, though of ackowledged preemi- 
nence as a lawyer, did no great amount of practice. He 
was successful, however, in establishing himself in a 
lucrative business. 

The nature of this litigation consisted principally in 
the contests between different claimants for lands in their 
occupancy. The settlers coming into the county would 
purchase government claims and open their farms, and 
often were permitted to enjoy their labors but a very 
short time, when prior claims to the same parcels of land 
would be presented, and the subsequent settlers had to 
abandon the premises. Of this nature was the principal 
amount of Judge Wood's legal practice ; and, by taking 
parts of land thus gained from his clients as remunera- 
tion for his services, he became a very extensive land- 
holder. But aside from his legal acumen and sound 
judgment in whatever pertained to his profession. Judge 
Wood was possessed of all those nobler qualities of heart 
that endeared him to his fellow men. In business, he 
was punctual and regular, manifesting a spirit of the 
exaetest order, in the minutest details. The association 


of Mr, Fillmore with a gentleman of these commendable 
traits of character could not fail to result most happily. 
The office of the Judge was situated several miles from 
his father's residence. He boarded at home, however, 
during the first months of his studies. 

The ready facility with which he comprehended the 
principles of law surpassed the progress, rapid as it had 
been, he had made in other departments of his studies. 
This was owing, doubtless, in a great measure to the 
maturer development of his mental powers, and partly 
to the peculiar congeniality of this branch of knowledge 
to his feelings, and the great importance he felt in the 
necessity of progressing as fast as possible. 

He felt that this was his life experiment, and upon its 
successful demonstration depended the hopes he had 
formed and fostered from boyhood. 

For rapid advancement in this peculiar sphere, he was 
not very well prepared by attainments previously made ; 
but he possessed a mind of natural vigor and comprehension 
that supplied all deficiencies. For the successful prose- 
cution of the law, Mr. Fillmore, by nature, possessed the 
happiest endowments. He hoped to be able, through the 
medium of this profession, to make an adequate support, 
and attain, at last, a position of respectability as a pro- 
fessional man, but had no idea that it was to be the 
medium through which he was to be the recipient of 
undying fame. Yet, his aspirations were contracted by 
no limited sphere ; he was anxious to be of service to a 
country he had learned to love, and had he known then 
he was to fill the highest offices, he could have applied 


himself to the mastery of legal principles with no more 
assiduity than marked his eager efforts as it was. The 
great profound reasoning powers of his mind, enlarged 
and strengthened by their recent subjection to the solution 
of mathematical problems, ranged almost with intellec- 
tual rapacity through the mystic pages of the legal 
commentators, and comprehended their technical abstru- 
sities as by the power of instinct ; while the quick 
analytical acuteness of his perception, in a thorough com- 
prehension of each principle, was ready at a glance to 
apply the theory to the practice. 

Then, withal, by a close course of reading which he 
had been careful to observe for a great while preceding 
his commencement of the law, he had become an excel- 
lent historian, and as a basis of reflection upon the sub- 
jects of law and legal systems, he was somewhat familiar 
with the ancient laws of the Grecian and Eoman repub- 
lics. His spirits were vigorous and buoyant, the glow of 
youthful health bloomed upon his cheek, unimpaired by 
the vicious excesses too often incident to youth, and with 
determined animation he bent himself to the prosecution 
of his studies with an ardent zeal that no difficulty could 
resist. But, notwithstanding his anxiety to make rapid 
progress, and in that desire all else seemed entirely swal- 
lowed up, he was not forgetful of the kind courtesies due 
from him to those, especially Judge Wood, connected with 
the office. He was careful in discharging all these little 
courtesies, and to pursue a course calculated to win the 
esteem of all. These manifestations of kindness were, 
and still are, natural to Mr. Fillmore. He was, at that / 


early da5^ as far from entertaining a feeling of selfish- 
ness as though self was a secondary consideration. With 
him the elements of happiness have consisted essentially 
in seeing those happy around him, and prosperity and 
general happiness pervading the common country. Act- 
ing in accordance with the dictates of this generous 
nature, it was impossible for him to be inattentive to any 
duty due those with whom he mingled. Such a course 
as pursued by Mr. Fillmore could not fail to be perceived 
by Judge AYood. His modest, unassuming deportment, 
his kind and generous disposition, and fhe ready eager- 
ness with which he sought to perform every duty, were 
well calculated to make a man of the Judge's temperament 
look on his young pupil in a very favorable light. One 
thing that had much to do in superinducing this favorable 
opinion to young Fillmore, was the fact that he saw 
the incipient displays of a lofty soul at work in the Her- 
culean task of mental labor he performed. The profi- 
ciency and ease with which he had comprehended those 
intricate parts of the law, the thorough understanding of 
which had, for most students, been the work of years, 
surprised Judge Wood not a little, and made him regard 
his pupil as one of no ordinary intellectual capacities. So 
favorable, indeed, was the light in which he now regarded 
Mr. Fillmore, and such an influence did his energy and 
love of study have upon his mind, that he proposed to 
him to come to his house and remain, and what writing 
he did for the office should pay his board. Than this 
proposition, nothing could have been more congenial to 
tlie fcelintrs of Mr. Fillmore. He embraced it gladly. 


He 'was now in a position he had much desired for a long 
while. The writing in which he was engaged was of a 
particular nature, and quite considerable in amount. He 
did not mind the imposition of this writing, however, 
inasmuch as he was defraying the expense of his studies 
and board. Judge Wood being a very careful man, the 
exact precision in which he had everything done about 
him, doubtless, had a very happy effect in conforming Mr. 
Fillmore so happily to the strictest principles of order, 
that characterize all his actions. The vast amount of 
writing he did, while in the office of the Judge, contrib- 
ted much to the acquisition of neatness, regularity and 
dispatch of penmanship displayed in all Mr. Fillmore's 

•Few men have ever taken more interest in a pupil than 
did Judge Wood in Mr. Fillmore. Few ever felt more 
solicitude in the advancement and proper cultivation of 
the mind of a pupil than did he. Few pupils, too, have 
ever appreciated a solicitude in their behalf more highly 
than did Mr. Fillmore the interest Judge Wood mani- 
fested in his young aspirations ; and certainly none ever 
more sucessfuUy demonstrated the utility of the instruc- 
tions he thus early received. What Chancellor Wythe 
was to Henry Clay, Judge Wood was to Millard Fillmore 
From the examples of Wythe and Wood, let those pos- 
sessed of the means to do so learn to extend encourage- 
ment to struggling worth — the ragged newsboys and 
apple-venders of our streets may contain "some mute, 
inglorious Milton" in their ranks, whose genius,, if prop- 
erly developed, would shed a halo of lustre upon the land 


of his birth. Had it not been for Chancellor Wythe, Clay- 
would not, perhaps, have been able to construct upon the 
broad pillars of the constitution that pyramid of patriot- 
ism — the Compromise; — and had it not been for Judge 
Wood, we might not now, perhaps, have a Fillmore to 
protect that noble piece of architecture. Judge Wood 
not only extended to him the free use of his office and his 
books, and gave him all the encouragement he was able, 
but expressed a willingness to advance him means, and 
wait until, from the successful results of his professional 
labors, he should be enabled to liquidate them. This kind 
offer was accepted with feelings of profound gratitude. 
But gladly as he embraced this magnanimous proposition, 
he was unwilling to incur a debt to his benefactor beyomd 
the prospects of liquidation in the pursuit of his profession. 
As a means of sustaining himself, and of preventing too 
great an indebtedness towards Judge Wood, he again 
resorted to school teaching. The same happy results 
attended his efforts in conducting this school he met with 
in the town of Scott, and resulted in the acquisition of 
sufficient means to render material assistance in sup- 
porting- himself. 

Mr. Fillmore learned very early to rely exclusively 
upon the results of his own exertions, as the only facili- 
ties to his advancement ; and though gratefully delighted 
at the bestowal of all encouragement, he expected material 
assistance from no one ; hence, he was never disappointed 
when not its recipient. By teaching school, surveying, 
etc., during a portion of each year, he was enabled, from 
the profits accruing from these vocations, to defray all 


expenses attendant upon his studies the remaining por- 
tion. By this nieans, he contracted no debts ; and \vhat 
-was still better, he contracted no evil habits. If bad 
habits are, as has been said, the offspring of idleness, 
their infection of Mr. Fillmore would have been illegiti- 
mate, for with him idleness was the parent of nothing. 

He continued the study of law with Judge Wood 
nearlv two years ; and, bv dividinj;? his time somewhat 
between his studies and teaching, kept himself clear of 
all obligations. He was, in every sense of the word, of 
his own formation: But let not too much merit be 
claimed or ascribed to Mr. Fillmore ; because, in early 
youth, he had all these difficulties to combat, and triumph- 
antly succeeded in winning the proudest laurels of 
statesmanship. For so universally has it been the case, 
that the great men of the nation, through the happy 
facilities offered by the institutions of our country, have 
arisen from the humblest circumstances, that we begin to 
feel it is the source from whence thev must come. So 
remarkable, indeed, does the fact strike the student of 
history, that an isolated case, whq, from the lap of afflu- 
ent wealth, and all the other advantages it could purchase, 
should rise to distinction and eminence, would be such a 
rarity, that his biographer, in the delineation of his earl}'' 
career, would have to say his prospects were gloomy 
enough, for he had to " combat all the disadvantages that 
wealth and ease could bestow." 

We should be proud of a country whose peculiar boast 
is thus to open all the avenues of her rich resources, and 
cherish the remembrance of those who avail themselves 


of them. The associations of j'oung Fillmore with Juclge 
Wood had not only resulted in the attainment of a vast 
amount of legal and other important information, but had 
been eminently agreeable in every particular. The Judge 
had several sons, with whom he become quite familiar, 
and to whom he became considerably attached. The 
disparity of circumstances created no barrier to their 
social intercourse, and the attachment became mutual. 

After enjoying the legal advantages placed in his way 
by the kindness of Judge Wood, for a period of near 
two years, h^ resolved on removing to Erie county. The 
wisdom of this course was obviously manifest. In the 
sparsely inhabited portion of Cayuga county, where the 
entire business of a legal nature was in the hands of two 
or three, and none of those advantages arising from 
social intercourse, the chances of familiarizing himself 
with the practical part of his profession were very ordi- 
nary indeed. Then, beside, he had reached that age of 
maturity that made him desire a more extensive knowl- 
edire of his fellow men than the limited associations 
of Cayuga county afforded. It was time, too, he had 
bestowed some thonght upon the people amid whom his 
lot would be cast, and identified his interests with theirs. 
Then, too, he was anxiously desirous of being so situ- 
ated as to be enabled to avail himself of the practical 
wisdom of those who were engaged as members of a 
talented bar dailv in the elucidation of legal principles. 
Having once embarked in the law, he did it with a view 
of making it his lifetime business; there was then no 
time for halting or vacillating between different consid- 


erations as to the wisest course for him to pursue in the 
regulation of his future career. The Rubicon was crossed — 
the die was cast. The considerations of his mind were 
directed upon the methods and appliances best calcu- 
lated to advance him in the profession he had chosen, 
instead of looking round for an outlet by means of which 
he CDuld effect an escape, and embark in a vocation that 
promised to be more lucrative, if not more honorable. 
For this steady determination to devote every energy to the 
prosecution of an enterprise, after he had once embarked 
in it, Mr. Fillmore -had and still has a very happy fac- 
ulty. Those unstable desires of individuals to bring 
themselves into notoriety, having neither the patience nor 
the capacity to achieve anything honorable to themselves 
or their country, that induce them to shift sails continu- 
ally, hoping thereby to catch a favorable breeze to be 
wafted into the coveted port of fortune and success, were 
altogether foreign to those entertained by Mr. Fillmore, 
and wholly repugnant to his feelings. 

His sails were already spread ; his desires were to sus- 
tain them, until sufficiently strong and appreciated, to 
eatch not only a favorable but a merited breeze, that 
would bear him and his fortunes successfully over the 
ocean of his adversity. In this, instead of being disap- 
pointed, in his expectations, his ajaxious application has 
been rewarded in a manner that has far surpassed the 
realization of his brightest dreams as to the result when 
he first embarked in the profession. 

His father and family had, for some time, been residing 
in Erie county, and, aside from the dictates of his own 


inclinations, he was urged by them to go there and con- 
tinue the prosecutions of his studies. Accordingly, in 
the fall of 1827, he left Cayuga county, and, like the star 
of empire, took his way westward. He experienced many 
regrets in leaving those places endeared to him by the 
tenderest associations. There he had first felt the kin- 
dling glow of young ambition swell his bosom ; there he 
had first learned the rudiments of an education that he 
has endeavored so successfully to honor ; there he had, 
by vigilant application to the requirements of his 
employer, learned the entire intricacies of a trade which, 
from the extraordinary powers of his own intellect, he 
was destined never to follow ; and there he had first 
received encouragement that bid his aspirations unfetter 
themselves, and, through the " thick gloom of the present, 
look forward to a glorious future, bright as the sun in 
heaven." So ardent had become the attachment of Judge 
Wood to his young student that it was a source of real 
pain to part with him ; but seeing the wisdom, and the 
almost necessity of the course, he was more than willing 
to forego all personal considerations, if the sacrifice was 
to result in the promotion of his young friend's prospects. 
The influence this gentleman exerted over young Fill- 
more was certainly very favorable in every essential 
feature. So kind had he been, so deep the solicitude he 
felt, and so disinterested the friendship he extended to 
him, that his affectionate ragardwas almost equivalent to 
that of a parent. How lastingly treasured on the tab- 
lets of memory is every kindness extended to youths 
under such circumstances as those that surrounded 


Mr. Fillmore, when he first elicited the "consicleratioii of 
Judge Wood. What an influence such encouragements 
not unfrequently, too, have exerted in shaping the desti- 
nies of those who were their recipients. When Socrates 
was first discovered with his chisel in the rude sculptor's 
shop, who would for a moment have conceived- he pos- 
sessed the almost sacred sparks of Divinity itself, and was 
reserved to demonstrat-e the soul's immortalitv. Yet, 
through the kind intercession of a friend in his.Jiehalf,- his 
mind- expantled itself to so lofty a height, that the world 
became filled with t-he blaze of his intellectual philosophy. 
When Henry Clay, in the marshy swamps of Hanover 
county, Virginia, was benumbed with the blast from 
which his tattered garments afforded scarce a perceivable 
protection, toiled to feed a helpless mother, who would 
have thought that, a second father of his country, he was 
to preside over her Senate, and, like a demi-god, reign 
king in the proud realm of mind ? Yet, through the friendly 
intercession of a philanthropist, he was made aware of 
that genius that blazed like a star of the first magni- 
tude, while others seemed but its satelites. When Mil- 
lard Fillmore, embosomed amid the wilderness of the 
Hampshire Grants, in Cayuga county, was toiling to ren- 
der his father assistance in the duties of their wild wood 
home, who would have thought that to him the eyes of a 
grateful nation would turn, as the pilot of their ship of 
state, the defender of her institutions ? Yet, aided by 
the counsels of a friend, and the examples of a friendly 
experience, he was enabled to guide her safely to port 
through the darkest political storms that have lowered 
over the horizon einoe the days of the Revolution » 


Here, again, allow me to insist upon the minds of those 
^ho are so situated that they can do so entirely consistent 
■with their own interests, the importance of extending 
encouragements and aid to aspiring merit, be it presented 
to view in whatsoever garb it may. It is not necess- 
arily inferable, because a Clay, a Cass, and a Fillmore, 
have succeeded in combating the adverse storms that sur- 
rounded their boyhood, and wreathed their temples with 
chaplets of fame, that every one of genius and capacity 
will accomplish t]ae same results. Those are among the 
immortal few of the illustrious names who, from the 
very fact that they have been thus successful, will be 
handed down to distant posterity, as affording useful and 
instructive lessons to the young aspirant after fame. But 
what is to become of the Clays, the Fillmores, the Mar- 
shalls, the Websters, and a host others in the bright 
array of natural talent who slumber in the undisturbed 
repose of oblivion — lost to their country, and to their 
God ? Of such, no record can be kept. Unseen of men, 
their aspirations must remain undeveloped, locked in the 
precincts of their own hearts, until they burn and blast 
the seat of its vital throb. Unfelt by the responsive 
thrills of another's breast, they prey in the bosom until 
the life-blood of pulsation is gone, and bury the victim 
in the ruin of his blasted hopes. The trumphs of life 
are noticed and recorded — they should be. The failures 
are not — they cannot be. Meru's talents are not always 
commensurate with their success, neither is their success 
always commensurate with their talents. Success and 
.prosperity are, therefore, not unfrequently very unsafe 


criteria "whereby to form conceptions of individual capacity. 
Having then no correct indication from exterior appear- 
ances of the intrinsic value of mental treasure concealed 
within, we cannot be too careful to give every possible 
encouragement to all who are thus situated. 

" The words we speak, the smiles we wear ; 
A heart may heal — a heart may break." 

It was in the fall of 1821 when Mr. Fillmore reached 
Erie county ; during that winter, in connection with the 
pursuit of his legal studies, he rendered assistance to his 
father in the comfortable arrangement of his domestic 
affairs. His father was then residing in the vicinity of 
Buffalo, devoting himself to the duties of his vocation, as 
a farmer. The application of Mr. Fillmore to his studies 
during that winter was distinguished by a restless ac- 
tivity unsurpassed. Before the completion of intellectual 
tasks assigned himself, minds possessed of less vigor 
would have sunk in exhaustion. Having concluded to 
go to the city of Buffalo the ensuing spring for the pur- 
pose of prosecuting his studies, he was anxious to exhibit 
as great a degree of advancement as possible, and applied 
himself with all the energy he could command. In the 
spring of 1822 he went to Buffalo, and entered the office 
of gentleman of considerable reputation as a lawyer. He 
was to test the result of his energetic application in a 
new and untried field. . The situation in which he was 
now placed, however, favored him with more available 
facilities than he had previously enjoyed, and he made 
the best use of them with eager dispatch. Buffalo then 


bore strong indications of becoming enventually a great 
city. Though the hum of business that now resounds 
through the streets, thronged with her population of 
eighty-five thousand, had not then swelled into such a 
din of prosperous activity, she bore unmistakable marks 
of ultimate greatness as a city. Situated in a very fertile 
country, her streets terminating in the very waves of 
Lake Erie, she could not fail to become the commercial 
emporium of western New York. Between Lakes Erie 
and Ontario, she possessed fair anticipations of an excel- 
lent railroad communication. Such were some of the 
advantages arising from her local position, whose tenden- 
cies were the full development of her resources. At the 
time of Mr. Fillmore's arrival in that city, society was 
established upon a correct basis, cemented by the strongest 
of social compacts, resulting from a complete harmony 
of feeling and concert of action, in a cause of common 
defence. It had been but a few years since hostile fleets 
floated over her beautiful lakes, and hostile troops were 
quartered in her streets. The fame of Perry was fresh 
in the minds of all, while the fields of Chippewa and 
Lundy's Lane still bore marks of the hero blood of her 
defenders. Thus, emerging from the smouldering embers, 
where the incendiary torch of a rapacious soldiery had 
left her, the city of Buffalo smiled with prospects of social 
happiness as when first she doned the robes of her 

Society, too, had reached a degree of refinement that 
was excelled by few cities in the Union. Much attention 

had been manifested on the part of the citizens in regard 


to the successful operation of a regular s}- stem of instruc- 
tion; consequently, there was pervading all classes a very 
happy diffusion of general intelligence. The establish 
ment of libraries, etc., had been undertaken and to a 
great degree successfully accomplished ; a large amount 
of healthy, high-toned literature was circulated among 
the entire population. The business men of the place 
manifested great public spirit and national pride, by 
decorating their city with public buildings, etc., and every 
department of business evinced indications of the most 
animated industry. Taking society in the aggregate, it 
was refined, moral and high-toned. 

Such were the people with whom Millard Fillmore first 
cast his lot, thirty-four years ago. Such were the people 
with whose fortunes and interests he came, an entire 
stranger and mere stripling, to identify those of his own 
in the union of permanent citizenship. Yet, this unpre- 
tending stripling, who could then look over the entire 
city and meet no friendly glance of recognition — who 
entered the citv, as thousands have done, unseen and 
unknown, is the same who, on his recent return from the 
old world, in the erective majesty of true nobility, 
entered the same city amid the thunders of cannon, the 
streaming of banners^ the pealing of bells, and the deaf- 
ening acclamations of welcome from thirty thousand 
freemen, in whose hearts he reigns an idol. 

I was tempted into this contrast by the reflections I 
had, during the reception extended to Mr. Fillmore by his 
fellow citizens, on his arrival home from his recent visit 
to Europe. For any digression it may have caused me to 
make, I crave the reader's indulgence. 


In Buffalo, he prosecuted Lis legal studies with char 
acteristic energy and perseverance, and continued to make 
the same rapid progress he had formerly done. The 
expenses attendant upon his studies he had to defray 
himself. These, too, were increased by heavier and m.ore 
frequent drafts upon his means than he had formerly 
experienced in the country. He was frequently aroused 
from the enjoyment of his legal and literary studies, by 
the voice of a necessity that submitted to no procrasti- 
nation. It was a voice, however, with which he had 
become perfectly famiiliar and was accustomed to obey 
from his earliest boyhood. They were companions of 
old acquaintanceship, but entire success was soon to dis- 
solve the copartnership, with a " mutual consent " that 
caused no lingering look or parting sigh. 

To sustain himself in his studies, and liquidate the 
expenses thereby entailed, he again taught school. 
Through this medium he sustained himself, during the 
entire time of prosecuting the study of his profession, in 
Buffalo. From the increased facilities thrown in his way 
to improvement, in the shape of books, young men's 
societies, and an uninterrupted intercourse with men of 
proverbial talents and attainments, with all the advan- 
tages of an enlightened, refined society, he began to 
derive very great benefit. By the course of zeal and 
industry he pursued, and the kind generosity of his 
nature, he could not fail to be universally esteemed by 
the citizens of the place. It was no uncommon remark 
among the young students in the city at that time, at the 
exhibition of unusual application on the part of a fellow 
student, that he was as studious as Fillmore. 


Mr. Fillmore always made it a point, in his early life, 
to live entirely within his means ; and those similarly 
situated cannot be too careful in emulating his example 
in this respect. 

It was about this time he gave an emphatic endorsement 
to the conservative principles of the great whig party. 
At the time he adopted those principles, it will not be 
amiss to take a casual glance at the state of political 
affairs in the country. The nation had just been con- 
vulsed with the wildest excitement, by the agitation 
growing out of the Missouri question of 1821. In the 
whole political history of the United States, there has 
never been a period of more momentous importance to 
our vitalitv than the time of the excitement incident to 
the adjustment of those troubles, by the Compromise of 
1821. So intense was the excitement in the councils 
of the nation, that we seemed verging upon the evils of 

Mr. Clay took his seat in Congress on the 14th day 
of January, 1821, amid flames of passion rarely seen in 
the deliberations of any legislative body, and a spirit of 
bitter party denunciation, pregnant with the worst results. 
Principally through his agency, these difficulties were 
peaceably adjusted, and quiet restored to the country. 

The old conservative principles of the whig party were 
those regarded as the safe weapons wherewith to combat 
the pet bank systems, and other elements of the progres- 
sive democracy ; and Mr. Clay, from the wise, conserva- 
tive course he pursued in the Missouri and other questions 
of vital interest, was rapidly rising into that popular 



favor that was to result in his eventually assuming the 
leadership of his party. At the time when Mr. Fillmore 
came to Erie county, his great exemplar had just suc- 
ceeded in establishing the measures of the Missouri Com- 
promise. He endorsed the principles of the whig party, 
as embodied in the sentiments of Henry Clay, and to 
these principles he adhered with unwavering fidelity ; an 
ardent supporter of Clay through all his fortunes, until 
the ultimate decay and disruption of that party. In the 
adoption of his political creed, it can not be asserted that 
he was actuated by motives other than those of the purest 
patriotism, for, in the state of Xew York, the whig party 
was, at that time, in a fearful minority, and the demo- 
crats held sway in both branches of her legislature. His 
father had ever been sternly identified with the whigs, 
and uniform in his support to the champions of his party. 
Mr. Fillmore was, at that early day, an ardent admirer 
of Henry Clay ; nor was it in subsequent life in the 
slightest degree diminished. The similarity of circum- 
stances under which they each commenced a career in 
which they were to be the acknowledged champions of 
conservative patriotism in their respective times was well 
calculated to produce a congeniality of feeling in his 
breast. The principles entertained by Mr. Clay, and the 
lofty patriotism he displayed, were not in confliction with 
his own. Side by side with Clay, he afterward fought 
most gallantly in their defence. And were Mr. Clay now 
living, and engaged in the din of political strife, there is 
no doubt but the views he would entertain upon the 
different subjects that agitate the country would be 


precisely identical with those entertained by Mr. Fillmore 
upon the same subjects — essentially patriotic and con- 

In 1823, Mi', rillmore was admitted to the court of 
common pleas in the city of Buftalo. The Buffalo bar 
was a very able one, presenting in its members an array of 
talent and legal research rarely excelled in any city of the 
Union. There were many old lawyers of acknowledc:ed 
ability, who, from a long connection with the practice, had 
become familiar with all its details. There were, as 
practitioners at the bar, many young aspirants to success, 
who, from an intimate association with the best legal ad- 
visers in the city, and the assistance of every facility to 
success they could desire, possessed advantages superior 
to those of Mr. Fillmore. It is not surprising, then, that 
a man of Mr. Fillmore's unpretending temperament and 
natural modesty should feel exceedingly diffident in em- 
barking in a profession for the discharge of whose duties 
his capacities were wholly untried, among competitors 
who had been its successful followers for vears. Not 
having sufficient confidence in his own ability to make his 
first effort in the profession among such learned men as 
thronged the Buffalo bar, he removed to Aurora, a village 
some eighteen miles from the city. Here, to use his own 
words, he "labored as hard as Jacob did for Eachel," for 
the glimmerings of a successful result in his profession. 
The wisdom of this course is perfectly clear. The village 
of Aurora was a quiet little place, with a well cultivated, 
refined society, and afforded an opportunity for him to 
commence his profession without incurring that array of 


talented competition ^'liicli would have been the result 
had he remained in the city. Here he could practice in 
the court-s, without contending with the overawing weight 
of age and experience, until divested of that timidity in- 
cident to young lawyers, and peculiarly so to himself, he 
could take his position at the bar with a degree of ex- 
perience requisite to success. He could not expect at 
first to get a practice, the profits accruing from which 
would be adequate to defray the expenses he was neces- 
sarily compelled to incur at the commencement of his 
duties. For a considerable time after his location in 
Aurora, he sustained himself by teaching, and devoted his 
leisure moments to study. He soon, by pursuing a 
course of honor and steady qualities, developed such 
traits of character that he became endeared to the in- 
habitants of the place, and won the entire confidence and 
good will of the whole village. The first case in which 
Mr. Fillmore was ever engaged as counsel was one of 
larceny. An individual had been arrested for stealing 
some articles from a neighbor, and was awaiting his trial. 
From the circumstances of the case and the position of 
the parties, the ?ause elicited very general interest, and 
was much talked of and discussed by those acquainted 
with the facts. The services of Mr. Fillmore were en- 
gaged in the prosecution. This was his first case. What 
young attorney has not looked with interest, and attached 
a fictitious importance to the issue of his first case 1 He 
was extremely careful in the preparation of his case, and 
in looking up all the law of aay relevancy thereto. In 
these preparations he could not have been more careful, 


had he believed his entire destiny dependent upon the 
successful issue of his effort. 

On the day of trial, the court room was densely 
thronged with those whom the interest of the occasion had 
attracted, as much to witness the debut of young Fillmore 
as anything else. The prisoner was arraigned under the 
indictment, and the case was opened by the examination 
of witnesses by Mr. Fillmore on the part of the common- 
wealth. He conducted the examination with great judg 
ment, and convinced the attornies of the opposition tha^ 
they had more to contend with than they had expected. 
After they were through with the witnesses Mr. Fillmore 
opened the case in a happy display of facts and law, that 
proved a great readiness in applying them to each par 
ticular feature of the case. 

"With such clearness and force did he pile fact upon 
fact, and quote the particular law by which they were to 
be governed, and so perfectly unanswerable were the 
arguments he advanced, that before he took his seat, it 
began to be whispered in the crowd that " The man will 
be found guilty !" while the attornies for the defence, dis- 
pairing of success, began to say to each other, " MVe 
shall lose our case !" 

The arguments in the defence, though advanced by 
men of much greater experience than Mr. Fillmore pos- 
sessed, were far from removing the wall of facts showing 
their client's guilt, in which the prosecution had enclosed 
him. The result was, after the submission of the case, 
the prisoner was found guilty of the charge, and sen- 
tenced to the penalty of his offence. Thus he had gotten 
a case and gained it. 


It is a significant fact that his first services in a career 
where he was to win such distinction was on the side of 
the people, and he was successful. The successful manner, 
and the marked ability he displayed in conducting this 
case attracted considerable attention. The fact of his 
having discomfited the older attornies in a somewhat 
closely contested case, by his superior knowledge of law 
and facts more than from any aspect of the case favor- 
able to his side, was a theme of considerable talk in the 
community, and -had a very favorable effect upon Mr. 

He continued the practice of his profession at Aurora 
with increase of practice and an assiduous application, 
until 1830. In 1825, his prospects becoming somewhat 
brighter, and his vocation as a lawyer a permanently set- 
tled point, he began to contemplate the idea of a perma- 
nent location. In the succeeding year, he was married to 
Abigail Powers, the youngest daughter of Rev. Lemuel 
Powers, of Erie county. Mr. Powers was a gentleman of 
elevated moral worth, and of the strictest religious prin- 
ciples, and proverbial for the zeal and earnestness he dis- 
played in his ministry throughout the limits of his entire 
acquaintance. His daughter had received all the advan- 
tages of a liberal education, and been schooled in the 
lessons of pure morality. She was possessed of a mild 
amiability, that was manifest in her entire social inter- 
course. A modest deportment that obtruded itself upon 
the notice of no one, and a love of virtue that could suffer 
no abatement, with a desire to promote the happiness of 

those around her commensurate with that for the promo- 


tion of her own. The kind gentleness of her manners, 
and her daily exemplification of "so many virtues, en- 
deared her to the hearts of her entire acquaintance. 
Such was the happy choice made by Millard Fillmore. 
The gentleness of her manners, and the tenderness of 
her devotion were admirably adapted to the placidity of 
Mr. Fillmore's quiet disposition. The fruits of this mar- 
riage were two children, a son and a daughter. The 
daughter died at Aurora of cholera, in the summer of 
1853. The son is now a practicing lawyer in the city of 
Buffalo. In 1827, Mr. Fillmore was regularly admitted as 
an attorney. He continued the practice of his profession 
with uninterrupted progress, until he occupied an elevated 
position in the conceptions of those of much more experi- 
ence than himself. During his stay at Aurora, lie 
studied well, and laid deep the fundamental principles of 
the legal profession. So thorough was his comprehension 
of the principles of law, and so accurate was his judg- 
ment in their application to his cases, that, limited as his 
practice had formerly been, he began now to be regarded 
as a lawyer of weight and ability, and, in addressing a 
jury, he seldom failed to carry conviction by the force of 
reason and fact. These qualities have constituted a large 
portion of Mr. Fillmore's strength as a lawyer. The elo- 
quence of bis addresses to a jury did not consist in the 
lightening-like impetuosity of Patrick Henry's, that 
darted upon the springs of the different natures of which 
bis jury was composed, and tempered them at will ; nor 
was like Clay's, flowing on smoothly, yet broad and deep 
like a vast river, bearing his hearers almost insensibly 


along with it, until they -reached the point at which he 
aimed to brins: them. Nor vet, was it like that of Pren- 
tiss', that gliding with graceful beauty into the fairy 
realms of poesy, would blind the vision of his jury with 
tropes and figures, and so lull the sense with the rich exot- 
ics of fancy that they lost sight of facts and law alto- 
gether. The eloquence of Mr. Fillmore consisted in its 
convincing powers. In prosecution, systematic and 
methodical, he would pile fact upon fact, with such accu- 
rate compactness, and sustain them with such an unbroken 
chain of law and evidence, that between the individual 
and the chance of escape from conviction, he would 
establish a barrier no judge or jury could overleap, with- 
out a manifest disregard of official duty. In cases of de- 
fence, perceptive and analytic, he would discover the 
main cord of hope whereon the prosecution depended for 
the conviction of his client, and with ease he would 
untwist it, and separating it fibre from fibre, would leave 
his client free from its meshes. In the practice of his 
profession, Mr. Fillmore has never resorted to the artful 
chicanery practiced by many, who regard a talent for that 
as being an essential prerequisite to its successful prose- 
cution, and which is, generally, about the only talent such 
possess. He looked upon the law as a noble profession, 
and embarked in it with a view of making himself use- 
ful — he has honored the one, and succeeded in the other. 
The gloom that had enshrouded the prospects of Mr. 
Fillmore from his earlist boyhood now began, gradually, 
to disappear, amid the dawning light of a more prosper- 
ous future. He hailed the first rays of his rising star 



with emotions of delight. To appreciate the happiness 
produced in the breast by these first beams of success, we 
must place ourselves in the same position. He had over- 
come obstructions of ponderous magnitude, at every step 
of his career. With his own young arm, be had pulled 
down barriers that had opposed his every effort. Unaided, 
by his own stout heart, he had repelled every thought 
that bid it throb to notes of despair. He had traversed, 
without a guide, save the footprints of those who bad 
gone before him, a wilderness of terrific gloom, and now, 
approaching the vales of prosperity, he hailed their light | 
as a Bethlehem star, that spoke peace to the soul. As 
we have endeavored to follow him through the thick 
gloom of the past, we now propose entering with him 
those fields of fame, until he plants himself in their midst, 
a pillar of colossal dimensions. 



At the head of his profession — Is offered an excellent connection in 
Buffalo — Admitted to the supreme court — Individual sketches — 
Legal profundity — Is elected to the Assembly — Sketch of that 
body — Evinces legislative capacities — Party politics — Adherence 
to his principles — His nature as a debater — Adjournment of the 
Assembly — His devotion to his profession — Re-elected to that 
body — On the committee on Public Defence — The law of im- 
prisonment for debt — Governor Throop — Mr. Fillmore's active 
endeavors for the repeal of the imprisonment law — His success — 
Important measures of the Assembly — Close of the session — 
Sketch of Mr. FiUmore in that body — Remarks thereon. 

The success of Mr. Fillmore in his legal pursuits very 
justly placed him at the head of his profession. He 
had applied himself to its labors with such assiduity that 
he had become an advocate of distinguished ability ; and, 
though he was loved as a man and admired as a lawyer, 
these were not the only inducements for clients to seek 
to avail themselves of his services. They were afraid of 
having him against them. From the high position which 
he had attained, and the great reputation he had acquired 
as a lawyer of depth and profundity and of apt percep- 
tion, he had monopolized pretty much the entire practice 
of the village and vicinity. The success of his efforts 
could not fail to attract the notice of the members of the 
bar, at all contiguous points, and his name became espe- 
cially familiar in the city of Buffalo, and his ingenious 
management of cases a theme of comment among the 


ablest of the profession in that city. He had taken sev- 
eral cases, the importance of which had elicited general 
interest, and been more successful than he had anticipated. 
The success that crow^ned his eflPorts had placed him 
above the appeals of want, and enabled him to sustain 
himself without turning aside from the duties of his pro- 
fession. He had alreadv realized sui^cient means throuo:h 
that medium to support himself and pay up the old note 
with interest, which he had given Judge Wood for means 
advanced to him by that gentleman in the outset of his 
career. From these unmistakable indications of prosper- 
ity and eventual success, he acquired confidence in him- 
self, and became divested of that natural timidity under 
which he labored when first admitted to the bar. By the 
even, consistent course he had pursued, he had won the 
good will of his acquaintances, and established himself 
firmly in the affections of the people, a position which he 
has ever since maintained. He had wooed the law as a 
lover, and pursued the study of its abstruse principles 
with patient investigation, knowing that it took time to 
become a proficient in a science of which the learned and 
the great of the world were devotees. 

The rewards of success now began to heap themselves 
upon him, as remuneration for the privations he had under- 
gone in his endeavors to master the profession. He had 
not been an inattentive observer to the history of his 
country and the signs of the times while thus engaged. 
But though he made everything subordinate to success in 
the law from his earliest connections therewith, when not 
required in its duties, he was careful to acquaint himself 


familiarly with the leading political events of the day, and 
the characters figuring most conspicuously therein. So 
that in the discussion of the political affairs of the country, 
so well acquainted he had become, if a dispute occurred 
among the villagers in regard to a matter of importance, 
the confident disputant would say : " Go and ask Fillmore, 
if I am not right." His decision when thus appealed to 
as umpire was as conclusive with the parties as though it 
came from the lips of Jefferson himself. 

To become familiar with the history of the country and 
the wise administration of the government by the early 
patriots in the purest days of the Republic, Mr. Fillmore, 
as a young man, thought it his imperative duty. He made 
the constitution the basis of his investigations, and the 
scales in which he weighed the actions of those in whose 
hands the management of the country had been entrusted 
Patriotism, the prompter of all his actions, in the outset 
of his career, he made the constitution the alphabet of his 
political creed, and the Mecca at whose shrine he would 
immolate his talents. Firm and unflinching has always 
been his adherence to that sacred instrument. In the 
investigation of his country's history, Washington, Adams, 
and other patriots at the helm of state, on whose brow 
the majesty of justice sat enthroned in the immaculate 
purity of heaven, made lasting impressions upon his 
mind ; and though he has ever been an exemplar rather 
than a copyist, the patriotism of their course in the ad- 
ministration of our government he determined should be 
the criteria by which he would shape his own actions 
Luminous have been the exemplifications of this patriotisic 


in all the relations he has sustained toward our institu- 
tions. And as an embodiment of this pure elevation of 
soul, whose love of country towers a sightless distance 
above the bitterness of party faction, he stands by the 
Union and the constitution, almost the last of the Romans, 
the Aristides of the times. 

Possessing, then, the experience of a considerable prac- 
tice in the law, and occupying an elevated position com- 
mensurate with that of his professional brethren, and a 
knowledge of his country and of constitutional law far 
surpassing the attainments many of them had made, in 
1829 ha. was admitted a counsellor in the supreme court 
of the state of New York. Than this sm^reme coutt, 
there were few places in the United States that displayed 
a brighter array of talent, or an exhibition of more pro- 
found legal research. 

At the time of Mr. Fillmore's admission into this court, 
Mr. Savage was chief justice. He was one of those men 
who, by devoting the energies of a lifetime to the study 
of the profession, with such application that the very 
brain becomes a legal portfolio, impressed with the 
reprints of learned commentators. So perfect was his 
knowledge of the law, and so' acute his judgment, that, 
from the very nature of a case, he was enabled to arrive 
at safe conclusions, with the instantaneous alertness and 
mathematical precision of a Xewton, who could demon- 
strate a geometrical problem, on the mere statement of | 
the proposition. He had been a lawyer of an extensive 
practice and acknowledged ability, before he was elevated 
to the bench, a position which he had occupied for a con" 



siderable length of time. Being a man of quick percep- 
tive faculties as well as profound research, he was 
/remarkable for the facility with which he dispatched the 
business of the docket. The nature of some of the cases 
tried in his hearing, as the highest tribunal of appeal in 
the state, involved not unfrequently considerations of the 
weightiest moment, and elicited as well as a general interest 
on the part of the citizens concerned, a display of powers 
from antagonistic advocates that would not have dis- 
graced the Eoman forum. 

From the chief justice's long connection with the law 
and occupancy of the bench, he was admirably calculated 
to hear these important cases with dignity, and exhibit 
entire and impartial justice in the rendition of his deci- 
sions. The first conceptions of Mr. Fillmore in regard 
to the chief justice were very favorable. On the coun- 
tenance of the man he saw delineated those qualities that 
never failed to win his warmest admiration — justice and 
virtue ; in his actions and dispatch of transacting business, 
he perceived those traits of character he never failed to 
patronize — industry and regularity ; in his eye he saw 
the beams of true nobility, that never failed to kindle his 
own bosom — a benevolent, liberal nature toward his fel- 
low men, yet of the sternest justice, which Sheridan des- 
cribes as being *' lovely in her darkest frown." Jacob 
Sutherland 'and Samuel Nelson, the two subordinate jus- 
tices, were men of the highest legal attainments, and 
were essentially qualified to " don the ermine robes " of 
the supreme court. This high tribunal was, in that day, 
regarded as an august body, and men of undoubted 


capacity, as well as unsullied reputations, were invariably 
elevated to a position where they were to exercise supe- 
rior guardianship over the people. 

Those were purer days of the Republic, before the hosts 
of political vermin had crawled into the temple of justice 
and polluted the majesty of her sanctuary with the effects 
of selfish ambition. Sutherland and Nelson, in discharging 
the duties of their official capacity, evinced a thorough 
knowledge of legal principles, and an impartial adminis- 
tration of the laws, that proved they were true embodi- 
ments of that justice which it was their pieculiar province 
to promote. 

Ti^e attornej^ general was Greene C. Robinson, a gen- 
tleman whose talents as a lawyer were acknowledged to i| 
be of the first order, and whose legal successes in a career 
of some distinction admirably befitted him for the res- 
ponsible position of state prosecutor. 

Such was the supreme court of the Empire State, when 
Mr. Fillmore was admitted a counsellor, twenty-seven 
years ago. The counsellors who practiced at this court 
for the most part were lawyers of old experience and 
distinguished ability, whose services were solicited on 
account of the very great importance of the cases and 
their ultimate issue. Among the lawyers of notoriety 
for their extensive acquaintance with the principles of 
law and the success of their professional career, who fig- j 
ured somewhat a conspicuous part before the supreme 
court, at that time, was J. C. Spencer. This gentleman 
was exceedingly popular, and deservedly so, among his 
professional brethren, for his talents and ingenuity. He 


was a practical lawyer of the first quality, and in the 
preparation of his cases to come before the supreme 
court he had few superiors. Bacon and Kirkland were 
attorneys of eminence, to compete successfully with 
whom required a* large amount of legal information as 
well as natural argumentative talents. The peculiar 
strength of these gentlemen consisted in a happy com- 
bination of reason and argument,' with considerable elo- 
quence in enforcing conviction upon the minds of their 
hearers. During Mr. Fillmore's practice before the 
supreme court, it was often his fortune to come in conflict 
with these and other gentlemen of no less distinction for 
their legal lore. Mr. Fillmore was much younger than a 
large portion of the practitioners before the supreme court, 
when he was first admitted to practice there. Yet, from 
the first, he occupied a position of prominence among the 
other counsellors, and frequently succeeded in discomfit- 
ing them in the argument of cases of great importance. 
His first appearance in that court was marked with cour- 
teous dignity toward the attorneys, and a respectful 
deference to the judges due their official station, which 
exhibited a refinement of feelings of the highest order. 
It has always been the desire of Mr. Fillmore, both in 
public and in private, not only to do his whole duty, but 
to do it in such a manner as to make himself beloved. 
The hold he has upon the affections of the American 
people show to the extent this desire has been gratified. 
On his admission into the supreme court he soon gave 
displays of those powers of mind he had used so effi- 
ciently elsewhere. So profound were the powers of his 


mind in comprehGnding the fundamental doctrines of the 
common law, and in grasping the whole range of learned 
disquisitions upon its most intricate and difficult parts, 
that he commanded the respect of the entire bench. Yet 
the unassuming modesty of his deportment, was as clearly ^ 
manifest as though he were entirely ignorant of his pow- 
ers. In the establishment of his positions,, he ranged 
the wide fields of legal research with the restless activity 
of thought, culled a casket of facts, and fitted them to his 
case with the precise solidity of a marble pyramid. In 
demolishing the fortress reared by counsel on the opposite 
side, with the perceptive analyses of chemical process, he 
would tear it piece from piece, and expose the very foun- 
dation as being fallacious and untenable. 

But, before following him through his career in the tI 
supreme court, where he won such glorious laurels and j 
established a character of civic ability almost unsurpassed 1 
in the annals of judicial renown, it is necessary to notice 
the results of his labors in a capacity where the country 1 
was, more generally, the recipient. 

The fame of his legal success became the theme of uni- 
versal remark. He had reached a position far above 
young advocates of no more experience than he had 
enjoyed. His character, in fact, was essentially estab- 
lished, and the people began to regard him as one from ^ 
whom they might expect services ameliorative of their 
condition, and in whose hands their interests might with 
safety be reposed. And he himself, from the success of 
the past, had began to feel and hope that, through the ^ 
appliance of the same energy, he might attain a position, 



of usefulness. Already had the village in which he 
lived, and surrounding country, ceased to be the limits of 
his professional labors. He had frequently been solicited 
to engage as counsel in different places. Surrounded with 
these flattering prospects, he was offered a connection 
with the most successful law-office in the city of Buffalo. 
This connection promised great and very decided advan- 
tages, inasmuch as the counsel of the firm, from a posi- 
tion of eminence in the lav\^ were doing about the heaviest 
practice in the city. Possessed of the capabilities he 
was, with the increased facilities afforded by the proposed 
connection, he was no longer necessitated to indulge 
apprehensions of expenditures not being met through the 
medium of his profession. The " Eachel " of success 
for which he had "labored, Jacob-like," so earnestly, was 
in his embrace, and with this trophy of his triumphs he 
could return to the city he had left through timidity and 
a want of confidence, to assume his position as a lawyer 
with the most respectable at the bar. He accepted a 
proposition that promised to result so advantageously to 
the development of his faculties. He closed his business 
in Aurora, and left the scenes of his first triumphs, and 
cast his lot a second time among the citizens of Buffalo, 
where he has ever since resided, except when engaged in 
official duties at Albany or Washington City. 

Immediately after his arrival in Buffalo, he was thrown 
into practice of a lucrative nature. The fame of his 
ability having preceded him to the city, he found no dif- 
ficulty in the acquisition of clients, or cause to complain 
of inactivity. The members of the Buffalo bar soon 


perceived that, during the comparative hermitage of his 
Aurora seclusion, like Demosthenes in the cave, he had 
developed intellectual powers of a giant nature. Like 
that ancient orator who left the city, where he would have 
remained to overcome the defects of his speech, and re- 
turned again to make her rostrums resound with his 
matchless eloquence, he left the city where he studied, to 
overcome the defects of his timidity, and returned again 
to make her streets resound with the anthems of his fame. 
His success at the bar was now excelled by no one of his 
age; business flowed in upon him from all sides, he had 
no superior at the bar. In his early practice, for days he 
attended courts of uninterrupted business from morning 
until night, and was counsel one side or the other in every 
case. Like Clay, he was a man of the people, and mani- 
fested, what he felt, a deep solicitude in having their 
rights protected and their wrongs redressed. 

Being himself one of the people, their rights he re- 
garded as a part of his own, and any infringement there- 
upon as an injury to himself, as a member of a great social 
compact, form.ed for mutual protection and defence. This 
manifest solicitude and regard, on his part, toward the 
people, could but result in a mutual reciprocity of interest, 
and excite in their bosoms feelings of the same regard 
and esteem, on their part, toward him. This love of Mr. 
Fillmore's for his fellow men has always been wholly di- 
vested of selfish motives and considerations. It is the ♦ 
dictate of a generous heart, whose happiness is commen- 
surate with that of the people's. His great life idea has 
been to ascertain by what efforts of his the prosperity of 


the common country and the happiness of all classes 
would be best promoted ; then, with incessant energy, he 
has directed them in that channel. In both public and 
private capacities the appeals of humanity have never been 
silenced by any sordid considerations of his bosom, but 
have always met a response of active benevolence. Liberal 
and generous, both in his views of policy and the feehngs 
of his heart, nothing affords him so much gratification as 
to be enabled to render assistance in conciliating the 
elements of discord in his country, or to alleviate the 
sorrows of a fellow creature. "" 

The Athenian* when dying -with peace was blest, 
Because he had raised no mourner's sad voice ; 

But nobler content can beam in his breast, 
For HE hath in kindness made many rejoice. 

Possessing this generous nature, ever watchful for 
opportunities to promote the interests of the people and 
the prosperity of the common country, itjs not surpris- 
ing that he should become the most popular man of his 
county. So endeared had he become to the hearts of 
the people, and so implicit was their reliance in his vir- 
tue, patriotism, and capacities, that with great unanimity 
he was selected to represent them in the assembly of the 
state. This unexpected selection, except as a proof that 
he was appreciated by his fellow citizens, afforded no 
great gratification to Mr. Fillmore. He was not insen- 
sible to the esteem for him, on the part of the people, 
conveyed in the selection and their disposition to place 

*Pericles. ^ 


him ill office. He felt these manifestations of regard with 
emotional gratitude. 

He had no sordid ambition to gratify. Considerations 
of self-elevation have never found an asylum in his bosom. 
Though a great portion of his life has been spent in pub- 
lic service, devoted to the duties of official station, he has 
never sought office. When he has turned aside from the 
discharge of his duties as a citizen and as a professional 
man to accept office, it has invariably been in compliance 
with the strongest solicitations of his fellow citizens. 
These solicitations, too, have alwavs been made with 
such earnest and unquestionable indications of prefer- 
ence, and urgent appeals in behalf of their interests, that 
with his non-compliance would have been associated a 
manifest disregard of duty. 

As Mr. Fillmore has never sought the honors and 
emoluments of office, so has he been equally careful 
never to shrink from the performance of any duty incum- 
bent upon him to discharge. Setting out in his career 
with an ardent desire to render himself useful, he reposed 
unlimited confidence in the judgment and capacities of 
his coantrymen, as being sufficient to select their own 
public servants. 

Ever ready and anxious to be of service to his coun- 
try, he was willing for his country to decide in what way 
his services would be most acceptable. In common with 
every good citizen, with no aspirations whatever for the 
elevation of himself, he gave himself to his country; 
and, though he has frequently occupied office, when obe- 
dience to his personal preferences would have kept him 


In the walks of private life, he has done so under the 
strongest convictions of duty. In this respect his whole 
career has evinced an exemplification of Henry Clay's 
noble sentiment : *' I had rather be right than be pres- 

In compliance with the urgent request of the people and 
his convictions of duty as to the course he should pursue, 
he commenced his political career. He was elected to the 
£LSsembly from Erie county in 1828, and took his seat in 
that body in the early part of the ensuing January. At 
the period Mr. Fillmore became a member of the New 
York assembly, the whig party, to which he belonged, 
was in a fearful minority in both branches of the state 
legislature. The progressiva democracy had just com- 
menced preparations for a combined onslaught that would 
eventuate in the entire annihilation of old conservative 
whig principles. Mr. Fillmore was then just twenty-nine 
years of age, and the inexperienced representative of a 
minority party, he had rather indifferent opportunities of 
exhibiting his powers. The democratic representation 
had become so accustomed to exert dominant sway, hav- 
ing monopolized the seats of both houses for several 
years previous, with arrogant assumption presumed to 
Gonsumm.ate what measures they deemed proper, regard- 
less of the views and indifferent to the opposition of a 
respectable minority. It was during the time when, 
through the hands of Jackson, the regal or executive 
powers of the constitution were taking their defiant march 
into the legislative halls, to the almost entire exclusion 
of its democratical features, and usurping the people*s 


platform witli their royal insignia. It was at the eon>- 
mencement of that political reign of terror that resulted 
in the removal of the deposits, and the introduction of a 
fiery partisan spirit in all classes of the country, that for 
a number of years changed the bonds of union to the 
clanliing links of a rivalrous antagonism. This spirit of 
radical, partisan fanaticism seemed to infuse itself into all- 
parts of the country, and wherever it tooli hold; the influ- 
ences were as uncongenial to the prevalence of a patriotic 
national feeling favorable to the protection of conserva- 
tive principles as darkness to a sunbeam. So infectious 
"were these incipient effusions of young democracy from 
the Jacksonian administration, that almost every depart- 
ment of the government became ulcerated with their cor- 
ruptive virulence. So fierce was their prevalence in the 
halls of congress, and so intense became the excitement 
where the wildest passions flashed in the heat of mad- 
dened rivalry, that they ultimately bid fair to consume the 
very walls of the capitol. The administration, in the 
assumption of almost kingly prerogative, under the much 
abused name of democracy, impressed the irrevocable 
signet of the veto upon m.easures embracing the true 
import of the word, and placed the approving signature 
to those with which it was at direct variance. Incum- 
bents of oflfice were led to the block of decapitation, by 
an inquisitorial cabinet, with the merciless cruelty of 
a Sejanus, and patriotism labeled with the imfamous 
stamp of intrigue. 

Such were some of the ultimate results of the almost 
Bsurptional power and innovations that began to ba 


developed about this time. They were not confined, how- 
ever, to the royal head-quarters of their emanatiun at 
Washington City, but infected the legislative assemblies 
throughout the country. Indications of their where- 
abouts were beginning to be manifest in the New York 
assembly, at the time Mr. Fillmore took his seat in that 
body, in 1829. The active members of that assembly 
were mostly of age and experience, and entertaining prin- 
ciples opposite to those of the " young member from Erie,'* 
they expected little opposition from that quarter. But 
merit and ability is not to be concealed by the excitement 
of party feeling, or the overawing influence of numbers. 
Mr. Fillmore took occasion upon some measure of vital 
interest to let them know the " young member from 
Erie " had not come there for nothing. Immediately 
after he took his seat, we find his name in the assembly 
journal of that session placed on a very important com- 
mittee ; and by reference to the same journal we find he 
was the most active 'member of the house. When meas- 
ures of a political nature came before the house, he was so 
capacitated as to exert no influence by his vote, but the 
small minority with which he was indentified never kept him 
from a bold and fearless avowal of his principles. Often did 
veterans of the " Hickory School" shrink in discomfiture 
from the discussion of their principles with the " Erie 
member." Though in political questions his vote was of 
no significance, on all measures he gave the " aye " or 
" nay," according to his principles, even though he met 
no response but ihe echo of his own voice. He was 
amdng the youngest members of the house, but was 


detemiined not only to avow the principles of his party, but 
to contest every inch of ground over which measures were 
obliged to pass that were antagonistic with his views. 
The boldness of his stand and the unwavering fidelity 
with which he maintained it, filled the members of the 
house with admiration for his firmness and intrepidity 
Even those most bitterly opposed to his principles, wha 
difi'ered most widely with him upon questions of national 
policy, respected him most highly for the unbending de 
votion with which he stood by his party, and the tireless 
zeal with which he studied the interests of his constitu- 
ency. The zeal which Mr. Fillmore manifested in the 
advocacy of his principles was not, however, the blind 
infatuation of party spirit that sometimes glories in being 
in a minority, for the boast of contending against numbers, 
and prides itself upon the honors of fighting "alone in its 
glory," with none to respond amen. His zeal was the 
offspring of patriotism, exhibited in the defence of prin- 
ciples, whose establishment he was firmly convinced 
would promote the interests of the country. Nor did he 
ever in their advocacy manifest the least peevishness 
or impatience toward those who thought proper to differ 
with him on the subjects of state and national politics. 
He entertained opinions cherished from boyhood and en- 
dorsed in maturer manhood ; he was there the representa- 
tive of a great party entertaining the same ; he wanted 
the privilege of entertaining them, and was willing to 
accord to every member on the floor the same liberty. 
From the entertainment of different political principles in 
regard to the various questions pertaining to Dational 


politics, he saw no necessity for the existence of personal 
bickering and animosities. This is a commendable trait 
of Mr. Fillmore's character, impersonated to the same 
degree, perhaps, in no other man, so much of whose life 
has been devoted to politics and political pursuits as his 
has been. Regarding the people in their aggregate ca- 
pacity as being honest in their convictions in regard to 
party issues, he concedes to all the privileges of their 
birthrights, nor thinks any less of a man for entertaining 
views contrary to his own. Politics and the social circle 
he regards as separate and distinct spheres, and though 
with intelligent, high-toned men, he could engage in a 
political contest for the defence of his principles, at the 
threshold of the social circle all antagonism must be 
buried for the friendly intercourse of mutual good will. 
No man can say Mr. Fillmore ever thought more or less of 
him in consequence of the mere political opinion he en- 
tertained. Hence the fact of his universal popularity, 
irrespective of parties or party influences. Those enter- 
taining opinions directly opposite to his, concede that he 
is a patriot of valued worth, and a man whom to know 
is to love. 

Among those with whom he has lived for a period of 
thirty years, there is not one who can say he does not 
admire Mr. Fillmore. His neighbors and acquaintances 
in the city of Buffalo, irrespective of party distinctions, 
love him, and love to do him honor. Throughout the 
entire Union, men of all parties agree that he is a man 
of the purest virtue and the wisest abilities of statesman- 
ship. There is no intelligent man, be he blinded as he 


may by sectionalism or party faction, be bis judgment 
warped as it may by the prejudice of years, who can say 
Mr. Fillmore is no patriot. All parties in all sections of 
the Union agree in saying that, in his love of country and 
his desires to promote her interests, he " knows no North, 
no South, no East, no West." 

There has not, since the days of AYashington, been an 
individual who, as a man, has taken such a hold upon the 
great mass of the people as Mr. Fillmore. He had 
guarded well the interests reposed in his keeping during 
the entire session of 1829. In his intercourse with the 
members of the house, he evinced all the marked cour- 
tesy and unassuming demeanor characteristic of his 
nature. In debate, though he displayed great powers of 
intellect and a thorough acquaintance with the principles 
of international law, he was uniformly kind, courteous, 
and dignified. His replications to members in debate 
were characterized with no sarcastic repartees or witty 
inuendos calculated to leave a sting of mortification. 
He was aware that such sallies, though thev miu:ht irri- 
tate and annoy, instead of producing conciliation, and be 
attended with convincing powers, would only engender a 
spirit of retaliation and animosity of feeling in the end. 
In discharging his duties as a member of the assembly, 
he displayed great capacities for legislative usefulness, 
and exhibited a judgment on which might be placed the 
most implicit reliance. Of all measures whose objects 
were the promotion of benevolent institutions, the 
increase of educational facilities, the development of the 
country's resources, or to advance the interest of the 


cotintry in any particular feature, by reference to the 
journals of the house, I find he was a zealous advocate. 
Owing to the minority of his party in the house, the 
efficiency of his labors on the final issues of questions 
were restricted in fact entirely to measures of a general 
nature,, with no political bearing. In regard to measures 
of this character, he was the most influential member in 
the house; and when such a bill was presented, the 
reception of his endorsement was almost equivalent to 
its adoption ; for, so pi'ovcrbial among the members was 
his correct judgment, that if one of them was in doubt as 
to the propriety of sustaining any such measure, he 
would say to those around him : " Fillmore says this bill 
is RIGHT, and I shall vote for it ! " Or, on the other hand, 
if it did not receive his endorsement, its doom was sealed ; 
the doubting member would say : " Fillmore says this 
measure is w^rong, and I shall vote against it ! " This 
unlimited confidence they had in his judgment to discrim- 
inate between right and wrong, when unbiased by 
political prejudices, shows the exalted opinion of his 
great worth entertained by that body. Alas, that men 
should be so blinded by partisan spirit as to sacrifice 
virtuous worth to the caprice of faction ! He closed his 
services in that session of the legislative assembly in a 
manner higlily creditable to his constituency, and that 
reflected great credit upon himself He won the esteem 
•of every member of the house, whether he entertained 
the same political opinions or not, and displayed powers 
of legislative usefulness and capacities for political 
£|)heres surpassed by no member on the floor — not even 


the most prominent. The labors of the session were 
completed ; over the interests of those whom he was 
deputed to represent he had exercised a faithful guar- 
dianship and he was now ready to embosom himself again 
in the midst of his friends and enjoy the quietude of his 

On the adjournment of the assembly, he returned to 
Bufifalo and resumed the practice of the law. To become 
a proficient in his profession was his most ardent desire, 
and he had not thought of devoting any less energy to its 
duties rn consequence of his having participated in the 
political measures of the day. Mr. Fillmore has always 
pursued this course. His being an incumbent of office 
has never interfered with his professional labors in the 
slightest degree, longer than he was actually engaged io 
the discharge of official duty. 

At the expiration of his term of office and the close of 
his labors connected therewith, he has always entered 
upon the duties of his profession with as much zeal and 
earnestness as though he had never been an official incum- 
bent, and never expected to be again. This course, to 
which he has strictly adhered from the time he became 
a practitioner at the bar until he retired from the prac- 
tice altogether, shows conclusively that he has never been 
a political or partisan aspirant, ready, as many are, to 
make everything subordinate to their own elevation, and 
to resort to anv means, fair or foul, for the subservation 
of personal aggrandizement. 

When the incumbent of office, he was profoundly 
impressed with the responsibilities of the station, and madt 


every consideration subservient to the faithful discharge 
of duty. Careful to ascertain its requirements, which, 
by the assistance of a wise and patriotic judgment, he 
seldom failed to do, he was prompt and efficient in coming 
up to them. In the capacity of a public servant he has 
known no little duties, whose minor importance he could 
view in the light of insignificance. If they were duties 
at all, within the limits of his official jurisdiction, he 
regarded his acceptance of the position as a virtual obli- 
gation to those whose interests he was there to protect, 
to discharge them faithfully. 

As a public servant, no man has ever been more solic- 
itous to promote the interests of his constituency, or 
endeavored more earnestly, and, I might add, more suc- 
cessfully, to ascertain by what means their interests would 
be best protected, than has Mr. Fillmore. But when he 
ceased to be an official incumbent, he felt, as a public 
servant, he had discharged the obligation into which he 
entered with the people, and embarked in his profession 
as a private citizen, as though he had never labored in 
any other sphere. 

Here I beg of the reader the indulgence of a short 
digression. The wisdom of this course on the part of 
Mr. Fillmore cannot fail to elicit the approval and admi- 
ration of all thinking men, especially young lawyers of 
correct judgment, in the outset of a professional career. 
How many young attornies, immediately after embarking 
in their profession, have yielded to the wishes of friends, 
and the impulse of feeling, and become the incumbents 

of some political station, to the entire destruction of their 


legal prospects! Their elevation to the office, in itself, 
is fraught with no injurious consequences. But, once an 
office incumbent, and a participant in the excitements inci- 
dent to the station, they become lured and fasciualtid 
with the charms of political life, and lose all relish for 
the quiet course, and the monotonous studies of the attor- 
ney's office. 

On the expiration of their terms of office, instead of 
devoting themselves to the duties of their profession 
with alacrity, they study and devise means and schemes 
through which they may be reelected, or elevated to still 
higher positions. A sordid passion for self-elevation 
usurps the mind, to the entire exclusion of all nobler 
aspirations, until, while scheming and developing plans, 
such an one is outstripped by the more studious devotee 
to his profession, and his prospects, that were so bright 
in the outset, disappear forever. 

To young lawyers, this desire to put themselves for- 
ward too fast, especially if they have once been hon- 
ored, is certainly one of the most dangerous reefs they 
encounter on the voyage of professional life. The course 
pursued by Mr. Fillmore was certainly a very wise one, 
and those similarly situated cannot become too vividly 
impressed with his example in this respect. 

On Mr. Fillmore's resumption of his practice in Buf- 
falo, after the adjournment of the session of the assembly, 
he became the leading member of the bar, and the most 
actively engaged practitioner in the city. He became 
firmly established in a business at once honorable and 
lucrative. So untiring had been the application he 


liad made, and so admirably adapted was his mental 
•organism to tbe deep legal investigations, that he had 
arisen to a prominent position, and took the lead of his 
professional brethren. But the quiet pursuits of his pro- 
fession, and the domestic happiness of home, he "was not 
destined to enjoy uninterruptedly, though it was his 
desire to bave done so. Contrary to his expectations 
and wishes, be was again placed forward as their repre- 
sentative for the county of Erie to the state assembly of 
1830. So zealous was the activity with which he guarded 
their interests and protected their rights the preceding 
session, that the people of his county were determined 
to avail themselves of his talents and legislative capaci- 
ties the ensuing session, and made their requisition upon 
his services in such a manner as to admit of no repulsion. 
Accordingly, in the early part of January, 1830, he for 
a second time took his seat in the state assembly as a 
member from Erie county. On the 5th of January, an 
organization of the house was eflfected by the election of 
Erastus Root to the speakership, and Francis Seger to 
the clerkship. Among the members who composed this 
legislature were many shrewd and experienced politi- 
cians. Mr. Savage, Mr. Granger, and Spencer, I find by 
reference to the assembly journal, were very active mem- 
bers of that body. The democratic party, as they had 
done for years, still exerted dominant sway in the. house. 
The minority party, of which Mr. Fillmore was a repre- 
sentative, had undergone no perceptible increase or 
diminution, and when he took his seat, the political com- 
plexion of parties retained about the same hue it had the 


preceding year. But he occupied a position more favor- 
able to the exhibition of his natural powers of intellect 
and display of his mental wealth than he had done the 
previous session. He had in that very house political 
antecedents to which he could appeal as testimonials of 
extraordinary legislative capacities. His name was 
stamped conspicuously upon the journals of the prece- 
dent legislature, and wise and important measures were 
upon their pages, marked with legislative enactment, the 
data of whose passage were the elicitation of his endorse- 
ment. Aided by experience, in the possession of the 
unlimited confidence of every member of the assembly, 
with a fine practical intellect, he took his seat in the leg- 
islature of 1830 under circumstances well calculated to 
perform services for his state the intrinsic value of which 
would be felt by all classes and in every department of 

Divested of the timidity incident to the inexperience of 
his first efforts in a legislative capacity ; with a heart 
whose every beat was for the amelioration of his country's 
condition, the identification of his affections, and his 
interests with those of the common people being strong 
as those of Jonathan and David, and a love of countrv, 
and a patriotism of soul that towered above the fanatical 
spirit of party feeling, he took his seat in the assembly, 
resolved, with the constitution for his guide, to render 
efficient service to his state. On page thirty-eight of the 
assembly journal, in conjunction with the names of some of 
the most prominent members of the house, I find that 
Mr. Fillmore was placed upon the committee on " the 


subject of the public defence." The position assigned 
him in the appointments of committees was exactly in 
common with his feelings. The public defence has always 
been the main desire of his nature. The prophetic 
sentinel on Horeb's height in the sacred hills of Idumea, 
when he thundered forth through the still darkness the 
interrogatory of watchman, what of the night 1 felt no 
greater solicitude for the interests of Israel's host and 
the ten commandments than has Mr. Fillmore in the public 
defence of his country, and the unsullied preservation of 
her constitution. In exact keeping, then, with his feelings 
was the position he occupied as a committee-man of the 
legislature. A sentinel upon the watch-tower of liberty, 
he has ever stood hugging to his heart the laws of his 
country, and grasping in his hand the sword of justice to 
defend them from the rude attacks of fanatical assailants. 
At the head of the committee on the " subject of the 
public defence," he looked around him to see if there 
were no assumptions of power that conflicted with their 
interests, and against whose encroachments they needed 
defence. His active mind, ever on the alert to be useful, 
was not long in seeing where it could exercise its powers 
so as to be a benefactor to his state. There had, from her 
earliest history, been upon the statutes of New-York a 
law whose requisitions were imprisonment for debt. 
Than this law no greater species of barbarism ever pre- 
vailed in any country that made pretensions to a spirit 
of progressive civilization. The infliction of its penalties 
was at direct variance with the genius of any institutions 
whose purport was the dissemination of republican princi 


pies. Its tendencies ^Yere evidently to chill with the 
dampness of death the springs of all social organization, 
and to cast a withering blight, dark as despair itself, 
around the fireside of home. I would have to go too far 
bacli into the musty records of legislative enactment to 
•lay before my readers the original law, whose tendencies 
did so much to retard the progress of the state of New 
York for a number of years ; but in order that they may 
have just conceptions of its cruelty, and some idea of the 
humane nature of the man, principally through whose 
efforts it was repealed, I insert the following modification 
it underwent for the relief of debtors, in 1813. On page 
three hundred and forty-eight, chapter seventy-one, of the 
old laws of the state of New-York, I find the following : 

*' Act/or the Relief of Debtors with Respect to the Impris- 
onment of their Persons, passed April 1, 1813. 
" Be it enacted by the people of the state of New 
York, represented in the general assembly. That every 
person not a freeholder, who shall be confined in goal 
upon any execution or other process, or by virtue of any 
judgment or order of any court of justice, or by war- 
rant from any judge or justice, for any debt, sum of 
money, fine or forfeiture, not exceeding twenty-five dol- 
lars, exclusive of costs, and shall have remained in goal 
for thirty days, if not detained for any other cause, shall 
be discharged from such imprisonment by the keeper of 
the goal on application to him by the person so confined; 
Provided, always, that nothing herein contained shall 
extend to cases of imprisonment under the act entitled 


An act for the speedy recovery of debts to the value 
of twenty-five dollars.' " 

With this modification for the relief of debtors the law 
of imprisonment for debt remained upon the statutes of 
the Empire State, and preyed upon the vitality of social 
happiness from 1813 until it was wiped from the books 
through the instrumentality of Millard Fillmore in 1830. 
It seems strange that a people proverbial for their pro- 
gressive refinement as are those of New York, should 
have suffered such an enactment to pollute the records of 
their judiciary for such a length of time. But a spirit 
of radical partisanship pervading all classes of society, 
patriotism, and the good of the people, were made second- 
ary considerations by politicians, who, through the fac- 
tions of a dominant party, exercised especial guardian- 
ship over the laws of the state, and under that law the 
people were obliged to groan until the elevation to power 
of some one who thought more of them than of his own 

Immediately after the convention of the assembly, Mr. 
Fillmore began to devote his talented energy to the 
repeal of that odious law. His anxiety for its repeal 
was original with himself — the dictates both of his 
nature and his duty as a committee-man for the pub- 
lic defence, were to plant himself the champion of the 
people, to prevent the further operation of a law that 
incarcerated the only support and head of a family in a 
prison for a debt, no part of which was liquidated by 
the cruel process. His strong desire for its repeal orig- 


inated from the humanity of his nature, as well as the 
impolicy of the enactment. 

I have examined carefully the message of Gov. Throop 
to the assembly immediately after that body had con- 
vened, and though it is replete with wise suggestions upon 
matters of state policy coming legitimately under cog- 
nizance of that legislature, I find nothing in relation to 
that odious law. Though he showed with mathematical 
precision the condition of the state finances, and very 
properly called the attention of the members to the con- 
dition of the hospitals, asylums, and state prisons, he 
made no allusion relevant to the law by whose enforce- 
ment the prisons were filled — a law that manacled 
instead of protecting the laboring classes, and while it 
hand-cufled the debtor was of no utility to the creditor. 

At an early day after the organization of the house, 
Mr. Fillmore opened his intentions to the members, con- 
cerning the repeal of that law. Much as they admired 
his sagacity and firmness, and well as they were con- 
vinced of his intellectual powers, they were not prepared 
for this bold stand against a law that had been venerated 
by their ancestry, and sacredized by long usage. Though 
the stand he took against it was sustained by arguments, 
whose justness and logical force were unanswerable, it 
met with fierce and instantaneous opposition. 

Immediately after the disclosure of his intentions con- 
cerning that law his sentiments were endorsed by some 
of the leading and most talented members on the floor, 
who cooperated with him until it was repealed. Among 
these were Thurlow Weed and Francis Granger, men of 


acknowledged ability as legislators. On the IStli day of 
February, 1830, a memorial was presented to the assem- 
bly, signed by a large number of inhabitants of the city 
of New York, styling themselves the " general executive 
committee of mechanics, working men, and their friends, 
praying for the abolishment of imprisonment for debt." I 
have inserted this in the precise language in which it is 
couched on the records of the assembly, to show to what 
classes of population the operation of such a law was 
most injurious — "mechanics, working men, and their 
friends." This memorial was followed by others of a like 
nature, that poured in from all parts of the state, after 
the agitation of the measure, until they were piled, a vol- 
uminous mass, into the assembly. Such appeals as these, 
from mechanics, working men, and their friends, could not 
be made in vain to an assembly where Mr. Fillmore was 
a prominent member. In all three of these positions he 
had been himself. He had been a laboi'er from boyhood. 
He was a mechanic by trade, and though his talents and 
energy had placed him at the head of an honorable pro- 
fession, and in the assemblies of his country, he was a 
friend to the laboring man. To their appeals for the 
abolition of a law that fettered their energies and threw 
them into prison for every unexpected or unfavorable 
turn of fortune, he responded with his efforts in their 

For the "mechanics, the laboring men and their friends," 
as styled in the language of the memorial, Mr. Fillmore 
has always entertained the highest respect, and been 
solicitous to promote their interests. He evinced it not 


only in his efforts in the assembly, that resulted in the 
repeal of a law subversive of their happiness and detri- 
mental to their best interests, but his whole career has 
been an exhibition of solicitude to protect their interests. 
Cradled in a wilderness, the tillage of whose soil was his 
early means of support, he was himself a laborer, and has 
always regarded " laboring men and their friends" as 
the true nobility of the country. Schooled inthe lessons 
of adversity, as a young tradesman, in a wool carder's 
shop, he learned the morality of labor, and became a 
sympathizer with the mechanic. Such an appeal as 
couched in the language of the memorial, aided by his 
own ulterior convictions as regarded the enormity of the 
law, induced him to put his whole soul into the work of 
its abolition. 

Bitter and fierce was the opposition he had to 
encounter. Reason and right were on his side as efficient 
weapons to contend with an assumptive arrogance and a 
dictatorial superiority of feeling on the opposition. In 
his advocacy of this measure, Mr. Fillmore was acting in 
compliance with a loftier virtue than even patriotism 
itself. It was the dictates of philanthropy, whose broad 
principles embrace not onh^ a love of country, but 
whose divine attributes are a love for the human race, 
and a desire to relieve the oppressed. In vindication of 
his position against that law, he advanced argumiCnts so 
unanswerable, and so calculated to impress conviction, 
the general interest created in regard to it became the 
one absorbing question of the assembly. Even party 
politics were for onee forgotten in a democratic legisla- 


ture, and the discordant elements of rivalrous creeds 
seemed to harmonize for the purpose of centrality around 
this important focus of general attraction. 

The principles he entertained in regard to the repeal 
of the law he embodied in a bill, with a view to their 
ultimate passage, and incorporation into the laws of the 
state. The discussion of this bill of Mr. Fillmore's mon- 
opolized a large portion of the time and talents of the 
entire body throughout the session of 1830. Mr. 
Fillmore was anxious for its passage. The petitions that 
flooded the house from all parts of the state, praying 
relief, filled his bosom with the warmest sympathies. 
Imprisonment for debt was practised by the old Eomans, 
and other countries of ancient times, and had been handed 
down to more civilized ages, till in most of the European 
countries, great as was their boasted refinement at that 
time, under the sanction of law, the free citizen was 
dragged to prison for the non-payment of a debt which he 
was wholly unable to discharge. And to see the same 
barbarous relic upon the statutes of the greatest state of 
the only E^epublic in the world was to him a source of 
great mortification, to say nothing of the immediate suf- 
fering and miserv it occasioned in the infliction of its 
penalties. Bold and fearless was the stand he took, and 
earnest were the denunciations he poured against its 
odious features. In his appeals to the members of the 
house upon the expediency of adopting his bill for its 
abolition, he gave expositions of its deformities that were 
calculated to fill the mind with disgust, when contemplat- 
ing it divested of its drapery. With sympathetic patho3 


he portra5^ed the wretchedness it entailed upon the 
domestic circle, by tearing the parent from the embrace 
of his offspring, and fettering him in a dungeon. Then, 
with indignant warmth, he poured his denunciations 
against the cruelty of a law, that gave one individual the 
right to deprive another of his liberty, by placing him 
in a jail. Then again, he showed the absurd inutility 
of a legal enactment that gave to an individual the right 
to punish another as remuneration for something of value. 
He showed the extreme folly of a measure, the infliction 
of whose cruel penalties upon one individual was the 
only redress it afforded another; whose evident tendencies 
were to foster a spirit of revengeful cruelty on the part 
of those disposed to avail themselves of its power. 
Then, turning to the prayerful petitions piled upon their 
daily deliberations in behalf of suffering humanity, he 
appealed to the better feelings of the members of the 
house, in order to elicit their support of a measure he 
deemed so fraught with blessings to the whole state. 

By an industrious application of his energies and tal- 
ents to this his favorite measure, he fondly hoped to wit- 
ness its passage before the expiration of the session. 
When we view the modification of that law, and see the 
pernicious influences its enforcement was bound to have 
upon society, it seems a matter of surprise that intelligent 
legislators would oppose a bill the object of which was 
its repeal. Yet such was the case. A large number 
of the members of that legislature arrayed themselves 
against the measure, and fiercely contested every inch of 
ground over which it had to pass, until its final adoption. 


Tteir arguments were based certainly upon no considera- 
tions consistent with the advancement of the people's inter- 
est or upon the dictates of a patriotic desire to ameliorate 
the condition of the country whose interests it was their 
peculiar province to promote. 

The idea of a law, prevailing in the most refined state of 
a republican government, whose penalty was the impris- 
onment of a freeman for the commission of no crime, for 
the perpetration of no heinous offence revolting to the 
feelings of humanity, no further back than twenty-six 
years ago, is strange enough. But to find men of talent 
identified with members opposed to the enactment of a 
bill whose object was to repeal a law containing such 
revolting penalties is still more strange. The only merit 
such a law could have was its similarity to some of those 
in operation in European and monarchical governments, 
and the predication of its principles upon custom and 
long usage. Singular enough it seems that the members 
of the democratic legislature, so progressive in everything 
else, should array themselves in such deadly hostility 
against the removal of this barbarous relic from the stat- 
utes of the state, and regard Mr. Fillmore's bill in the 
light of a dangerous innovation. 

Mr. Fillmore, in discussing the principles of his bill, 
took the correct view in regard to the utility of measures 
calculated to promote the happiness of the people, and to 
preserve the dignity of the commonwealth. Imprison- 
ment or the deprivation of liberty he regarded as a pen- 
alty whose infliction should only be enforced for the 
oommission of a crime repugnant alike to the laws of 


God and man. As a crime of this nature he was not dis- 
posed to view the indebtedness of one man to another. 
There are many causes of \Yhich such indebtedness may 
be the legitimate result. Through the treachery or inca- 
pacity of an endorsee, through an unexpected occurrence 
of an accidental nature, through an unseen and an unfa- 
vorable interposition of Providence, and many other 
causes, an individual in affluent circumstances to-day, 
to-morrow may be hurled into the abyss of bankruptcy. 
Then, under the operation of such a law, though to-day 
he is honored and respected, to-morrow, amid the rage 
and invectives of importunate creditors, a culpable wretch, 
be is torn from his family and thrown into prison. With 
such considerations as these, through the deliberations of 
the entire session of 1830, did Mr. Fillmore urge upon 
the house with zeal and warmth the necessity that existed 
for the adoption of his bill. But they remained unmoved. 
Though his arguments they could not answer, and saw, 
because they were compelled to see, the intrinsic excellen- 
cies of the bill, they would not endorse it. They com- 
menced a violent opposition to its conditions on its first 
agitation in the house, and were determined at least to 
prove they were consistent in their hostility. 

In the preservation of their consistency they created 
such obstacles to the passage of the bill, that the ener- 
gies of its friends were constantly devoted to it through 
the labors of the W'hole session. 

From the introduction of the bill into the house, it 
had been the leading general measure, and had encoun- 
tered the fieixjest opposition from some of the most tal- 


« dted members on the floor. The labors of the session 
were drawing to a close, a considerable amount of busi- 
ness remained to be transacted, and the friends of the 
bill began to despair of its success during that session, 
Mr. Fillmore had guarded the interests of his county 
with the same fidelity he had the previous year, and in 
his advocacy of his bill for the abolishment of imprison- 
ment for debt had displayed marked ability and great 
legislative zeal. He had proposed and bad been chiefly 
instrumental in the passage of many local measures, sub- 
scrvative of his constituency's interests, and occupied an 
elevated position among the members of the house. So' 
zealous was he in behalf of his county, that by reference 
to the assembly journal of 1830, I find that the city of 
Bufi'alo and Erie county were the recipients of more leg- 
islative action upon measures of a local nature than was 
any other locality in the state, except Rochester. Ear- 
nest as had been his efl'orts in behalf of his bill, the ses- 
sion closed without being able to effect its passage. 

On the close of the session he returned to Buffalo and 
again resumed the practice of law, hoping no further ser- 
vices of a public nature would be required at his hands 
by his fellow citizens. In this, however, he was mistak- 
en. Too well were they convinced of the safe repository 
of their interests in his hands to allow him to surrendei 
them to others. His earnest endeavors to be of service 
to his county, and the active stand he had taken against 
the imprisonment for debt law, had endeared him t€ 
the people, and especially to the mechanics, laboring men 


and their friends, who had flooded the halls of the legis- 
lature with their prayers for relief. 

From the philanthropic manner in which he had res- 
ponded to their appeals, they regarded him as the cham- 
pion of the laboring man's rights — the protector of the 
people's interest. He was reelected to the assembly of 
1831, and took his seat on the fourth of January, firmly 
resolved to devote himself to the passage of the bill 
which had elicited such general interest the previous ses- 
sion. This session of the legislature was to be one of 
unusual interest; the people looked to its labors for the 
fulfillment of their hopes, in regard to the adoption of 
some measure- doing away with imprisonment for debt. 
The whole state, in fact, manifested great interest in ref- 
erence to that measure from the first agitation on the 
floor of the assembly. 

From the message of Governor Throop, delivered to 
the assembly on the fourth of January, 1S31, I make the 
following extracts, showing that Mr. Fillmore's measure 
of the precedent legislature elicited executive interest 
favorable to its adoption : " Our laws relative to impris- 
onment for debt should be carefully examined for tho 
purpose of amendment. The notion of imprisonment, in 
the nature of punishment for debt, is repugnant to human- 
ity, and condemned by wisdom. 

"Imprisonment for debt should be tolerated so far, 
only, as it is necessary to enable the creditor to secure 
the property of his debtor." 

These wise and patriotic sentiments were the same as 


«ml)odiecl in the bill, for ^vhose passage Mr. Fillmore 
labored so earnestly the session before. 

Among men of prominence in the assembly who en- 
dorsed the principles of the bill and came to its rescue 
were J. C. Spencer and John Van Buren, who advocated 
its passage until it became a law. In the appointment of 
committees, Mr. Fillmore was placed at the head of the 
committee on bills coming under the requisitions of the 
constitution in accordance with the rules of the house, a 
position of considerable importance. Immediately after 
organization, the assembly halls were reflooded with peti- 
tions in regard to measures embraced in the repeal bill. 
It was discussed in the house with all the zeal its friends 
could command, and contested with fierceness by its ene- 
mies. On the thirty-first of March the house resolved itself 
into a committee of the whole upon the bill, and its merits 
were discussed in all their bearings. The special com- 
mittee to whom it had been referred reported some amend- 
ments to it, and it was submitted to the house. This bill 
of which Mr. Fillmore was the principal drafter, covers 
several pages in the assembly journal, and is one of the 
ablest legislative enactments upon the statutes of the state 
of New York. That portion of it relating to justices' and 
other subordinate courts, is particularly able, and evinces 
a thorough understanding of the whole legal complexity 
of the times. Xo one can look over that bill without be- 
coming convinced, that its drafter was not only a legislator 
"of consummate ability and a lawyer of unsurpassed attain- 
ments, but that he understood well the principles of good 

government, and the nature of laws best adapted to the 


necessities of the times. The requisitions of that billy 
while they are sufficiently incluctious of a spirit of prompt 
punctuality on the part of the debtor, embrace facilities 
of Tindicatory redress, for the creditor, of a far more effi- 
cient nature than were afforded by the old law. While 
the humane provisions it embodied protected the creditor 
from the infiiction of penalties due only the votaries of 
crime, they extended to the debtor the safest means for 
the recovery of his dues. While they preserved the 
liberties that God had given the creditor from subjectiori 
to the rigors of imprisonment, they gave to the debtor the 
legalized right to the proceeds of his labor. Thus, by 
giving the creditor no means for the collection of his 
debts but the chattels of his creditors, the inducements 
to permit the contraction of a heavy indebtedness were 
curtailed, and, by making the goods of the debtor liable 
for his debts, a desire to live within his means was created. 
By its operation, mutual protection was guaranteed to all, 
and the interests of the country promoted. Subjected to 
some amendments of no very material nature, it was sub- 
mitted to the house on the thirty-first of March 1831, and 
was passed by a considerable majority ; Mr. Fillmore, J. 
C. Spencer, and John Van Buren, voting in the affirm.a- 
tive. This was followed by its immediate passage in the 
senate, and, on the twenty-first of April, Mr. Fillmore and 
the friends of his measure had the pleasure of seeing it 
stamped with executive sanction, by the following message 
to the house : 


" To THE Assembly : 

''Gentlemen: I have this clay approved and signed the 
bill entitled an 'Act to abolish imprisonment for debt,' etc. 

"E. T. Throop." 

Thus the bill for whose passage he was so desirous 
had passed both houses, received the executive signature, 
and was incorporated into the laws of his state. At the 
result he was highly gratified. Thus the odious law was 
wiped forever from the statutes of the state. To Mr. 
Fillmore, more than any one else, are the people of that 
state indebted for the removal from their books of a law 
whose every feature is repugnant to the genius of a 
Christianized country and revolting to humanity itself. 
In the passage of many measures of great public utility, 
Mr. Fillmore took an active part ; among other laws, the 
establishment of a " Mechanics benefit society," and 
several measures for the promotion of educational facil- 
ities and the protection of industry. For three consecu- 
tive sessions he represented his country in the state 
assembly. He did it faithfully ; the happy results of his 
labors were felt not only over his own county, but over 
the entire state. For the repeal of the law of imprison- 
ment for debt, he labored with zeal until the last day of 
the session, and was rewarded by the passage of his bill 
introduced for that purpose. The assembly of 1831, 
adjourned April 26th, and Mr. Fillmore returned again to 
Buffalo. These were his last services in that body ; he 
was never again a member of the assembly. He resumed 
the duties of his profession, and the enjoyments of private 


life, with the esteem of his fellow citizens, and the plaudits 
of conscience. 

The following, among the legislative portraits of the 
most prominent members of the assembly of 1831, was 
written by an excellent judge of human character, for 
one of the leading New York journals of that day, and 
shows the elevated position occupied by Mr. Fillmore in 
that body : 

" Millard Fillmore, of Erie county, is of the middle 
stature, five feet nine inches in height. He appears to be 
about thirty-five years of age, but it is said he is no more 
than thirty, of light complexion, regular features, and of 
a mild and benign countenance. 

" His ancestors were among the hardy sons of the 
north, and during the revolution were whigs, inhabiting 
the Green Mountains of Vermont. Mr. Fillmore, from 
the commencement of his political career, has been a 
republican. He is, in the strictest sense of the term, a 
self-made man. He was educated and reared in the 
western district of our state. At an early period of life 
he went to the fulling business; but naturally of an 
inquiring mind, and anxious to increase his limited stock 
of knowledge, his leisure hours were occupied in reading. 
"When about twenty years of age, he retired from his 
former pursuits, and after having studied the law as a 
profession, he was licensed to practice. He was a member 
of the last legislature. 

" Although the age of Mr. Fillmore does not exceed 
thirty years, he has all the prudence, discretion, and 
judgment of an experienced man. He is modest, retiring 


and unassuming. He appears to be perfectly insensible 
of the rare and bappy qualities of the mind for which he 
is so distinguished. He exhibits, on every occasion, when 
called into action, a mildness and benignity of temper, 
mingled with firmness of purpose, that is seldom concen- 
trated in the same individual. His intercourse with the 
bustlino- world is verv limited. His books, and occasion- 
ally the rational conversation of intelligent friends, seem 
to constitute his happiness. He is never to be found in 
the giddy mazes of fashionable life, and yet there is in his 
manner an indescribable something which creates a strong 
impression in his favor, and which seems to characterize 
him as a well-bred gentleman. He possesses a logical 
mind, and there is not a member of the house who presents 
his views on any subject which he attempts to discuss in 
a more precise and luminous manner. He seldom speaks, 
unless there appears to be an absolute necessity for the 
arguments or explanations which he offers. Nor does he 
ever rise without attracting the attention of all who are 
within the sound of his voice — a tribute of respect paid 
to his youthful modesty and great good sense. 

"As a legislator, Mr. Fillmore appears to act with perfect 
fairness and impartiality. He examines every subject 
distinctly for himself, and decides upon its merits accord- 
ing to the best lights of his own judgment or understand- 
ing. He is now at an age when his character is to be, 
irrevocably fixed. As a politician, he is not formed to be 
great. He has none of the qualities requisite for a politi- 
cal chieftain. He wants that self-confidence and assurance 
•without which a partizan leader can never hope for fol 


lowers. Mr. Fillmore's love of books and habits of think- 
ing will ultimately conduct him to a more tranquil but 
higher destiny, if tlie one is not broken open and the 
other diverted from its natural course to the too often 
polluted and always turbulent if not mortifying results 
of faction. If he has not sMcient courage to resist 
the allurements which legislation presents to vouno: and 
ambitious men, then ought his friends to act for him, and 
refuse him a renomination. It is a life which not only 
casts to the winds of heaven all employment as a profes- 
sional man, but it uproots sooner or later the germs of 
industry and the delights of study. These are the admon- 
itions of age and experience. As a debater in the house, 
his manner is good, his voice agreeable. Toward his 
opponents he never fails to evince a most studied delicacy. 
He is mild and persuasive, sometimes animated. His 
speeches are pithy and sententious ; always free from idle 
and vapid declamation. His arguments are logically 
arranged, and presented to the house without embarrass- 
ment or confusion." 

The writer of the foregoing judged rightly of the evil 
consequences of having once been engaged in politics as 
regards the generality of young professional men, but 
was wide off the mark if he supposed Mr. Fillmore 
would be contaminated by political influences. The sound 
judgment and the unambitious feelings of Mr. Fillmore 
placed him bevond the necessity of his friends acting for 
him. He was well aware of the fascination of political 
strife, so far as the average of young men in the outset of 
their political careers were concerned ; and to avoid the 


consequences of falling into the same error himfeelf, he 
was always careful, as before stated, to commence the 
duties of his profession as soon as his labors in a public 
capacity had ceased. As much sagacity, therefore, as 
the writer of the foregoing article displayed, and as much 
insight as he evinced, he was much mistaken as to Mr. 
Fillmore's capacity to assume the leadership of his party, 
or as to his incurring any danger from the contaminating 
influences of political station. Yet, as an article showing 
not only the high stand occupied by Mr. Fillmore among 
the members of the assembly, but the impression he made 
upon the spectators, newspaper correspondents, etc., the 
above sketch is worthy of note. 

It must be borne in mind, that the writer, in his deline- 
ations of the various members of that bod}^ confined him- 
self to the prominent ones ; hence the portraiture of Mr. 
Fillmore is a complimentary classification with those 
€oraing under that head. The confidence and self-assur- 
ance wherein he regards Mr. Fillmore so essentially de- 
ficient that he could never be a successful political leader, 
were then, in Mr. Fillmore's character, developments 
marked and conspicuous. The association of modesty 
with that of genuine m.erit, as an invariable accompani- 
ment, is universally conceded by the truly refined in feel- 
ing, and those best calculated to form just conceptions of 
an individual's mental capacity. Luminous exemplifica- 
tions of extreme modesty, on the part of those who have 
justly figured most conspicuously in the world's moral 
progress and developments, generally blaze upon the 
pages of their early biography. "Washington, when he 


appeared in the house of burgesses, blushed with mani- 
fest confusion that in no way abated on being told by a 
prominent member of the house "his modesty alone was 
equal to his merit. Chief-justice Kenyon, than whom no 
greater was ever arrayed in the august robes of the ju- 
diciary, was overwhelmed by an inherent modesty, time 
and again, in his early legal attempts, that he could not 
suppress, until rising on an occasion in the court room, 
with his usual timidity and apprehensions of failure, he 
felt his wife and child pulling at his coat skirts for means 
of sustenance. By a sudden impulse, he launched into 
the loftiest sphere of oratory, and produced a niaster- 
piece of forensic eloquence. Modesty is an attendant of 
true greatness. Men may be, and often are possessed of 
giant intellects, who exhibit no modest propensities; but 
they are invariably men of no great moral calibre. The 
man who combines the essential elements of true great- 
ness, and personifies them in his daily intercourse, until 
worn away and supplanted by experience or dignity of 
soul, will be possessed of a modest nature. Some men 
have by extraordinary talents constellated in the galaxy 
of the world's great, unadorned with the mild light of 
modesty, but their greatness consisted exclusively in their 
talents ; the purer fountain, the wellspring of the soul, 
from whence flow the better actions and feelings of human 
nature, have given no exuberant overflowings of benev- 
olence and love, indicative of true worth. A young man 
who commences the battle of life with talents, but with 
no modesty, is but half armed — he has the sword of 


offence, but not the shield of protection. Mr. Fillmore, as 
inferable from the foregoing article, had both. He has 
established with one, and demolished with the other. 
Though his successful career has ^placed him among the 
distinguished of the earth, he is still modest and un- 





Mr. Fillmore as a lawyer — Brief review of his legal career — His view 
of the law as a science — Advantages of his connection — Spurns 
all artifice and chicanery — Responsibilities of the law— His views 
of its moraUty — His capacities as a lawyer — His ardent desire 
to promote justice — His weight of character — His faithfulness to 
his clients — In speaking, not a Patrick Henry — Examples of his 
success in civil cases — The Cattaraugus Reservation — The great 
importance of that case — The remarkable Ontario Bank case — 
His argument before the Supreme Court — His success in both. 

It will be remembered that Judge Wood, -who first 
perceived latent sparks of greatness in Mr. Fillmore 
during his early boyhood, was principally instrumental 
in directing his mind to the study of the law, and in 
inciting it to continual and vigorous prosecution of its 
principles. It will also be borne in mind that the diffi- 
culties under which Mr. Fillmore labored were of no 
ordinary nature, and that in overcoming them he devoted 
his energies with unwearied application. The incentives, 
as we have seen, for him to assume the mastery of the 
profession were of the strongest nature, inasmuch as he 
possessed no means to fall back upon in case of failure. 
The strong desires of his own bosom were so great to 
make rapid proficiency, that he needed no more powerful 
incentive. It was then he laid the foundation of his 
legal studies, and fixed in his mind the fundamental prin- 
ciples of law. His school of preparation was a rigid one. 
Those who are in the pursuit of mental acquisition, under 


the tuition of a relentless necessity, have to submit to the 
most uncompromising of all task-masters. But the effi- 
ciency of this preparatory school was, perhaps, much 
increased by its own rigidity. Thus, bound and circum- 
scribed by the entire control of its mandates, no avenue 
was open for an indiscriminate range of thought or action; 
hence a constant concentration of every energy, both 
mental and physical, was necessarily secured, and aston- 
ishing progress followed as an inevitable result. It is 
doubtless owing in a great degree to these very circum- 
stances of his being thus situated, that he succeeded in 
laying the basis of his legal pursuits upon so correct a 
foundation, and impressing his mind so firmly with the 
groundwork of the law, that have made him a jurist of 
such consummate abilitv, and an advocate of such con- 
vincing powers and acknowledged worth. In fact, on his 
first commencem.ent of legal studies, either from his natu- 
ral reasoning faculties, or from a profound conviction of 
its importance — perhaps both qualities had an influence — 
he was particularly careful to acquaint himself thoroughly 
with the first principles, and to have a complete compre- 
hension of one principle before proceeding to another. 
The ground he went over was reviewed, if necessary, 
until its maxims were understood with accurate precision. 
After his removal to Buffalo, we have seen that the 
ardor and anxiety to master his profession suffered no abate- 
m.ent; but, with the increased facilities thrown in his way, 
burned if possible with increased warm^th. In Bufi'alo, 
we have seen that he ranked among the most steady 
young men of the city, and was proverbial for his 


studious habits. Unallured by tbe fascinations of city 
life, be pursued bis studies witb tbe quiet, determined 
spirit to succeed be bad manifested on former occasions, 
and "was triumpbantly successful in attaining a reputation 
for sobriety above tbe generality of young men in tbe city. 
To tbis unwavering adherence to virtuous principles on 
tbe part of Mr. Fillmore, and tbe continual enforcement 
of bis goad resolutions to refrain entirely from all actions 
not in strict accordance witb tbe dictates of moral prin- 
ciple bow mucb of bis success is attributable, it is impos- 
sible to imagine. Certain it is tbat it was tbe correct 
course, and tbe early means of establishing a character for 
morality and high-toned feelings, the weight of which be 
has ever since maintained. On his admission to the court 
of common pleas, which was granted as much through 
courtesy as otherwise, we have seen that through bis 
extreme diffidence he went to a village which was more 
tbe central point of a rural agricultural community than 
otherwise. Here, in tbe pursuit of his profession, the 
great importance attached to his first case proves that 
he was entirely unconscious of his own great powers. 
Here, when tbe first signs of prosperity began to indi- 
cate themselves, he resolves to return to Buffalo. In tbat 
city we find him soon at the bead of his profession, in a 
connection tbat was very advantageous to tbe develop.- 
ment of his legal capacities, and to ameliorate his pecu- 
niary condition. Here, attended with the greatest suc- 
cess, we find him engaged in an honorable and lucrative 
business, employed as counsel on one side or the other of 


every case for whole claj^s together. We see him preem- 
inently successful in all the courts, much more so than 
most lawyers of no more experience than he possessed. 
We find him loved for his good qualities and respected 
for his talents by the entire population of the city, and 
rapidly winning his way to the foremost position in the 
esteem and regard of his fellow citizens. We find him 
studiously endeavoring to promote the general interests 
of the people in a manner rendered efficient from 
the influential elevation assigned him by his fellow citi- 
zens. We find him, too, wending his way into the 
supreme court, and competing successfully with, and elic- 
iting the esteem of Chief-justice Savage, the other asso- 
ciate judges, and the attorneys who practiced at that 
higher court. Careers of young attorneys may have been 
more brilliant and meteoric, but none have ever been 
more staple and sure than the one summed up in the 
above brief review. Young lawyers may have advanced 
a reputation a little faster than the progress indicated 
above, but none have ever established it upon a more 
solid basis, or attached to it more force and enduring 

The meteoric flash of a precocious genius is fre- 
quently mistaken for reputation, and regarded by some 
as sufficient means for the efi"ectual establishment of a 
character. There is a fascinating lure about these evan- 
escent blazes of genius that dart their spiral flame above 
mediocrity and dazzle the eye for the moment, but 
while looking on it at its brightest period, it flickers into 
obscurity, and leaves us in darkness. These geniuses 


spring up in a moment, and dart right ahead with impet- 
uous velocity, and sometimes win our admiration by the 
rapidity of their progress. But their careers are usu- 
ally brief ones. A greater luminary, rising slowly but 
surely, that was gathering light while the meteor was 
flashing past him, soon overtakes it, and it dies out in 
the full blaze of his power. Taking the foundation of 
his studies, the vast amount of his legal knowledge, the 
compact solidity of his attainments, the accuracy of his 
judgment, the weight of his character, and all the essen- 
tial prerequisites to success, and the career of Mr. 
Fillmore as a lawyer is surpassed by no one up to the 
time embraced in the foregoing review. 

The law, Mr. Fillmore knew, was a difficult science — 
an important one, and, in an eager haste to advance, 
anxious as he was to do so, he was determined not to go 
over it hastily — hence the solidity of his character as a 

As this chapter will contain all we expect to say of 
Mr. Fillmore's legal career, an enumeration of some of 
the advantages derived from his connection with a law- 
firm of eminence and celebritv, in the citv of Buffalo, it 
is presumed, will not be inappropriate. This connection 
was, in the first place, the result of a justly high appre- 
ciation for his capacities as a lawyer, and his industrious 
assiduitv in devotin^: himself to the interests of his cli- 
ents, and the great influence he threw into a case, by the 
weight of his character. From the successful result? 
of his practice in the village where he had compara- 
tively secluded himself, it was plainly inferable on the 


part of the firm by whom the proposition for a connec- 
tion was made, that, in the prosecution of a very lucrative 
and widely extended practice, his services would be a 
valuable appendant. 

These, however, "were not the only motives by which 
they were actuated in proposing a connection whose 
advantages to all parties concerned would be equally 
manifest. From a desire to promote the interest and 
extend facilities to deserving merit, which they saw 
impersonated in Mr. Fillmore, and which they very prop- 
erly conceived would, with the extension of some advan- 
tages, develop itself, to the honor of the profession and 
the country, at no distant day — the equally advantageous 
results of such connection was, in making the proposal, 
doubtless the principal actuation. 

With the formation of this connection, already in a 
very heavy business, from Mr. Fillmore's well known 
abilities as a practical lawyer of untiring zeal and great 
success, the business of the firm increased, until it became 
the foremost in the city. One very essential advantage 
of this arrangement to Mr. Fillmore, was the removal of 
an obstacle whi'jh, in the outset of their careers, all young, 
professional men are compelled to combat — the influences 
of old, established practitioners who, by a successful prac- 
tice of years, moncpolize the entire business of that 
nature, and leave little room for young aspirants to judi- 
cial fame to exert their powers. The business of a legal 
nature, at the time of this connection, as is usually 
the case in cities of any importance, was in the hands of 
those who had been practicing their profession with sue- 


cess, and the firm with which it was made being a resident 
one, of course got a liberal share. His connection, 
therefore, threw him into immediate practice of a lucra- 
tive and an honorable nature without having^ to combat 
the obstacles alluded to, and, by his successful manage- 
ment of cases intrusted into his hands, and the position 
of universal popularity he attained among the people, 
contributed much to increase the business of the office. 
Of this, and all such advantages thrown in his way dur- 
ing the commencement of his professional life, than Mr. 
Fillmore, no one was more sure to avail himself to the 
fullest extent. By no one were such advantages more 
thoroughly understood, or their bestowal more highly 
appreciated. From this connection, to Mr. Fillmore the 
results were most gratifying, and most happy in facilitat- 
ing his progress. 

Another advantage, and a very decided one, was the 
daily association with men eminent for their legal acumen, 
and familiarly conversant with the details of the practice 
of a very efficient and talented bar, and immediate con- 
nection with an extensive business. The opportunities 
were good, under these advantages, for him to become 
familiarized with the difficulties of office practice, and to 
understand the application of the theoretical to the prac- 
tical part of the profession. On Mr. Fillmore's return 
to Buffalo, those of a practical nature were the only parts 
of the law wherein he was in the least deficient, and only 
so in them from want of that experimental exercise neces- 
sary to insure, in all cases, a correct application of prin- 
ciples to a particular case. The theory of the law few 


understood better; by the strict devotion of his time and 
talents to its principles from the time he commenced 
reading, he had assumed their complete mastery. In the 
admirable school for its consummation, he now found him- 
self — with the same zeal that he formerly evinced in 
tniderstanding the theoretical, he applied himself to the 
pj'actical. The incentive was no greater than formerly, 
but less diffident in his nature, and from previous indica- 
tions more sanguine of success, his efforts were charac- 
terized with a buoyancy of spirit and a vigor of feeling 
incident to a consciousness of an appropriate investiture 
of talents that did not attend his labors to the same 
extent through the wearisome hours of his studentship. 
So well had he become aquainted with the theory of law, 
and so correct was he in the formation of the basis of 
his legal investigations, by a thorough comprehension of 
its fundamental principles, that the practice, after he was 
once thrown into it, was readily understood. 

Mr. Fillmore, in the early part of this connection, was 
the practical lawyer of the firm in most cases, and de- 
veloped capacities of a truly practical attorney. Mr. 
Fillmore is essentially a matter-of-fact practical man. In 
discharging the duties of a heavy office practice, mani- 
festing no desire for display, or to create an impression 
by any extraordinary rhetorical flourishes, he confined 
himself exclusively to the points at issue, and said no 
more than was necessary to explain the law and the facts. 
In doing this, making no attempts at eloquence, indulg- 
ing in no witticisms or sarcastic hits, he was plain, ear- 
nest, and pointed. He was a business young attorney. 


and consumed no more tin^ than was absolutely neces- 
sary in the disposition of cases. Heavy Iwjsiness 
pressing upon his hands, the transaction of which "de- 
manded his constant attention, he killed no precious hours 
by indulging in long speeches. Quick and forcible, carry- 
ing conviction along with delivery, his addresses t^J 
jury or a court were only excelled in efficiency by their 
brevity. The various courts of the city were excellent 
schools wherein he could train his mind to a perfect state 
of legal discipline, in the investigatibn of the various 
causes there brought for trial. In the justices' and other 
courts, before which for ^judicial investigation thronged 
large numbers of litigants.^ a«d oflfenders indicted for such 
misdemeanors as are incident to a densely populated city, 
he had ample opportunities for the development and cul- 
tivation of his legal capacities. Mr. Fillmore derived 
great advantages from this connection, from the fact that 
he was brought on terms of familiarity, and came daily 
in intercourse, both legally and socially, with the numer- 
ous friends and acquaintances of the older resident mem- 
bers of the firm. In the contraction of acquaintances, 
and the social intercourse of the citizens, and keeping 
pace with the affairs of the city, this was a medium of 
infinite advantage. The natural adaptation of Mr. Fill- 
more's character to the formation of friendships, and to 
make pleasant those with whom he comes in contact, 
made this avenue of social intercourse peculiarly pleasing, 
to say nothing of the advantages accruing to a professional 
man, from a medium through which he can become 


acquainted with the citizens of a place, with whose interests 
he anticipates a permanent identification of bis own. 

As an instance of the high-toned nature of Mr. Fill- 
more in the practice of the law, and to show that dutv 
and a high appreciation for his fellow-citizens' rights 
were his guide, it m.ay he observed that, notwithstanding 
a long career of unexampled success as a lawyer, the 
friends and associations he formed at that early day are 
his friends still. Even those with whom he most 
frequently came in contact, in the various courts of their 
practice, both counsels and clients, against whom, in the 
discharge of his duty as an attorney, he labored, are, 
and have always been, his friends. This is indicative of 
the very exalted course he has pursued in his practice. 
Mr. Fillmore, in the practice of his profession, has taken 
the rights of his fellow men for his study, the constitution 
of his country for the basis of his actions, and the ten 
commandments for his guide. Those contained in Lord 
Brougham's celebrated eulogium are the views of Mr. 
Fillmore in regard to the law and its duties. His is the 
history of a career in the profession of eminent brilliancy, 
untarnished by a resort to that chicanery and artifice 
with which it is invested in the minds of many persons. 
Mr. Fillmore regards the law as a moral superstructure, 
round which the rights of the people gather for protection, 
and regards it the duty of the attorney to guard those 
rights with watchful anxietv. Law he recrards as the 
noblest of sciences, the leading science as the protector 
of all others. The laws of his country he looks upon as 
the guarantee of those popular rights belonging to the 


people, in their aggregate capacity, and secondary in point 
of morals only to the divine code. Far from the views 
expressed by Anacharsis, in regard to the law, are those 
entertained by Mr. Fillmore. It has no entangling meshes 
of such a peculiar construction that, while the poor man 
is warped in its fibres, the wealthy one breaks through 
with impunity, and defies with his lucre the viplated law. 
Based upon that of the divinity itself, thougb far from 
immaculate purity, the law is the palladium of the 
people — the bulwark of freedom. 

Entertaining exalted conceptions of the laws of his 
countrv second onlv to those of his God, when he em- 
barked in the profession, in vindicating the one he felt his 
actions were in obedience to the other. Looking upon 
the law as the basis of the people's rights, and the great 
umpire to whose decisions their grievances are to be sub- 
mitted, he resolved if he impressed it at all, it should be 
with the signet of virtue. Esteeming it as the highest 
privilege to live the unfettered sovereign of a free soil, 
under a system of laws whose principles are equal rights, 
in the mazy labyrinths of legal investigation, he resolved 
that justice should lead the van. Feeling with the gen- 
uine sensibility of nature's nobleman, the responsibilities 
resting upon one whose duties are in the very sanctuary 
of justice, he determined to make honor the expounder 
of his theory, and in practice to be her amanuensis. Erect 
in the majesty of his own moral purity, he regarded his 
fellow men as his brothers, and resolved to devote his 
talents to the promotion of their interests. Regarding 
the laws of the land as belonging to the people, as a 


sacred legacy secured by their ancestral blood, he deter- 
mined to uphold them by the power of moral force, un- 
sullied by any act of his. With these high opinions and 
resolves in regard to the laws of his country, he com- 
Qienced their Tiudication, as a professional practitioner of 
their principles. He has maintained their honor and ex- 
emplified his good resolutions. 

Being thus duly impressed with high and elevated sen- 
timents of the law, and having embraced it as his profes- 
sion, his next investigation was to ascertain the duties it 
involved. High and responsible were his conclusions in 
regard to their nature. The lawyer is the defender of 
justice — that great potent arbiter of man's destiny — the 
blind goddess who weighs our transactions, and hovers 
over human destinv with a retributive sword. In her 
august presence must the lawyer bring his client, to have 
his rights protected and his wrongs redressed. Impartial 
to all, blind as she is to all save the equitable rendition of 
her own decrees, he must stand in her presence, her own 
advoqate, or the advocate of a fellow man. The advo- 
cate — the defender of justice, the immaculate attribute 
of a God. In what vocation are the responsibilities so 
great as in this ? As a defender of justice, Mr. Fillmore, in 
the practice of the law has been blind as she, save in the 
attainment of her ends. Justice has been his maxim, 
and in the practice of the law he conceived it his duty to 
make everything subordinate to its attainment. Instead 
of making principle subservient to policy, he always made 
policy subservient to principle, and success subservient to 
right. Away with the Jesuitical notion of ends sanctify- 


ing the means, -when you expect its demonstration by his 
resorting to any artifice, not strictly embraced in the true 
code of honor, to gain a cause, or to consummate any 
other undertaking ! 

As a follo^Yer of a profession whose objects are the 
protection of the people's rights and the redress of their 
wrongs, to their fullest extent, he has appreciated his 
duties as a conservator of the general wellfare. In dis- 
charging his duties as a lawyer, he never overlooked 
those of a relative nature, but regarding the main object 
of his profession the promotion of the general interests 
of the country, he was faithful in the discharge of every 
duty. Entertaining correct views as to the ennobling 
nature of his profession and its objects, when not perverted 
for the subservience of individual interests, he felt it his 
duty to honor his vocation, and to exemplify that virtue 
and justice its design is to promote. As a lawyer, he 
was a repository of the people's aggregate interests, and 
he felt the magnitude of the responsibility to its fullest 
extent. Notwithstanding the chicanery that has become 
attached to the law in the minds of many, he fully under- 
stood the influence exerted by the profession in moulding 
opinion and giving tone to society, and he resolved in his 
conduct to personify the virtues to whose protection his 
profession was a constant guarantee. This was not 
merely the suggestive dictate of the importance of exem- 
plifying the virtues of his profession, but it was in obe- 
dience to the dictates of a heart ever alive to an active 
moral principle. These duties, as pertaining to his pro- 
fession, he endeavored to understand thoroughly and to 


demonstrate in his daily practice. In both he has suc- 
ceeded most admirably. 

He also entered upon the law with full convictions as 
to its morality. He looked upon it as being a protector 
of public and private morals, and felt that, as such, there 
was an intrinsic morality attached to law itself. In an 
extensive practice of several years, from causes over 
which he had no control, he has often been counsel on the 
wrong side, but frequently on the right, as preference for 
the right side produced some attention on his part to be 
there, when not inconsistent with previous arrangements. 
This preference indicates his feelings as regards the mor- 
ality of the law. He has often, from a nice sense of duty, 
declined the acceptance of a fee from individuals, the 
gaining of whose cause would be in violation of moral 
principle and subversive of public justice. In his office, 
while engaged in a heavy practice at the different courts 
in the city, he was frequently consulted by clients who 
were anxious to become acquainted with the law in regard 
to certain cases in which they were, or expected to be, lit- 
igant parties. It was his custom to answer them frankly, 
holding out no false hopes of success beyond those that 
really existed ; and if, after an investigation, he perceived 
there was no chance for the client, he never deluded him 
with false hopes of success, for the sake of a fee. On 
such occasions, he would tell the applicant frankly there 
was no chance of his being successful. These things 
show that deep current of moral principle that ever flows 
in Mr. Fillmore's bosom. Looking upon the law as a 
noble profession, he wished" to honor it, and manifest in 


his actions the importance he attached to an exemplary 
life as a lawyer. 

Mr. Fillmore has always attached a high toned moral- 
ity to the law, which he was anxious to see infused into 
the minds of his professional brethren, thereby giving 
tone to the vocation. This elevated idea was, at that 
time, considerably in advance of the day, and is yet, to a 
great extent. This high moral principle in connection 
with Mr. Fillmore's legal practice has been evinced 
on all occasions. He always refrained from taking 
advantage of any legal technicality, to gain his case at 
the defeat of public justice. In examining creditable 
witnesses, he never subjected them to the torture of a 
cross-examination, with a view of making them contra- 
dict themselves, by becoming so confused as to invali- 
date their own testimon3\ Xor did he ever twist and dis- 
tort evidence elicited before courts for the purpose of 
gaining a cause. In no case has he entered into a cause 
merely for a triumph, at the sacrifice of justice. 

Among the admirably adapted capacities of Mr, 
Fillmore for the successful prosecution of the law, 
may be classed his extreme coolness and entire self-pos- 
session. Be the cause important as it might, and though 
it elicited a general interest amounting to excitement, 
unmoved in the prevailing tumult, he has sustained his 
entire equanimity, and never lost sight of the important 
issues involved, or neglected any precautionary step nec- 
essary to secure success. Mr. Fillmore is wholly invul- 
nerable to the influences of wild excitements and tumult- 
uous exhibitions of feeling. He feels upon subjects of 


general interest, as well as those of a professional nature, 
the great importance involved in their different bearings, 
as keenly as any one ; but the feeling is essentially inside, 
and while, with a clear, vigorous perception, he scans the 
course for him to pursue, his self-control subdues all man- 
ifestations of excitement. 

Thus, in the practice of his profession, he coolly, and 
by deliberate reflection, investigated his case, and thor- 
oughly understood all its points, and the principles of law 
relevant thereto, so that, in presenting it to the court, in 
a calm, self-possessed manner, he laid it all systematic- 
ally open, and by his logical reasoning seldom failed 
impressing conviction. This self-control which is of itself 
indicative of an elevated soul, threw great weight into 
his arguments, especially as it was accompanied by a 
forcible impressment of his views. It also gave a true 
cast to the natural dignity of his character, that was 
always sure to elicit the respect of the court and the entire 
members of the bar, who witnessed the management of 
his cases. 

Instead of being excited himself, the preservation of 
his self-control and entire dignity enabled him to eluci- 
date the complications of cases in such a manner as to 
impress the court with his superior legal attainments, 
and to convince it of the force of his reasoning. This 
coolness and self-possessed dignity are decided advant- 
ages in the practice of the law. 

An individual rises before a court as counsel in a case 
without these qualities, be he eloquent as he may, though 

he succeed in eliciting the respect of the court and the 

7 > 


attention of the jury — though he may please with his 
fluency and attract with his gesticulation, his excitement 
lessens the potency of his arguments, and, notwithstanding 
the rivited attention he secures, he fails to produce con- 
viction. He pleas€9, but does not convince ; and, on 
being replied to by a cool, methodical attorney, who sys- 
tematically brings up his facts, his law, and his evidence 
to the point at issue, and throws the weight of his dig- 
nity and self-possession into the case, he is lost sight of 

There is a marked diflference in the elements of an 
orator whose sphere is to touch the springs of feeling in 
mixed and popular assemblages by eloquent appeals, 
and those of the practical attorney, whose sphere is to 
investigate the different judicial decisions, and to analyze 
the actions of men when subjected to the test of legal 
enactment. Phillips was an orator — a very great one ; 
but as a practical attorney, except in cases admissive of 
those mighty appeals and spontaneous outbursts of 
oratorical powers characteristic of him, he was not very 
extraordinary. Of the practical attorney's requisites to 
success, these analytical faculties of mind and cleai 
reasoning powers may be classed among the most 

There is a potency in this dignity and self-possession, 
so consummate a blending of which we find in Mr. 
Fillmore, that is not fully understood by young attorneys, 
nor sufficiently sought after in the outset of their profes- 
sional career. In an eager haste to drive forward and to 
take a prominent stand at the bar, they too frequently 


attach more importance to display than to the attainme\ 
of the more solid qualifications ; hence, they follow thei. 
profession without the stability of a correct basis, or the 
weight of solid proportions. Mr. Fillmore, as a practi- \ 
tioner of superior and inferior courts, always manifested 
this trait of his character. He has never had any un- 
important cases, upon which he conceived the bestowal 
of but little attention a sufficient discharge of duty. 
His high conceptions for the rights of his fellow man has 
always made him regard all cases where the adjudication 
of these rights were involved as a matter of great 
importance, and devoted his attention to the promotion 
of a little right — to use the expression — with the same 
promptness and fidelity that he would a large one. In 
this respect he has known no small rights, and discrim- 
inated between no small wrongs. The enforcement of 
right, be it of whatsoever nature, and the redress of 
wrong is sufficient to secure his undivided attention. 
Hence, in all cases he maintained his dignity and self- 
control, careful not to overlook the performance of duty 
from any unimportant aspects of the case. From the 
circumstances that surrounded him from his commence- 
ment of his studies, in having to use inflexible perseverance, 
and in his school of preparation, this quality of self- 
control was most happily developed. 

Among the attributes of his success, his weight of 
character may be ranked prominent and conspicuous. 
This, on the part of Mr. Fillmore, was not an attainment 
acquired by association or otherwise. In point of sta- 
bility of character he was always in advance of his age. 


In earl}^ childhood, his quiet, grave, and obedient deport- 
ment was superior to other children. In boyhood, an 
age when the frolicsome gaieties of youth first begin to 
develop themselves, he exhibited these traits of character. 
So, we perceive that, instead of its being the result of 
association or cultivation, it was an inherent part of his 
nature, and the more effective because entirely divested 
of all semblance of affectation. In the trial of causes 
wherein the talents of the most prominent members of the 
bar were secured, this array of reason, fact, logic, and 
weight of character, presented by Mr. Fillmore, was a 
formidable barrier, not easy to demolish or overleap. 
This is the most important and most difficult of con- 
struction of any part of a young professional man's 

The first thing to be sought after is the establishment 
of a character. This is, and must be, the basis on which 
he builds his profession. It is consequently the most im- 
portant of all qualifications. No talents, be they tran- 
scendent as they may, can exert an influential potency, if 
deprived of the moral impetus of character. An indi- 
vidual who can throw no weight of character into an 
argument can have no great influence in producing con- 
viction. One whose talents blaze most conspicuously in 
arguments to a court or jury loses more potency than he 
is aware of, if deprived of the weight attendant upon a 
moral calibre. A man who embarks in the law is pre- 
supposed to entertain desires vindicatory of justice, truth, 
and moralty. It is very manifest that in such vindication 
he loses much power by a continual violation of these 


precepts, in pursuing a course inconsistent with all moral 
principle. Such an one may be eloquent — attractively 
so, and please the attention, but, like the rainbow, it is 
based upon mist, and disappears with the ray that pro- 
duced it. Not so with the man of moral calibre. He is 
a man of character, of weight — the very fact of his en- 
gaging in a cause, gives tone to the side on which his 
services are secured. And when it is brought forward for 
trial and elucidation, each argument he deduces with a 
view to promote justice possesses weight, and is regarded 
as such, because his whole past character has been its 
exemplification. Any principle he advances, any law he 
quotes, any idea he may produce, are favorable to the de- 
velopment of truth, because his whole character has dis- 
played an undeviating adherence to its principles. All his 
actions and movements, instead of being watched like an art- 
ful trickster, are regarded as honorable, and receive implicit 
reliance, from the fact that his past character is^ an un- 
sullied exhibit of virtuous principles. Such are some of 
the advantages possessed by men of moral weight in the 
pursuit of a profession. These advantages Mr. Fillmore 
has always possessed in an eminent degree. Looking to 
his example, let young professional men learn to " get 
knowledge," " get an understanding " of their vocation ; 
" but with all their getting " let them first get that most 
desirable of all qualifications — a character. 

Mr. Fillmore, as before indicated, owes no part of his 
brilliant success as a lawyer to any extraordinary endow- 
ments of forensic eloquence, that more than anything else 
builds a man up in the outset of his profession, because 


the deficiency of experience is partially supplied with ora- 
torical powers. Unlike Patrick Henry, of whom it has 
been said, with six weeks* preparation and but little 
knowledge of the law, he commenced a career of unexam- 
pled success, and was in the very outset called the " forest- 
born Demosthenes," Mr. Fillmore possessed no such ad- 
vantages. He is no orator — makes no pretensions to 
oratorical powers, yet, with the other, and not less effective 
mental endowments, he is a good speaker, and always says 
something to the purpose, and that will be remembered. 
For the bar, in judicial proceedings, his eloquence was 
well adapted for its convincing and logical attributes. 
The earnestness of his manner in addresses to courts and 
juries gave great force to his arguments and reasoning, and 
has had a very favorable influence to his success. Hi^ 
zeal in the prosecution of a case, when he had once under- 
taken it, was surpassed by no one. On taking charge of 
a case, he felt himself the repository of his client's rights, 
and was as careful and zealous in a faithful discharge of 
duty as if those rights had been his own. 

The activity and zeal he always displayed in the pro- 
tection of his client's interest, and the faithful guardian- 
ship he exercised over the rights reposed in his keeping, 
added greatly in the attainment of that universal popu- 
larity for which Mr. Fillmore became proverbial, imme- 
diately after his embarkation in the practice. 

This zeal, too, in the exact preparation of his cases, 
and to be in possession of all the law needed in their 
prosecution before they came into court, was the precursor 
of many early successes, and contributed- not a little to 


the establishment of a reputation at once enviable, and 
commensurate witli the most successful. From this 
careful zeal in the complete arrangement of his business, 
before announced from the docket he was fully enabled to 
have his thoughts arranged, and prepared to avail himself 
of all honorable advantages arising from any deficiency 
in that respect, on the part of the opposing counsel, 
Combining, then, the advantages of these previous inves- 
tigations with those derived from his superior insight of 
character before mentioned, he came to the case not only 
in the " whole armour of the law," but doubly fortified 
by extraneous facilities. Mr. Fillmore's appearance 
before the court in the argument of cases, though he 
threw no enchanting charm about him by a terrific blaze 
of oratory that captivates hearers, was one of great dignity, 
and calculated to draw th^ attention of the most casual 

A desire to promote justice in all its impartial rigor, 
and to advance the rights of those who came to her temple 
for redress, was manifest in his actions. Standing erect 
in his digTQity, with an expression of feature sternly benevo 
lent, self-possessed, and calm, exhibiting a superiority of 
which he seemed entirely ignorant, he forcibly, and with 
all the earnestness and weight of character belonging to 
his nature, presented his case, and piled facts and princi- 
ples around it that would be diflicult to remove, then gave 
it all into the hands of the jury, and took his seat with a 
complacent consciousness of having done his duty. I use 
the past tense in this connection, as having reference to 
Mr. Fillmore's past legal career, before he became invested 


with the performance of higher duties that conflicted mth 
those of his profession. 

Among the many examples of Mr. Fillmore's success 
in the civil law which show the extent of his legal attain- 
ments I have selected the following, decided in the 
supreme court of New York. The nature of this case 
was well calculated to, and did, elicit very general interest 
throughout the country at that time. 

The case was originally tried in the Erie circuit court, 
December, 1842. It was an action of trover for some 
timber that had been cut on, and taken from, a parcel of 
land known as the Cattaraugus Eeservation, lying partly 
in the counties of Erie, Chautauque, and Cattaraugus. 

The Cattaraugus Eeservation had been subject to the 
government of Massachusetts, prior to 1786, when that 
state ceded to tl[ie state of New York her title to the gov- 
ernment sovereignty and jurisdiction. 

New York at the same time ceded to Massa- 
chusetts the right of preemption of the soil from the 
native Indians, which she then held. It was stipulated, 
that Massachusetts should have the right to sell her right 
of preemption to any one who had a right to purchase the 
claims of the Indians, who were the original occupants — 
such purchase to be confirmed by the state. Massachu- 
setts afterwards conveyed by transfer her preemption right 
to one Morris, who subsequently disposed of his preemp- 
tion right and other interests, to the plaintiffs of this suit, 
Ogden and Fellows. It must be borne in mind that a 
preemption right was all that either party had acquired 
or disposed of by these several transfers. The Indians, 
themselves, having the right of occupancy in fee simple. 


The preemption right, therefore, was nothing more than 
a right to the ultimate fee, if the Indian title should be- 
come extinct. The Reservation was then in the occu- 
pancy of the Seneca tribe of Indians — they being one 
of six tribes of Indians, between whom and the United 
States treaties had been entered into, whereby they held 
by right of occupancy, their several parcels of land. 
The Seneca tribe of Indians during the winters of 1833 
and 1837, cut and sold saw-logs from the Cattaraugus 
Eeservation to the value of one thousand and forty-seven 
dollars. Ogden and Fellows who had purchased the 
preemption right of Robert Morris, assigned him by the 
state of Massachusetts, in 1791, averred that this was an 
infringement upon their rights. The defendants of the 
suit were Lee and Ellsworth, who purchased the logs of 
the Indians. The action then was Ogden and Fellows, 
against Lee and Ellsworth, for the amount of money 
paid by them to the Indians — the value of the logs. 
The cause came up in the Erie circuit court before Judge 
Dayton, in December, 1842. Mr. Fillmore was for the 
defendants. The value involved in this suit was not very 
great, so far as the damages claimed by the plaintiffs 
were concerned; but it was not from the amount of 
money involved, that the suit derived its importance. 
The cause came up before the court in regular order, and 
all the treaties between the states of New York and 
Massachusetts, with the subsequent transfers to various 
individuals, until the preemption right came into the hands 
of the plaintiffs, were introduced as evidence to establish 


the validity of their claims by purchase. The defendants 
moved a nonsuit, upon the grounds of the invalidity of 
the plaintiffs' claims to the land from whence the logs 
were taken, and consequently their right to any alleged 
damages they averred to have sustained. In their mo- 
tion for a nonsuit they were unsuccessful, and Judge 
Dayton instructed the jury to render the verdict for the 
plaintiff. The defendants moved for a new trial on a bill 
of exceptions. 

This was a somewhat complicated case, and required 
consummate ability in a lawyer to combat the opposition 
of the plaintiffs' counsel. The only right the plaintiffs 
possessed was that derived as the assignees of the Robert 
Morris preemption right, ceded by the state of Massa- 
chusetts ; while the defence hinged upon the validity of 
the Seneca Indians' claim, and their consequent right to 
sell to them the timber in question. In the management of 
this case there was a vast amount of labor devolving on 
the attornies, in having to look over old Indian treaties 
and colonial enactments, whereby the claims of Indians 
to the soil by occupancy until extinguished by purchase 
was guaranteed and their rights protected. The interest 
Mr. Fillmore felt in the issue of this case was very great, 
and the indefatigable industry with which he investigated 
the whole complexity of its bearings was unsurpassed. 
He was compelled to go back to the old decisions for pre- 
cedents and to look deep into the intricacies of the law 
in regard to it. The decision of the court in favor of the 
plaintiffs would have been almost a gross outrage, and, as 
we shall presently see, replete with the worst conse- 


qiiences to the Indian occupants of the reservation, of 
whose interest the states of both New York and Massa- 
chusetts had been especially careful in all their transac- 
tions—so much so, that it was explicitly stipulated by 
the convention of 1786, that Massachusetts could only 
transfer the preemption right of the reservation to those 
who had the right " to extinguish by purchase the claims 
of the Indians." So jealous, in fact, were they of the 
rights of this oppressed race, it was stipulated that all 
such purchases from the Indians should be invalid, un- 
less witnessed by a superintendent appointed by the state, 
Mr. Fillmore urged the claims of the defendant to a ver- 
dict with the greatest zeal and ability. For reasons which 
will soon be made manifest, he had engaged in few cases 
during his entire practice in a favorable issue of which to 
bis clients he was so much interested and felt so deep a 
solicitude. This was one of those causes that have fre- 
quently fallen to the lot of Mr. Fillmore to defend where 
he knew he was on the right side. He was not only on 
the right side so far as pecuniary considerations were con- 
cerned, but he was on the right side of morality. Every 
speech he made was an appeal in behalf of oppressed hu- 
manity, the very vitality of whose existence depended up- 
on the issue of this cause. This was one of those cases, 
in the management of which all personal considerations 
and the emoluments derived from its successful issue were 
thrown altogether out of the question, and swallowed up 
in the weightier consideration of protecting humanity in 
the homes of their fathers. This was a case exactly 
adapted to his nature, to his feelings, and the philan 


thropic promptings of his heart. New York had never^ 
and to her honor be it spoken, has yet never procured a 
foot of land from the Indians only by purchase in the 
return of an equivalent, unless it became ext4nct by the 
desertion of its occupants; and he, in defending this suit, 
was not only discharging his professional duty to his 
client, but he was preserving his state from the stain of 
her people monopolizing the Cattaraugus Eeservation, 
whose very name imports its design was the Indians' home 
until they became an extinct race. He was not only la- 
boring for the untarnished preservation of his state from 
that usurptional stain, but he was laboring in the cause 
of a suffering, friendless people, the fragment wreck of a 
mighty nation, who once, round the shores of his own 
beautiful lakes, reigned lords of the soil, and filled the 
land with their wildwood joys. It was just the case for 
Mr. Fillmore to call up all the great energies of mind 
and body of which he was master. Either one of the in- 
centives in this case was usually enough to make him 
act, and act nobly. But here, in defending this suit, he 
was discharging his duty to his client, in endeavoring to 
procure a verdict favorable to his side, and in all the ef- 
forts he put forth he was promoting the interests and pre- 
serving the honor of his state; and by his masterly ap- 
peals in behalf of the remaining relics of a ruined race, he 
was pleading the cause of humanity. Here, then, was a 
blending of the three great virtues he has so happily 
exemplified — duty to his fellow man — patriotism to his 
country — philanthropy to the oppressed. 

This case, after receiving the laborious attention of the 


counsel on both sides, was finally carried to the supreme 
court of the state of New York. Few cases of a civil 
nature ever elicited more general interest, and few ever 
possessed a nature so complicated and perplexing. In 
many features it was a novel case — an extraordinary 
one. To give some idea of the nature of patient investi- 
gation, and of the legal authorities to which the counsel 
was subjected in its prosecution, I insert the following 
from the old reports of the supreme court of that day ; 

*' Mr. Fillmore, counsel for the defendants, cited: 1 Bio. 
Laws of the U. S., 307, 309, 311, 377 ; Public Land 
Laws, part 2, p. 158 ; Opinions of Att'y Gen. of U. S., 
p. 344; Worcester vs. State of Georgia, (6 Peters, 544;) 
Mitchell vs. United States, (9 Peters, 745 ;) Georgia 
against Canatoo, a Cherokee Indian, (Nat. In. of 1842.) " 

These are a few of the authorities cited in the prosecu- 
tion of this cause, from its institution in the Erie circuit 
court until its final disposition in the supreme court of 
the state. From the time Mr. Fillmore first engaged in 
it as counsel, he had devoted himself to it when necCvS- 
sary with untiring earnestness. He fought every inch of 
ground over which it passed, from the subordinate court 
until it reached the supreme tribunal. Here, with the 
same characteristic activity, he prepared for a final strug- 
gle. He, with usual promptness, was well prepared td 
put forth a powerful effort, and the opposing counsel was 
equally so. So much general interest had the cause cre- 
ated, that the counsel on each side were exceedingly anx- 
ious to gain the case* 

After a patient hearing and a fair investigation, the 


decision of this case was given by Justice Bronson, in 
October, 1843, in favor of the defendants. 

Thus ended a suit, when we take into consideration all 
its bearings, the rights it destroj-ed, and the injuries it 
inflicted, was replete with the most serious consequences 
to the state of New York. Few have been more so. The 
land from whence the logs were taken was a part of a 
large portion held by the Indians as a reservation for 
their homes. The whole tract embraced a considerable 
area of territory, over which they exercised as occupants 
exclusive jurisdiction. Here they had their domiciles and 
all their home fixtures — their families, agricultural imple- 
ments, and everything necessary to secure comfort and 
happiness. The tribes, in their aggregate capacity, num- 
bered hundreds. With their families they were pursuing 
their vocations in their own rustic simplicity, in the full 
enjoyment of quiet repose. The great consideration 
involved in this suit was the validity of the Indians' 
claim to the entire body of land they occupied. If the 
plaintiffs had gained the suit, and there had been no 
reversion of the verdict of the Erie county jury, then the 
point would have been definitely settled that Lee and 
Ellsworth, the defendants to the suit, who purchased the 
logs from the Indians, had made the purchase of those to 
whom they did not belong. It would then have been 
settled that the $1,047 paid to the Indians for the 
timber was due Ogden and Fellows, as the rightful own- 
ers of the soil ; and by the rendition of a verdict requiring 
the repayment of that sum to the plaintiffs, the validity 
of their claim to the timber on that specific part of the 


Indian Eeservation would have been legally established. 
But it does not stop here in influences injuriously detri- 
mental to the peace and prosperity of the Indian settle- 
ments. An establishment of Ogden and Fellows' right to 
the timber upon the basis of the Morris transfer to them 
of his preemption right ceded by Massachusetts in 1786, 
would have been equivalent to a legal establishment of 
similar claims to the timber upon the ground of the entire 
Indian settlements, which we may readily believe the 
claimants, under such preemptive right, would not have 
been slow to assert. ^ 

Nor does it yet stop here. Had the plaintiffs been 
successful in this action, their right to the timber on the 
land claimed by preemptive purchase was established, 
and the right of all persons possessing similar claims 
would have been established, which would have included 
the entire timber on their settlements ; and if by the pur- 
chase of preemption right the purchaser acquired a right 
to the timber on the land from the date of such purchase, 
then they acquired a legal right to the land also, and the 
Indians had no valid title to their own lands and their 
own homes. 

Such would have been the result of Judge Dayton's 
decision and the Erie county jury, had it not been 
reversed in iha supreme court. A casual analysis of the 
bearings of the case will convince the reader of the 
important considerations it involved, and how replete it 
was with the destinies of hundreds of helpless beings, who 
were the primal monarchs of the whole country. Let us 
look at it a moment as Judge Dayton left it, and see the 


results. Nearly all the lanfl. included in the Indian set- 
tlements was held in the same way as that was from 
which the timber in question was taken. Had the plain- 
tififs the right to one parcel, then those holding similar 
claims had the right to theirs. Then, under the seal apd 
sanction of law, they would have taken possession of the 
entire settlements, timber and everything else, and drove 
the Indians from the country. Under this state of 
case, the solicitude of Massachusetts and Xew York to 
protect the rights of the Indians in the Cattaraugus Reser- 
vation would have amounted to nothing. 

These, then, are the considerations involved in the 
investigation of this case. To those acquainted with Mr. 
Fillmore, it is no matter of surprise that he manifested 
so much anxiety for the success of a client, in an issue 
where not only his, but the fate of hundreds were involved. 
The parties against whom the action was brought, the 
honor of his state, and the reserved homes of the Indians, 
were all involved in the case, and regarded as his client's. 
It is questionable whether in the judicial annals of the 
state of New York, replete as they are with grave and 
important decisions, there is to be found another civil 
individual suit, in the investigation of which so much 
was involved. The interests attached to it were of a 
peculiar nature, as well as of great magnitude. The 
whole country was deeply interested in its decision, 
especially the counties of Erie, Chatauque, and Cattarau- 
gus, in which the reservation was situated. 

Another very important case, the novelty of which 
elicited a very general interest, and involved some very 


nice principles of law, was that of Lightbody against the 
Ontario Bank. The facts in the case were about as fol- 
lows : The plaintiff had made a deposit of over two thou- 
sand dollars with the Ontario Bank, at their banking house 
in Utica. On the thirtieth day of May, 1828, he pre- 
sented his check, and drew two thousand dollars. Five 
hundred dollars of the money thus drawn was on the 
Franklin Bank of the city of New York, which he sent to 
that city the same day. The next day it was returned to 
him as being worthless, the Franklin Bank having stop- 
ped payment the twenty-ninth day of May — only one 
day before he drew the money. He took the five hun- 
dred dollars to the Ontario Bank, and demanded the sum 
in good money. The bank, at the time they paid him the 
notes on the Franklin Bank, did it in good faith, not being 
aware of its failure, and refused to make good the five 
hundred dollars. 

This case, then, was an action of assumpsit, to recover 
the amount of the notes received from the Ontario on the 
Franklin Bank. Mr. Fillmore was for the plaintiff. The 
question involved in this very singular case was,. whether 
bills received in payment on a bank that has stopped 
payment — both the party paying and the party receiving 
being ignorant of such stoppage — should be made good 
by the party paying. 

The features presented in this case were rather novel 
ones. Had the money been paid the day before, it would 
have been in the plaintiff 's hands, at the time the Frank- 
lin Bank suspended payment ; but, as it was, it was in the 
hands of the defendant. The question was, who should 


sustain the loss of the five hundred dollars, it being paid 
and received in good faith. 

The following arguments urged by Mr. Fillmore, in the 
supreme court, will convey some idea of his research and 
discrimination : 

" When the plaintiff drew his check, the Ontario Bank 
was indebted to him in the sum of two thousand dollars, 
which has not been paid. One of the bills received by 
the plaintiff was not what it purported to be on its face — 
the representative value of money, to the amount of five 
hundred dollars. For nearly a year afterwards it was 
without value, and, in reference to the rights of the par- 
ties, must be considered as entirely valueless, as the per- 
centage paid by the receiver must be viewed as paid to 
the plaintiff for the use of the defendant. The bill was 
no better towards satisfying the just claims of the plain- 
tiff than had it been counterfeit. The rule of the civil 
law is, that if a creditor receive, by mistake, anything in 
payment different from what is due, and upon supposi- 
tion that it is the thing actually due, as if he receive 
brass instead of gold, the debtor is not discharged ; and 
the creditor, upon offering to return that which he 
received, may demand that which is due by the contract. 
" This rule was approved and adopted by this court in 
Murkle against Hatfield, 2d Johns. Eeports, page 455, in 
which it was held, that a counterfeit bank bill received on 
the sale of property is no payment, and that the vendor 
may treat it as a nullitj^ and resort to the original con- 
tract. The principle of that case controlls the present. 
It is conceded the defendants acted in good faith, and 


believed they gave good value, but their obligation to pay 
was not therefore discharged. A bill of sale of a horse 
or other animal, not present, believed to be alive, but dead 
at the time, does not discharge a contract ; nor is the 
transfer of a bill of lading of a vessel at sea operative, if 
at the time the cargo is lost by the ship having foundered. 
In all these cases, the loss falls upon him who is the 
owner at the time of the happening of the event, when 
the property b*ecomes of no value ; and notwithstanding 
the attempted change of ownership, the parties are re- 
stored to their original rights. The bill in this case be- 
came of no value on the twenty-ninth of May, the day on 
which the bank stopped ; and allowing that, until then, it 
was a representative of the currency of the country, and 
that the rule of law, as to the receiving of current bills, 
is the same as is applicable to the receiving of current 
coin, the defendants reap no benefit from it; for on the 
tliirtiethy when the bill was paid to the plaintiff, it had 
ceased to be the currency of the country, it was no longer 
the representative of money, although the bills of the 
Franklin Bank were current at Utica on that day. 
Whether the bills of a bank represent the currency of 
the country is not to be tested by the value put upon 
such bills in one or another section of the state, but by 
the ability of the bank to meet its engagements. When 
the bank stops payments, its bills cease to be the repre- 
sentative of the currency of the country, and are no 
longer entitled to be treated as cash. This rule deter- 
mines with certainty, uniformity and universality the time 
when the notes of a bank become worthless, and closes the 


door, against frauds upon the uninformed by those having 
superior facilities of early intelligence. But it is insisted 
that a bank note in this country is not money, except by 
conventional regulation, and the negotiation of the note 
of the Franklin Bank in this case is subject to the same 
rule which governs the transfer of the notes of individuals, 
according to which the transfer of a promissory note is 
no payment of d, pre-existing f^^-^^^, unless it be expressly 
agreed to be received as payment at the tiifce of transfer. 
Chitty on Bills, Starkee's Evidence, etc. The cases in 
Strange show that a goldsmith's note or banker's check, 
taken for a precedent debt, is no payment if the drawer 
fail after the negotiation and before presentment. Here 
the bank had already failed, when the bill was passed to 
the plaintiff. The receipt of dividends from the receiver 
of the bank does not prejudice the plaintiff; 10 Yessay 
206 ; 6 Wendell 369 ; its only effect is to reduce his claim." 

The above extract shows the practical analysis of Mr. 
Fillmore's mind as a lawyer, and conveys some idea of its 
grasping and logical powers. We do not often see a 
specimen of more systematic reasoning than is displayed 
in the foregoing. The supposition of the existence of 
parallel cases in the extract evinces a perceptive aptitude 
in arguing cases of extreme nicety in principles of law. 

To this argument the opposing attorneys replied in a 
very able and elaborate manner, displaying considerable 
ingenuity in the management of the case. But the force 
and clearness of Mr. Fillmore's reasoning had made the 
matter too plain to admit of effective argumentation from 
the opposite side. The decision was by Chief-justice 


Savage, and given for the plaintiff. Mr. Fillmore's legal 
career is replete with diflQcult complex civil cases, where 
the nicest points of law and great interests were involved. 
He has been in many criminal suits of great importance^ 
that created considerable excitement at their respective 
times of adjudication ; but I presume quite sufficient has 
been said under this head. Mr. Fillmore's life as a 
lawyer, though pregnant with no very great events, is 
impressed with true greatness. Though there are con- 
nected with it no extraordinary exhibitions of eloquence, 
and no fitful blazes of excitement, it has been the consis- 
tent flow of a moral current, broad and deep, continually 
gathering strength in its progress. Mr. Fillmore's com- 
pliance to the urgent appeals of his friends to engage in 
other duties has frequently exerted an influence to his 
practice injurious and detrimental. As this is the last I 
expect to say of his legal career, I must be allowed to 
call the minds of young men commencing the law to the 
importance of building upon a moral basis, of acting from 
correct principles, emulative of those I have endeavored 
to set forth in the foregoing. 



State politics— Political Anti-masonry— The Morgan outrage — The 
Chntonians and Bucktails — Anti-masonic convention — How the 
action of the Anti-masons should be construed — National poli- 
tics of 1832 — Leading measures of the Whig party — Mr. Fill- 
more is elected to Congress — Sketch of that body — Jacksonism 
and its effects — Mr. Fillmore's view of the U. S. Bank, and the 
removal of the deposits — Mr. Clay's Compromise Tariff of 1833 — 
Excitements occasioned by the removal of the deposits — Internal 
improvements — Mr. Fillmore's efforts to reduce high salaries — > 
Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Polk — Mr. Fillmore's qualities as a legisla- 
tor — Other measures of Congress — Its adjournment. 

Before giving a record of Mr. Fillmore's congressional 
career, it is necessary, perhaps, to take a casual glance 
at the aspect of state and national politics. The politics 
of New York had assumed a somewhat singular feature, 
growing out of a most outrageous affair connected with 
the respected and ancient order of Free Masons. As Mr. 
Fillmore commenced his political career as an Anti-mason, 
it would have been more proper, perhaps, to have adverted 
to it at his outset. But the excitement growing out of 
the affair that originated eventually in the formation of 
Masonic and Anti-masonic political parties did not assume 
so serious an aspect until August, 1830, two years previous 
to Mr. Fillmore's election to Congress. To infer from the 
fact of his being an Anti-mason that Mr. Fillmore enter- 
tains principles opposed to those embodied in Masonry 
would be doing him very great injustice. The affair 
that threw him into the ranks of the anti-masons, 


placed him with some of the ablest statesmen and 
■wisest patriots in the state of New York. The excite- 
ment and the formation of parties by blending Masonry 
and politics, resulted from the Morgan outrage. I do 
not expect to enter into the details of that affair in 
this connection, nor would I advert to it at all were I not- 
aware that misconceptions exist in the minds of some in 
regard to Mr. Fillmore's early Anti-masonic principles. 

Morgan was a resident of Batavia, Genesee county, in 
the state of New York, and belonged to the fraternity of 
Masons. From some source it became known to the or- 
der that he was preparing a book for publication, contain- 
ing a full exposition of the mysteries of Free Masonry. 
On the eleventh of September, Morgan was seized upon a 
charge of larceny, and carried as a prisoner to Canan- 
daigua county, to be tried for the offence. The investi- 
gation of the case resulted in his acquittal, but he was 
rearrested upon a process for debt. Judgment was ob- 
tained, and on the issue of the execution Morgan was 
thrown into prison. The day after his imprisonment, he 
was released for a still greater outrage. He was gagged, 
and carried with the utmost secrecy and dispatch to Fort 
Niagara, and with merciless cruelty concealed in the mag- 
azine of the fort. 

But secret as had been this movement, the vigilance of 
an excited populace was not long in finding a clue to the 
perpetrators. The Masons in the neighborhood of Bata- 
via being apprized of Morgan's intentions of exposing 
their mysteries, and resolved on the suppression of his 
forthcoming book, had made several violent and unwar- 


rantable attempts in view of accomplishing that purpose. 
So great had been the violence of the Masons toward 
Morgan from the time they became apprized of his inten- 
tions concerning their order, and such vindictive manifes- 
tations had been seen on the part of the citizens in the 
vicinity of Batavia, that they were immediately settled 
upon as the oflfenders, and openly associated with Mor- 
gan's abduction. After Morgan's seizure the feelings of. 
the community became wrought into a blaze of excite- 
ment, and a vigilant search was instituted for the purpose 
of discovering his whereabouts, and to ferrit out the 
perpetrators. This search was fruitless. Although they 
knew it was accomplished through the agency of the 
Masons, they could not ascertain on whom to fix the 
blame of so outrageous an act. A public meeting was 
held at Batavia, and committees appointed for the pur- 
pose of making discoveries in regard to the transaction. 
These committees succeeded in tracing Morgan to Eoches- 
ter, but could not learn anything further. Subsequent 
developments brought to light the fact above stated, that 
he was carried secretly in the night by relays of horses, 
and deposited in the magazine of Fort Niagara, where he 
was doubtless murdered in cold blood. The excitement 
spread like wild fire over western New York, and a spon- 
taneous outburst of indignation issued from the mass of 
the people, not identified with- the Masonic order, rarely 
witnessed. Meetings, expressive of the people's feelings, 
similar to the one held at Batavia, were called and held 
in all parts of the country. The secrecy which was 
practiced in the abduction, and the great mystery that 


enveloped the whole transaction seemed to indicate the 
existence of a premeditated design, and an efficiently or- 
ganized conspiracy. The secrecy, the boldness and dis- 
patch, and the mysterious vagueness connected with Ma- 
sonry generally, affixed to this deed a peculiar kind of 
horror in the minds of the people, and it became invested 
with the drapery of the blackest of crimes — that of 

That the excitement of the people was but natural 
will be admitted, when we think of the intolerant attrocity 
of the deed. That a foul murder had been committed 
they felt well assured; that it had been done by the 
Masons or through their operative agency they felt equally 
sure. And, as strong confirmation of these suspicions, 
the Masons kept entirely cool during the entire excite- 
ment that, like a whirlwind of fire, was swallowing up 
every other feeling on the part of the people generally. 
In all the searches instituted for the discovery of Morgan, 
the Masons took no part ; in all their investigation meet- 
ings, they did not seem to be the least indignant; in all 
the denunciations heaped upon the perpetrators, they did 
not denounce pnybody, but kept cool and quiet, taking 
no part in the excitement, and manifesting no anxiety in 
regard to Morgan or his fate. All these indications 
tended to affix to them, in darker hues than ever, the 
malignity of the crime, and the people became more 
incensed than before. At these indications so confirma- 
tory of their guilt, the people regarded them as a band 
who would not hesitate to murder a fellow man to pre- 


serve their secrets, or to make the laws of their country 
subordinate to the requirements of their mystic rituals. 

The circumstances connected with the ^Yhole transac- 
tion were of a very aggravated nature from first to last.^ 
and in that day, before the principles of jMasonry became 
so widely diffused as at the present, it is no matter of 
surprise that the fraternity, in its aggregate, was impli- 
cated in the murder of Morgan. The zeal manifested by 
the citizens, in their endeavors to unravel the whole, and 
through the mist in which it was enveloped, to see the 
true state of the case, was certainly commendable. The 
allegation of larceny, brought against Morgan in the first 
place, was but a pretext, to which they resorted to effect 
the suppression of his forthcoming exposition of their 
creed, as was already shown on the subsequent trial, 
where, for the v/ant of the smallest evidence to establish 
his guilt, he was acquitted. The failure to produce any 
evidence showed the fabrication of the whole thing. 
When Morgan was released, they availed themselves of 
a law then operative, and had him thrown into prison for 
a small debt, and to complete the outrage, under pretext 
of relief, conveyed him in the night time to the seclu- 
sion of an old fort at the mouth of Niagara River, since 
which time he has never been seen ; and, from the mani 
festations of hostility toward him on the part of the 
Masons, it is plainly inferable he was cruelly murdered. 
These considerations, it will be readilv admitted, were 
sufficient to arouse the indignation of any people nofc 
wholly insensible to the infliction of the grossest outrages 
npon the majesty of that justice to which they looked for 


the protection of their rights and the promotion of their 

It is no matter of surprise, either, that, after the 
transaction, from previous indications of the Masons 
towards Morgan, and their refusal to take part in their 
efforts to discover his whereabouts, that the guilt of the 
w^hole affair should be afluxed to them. In the meantime, 
Morgan's famous book, which was the origin of the whole 
matter, was published despite the efforts of the Masons 
to suppress it. The public mind being already agitated 
to a perfect state of furor at the startlini>- nature of recent 
events, was badly prepared for the reception of the still 
more startling and exaggerated disclosures of Morgan's 
book. So eager was the excitement to get hold of that 
celebrated effusion of the traitorous Morgan that, like a 
Pandora box, was to reveal the awful mysteries of a 
sect whom it had invested with the sable of crime, that 
they would almost have protected its issue at any risk. 

The book, when it was at length issued, contained fea- 
tures of a more glaring nature than they even supposed, 
dark as had become their suspicions in regard to the 
secret order. Among other things in that book of a 
startling nature, calculated to impress one with feelings 
of extreme horror for an order, who presumed to go by 
its ritual as their fraternal creed, was an oath imposed on 
all initiates, to espouse the cause of their brothers in 
distress, and devote their energies to secure their extri- 
cation, even though it were in direct violation of all law. 
Another oath enjoined the strictest secrecy in regard to 
all crimes or misconduct committed by the brotherhood, 


except murder or higli treason. A third, and more terri- 
ble oath still, and one the meaning of which ^Yas more 
imnu'diately connected with Morgan's abduction, bound 
the initiate to a revengeful retribution upon those who 
disclosed the secrets of the order. Such disclosures were 
sworn to be avenged with death to the offender ! 

Here was an oath contained in a book purporting to 
be a fair and correct expose of the whole Masonic frater- 
nity, thrown upon the public in the heat of a great excite- 
ment, engendered by recent developments coinciding pre- 
cisely with its requirements. The public very readily 
believed the contents of the book, and construed these 
dark oaths into a literal interpretation. In the heated 
state of the public mind, and surrounded by such coincident 
circumstances, this literal interpretation was nothing 
strange. There was the oath by which they were sworn 
to keep each others' secrets inviolate; there was the oath 
by which they were sworn to kill a brother w^ho published 
their secrets. Morgan had published them — there was 
a violation of the rule, to which was affixed the severest 
penalty. Morgan, subsequent to such violation, disap- 
peared ; therefore, the penalty had been incurred. The 
Masons took no part in ferreting out the cause of his dis- 
appearance ; therefore, it was in strict accordance with 
the oath to keep inviolate each others' secrets. 

Morgan's book conveyed the idea of great and very 
exaggerated mysteries connected with the measures of 
the whole order ; the disappearance of the author was all 
shrouded in the vaguest mystery, therefore the book was 
literally true. 


That Morgan was murdered somewhere on T^iagara 
River, not far from the old fort to which it was subse- 
quently ascertained he was removed, there was and still 
is but little doubt. The disappearance and mystery 
connected therewith were so coincident with the require- 
ments of the book, that they produced a belief that every 
word in it was true ; while the oaths and mysteries of the book 
fitted the abduction so well, that it was supposed by the 
most incredulous before, that Morgan had been visited 
with its penalties. Such was the coincidence, that while 
the book established conclusively the guilt of the Masons 
in the murder of Morgan, his mysterious disappearance 
established the correctness of the book — one confirming 
the other. On the reception of the publication, the excite- 
ment of the people knew no bounds. To see such defiance 
of all law, both human and divine, as contained in Morgan's 
book, looked like treachery, and the sudden disappearance 
of its author like the fruits of it ; and thev thouoht it was 
incumbent on them to seek the perpetrators and have 
redress, and when the individuals who perpetrated the deed 
could not be found, they laid the whole crime upon 
Masonrv in the aa-Q-reGrate, as a compliance with their 
creed, a correct publication of which they honestly 
believed was in their possession. Such became the excite- 
ment to ascertain who were the real actors in this atrocious 
tragedy, that the towns and cities generally throughout 
the surrounding country participated in it, and expressed 
their feelini>-s in the most indi^-nant manner. Politics 
had not, however, entered as a feature into these measures, 
or actuated the committees in their investigations, in any 


degree. The CHntonians and Bucktails were the names 
by whicli the two parties in Kew York politics were 
designated at that time, De Witt Clinton and William B. 
Rochester being their respective leaders. These gentle- 
men in the fall of 1S26 became candidates for governor 
^f the state. Though the Masons were, by a great many, 
implicated in the outrage, both of the candidates being 
members of that faternity, masonry did not become a 
-feature of discussion in the canvass. The excitement 
engendered by the outrage was confined to neither 
political party, but prevailed throughout the entire com- 
munity, irrespective of opinions or party predilections. 
The refusal of the Masonic fraternity to participate in 
their public meetings, and to endeavor to relieve them- 
selves of the odium attached to them by the outrage, 
invitations to which were often extended to them, made the 
prejudices against them much greater than it otherwise 
would have been. " There were some who early implicated 
the whole Masonic fraternity in the guilt of the transaction. 
" This, however, was not at first the general public sen- 
timent ; but when, as the investigation proceeded, it was 
found all those implicated in the transaction were Masons ; 
that, with scarce an exception, no Mason aided in the 
investigation ; that the whole crime was made a matter 
of ridicule by the Masons, and even justified by them 
openly and publicly ; that the powers of the law were 
defied by them, and the committee taunted with their ina- 
bility to bring the criminals to punishment before tribu- 
nals where judges, sheriffs, jurors, and witnesses were 
Masons ; that witnesses were mysteriously spirted away, 
and the committees themselves personally vilified and 


aTaused for acts which deserved commendation, the impres- 
sion spread rapidly, and seized a strong hold upon the 
popular judgment that the Masonic institution was in 
fact responsible for this daring crime. Upon this partic- 
ular point, the public at the west early bega.a to divide 
into parties, and take sides not as a political question at 
first, upon the fact whether the Masonic institution and 
Masons generally were essentially and morally guilty of 
the crime which had been perpetrated."* From the above 
extract it will be readily perceived that a determination 
■on the part of the citizens to assert the supremacy of the 
laws of the country over all creeds and rituals was the 
Incipient origin of the Anti-masonic party. ' In January, 
1827, Lawson and others of the alleged participants in 
the outrage were arraigned for trial, and plead guilty of 
the offence, thereby disappointing public expectation in 
regard to the developments which was supposed would bo 
elicited in the prosecution of the case. Judge Throop, 
who was afterward governor of the state, in passing sen- 
tence upon them, used the following language, which 
shows the Anti-masonic party was actuated by patriotic 
principles, and was composed of the ablest men who fig- 
ured in Xew York politics at that day: 

" Your conduct has created in the people of this section 
of the country a strong feeling of virtuous indignation. 
The court rejoices to witness it — to be made certain that 
a citizen's person cannot be invaded by lawless violence, 
without its being felt by every individual in the commu 
nity. It is a blessed spirit, and we do hope^ that it will not 

* Hammond's Political History. 


subside, that it ^Yill be accompanied by a ceaseless vigil- 
ance and untiring activity, until every actor in this profli- 
gate conspiracy is hunted from his hiding place, and 
brought before the tribunals of his country, to receive the 
punishment merited by his crime. We think we see in 
this public sensation the spirit which brought us into 
exifstence as a nation, and a pledge that our rights and 
liberties are destined to endure." 

The above language shows in what light the Anti- 
masonic feeling was viewed by the purest patriots of the 
land — " the spirit that brought us into existence as a 
nation" — Mr. Fillmore's identification wilh this party 
then, was an identification with the patriots, where he has 
ever since been found. Subsequent to Lawson's trial, a 
number of delegates from various committees met in con- 
vention at Lewiston, on Niagara River, and ascertained 
by their investigations the fate of Morgan. The details 
of their discoveries flew like lightening over the country, 
in a thousand exaggerated forms, and fanned the blaze of 
excitement into still greater intensity and magnitude. At 
the ensuing election, Clinton was elected governor, and the 
Bucktails got majorities in the legislature. The excite- 
ment incident to a political campaign having subsided, 
that engendered by Masonry increased, there being nothing 
else on which to exhaust itself. In 1827, the sentiment 
was embodied, in a resolution adopted by some of their 
meetings, that Free Masons endorsing the Morgan outrage, 
thereby making the law subsidiary to their rituals, were 
not proper persons to receive the suff'rages of the people 
at the ballot-box. Masonry was first brought to this test 


in the counties of Genesee and Monroe, and originated as 
much in the efforts of the Masons to put down the 
committees as anything else. At all events, it was 
the starting-point of an organized political Anti-free- 
masonry. But it was some time after this, that, from the 
aspect assumed by both state and national politics, it be- 
came an efficiently organized political party. After 
Clinton's election as governor, and his avowal to support 
Jackson for the presidency, those of the Clintonian party 
who were Anti-masons and on the investigating commit- 
tees, by appealing to the prejudices of an excited popu- 
lace, successfully construed Clinton's support of Jackson 
as being the result of Masonic influence — both Clinton 
and Jackson being High Masons. Thus those Anti-masons 
who had supported Clinton denounced their leader, and 
with success appealed to those Bucktails who were Anti- 
masons, to give up Jackson upon the grounds of the al- 
leged Masonic league existing between the two. 

In this way, by the assistance of politicians, in no way 
chagrined at the turn things had taken — the Anti-masonic 
party was formed, composed of an amalgamation of 
Clintonian and Bucktail seceders. 

From various causes, this new party gained strength with 

unprecedented rapidity. Though disavowing any feature 

of a political nature, the Anti-masons, irrespective of 

party politics, presented their nomination, against those 

of the Adams and Bucktail parties, and carried several 

counties at the election by very respectable majorities. 

This was the dawning of their success, and indicated 

pretty stronglv, the eventual strength it attained. Many 


Masons left the order after the publication of Morgan's 
disclosures, and were enrolled into the ranks of the Anti- 
masons. The party now began to be quite formidable — 
so much so that, early in the spring of 1828, a general 
convention was held at Le Roy, with a delegated repre- 
sentation from twelve counties. This was the first gen- 
eral Anti-masonic convention, where it assumed an avowed 
political aspect. This body recommended the holding of 
a state convention at Utica in the ensuing August, and 
appointed a number of their leading men, among whom 
was Thurlow Weed, as a central committee. Jackson 
was a Mason of a high degree, and Adams was not ; con- 
sequently, there was a strong indication on the part of 
the Anti-masons to vote for Adams. 

Vrhile occupying an independent position of hostility 
to both the political parties, manifesting no desire of 
affiliation whatever. Anti-masonry was somewhat petted 
by the friends of both presidential aspirants, with a view 
of conciliating them to their particular favorite. In the 
winter of 1829, the Anti-masons again assembled in con- 
vention at Albany, for the purpose of establishing their 
influence upon a consolidated basis, and to produce con- 
cert of action. At the election of 1829, they carried 
western New York by an overwhelming majority. They 
met in convention again at Albany, in February, 1830, 
and drew up a memorial which was subsequently pre- 
sented to the legislature of the state, requesting the 
appointment of a committee to investigate the conduct of 
the Masons in regard to the Morgan outrage. This 
request was refused by a large majority <of the members, 


and was construed by the petitionei'S into hostility against 
them, on the part of the legislature. 

This convietion of legislative hostility was increased, 
by the reduction of John C. Spencer's salary, who, under 
a law passed in 1828, was acting as special counsel to 
investigate the Morgan outrage. » 

The fund appropriated for such services was two thou- 
sand dollars, but was reduced to one thousand. This was 
construed into a premeditated insult — Spencer resigned 
his seat, and the Anti-masons became firm and decided in 
their hostility to the Jacksonian dominant party. 

An Anti-masonic convention was held again at Utica, 
in August, 1830, and for the first time openly avowed 
their sentiments upon the political measures of the coun- 
try. They nominated Mr. Granger for governor, who, 
notwithstanding the most sanguine expectations, was 
beaten by a considerable majority. In 1833, the excite- 
ments connected with the outrage and the progress of the 
party subsided to a great extent, and the Anti-masonic 
became identified principally with the whig party. So 
much for political Anti-masonry. It had its origin in the 
murder of Morgan, and the disclosures connected with the 
book gained strength by some injudicious measure of the 
legislature, and was fanned into public sentiment through 
a desire to maintain the supremacj^ of the laws. Ham- 
mond, in his Political History of ISTew York, says : " It 
must be believed that, from honest convictions of its pro- 
priety, most of those joined the party of Anti-masons.'* 
He further says, that such men as " Thomas 0. Love, 
Millard Fillmore, Albert H. Tracy, of Buffalo ; William 


H. Seward, of Caj'uga ; John C. Spencer, and John 
Birdsdale, could hardly have joined the Anti-masonic party 
from mere personal or selfish considerations." Among 
the best men of the country was of that party — men 
"whose patriotism cannot be called in question. That it 
did much to establish the ascendancy of the whig party 
in that state no one will deny. In fact, the political his- 
torian, in speaking of the Anti-masons, says : "The whig 
ascendency in this state, (Xew York,) is mainly indebted 
for its permanence, if not for its iirst success, to the 
steady opposition of the Anti-masonic counties, and to 
the uniformly heavy majorities which those counties have 
constantly given at every contested election." It is evi- 
dent that, through the unwavering hostility of that party 
to the Van Buren party, the aspect of state politics under- 
went an entire change. 

Mr. Fillmore became identified with the Anti-masonic 
party, at the early stages of its development, from the 
wise and patriotic considerations above mentioned — to 
assert the supremacy of the law. Mr. Fillmore was a 
young man at the time it was first brought upon the tapis ; 
and after the perpetration of such an outrage, and the 
taunting defiance manifested by some to the investigat- 
ing committees ; after the publication of Morgan's awful 
disclosures, oaths, etc. ; after it had received the support 
and commendation of such men as Throop, Spencer, 
Birdsdale, and William Wirt himself, it is not strange 
that Mr. Fillmore should become an Anti-mason. It 
must be remembered too, that, at that time. Masonry was 
not so fully understood as at the present day, and the literal 


interpretation given to Morgan's book, immediately after 
the occurrence of such atrocious and coincident cir- 
cumstances, was nothing unnatural. To the causes, 
embraced in the foregoing, may be attributed Mr. 
Fillmore's identification with that party; the high position 
assigned him in it by Hammond, in his Political Plistory, 
is attributable to the same causes that his high position 
in every other sphere is — his superior capacity and 
matchless industry. More has 'been said on this subject 
than I had anticipated, but no more I trust than was 
necessary to its full elaboration. 

As the conclusion of this synopsis of political Anti- 
masonry brings us to the time of Mr, Fillmore's com- 
mencement of his congressional career, when his talents 
are to be exercised in the national councils, it may not 
be amiss to take a glance at the aspect of national, as we 
have of state politics. 

Jackson had been elected to the presidency, and, in the 
exercise of the veto power, and by dismissing from office 
old incumbents, and the almost regal enforcement of 
many other measures hostile to what the people conceived 
to be their best interests, was filling the whole country 
with the wildest excitement. On his reelection to the 
presidency, the very fact of the vote he received was 
construed into an emphatic endorsement on the part of 
the people of all the measures of his previous administra- 
tion ; and, throwing off the mask of conciliation, in the 
assumption of executive power, he was piloting the ship 
of state to whatsoever port he thought proper, dismissing 
all officers of the old vessel who refused to render implicit 


obedience to his commaiids. Excitements engendered by 
bis veto of the bill for the recharter of the United States 
Bank, were agitating the country from one end to the 
other. The commercial business that had been trans- 
acted with the cities and states of the south, south-west, 
and the Atlantic states, the people alleged was interfered 
with to a material extent. Checks which they received 
in the south for their produce and stock on the United 
States Bank, at a premium of one-half per centum, they 
averred would be exchanged for one of two and a half 
per centum, thereby producing an aggregate expenditure 
on the part of the producer that would be enormous. 

Some of the western states, entirely deficient in soecie- 
paying banks, had but little circulating medium, except 
the bills of the United States Bank and its branches. 
The thirty millions of dollars with which they were sup- 
plied through that institution, they alleged, was a great 
stimulant to industry and enterprise. Deprived of that 
facility in the liquidation of such a sum, .inevitable ruin 
and general bankruptcy was predicted. The purchase of 
public lands, they said, was interfered with. The mer- 
chants and manufacturers of the Atlantic states com- 
plained that, in the destruction of the checks on the 
United States Bank, for which they had been supplying 
the merchants of the west, their business sustained a 
serious injury. The facilities of remittance they declared 
annihilated, and business essentially crippled in every 
department. A public distress, bankruptcy, and general 
business prostration was predicted, in various forms, as 


an inevitable result of the veto of tlie bill, and the con- 
sequent removal of the deposits. 

The old United States Bank was incorporated in 1816, 
under a charter limited to twenty years, and so long had 
it been regarded as the protector of American finance, 
that the evils predicted to result from the veto of the bill 
for its recharter were greatly magnified, and have been 
subsequently proven to be pregnant with no such disas- 
trous consequences as were anticipated. The excitement 
the veto created was very intense, and prevailed through- 
out the extremities of the Union. The charter, according 
to the twenty years limit, expired in 1836. A bill for its 
recharter had passed the senate by a majority of eight 
votes, and, after going into the house, and being dis- 
cussed, and having produced crimination and recrimina- 
tion, it passed that body by a majority of twenty-two 
votes. This was a leading, and the most engrossing of 
all the questions involved at that time in national politics. 
Both in the senate and in the house, it elicited the gravest 
considerations, and excited interest from all parties. 
The friends of the measure regarded it as of extreme 
vitality to the existence of a healthful currency, while its 
enemies were equally sure that it was a disadvantage to 
the country. That both the senate and house of repre- 
sentatives regarded it as of essential utility, is tested by 
the fact of the bill's passage through both. The recharter 
of the bank they regarded as sure, and the currency of 
the country safe ; but on the tenth of July, 1832, President 
Jackson returned it to the senate with his veto, and, for 


want of a concurrence of two-lliirds of the members in 
favor of the bill, it was defeated. 

Both branches of the national legislature were being 
flooded with petitions in regard to this, then considered, 
high-handed act of the president, praying for the enact- 
ment of measures avertive of the ruin they saw foreshad- 
' owed in the destruction of the United States Bank. Henry 
Clay was pouring forth his eloquent denunciations against 
the president, and portraying the sufferings he presumed 
would grow out of a refusal to recharter that institution. 
All parts of the country seemed to be startled by his 
alarms, and infected with his feelings, until Jackson, the 
Yeto, and the deposits formed a theme of discussion among 
all parties, and of excitement for all communities. Such 
was the condition of one of the leading measures of 
national politics, in 1832, when Mr. Fillmore was first 
thrown upon the arena, to take active part therein. 

The old protective tariff that had been in operation for 
years met with bitter denunciation and the deadliest hos- 
tility from the southern states, especially South Carolina, 
headed by Mr. Hayne. The American system of protec- 
tion was vigorously assailed, and the assailants as vigor- 
ously and promptly met, Clay figuring with his usual con- 
spicuity among the defenders of protective industry. The 
existing system, by its assailants, was alleged to be un- 
constitutional and legally inoperative, and defended by its 
friends by enumerating the advantages of a protective 
tariff, and reference to the signature of George Washing- 
ton for its constitutionalitv. Thus, the debates and ex- 
citements upon that subject were continued until uumer 


ous propositions for the reduction of duties on various 
articles imported were brought before the house. In July, 
1S32, John Quincy Adams presented a bill in Congress, 
modifying the existing protective system. This measure 
was not satisfactory entirely to those who had assailed 
the old tariff; but, inasmuch as it was less obnoxious to 
their feelings than the old one, and reductive of former 
duties, they made a virtue of necessity, and the tariff of 
1832, as it is called in the political history of the country, 
was adopted, and became the American protective system, 
until the subsequent measures embraced in Mr, Clay's 
compromise tariif of 1833 made the scale of duties on 
imported commodities still more diminutive. This was a 
leading feature in the political controversies of the day 4,^ 
for a number of years, and cuts a pretty conspicuous 
figure in the history of the country's politics. With the 
reduction of duties embraced in the Adams' measures, it 
"was still a measure of Congressional interest at the time 
of Mr. Fillmore's election to that body. 

The public land question, also, had just received the pol- 
ish of Mr. Clay's genius and statesmanship, by his devis- 
ing his great plan for the distribution of their proceeds 
among all the states. The large bodies of public lands, 
over the distribution of the sale of which there existed for 
a number of years such an incessant excitement, out of 
which was built so many hobbies of political preferment, 
consisted in parcels ceded to the government by the At- 
lantic states, in very extensive possessions in the west- 
ern states and territories, and in immense parcels acquired 
by treaties and negotiations with the aborigines, and the 


purchase of Louisiana and Florida. At the time that 
part of the lands owned by cession came into the hands of 
the government, a large portion of the old Revolutionary 
war debt remained unliquidated, and these lands were de- 
signed to assist in its payment. During Jackson's admin- 
istration there existed some indications of the entire liqui- 
dation of that old debt, and he recommended to Congress 
to convey the public lands to the several states wherein 
they were situated. Disputes in regard to the public 
lands were of very early origin. Jeflferson, it will be 
remembered, as far. back as 1806, recommended the adop- 
tion of such measures as would secure the proceeds of 
these lands to internal improvements and educational 

During the presidential campaign of 1832, Clay and 
Jackson both being in nomination, the friends of Jackson 
required of the then acting committee on manufactures, 
information as to the most suitable appropriation of the 
public lands. Mr. Clay was chairman of that committee, 
and just at that particular time, the duty required at his 
bands was of a very delicate nature. For the presenta- 
tion of such a report, without incurring the censure of 
either the old thirteen states, or those recently coming 
into the union, would have taken more than human wis- 
dom and sagacity. Mr. Clay, however, by one of those 
masterly strokes of ability for which he was so justly 
celebrated, devised his plan for the distribution of the 
proceeds of the public lands. This was the first occasion 
on which that plan, as a famous article of the old whig 
creed, became incorporated into the party. It afterwards, 


however, cut no small figure in the history of its politics. 
Until then, this great plan for the distribution of the pro- 
ceeds had not been devised. Thus, this new plank had 
just been hewn, and put into tne whig platform, about the 
time Mr. Fillmore was ushered upon it in a national offi- 
cial capacity. The sub-treasury — another measure that 
afterwards figured pretty largely in the political discus- 
sions of the country — had not then assumed the importance, 
as a national question, it eventually acquired. Internal 
improvements and other measures were not themes of 
legislative discussion, to any great extent, everything 
being swallowed up in the more engrossing topics of 
banks and tariffs. 

Such was the condition of the great leading political 
measures of the country in 1832. The bank veto and 
protective system were the most exciting questions of 
the day, and pretty much monopolized the talents of both 
houses of the national Congress. The blaze of nulli- 
fication was being kindled into a perfect fury in South 
Carolina, and Mr. Clay was putting forth his greatest 
efforts to allay the excitement. Mr. Fillmore took his 
seat in Congress at a time of great political excitement — 
a time when some of the most talented statesmen of 
America were figuring in her national councils. In the 
senate, Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Benton, Webster, and 
many other statesmen of eminent distinction, figured in 
all their power of eloquence and wisdom. Among the 
members of Congress who distinguished themselves both 
there and in subsequent capacities, were Polk, Dickinson 
and others of no less note. The senate and house of 


representatives, in their combined capacity, presented an 
array of talent and patriotism rarely convened together 
at the capital of any nation. The names connected, with 
the proceedings of the twenty-third Congress have had a 
powerful influence in shaping the destinies of this country, 
and in moulding public sentiment so as to make it accord 
with the dictates of patriotism. Of the greatness and 
worth of the men who composed that Congress, the insti- 
tutions of our common country, in all their glorious ma- 
jesty stand unniarred, as living authority. 

The house was organized by the election of Andrew 
Stevenson of Virginia, speaker, and Mr. Franklin, clerk. 
On the third of March, 1833, President Jackson sent his 
annual message to Congress, from which I make the fol- 
lowing extract, as having direct reference to the exciting 
questions of the day : " Since the last adjournment of 
Congress, the secretary of the treasury has directed the 
money of the United States to be deposited in certain 
state banks designated by him, and he will immediately 
lay before you his reasons for this direction. I concur 
with him entirely in the view he has taken of the subject; 
and some months before the removal, I urged upon the 
department the propriety of taking that step. The near 
approach of the day on which the charter will expire, as 
well as the conduct of the bank, appeared to me to call 
for this measure, upon the high consideration of public 
interest and public duty. The extent of its misconduct, 
however, although known to be great, was not at that 
time fully developed by truth. It was not until late in 
the month of August that I received from the govern- 


ment directors an official report, establishing beyond 
question, that this great and powerful institution had been 
actually engaged in attempting to influence the election 
of the public officers, by means of its money; and that, in 
express violation of the provisions of its charter, it had, 
by a formal resolution, placed its funds at the disposition 
of the president, to be employed in sustaining the political 
power of the bank. ****** 

" In my own sphere of duty, I should feel myself called 
on by the facts disclosed, to order a scire facias against 
the bank, with a view to put an end to the chartered 
rights it has so palpably violated, were it not that the 
charter itself will expire as soon as a decision would 
probably be obtained from the court of last resort." 

The language of the foregoing extracts was well cal- 
culated to produce in Congress the very results that were 
manifest. The United States Bank, and the removal of 
the deposits to which it had reference, were, from the first 
of the session, the leading topics of congressional discussion, 
and the causes of excitement throughout the entire country. 
Of those who were most fierce in their denunciations, and 
irreconcilable to what they regarded as an unjust exercise 
of executive 'power, Mr. Clay was the acknowledged 
leader in the deliberations of Congress. The position 
assigned Mr. Fillmore was on the committee on the 
District of Columbia, a position where he had no power 
particularly to display his talents and capacities for legis- 
lative usefulness, which he possessed to an eminent degree. 
In an assemblage of the ablest and most experienced 
legislators that America has ever produced, it could not 


reasonably be expected that a young man of Mr. Fill- 
more's modest, unassuming deportment, would evince any 
great exhibitions of talent and intellectual po^Yers — espe- 
cially in the midst of that kind of an assembly, the lead- 
ing topic of whose discussion he could not feel interested 
to the same extent. Subsequent events have shown Mr. 
Fillmore's views on the leading questions exciting the 
deliberations of that day to have been most wise, and in 
advance of the times and his party. Keen and penetrat- 
ing as was Mr. Clay's sagacity, he attached a fictitious 
magnitude to the evils resulting from the refusal to rechar- 
ter the United States Bank, and the subsequent removal of 
the deposits. The disastrous consequences that seemed 
to bin. foreshadowed in the consummation of those meas- 
ures have never befallen the country. 

Mr. Fillmore never fully endorsed the denunciatory 
views entertained by a large number of his party, in re- 
gard to these measures and the evils apprehended there- 
from. He never attached that importance to the useful- 
ness of a United States bank, to feel that a financial 
crisis and a severe panic would be the inevitable conse- 
quences of its veto. Instead, therefore, of participating 
in the discussions of a subject definitely settled, and in 
regard to which, the president had already asserted that 
"the responsibility had been taken," — a measure whose 
pregnancy with such direful calamities to the country he 
could not discover ; he studied the interests of his con- 
stituency, and the country generally, with reference to 
their promotion, and devoted himself to the discharge of 
his duties with characteristic energy and devotion. 


Though, in the twenty-third Congress, he won no veiT" 
great civic laurels, he made it an excellent school to leara 
the fundamental basis of government organization, and 
won the respect and esteem of the house. Unpretending 
as he was, no duty was neglected, and in all measures of 
Interest, he was always at his post, and ready to promote 
the right. The support he gave his party was firm and 
unwavering. He made no long speeches, nor evinced the 
smallest desire of attaining notoriety. Throughout the 
entire deliberations of the twenty-third Congress, Mr. 
rill more, though a new member and the representative 
of a minority party, was vigilant in the discharge of every 
duty devolving upon him as a member of the house, and 
in studying the interest of those whom he was deputed to 
represent in that body. 

Mr. Fillmore, in this and the subsequent sessions of 
Congress to which he was elected, exemplified the time- 
honored maxim of, in time of peace keep prepared for 
defence. As will be seen in his subsequent labors in 
Congress, he urged upon that body the necessity of forti- 
fying the northern frontier, in a very masterly style. 
This principle of being prepared for emergencies he 
regarded as the safest means of preserving the dignity of 
the nation from insult and injury. The Canadian insur- 
rection, and developments connected with that movement, 
that occurred no very great while after this, evinced the 
wisdom of the measure, and suggested the necessity of 
keeping the northern frontier in a state of defence suffi- 
cient to awe the invaders, and divert their rapacious 
Uitentione into another channel. On the twenty-third of 


December, Mr. Fillmore introduced the following resolu- 
tion into Congress, regulative of the military department. 

" Resolved, that the committee on militarv affairs be 
instructed to inquire into the expediency of so modifying 
the existing law in relation to the militia of the several 
states as to permit each state, in time of peace, in the 
discretion of its legislature, to require no person to bear 
arms, under twenty-one or over forty years of age; and 
to permit the inspection of arms to be taken by companies 
instead of by regiments or battalions; and also, into 
the propriety of providing arms and accoutrements at the 
public expense, for those liable to bear arms; and that 
they be required to report to this house by bill, or 

This resolution was afterwards changed, with its refer- 
ence to a select committee, whose duty it was to inves- 
tigate measures of this character. 

The objects embraced in the resolution are the relief 
from military service of all persons over the age of forty 
and under twenty-one, and the supervision, on the part of ^ 
committees, over the condition of the militia, thereby 
insuring an efficiently organized corps brought under the 
immediate superintendence of the national legislature. 
Mr. Fillmore, though strictly a conservative man, and 
opposed to all dangerous innovations in his public services 
to the country, has always advanced the doctrince that 
to be well prepared with means of public defence was an 
essential prerequisite to the maintenance of public peace. 
In this, his views have been in uniform coincidence with 
the wisest patriots who have presided over the destinies 


©f our country. Jefferson, and even Washington himself, 
embodied this principle in their respective administrations, 
as being the safest measures of insuring tranquility by 
presenting an appearance of being prepared for the attacks 
of the foes of freedom. The northern frontier was 
exposed to these attacks more than other portions of the 
country, and hence the solicitude in regard to her prepar- 
ations of defence. Already had she been the theatre of 
a devastating invasion, and felt the heel of the foe upon 
the very vital seat of her existence. Her towns and 
cities had been burned by the incendiary torch of foreign 
troops, and the whole frontier thrown into the greatest 
consternation. To prevent a recurrence of these trans- 
actions, and the reenactment of such scenes as were com- 
mitted through the want of means of public defence, it 
was certainly the duty of all the lovers of their country 
to take these preparations for defence into consideration, 
and to make them subjects of legislative action. This is 
a duty of paramount importance, on the legislation of 
which our government has, perhaps, always been too 
remiss. With those at the head of affairs who justly 
appreciate the measures of defence, and of being pre- 
pared for war in time of peace, the vast resources of 
America could soon be so developed, and put into such 
shape as to present giant military preparations that would 
be equaled by no power under heaven. More deficient 
than perhaps any other feature has been the govern- 
ment in regard to these preparations, and the keeping effi- 
cient operative means at command to combat the events 
of any unforeseen emergency, great soever as it may be. 


Few legislators seem to have understood the Tery great 
importance of such measures. Mr. Fillmore, throughout 
his labors in Congress, manifested much solicitude in this 
particular. He wished to see his country, while conser- 
vative and patriotic, occupying a position of defence cal- 
culated to awe into respect the invidious monarchies who^ 
were watching with a jealous eye the development of her 
gigantic proportions. 

As the celebrated compromise tariff of 1833 had just 
gone into operation when Mr. Fillmore took his seat m 
Congress, and produced a temporary settlement of some 
of the leading measures of political controversy, a brief 
history of that act, though not strictly pertaining to our 
narrative, is deemed necessary. 

On the twelfth of February, 1833, Mr. Clay introduced 
his measures in the United States senate, with some able 
remarks, of which the following is an extract : 

" In presenting the modification of the tariff law& 
which I am now about to submit, I have two great objects 
in view. My first object looks to the tariff. I am com- 
pelled to express the opinion, formed after the most delib- 
erate reflection and on full survey of the whole country,, 
that, whether rightfully or wrongfully, the tariff stands 
in imminent danger. If it should be preserved through 
this session, it must fall at the next session. By what 
causes, and through what causes has arisen the necessity 
of this change in the policy of our country, I will not 
pretend now to elucidate. Others there are who may 
differ from the impressions which my mind has received 
on this subject. Owing, however, to a variety of concur- 



rent cauFses, the tariflf as it now exists is in imminent 
danger ; and if the system can be preserved beyond 
the next session, it must be by some means not now in 
the reach of human sagacity. The fall of that policy 
would be productive of consequences calamitous indeed. 

" History can produce no parallel to the extent of the 
mischief which would be produced by such a disaster. 
The repeal of the edict of Nantes itself was nothing in 
comparison to it. That condemned to exile and brought 
to ruin a great number of persons. But, in my opinion, 
sir, the sudden repeal of the tariff policy would bring 
ruin and destruction on the whole people of this country. 
There is no evil, in my opinion, equal to the consequences 
which would result from such a catastrophe." 

This bill came into the deliberations of that body under 
the denomination of " An act to modify the act of the 
fourteenth of July, one thousand eight hundred and 
thirty -two, and all other acts imposing duties on imports." 
The act, of which it was designed to be a modification, 
was the Adams' act of the previous year, before referred 
to. The provisions of the act were substantially as fol- 
lows. That all ad valorum duties of -more than twenty 
per cent, should, on the thirty-first of December, 1833, 
be reduced one-tenth, and such reduction to take place 
on the thirty-first of December, 1835, and so continue, 
once in two years, until 1841, one-half of the excess to 
be taken off; and from June, 1842, the other half. In 
this bill were involved some very excellent and wise 
principles. It was the effectual abolishment, from and 


after the thirtv-first of June, 1833, of all credits for amounts 
due the government on foreign imports, thereby requiring 
payment before the goods exchanged hands. By its 
requirements, also, all value of goods had to be assessed 
in the ports at which they were landed ; thereby prevent- 
ing any advantages by practicing fraudulent invoices, etc., 
on the part of foreign speculators. 

Such vrere the provisions of the measures introduced 
into the legislative councils of the preceding Congress 
by Mr. Clay, since known in our political history by the 
"Compromise Act- of 1833." This bill created great 
excitement both in the senate and in the house. The 
diminutive scale of reduction on duties on imports was 
firmly resisted. In the discussion and eventual enact- 
ment of this measure, difficulties of the greatest magni- 
tude were to be overcome. Its way to final adoption was 
immediately under the hammer of the veto of President 
Jackson, and over the heads of South Carolina nullifica- 
tion. The fiery ordeal of the heated southerns passed. 
It was subjected to the president, who had no hesitancy 
in taking responsibilities. Nullification in the south was 
raging in a perfect blaze. Between Jackson and Clay, the 
greatest political, if not personal, enmity existed. He 
was in no wav favorable to Mr. Clav, or anv measures in 
whose origin and advocacy he took an active part. Old 
party lines were to be redrawn, and able advocates and 
warm friends were to become alienated and arrayed one 
against the other in all the heat of talented antagonism 
Friends were to change place with foes, and the aspect 
of things to undergo a political transmogrification. 


Majorities were to be created for it by convincing proofs 
of its utility to the country, and through ihe influence of 
such majorities Jackson was to be conciliated and the 
veto withheld. All these difficulties were to be over- 
come before the compromise tariff could be adopted by 
Congress. The opposition to the measures of that com- 
promise was led by some of the most talented men in the 
senate and house, and was of the most relentless nature. 
It was a complete and masterly change of the old system 
of protective policy, and was regarded by some as a very 
dangerous one. Mr. Forsyth, of Georgia, was among the 
formidable of the opposition. So far did he carry his op- 
position, that he heaped ridicule upon some of the mea- 
sures of the act, and contested the passage of others with 
zeal and warmth. He met the arguments of its advocates 
with sarcasms and inuendoes, and in every way mani- 
fested the deadliest hostility to the entire measure. Web- 
ster, of Massachusetts, was identified with the opposition to 
the compromise. Other northern senators of no less dis- 
tinction opposed it with all their talents and energies. 
The position they took was, that the proposed diminution 
was too great a surrender, and too great a sacrifice of pro- 
tective principles. Webster took that view of the case, 
that it was equivalent to an entire destruction of the 
American policy of protection. He threw his mighty 
talents into the opposition with all their force. That 
great excitement should be engendered by the collision 
of two such minds as his and Clay's, should be no mat- 
ter of surprise when the resistless perseverance of bo4.h 
is taken into consideration. Together they had been used 


to laboring long and hard, and \vhen they thus labored 
they overcame 'all opposition; but when one was arrayed 
against the other, it was the only opposition they could 
not overcome. Clay and Webster could rule a senate 
when combined, but when one came in contact with the 
other, one man was more than either could overcome. 

The compromise tariff was finally, after being discussed 
in all its ramifications, submitted to the house of represen- 
tatives on the twenty-sixth of February, and passed by a 
majority of twenty votes. Mr. Fillmore, as will be shown 
in the passage of the tariff in 1842, was always a friend 
to the American protective policy, and had a fair oppor- 
tunity of giving evidences of that friendship in the various 
discussions upon that branch of American politics during 
the different sessions he served with such distinguished 
ability. This compromise act was among the most im- 
portant measures adopted by the preceding Congress. 
From the discussions it had elicited, and the vote of Con- 
gress on the subject, all doubts in regard to its being a 
revenue bill, which was an objection urged against it by 
some of the opposition, were removed, and on the tenth 
of March it passed the senate by a majority of thirteen 
votes. Thus the measure, notwithstanding the fierce 
opposition it encountered at every step, and the great 
obstacles that impeded its progress from its incipient 
agitation, by the almost superhuman efforts of the friends 
of protective policy, passed both houses, and escaped 
the veto. 
•As the veto of the United States Bank by President 
Jackson, and hi^ removal of the deposits which had just 


fallen place prior to the convention of the present Congress, 
formed the principal grounds for discussion and excitement 
In that body ; though in such discussion Mr. Fillmore par- 
ticipated to a very limited extent, to be enabled more thor- 
oughly to understand and appreciate his views upon these 
measures, some remarks in regard to them are deemed 

On the second of March, 1833, from inferences drawn 
from the president's message in regard to the removal of 
the deposits, the following resolution was introduced into 
the house of representatives : " That the government de- 
posits may, in the opinion of the house, be safely continued 
in the Bank of the United States." This resolution passed 
by a vote of a hundred and ten for, and forty-six against 
it. This resolution, however, was effective of no good 
or harm, so far as the deposits were concerned. Over- 
looking the fact entirely, that the secretary of the trea- 
sury, as the executive of Congi-ess, was amenable to that 
body for his action in the discharge of his official duties, 
he was regarded by the president as rather his agent, for 
the execution of his requirements. On the third of June, 
the president. communicated to Mr. Duane, the secretary 
of the treasury, his intentions concerning the deposits, in- 
forming him, that his cabinet was divided in opinion in 
regard to their removal, and desiring him to give his 
opinion in regai-d to that measure. On the twenty-second 
of July, he was asked whether his intention was to refuse 
to remove the deposits, to which Duane replied in sub- 
stance, that he would resign his office, in case of a non- 
eoncurrence with the views of the president in regard to 


the measure. This course of Mr. Duane was by no means 
satisfactory to the president, and a pretty lengthy corres- 
pondence, of no very amiable nature, ensued between the 
parties, until a positive refusal of the secretary to remove 
the deposits elicited the following quietus from the 
president : 

The President of the United States to the Secretary of the 

Treasury : 

September 23, 1S33. 

Sir : Since I returned your first letter of September 
twenty-first, and since the receipt of your second letter 
of the same day, which I sent back to you at your own 
request, I have received your third and fourth letters of 
the same date. The last two as well as the first, contain 
statements that are inaccurate; and as I have already 
indicated in my last note to you that a correspondence 
of this description is inadmissible, your last two letters 
are herewith returned. But from all your recent com- 
munications, as well as your recent conduct, your feelings 
and sentiments appear to be of such a character that, 
after your letter of July last, in which you say, should 
j'our views not accord with mine, ** I will, from respect to 
you and myself, afford you an opportunity to select a 
successor, whose views may accord with your own on the 
important matter in contemplation," and your determina- 
tion now to disregard the pledge you then gave, I feel 
myself constrained to notify you that your further services 
as secretary of the treasury are no longer required. 
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant, 

Andrew Jackson.* 

•Niles' Register. 


This dismissal of the secretary of the treasury, who 
had accepted the post by solicitation, because he refused 
to indorse and assist in the removal of the deposits from 
the United States Bank, was regarded by Mr. Clay and 
others opposed to the Jackson administration as an un- 
warrantable exercise of executive power, and created 
very great excitement. The alarm 'was sounded from Dan 
to Beersheba, and awful results predicted from the catas- 
trophe, which, however, never came to pass to the extent 
anticipated. Mr. Taney, who was afterwards chief-justice, 
was appointed secretary of the treasury, in the place of 
Duane, the former incumbent. On the first of October, 
1833, Mr. Taney, in compliance with the president's com- 
mand, removed the deposits from the United States Bank, 
and placed them in the different banks specified ; and on 
the convention of the twenty-third Congress, made to that 
body a full report of his proceedings as secretary of the 
treasury. On the reception of that report, the subjoined 
resolutions were presented by Mr. Clay : 

" Resolved, that by dismissing the late secretary of the 

treasury, because he would not, contrary to his sense of 

his own duty, remove the money of the United States 

deposited with the bank of the United States and its 

branches, in conformity with the president's opinion, and 

by appointing his successor to effect such removal which 

has been done, the president assumed the exercise of a 

power over the United States treasury not granted to 

him by the constitution and laws, and dangerous to the 

liberties of the people." 

** Resolved, that the reasons assigned by the secretary 


of the treasury for the removal of the money of the 
United States, deposited in the bank of the United States 
and its branches, communicated to Congress on the third 
of December, 1833, are unsatisfactory and insufficient." 

The resolutions were adopted almost by acclamation ; 
so intense had the excitement become, that any resolu- 
tion denunciatory of the movement would have been 
adopted, even though they transcended the bounds of 
moderation and propriety. During all the excitement 
and prediction of ruin to the country incident to these 
measures, Mr. Fillmore as a member of the twenty- 
third Congress examined the causes engendering it, 
with solicitous care. The United States Bank and the 
removal of the deposits, and their bearings upon the 
prosperity of the country, he studied, with an ardent 
desire to acquaint himself familiarly therewith. With 
that keen and penetrating sagacity which so eminently 
qualified him to foresee the result of important national 
measures, he acquainted himself thoroughly with the 
whole subject. With financial capacities of no ordinary 
nature, as will be shown when we come to investigate his 
duties as the incumbent of an office exclusively financial, 
he weighed well the circumstances likely to grow out of 
the measure. 

Coolly and dispassionately he went to work, as though 
it was a great mathematical problem he had to solve, and 
in the solution paid great attention to all the points 
involved. The result of this investigation, notwithstand- 
ing the excitement of those about him, and the predic- 
tions of such ruinous consequences to the country, was 


Ills conviction that the calamitous consequences appre- 
hended were not justified by the aspects of the case. He 
felt well assured that they were magnified, and were cre- 
ating unnecessary alarms. Subsequent events have shown 
that these convictions were correct, and that his foresight 
upon the great question of the day was superior to the 
leading men of his party, and in advance of the times. 

This is a very happy faculty of Mr. Fillmore's. Be 
questions exciting as they may, though the whole spirit of 
the country be fanned into a terriffic blaze, he stands 
unmoved, facing every danger, looking coolly on, and 
making safe and reliable calculations of escape. These 
calculations and conclusions are seldom incorrect, as is 
proven by his views on the great questions of which we 
have been speaking. Not being infected with the excite- 
ments that rage around him, he forms them by judgment 
and wisdom, and the subsidence of the excitement dis- 
closes their correctness, as in the case of the measures 
discussed in the foregoing. He never attached the impor- 
tance to a United States Bank and the deposit operation 
that Mr. Clay and the leading men of that day did. Mr. 
Fillmore's views in regard to these measures were correct j 
time has demonstrated their genuineness and wisdom. 

As a committee-man on the District of Columbia, the 
plan for the construction of the Potomac bridge devolv- 
ing on that committee, Mr. Fillmore, with the aid of 
his associates, proposed a plan for the erection of the work 
by which it would not exceed in cost the sum of $130,000, 
while the president proposed a plan to the secretary of 
the treasury running up the cost to three millions. This 



was a difference well worthy of eliciting the considera- 
tion and action of the house. The question being before 
the house, comments were made by several members as 
to what committee's jurisdiction it more properly belonged, 
when " Mr. Fillmore advocated the claims of the com- 
mittee of the district to have the subject referred to them, 
and he considered that it was unreasonable to suppose 
that this committee would not be as much disposed to 
check extravagance as any other committee. Without, 
therefore, wishing to detract from the intelligence, patri- 
otism, and purity of conduct, which the chairman of the 
committee on roads and canals, and the other members 
of that committee, acted, it was only fair to suppose that, 
if the subject was sent to the committee on the district, 
they would act up to their economical views ; and, having 
an opportunity to examine witnesses, from their testimony 
have new light thrown upon the subject." Here we 
have a principle by which Mr. Fillmore has been guided 
in all his relations, both public and private. He learned 
in early boyhood to entertain economical views, and he 
demonstrated them through the career of his studentship, 
and practiced them in his profession. "When he became 
the public repository of the people's interests, he was 
careful still to give them a strict adherence, by retrench- 
ing, as much as possible, all expenditures of the public 
funds. In this respect, in all the capacities in which he 
has served as a public servant, he has been especially 
careful. His disposition to check extravagance in the 
outlay of the public fund has been manifested en all 
occasions in a happy degree. The careless manner of 


transacting business and making appropriations for public 
works on the part of those to whose views of expediency 
and propriety the squandering of vast sums of public 
treasure is a matter of no moment, never failed to receive 
the proper censure of Mr. Fillmore. 

In propositions Defore legislative assemblies of which 
it has been his fortune to be a member, to make appro- 
priations for public improvements, his first object was to 
investigate the utility of the measure proposed, being 
thoroughly satisfied of which, with economical views he 
devoted his attention to the ascertainment of its cost, and 
opposed a heavier draft upon the treasury than was abso- 
lutely necessary to its completion. Being a man of great 
practical as well as theoretical talents, he was always, in 
proposing such plans and arrangements, happily consti- 
tuted to see what was necessary, and to retrench useless 
expenditures. The public treasury he has always watched 
with a jealous eye. 

During the entire deliberations of the twenty-third 
Congress, the interminable bank excitement raged inces- 
santly, and the halls of legislation were continually 
flooded with petitions praying relief from the oppression 
weighing upon diflferent sections of the country, in regard 
to the veto of the United States Bank, and for a rechar- 
ter of that institution. On the seventeenth of March, a 
large number of petitions and remonstrances were pre- 
sented, by the citizens of different states through their res- 
pective representatives, among others, was one from the 
city of Boston signed by several thousand citizens of that 
place ; one from Vermont, signed by a large number of 


voters of that state; one from the city of Buffalo, pre- 
sented through their representative, Mr. Fillmore, signed 
b}^ several hundred names, and accompanied by certain 
resolutions, expressive of their views upon that exciting 
measure, without reference to party or party feelings. 
Mr. Fillmore presented the memorial and resolutions, 
desiring to explain the hostility manifested by his con- 
stituents against a United States Bank on former occa- 
sions. After the memorial was read, settuig forth their 
grievances, and the disastrous consequences they saw 
impending over them by the veto of the bank, and pray- 
ing its recharter or some mode of relief, Mr. Fillmore 
moved that it be laid on the table. This was the univer- 
sal consignment of that species of document. So numer- 
ous had they become, the bestowal of more time than 
was required for their reception was utterly impracticable. 
This shows the extent to which these memorials were 
sent into Congress, praying redress for the infliction of 
what was conceived to be an incurable ulcer upon the 
system of American currency. 

This was a duty which Mr. Fillmore several times had 
to perform during the sessions of Congress. No section 
seemed to take greater interest, or manifest more concern, 
in reference to the movements of the president, than did 
the people of western New York. These petitions and 
memorials, when they came to his hands from his con- 
stituents, invariably received the attention from him due 
the people from their public servant. Faithfully devoted 
to the preservation of the interests of those he was repre- 
senting, whether he attached the importance to certain 


measures they did was not a consideration to deter him 
from giving his attention to their views and wishes. 
Representative he construed into its proper interpretation, 
and felt that he was there for the people — standing iij 
their place — and was faithful to their interests. He 
stood up to his party with the same unflinching zeal that 
characterized his labors in the state assembly, giving his 
influence and his vote to the advocacy of his principles 
upon all political measures, and in all matters of a gen- 
eral nature he was assiduous to promote the local inter- 
ests of his constituents. There have been men in 
Congress who, during their first session, developed a more 
brilliant career than did Mr. Fillmore ,• but none were 
ever more faithful ; none were ever the recipients of 
greater approbation, in both the plaudits of his constit- 
uents and his conscience. Some may have won brighter 
laurels, but none ever more enduring ones. 

On the seventeenth of August, 1834, an amendment to 
the annual appropriation bill being before the house, and 
the exorbitance and inequality of many officers' salaries 
in government employ under discussion, Mr. Fillmore 
urged the reduction of certain high salaries, as follows : 

*' He insisted that, as the measures of the government 
had the effect of raising the value of money, whilst on 
the opposite side they depreciate the means of subsistence ; 
it was only acting justly to the people, from whom these 
salaries were derivedrto place them on a similar footing, 
in these points, with themselves ; and he contended that, 
if three dollars could now purchase those articles which 
it formerly would have taken four to do, the salaries of 


their public officers, with the reduction now contemplated 
by the amendment, would be practically as high as they 
had been. The objection as to the time of making these 
reductions 'did not appear to him to be so essentially 
important, when the necessity of doing so was so gen- 
erally conceded. He found there were propositions in the 
bill granting increased compensation. If it was proper, 
then, in the estimation of the committee, thus to alter 
the salaries of officers, fixed by law, he could not see the 
force of any objection to their reducing the amount. He 
referred to the salaries paid in the state of New York, as 
instances how much more economically the highest 
offices in that state were filled, in comparison with those 
under the general government ; from which he inferred 
that, as these offices were all well filled, and the appoint- 
ments not objected to, but sought for on the score of 
emolument by the most competent men in the state, one 
or the other of the rates of paying for public services 
might be unjust. He referred to the fact that the judges 
of the supreme court of New York received but two 
thousand dollars a year. He desired to have a reduction 
now, instead of waiting the result of an inquiry, for 
another reason. It would become the interest of those 
whose salaries are reduced, and which they would never 
do in any other case, to come forward and oppose the 
effects upon them, and in this way only could they expect 
that any inquiry could be promoted with any hope of a 
good result." 

From the considerations embraced in the foregoing 
extract, he voted for the amendment to the appropriation 


bill, having for its object the curtailment of certain 
salaries, among others that of the commissioner of the 
land office, whose salary was as much as the judge's of the 
supreme court of the state of New York. The argu- 
ments in the foregoing are plain, practical, sound, and 
common-sense like, displaying the reasoning, penetrative 
qualities of his mind, characteristic of all his speeches. 
The sentiments embodied in the remarks are those which 
he has evinced in every public capacity, a disposition to 
effect a retrenchment of the expenditures of the public 
moneys, to give to the various public servants in govern- 
luent employ nothing more nor less than value received 
for such services, with a watchful care that all moneys 
expended were for services absolutely required by the 

Among other improvements of a national character pro- 
moted by Congress, was the erection of a harbor at 
George's Island, the design of which was for fortification 
more than otherwise. Judicious investments for internal 
improvements, especially if their design was to increase 
the means of public defence, always found in Mr. Fillmore 
a zealous advocate. One of the leading men in the oppo- 
sition to the construction of this harbor was Mr. Polk. 
He opposed the measure, and Mr. Fillmore advocated it. 
It is a little singular that Mr. Fillmore, the leading man 
for, and Mr. Polk, the leading man against, that measure, 
should have both been elevated to the chief magistracy of 
the United States. The circumstance of the harbor 
erection was an enterprise of no great magnitude ; but it 
is illustrative of the spirit of the tinies, and shows m 


what attitude these two statesmen stood in relation to 
each other in the comparative outset of their political 
careers. Mr. Polk was in the majority party, and the 
•warm friend of President Jackson ; Mr. Fillmore was in 
the minority, and not identified with the Jackson party ; 
consequently the former was at that time in the smoothest 
way to success. Subsequent developments threw them 
both into the presidential chair — both were incumbents 
of that high office during times of great excitement ; both 
evinced great capacities as statesmen ; both have left 
their names upon the pagesof their country's history ; and 
both were great men. 

Many other very important measures came before the 
twenty-third Congress, both of a local and general natm*e, 
upon the action of which Mr. Fillmore participated with 
great credit to himself, and usefulness to his constituency 
and country. The proceedings of that Congress were 
marked by a spirit of excitement and party feelings, 
engendered by the course of the president in his veto of 
the bank bill and the removal of the deposits, rarely 
witnessed in a legislative body. But amid all the excite- 
ments of party and party animosity, he maintained his 
characteristic firmness, and guarded with special care the 
interests reposed in his keeping, throughout the entire 
session. The compromise tariff of Mr. Clay, as before 
stated, had effected a temporary settlement of some of 
the leading measures advocated by his party, and to the 
remaining ones he gave an undeviating adherence. Inter- 
nal improvements found in him a warm and zealous advo- 
cate, who, on all proposed investments of a nature to 


develop the resources of the country, took favorable and 
decided ground. The local measures, in whose passage 
his constituency was immediately concerned, suffered not 
the least neglect. Modest, unassuming, courteous, and 
dignified, he elevated himself to a very enviable position, 
for a young member in his first session. He was always 
at his post rendering service in the various measures of 
the day, never exhibiting the least neglect of duty as 
a legislator. 

He won the respect and esteem of the entire body, and 
established himself in the hearts of his constituency. 

He was among the most industrious and vigilant 
members of the twenty-third Congress. 

An enumeration of all the measures in which he par- 
ticipated, and proposed, during that session of Congress, 
would swell the pages of this chapter to too great a 
length. Suffice it to say, that every measure he advo- 
cated and every vote he cast met the entire approbation 
of those he represented, from the assemblage of Congress 
to its adjournment. 



Reelected to Congress — Van Burenism — Distinguished characters — 
Polk elected speaker — Fourth installment of the Deposit Act — A 
bill to postpone the payment of the installment — It passes the 
seiiate — Mr. Fillmore's opposition — His able speech against the 
bill — Mr. Fillmore gives his views of the U. S. Bank — The pas- 
sage of the bill — Mr. Fillmore and Mr. Clay — Slavery in the 
District of Columbia — The right of petition — Mr. Clay its cham- 
pion in the senate, and Mr. Fillmore in the house — His views on 
the subject of slavery at that time — The North and the South — 
Mr. Fillmore's conciliatory nature as a statesman — His patri- 

The commencement of this chapter takes Mr. Fillmore 
again from the retirement and pursuits of his professional 
labors, so congenial to his feelings, in which he was 
placed by the adjournment of the twenty-third Congress. 
After the close of his labors in that body, he resumed the 
practice of his profession in the city of Buffalo, which he 
continued with marked success and distinguished ability 
until 1836. The high estimate placed upon him by his 
fellow citizens, from the faithful manner in which he had 
discharged his duties as a public servant, would not per- 
mit him long to eujoy the retiracy of private life. In the 
fall of 1836 he was again elected to Congress by the peo- 
ple of his district. Since his last labors in that body, the 
political elements had again been stirred with the thun- 
ders of party strife. Jackson's star was not so brightly 
in the ascendant, and the bank deposit excitement had, to 


some extent, been supplanted by Van Burenism and the 
sub-treasi*iy. Van Buren and Harrison were the presi- 
dential candidates during the campaign of 1836. The 
majority for Van Buren over the whig candidate, Harri- 
son, was overwhelming, while White received the vote of 
a fragmental portion of the democratic party. Thus, the 
incoming administration bid fair to give its adherence to 
the Jacksonian principles of the previous one, with a 
strong progressive tendency opposed to the fostering of 
conservative measure. The democrats still held sway in 
the house by a pretty large majority. Among the mem- 
bers of the twenty-fifth Congress who have figured con- 
spicuously in the politics of the nation and enrolled their 
names high in the book of fame, was Millard Fillmore, J. 
Q. Adams, J. E. Underwood, James K. Polk, and Henry 
A. Wise. To the great service these gentlemen have 
been to the country, her own great institutions bear the 
best attestation. Three of them filled the presidential 
chair. A fourth occupied an elevated position in the 
United States Senate, as the colleague of Henry Clay, 
second to none; and in the adjustment of the fearful diflfi- 
culties of 1849 and 1850, rendered efficient and patriotic 
services that entitle him to the lasting gratitude of the 
country. A fifth is the acting governor of Virginia. All 
five of these gentlemen were colaborers in the twenty- 
fifth Congress. 

Congress was organized by the election of James K. 
Polk to the speakership, and the message of President 
Van Buren was received on the fifth of September. 

One of the first measures of importance proposed in 


the first session of this Congress was from the committee 
on finance. This committee, the day after itsL appoint- 
ment, reported, through their chairman, the following 

*' Bill to Tostpone the Payment of the Fourth Installment 

of Deposits with the States. 

" Be it enacted by the senate and ho.use of representa- 
tives of the United States of America in congress assem- 
bled, that the transfer of the fourth installment of 
deposits directed to be made with the states, under the 
thirteenth section of the act of June 23, 1836, be, and 
the same is, hereby postponed until further provision by 

This bill, having originated in the senate, elicited the 
opposition of Calhoun, and the non-concurrence of 
"Webster, though he was of the finance committee, from 
whence it was reported. These two gentlemen were the 
leaders in the opposition to the bill, while Mr. Wright 
was its warmest advocate. The bill was warmly dis- 
cussed in the senate for several days, until it became the 
leading subject. After being before the senate for two 
or three weeks, it was, after some amendments, submit- 
ted to that body, and passed by a majority of eleven 
votes — Mr. Clay voting against it. 

The deposit act of 1836 made it the duty of the sec- 
retary of the treasury to ascertain the precise amount of 
surplus that would be due each state on the first day of 
the ensuing January. In compliance with that act, in 
his report to Congress, he had specified exactly these sev- 
eral amounts, and three of the installments had been duly 


paid over to those properly delegated to receive them. 
The bill introduced into the senate by the committee on 
^ finance was to postpone the payment of the fourth install- 
ment, upon the ground of the embarrassed condition of 
the government, without specifying any time when such 
payment should be made, leaving that entirely to the 
discretion of Congress. Taking into consideration the 
fact of the secretary's having already made his report, 
and giving the amounts of these several installments, the 
opponents, with great justice, argued the inconsistency 
of the measure that would counteract their payment as 

This bill was introduced into the house on the eight- 
eenth of September ensuing its passage in the senate. 

It became a subject of great interest, in the house of 
representatives, and on the twenty-fifth of September, it 
being the special business of the house, a very animated 
discussion was being carried on, in regard to it, by some 
of the most prominent members, when Mr. Fillmore, 
among others, delivered the following speech, which is 
inserted as showing the views he entertained at that time, 
on the great questions of national politics, and the style 
of his address in legislative bodies : 

" I am now prepared, sir, notwithstanding the lateness 
of the hour, to offer what I have to say on this subject j 
but if the committee prefer to rise, and continue the dis- 
cussion to-morrow, it will suit me quite as well. For the 
purpose of testing the sense of the committeee on that 
point, I will cheerfully yield the floor for a motion to rise. 

" What then, sir, is the history of this surplus revenue. 


upon which the bill upon your table is to operate, and 
which has elicited such a warm discussion ? It is this, 
sir — our revenue had been graduated upon a scale suffi- 
ciently large, for many years, to collect from the people, 
chiefly by duties, a sum, which, together with moneys 
received from the sale of public lands, not only defrayed 
all the expenses of government, but left annually a large 
surplus to be applied in payment of the national debt. 
This debt, sir, which, at the adoption of the federal con- 
stitution, was upwards of $75,000,000, had, by the opera- 
tion of this system, been gradually reduced, so that, in 
1812, before the commencement of the last war, it was 
only about $45,000,000. The expenses of that war, sir, 
again increased this debt, so that, in 1816, it was upwards 
of $127,000,000. A wise forecast had made ample pro- 
vision for its payment, and year by year it was lessened, 
until 1834, when it was finally extinguished. 

"It was apparent, sir, to all, before this debt was 
finally liquidated, that when that event did occur, the 
same system of indirect taxation, which could not sud- 
denly be changed without injury to our manufactures, 
must throw a large amount of surplus revenue into the 
treasury. This money having been thus collected from 
the people, or being the avails of the public lands, It was 
thought no more than reasonable, as it was not wanted 
for government purposes, to return it again to the people, 
from whom it had been taken, and whose it was. I shall 
not now stop, sir, to inquire into the justice or constitu- 
tionality of the measure. It was clearly just. The 
government had this fund as the agent of the people. I 


hold, sir, that the governinent, in all cases, is but the 
agent and instrument of the people, constituted to execute 
their collective will. 

" To restore this large amount of money to the use of 
those from whom it had been taken, with as little injury 
as possible to the country, Congress passed a law on the 
twenty-sixth day of June, 1836, by which it was declared 
that the secretary of the treasury should, on the first day 
of January, 1837, ascertain how much money there was 
in the treasury, and deduct from the whole sum thus 
found $5,000,000, and that the remainder should be de- 
posited with the several states, or such of th^m as should 
consent to receive the same, one-fourth on each of the 
first days of January, April, July, and October, in 1837, 
upon the conditions prescribed in the act; which were, 
that the states should keep it safely, and return it again 
to the United States, in sums not exceeding $10,000 per 
month, from any one state, and so in the like proportion 
from other states, when wanted for the use of the gov- 
ernment, and demanded by the secretary of the treasury. 
But the secretary was authorized to draw for $20,000 on 
giving thirty days' notice. I do not pretend, sir, to give 
the words of the act verbatim, as I have it not before me, 
and I only speak from recollection. But this is the sub- 
stance of the act of Congress. 

" This, sir, was the proposition on the part of the Unit- 
ed States of the terms upon which they were willing 
to deposit this money with the states. This, too, was 
a proposition emanating from the highest — nay, from all 

the separate departments of this government. It was 


pledging the national faith in the most solemn manner 
that it could be pledged, by a law \vhich received the 
assent of both houses of Congress, and the approbation 
of th^. president. 

" The state of Xew York, sir, by an act of its legisla- 
ture, passed, I think, in January, 1837, agreed to accept 
this proposition made by the United States, and to receive 
the money, and safely keep and return the same when 
called for, according to the terms of said act of Con- 
gress ; and pledging the faith of the state for the faithful 
performance of these acts. This, then, constituted the 
contract or compact between the parties. 

" The secretary of the treasury, as directed by the act 
of Congress, ascertained, on the 1st day of January last, 
the amount of money in the treasury, and after deducting, 
as he supposed, $5,000,000 from that sum, found there 
remained to be deposited with the states $37,468,859.97. 
I say, as he ' supposed,' sir ; for it now appears by his 
late report to this house, that there was $1,670,137.52 
in the treasury, (that is, sir, in the pet banks.) on tbat 
day, of which he had received no account. So that, in re- 
ality, he reserved $6,670,137.52, instead of the $5,000,000, 
as directed by the act. 

'* Well, sir, the portion of this which belonged to the 
state of Xew York, by the terms of the compact, was 
$5,352,694. 28, three-fourths of which has been received 
by that state, and the bill now on your table proposes to 
postpone the payment of the remaining $1,338,173.57, to 
which that state will be entitled on the first day of October 
next, by the terms of the compact. 


" Now, sir, let it be borne in mind that this is one entire 
contract, in reference to one entire sum of money, and 
that it has been partially performed. I say, sir, the sum 
is entire. Although it was to be paid at different times, 
yet the appropriation was of the entire sum that should 
be found in the treasury on a certain day. That sum, 
when ascertained in the manner prescribed in the act, 
was the money set apart for this specific purpose. It 
was, in legal intendment, as definite and fixed as though 
the money had been counted out at the several banks 
where it. was deposited on that day, and laid aside for this 
object. True, it was to be paid out at different times ; 
but this was to accommodate the banks, and prevent a 
derangement of the currency, and consequent distress of 
the community, by calling for too large sums at once. 

" But, Mr. Chairman, I am opposed to the bill upon 
your table. I am opposed to it, first, sir, on the ground 
that it is hypocritical and false in its language. The title 
of the bill is an ' act to postpone' the payment of this 
fourth installment. This is a false label, sir, to the door 
through which we are to enter into the mysteries of this 
bill. But let us look at the bill itself. It declares that 
the payment of this installment ' shall be postponed until 
iwx'Oii^x provision hy laiv' What is this, then,'^r, but a 
repeal of so much of the act of 1836 as authorizes the 
payment of this fourth installment % It does not merely 
postpone the payment to a definite time, then to be made 
without any further legislative action ; but it postpones it 
until further ' provision by law,' that is, until by a new 
laio Congress shall direct this payment to be made. If 


this bill pass, nothing short of a new law can ever give 
this money to the states. Then the effect of this bill is 
to repeal the law of 1836. 

•' Why not say so, then 1 Why profess to postpone 
when you absolutely revoke? Why not call things by 
their right names ? Is there some iniquity in the trans- 
action that it is necessary to conceal ? Is it intended to 
excite expectations among the people tlmt are never to 
be realized ] Sir, I disdain such a course. I will never 
give my vote for a law that-, on its face, bears evidence of 
fraudulent concealment and hypocritical designs. 

" I am aware, sir, that an amendment has been offered 
by the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Pickens,) 
that, if adopted, would obviate this objection. But as 
that amendment is undoubtedly intended to sugar over 
this nauseous pill, to make it a little more palatable to 
some who loathe it now, and as I should still be opposed 
to the bill if the amendment were adopted, for reasons 
which I shall hereafter give, I am inclined to let those 
who are prepared to swallow anything take the dose as it 
is, and vote against the amendment as well as the bill. 
If this money be not now paid, I have no idea that the 
states will ever receive it. Let us have it now, accord- 
ing to promise, or tell us at once we have nothing to 
expect. Do not tantalize us by exciting further hopes 
that are never to be realized. 

"But, sir, I am also opposed to the bill for another 
reason, and that is, that this sudden change of the destiny 
of near ten millions of dollars is calculated still further 
to derange the currency and business operations of the 


country, and add to the accumulated distresses of the 
community under which they now labor. If there be one 
truth, above all others, well settled in political economy, 
it is this ; that if you would make a nation prosperous 
and happy, give them a uniform and unchangeable cur- 
rency. It is as essential as uniformity and stability in 
yoar weights and measures. This currency is the life- 
blood of the body politic. Its supply should be equ'al 
and uniform. Every throb of the heart is felt to the 
Utmost extremities. If the regular fxow and -pulsation 
fail, languor and faintness follow; but ' overaction,' as 
the president calls it, often produces instantaneous paral- 
ysis and prostration. The political empyrics have admin- 
istered dose upon dose, and tried experiment after 
experiment, until the patient is prostrate and hopeless, 
writhing in agony and imploring for relief. If ever there 
was a nation or an individual to whom that epitaph was 
peculiarly appropriate, it is this nation and this admin- 
istration : 

" I was well ; I wished to be better ; 

I took physic, and here I am." 

" I am also opposed to this bill, sir, for another reason. 
Its object and intent is to violate the plighted faith of this 
nation. I shall not enter into an examination to see 
whether the offer on the part of the United States, which 
was acceded to by the state of New York, in the manner 
that I have already stated, was or was not a pecuniary 
contract, according to the strict rules of the common law, 
which might be enforced in a court of justice. This 
point has been most fully and eloquently discussed by 


my colleague immediately in front of me, (Mr. Sibley.) 
I could add nothicg to what he has said on that subject. 
It is said that the United States have received no consid- 
eration for the promise. But, sir, I am disposed to place 
this question on higher grounds. Does it become this 
nation or the American Congress to stand here paltering 
about the redemption of its plighted faith to one of the 
daughters of the Union, on the ground that it has 
received no consideration for the promise which it has 
made 1 Has this nation, indeed, sunk so low that it 
takes shelter from its engagements, when it finds it incon- 
venient to perform them, behind the statute of frauds 1 
The reason why a consideration is required to enforce a 
contract between individuals does not apply to this case. 
That is a rule adopted by the courts to protect the incon- 
siderate and the unwary from the consequences of their 
own fully, in making hasty promises without considera- 
tion. But, sir, even as between individuals, if the man- 
ner in which the contract has been made evinces a due 
degree of deliberation, then the courts will enforce it. 
If, for instance, the contract be sealed, that is regarded 
as so solemn an act, and evidences such caution and 
deliberation that the courts, by the common law, preclude 
all inquiry into the consideration, and compel the obligor 
to perform his contract. This case shows the reason of 
the rule, and I submit that it has no applicability here. 
Will gentlemen say that Congress was surprised into 
the promise ? that there was not due deliberation had on 
the subject ? or that the congregated wisdom of this 
nation requires such a miserable subterfuge as this, to 


justify to its own conscience the Tiolation of its plighted 
faith % Sir, was not the contract sufficiently solemn % It 
is among the sacred archives of your nation. It is of 
the same high and solemn character with your treaties 
with foreign nations. Nay, if possible, sir, it is still 
higher, and more obligatory upon the nation. A treaty 
is only sanctioned by the president and the senate. This, 
sir, has been sealed with the national honor, and attested 
by the national faith of both branches of Congress and 
the executive ; and you may call it contract, compact, or 
treaty, it is clearly a promise by the nation, in the most 
solemn form that a promise can be made. 

** Sir, have gentlemen who are in favor of this bill duly 
reflected upon its nature and consequences 1 Have they 
duly considered the value of the national honor ? Would 
any one dare to make a proposition to break our national 
faith, if it had been pledged to a foreign power, as it has 
been to the several states of our Union ] I trust not. 
Then, sir, is the obligation less sacred to the various 
states of this confederacy, especially when made for the 
benefit of the people themselves, in reference to their own 
money % I hope not. But, sir, if we violate our plighted 
faith here, may we not do it in other cases 1 Your pen- 
sion laws, passed for the relief of the care-worn veteran 
and hardy mariner, promise to those individuals a mere 
gratuity. It is the bounty which a generous nation 
bestows upon its brave defenders. But it has no elements 
of a pecuniary contract. There is no such reciprocity in 
those cases, as in this, to continue a contract. No prom- 
ise or service is required from the pensioner, as a quid. 


fro quo for the bounty you bestow. But in this case yon 
have required and received the plighted faith of the state 
of New York to receive the money, keep it safely, and 
repay it in certain proportions. Would any member of 
this house have the hardihood to propose a bill to with- 
hold the payment of these pensions, and then assign as a 
reason that there is no valid contract for paying them 1 
I presume not. Sir, there is something of more value to 
a nation than money. It is untarnished honor — unbro- 
ken faith. They should be as spotless as female chastity. 

" One false step in vain we may deplore ; 
We fall like stars that set to rise no more. 

" The reason why every promise should be performed 
is, that it has raised expectations which, in justice, ought 
not to be disappointed. The whole business of life is 
an endless chain of confidence growing out of these prom- 
ises, express or implied. And frequently the breaking of 
one link sunders a thousand. 

" Whatever hnk you strike, 

Tenth, or ten-thousandth, breaks the chain alike. 

" Look at its effects, in this case, upon the state of 
New York. That state, relying upon the plighted faith 
of this nation, has gone on and agreed to loan out all 
this ■ money to citizens throughout the state, giving to 
each town and ward their ratable proportion. Bonds and 
mortgages have been taken for the whole amount ; and 
the three-fourths which has been received by the state 
from this government, has been paid over to the bor- 
rowers, and promises in the shape of certificates given to 


pay over the remaining fourth on the first of October. 
The state has relied upon the promises of this govern- 
ment for the money to pay these certificates. Now, sir, 
unless the money can be raised in some other way by the 
state, if these be withheld, all those numerous borrowers 
must be disappointed. Those who have struggled from 
day to day, and from week to week, to bear up against 
the pressure of the times, until they could obtain this 
pittance of relief, are to sink down in utter despair. 

"But, sir, what is the difference between the promise on 
the part of the state to loan this money to individuals, 
and the promise on the part of this government to deposit 
this money with the states ? A deposit is a loan ; and 
the person with whom the deposit is made becomes the 
borrower, liable to pay the money according to the terms 
agreed. This government, then, has agreed to loan the 
money to the state of New York; and has taken the 
bond and mortgage of that state, in the shape of a solemn 
act of its legislature, to repay it on certain terms. The 
state has agreed to loan the same sum to individuals, and 
has taken their bonds and mortgages for the repayment 
of the same. Then, if this government can be justified 
in breaking, this agreement, much more will the state of 
New York be justified in the breach of the agreement to 
the individual borrowers. The state may not only plead 
the high example of this nation in the breach of its 
promise, but may urge, with perfect justice, that the 
breach of faith by the United States, on which the state 
had unfortunately relied, had prevented the state from ful- 
filling its engagements. Will any of my colleagues who 


now urge a breach of faith on the part of the United 
States, in withholding this installment, say that they be- 
lieve the state of New York will be guilty of a similar 
breach to the. borrowers of this money ? I know they 
will not stain her honor by such an insinuation. Then 
how can thev iustifv themselves to their God or their 
country, in lending their votes or their voices to dishonor 
this nation in such a manner as would be regarded a re- 
proach and disgrace to the state in which we live 1 I 
hope gentlemen will pause and reflect before they finally 

I «!. Jb ^U <U< •£!> •&fr A^ -^ 

" Let me not be misunderstood in what I am about to 
say. I have never been a particular friend of the United 
States Bank. I regard it, as I do all other banks, as a 
necessarv evil. I have never been its advocate, and am 
not now. It has gone down to ' the tomb of the Cap- 
ulets;' let it rest in peace. And I should have great 
doubts of the expediency of establishing a new United 
States Bank at this time, for the relief of the communitv. 
I fear that an attempt to put it in operation would rather 
aggravate than mitigate our sufferings. But on this point 
it is not necessary to express an opinion. I only allude 
to it, to prevent any improper inference, and that the 
committee mav understand that all I have to sav of the 
United States Bank is as matter of historv, and not of 
opinion, as to its expediency or usefulness at this time. 
Times have essentially changed ; and what might have 
been proper or useful then, may be wholly improper or 
useless now. Then, such a bank, with the confidence of 
the government and people, might be useful in regulating 


the currency. Since the war upon that institution, banks 
have multiplied beyond all former example. To add 
another at this time, and collect together the requisite 
specie to put it in operation, ^vould, I fear, add greatly to 
our present embarrassments. People must learn from 
actual suffering that it is much more easy to tear down 
than to build up, to destroy than to create, and to derange 
than to restore. Ignorance and folly may accomplish the 
one ; wisdom, prudence, and time can alone perform the 

" But, sir, I said I was opposed to these measures, 
because they promised no permanent relief to the country. 
Why has the president, after witnessing the sufferings of 
this community — after calling us together, as every one 
supposed, to propose some measure of relief — turned thus 
coldly away, without recommending anything to restore 
a uniform currency ? Are the prayers, and tears, and 
groans of a whole nation, suffering all the horrors of im- 
pending bankruptcy, not worthy of his consideration'? 
Are members of the administration prepared to return 
and look their constituents in the face without making one 
effort for the relief of the country 1 We, of the minority 
can do nothing. We are powerless. But you have all 
power. Then why not exert it to bring back the days of 
prosperity and sunshine that existed before this fatal war 
upon the currency, and commerce, and business of our 
country. *#*^*#** 

" But, sir, this war against the United States Bank, got 
up for political effect, regardless of the peace of society 
or the interests of the country, was made to unite the 


extremes of society. The more intelligent of the middle 
class never engaged in it ; or were drawn into it, from 
political associations, with reluctance. It was really a 
war of the state banks against the United States Bank, 
got^up by artful politicians to elevate Mr. Van Buren to 
the presidency. They tempted the cupidity of the thou- 
sand officers and stockholders interested in these banks, 
with the bribe of the public deposits, and the prospect of 
destroying a hated rival that kept them in check, and 
loaned money at six per cent. It was a Shylock feeling 
of avarice and revenge. On the other hand, all the affili- 
ated presses connected with state banks cried out against 
the monster, until the more ignorant part of the com- 
munity thought their liberties in danger, and joined the 
strong bank party against the weaker, to put down the 
United States Bank. Having effected this and brought 
the country to the verge of ruin, and overwhelmed these 
state banks with infamy and disgrace, is it strange that 
the same unprincipled course should be pursued against 
them, that has been pursued against the United States 
Bank ? It is what they had a right to expect. It is but 
* commending the poisoned chalice to their own lips.' 
We may pity their folly ; we may condemn the heartless 
perfidy tiat first seduced them from their duty, and pros- 
tituted them to the vilest purposes of partisan warfare, 
until their infamy has rendered them useless, and now 
casts them aside ; but we cannot deny that the retributive 
hand of justice is seen in their sufferings. 

" Sir, in corroboration of what I have said about this 
being a war of the state banks against the United States 


Bank, got up by designing politicians, I wlW mention a 
few facts connected with a little secret history on this 
subject in my own state. 

*' It is known, sir, that we have a peculiar system of 
banking in the state of New York, called the safety-fund 
system. It had its origin with Mr. Van Buren, when 
governor of the state in 1829. Although he did not claim 
the merit of an original inventor, yet he adopted it as his 
own, and recommended it to the legislature. This sys- 
tem, sir, establishing a community of intjrest between the 
banks, and being under the immediate supervision of three 
bank commissioners, is admirably well calculated for use 
as a political engine. It was no sooner put in operation, 
than it was brought to bear upon the legislature of that 
state. In 1830 or 1831, while I was honored with a seat 
in the legislature of that state, resolutions were introduced 
into that bodv asrainst a recharter of the United States 
Bank. These resolutions, sir, originated with the banks 
in that state. Kot one solitary petition from the people 
on that subject had been presented to the legislature. 
The bank then had three branches in that state : one at 
New York, one at Utica, and one at Buffalo ; and the peo- 
ple were contented with the currency which they fur- 
nished. No murmur, no complaint, was heard from the 
people. But, sir, day by day, as those resolutions were 
under discussion in that legislature, the birds of ill-omen, 
that deal in bank stock, hovered round that hall, and 
watched the progress of this unholy proceeding with an 
intense anxiety. 

" But no farmers, no mechanics, were there. They had 


not been consulted ; tliey took no interest in the proceed- 
ing. They bad no share at that time in this conspiracy 
of the state banks against their interest. Thev were 
delving at their labor, and slumbering in security, while 
these banks were forging the chains with which they have 
since bound them. Yes, sir, I was informed, and I be- 
lieve it, that nightly, during the discussion of those reso- 
lutions, their supporters in the legislature met in conclave, 
in one of the principal banks in that city, to devise ways 
and means to carry them through. They were carried. 
These banks, with the aid of the party screws, proved too 
powerful for the independence and honesty of that body ; 
and the result was proclaimed as the sense of the people 
of that great state against the United States Bank. This 
state bank, sir, had its reward — it shared the spoils. But, 
sir, my colleague (Mr. Foster) has taken occasion to 
eulogize his safety-fund system. He says it works like 
a charm. I shall not deny, sir, that it has some good 
qualities; but I am far from thinking it so charming as 
my honorable colleague. I doubt not it appears so, sir, 
to many who share in its golden harvest, and enjoy its 
exclusive privileges ; but to the great majority of the 
people, who, like myself, deal not in bank stock, but occa- 
sionally see or feel the tyranny of these little monsters, 
the working of this political engine is anything but 
cliarming. Sir, I conceive it had its origin in the foul 
embraces of political ambition, and cunning, heartless 
avarice. ' It was conceived in sin, and brought forth in 
iniquity.' It has spread its baleful influence over that 
state, corrupting the fountains of power, and demoralizing 


the whole communit}-, by the manner in which its privi- 
leges have been granted and its stock distributed. Banks 
have been granted, and the stocks distributed, to party 
favorites, as a reward for party services. They have 
been the mercenary bribe offered to the community to sap 
the foundations of moral honesty and political integrity. 
But I will not enter into the disgusting details. As to 
those who wish to see the workings of this charming sys- 
tem of my colleague, I will refer them to an examination 
of our state legislature, last winter, and the proceedings 
of that body upon the report of their committee upon a 
single bank. I believe the very day on which the report 
was made, it showed such abominable corruption and 
abuses, that a bill was introduced to repeal its charter, 
and, within one or two days, passed through all the forms 
of legislation in the popular branch without a dissentive 
vote ; and also passed the senate with but three or four 
votes against it. Does my honorable colleague think that 
a system which produces banks like this works like a 
charm % But, sir, I perceive that this incestuous connec- 
tion between the politics and banks of that state has been 
festering and corrupting until it is about to fall asunder 
from its own rottenness. I, for one, have no tears to shed 
at the dissolution. I only regret that many of these 
banks, since they were chartered, have passed into the 
hands of honest and honorable men. I fear that the 
odium which rests upon this corrupt system, and which, 
in my opinion, is in nowise necessarily connected with 
banking, will sink the whole, without discrimination. The 
vengeance of an insulted and oppressed community is 


terrible and overwhelming in its course. It stops not {Al- 
ways to discriminate between the *just and the unjust,' 
between the proper use and improper abuse of a particular 
sj'stem ; but in the wild madness of popular fury, they 
hurl the whole to destruction. I warn them to stay their 
desolating hands. All sudden changes are dangerous. 
Let us not destroy, but purify this odious system. ^Ye 
cannot live without banks and banking. Credit in some 
shape is indispensable to our prosperity. "Were we re- 
duced to a specie circulation; as now proposed by the 
president, property would not be worth twenty-five per 
cent, what it now is, and would soon be wholly absorbed 
by the wealthy capitalists of our country. The debtor 
part* of the community would be utterly ruined. Then 
let us purge this vile system of its corruptions and abuses, 
and strip it of its odious monopoly, and open the privilege 
of banking to all who comply with such prescribed rules 
of the legislature as secure the bill-holder and public 
generally from fraud and imposition. I hope, sir, to live 
to see the day when this shall be done, and the moral 
pestilence of political banks and banking shall be unknown." 
******* * 

The foregoing speech was delivered at a time when 
party spirit raged in the legislative halls of our country 
Tvith a fierceness rarely excelled in the annals of the repub- 
lic. It was not directed against the United States Bank, 
but against the bill before the house for the postponement 
of the fourth installment, as before stated. A miscon- 
struction having been placed upon it in the Congressional 
Globe, Mr. Fillmore sent the subjoined Tiote to the pub- 


jishers of that paper, where, upon the bank subject, his 
views are sufficiently indicated : 

"House of Eepresentatives, 

September 27th, 1837. 

" Gentlemen : My attention has been this moment 
drawn to a remark in the Globe of last evening, purport- 
ing to give the proceedings of the house on Monday eve- 
ning, in which I find the following statement : 

" * Mr. Fillmore resumed and continued his remarks on 
the subject, with the addition of a lengthy argument in 
favor of a Bank of the United States.' 

" Passing over some evident misapprehensions of your 
reporter as to the purport of my remarks generally, I wish 
to say that he is entirely and most singularly mistaken in 
saying that I made a lengthy argument in favor of the 
United States Bank. I made no argument in favor of the 
United States Bank, nor of a United States Bank ; but, on 
the contrary, expressly disclaimed ever having been the par- 
ticular friend of the United States Bank, and expressed my 
sincere doubts whether the incorporation of a new United 
States Bank, at this time, would relieve the present embar- 
rassments of the community. Will you do me the justice 
to correct the mistake ? 

" Eespectfully yours, Millard Fillmore. 

" Messrs. Blair and Rives." 

This speech, though not remarkable for its features of 
eloquence, embodies a vast fund of facts, showing the 
speaker to have been thoroughly informed upon the con- 
dition of the finances and matters of public interest gen- 


erally. During its delivery, he exhibited a tabular view 
of the annual expenses of the government for twelve con- 
fjecutive yeais, prepared with the exactest mathematical 

"We rarely have the good fortune to read a speech of no 
greater length, that is so replete with evidences of research 
and sound judgment. I have inserted these extracts as a 
specimen of his political oratory. 

The bill, against the passage of which this speech was 
made, passed the house, after being so amended as to spe- 
cify the first of January, 1839, as the day of making the 
transfer,* and was approved the second day of October, 
1837. Mr. Clay's position in the senate in regard to this 
measure was Mr. Fillmore's in the house. 

The coincidence of the views of these gentlemen on 
many subjects of vital interest can but be observed by 
the student of their respective characters. Mr. Clay 
had assumed that leadership in the senate which, as we 
shall presently see, Mr. Fillmore assumed in the house, 
and though the excitement in regard to the bank question 
was participated in by Mr. Clay to a much greater extent 
than Mr. Fillmore conceived the circumstances justified 
exhibiting himself, on many other subjects their views 
were as similar as though they were colleagues acting in 
concert upon them. Subsequent events will show, too, 
that there were feelings of unison between these two dis- 
tinguished gentlemen, not restricted to the conventional 
formalities of public station. 

Petitions and memorials for the abolition of slavery in 
the District of Columbia poured in upon the deliberations 


of the present session of Congress from all quarters, and 
elicited no little controversy. The subject involved in 
these controversies was the right of petition upon the 
subject of slavery. On the eighteenth day of September, 
1837, Mr. Wall, of New Jersey, presented a memorial in 
the senate from the ladies of New Jersey, praying for 
the abolition of slavery in the District. Many members, 
very tender upon this subject, were disposed to look unfa- 
vorably upon the memorial, and even went so far as to 
say that it was prompted by a spirit of fanaticism. 

The right of petition has always, in the estimation of 
the wisest statesmen and purest patriots of our country, 
been regarded as sacred, and the petitioners as entitled to 
courtesy and respect, at least. To wise statesmen, who 
wish to pursue a peaceful, conciliatory course, prudence, 
if no higher consideration, should dictate the extension 
of respectful attention to such memorialists, on all occa- 
sions. And those who refuse such respect, unless of no 
ordinary nature, upon the ground that the petitioners are 
fanatics, merely because they presume, in the form of a 
memorial, to couch their wishes in regard to certain 
important measu'-es, usually evince a much greater spirit 
of fanaticism themselves than do those who produce the 

The memorial referred to by the New Jersey ladies, 
elicited quite an animated debate in the senate, com- 
mencing as follows : 

" Mr. Hubbard moved to lay the motion on the table. 

" Mr. Clay wished the motion withdrawn for a moment 
It was manifest that the subject of slavery in the Dis- 


trict of Columbia was extending itself in the public 
mind, and daily engaging more and more of the public 
attention. His opinions, as expressed in the legislature 
of the country, were, he believed, perfectly well known. 
He had no hesitation in saying that Congress ought not 
to do what was asked by the petitioners without the con- 
sent of the people of the District of Columbia. He was 
desirous of inquiring of the senator from New Jersey, or 
any other conversant with the subject, whether the feel- 
ing of abolition in the abstract was extending itself in 
their respective states, or whether it was .not becoming 
mixed up with other matters — such, for instance, in the 
belief that the sacred right of petition had been assailed. 
It became the duty of the senate to inquire into this busi- 
ness, and understand the subject well. 

" There were many, no doubt, of these petitioners, who 
did not mean to assert that slaverv should be abolished, 
but were contending for what they understood to be a great 
constitutional right. Would it not, then, under this 
view of the subject, be the best course to allay excite- 
ment, and endeavor to calm down and tranquilize the 
public mind 1 Would it not be wiser to refer the sub- 
ject to the committee for the District of Columbia, or 
some other committee, that would elicit all the facts, rea- 
son coolly and dispassionately, presenting the subject in 
all its bearings to the citizens of non-slaveholding states, 
and in a manner worthy of the great subject ? Would 
not such a proceeding be well calculated to insure har- 
mony and amity in all parts of the Union ? On this sub- 
ject there was, he was aware, a great diversity of opinion, 


and he rose merely for the purpose of making these sug- 
gestions to the senate. 

" Mr. Calhoun said he had foreseen what this subject 
would come to, he knew its origin, and that it lay deeper 
than was supposed; it grew out of a spirit of fanaticism, 
which was daily increasing, and, if not in limine, would, 
by and by, dissolve the Union. It was particularly our 
duty to keep the matter out of the senate — out of the 
halls of the national legislature. These fanatics were 
interfering with what they had no right. Grant the 
receptions of these petitions, and you will next be 
required to act upon them. He was for no conciliatory 
course — no temporizing; instead of yielding one inch, he 
would rise in opposition, and he hoped every man from 
the south would stand by him, to put down this growing 
evil. There was but one question that would ever destroy 
this Union, and that was involved in this principle. Yes; 
this was potent enough for it, and must be early arrested, 
if the Union was to be preserved. A man must see little 
into what is going on, if he did not see that this spirit 
was growing, and that the rising generation was becoming 
more strongly imbued with it. It was not to be stop- 
ped by reports on paper, but by action — very decided 

Mr. Clay opposed the above remarks in a very mild, 
conciliatory manner, assuring the gentleman that the 
Union was in no danger of dissolution. No man ever 
understood better than Mr. Clay the effect of a concilia- 
tory course. Bold and fearless as he was, when occasion 
required, he was always for cementing the bonds of union, 


by the golden chain of national brotherhood ; and decided 
as were his convictions on the subject treated of in the peti- 
tions that came into Congress, he knew that by their dis- 
respectful repulsion, the very excitement they wished to 
allay would be kindled into an intenser heat, and courte- 
ous petition be changed to indignant denunciation. Then, 
besides the motives of policy and prudence, to the dic- 
tates of which all legislators should give watchful heed, 
by which he was actuated to the defence of the memori- 
alists, the right of petition he conceded as an inherent 
one in the free exercise of which, no barrier should be 
raised between legislators and the people-between the sen- 
tinels and the camp. Such was the attitude, the right of 
petition presented in the senate, with Mr. Clay for its 
defender ; it remains to be considered in what light it 
was regarded in the house, and who was its defender 
there . 

On the twelfth of December, 1837, J. Q. Adams pre- 
sented in the house a petition praying the abolition of 
slavery in the District of Columbia. 

This, in connection with former petitions presented by 
that gentleman, was signed by fifty-thousand persons, 
embracinPT the most influential of his constituencv. He 
moved that the memorials be referred to the committee 
on the District of Columbia. 

Mr. Wise moved that it be laid on the table. The 
house voted on Mr. Wise's motion, which was carried by 
a large majority, Mr. Fillmore voting with the minority 
in the negative, sustaining the right of petition. Several 
lengthy memorials were presented by the samo gentle- 


man, of the same nature, all of which, on motion of Mr. 
Wise, were tabled, Mr. Fillmore, with characteristic con- 
sistency, voting uniformly in the negative. Mr. Fillmore 
entertained the same views in regard to the right of peti- 
tion that Mr. Clay did ; on the presentation of the memorials 
that flooded Congress during that session, though they 
were most usually tabled, he occupied grounds favorable 
to their reception and respectful consideration. Many of 
Mr. Fillmore's constituents, however, notwithstanding the 
uniformity of his votes in Congress sustaining the right 
of petition, were not satisfied with his views upon that 
and other subjects connected with the delicate question 
of slavery. There was then in Erie county an anti- 
slavery society, who regarded the considerations con- 
nected with that subject as paramount to all others, and 
w^hen Mr. Fillmore was again placed by his fellow 
citizens before the people, for a seat in the twenty- 
sixth Congress, the chairman of a committee appointed 
by that society addressed the following interrogatories to 
Mr. Fillmore : 

" 1st. Do you believe that petitions to Congress on the 
subject of slavery and the slave trade ought to be 
received, read, and respectfally considered by the repre- 


sentatives of the people 1 

" 2d. Are you opposed to the annexation of Texas to 
this Union under any circumstances, as long as slaves are 
held therein ? 

" 3d. Are you in favor of Congress exercising all the 
constitutional power it possesses to abolish the internal 
slave trade between the states ] 


" Are you in favor of immediate legislation for the 
abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia 1 " 

From the subjoined reply to the above questions, Mr. 
Fillmore's views are fully ascertained and appreciated 
upon the subjects under consideration: 

"Buffalo, October 17th, 1838. 
"Sir: — Your communication of the 15th inst., as 
chairman of a committee appointed by ' The Anti-slavery 
Society of the County of Erie,' has just com.e to hand. I 
am much engaged, and have no time to enter into an 
argument or to explain at length my reasons for my opin- 
ion. I shall, therefore, content myself for the present by 
answering all your interrogatories in the affirmative, and 
leave for some future occasion a morg ext^j^ed discussion 
of the subject. I would, however, take this occasion to 
say, that in thus frankly giving my opinion, I would not 
desire to have it understood in the nature of a pledge. 
At the same time that I seek no disguises, but freely give 
my sentiments on any subject of interest to those for 
whose suffrages I am a candidate, I am opposed to giving 
any pledges that shall deprive me hereafter of all discre- 
tionary power. 

" My own character must be the guarantee for the general 
correctness of my legislative deportment. On every im- 
portant subject I am bound to deliberate before I act, and 
especially as a legislator, to possess myself of all the in- 
formation, and listen to every argument that can be 
adduced by my associates, before I give a final vote. If 
I stand pledged to a particular course of action, I cease 


to be a responsible agent, but I become a mere machine. 

Should subsequent events show, beyond all doubt, that the 

course I had become pledged to pursue was ruinous to 

my constituents and disgraceful to myself, I have no 

alternative, no opportunity for repentance, and there is no 

power to absolve me from my obligations. Hence the 

impropriety, not to say absurdity of giving a pledge. 

" I am aware that you have not asked any pledge, and 

I believe I know your sound judgment and good sense too 

well to think you desire any such thing. It was, however, 

to prevent any misrepresentation on the part of others, 

that I have felt it my duty to say thus much on this 


" I am, respectfully, your most ob't servant, 

"Millard Fillmore. 
*' W. Mills, Esq., Chairman, &c." 

Here, by an emphatic, unequivocal affirmative reply to 
the questions proposed by the chairman, his views are 
fully elicited upon the right of petition on the subject of 
slavery in the Distri<3t of Columbia. There is certainly 
an effective power of conciliation embraced in them. A 
courtoous and respectful deference to the feelings and 
views of others, in both public and private stations, is 
much the surest way of quelling excitements, even though 
such views differ widely from our own. 

If the northern and southern states would but take 
into consideration the important fa-ct, that they are so 
many members of a united family, whose maternal deriv- 
ative is liberty, and study their relative duties as such, 


instead of being so excited upon the subject of ea(^ 
other's peculiar institutions, muck trouble and alarns 
would be allayed. If, instead of croaking disunion, ruin, 
slavery, and civil war, they would occupy liberal conserv- 
ative ground, conceding to each their own views, and 
manifest a respectful bearing to those entertaining them^, 
the storm clouds would soon roll from the political horizon, 
and leave us with a clear national sky, each independent 
star undimned. If the public servants of the country 
would be willing, in the true spirit of liberality, to make 
some concessions, instead of piercing each other with the 
porcupine quills of sectional partisanship, our Congress,, 
instead of becoming a gladiatorial amphitheatre for ban- 
dying opprobrious epithets and originating affairs of honor, 
would be an assemblage of patriots studiously endeavoring 
to promote the national welfare. When, in the spirit of 
mutual concession and good-will, the north and the south 
will shake hands across Mason & Dixon's Line^ and bury 
their animosities in the tomb of oblivion, we will certainly 
hav^e attained a '* consummation devoutly to be wished." 
Than Mr. Fillmore, no one has evinced a greater desire,, 
or manifested more solicitude in subduing all excitements 
of a dangerous tendency. He is no partisan, though firm 
in his views upon what tends to the public good. In a 
long career of usefulness to his country, he has discharged 
the duties of official station upon the soundest conserv- 
ative principles, and in a spirit of liberality, showing 
the greatest anxiety of equal rights to all, irrespective 
of party faction or local prejudice. Mr. Fillmore, as a 


statesman, though decisive and patriotic, is eminently 

There is not in the Union another man so much of 
whose life has been devoted to public service, who can 
cull from his antecedents so many evidences of concilia- 
tory capacities. 

In the defence of the right of petition, side by side we 
again find him with the immortal Clay, earnestly, though 
in a minority party, defending those liberal conciliatory 
principles. His whole congressional career was an ex- 
hibit of earnest desire to be useful, and a casual retro- 
spect of it when we arrive at its close will be sufficient 
to convince us of their gratification. 



His views on the subject of public defence — The outrageous conduct 
of British oflScers — Awful fate of the Caroline — Mr. Fillmore's 
resolution urging redress — A committee reports upon the out- 
rage — He opposes the report — Prompt, but not excitable — ■ 
His sohcitude for the northern frontier — The celebrated Jersey 
case — Its importance — Mr. Fillmore's determination to investi- 
gate it fairly — Proceedings of the committee on elections — Foul 
play — Democratic contestants successful — Letter to his constit- 
uents — Twenty-seventh Congress — Great change — Party poh- 
tics — Harrison and the Whig party — The nominal president — 
John Tyler's treachery — Committee of ways and means — Dis- 
tress of the country — Giant efforts of the twenty-seventh Con- 
gress — Equal to the emergency — Great innovations. 

"We have before indicated that, as a legislator, Mr. 
Fillmore felt the necessity in time of peace of being pre- 
pared for war, and making such arrangements for public 
defence as would be necessary to protect the national 
honor and prosperity against any sudden or unforeseen 
attack or outrage. His course in the present Congress, 
in regard to the requirement of redress from Great Britain, 
for an outrage perpetrated upon the northern frontier, 
sho^ys his views upon the subject of public defence more 
fully, and also furnishes evidence of his activity as a 
member of Congress. 

The cause for the demand for redress on the part of 
Congress, originated in the dastardly conduct of a British 
officer stationed at Chippewa, in Canada, in command of a 


large body of troops, toward a citizen of Buffalo, in seiz- 
ing a vessel belonging to him, then plying on Niagara 
River. It was during the Canadian insurrection, or the 
Patriot war. McNab, the British officer in command at 
Chippewa, fitted out an expedition against the Caroline, 
the vessel alluded to. On the twenty-ninth of December, 
they fired a heavy volley of musketry into fhe vessel at 
Black Rock, on the American side. She sustained no 
injury, however, from this insult, and had the outrage 
stopped here, no great harm would have been done. But 
after nightfall, while cabled at Schlosser's dock, and after 
the larger part of the crew were asleep, she was boarded 
by the piratical expedition of McNab, set on fire, and sent 
over the rapids of Niagara, wrapped in flames, with 
twelve souls on board. 

On the 5th of January, 1838, Mr. Van Buren sent a 
message to the senate and house of representatives, in 
regard to the northern frontier, of which the following is 
an extract : " Present experience on the southern bound- 
ary of the United States and the events now daily occurr- 
ing on our northern frontier, have abundantly shown that 
the existing laws are insufficient to guard against hostile 
invasion from the United States of the territory of friendly 
and neighboring nations." In the senate, on the recep- 
tion of the message, 

"Mr. Clay rose to express his full conviction of the 
necessity of some early action on this important subject. 
No spectacle could be more revolting to the feelings of a 
free people than either a war among themselves or with 
another country. The views of the executive met his 


highest approbation ; but it was the duty of Congress to 
examine, and if the existing laws were not adequate to 
prevent the alleged interference of our citizens, others 
should be forthwith enacted for the full accomplishment 
of an object so desirable. He adverted in connection to 
the vexatious and unsettled state of our northern bound- 
ary, which state of things tended to increase the danger 
which now threatened us. He had witnessed a similar 
course of policy, on the part of our citizens, during recent 
occurrences of a similar character in another quarter, on 
which subject, however, he had never expressed his opin- 
ions, nor should he do so now." This, in the senate, was 
a subject of very great interest, and the sentiments 
embodied in the message were approved by most of the 
leading members. The necessity of placing the northern 
frontier in a position of protection, after the perpetration 
of so flagrant an outrage against all neutrality relation- 
ship, and revolting to humanity itself, was too paramount 
to be overlooked. Canada, as the rendezvous of an 
armed band of twenty-five hundred soldiers, led by such 
hyenas as McNab, who would not hesitate to send an 
unarmed crew, engaged in their daily avocation, in a 
burning ship over the cataract of Kiagara, was too con- 
tiguous to the territory of the United States not to excite 
serious alarm on the part of the national legislatures. 

The message coming up in Congress the same day, Mr. 
Fillmore offered the following resolution : 

"Resolved, that the president be requested to commu- 
nicate to this house any information in his possession of 
acts endangering the amicable relations between this 


goYeTnment and tliat of Great Britain, either by the sub- 
jects of Great Britain, or by our own citizens, on the 
Canada frontier, and what measures have been adopted 
by the executive to preserve our neutrality with said 
kingdom, or repel invasion from a foreign country ; and 
that he furnish the information called for by each of these 
resolutions, in separate communications." 

Various resolutions and amendments were presented, 
among others an amendment by Mr. Adams, requiring of 
the president all documents and information in regard to 
the preservation of our neutrality with Mexico and the 
British provinces north of the United States. 

An amendment to this was offered by Mr. Fillmore, as 
follows : " And that the president be requested to com- 
municate to this house any additional information in his 
possession of acts endangering the amicable relations of 
this government and that of Great Britain, either by the 
subjects of Great Britain or by our own citizens, on the 
Canadian frontier, and what measures have been adopted 
by the executive to preserve our neutrality with that 
•kingdom." In support of this amendment Mr. Fillmore 
remarked, that the house was aware that there had been, 
and now was, a great excitement existing on the Niagara 
frontier, and that there had been movements in Buffalo in 
reference to the revolution now raging in Canada. They 
were probably aware that an armament had been fit- 
ted out, mostly by American citizens, which had made 
a stand upon Navy Island, which is within British terri- 
tory, in Niagara River, twenty miles from Buffalo, and 
two or thi'ee miles above the Falls, the lowest point at 


which a crossing can be safely effected from the mam 

Mr. Fillmore here gave a full account of the outrage 
of McNab upon the United States government, in the 
destruction of the Caroline, and read letters, containing 
full particulars of the same, and desired to know if the- 
president was in possession of any information in regard 
to the proceedings. Mr. Adams made some remarks in 
support of his original amendment, indicating that the 
various suggestions and amendments were postponing the 
question, and deferring action upon it until it would be 
too late to accomplish their object. 

In reply to the remarks of Mr. Adams, Mr. Fillmore 
said he " could not conceive how his proposition could 
possibly tend to embarrass the action of the house upon, 
the resolution offered by the committee on foreign affairs. 
It was certainly very easy for the president to distin- 
guish between the different kinds of information sought 
for by the different propositions. He had tried every 
other way to bring his proposition before the house, and 
could not present it in any form which would secure its^ 
immediate consideration, excepting that in which it now 
stood. For if it were offered as an independent resolu- 
tion, it would take its place behind all others now on the 
speaker's table. Its great importance would not permit 
him to expose it to such a risk, and he had, therefore,, 
offered it in the form of an amendment to the original 
resolution of the committee on foreign affaii's, in which 
shape he hoped it would pass. 

" As to the expression which he had used in relatioB 


to the disturbances of the Niagara frontier, that this 
country was on the eve of a war with Great Britain, 
perhaps it was too strong an expression. But certainly 
all the facts demonstrated that there was imminent dan- 
ger of such a result. The citizens of the United States, 
while in the peaceful pursuit of their business, had been 
attacked by an armed force from a foreign nation, and a 
portion of the militia of the country is even now ordered 
to repel such hostility. 

"He well knew that the spirit of the people on the 
United States side of that frontier would not permit them 
to stand tamely by, and witness such assaults. These 
were facts, vouched for by respectable citizens as true 
and authentic ; and he must ask if they were not such as 
to warrant the offering of such a proposition as he had 
moved. It makes no difference, he contended, whether 
one or one hundred miles of the territory of the United 
States has been invaded by the arms of a fq^ign nation ; 
the jurisdiction of this country is coextensive with the 
utmost limits of her territory. Even if the vessel which 
was attacked had been carrying inunitions of war to the 
revolutionists on Navy Island, she was only liable, he 
contended, to be attacked while within the British lines. 
As it was, he agreed with the gentleman from Massachu- 
setts, (Mr. Adams,) that there was scarcely a parallel to 
this act upon the pages of our history as a nation ; and 
it was to suppose an absolute impossibility, for a moment 
to imagine that the people on that frontier will ever sub- 
mit to the occurrence of such acts, without complaint and 

redress. It was, therefore, in any view, highly important 


that the house should obtain all possible information 
upon a subject so important." 

These extracts are sufficient indications of Mr. Fill- 
more's patriotism, in resisting the taunts and insults of a 
neighboring nation. Buffalo being so near the seat of 
strife during the insurrectionary movements of the Cana- 
dians in 1837-8, that it is not surprising, serious appre- 
hensions should be felt by the citizens concerning her 
commercial interests, especially after such an outrage as 
had been committed upon the Caroline by McNab. 

The following extract from some remarks of Mr. 
Fillmore's, delivered on a subsequent occasion in Con- 
gress, shows the views he entertained upon the neces- 
sity of preparing means of public defence. It was while 
urging the adoption of some resolutions he had presented 
relative to the northern frontier difficulties, and the neu- 
trality of our government toward that of Great Britain. 
An Individ^ had been arrested, who was a participant 
in certain disturbances, and the frontier excitement was 
raging most fiercely. The resolutions which he was 
urging before Congress passed, and resulted in the 
elicitation of all the correspondence between the two 
governments in regard to the transactions of the British 
troops, and the frontier difficulties generally. The occur- 
rences growing out of the insurrections in Canada were 
of a very unpleasant nature. Buflfalo, situated not much 
further than a stone's throw from Canada, of course was 
in incessant alarm, dreading a repetition of. such outrages 
upon her commerce as was inflicted upon the unfortunate 
Caroline, by McNab, in the fall of 1837. After the 


correspondence had been laid before Congress, it was 
referred to the appropriate committee to report thereon. 
The report made by the committee to whom the corres- 
pondence was referred was so inflammatory, and coupled 
with it such evidences of bitter hostility, whose evident 
tendencies were to excite rather than allay the existing 
troubles, that many members of the house were decidedly 
against its adoption. Among these was Mr. Fillmore. 
Notwithstanding his patriotism, and the just cause which 
he felt his country had for being indignant at the infa- 
mous conduct of McNab, and other outrages she had 
endured, his conciliatory nature forbade his concurrence in 
a report whose tone was to excite, and not allay. Satis- 
fied his country had been insulted, with the truest dignity 
he was the first to resent it. But there was a proper 
way to resent ; and, with characteristic firmness and delib- 
eration, that proper way he wished to be the executor of 
pacific negotiations. And if all other means failed, then 
the sword. 

These are his principles in regard to the adjustment 
of national difficulties — principles of which his whole 
public career has been an exemplification. Prompt and 
conciliatory, he leaves no means untried to retain amica- 
ble relations ; but if those measures fail, equally prompt 
and decided, he is ready to meet the emergency. In this 
case of the Canada troubles, he was first to introduce a 
resolution in the house, asking information, etc. When 
the information was received, and the committee reported 
thereon, he opposed the report because its tone was 
fraught with too much excitement. Try pacific, concilia- 


tory measures first, if they fail, then resort to other 
expedients. No man has ever been more prompt iis 
resenting national insults than has Mr. Fillmore, and by 
the sound judgment and spirit of conciliation he has man- 
ifested, none has evinced a happier combination of 
qualities, or those better adapted to awe into the pro- 
foundest respect, while they elicit the warmest esteem. 

This is a combination rarely possessed to the same ex- 
tent by the legislators of the country ; yet it is certainly 
one of the most essential to correct statesmanship. The 
very tenor of the subjoined shows the man — while he is 
ready to make every consistent effort for peace, he is, in 
case of failure, equally ready for war : 

" But one thing, at all events, should be borne in mind 
by all whose duty requires them to act on this subject 
here. There is a great state of excitement on that 
frontier, which migJit hy possibility lead to an outhreah. 
My objection to the printing of the report was, that it 
was calculated to inflame the public mind ; and I was 
governed in that vote by three reasons. In the first place, 
I did not wish that anything should be done here which 
might have a tendency to do injustice to the individual 
who is soon to be tried by the laws of the state of Xew 
York. I desire that the law should have its free action, 
that no excitement should be raised against McLeod, 
which might prevent a fair and impartial trial. In the 
second place, I do not desire that any action on the part 
of this house should compromise or control the executive 
of this nation in the negotiations now pending between 
the government of the United States and the government 


of Great Britain. I have all confidence in the incoming 
administration. If this controversy can be amicably and 
honorably settled between the two governments, I desire 
that it should. But there is a third and very strong 
reason in my mind against anything being done to exas- 
perate the public mind on the subject of war with Great 
Britain. It is this : for three or four years I have used 
all the exertions in my power to induce this administra- 
tion, which is responsible to the country, to provide some 
means of defence on our northern frontier. But all my 
efforts were in vain. And yet the gentleman from South 
Carolina (Mr. Pickens) now tells us that the course to be 
pursued to avoid a war with Great Britain is to stand up 
to her — to threaten her — to take a high stand; and 
that, he says, will avert a war. I may have been mis- 
taken in the meaning. I know that those were not his 
words. But I would submit to him that the best way to 
avoid a war with Great Britain, is to show that we are 
prepared to meet her, if there is to be war; because 
reasonable preparations for defence are better than 

Mr. Fillmore then alluded to the defenceless condi- 
tion of the northern frontier. He desired, and believed 
the whole country desired, that we should yield nothing to 
the demands of Great Britain, to which she was not fairly 
entitled. But, at the same time, he regarded it as rather 
the act of a madman, to precipitate the country into a 
war before it was prepared for it, than the act of a states- 
man. In his section of country, the people would yield 
nothing to Great Britain to which she was not justly en- 


titled; or they would yield it only with the last drop of 
their blood. But he did not wish prematurely to be drawn 
into war; he did not wish to invite Great Britain to in- 
vade our defenceless coast. The true plan was to prepare 
for war if we had yet to come to it ; but to' aing in 
i\}i^ way of bragging. If it did come, gentlemen would 
not find his people shrinking from their just share 
of responsibility. All they had — their property, their 
lives, everything — they were willing to devote, if 
need be, to the service and honor of their country. But 
was it not the part of wisdom and prudence, before 
we made a declaration of war, to prepare for it ? This 
was all he desired ; and if this report was calculated to 
stir up a war feeling, without corresponding preparation 
being made to meet the consequences, he, for one, was 
opposed to it. He did not wish the country to be dis- 
graced by defeat. When she must go to war, he desired 
to see her prepared for it ; he desired to see her placed in 
a situation which would enable her to bid defiance to the 
power of any government on earth." 

No member of Congress manifested the solicitude, in 
regard to fortifying and putting in a condition of defence 
the northern frontier that Mr. Fillmore did. The labors 
he put forth in that body for the attainment of this object 
were incessant. Living on that frontier himself, he had 
the fairest opportunities of understanding and appreciating 
the evils incident to their defenceless condition, open as it 
was to the inroads of an insurrectionary soldiery. 

The deliberations of the twenty-sixth Congress com- 
menced amid the greatest excitement engendered by the 


contest for their seats by the New Jersey members. On the 
second of December, the clerk of the house called the roll 
of the members, and when he got to the state of New 
Jersey, after pronouncing the name of one member from 
that state, he remarked that the seats of five of the six re- 
presentatives of that state were contested. Considerable 
feeling upon the subject ensued immediately in the house, 
in regard to the claims of the New Jersey representation. 

Mr. Fillmore, on the second day of the session, while 
various propositions were being made, arose and desired 
that all the facts and the law regulating the case be 
laid before the house before proceeding to debate the 
matter. This was a case of great importance, in which 
the rights of a sovereign state were involved, and he felt 
much interest in behalf of the Jersev members, and 
evinced a determination, at this early stage of the pro- 
ceedings, to commence its investigation upon facts and laws 
regulating such cases. Had this wise course been pur- 
sued when subjected to the law and the evidence govern- 
ing elections, the difficulties of the several claimants 
would have been easily adjusted, and, instead of deferring 
the organization of the house for weeks by an incessant 
wrangle over individual opinions, it would have been or- 
ganized immediately. 

That portion of the New Jersey members who pre- 
sented certificates of election endorsed by the executive 
of the state averred they had a right to their seats under 
the laws of the country, and a right of participation in 
the proceedings of the house, until its organization was 
effected, and the oaths of office came to be administered. 


On the third day of the session the clerk, who had inter- 
fered with the organization by a refusal to call the roll 
of the members from Xew Jersey, upon the ground of 
conflicting evidence, proposed reading a prepared docu- 
ment to the house, purporting to lay information before it 
concerning the case. Several members objected to the 
reading of this prepared document, on the ground that it 
was calculated to produce false impressions in regard to 
the claimants to seats from New Jersey. 

On the 16th of December an organization of the house 
was effected, and still the investigation of the Jersey case 
had but fairly commenced. Mr. Fillmore was appointed 
one of the committee on elections, the responsibilities of 
which, next to those devolving upon that of ways and 
means were, in view of the contested Jersey case, the 
greatest belonging to any committee of the house. On 
the 28th of February the house adopted a resolution 
directing the committee on elections to report forthwith, 
which five of the ten delegates claiming seats from the 
state of Xew Jersey received the largest number of votes 
at the election in that state in the year 1838, Mr. Fill- 
more was anxious to amend the resolution, the substance 
of which is embraced above so as to read, the greatest 
number of lawful votes. He was anxious the case should 
be fairly investigated, and so adjusted as to do justice to 
all parties. In view of-the above resolution, and the fact 
that in the adjudication of the case there was a disposi- 
tion to take all sorts of votes into account, and of evidence 
in his possession that illegal votes had been polled at the 
election before mentioned, Mr. Fillmore introduced a 


subsequent resolution, in substance, as follows : That 
the committee take their report into consideration, with 
instructions to ascertain, with all possible dispatch, which 
five of the ten claimants to seats from New Jersey 
received the greatest amount of lawful votes at the pre- 
ceding congressional election in that state. 

The solicitude he felt in regard to that contest was 
exceeded by that of no member in the house \ but in this, 
he was determined that his great life principle should 
govern him, and that right should be his aim, in connection 
with its investigation. The law and the facts were what 
he wished laid before the house, the second day of the 
session — the law and the facts were what he desired ta 
ascertain still. Indications, of an unfair issue had become 
developed in the house, and to counteract them he threw 
his whole great talents and energies into a fair and law- 
ful investigation of the whole affair, commencing at \^q 
ballot-box. The report that had been made* to Congress 
established the right of five claimants to seats, to the 
exclusion of som^e whose claims were evidently more 
valid than theirs, if subjected to the strictly legal inves- 
tigation proposed by Mr. Fillmore's resolution. 

On the tenth of March the democratic contestants from 
New Jersey were recognized as members of the twenty- 
sixth Congress, duly qualified, and took their seats, under 
a resolution to that effect, with a proviso that such recog- 
nition was not, in any way, to interfere with any subse- 
quent investigations the committee might think proper to 
institute. Their title to seats in that body was con- 
firmed by the final adoption of the majority report of the 


committee on elections, the sixteenth of July. On the 
adoption of this report, the minority report of the com- 
mittee was presented. A portion of the committee on 
elections, among whom was Mr. Fillmore, was satisfied 
that three of the gentlemen, (whigs,) excluded by the adop- 
tion of the majority report, were entitled to seats, and 
'had been dealt with unfairly by being deprived of them 
through testimony believed to be incompetent. After 
being satisfied from all the evidence in the case, that 
these three whigs were the rightful claimants to seats, 
Mr. Fillmore became warmly interested in their behalf. 
But a majority of both the house and the committee were 
against him ; the whole investigation was conducted upon 
party considerations, and in a legislative body where the 
majority was democratic, and on a committee where the 
majority were opposed to his views, the result was what 
might have been anticipated — the whigs, to a man, were 
excluded, and the democrats admitted. 

The views he entertained in regard to the justness of 
the whig claimants, were endorsed by a respectable 
minority of the committee, who presented the report 
referred to, elaborately giving their views and convictions 
upon the whole <?ase, the substance of a part of which is 
above enumerated. On the 6th of March preceding the 
final adoption of the majority report adjusting the Jersey 
contest, when the excitement in regard to it was raging 
in its fiercest heat, Mr. Fillmore, while making some 
remarks in reference to the superior claims to seats of 
those embraced in the minorit}^ report, was suddenly 
called to order. Appeal was made to the chair, who 


decided Mr. Fillmore was in order, and had a right to 
proceed with his remarks. The objector appealed from 
this decision of the chair to the members of the house. 
Mr. Fillmore then required the gentleman to reduce his 
point of order to writing, saying that he had been often 
enough put down by a mere numerical force in everything 
relating to this New Jersey election. Gentlemen on the 
other side would hear nothing — see nothing — but would 
decide everything. 

The objector was sustained in his appeal from the 
decision of the chair, and Mr. Fillmore was silenced 
by a numerical force that was determined to over- 
leap all reason, propriety, and fairness, in securing seats 
in Congress for their favorite claimants. As a free- 
man, representing as high-toned a constituency in the 
national Congress as any over which that body exercised 
jurisdiction — one that had proven the highest appreciation 
by his third election as their representative — Mr. Fillmore 
felt indignant at this infringement upon the freedom of 
speech. It was not the first time during the exciting 
Jersey controversy a disposition had been manifested by 
the dominant party to render his talented opposition as 
inefficient as possible, by calls of previous questions and 
resorts to various tricks of legislative chicanery. The 
firm stand he took, on the second day of the session, to 
have the affair investigated by subjecting it to the infalli- 
ble test of law and facts, and his subsequent avowals and 
determined energy to have justice prevail, made him an 
antagonist much to be feared j and the talents they could 


not compete with in argument, they resolved to silence 
by questions of order. Speaking of the unworthy manner 
in which Mr. Fillmore was treated on this occasion, a 
leading paper in New York made the following remarks : 
" When a party or faction, for the time being in the 
majority, are resolved to accomplish merely party objects, 
to break through all rules and trample on the laws and 
rights of the minority, it has always been deemed expedi- 
ent to prostrate. the freedom of speech, in order that the 
enormity of their acts may not be exposed on the spot.. 
This has been eminently the fact in the management of 
the Xew Jersey case in the house of representatives. A 
few days since, Mr. Fillmore, a member of the committee 
on elections, in adxlressing the house, attempted to read 
a resolution passed by the committee, which was decided 
not to be in order. He then attempted to proceed in his 
speech without reading it, and the house decided he had 
lost his right to speak, except by their permission, which 
he scorned to accept, refusing to receive, as a matter of 
grace from a majority, what he claimed as a right.'" 

Mr. Fillmore, after receiving such treatment from the 
house, and seeing the utter hopelessness of being heard 
in the halls of Congress, addressed a letter to his constit- 
uents, in which he went into a detailed elaboration of the 
Jersey case, and all the difficulties connected therewith. 
The letter is an able document, evincing the soundest 
judgment as a legislator, and the wisest patriotism as a 
statesman. The following extracts from it will indicate 
more fully his views in regard to that the most exciting sub 


ject of the twenty-sixth Congress. Speaking of the 
ourageous proceedings of the majority party, he says : 

*' Let us, like true philosophers, draw wisdom from 
this calamity, and turn to that revered charter of our 
liberties and calmly review its provisions, before we con- 
clude its venerated authors contemplated a proceeding 
so revolting and dangerous as that which has just been 
witnessed. The constitution provides that, 1 each house 
shall be the judge of the election returns and qualifica- 
tions of its own members.' It is clear that this clause 
of the constitution created the house a high judicial 
tribunal to hear and finally determine; first, who was 
'elected ;' secondly, who was 'returned ;' thirdly, whether 
the person thus elected and returned possessed the requi- 
site ' qualifications.' I conceive that these three subjects 
of judicial investigation by the house are entirely dis- 
tinct, and that any attempt to confound them must inevi- 
tably lead to confusion and error. 

" It is obvious that one man may be duly elected, by 
receiving the greatest number of legal votes ; and that, by 
some accident or fraud, another may be duly returned ; 
and that a man may be duly elected and returned, and 
yet not be qualified ; for the constitution expressly 
declares, " that no person shall be a representative who 
shall not have attained the age of twenty -five years, and 
been seven years a citizen of the United States; and who 
shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in 
which he shall be chosen.' " 

Mr. Fillmore continues his letter at some considerable 
length, showing that the parties, in the investigation 


raised no questions upon the most important of these 
constitutional requisitions. He shows that their inquiries 
were directed upon the election and return, without any 
attention to qualification whatever. After showing with 
great clearness the partiality evinced in the adjudication 
of the case, and the palpable violations of the constitu- 
tion it developed, he says : 

" I, therefore, submit it to you, as my immediate con- 
stituents, to whom I am responsible for my official act, to 
say whether I have done right in opposing this disorgan- 
izing and unlawful proceeding from the commencement; 
whether I have done right in insisting that the persons, 
only, returned should, in the first instance, take their seats ; 
whether I have done right, after these returns and the 
laws and commissions from the executive of a sovereign 
state were trampled under foot, to insist on a full inquiry 
into all the frauds charged, to ascertain who was elected ; 
and, finally, whether I did right, when I saw the most 
venerated and sacred principle of the constitution about 
to be desecrated, and the right of speech tyrannically 
suppressed, to stand up and resist the despotic assump- 
tion of power to the last." 

His reelection to the next Congress, by a larger majority 
than was ever given in his district to any congressional 
aspirant, told in the plainest terms that he was right. 

Before going into the investigation of Mr. Fillmore's 
career in the twenty-seventh Congress, it is necessary to 
notice briefly the passing current of intermediate events, 
replete with glorious results to our common country, 


but which were afterwards a source of the most mournful 

Another political revolution had swept over the country 
and nipped the opening flower of progressive democracy 
with a withering blight. Van Burenism and the adherent 
principles of the Jacksonian administration had been 
eclipsed by the unprecedented triumph of the hero of 
Tippecanoe. The campaign of 1840, between Harrison 
and Van Buren, was, perhaps, the most exciting that ever 
occurred in our political annals. Unprecedented was 
the intensity of feeling that manifested itself on every 
hill and in every vale of the Union, from Maine to 

Old party lines were destroyed ; the rivalrous feelings 
of factional antagonisms were subdued ; the adherents to 
democratic principles, so long in the ascendant, seemed to 
forget the hero of New Orleans, whose star, though 
resplendent with the halo of ''battle target red," had 
gone down. Men of all parties seemed, for once, to bury 
the animosities of a radical partisanship, " Change,'* 
" change," the evanescence of whose label is stamped upon 
all earthly measures, seemed to be the watchword of each 
battalion, that, to the notes of *' Tippecanoe and hard 
cider," marched into the political battle of 1840. The 
victory was a glorious one ; and, but for the perfidy of a 
partisan Iscariot, would have resulted in a triumphant 
establishment and vindication of conservative, time- 
honored principles. 

Harrison was borae into executive power by the 
mightiest tide of revolution —of prosperity — to the whig 


party that ever swelled the current of national politics 
Whig principles had not only been successful in his 
elevation to the presidency, but were brightly in the 
ascendancy in both branches ' of the national legislature. 
So triumphant had been the revolution, that the veteran 
chief at the head of affairs could looli down through a 
long line of subordinate officials, and see a large majority 
marshaled under the same banner. In Congress, a large 
majority presented an array of patriotic talent, rendered 
courageous by their success, to sustain his administration. 

The senate, reinvigorated by the successful charge led 
by their Clay, stood a Macedonian phalanx around 
their civic chief, ready to vindicate his administration. 
Of this administration the most glorious results had 
been predicted; and, upon the terrific ruins of old institu- 
tions that marked the line of march pursued by Jackson- 
ism, the sage of Ashland thought to build them up again 
in all their primal purity. The great battle of 1840 had 
been fought and won under banners flung to the breeze, 
inscribed with the avowed principles of a party whose 
maturity they presumed would be the result of victory. 
After that victory had perched upon their banners, as the 
surest means of putting those principles into successful 
operation, on the thirty -first of May, 1841, an extra session 
of Congress was called. 

But, before the convention of that Congress that was 
to be a realization of the hopes entertained by the whig 
party, Harrison died, and in his grave was buried the 
prospects of the whig party. Enshrouded in a winding- 
sheet as dark — aye, darker, because it was the blackness of 


treachery — as wrapped their lamented chief, their princi- 
ples were buried. John Tyler, like Judas Iscariot, 
betrayed his master ; and, with a more horrid steel than 
Cascas' blade, murdered the party that placed him in 

Tyler was called President at the time the twenty- 
seventh Congress first met. 

By what right he was so designated, I shall not pre- 
tend to say. By the same right, I presume, the famous 
Captain Kidd retained the name of Captain : he was 
commissioned to clear the seas of pirates ; but, after get- 
ting among them, he buried his Bible, turned pirate him- 
self, and he was still Captain Kidd. In the cases, there 
is certainly some analogy. 

Tyler was commissioned to assist in the promulgation 
of whig principles, and upon the endorsement of those 
principles was elected by his party ; but when he came 
into power, like Kidd, he buried his creed, and plunged 
the stiletto of treason in its heart. The infamous turpi- 
tude of Tyler, in the betrayal of his party, stands a 
blackened monument of political treachery that will tower 
conspicuously through distant ages. And yet he was 
president. But we must discriminate. He was not pres- 
ident by election, nor was he president by the moral force 
of constitutional power. He was elevated to the vice-pres- 
idency by the people ; but to have been president, in the 
true sense of the term, he should have been reelected 
upon the principles he endorsed, after his repudiation of 
those upon whose avowal he was elected. After the 
death of Harrison, the constitution empowered him to 


take his place as president. Did he do it ? He took the 
chair, but murdered his principles ,- instead, therefore, of 
taking the place of Harrison, he took his chair merely } 
and as executive, occupied a position directly opposite to 
him, in the administration of the government. 

The reversional revolution produced by the summerset 
of whig principles, under the treachery of Tyler, was 
almost as dark as the one of Harrison's election was glo- 
rious. The great measures, whose enactment the party 
anticipated with joyous gratification, were knocked off 
under the hammer of his veto with as little hesitancv as- 
though he had been elected for their express repudiation. 
The old Harrison cabinet, who had been selected as a 
body-guard to the principles expected to be carried out 
by the administration, on seeing them cast to the four 
winds, resigned their places with unfeigned disgust. 
The language applied to him by a distinguished gentle- 
man who witnessed* with regret his dastardly conduct, for 
its peculiar applicability is worthy of insertion. Looking 
at the change in the aspect of affairs, and knowing the 
cause was the recreant Tvler, he exclaimed : 

"False to his friends and to himself, he stands before 
the American people as a warning alike in the disinterest- 
edness of a patriot, the fidelity of an associate, and the 
honor of a gentleman." 

One of his earliest measures, after his inauguration, 
was the veto of the bank bill passed by the called 
session. The principle doings of his wrzZ-administration 
consisted in his undoing. The most commendable quality 
he possessed, was a finely developed imbecility. 


The most efficient services he rendered the country, 
were those he withheld. The consistency of his deceit 
was the only spot in his character sufficiently bright to 
be labeled with treason. The only bright sun that shone 
upon his administration was the one that set on its last 
day. Hufus Choate would have to cull the vocabulary 
of language for its most opprobrious epithets, to write an 
eulogy for John Tyler. 

"Is there not some chosen curse, 
Some hidden thunder in the storms of heaven, 
Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man, 
Who owes his greatness to his country's ruin ? '* 

On the assemblage of the twenty-seventh Congress, in 
consequence of the experience and legislative capacity 
evinced on previous sessions, Mr. Fillmore was made 
chairman of the committee on ways and means, by far 
the most responsible position in that body. 

The most important measure of the ever memorable 
twenty-seventh Congress was the passage of the tariff of 
1842. The political revolution that placed the whigs in 
power had made them hope for the establishment of many 
other cherished measures belonging to the old whig creed. 
The bank bill, as we have seen, passed by Congress imme- 
diately after the convention of its extra session was vetoed. 
The distribution of the proceeds of the public lands was 
prevented through the faithless perfidy of the executive. 
Yet, than that body, never were legislators more faith- 
ful. They had been placed in power by the uprising 
masses of a people smarting under the lash of misrule, that 


had marked the course of national officials for the period 
of twelve years. A nobler array of talent and a wiser 
embodiment of patriotism never convened in any con- 
gressional assembly. The vast amount of labor looming 
before them required just such a Congress. Theirs was 
emphaticalh' a business of reconstruction. In 1823, the 
country was in a prosperous condition under the safe guid- 
ance of first principles. Subsequent to that period, " bar- 
gain and intrigue " was saddled upon her purest patriots. 
Old and time-honored institutions were toppled from their 
base, and regal assumptions of power were exercised by 
the national executive : the currency of the country was 
destroyed ; the principles of Washington were forgotten ; 
another race arose up, "who knew not Joseph ;" and in 
their progressive innovations had left a cancerated ulcer 
upon the national system, that had been preying upon 
its yitals for a dozen years, with the most destructive 
yirulence. The business of the present Congress was its 
removal ; to them the people looked with hopeful expect- 
ancy, as the great physician that was to extract the in- 
fectious seeds of extravagance and corruption that had 
found their way into the very heart of the national system, 
and were fast polluting every fibre of its delicately consti- 
tuted organism. The administration of Jackson began 
the work of demolition, and Van Buren, in the development 
and elaboration of his stupendous sub-treasury schemes, 
magnified the ruin. The awful extravagancies of these 
administrations, the despotic assumptions incident to their 
development, and the admirably concocted plans to secure 
payment to all officials, were it not for names, times, and 


places, the student of them would conclude he was read- 
ing the history of some consulate or triumvirate. 

The enormous extravagance of government expendi- 
tures were so unparalleled that serious apprehensions 
were entertained on the part of the people in regard to a 
curtailment of iheir privileges, by the imposition of oner- 
ous taxations to maintain a tyrannous oligarchj^ whose ad- 
hesive principles were the loaves and fishes. With the 
deepest solicitude, then, they looked for an alleviation of 
their distresses to the twenty-seventh Congress. The 
sequel will show they did not looli in vain. The political 
revolution that placed a majority of whigs in the present 
Congress developed a distressing condition of American 
nationality, rarely, if ever, witnessed in times of peace. 
With as little compunction as Csesar did, when, with 
sword in hand, he took the gold from \he Eoman guards 
to aid him in making war against his own commonwealth, 
the treasury had been robbed, and its contents pandered 
to the caprice of a corrupt official crew, until it was al- 
most bankrupt. The old system of protective policy had 
been tattered and torn piece from piece, until but frag- 
mental shreds remained scarce sufficient to indicate its 
once useful proportions. The reservoirs of specie circu- 
lation had, one by one, been eifectually demolished, until 
from the happiest mediums of remittance and circulation, 
we had been hurled into the stagnant consequences of a 
broken-down currency. Commerce, trade, and manufac- 
tures, the great heart of national prosperity, to whose 
healthful pulsation a sound circulative currency is as es- 
sential as is the blood to the life- throb of the human 


heart, in consequence of the destruction of these arterial 
facilities, was in a state of hopeless inactivity. Gloom, 
distress, and national depression stared in the face of the 
twenty-seventh Congress, with the question, "Is there 
no balm in Gilead ? " On that Congress devolved the ar- 
duous task of taking the old ship of state from the high 
and dry strand whereon she was run by Jackson and Van 
Buren, and reconstructing her after the old model. They 
had to pour the elixir of life into a jaundiced nationality, 
and reinvigorate it with healthful vitality. They proved 
themselves worthy; and, with the cooperation of an effec- 
tive chief magistrate, of whom they had been deprived by 
Providence and treachery, they would have relieved the 
public distress entirely. 

As before remarked, the business of this Congress was 
a reorganization of things that had been so transformed 
into a pell-mell, topsey-turvey heterogeneousness, that 
powers, prerogatives, accounts and salaries, were all amal- 
gamated in indiscriminate confusion, without order or 
system. For years, nothing had been fixed or definite — 
salaries and expenditures had been particularly indefinite. 
The progressive rates of extravagant licentiousness devel- 
oped in the few years preceding this Congress would 
have resulted, before now, in the conversion of official 
quarters into sumptuous seraglios. Eight faithfully did 
they commence ihe work of investigation and retrench- 
ment. Mr. Fillmore, from the peculiarity of his position, 
and with a natural acuteness of perception that sees any- 
thing " rotten in Denmark " almost by intuition, was ena- 
bled to assist in discoveries of a startling nature. 


The universal complaint of a financial distress, that 
weighed like an incubus upon all departments of business 
and thrilled them with strokes of incurable paralysis, 
Congress very justly concluded must be attributable to 
some remedial cause. But on investigating the condition 
of the national system, the corruption which they knew 
was preying upon it was seen to have eaten much deeper 
than was imagined. It was an ulcer that would take 
time to heal. They instituted true searching committ-ees 
to ascertain th-e extent of the corruptive influences 
•exerted by the precedent administrations. In this duty, 
these committees were faithful to the veiy letter. 

The first discovery resulting from this scrutiny was the 
economical proceedings of a Van Buren administration, 
Item first, showed two hundred and eighty-seven dollars 
and a quarter for each member's stationery, for a period 
of nine months, in a democratic Congress ; item second, 
showed twenty-five dollars for each member's wafers, for 
the same length of tim.e. These awful expenditures, and 
a perfect recklessness on the part of officials, had pro- 
duced the great financial crisis. 

They greatly diminished the amount of the annual 
appropriations, and boldly marched ahead in the com- 
mendable work of retrenchment. The closer the investi- 
gation, the deeper the infection of licentiousness became 
perceptible. Every department of the whole government 
machinery had become infected. The expenses of the 
government, it was seen, were twice as enormous as they 
had been in former years, and they resolved on efi'ecting a 
reduction to their reasonable limits before the political 


Eobespiere and Danton commenced their Eeign of Ter- 
ror, and raised the guillotine to the head of American 

They spared neither time nor pains in these investiga- 
tions, and counted by thousands in their curtailments of 
all extravagance developed by their scrutin3\ The many 
instances, and the largeness of the amounts lopped off by 
these conservative financial excisors, would swell these 
remarks to too great a length by their enumeration. The 
military expenses were greatly curtailed, and the whole 
system remodeled. 

By reference to the proceedings of that Congress, I find 
that a complete transformation was effected in a little 
time. The navy and the army were recipients of wise 
and judicious legislation ; extra pays, contingent allow- 
ances, and loose means of doing government business, 
were all done away with. Everything, in fact, under- 
went a radical change. In all these reformations, Mr. 
Fillmore, as chairman of the committee of ways and 
means, led the van in the house, and helped to wipe out 
the traces of political vermin that had usurped the offices 
of government for a number of years. 



Tariff of 1842 — A remedy for an existing evil — Protective tariff as 
a feature in politics — Tariff men in all parties — Jackson's views — 
Early statesmen's views — Clay calls it the American system — ■ 
Mr. Fillmore's speech on the Tariff — Conclusions to be drawn 
from his course in regard to the Tariff — His high position in Con- 
gress — The Morse xA.ppropriation — Cave Johnson — Close of his 
congressional career — J. Q. Adams and Mr. Fillmore — Campaign of 
1844 — Prospects of the whig party — Mr. Fillmore urged as a 
candidate for the vice-presidency — Defeat of Clay — Causes which 
led to that result — Mr. Fillmore nominated for governor — 
Letter to Thurlow Weed — Foreign influence — Letter to Henry 
Clay — Extracts showing the cause of defeat — The Comptroller- 
ship — Its arduous duties — His report to the state — Its abihty — 
His sympathy for the sufferers of the Emerald Isle. 

The tariff of 1S42 is too well known to require an 
enumeration of its principles in this connection. Then 
it was regarded a wise measure, and denominated by Mr. 
Clay, The American svstem. The friends of the measure 
were prompted by the immediate remedy for the distress 
of the times, to lend it their support. Like the old bank- 
rupt law enacted by the same session, it was to meet the 
demand of an existing, but very undesirable necessity. 
Mr. Fillmore, though the author of that measure, was not 
ultra, or prompted by any spirit of partisanship, in his 
advocacy of it. He saw the financial distress, and thought 

the measure would be remedial of it, and true to hia 


nature, he wished to test his conviction. The origination 
of that measure by Mr. Fillmore, then, instead of being 
construed into an endorsement of the peculiar views of a 
party in regard to protective policy, should be regarded 
as an earnest desire to remedy the existing evils. Men 
of all parties, from the earliest days of the republic, 
have been friends of a protective policy, though they 
have differed widely in regard to the establishment of 
such systems. It has been a leading feature in the his- 
tory of party politics, from the earliest administrations. 
The country has, time and again, been convulsed with 
disastrous revulsions, that have made the enactment of 
different protective principles imperatively necessary. 
Periods of financial depression have existed, the only rem- 
edial agency of which consisted in certain enactments to 
protect the revenue. These tariffs, and tariff modifica- 
tions, have resulted as did the one of 1842, from the ab- 
solute necessities of Xh^ case. Jackson himself was a 
protectionist, convinced of its propriety from \\i^ wants 
of the country at a particular time. 

The advocacy of a protective tariff has been regarded as 
belonging to the whigs, exclusively, and that measure as 
an article in the whig creed, that received the repudiation 
of all other parties. The following extract of a letter 
from Jackson shows that men may entertain views favor- 
able to protective principles, and not be whigs. It shows, 
from peculiar exigencies, men may advocate such a meas- 
ure, as an immediate operative remedy, without reference 
to the abstract principles involved in it, as a plank in the 
platform of a great party. The letter was written to a 


friend of the General's, in North Carolina, in August, 

*'I will ask, what is the real situation of the agricul- 
turist ? Where has the American farmer a market for his 
surplus produce ? Except for cotton, he has neither a 
foreign nor a home market. Does not this clearly proVe, 
when there is no market at home or abroad, that there is 
too niuch labor employed in agriculture ? Common sense 
at once points out the remedy. Take from agriculture in 
the United States six hundred thousand men, women, and 
children, and you will at once give a market for more 
breadstuffs than all Europe now furnishes us with. 

*' In short, sir, we have been too long subject to the 
policy of British merchants. It is time we should become 
a little more Americamzed, and, instead of feeding 
paupers and laborers of England, feed our own ; or else, 
in a short time, by continuing our present policy, we shall 
be paupers ourselves. 

''It is, therefore, my opinion, that a careful and judi- 
cious tariff is much wanted, to pay our national debt and 
to afford us the means of that defence within ourselves 
on which the safety of our country and liberties depend ; 
and last, though not least, to give a proper distribution of 
our labor, which must prove beneficial to the happiness, 
wealth, and independence of the community. 

" I am very respectfully, your odedient servant, 

** Andrew Jackson." 

Jefferson, and all the early presidents, irrespective of 
party, saw clearly the necessity of establishing some pro 


tective measures, to remed}^ the ctIIs of a defective 
revenue. The frauds practiced for years upon the country 
by foreign speculators, and the imposition of heavy duties 
upon our people, showed to all parties the importance 
of some protective system. From the subjoined remarks 
of Mr. Fillmore, delivered in the advocacy of his bill, it 
"will be seen that, as the originator of it, he took no ultra 
partisan grounds upon the measure whatever. The 
remarks are clearly indicative of the fact, that he viewed 
it as a remedy for existing evils : 

" I prefer my own country to all others, and my opinion 
is that we must take care of ourselves ; and while I 
would not embarrass trade between this and any foreign 
country by any illiberal restrictions, yet, if by legislation 
or negotiation an advantage is to-^be given to one over 
the other, I prefer my own country to all the world besides. 
I admit that duties may be so levied, ostensibly for rev- 
enue, yet designedly for protection, as to amount to pro- 
hibition, and consequently to the total loss of revenue. 
I am for no such protection as that. 1 have no disguise 
of my opinions on this subject. I believe that if all the 
restrictive systems were done away with, here and in 
every other country, and we could confidently rely on 
continued peace, that would be the most prosperous and 
happy state. The people of every country would then 
produce that which their habits, skill, climate, soil, or 
situation enable them to produce to the greatest advan- 
tage ; each would then sell where he could obtain the 
most, and buy where he could purchase cheapest ; and 
thus we should see a trade as free among the nations of 


the ^r^rlJi a3 we now witness among the several states of 
this Jnion. But, however beautiful this may be in theory, 
I look for no such political millennium as this. Wars 
will occur until man changes his nature ; and duties will 
be imposed upon our products in other countries, until 
man shall cease to be selfish, or kings can find a more 
convenient mode of raising revenue than by imposts. 

"These, then, form the true justification for laying du- 
ties in a way to protect our own industry against that of 
foreign nations : First, a reasonable apprehension of 
war — for no nation can always hope to be at peace. If, 
therefore, there is any article that is indispensably neces- 
sary for the subsistence of a nation, and the nation can 
produce it, that nation is not independent if it do not. If 
it is necessary, the production should be encouraged by 
high duties on the imported article. This should be done, 
not for the benefit of persons who may engage in the man- 
ufacture or cultivation of the desired article, but for the 
benefit of the whole community : what though each pays 
a little higher for the article in time of peace than he 
otherwise would , yet he is fully compensated for this in 
time of war. He then has this necessary, of which he 
would be wholly deprived had he not provided for it by a 
little self-sacrifice. We all act upon this principle indi- 
vidually ; and why should we not as a nation? We ac- 
cumulate in time of plenty for a day of famine and dis- 
tress. Every man pays, from year to year, a small sum 
to insure his house against fire, submitting willingly to 
this annual tax, that, when the day of misfortune comes, 
(if come it shall,) the overwhelming calamity of having 


all destroyed mav be mitiirated bv receiving back from 
the insurer a partial compensation for the loss. It is 
upon the same principle that we maintain an army and a 
navy in time of peace, and pour out millions annually for 
their support: not because we want them, but because it 
is reasonable to apprehend that war may come, and then 
they will be wanted ; and it is a matter of economy to pro- 
vide and discipline them in time of peace, to mitigate the 
evils of war when it does come. The same reason re- 
quires us to encourage the production of any indispensable 
article of subsistence. I shall not stop now to inquire 
what these articles are. Every one can judge for himself. 
But that there are manv such, no one can doubt. 

" But I make a distinction between the encouragement 
and protection of manufacturers. It is one thing for the 
government to encourage its citizens to abandon their 
ordinary pursuits and engage in a particular branch of 
industry; and a very different thing whether the govern- 
ment is bound to protect that industry by laws similar to 
those by which it encouraged its citizens to embark in it. 
In the first case there is no obligation on the part of the gov- 
ernment. Its act is entirely voluntary and spontaneous. 
It may or may not encourage the production or manufac- 
ture of a particular article, as it shall judge best for the 
whole community. Before attempting it, the government 
should weigh well the advantages and disadvantages 
which are likely to result to the whole, and not to the 
particular class which may be tempted to engage. If a 
particular branch of industry is so important in its bear- 


ings upon the public wants, on account of its providing 
in time of peace for some necessary article in time of 
war, then, as the strongest advocates of free trade them- 
selves admit, the government may and should legislate 
with a view to encourage its establishment ; and so, like- 
wise, if it be necessary to provide a home market for our 
products in consequence of the prohibitory duties levied 
upon them by foreign countries. But all these are ques- 
tions to be decided according to the circumstances of 
each particular case ; and the decision should be 
made with a view to the benefit of all, and not of a 
few, or of any particular class or section of the country. 
But when the government has decided that it is best to 
give the encouragement, and the citizen has been induced 
by our legislation to abandon his former pursuits, and to 
invest his capital and apply his skill and labor to the pro- 
duction of the article thus encouraged by government, 
then a new question arises — for another party has 
become interested — and that is, whether we will, by our 
subsequent legislation, withdraw our protection from the 
citizen whom we have thus encouraged to embark his all 
in a particular branch of business for the good of the 
public, and overwhelm him with ruin by our unsteady, 
not to say perfidious, legislation. I can consent to no 
such thing. It seems to me to be manifestly unjust. Our 
act in the first instance is free and voluntary. We may 
give the encouragement or not ; but, having given it, the 
public faith is, to a certain extent, pledged. Those who 
have accepted our invitation, and embarked in these new 
pursuits, have done so under the implied promise on our 


part that the encouragement thus given should not be 
treacheroLisly withdrawn, and that we would not tear 
down what we had encouraged them to build up. This I 
conceive to be a just, clear, and broad distinction between 
encouragement beforehand and protection afterward. The 
former is voluntary, depending wholly upon considerations 
of public policy and expediency ; the latter is a matter 
of good faith to those who have trusted to the national 

The high position occupied by Mr. Fillmore in the 
twenty-seventh Congress, and the absolute leadership 
assumed in that body, is evinced by the following letter, 
published in a leading paper of the metropolis. We can 
but think of the "legislative portrait," elsewhere pub- 
lished in this work, while he was a member of the assem- 
bly at Albany, where it was predicted he could never be 
a political leader. Though both letters are highly com- 
mendatory of 3Ir. Fillmore, there is considerable differ- 
ence in their tones ; not more, however, than circum- 
stances justified : 

" Millard Fillmore is the distinguished representative 
from the city of Buffalo, and at present chairman of the 
committee of ways and means, a situation both arduous 
and resposible. He^ stands in the same relation to the 
United States government in the house of representatives 
that the chancellor of the exchequer does to the govern- 
ment, of Great Britain in the houses of Parliament. He 
is emphatically the financial organ of the legislature. In 
the house of representatives all bills affecting the revenue 
originate. These are presented by the ways and means 


committee — matured by it — and its chairman has to 
explain their object and the data upon which they are 
based. He is obliged to make himself thoroughly 
acquainted with the situation of the national treasury ; 
has to examine its details; become familiar with its wants, 
its expenditures, its income, present and prospective ; and 
be ever ready to give the house a full exposition of all 
the measures he may present for consideration. To dis- 
charge the duties which this post enjoins, faithfully, 
requires both physical and mental capacity of a high 
order; and I believe they could not have devolved upon 
an individual better qualified than the subject of this 
notice. In every respect will he be found equal to the 
task assigned him. 

" His judgment is very clear, and he has no emotions 
which ever over-ride it ; is always to be relied upon, and 
whatever he undertakes he will master. He never takes 
a stride without testing his foothold. He belongs to that 
rare class whose merits are developed with every day's 
use ; in whose minds new beauties and new riches are 
discovered as they are examined into. He has a high 
legal reputation ; possesses great industry ; is agreeable 
in conversation, and his information upon general subjects, 
without being profound, is varied and extensive. As a 
shrewd, sagacious politician — by this I do not mean that 
he is particularly skilled in mere partisan strategy — 
there are few men in the country superior to him — per- 
haps none. 



"As a public man, I know of Done — not one — of 
greater promise than Mr. Fillmofe. He has many of the 
highest attributes of greatness, and is still a young man, 
not to exceed forty-one years of age, and must continue 
to rise in public estimation as his character shall be 
developed. He has been a member of Congress some 
six years, and was previously an active member of the 
&tate assembly. As a useful, practical, efficient, and 
enlightened legislator, he has no superior, and very few 
equals among his associates." 

His career in Congress was drawing to a close. As 
indicated above, he had been four sessions a member of 
that body, and served with distinguished ability to the 
country and the greatest credit to himself. The twenty- 
seventh Congress was a very active one ; many useful 
measures had been passed; the sub-treasury act was 
repealed, and useful appropriations had been made. One 
appropriation was made, against much opposition, that 
deserves notice. Prof. Morse was just on the eve of 
making a successful experiment of his telegraph, by put- 
ting a line in operation from Baltimore to Washington 
City. He asked Congress for an appropriation. Much 
depended on his getting it. He was there with scarcely 
a dollar in his pocket, and the lightnings of heaven at 
bav. Mr. Fillmore became his warmest friend, and, 
through the great influence he had with that body, pro- 
cured the Morse appropriation. 

It was violently opposed by many members of the 
house. Cave Johnson was furious at the result, and pub- 
licly declared that the appropriation of the same amount 


by Congress for the purpose of investigating mesmerism, 
would have been more useful. Time has shown who had 
the soundest judgment in regard to it. 

Mr. Fillmore addressed a letter to his constituents, in 
the summer of 1842, containing his determination not to 
be a candidate for reelection. Notwithstanding this let- 
ter, however, he was nominated by acclamation, in their 
ensuing convention. But he adhered to his determina- 
tion. From his letter of declension, the following extracts 
may prove interesting ; 

''Fellow Citizens: Having long since determined 
not to be a candidate for reelection, I have felt that my 
duty to you required that I should give you seasonable 
notice of that determination. The chief causes which 
have brought me to this resolution, being mostly of a 
personal character, are unimportant, and would be unin- 
teresting to you or the public. It is sufficient to say that 
I am not prompted to this course by anything in the 
present aspect of political affairs. Many of you know 
that I desired to withdraw before the last congressional 
election, but, owing to the importance of that contest, 
the desire for unanimity, and the hope that, if the admin- 
istration were changed, I might render some essential 
local service to my district and those generous friends 
who had so nobly sustained our cause, I was induced to 
stand another canvass. But how sadly have all been dis- 
appointed ! How has that sun, which rose in such joyous 
brightness to millions, been shrouded in gloom and sor- 
row ! The lamented Harrison, around whom clustered a 


nation's pra^'ers and blessings, is now no more. For rea- 
sons inscrutable to us, and known only to an all-wise 
Providence, he was cut down in a moment of triumph, 
and in his grave lie buried the long-cherised hopes of a 
suffering nation. 

*Jlr .^ *tt .i^ M, .^ M^ M, 

TP TT «» -TT ^ W ^ ^ 

" It is now nearly fourteen years since you did me the 
unsolicited honor to nominate me to represent you in the 
state legislature. Seven times have I received renewed 
evidence of your confidence, by as many elections, with 
constantly increasing majorities; and, at the expiration of 
my present congressional term, I shall have served you 
three years in the state, and eight years in the national 
councils. I can not call to mind the thousand acts of 
generous devotion from so many friends who will ever be 
dear to my heart, without feeling the deepest emotion of 
gratitude. I came among you a poor and friendless boy. 
You kindly took me by the hand, and gave me your con- 
fidence and support. You have conferred upon me dis- 
tinction and honor, for which I could make no adequate 
return but by an honest and untiring effort faithfully to 
discharge the high trusts which you confided to my keep- 
ing. If my humble efforts have met your approbation, I 
freely admit, that, next to the approval of my own con- 
science, it is the highest reward which I could receive foi 
days of unceasing toil, and nights of sleepless anxiety. 

" I profess not to be above or below the common frail- 
ties of our nature. I will, therefore, not disguise the fact 
that I was highly gratified at my first election to Con- 
gress ; yet I can truly say that my utmost ambition has 


been satisfied. I aspire to nothing more, and shall retire 
from the exciting scenes of political strife to the quiet 
enjoyments of my own family and fireside with still more 
satisfaction than I felt when first elevated to this distin- 
guished station. 

" In conclusion, permit me again to return you my 
warmest thanks for your kindness, which is deeply en- 
graven upon my heart. 

" I remain, sincerely and truly, 

" Your friend and fellow citizen, 

" Millard Fillmore." 

The close of the twenty-seventh Congress placed Mr. 
Fillmore again in retirement. Laden with honors, he re- 
turned to the shades of private life, with the complacent 
consciousness of having done his duty. A number of 
years he had spent in public life, to the entire satisfaction 
of the people. It is a little remarkable that, as much as 
Mr. Fillmore has served in public life, he has never 
given a vote but was approved by his constituents. Of 
his career in Congress, J. Q. Adams bore the following 
testimony : speaking of Mr. Fillmore, he said, he was 
was one of the ablest, most faithful, and fairest-minded 
men with whom it had been his lot to serve in public life. 
Subsequent to that time, Lewis Cass has made some sim- 
ilar expressions, and declared, in substance, that his pa- 
triotism, ability, and correct judgment are above all ques- 
tion. During the summer of Mr. Fillmore's residence at 
home, after the close of his congressional labors, and not 
long before that old and patriot statesman was seized, 


while at his post, in Congress, with a paralysis that ter- 
minated in death, and called from his lips, " I am content," 
J. Q. Adams visited Buffalo. ]\[r. Fillmore was deputed 

by the committee of arrangements, who had made prepa- 
rations to give him a reception. A large concourse of 

people had assembled to witness the occasion. The fol- 
lowing is Mr. Fillmore's address : 

" Sir : I have been deputed by the citizens of this 
place to tender you a welcome to our city. In the dis- 
charge of this grateful duty, I feel that I speak not only 
mv own sentiments, but theirs, when I tell vou that vour 
long and arduous public services — your lofty independ- 
ence — your punctilious attention to business, and, more 
than all, your unsullied and unsuspected integrity, have 
given you a character in the estimation of this republic, 
which calls forth the deepest feelings of veneration and 

" You see around you, sir, no political partisans seeking 
to promote some sinister purpose ; but you see here 
assembled the people of our infant city, without distinc- 
tion of party, sex, age, or condition — all — all anxiously 
vying with each other to show their respect and esteem 
for your public services and private worth. 

*' Here, sir, are gathered in this vast multitude of what 
must appear to you strange faces, thousands whose hearts 
have vibrated to the chord of sympathy which your writ- 
ten speeches have touched. Here is reflecting age, and 
ardent youth, and lisping childhood, to all of whom your 
venerated name is as familiar as household words — all 
anxious to feast their eyes by a sight of that extraordin- 


ary and venerable man of whom they have heard and 
read and thought so much — -all anxious to hear the voice 
of that ' old man eloquent,' on whose lips wisdom has 
distilled her choicest nectar — here, sir, you see them all, 
and read in their eager and joy-gladdened countenances 
and brightly beaming eyes a welcome — a thrice-told, 
heart-felt, and soul-stirring welcome, to * the man whom 
they delight to honor.' " 

The occasion was an interesting one. Mr. Adams, in 
a long life of usefulness to the country, was an impersona- 
tion of the " awful virtues of the Pilgrim fathers." Ven- 
erable and experienced, he had stood on the battle-field 
of many a political struggle. Between him and Mr. Fill- 
more, from the congeniality of their virtuous patriotism 
evinced in years of public service, a warm friendship 
existed. There was a peculiar fitness in Mr. Fillmore 
being selected to deliver the address of welcome. The 
following is from the reply of Mr. Adams : 

" Mr. Fillmore, Mr. Mayor, and Fellow Citizens : 
I must ask your indulgence for a moment's pause to take 
breath. If you ask me why I ask this indulgence, it is 
because I am so overpowered with the eloquence of my 
friend, (the chairman of the committee of ways and 
means, whom I have so long been accustomed to refer to 
in that capacity, that, with your permission, I will con- 
tinue so to denominate him now,) that I have no words 
left to answer him. For so liberal has he been in 
bestowing that eloquence upon me which he himself pos- 
sesses in so eminent a degree that, while he was ascribing 
to me talents so far above my own consciousness in that 


regard, I was all the time imploring the god of eloquence 

to give me, at least at this moment, a few words to justify 

him before you in making that splendid panegyric which 

he has been pleased to bestow upon me ; and that the tlat- 

tering picture which he has presented to 3'ou, may not 

immediately be defaced before your eyes by what you 

should hear from me. 


" I congratulate you again upon your possession of 
another dear and intimate friend of mine, in the person 
of the gentleman who has just addressed me in your 
name, and whom I have taken the liberty of addressing 
as chairman of the committee of ways and means — the 
capacity in which he has so recently rendered services of 
the highest importance to you his constituents, b}^ whose 
favor he was enabled to render them — to us, and our 
common country. And I cannot forbear to express here 
my regret at his retirement in the present emergency from 
the councils of the nation. There, or elsewhere, I hope 
and trust he will soon return ; for, whether to the nation 
or to the state, no services can be, or ever will be, ren- 
dered by a more able or a more faithful public servant." 

The regret expressed by Mr. Adams in the above, at 
Mr. Fillmore's withdrawal from the national councils, 
was universal among all classes of his fellow-citizens. 
He remained true to his purpose. The close of the 
twenty-seventh Congress left him in possession of the 
brightest civic laurels. His political career had been a 
glorious one. He remained, after the close of that Con- 


gress, in tlie shade of private life, and in the duties of 
his profession, until other events called him again to the 
service of his country. 

It is now my duty to notice very briefly another polit- 
ical revolution, pregnant with the most disastrous results, 
one of which was the infliction into the heart of the 
whig party of its eventual death-stab. The whig national 
convention met at Baltimore, for the purpose of nominat- 
ing candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency of 
1844. The result of the deliberations of that convention 
was the selection of Henry Clay, of Kentucky, for pres- 
ident, and Frelinghuysen for vice-president. Clay was 
nominated by acclamation. Never did a party enter a 
political contest more sanguine of success than did the 
whigs in 1844. Never was a nomination more enthusi- 
astically received. From northern New York to the 
Carolinas, a simultaneous outburst of joy arose from the 
ranks of the whig party. Banners were flung to the 
breeze in a thousand cities, and along the line peeans of 
victory were heard, and the blaze of triumph gleamed on 
every countenance. But, fair as were all these indica- 
tions, Clay was beaten. Which were the more surprised 
at this result, the whigs or the democrats, would be diffi- 
cult to say. Among the causes that led to the defeat of 
Henry Clay may be enumerated the annexation question ; 
the bankrupt law ; and the efforts of Cassius M, Clay in 
the north. Tyler had some influence, which he exerted 
against Clay's election. The large amount of abolition 
Totes in the north contributed to his defeat. The want 

of efficient party organization did much harm. The too 


sanguine hopes of the party was another cause j the out- 
bursts of enthusiasm prevented their zealous cooperative 
labors. Corruption, in the large cities, at the ballot-box 
exerted considerable influence. These are some of the 
minor causes that led to the defeat of Clay ; but the 
great and true cause was foreign influence. The fraudu- 
lent issue of naturalization papers was developed to an 
alarming extent. In Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, 
Pennsylvania, and New York City, this and other illegal 
means were resorted to, for the purpose of electing 
Polk in 1844. 

At the Baltimore convention Mr. Fillmore was put in 
nomination for the vice-presidency ; it was regarded by 
many as unfortunate that he did not get it. It was well 
known that the result of the presidential election, in 1844, 
depended greatly upon the state of New York. Mr. 
Fillmore was the choice for vice-president throughout 
that state. On the ticket with Clay, the state, it was 
thought, could have been carried. Disappointed in their 
desires to place him before the people as a candidate for 
the vice-presidency, the voters of New York, of his party, 
were unanimous in their wishes to place him on the ticket 
as candidate for governor. Mr. Fillmore felt no desire to 
engage in political struggles, and expressed himself 
opposed to complying with the wishes of the people. 
The following extracts from a letter published in the 
Albany Journal, edited by Thurlow Weed, shows his 
feelings in regard to the gubernatorial canvass of 1844,' 


New York, May 16th, 1844. 
Thurlow Weed, Esq. — My Dear Sir: Being here 
in attendance upon the supreme court, my attention has 
been called to an article in your paper of the 8th instant, 
and to some extracts from other journals in yours since 
that time, in which my name is mentioned as a candidate 
for nomination to the gubernatorial office in this state. 
You do me the justice to say that * I have never desired 
the office of governor, though I admit the right of the 
people to the services of a public man in any station they 
may think proper to assign him.' My maxim has always 
been that individuals have no claim upon the public for 
official favors, but that the public has a right to the ser- 
vice of any and all of its citizens. This right of the 
public, however, must in some measure be qualified by the 
fitness and ability of the person whose services may be 
demanded for the station designed, and the propriety of 
his accepting the trust can only be properly determined 
when all his relations, social and political, are taken into 
account. Of the former, I am ready to concede that the 
public must be the proper and only judge. In regard to 
the latter, the individual himself has a right to be consulted. 
These notices of the public press are from such sources, 
and so flattering, as to leave no doubt either of the sin- 
cerity or friendship of the authors. And the office itself, 
in my estimation, is second in point of dignity, honor, and 
responsibility only to that of president of the United 
States. When we reflect that it has been held by a Jay, 
a Tompkins, and a Clinton, who in the discharge of its 


various and responsible duties, acquired a fame that has 
connected them with the history of our country, and ren- 
dered their names immortal, all must agree that its honors 
are sufficient to satisfy the most lofty ambition. For my- 
self, I can truly say, that they are more than I ever 

aspired to. 

* » * » # # f» 

** But the whig party of this state now presents an array 
of talent and of well-tried political and moral integrity 
not excelled by that of any state of the Union. From 
this distinguished host it can not be difficult to se- 
lect a suitable candidate for the office of governor — 
one who is capable, faithful, true to the cause and the 
country, and who will call out the enthusiastic support of 
the whole whig party. To such a candidate I pledge in 
advance my most hearty and zealous support. Let us 
add his name to those of Clay and Frelinghuysen, and 
our success is certain. 

" But while I thus withdraw from competition for the 
honors, be assured that I do not shrink from the labors or 
responsibilities of this great contest. We have a work to 
perform in this state which calls for the united effort and 
untiring exertion of every true whig. Here the great 
battle is to be fought. For myself, I am enlisted for the 
war. Wherever I can be of most service, there I am 
willing to go ; I seek no distinction but such as may be 
acquired by a faithful laborer in a good cause. I ask no 
reward but such as results to all from a good government 
well administered ; and I desire no higher gratification 


than to witness the well merited honors with which victory 
will crown my numerous whig friends. 

" I am truly yours, 

<' Millard Fillmore." 

But, notwithstanding the reasons advanced in the fore- 
going letter, and the unequivocally expressed preference 
to remain in private life, he was nominated by the state 
convention for governor, by acclamation. The pride they 
felt in presenting him as the candidate of their choice, is 
evinced in the following resolution, adopted among others 
by that convention : 

"Eesolved, that we announce to the people of this 
great commonwealth, with peculiar and triumphant satis- 
faction, the name of our candidate for the chief magistracy 
of the state — a nomination which we were called together 
not to suggest but to declare, as the previously expressed 
will of the people — a nomination which we have there- 
fore made unanimously without a moment's deliay, and 
without a thought of dissent — and that we rejoice in the 
opportunity thus to show a grateful people's high appre- 
ciation of the modest worth, the manly public virtue, the 
spotless integrity, and unchangeable fidelity of that emi- 
nent champion of whig principles, the dauntless vindicator 
of the outraged popular suffrage in the case of the insulted 
'broad seal' of New Jersey in 1850, the valiant and vic- 
torious leader of the patriotic whigs of the immortal 
twenty-seventh Congress in their long and trying warfare 
against corruption and despotism, the laborious author 
and eloquent defender^ of the whig tariff — Millard 


Mr. Fillmore was beaten and shared the general fate 
of whig principles in 1844. The same agencies enumer- 
ated in the causes of Clay's defeat, had been actively 
worked against Mr. Fillmore. This is the only instance 
in which Mr. Fillmore has ever known defeat, and to him, 
so far as he was concerned personally, it was no source 
of regret ; but the great pang to him was, it sealed the 
doom of Henry Clay. Depressed under a consciousness 
of this fact, immediately after the result, he wrote the fol- 
lowing letter to Mr. Clay : 

"Buffalo, November 11th, 1844. 

" My Dear Sir : I have thought, for three or four days, 
that I would write you, but really I am unmanned. I 
have no courage or resolution. All is gone. The last 
hope, which hung first upon the city of New York and 
then upon Virginia, is finally dissipated, and I see nothing 
but despair depicted on every countenance. 

" For myself I have no regrets. I was nominated 
much against my will, and though not insensible to the 
pride of success, yet I feel a kind of relief at being 
defeated. But not so for you or for the nation. Every 
consideration of justice, every feeling of gratitude con- 
spired in the minds of honest men to insure your election ; 
and though always doubtful of my own success, I could 
never doubt yours, till the painful conviction was forced 
upon me. 

" The abolitionists and foreign catholics have defeated 
us in this state. I will not trust myself to speak of the 
vile hyprocrisy of the leading abolitions now. Doubtless, 


many acted honestly but ignorantly in what they did. 
But it is clear that Birney and his assaciates sold them- 
selves to locofocoism, and they will doubtless receive 
their reward. 

" Our opponents, by pointing to the native Americans 
and to Mr. Frelinghuyscn, drove the foreign catholics 
from us, and defeated us in this state. 

'' But it is vain to look at the causes by which this 
infamous result has been produced. It is enough to say 
that all is gone, and I must confess that nothing has hap- 
pened to shake my confidence in our ability to sustain a 
free government so much as this. If with such issues 
and such candidates as the national contest presented, we 
can be beaten, what may we not expect ? A cloud of 
gloom hangs over the future. May God save the country, 
for it is evident the people will not." 

We have stated that the main cause of these defeats 
were the effects of foreign influence ; in support of this 
assertion, read the following extracts of letters to Mr. 
Clay immediately afterwards, by distinguished gentlemen, 
and notice the corroborative evidence contained in the 
foregoing letter, from Mr. Fillmore himself: 

From Ambrose Spencer, of New "York : 

" The foreign vote destroyed your election. * * * 
One sentiment seems to prevail universally, that the nat- 
uralization laws must be altered ; that they must be re- 
pealed, and the door forever shut on the admission of 
foreigners to citizenship, or that they undergo a long pro- 
bation. I am for the former. 

^' The Germans and Irish are in the same category ; 


those who know not our language, and are as ignorant as 
the lazzaroni of It^ly, can never understandingly exercise 
the franchise ; and the other, besides their ignorance, are 
naturally inclined to go with the loafers of our population." 

From Philip Hone, of New York city : 

" Foreigners who have 'no lot or inheritance' in the 
matter, have robbed us of our birth-right, the ' sceptre 
has departed from Israel.' Ireland has re-conquered the 
country which England lost ; but never suffer yourself to 
believe that a smgle trace of the name of Henry Clay is 
obliterated from the swelling hearts of the whigs of New 

From John H. Westwood, of Baltimore : 

" It was foreign influence, aided by the Irish and Dutch 
vote, that caused our defeat. As a proof, in my native 
city alone, in the short space of two months there were 
over one thousand naturalized. Out of this number, nine- 
tenths voted the loco-foco ticket. Thus men who could 
not speak our language were made citizens and became 
politicians too, who, at the polls were the noisy revilers 
of your fair fame. Thus you have been well rewarded 
for the interest yon ever took for the oppressed of other 
nations. Notwithstanding the ingratitude of the Irish 
and German voters, if the abolitionists of New York had 
done their duty, all would have been weU." 
From Mr. Frelinghuysen, of New- Jersey : 
" The foreign vote was tremendous. More than three 
thousand, it is confidently said, have been naturalized in 
this city, (New-York) alone, since the first of October. 
It is an alarming fact, that this foreign vote has decided 


the great questions of American policy, and counteracted 
a nation's gratitude." 

These extracts, showing the great cause to which the 
disastrous results of 1844 were attributable, are fully 
corroberated by numerous other letters from distinguished 
men from all parts of the Union, to Mr. Clay. By refe- 
rence to Colton's life and times of Henry Clay, many 
letters of the above nature are found, 'but we have pub- 
lished enough for our purpose. The conclusions naturally 
arrived at, at this time, by the perusal of the above 
extracts, are connected with the formation of a great 
American party. These letters are suggestive of an im- 
perative necessity of a resort to some national step to 
counteract the pernicious effect of foreign influence. But 
more of this in the proper place. 

In 1847 Mr. Fillmore was elected to the comptroller- 
ship of the state of New York, by a large majority. He 
endeavored by every means in his power to refuse the 
solicitations of his fellow citizens to become an incum- 
bent of that office, and when he eventually signified his 
acceptance it was with extreme reluctance. As superin- 
tendent of the bank department in the Empire State of the 
"Union, the duties devolving upon him were numerous and 
of the most onerous nature. Over the various funds 
belonging to the state, he exercised entire control, as being 
at the head of her finance. The plain, matter-of-fact, 
practical qualities of Mr. Fillmore's mind, and his untir- 
ing industry, eminently qualified him to fill that office 
with service to the country, and credit to himself. The 

precise accuracy of all his calculations rendered him 


well fitted for the discharge of the duties of an office 
exclusively financial in its nature. The following let- 
ter, published in one of the ablest conducted papers of 
the state, indicates both the nature of these duties, and 
the faithful manner in which they were discharged : 

" There is no officer of the state whose duties and pow- 
ers are so diversified, so extensive, and complicated, as 
those of the comptroller ; nor is there any who is placed 
in a more commanding position for exercising a political 
influence. From a simple auditor of accounts, and a 
watch upon the treasury, he has sprung up into an officer 
of the first eminence in the administration ; supplanting, 
by degrees, some departments which were once of equal, 
if not higher, regard, as auxiliaries and advisers of the 
executive power. He is the one-man of the government. 
He is not simply an officer, but a bundle of officers. 
There is hardly a branch of the administration of which 
he is not a prominent member — so prominent, in some 
cases, that the affairs of that branch cannot be conducted 
without his actual presence, although personally, he may 
be a minority of those having it in charge. He is the 
chief of the finances ; the superintendent of the banks ; 
and the virtual quorum of the commissioners of the canal 
fund, with all the power which such a position gives him 
in the canal board. While other state departments have 
no more than maintained their original sphere of authority, 
or have suffered material diminution, particularly of influ- 
ence, the office of the comptroller has been a favorite of 
the legislature, and the chief object of its confidence, 


•entrusted with high, if not extraordinary, powers of 

" To form an adequate idea of the mass of duty he has 
in charge, it is necessary not only to survey the summary 
contained in the revised code of our laws, but to trace 
out the statutes from year to year ; to review the reports 
of his office ; and to follow him and his numerous assist- 
ants in the actual discharge of their various labors in the 
financial, banking, and tax bureaus of his department. 
But it is inconsistent with the designed brevity of these 
papers to enter into the details which alone can convey a 
suitable notion of the magnitude and responsibility of his 
tTUst and influence. As the department is now organized, 
it ^is overgrown and cumbersome ; and to perform with 
intelligence and conscientiousness, without error or delay, 
all its requisite offices of supervision and of action, 
requires the sight of an Argus, with his hundred eyes, 
and the activity of a Briareus, with his hundred hands." 

Herein consists the infinite advantages of having such 
men as Mr. Fillmore for public servants — plain, business, 
practical men. In every capacity in which Mr. Fillmore 
has been placed, he has proven himself to be a working 
man. Such men are of practical utility to the country. 
This office of comptroller was one which required those 
peculiar kind of talents which Mr. Fillmore possessed to 
such an eminent degree. In all the duties he has had to 
discharge, the greatest amount of labor to be accom- 
plished in the least time, has been his desire. Instead of 
laboring for display and show, he has labored to be use- 
ful. In his speeches, he says as little as possible, and says 


it as plain as possible. In his writings he is careful to 
make everything plain and accurate. The faithful and 
correct performance of duty in any and all stations, has 
been the great aim of his life. The report he made, as 
comptroller of the state, showed the exact condition of 
the finances, exhibited with mathematical precision. Much 
clearness and financial capacity is exhibited in the comp- 
troller's report, prepared by Mr. Fillmore. The very 
great amount of attention he devoted to the duties of the 
office is clearly indicated in the report of its condition. 
The following is a portion of the report : 

" The comptroller believes that the safest way to make 
a sound paper currency is to have, at all times, ample se- 
curity for its redemption in the possession of the state. 
In order to make this security ample, it should be not 
only sufficient in amount, but should be of such a nature 
that it may be readily converted into cash without loss. 
It is not enough that the security be ultimately good or 
collectable; delay in redeeming the circulation causes it 
to depreciate, and is almost as fatal to the poor man who 
cannot wait, as ultimate insolvency. He becomes at once 
the victim of the broker. 

"A bond and mortgage may be good — that is the 
whole amount secured by them may be collectable ; but 
the bill-holder can not wait for this. They must be con- 
vertible into cash by sale; and if, for any reason, this can 
not be done, they are not of that kind of security which 
should be required. All the experience of this depart- 
ment shows that bonds and mortgages are not the best 
security for this purpose, and while better security can be 


had, it is deeply to be regretted tliat they were ever re- 
ceived. The apprehension that there may be a defect of 
title, that the lands niortgaged may have been appraised 
tod high, or that there may be some legal defence to a 
suit of foreclosure, all conspire to depreciate their value 
in the estimation of purchasers, when offered for sale at 
auction on the failure of a bank. 

"Capitalists are cautious about purchasing, and the 
consequence is that they have sometimes sold for less 
than twenty per cent, on the amount received by them ; 
and the average amount for which all have been sold, for 
the last ten years, is only thirty-seven and seventy-one 
hundredths per cent., while the average amount for which 
the five per cent, stocks of this state have sold is ninety- 
two and eighty-six one-hundredths per cent., or ninety-two 
dollars and eighty-six one hundredths for every hundred 
dollars of stock. This shows that a six per cent, stock, 
such as is now required, would doubtless have sold at 
par, and the bill-holder would have received dollar for 
dollar for the circulation. 

" Should the country remain at peace, it can not be 
doubted that the stocks of the United States will be a 
safe and adequate security. The comptroller would, 
therefore, recommend that the law be so changed as to 
exclude bonds and mortgages from all free banks which 
shall hereafter commence business, and to prevent the 
taking of any more from those now in operation, and to 
require that ten per cent, per annum of those now held 
as security be withdrawn, and their places supplied by 
stocks of this state, or of the United States. If this 


recommendation be adopted, at the end of ten years the 
whole security will be equal to a six per cent, stock of 
this State, or of the United States, which it is presumed 
will be ample security for the redemption of all bills in 

** Could this system of banking be generally adopted in 
the several states, it can hardly be doubted it would prove 
highly beneficial. It would create a demand for their 
own state stocks. The interest paid upon them would be 
paid to their own citizens. Every man who held a bank- 
note, secured by such stock, would have a direct interest 
in maintaining inviolate the credit of the state. The 
blasting cry of repudiation would never again be heard, 
and the plighted faith of the state would be as sacred as 
national honor ; and lastly, it would give them a sound 
and uniform currency. 

" If then, in addition to this, Congress would authorize 
such notes as were secured by stocks of the United States 
to be received for public dues to the national treasury, 
this would give to such notes a universal credit, coextens- 
ive with the United States, and leave nothing further to 
be desired in the shape of a national paper currency. 
This would avoid all objection to a national bank, by 
obviating all necessity for one, for the purpose of furnish- 
ing a national currency. The national government might 
be made amply secure. The law might provide that all 
bills secured by United States stock should be registered 
and countersigned in the treasury department, as the notes 
circulated by the banks in this state are registered and 
countersigned in this office. This would enable every 


collector, postmaster, or other receiver of public moneys, 
to know that they were receivable for public dues. 

" The stock of the United States by which their re- 
demption was secured, might be so transferred to the 
state officer holding the same, that it could not be sold or 
transferred by him without the assent of the secretary of 
the treasury ; and, in case of the failure of the bank to re- 
deem its notes, it might be optional with the secretary of 
the treasury to exchange the notes held by the govern- 
ment for an equal amount of United States stock held for 
their redemption, or let it be sold and receive the govern- 
ment's share of the dividends. In this way the national 
government would always be secure against loss. 

" But this suggestion is foreign from the chief object 
of this report, and is merely thrown out to invite attention 
to the subject. But in conclusion, the comptroller has no 
hesitation in recommending that the free bank system be 
modified in the particulars above suggested, and that it 
be then adopted, in preference to the safety-fund system, 
as the banking system of this state. 

" It can not be supposed that the banking under this 
system will be as profitable as it has been under the 
safety-fund system. It is therefore desirable that every 
facility should be given to capitalists who engage in it 
that can be granted consistent with the security of the 
public, and that no unreasonable or unjust system of tax- 
ation should be adopted which discriminates invidiously 
against them ; but persons engaged in banking should be 
taxed like all other citizens." 

It was about this time when the calamitous results of 


famine were sweeping over the land of Erin, and philan- 
thropy was appealing across the waters to the humane 
feelings of Americans, for their manifestations of liberality 
in behalf of the suflPerers. 

These appeals were not made in vain to a people ever 
alive to the dictates of an active benevolence. Meetings 
were held all over the land, and the most munificent spirit 
of liberality prevailed throughout the entire Union. 
Among the places of the North that responded with open 
hands and hearts to her distressing appeal was the gener- 
Dur city of Buffalo. A meeting was held in that place 
expressive of their sympathy for the sufferers of the 
Emerald Isle. Mr. Fillmore, ever alive to the calls 
of humanity, addressed a letter upon that subject, 
expressive of entii'e approval of the spirit manifested in 
their behalf, and breathing the purest sentiments of 



Another national conyention — Great changes — Military glory — 
General Taylor nominated for the presidency — Millard FillmorD 
for the vice-presidency — Their election — Sketch of the U. S. 
Senate — Illustrious names — Cahfornia asks admission — Section- 
ahsm in the senate — One man at the head — The " omnibus 
bill " — Death of President Taylor — Mr. Fillmore communicates 
the fact to the senate ^-Proceedings of the two houses — Mr. 
Fillmore takes the oath — Assumes the chief magistracy — 
Funeral obsequies. 

During the time he was incumbent of the comptroller- 
ship another whig national convention assembled at Phil- 
adelphia, for the purpose of selecting political standard- 
bearers for the campaign of 1848. Previous to the 
assemblage of that convention, much had been said in 
regard to the presidential candidate. Great changes had 
taken, place since it met four years before. War had 
raged with a neighboring nation, and victory perched 
upon the banners that waved in triumph over the peaks of 
the Cordilleras. Texas had come into the Union as a 
state, and the territorial acquisition of California had 
fringed that side of our possession with its golden colors. 
Banks and bank excitements had been silenced in the din 
of progress. The sage of Ashland had been defeated. 
The fame of Taylor had dazzled, on the fields of Palo 
Alto, the heights of Monterey, and rose to its acme at 
Buena Vista. Scott had placed the American flag upon 
the heights of San Juan d' Ulloa, flashed like a meteor 


over the crests of Oerro Gordo, Molina Del Rey, and 
created his trophies in the halls of the Montezumas. 
The proud Tlascalan's land, the domain of the Aztecs, 
had submitted to the American arms. These two heroes 
circled in the halo of military fame, were looked upon 
\ with a view to the presidency. A strong feeling prevailed 
throughout the country favorable to Taylor ; but so much 
of his life had been spent in the field and around the 
eamp fire, that they were ignorant of his political creed, 
or whether he had any creed other than pertained to mil- 
itary tactics. The following letter in reply to previous 
Inquiries on the subject, which was circulated throughout 
the country, was far from being satisfactory upon the 
subject of his political faith : 

"Baton Eouge, La., January 30th, 1848. 
*' Sir : In reply to your inquiries, I have again to 
repeat, I have neither the power nor the desire to dictate 
to the American people the exact manner in which they 
should proceed to nominate candidates for the presidency 
of the United States. If they desire such a result, they 
must adopt the means best suited, in their opinion, to the 
consummation of the purpose ; and if they think fit to 
bring me before them for this oflBce, through their legis- 
lature, mass meetings, or conventions, I can not object 
to their designating these bodies as whig, democrat, or 
native. But in being thus nominated, I must insist on 
the condition — and my position on this point is immuta- 
ble — that I shall not be brought forward as the candidate 
of their party, or considered as the exponent of their party 


" In conclusion, I have to repeat, that if I were nomi- 
nated for the presidency, by any body of my fellow 
citizens, designated by any name they might choose to 
adopt, I should esteem it an honor, and should accept 
such nomination, provided it had been made entirely 
independent of party considerations. 

" I am, sir, very respectfully, 

" Your obedient servant, 

" Z. Taylor. 
Peter S. Smith, Esq., Philadelphia." 


The following, known as the Allison letter, is. a little 
more explicit : 

" I will proceed now to respond to your inquiries : 

" 1. I reiterate what I have so often said : I am a 
whig. If elected, I would not be the mere president of 
a party. I would endeavor to act independent of party 
dominion. I should feel bound to administer the govern- 
ment untrameled by party schemes. 

" 2. The Veto Power. The power given by the con- 
stitution to the executive to interpose his veto is a high 
conservative power ; but, in my opinion, should never be 
exercised except in cases of clear violation of the consti- 
tution, or manifest haste and want of consideration by 
Congress. Indeed, I have thought that for many years 
past the known opinions and wishes of the executive have 
exercised undue and injurious influence upon the legisla- 
tive department of the government ; and for this cause I 
have thought that our system was in danger of undergo- 
ing a great change from its true theory. The personal 


opinions of the individual who may happen to occupy 
the executive chair ought not to control the action of 
Congress upon questions of domestic policy ; nor ought 
* his objections to be interposed where questions of consti- 
tutional power have been settled by the various depart- 
ments of government, and acquiesced in by the people, 

" 3. Upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the 
improvement of our great highways, rivers, lakes, and 
harbors, the will of the people, as expressed by their re- 
presentatives in Congress, ought to be respected and 
carried out by the executive." 

One point was pretty well settled by the above letter, 
viz., that if he was a military chieftain, in case of his 
election to the presidency, he would not be a Jackson, 
and in the assumption of the regal powers of the execu- 
tive, forget the democratical ones of Congress. 

Taylor, Scott, Clay, Webster, McLean, and Clayton, 
were presented before the convention as candidates for 
the presidency. On the fourth ballot Taylor was declared 
the nominee of the convention, over Scott, Clay, and 
Webster — McLean and Clayton being scarcely con- 
sidered. After the selection of a candidate for president, 
Millard Fillmore and the late Abbott Lawrence were put 
in nomination for the vice-presidency. On the second 
ballot, Mr. Fillmore was declared the nominee, having re- 
ceived more votes than were given to Taylor. This an- 
nouncement was received with unbounded delight. Proud 
of Fillmore, New York had long been advocating his 
claims to that office ; a happier selection could not have 
been made. Mr. Fillmore was informed of the result of 


the Philadelphia convention, and made the following 
reply : 

^* Albany, N. Y., June 17th, 1848. 

" Sir : — I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of 
your letter of the 10th inst., by which I am notified that 
at the late whig convention held at Philadelphia, Gen. 
Zachary Taylor was nominated for president, and myself 
for vice-president, and requesting my acceptance. 

" The honor of being thus presented by the distinguished 
representives of the whig party of the Union for the 
second office in the gift of the people — an honor as un- 
expected as it was unsolicited — could not fail to awaken 
grateful emotions, which, while they can not be sup- 
pressed, find no appropriate language for utterance. 

" Fully persuaded that the cause in which we are en- 
listed is the cause of the country ; that our chief object is 
to secure peace, preserve its honor, and advance its pros- 
perity- and feeling, moreover, a confident assurance that 
in General Taylor, whose name is presented for the first 
office, I shall always find a firm and consistent whig, a 
safe guide and an honest man, I can not hesitate to as- 
sume any position which my friends may assign me. 

" Distrusting, as I well may, my ability to discharge 
satisfactorily the duties of that high office, but feeling 
that in case of my election, I may with safety repose 
upon the friendly aid of my fellow whigs, and that efi"orts 
guided by honest intentions will always be charitably 
judged, I accept the nomination so generously tendered, 
and I do this the more cheerfully, as I am willing, for 
such a cause and with such a man, to take my chances of 



success or defeat, as the electors, the final arbiters of our 
fate, shall, in their wisdom, judge best for the interests of 
our country. • 

" Please accept the assurance of my high regard and 
esteem, and permit me to subscribe myself 

" Your frieud and fellow citizen,- 

"Millard Fillmore." 

The result of this nomination was an election by a 
large majority. 

Cass and Butler, the democratic candidates, were beaten 
by thirty-six electoral votes, Mr. Fillmore was immedi- 
ately, after this result became known, honored in New 
York City by the general committee, giving him their 
congratulations, and an address through their chairman. 
In a private letter, written immediately afterwards, Mr. 
Fillmore makes the following remarks : 

" The cordiality and unanimity with which the whig 
ticket has been sustained everywhere, north and south, 
east and west, is a just cause of national felicitation. It 
proves that the great whig party is truly a national 
party — that it occupies that safe and conservative ground 
which secures to every section of the country all that it 
has a right to claim under the guarantee of the constitu- 
tion — that such rights are inviolate — and as to all other 
questions of mere policy, where Congress has the consti- 
tutional right to legislate, the will of the people, as ex- 
pressed through their representatives in Congress, is to 
control, and that will is not to be defeated by the arbi- 
trary interposition of the veto power. 


" This simple rule, which holds sacred all consiituiional 
guarantees, and leaves the law-making power where the 
constitution placed it, in Congress, relieves the party at 
once from all the embarrassing questions that arise out of 
sectional differences of opinion, and enables it to act har- 
moniously for the good of the country. When the presi- 
dent ceases to control the law-making power, his Individ 
ual opinions of what the law ought to be, become com- 
paratively unimportant. Hence we have seen General 
Taylor, though attacked as a slaveholder and a pro-slavery 
man at the north, cordially supported and triumphantly 
elected by men opposed to slavery, in all its forms ; and 
though I have been charged at the south, in the most 
gross and wanton manner, with being an abolitionist and 
an incendiary, yet the whigs of the south have cast these 
calumnies to the winds, and, without asking or expecting 
any thing more than what the constitution guarantees to 
them on this subject, they have yielded to me a most 
hearty and enthusiastic support. This was particu- 
larly so in New Orleans, where the attack was most 

"Eeally, these southern whigs are noble fellows 
Would you not lament to see the Union dissolved, if 
for no other cause than that it separated us from such 
true, noble, and high-minded associates 1 But I regard 
this election as putting an end to all ideas of disunion. It 
raises up a national party, occupying a middle ground, 
and leaves the fanatics and disunionists, north and south, 
without the hope of destroying the fair fabric of our con- 
stitution. May it be perpetual !" 


Let the attention of all parties, in both extremes of our 
union, be called to the noble, patriotic sentiments con- 
tained in the foregoing. Hen of the south, let them sink 
into your hearts and become impressed upon your minds. 

"Eeally, these southern v/higs are noble fellows. 
Would you not lament to see the Union dissolved, if 
for no other cause thsfn that it separated us from such 
true, noble, and high-minded associates 1 " 

Look again at the closing sentence of this patriotic let- 
ter. It was a private letter, never intended for the pub- 
lic eye ; hence, it must be admitted as a true index of the 

Mr. Fillmore resigned the comptrollership in rebruar5% 
1849, to assume the responsible duties of the vice-presi- 
dency, and on the fifth of March was inaugurated as the 
Incumbent of that office. The occasion was one of 
solemnity and importance. Vast multitudes assembled 
at the capitol to witness the ceremony. The following 
are Mr. Fillmore's remarks to the senate on the occasion : 

" Senators : Never having been honored with a seat 
on this floor, and never having acted as the presiding offi- 
cer of any legislative body, you will not doubt my sincer- 
ity, when I assure you that I assume the responsible du- 
ties of this chair, with a conscious want of experience, and 
a just appreciation that I shall often need your friendly 
suggestions, and more often your indulgent forbearance. 
I should, indeed, feel oppressed and disheartened, did I 
not recollect that the senate is composed of eminent 
statesmen, equally distinguished for their high intellec- 
tual endowments and their, amenity of manners, whose 


persuasive elof[uenc« is so happily tempered with habitual 
courtesy, as to relieve your presiding officer from all that 
would be paiuful in the discharge of his duty, and render 
his position as agreeable as it must be instructive. 

" Thus encouraged and sustained, I enter upon the 
duties assigned me, firmly resolved to discharge them 
with impartiality, and to the best of my ability. But I 
should do injustice to the grateful emotions of my own 
heart, if I did not, on this occasion, express my warmest 
thanks for the distinguished honor that has been con- 
ferred upon me, in being called by the voice of the nation 
to preside over your deliberations. 

" It will not, I trust, be deemed inappropriate to congrat- 
ulate you on the scene now passing before us. I allude 
to it in no partisan aspect, but as an ever-recurring event 
contemplated by the constitution. Compare the peace- 
ful changes of chief magistrate of this republic with the 
recent sanguinary revolutions in Europe. 

*' There the voice of the people has only been heard 
amid the din of arms and the horrors of domestic con- 
flicts ; but here, in our own favored land, under the guid- 
ance of our constitution, the resistless will of the nation 
has, from time to time, been peaceably expressed, by the 
free will of the people, and all have bowed in obedient 
submission to their decree. 

" The administration which but yesterday wielded the 
destinies of this great nation, to-day quietly yields up its 
power, and, without a murmur, retires from the capitol. 

" I congratulate you senators, and I congratulate my 
country, upon these oft-recurring and cheering evidences 



of our capacity for self-government. Let us hope that 
the sublime spectacle we now witness may be repeated 
as often as the people shall desire a change of rulers, 
and that this venerated constitution, and this glorious 
Union may endure forever." 

At the time this administration came into power, many 
changes had just taken place of no ordinary nature, and 
numerous discordant elements were about wrapping the 
political horizon in a blaze of fire. It was on the eve of 
the fierce struggle relating to the balance of power, 
between the slaveholding states of the south', and the 
non-slaveholding states of the north. Secession conven- 
tions were being held in the south, and anti-slavery meet- 
ings in the north. Led by Ehett, Sharkey, and others, 
the southern secessionists were fomenting the wildest 
excitements, and were beginning to advocate disunion. 
Headed bv Hale and others, the anti-slaverv adherents 
of the north were creating animosity of the bitterest 
nature, and saying to slavery, " Thus far and no farther 
shalt thou come." 

Disunion conventions were beginning to be agitated, 
and the southern disunionists subsequently met in con- 
vention, in the city of Nashville, with delegated repre- 
sentatives from most of the southern states. The whole 
political organism had begun to rock and heave with con- 
vulsive throes, preceding the mighty shock that was to 
pour its eruptive lava upon the green vales of union. 
Lightnings of fanaticism flashed in the heavens, and the 
muttering thunders of the approaching storm rolled their 
awful peals in the dititance. Quick, and wild with the 


fitful blaze of exciteinent, the national leaders looked on 
each other as rivals instead of colleagues, and kindled 
instead of allayed the furies of the coming crisis. Sec- 
tional strifes and fanatical discords of different natures, 
diffused with the most rancorous irritation, sparkled their 
fierceness from under the panoply of the Wilmot Proviso. 
It was on the eve of the mighty storm, pregnant with 
such fearful bolts, that Mr. Fillmore assumed the speak- 
ership of the senate. 

Let us glance, for a moment, at the elements of that 
august body, over which he had to preside. There was 
the venerable Clay, who had for years been woven with 
his country, by the web of destiny. From Ashland he 
bent his steps again to the scenes of his early triumphs. 
Though venerable in years, he was an intellectual giant 
that nothing could overcome. Curtius-like, he had gone 
there to throw his virtue and patriotism into the breach 
that was opening about his country's capitol, and to die, 
a self-immolated martyr to patriotism. The immortal 
Webster was there, thundering forth his lion-tones of '" I 
know no north, no south," upon the ears of a captive 
senate. Benton was there, enthroned upon " thirty 
years' " experience, a pillar of firmness, fixed as the 
poles. Dickenson was there, with his great perceptive 
powers, to raise his arm and voice for union. The patriot 
Cdss was there, exhibiting the stern inflexibility of jus- 
tice and right. 

J. E. Underwood was there, side by side with Clay, 
throwing his talents into the task of pacification, with a 
spirit of patriotic virtue, true as steel. Footc was there 


the great antagonist of Benton, the Phocion of the 
south. What a seven were these. Imagine them stirred 
into strife, as they were destined to be. Imagine how 
vast the mental volcano, when lit with the phrenzies of 
discord. Imagine how resistless the torrent, when that 
realm of mind boiled over with excitement, and wonder 
how they passed the ordeal of 1849-50. They had one 
MAN at their head fit to be their pilot. Such was the 
senate — the memorable senate of that fearful epoch. 

The first measure that tended to fan the elements of 
discord into an unexampled fury, was the application of 
California to be admitted as a state into the Union. 
Before coming as a sister into the family of Union, it was 
insisted that the mantle of the Wilmot Proviso had to 
wrap her fair proportions. Here the whole subject of 
slavery began to roll its dark evolvements thick about the 
political sky. California, spreading her lap, a golden El 
Dorado, lured to her plains the restless adventurers from 
all parts of the world, and became densely populated, 
with unprecedented rapidity. So fast had she been set- 
tled, that under a state constitution adopted by the people, 
she was knocking at the door for admission into the 

Her admission, as the admission of manv other states 
into the Union, involved the slavery question. Was she 
to come in as a free or a slave state 1 She demanded 
admittance as a free state. This the South, of course, 
opposed ; and the only way of conciliating them was to 
compromise by the introduction of some measure possess- 
ing the merits of nmtual concession. This resulted in 


the elaboration of the compromise measures of Mr. Clay. 
We have before remarked that Mr. Clay well understood 
the principles of conciliation. By a masterly stroke of 
the most consummate statesmanship, he demonstrated 
this attribute in the present emergency. He was opposed 
to California's admission into the Union as a free state 
without a corresponding area of territory to maintain the 
balance of power in the senate. The compromise he 
introduced specified that certain parcels of territory which 
it organized into governments should decide by the voice 
of the people upon the subject of slavery. Here was a 
concession to the south, in the event of California's ulti- 
mate admission as a free state. His measure also settled 
the Texas boundary question, and embraced certain por- 
tions of the fugitive slave law, which was afterwards 
adopted by congress. Embracing as it did all these 
designs, it was denominated the " omnibus bill." 

The great quality it possessed was that of mutual con- 
cession on the part of the jSTorth and South, so as not to 
endanger the balance of power. Had the senate endorsed 
these sentiments, the terrific excitements of that session 
would have been allaj^ed in the incipient stages of their 
development. Webster, Cass, Underwood, and others, 
came to the rescue, and rendered patriotic services. 
While excited over this question, and that excitement 
still on the increase, as if to strike an awful bolt of 
" beware ! " into their deliberations, General Taylor died. 
General Taylor was a great and a good man, though pol- 
itics were evidently not his sphere. The reins of gov- 
ernment, in this instance, instead of passing from old 


hands into now, passed from the hands of inexperience 
into those of skill, ability, and experience. They could 
have found no safer repository. Taylor died on the 9th 
of July, 1850, exclaiming, "/ am jprepared — I have 
tried, to do my duty:' On the next day, the follo\Ying 
communication \Y,as sent to the senate and house by Mr. 
Fillmore : 

"Washington, July 10th, 1850. 

" Fellow citizens of the Senate and of the House oi" Ee- 
presentatives : I have to perform the melancholy duty of 
announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God 
to remove from this life Zachary Taylor, late President 
of the United States. He deceased last evening at the 
hour of half-past ten o'clock, in the midst of his family, 
and surrounded by affectionate friends, calmly, and in the 
full possession of all his faculties. Among his last words 
were these, which he uttered with emphatic distinctness : 
' I have always done my duty — I am ready to die ; my 
only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.' 

" Having announced to you, fellow citizens, this most 
afflicting bereavement, and assuring you that it has pen- 
etrated no heart with deeper grief than mine, it remains 
for me to say, that I propose this day, at twelve o'clock, 
in the hall of the house of representatives, in the presence 
of both houses of Congress, to take the oath prescribed 
by the constitution, to enable me to enter on the execution 
of the office which this event has devolved on me. 

" Yours, respectfully, 

" Millard Fillmore." 


The senate, pursuant to previous arrangements, of a 
committee appointed under resolutions for that purpose, 
proceeded to the hall of the house, wher« Judge Cranch 
-administered the oath of office to Mr. Fillmore. 

The following message was then received from the 
president : 

" Washington, July 10th,- 1S50. 

" Fellow citizens of the Senate and of the House of 
Eepresentatives : A great man has fallen among us, and 
a whole country is called to an occasion of unexpected, 
deep, and general mourning. 

" I recommend to the two houses of Congress to adopt 
such measures as their discretion may seem proper, to 
perform with due solemnity the funeral obsequies of 
Zachary Taylor, late President of the United States; 
and thereby to signify the great and affectionate regard 
of the Amerieaii people for the memory of one whose life 
has been devoted to the public servi<:^e ; whose career in 
arms has not been surpassed in usefulness or brilliancy ; 
who has been so recently raised b}^ the unsolicited voice 
of the people to the highest civil authority in the govern- 
ment, which he administered with so much honor and ad- 
vantage to his country ; and by whose sudden death so 
many hopes of future usefulness have been blighted 

" To you, senators and representatives of a nation in 
tears, I can say nothing which can alleviate the sorrow 
with which you are oppressed. 

"I appeal to you to aid me under the trying circum- 
fit^nces which surround us in the discharge of the duties, 


from Tv'hicli, however much. I may be oppressed by them-, 
I dare not shrink; and I rely upon Him, who holds in His 
hands the destinies of nations, to endow me with the re- 
quisite strength for the task, and to avert from our coun- 
try the evils apprehended from the' heavy eala^mity which 
has befallen us> 

" I shall most readily concur in whatever measures the 
wisdom of the two houses may suggest, as benefitting 
this deeply melancholy occasion. 

"Millard Fillmore." 

The funeral obsequies of the late president were per- 
formed with great solemnity, on the 13th of July. Like 
Harrison, Taylor died immediately after he commenced 
the duties of his office. But, miYike Harrison, he left the 
sacred trust reposed in his keeping in safe and reliable 



Mr. Fillmore's Administration — He selects a cabinet — Wisdom 
of liis selection — Excitement in the senate — Defeat of the omni- 
bus bill — The Xorth and the South — Struggle for supremacy — 
Three parties in the senate — Wisdom and patriotism — The great 
crisis — Mr. Fillmore's firmness and patriotism — Difficulties in 
New Mexico and Texas — Passage of the compromise measures — 
Their submission to the president — A civic Calliinachus — 
Fugitive Slave Law — Attorney General — Mr. Fillmore signs the 
compromise measures — Is violently assailed in consequence — 
Judge McLean's opinion — First annual message — Its ability. 

The first duty devolving upon Mr. Fillmore was the 
selection of his cabinet. Appreciating, to its fullest 
extent, the importance of unison of feeling between 
president and cabinet, he made the selection with great 
care, and with reference to the immediate adjustment of 
the measures that bid fair to be so exciting. His cab- 
inet was composed of the following gentlemen : 

Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, Secretary of 


Thomas CoRwaN, of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury. 
James A. Pearce, of Maryland, Secretary of the 


William A Graham, of North Carolina, Secretary 

of the Navy. 

Edward Bates, of Missouri, Secretary of War. 
Nathan K. Hall, of New York, Postmaster-General 
John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, Attorney-General. 




In addition to the eminent talent and ability combined 
i^ this selection, we see an entire absence of all local 
prejudices. From Lake Erie to Carolina, from Ken- 
tucky to Boston, and from Maryland to Missouri, this 
able cabinet was brought together, to aid him in the 
administration of the government. 

Simultaneously with the elevation of Mr. Fillmore to 
the presidency, commenced the fiercest political struggle 
recorded in the annals of American history. The diffi- 
culties originating in the demand of California for admis- 
sion into the Union as a state increased in number and 
magnitude, until the North and the South stood up in 
deadly conflict. Two powerful rivals, they seemed to 
sever the bond of union, and in fierce hostility to struggle 
for supremacy. There was a party in Congress who 
opposed the measures embodied in the compromise, upon 
the grounds that it was too much concession to the South. 
There was another party who averred that it was too 
much concession to the North. While in the midst of 
these sectionalists stood a Spartan band of Union patriots, 
led by Clay, Webster, and others, and encouraged by 
Fillmore, laboring to conciliate with the mild measures 
of the compromise, requiring mutual concession, and 
guaranteeing mutual protection. But the very mutuality 
of these measures was what tended to elicit such inces- 
sant opposition. It was a crisis — a very great crisis — 
in the struggle between North and South. The smallest 
advantage gained by either party could be turned to great 
account. Each wanted to gain some supremacy, and, as 


long as all the adjustment measures presented precluded 
tlie possibility of any ascendency by either party of sec- 
tionalists, both parties were arrayed against it. Adjust- 
ment was not what they desired so much as ascendency. 
Clay, Webster, and the whole administration party threw 
themselves into the breach, with the determined spirit of 
martyrs. I call this the administration party, because 
their views were the same as entertained by the administra- 
tion. Of these compromise measures, it may be said 
they were the only nieans of quelling the troubles 
of the nation. The lofty intellects and penetrating 
sagacity of those who originated them have never 
been excelled. The towering eloquence of Clay, 
Webster, and others, thrilled every part of the Union, 
and vibrated in the old world. 

The conciliatory measures of the compromise, or the 
omnibus bill, as it was derisively called by the opponents, 
were submitted to the senate, shortly after Mr. Fillmore's 
accession to the presidenc3\ That measure was defeated 
by a vote taken amid the wildest excitement. After the 
defeat of this measure, the feeling became still more in- 
tense, until signs of red revolution began to indicate 
themselves. A blaze of fanaticism flashed across the Union 
lilie a bolt of destruction. The thunders of discord rolled 
their notes, with a terrific shock, that threatened to up- 
heave the whole superstructure of our republican system. 
The great ocean of politics were ploughed from the very 
bottom, and foamed with all the rage of sectional strife. 
The old ship of state would sink beneath the surge, and 
bend her spars to the gale, then again she would rise above 


tlie blast unharmed. Amid the storm that wrapped her 
mast, the pilot was at the helm, unmoved by the raging 
tempest, determined to guide her into port. Men of all 
parties felt the shock, and all eyes were turned to him 
with intense anxiety. Calm and patriotic he breasted the 
tempest, and guided the vessel true to the . star of 
national freedom. "He was the man for the crisis," was 
the opinion of patriots in all parts of the country. The 
nation was groaning under the fearful anticipations as to 
what might be the result. Disunion was spread from 
Maine to Texas. Party strife opened wide the breach 
between North and South. Fanatics, with an Alexander 
sword, stood ready to cut the Gordian knot of union, and 
rip out the heart of freedom. The stars and stripes of 
liberty were being torn to fragmental shreds, and furled 
about their shattered staff. Demarkation lines were being 
drawn across the tomb of Vernon. The banners that 
waved where Warren fell seemed ready to dip in intestine 
blood. America shrieked a wild pang, as she saw sec- 
tionalism weave the winding sheet of her independence. 
Columbia gasped convulsive throes of agony, as she lay 
half-prostrate, to see fanatics place a cypress wreath 
about her pale brow. Freedom no longer sped her holy 
message, but, quivering with anguish, hovered about the 
capitol, pierced with an hundred darts, ready to shriek 
her death gutterel. 

At the head of the union party as the nation's chief, 
stood Mr. Fillmore, unmoved, erect and patriotic, destined 
to rule the storm, and to whisper " peace, be still." With 
prompt energy he commenced the task of allaving the 


excitement by ordering such military preparations as was 
necessary to suppress the civil war between New Mexico 
and Texas, who stood with daggers drawn for fight, in 
regard to their boundaries, and advised Congress of the 
necessity of immediate action in reference to the difficul- 
ties in that quarter. Congress responded by taking ade- 
quate steps to meet the emergency. In the meantime 
the great diiSculties originating in the application of 
California were beginning to be amicably adjusted. The 
compromise, a pillar of patriotism, of which Clay, Cass, 
Webster, Underwood, and others were the architects, after 
passing a Eed Sea of terrific excitement, were begining 
to be regarded more favorably. The compromise em- 
braced the following measures : 1. California came into the 
Union as a free state; 2, the boundary between New 
Mexico and Texas was settled; 3, governments were 
organized for the territories of New Mexico and Utah ; 

4, the slave trade abolished in the District of Columbia ; 

5, the Fugitive Slave Law, which provided for the recovery 
of fugitives from labor. 

Of these measures and their several utilities, it is not 
my province to speak. Their great services to the country 
are full well appreciated. All friends to the country are 
friends to these measures. They have been the subjects 
of much comment and controversional excitements. 

After the passage of these measures, they were sub- 
mitted to President Fillmore for approval. What an 
awful responsibility was this. He could make them the 
laws of his country, or he could dash to pieces by the 
refusal of his signature the giant structure of months. 


He was, emphatically, the Poleniarch of the Union, the 
Callimachus of the great American civic battle. He 
was no Van Buren or Tj'ler, to leave the veto upon the 
great measures of the American Congress. 

Mr. Fillmore's having signed the fugitive slave law, 
should endear him to the hearts of the people as their 
favorite son. They should take into consideration the 
exalted patriotism that induced the act. The violence 
with which he knew he would be assailed by men of the 
North, — by those, too, who had been his friends, — exerted 
no influence in his action. Like Washington, as Millard 
Fillmore, he could pay some attention to the wishes of 
personal friends, but, as president of the Union, her 
interests were the only dictates he obeyed. 

Some points in the Fugitive Slave Law Mr. Fillmore 
feared were not constitutional. The wisdom of some such 
measure he did not doubt. Circumstances transpiring 
over the country continually demonstrated the necessity 
of such an enactment. Such necessities have alwavs 
existed. During the administration of Washington, such 
an enactment was found to be necessary, and resulted in the 
somewhat similar law of 1793 ; then how much more so in 
1850. The sectional feelings between the North and 
South had become so great, that the eiforts of the owners 
to recover their fugitives were not only futile, but attended 
with expence and insult. On some occasions, when the 
legitimate owner of the fugitives pursued them to the 
state to which they fled, and took them before the proper 
tribunals, the officials would refuse to investigate the case ; 
and if, without an investigation, he took his property back 


to his state, he was indicted for violating law, and some- 
times convicted, and would have to appeal to the supreme 
court for release. 

Such were some of the absolute necessities of the act. 
The clause in the constitution in reference to fugitives 
certainly contemplates some such law as the one under 
consideration. But the necessities for such a law and the 
constitutionality of some of its peculiar provisions, when 
passed, are widely different ; upon the first, Mr. Fillmore 
was well satisfied — upon the other he was not. With 
that profound regard for the constitution which he has 
always manifested, he was determined to become satisfied 
upon that point, and to withhold his signature until it 
was thoroughly investigated. He studied it himself and 
submitted it to his attorney-general. Mr. Crittenden 
delivered a long and able opinion in support of its con- 
stitutionality. After becoming satisfied of its constitu- 
tionality, Mr. Fillmore signed all the measures of the 

Here we are tempted into a brief review. Mr. Fillmore 
was seen in childhood making peace among his com- 
panions ; in the commencement of his profession, he was 
on the side of the people ; in the assembly, laboring for 
the people's rights, he removed the law that imprisoned 
for debt ; in Congress, when universal distress prevailed, 
as chairman of the committee of ways and means, he 
labored for the people, and retrenched government extrav- 
agance ; in the comptroller's office, a friend to the people, 
he guarded their funds, and systematized their state finan- 
ces ; as vice-president, he maintained the dignity of their 


laws, and ruled with oi'der ; as president, looking at the 
distresses of the people, he gave relief, and preserved 
their freedom. Who can present such antecedents as 
these, in a life of public service ? Who else can point 
to a career so replete with evidences of devotion to the 
people — the whole people? 

As might have been expected, the Fugitive Slave Law 
created great excitement in the North, and was violently 
assailed by the sectionalists. Seward, especially, poured 
his denunciations against it. Mr. Fillmore came in for a 
large share of the abuse — thick and heavy was it heaped 
upon him. But, with the consciousness of having per- 
formed his duty, he never felt their bitter malignity. In 
Boston, and other places, so hostile were the demonstra- 
tions against the enforcement of the law, that they opposed 
it with mob resistance. On learning these facts, Mr. 
Fillmore issued his proclamation, calling on all good citi- 
zens to suppress the riot. The law had been passed, and, 
as the law of the land, he was determined it should be 
effectually enforced. 

The prompt and patriotic manner in which he com- 
menced the enforcement of the compromise measures, 
contributed greatly to restore the country to trancjuillity, 
after the terrible agitation that had shaken it from centre 
to circumference. The main basis of the arguments 
advanced against the Fugitive Slave Law, and the denun- 
ciations heaped upon Mr. Fillmore, for having signed it, 
was its alleged unconstitutionality. The following ablo 
and elaborate opinion by Judge McLean puts that ques- 
•tion effectually to rest; and, he being a prominent man 


among the anti-slaTery party, it is certainly unbiased by 
any prejudices, and slavery predilections. 

^-It is contended that the law authoiLziu^ the reclama- 
tion of fugitives from labor is unconstitutional; that the 
constitution left the power with the states, and vested 
no power on the subject in the federal government. 

" This argument has been sometimes advanced, and it 
may have been introduced into one or more political plat- 
forpQs. In regard to the soundness of this position, I will 
first refer to judicial decisions. In the case of Prigg v. 
The State of Pennsylvania, 16 Peters' R. 539, the judges 
of the supreme court of the United States, without a dis- 
senting voice, affirmed the doctrine, that this power was 
in the federal government. A majority of them held that 
it was exclusively in the general government. Some of 
the judges thought that a state might legislate in aid of 
the act of Congress, but it was held by no one of them, 
that the power could be exercised by a state, except in 
subordination of the federal power. * * * 

*' Every state court which has decided the question, 
has decided it in accordance with the view of the supreme 
court. No respectable court, it is believed, has sustained 
the view that the power is with the state. Such an array 
of authority can scarcely be found in favor of the con- 
struction of any part of the constitution, which has ever 
been doubted. But this construction, sanctioned as it is 
by the entire judicial power, state as well as federal, has 
also the sanction of the legislative power. 

'* In a very few years after the constitution was 
adopted by the states, the fugitive act of 1793 was 



passed. That law is still in force, except where the act 
of 1850 contains repugnant provisions. lu the Congress 
which enacted the act of 1793, it is believed that some 
of the members had been members of the convention. 
They could not have been ignorant of the provision of 
that instrument. And bv the passasfc of that act thev 
exercised the power, as one that belonged to the federal 
government. Here is a force of authority, judicial and 
legislative, which can not be found on any other seriously 
litigated ooint in the constitution. 

" Such a weight of authority is not to be shaken. If 
the question is not to be considered authoritatively settled, 
what part of that instrument can ever be settled '? The 
surrender of fugitive slaves was a matter deeply interest- 
ing to the slave states. Uuder the confederation there 
was no provision for their surrender. On the principles 
of comity amongst the states, the fugitives were delivered 
up; at other times they were protected and defended. 
This state of things produced uneasiness and discontent 
in the slave states. A remedv of this evil, as it was 
called, was provided in the constitution. 

"An individual who puts his opinion, as to the exercise 
of this power, against the authority of the nation in its 
legislative and judicial action, must have no small degree 
of confidence in his own judgment. A few individuals in 
Massachusetts mav have maintained, at one time, that 
the power was with the states ; but such views were, it 
is believed, long since abandoned, and they are re-asserted 
now, more as a matter of expediency than of principle. 

''But whether we look at the weight of authority 


against state power, as asserted, or at the constitutional 
provision, we are led to the same result. The provision 
reads : " No person held to service or labor in one state, 
under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in 
consequence of any law or regulation therein, be dis- 
charged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered 
up on claim of the party to whom such service may be 

" This, in the first place, is a federal measure. It was 
adopted by the national convention, and was sanctioned, 
as a federal law, by the respective states. It is the 
supreme law of the land. Now a provision which cannot 
be enforced, and which has no penalty for its violation, is 
no law. The highly respectable gentleman who read an 
ingenious argument in support of these views, is too good 
a theologian to contend that any rule of action which 
may be disregarded without incurring a penalty, can be 
a law. This was the great objection to the articles of 
confederation. There was no power to enforce its provi- 
sions. They were recommendatory, and without sanctions. 

" There is no regulation, divine or human, which can 
be called a law, without a sanction. Our first parents, in 
the garden, felt the truth of this. And it has been felt by 
violators of the divine or human laws throughout the his- 
tory of our race. 

" The provision in the constitution is prohibitory and 
positive. It prohibits the states from liberating slaves 
which escape into them, and it enjoins a duty to deliver 
up such fugitives on claim being made. The constitution 
vests no special power in Onngress to prohibit the first, 


or to enforce. the observance of the second. Does it, 
therefore, follow that eiFect can be given to neither, if a 
state shall disregard it? 

" Suppose a state declares a slave who escapes into it 
shall be liberated, or that any one who shall assist in de- 
livering him np shall be punished. If this power belongs 
to the states, and not to the federal government, these 
regulations would be legal, as within the exercise of their 
discretion. This is not an ideal case. The principle 
was involved in the Prigg case, and the supreme court 
held the act of the state unconstitutional and void. 

" It is admitted that there is no power in the federal 
government to force any legislative action on a state. 
But, if the constitution guarantees a right to the master of a 
slave, and that he shall be delivered up, the power is 
given to effectuate that right. If this be not so, the con- 
stitution is not what its framers supposed it to be. It 
was believed to be a fundamental law of the Union. A 
federal law. A law to the states and to the people of 
the states. It savs that the states shall not do certain 
things. Is this the form of giving advice or' recom- 
mendation? It is the language of authority, to those 
who are bound to obey. If a state do the thing forbid- 
den, its acts will be declared void. If it refuse to do 
that which is enjoined, the federal government, being a 
government, has the means of executing it. 

" The constitution provides, * that full faith shall be 
given to public acts, records, and judicial proceedings,' 
of one state in every other. If an individual claiming 
this provision as a right, and a state court shall deny it, 


on a writ of error to the supreme court of tlie Union, 
such judgment woi^rld be reversed. And the provision 
that, 'the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all 
privileges and immunities of citizens in the several 
states.' Congress unquestionably may provide in what 
manner a right claimed under this clause and denied by 
a state, may be enforced. And if a case can be raised 
under it, without any farther statutory provisions, so as 
to present the point to the supreme court, the decision of 
a state court denying the right would be reversed. So a 
state is prohibited from passing a law that shall impair 
the obligations of a contract. Such a law the supreme 
court has declared void. In these cases, and in many 
others, where a state is prohibited from doing a thing, 
the remedy is given by a writ of error under the legis- 
lation of Congress. The same principle applies in regard 
to fugitives from labor. 

" A fugitive from justice may be delivered up under a 
similar provision in the constitution. It declares that, *a 
person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other 
crime, who shall flee from justice and be found in another 
state, shall, on demand of the executive authority of the 
state from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed 
to the state having jurisdiction of the crime.' This is 
contained in the same section as the clause in relation to 
fugitives from labor, and they both stand upoii the same 
principle. In both cases Congress has provided a mode 
in which effect shall be given to the provision. No one, 
it is believed, has doubted the constitutionality of the 
provision in regard to fugitives from justice. 


*' The men who framed the constitution were adequate 
to the great duties which devolved upon them. They 
knew that a general government was essential to preserve 
the fruits of the revolution. They understood the ne- 
cessities of the country. The articles of confederation 
had been found as a rope of sand, in all matters of con- 
flict between the different states, and the people of the 
different states. Without a general government, com- 
merce could not be regulated among the states, or with 
foreign nations ; fugitives from labor could not be 
reclaimed ; state boundaries could not be authoritatively 

" I am aware it has been stated that the subject of 
slavery was not discussed in the convention, and that the 
reclamation of fugitives from labor was not, at that time, 
a subject of much interest. This is a mistake. It was 
a subject of deep and exciting interest, and without a 
provision on the subject no constitution could have been 
adopted. I speak from information received from the 
late Chief-justice Marshall, who was one of the chief 
actors in that day, than whom no man then living was of 
higher authority. 


"Various objections are stated to the Fugitive Slave 
Law of 1850. The duties of the commissioners, the pen- 
alties inflicted, the bribe secured to the commissioner for 
remanding the fugitive, are all objected to as oppressive 
and unconstitutional. In regard to the five dollars, in 
addition, paid to the commissioner, where the fugitive is 
remanded to the claimant in all fairness, it can not be 


considered as a bribe, or as so intended by Congress ; but 
as a compensation to the commissioner for making a state- 
ment of the case, Which includes the facts proved, and to 
which his certificate is annexed. In cases where the wit- 
nesses are numerous, and the investigation takes up sev- 
eral days, five dollars would scarcely be a compensation 
for the statement required. Where the fugitive is dis- 
charged, no statement is necessary. 

" The powers of the commissioner, or the amount of 
the penalties of the act, are not involved in this inquiry. 
If there be an unconstitutional provision in an act, that 
does not affect any other part of the act. But I, by no 
means, intimate that any part of the act referred to is in 
conflict with the constitution. I only say that the objec- 
tions made to it do not belong to the case under consi- 

" The act of 18-50, except by repugnant provisions, did 
not repeal the act of 1793. The objection, that no jury 
is given, does apply to both acts. From my experience 
in trying numerous actions for damages against persons 
who obstructed an arrest of fugitives from labor, or aided 
in their escape, I am authorized to say, that the rights of 
the master would be safe before a jury. I recollect an 
instance, where a strong anti-slavery man, called an 
abolitionist, was on the jury in a case for damages, but 
who, being sworn to find as the evidence and the law re- 
quired, agreed to a verdict for the plaintiff. He rightly 
determined that his own opinions could not govern him 
in deciding a controversy between parties, but that, under 


his oath he was bound by the law and the evidence of 
the case. 

" It was the power of Congress to give a jury in cases 
like the present ; but the law contains no such provision, 
and the question raised is, whether the act without it is 

" This question has been largely discussed in Congress, 
in the public press, and in conventions of the people. It 
is not here raised as a question of expediency or policy, 
but of power. In that aspect only is it to be considered. 

" The act of 1793 has been in operation for about sixty 
years. During that whole time it has been executed as 
occasion required ; and it is not known that any court, 
judge, or other officer has held the act, in this, or any 
other respect, unconstitutional. This 1-ong course of 
decisions, on a question so exciting as to call forth the 
sympathies of the people, and the acuteness of lawyers, 
is no unsatisfactory evidence that the construction is 

"Under the constitution and act of Congress, the 
inquiry is not, strictly, whether the fugitive be a slave or 
a freeman, but whether he owe service to the claimant. 
This would be the precise question in the case of an 
apprentice. In such a case, the inquiry would not be, 
whether the master had treated the apprentice so badly 
as to entitle him to his discharge. Such a question would 
more probably arise under the indenture of apprentice- 
ship, and the laws under which it was executed. And if 
the apprentice be remanded to the service of his master, 
it would, in no respect, affect his right to a discharge, 


wiere he is held, for the cruelty of his master, or any 
other cause. 

*' The same principle applies to fugitives from labor. 
It is true, in such cases, evidence is heard that he is a 
freeman. His freedom may be established by acts done 
or suffered by the master, not necessarily within the juris- 
diction where he is held as a slave. Such an inquiry 
may be made as is required by the justice of the case. 
But on whatever ground the fugitive may be remanded, 
it cannot, legally, operate against his right to liberty. 
That right, when presented to a court in a slave state, 
'has generally been acted upon with fairness and impar- 
tiality. Exceptions to this, if there be exceptions, would 
■seem to have arisen on the claims of heirs or creditors, 
"which are governed by local laws, with which the people 
of other states are not presumed to be acquainted." 

Emanating, as it does, fi\)m the highest authority, the 
above opinion should put to rest all ideas of the uncon- 
stitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law. Those of th^^ 
anti-slavery party who censure Mr. Fillmore for signing 
that measure, should look to this opinion, from one of 
their ablest men, who was spoken of as their candidate 
for the presidency, and see the true principle of the law. 
But, in addition to the foregoing and other decisions of 
the supreme court, the act of 1793 stands upon the Amer- 
ican archives as a witness to the constitutionality of the 
Fugitive Slave Law. That act was passed 12th Feb., 
1793, and provided, first, the right of the owner to arrest 
Ms fugitive slave wherever he may be found ; second, the 

owner of such fugitive was allowed, after the arrest, to 


take Ms slave before a magistrate, to have his claim 
investigated ; third, it required such magistrate to inves- 
tigate the case without a jury, and to deliver up the fugi- 
tive to his master ; fourth, it established the right of the 
owner to remove such fugitive slave to his residence. 
This law was approved by George Washington, and 
remained in force nearly sixty years. 

Those who censure Mr. Fillmore for having signed the 
Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, might, with the same pro- 
priety, denounce the Father of their country, for havings 
signed the law for the recovery of fugitives, passed m 
1793, especially, when the necessities for the latter were 
so much greater than for the former. 

Our present Fugitive Slave Law passed the senate by 
a vote of twenty for, to twelve against it— the purest 
patriots of the land voting affirmatively. Among those 
voting for it, were Houston, Bell, Underwood, Berrien, 
Butler, and others. To attach motives in the least unpa- 
triotic to Mr. Fillmore for having signed that act, would 
be equivalent to saying that Clay, Webster, Cass, and 
the greatest men of our country were no patriots. The 
idea is preposterous. 

The following extracts from the first annual message 
of Mr. Fillmore to Congress are so replete with the 
patriotic wisdom characteristic of the author, that their 
publication is not deemed amiss. In these pages we are 
endeavoring to delineate the qualities of the man about 
whom we write, instead of the events transpiring in his 
time, especially, if, in such events, he did not participate. 
We have refrained from the relation of occurrences not 


connected with Mr. Fillmore's career, unless such rela- 
tion was considered essential to a correct understanding 
of his position. But to the extracts ; 

"Among the acknowledged rights of nations is that 
which each possesses of establishing that form of govern- 
ment which it may deem most conducive to the happiness 
and prosperity of its own citizens ; of changing that form, 
as circumstances may require ; and of managing its 
internal affairs according to its own will. The people of 
the United States claim this right for themselves, and 
they readily concede it to others. Hence it becomes an 
imperative duty not to interfere in the government or 
internal policy of other nations ; and, although we may 
sympathize with the unfortunate or the oppressed, every- 
where, in their struggles for freedom, our principles forbid 
us from taking any part in such contests. TVe make no 
wars to promote or to prevent successions to thrones ; to 
maintain any theory of a balance of power ; or to sup- 
press the actual government which any country chooses 
to establish for itself We instigate no revolutions, nor 
suffer any hostile military expedition to be fitted out in 
the United States to invade the territories or provinces 
of a friendly nation. The great law of morality ought 
to have a national, as well as a personal and individual 
application. We should act toward other nations as we 
wish them to act toward us ; and justice and conscience 
should form the rule of conduct between governments, 
instead of mere power, self-interest, or the desire of 
aggrandizement. To maintain a strict neutrality in 


foreign wars, to cultivate friendly relations, to reciprocate 
every noble and generous act, and to perform punctually 
and scrupulously every treaty obligation — these are the 
duties which we owe to other states, and by the perform- 
ance of which we best entitle ourselves to like treatment 
from them; or if that, in any case, be refused, we can 
enforce our own rights with justice and with a clear 

** In our domestic policy, the constitution will be my 
guide; and in questions of doubt, I shall look for its 
interpretation to the judicial decisions of that tribunal 
which was established to expound it, and to the usage of 
the government, sanctioned by the acquiescence of the 
country. I regard all its provisions as equally binding. 
In all its parts it is the will of the people, expressed in 
the most solemn form, and the constituted authorities are 
but agents to carry that will into effect. Every power 
which it has granted is to be exercised for the public 
good ; but no pretence of utility, no honest conviction, 
even, of what might be expedient, can justify the assump- 
tion of any power not granted. The powers conferred 
upon the government, and their distribution to the several 
departments, are as clearly expressed in that sacred 
instrument as the imperfection of human language will 
allow ; and I deem it my first duty, not to question its 
wisdom, add to its provisions, evade its requirements, or 
nullify its commands. 

* * » * * m * 

" Over the objects and subjects intrusted to Congress, 
its legislative authority is supreme. But here that 


authority ceases, and every citizen who truly loves the 
constitution, and desires the continuance of its existence 
and its blessings, will resolutely and firmly resist inter- 
ference in those domestic affairs which the constitution 
has clearly and unequivocally left to the exclusive author- 
ity of the states. And every such citizen will also 
deprecate useless irritation among the several members 
of the Union, and all reproach and crimination tending 
to alienate one portion of the country from another. The 
beauty of our system of government consists, and its 
safety and durability must consist, in avoiding mutual 
collisions and encroachments, and in the regular separate 
action of all, while each is revolving in its own distinct 

* * ^ u rpj^g j^^ jg ^-^Q Qjjiy. g^j,g protection 

of the weak, and the only efficient restraint upon the 
strong. When impartially and faithfully administered, 
none is beneath its protection, and none above its control. 
You, gentlemen, and the country, may be assured, that 
to the utmost of my ability, and to the extent of the 
power vested in me, I shall, at all times, and in all places, 
take care that the laws be faithfully executed. In the 
discharge of this duty, solemnly imposed upon me by the 
constitution and by my oath of office, I shall shrink from 
no responsibility, and shall endeavor to meet events as 
they may arise, with firmness, as well as with prudence 
and discretion. 

" The appointing power is one of the most delicate 
with which the executive is vested. I regard it a sacred 
trust, to be exercised with the sole view of advancing the 


prosperity and happiness of the people. It shall be my 
effort to elevate the standard of official employment, by 
selecting for places of importance individuals fitted for 
the posts to which they are assigned, by their known 
integrity, talents, and virtues. In so extensive a countrj^, 
with so great a population, and where few persons 
appointed to office can be known to the appointing power, 
mistakes will sometimes unavoidably happen, and unfor- 
tunate appointments be made, notwithstanding the great- 
est care. In such cases, the power of removal may be 
properly exercised ; and neglect of duty or malfeasance 
in office will be no more tolerated in individuals appointed 
by myself than in those appointed by others. 

" Citizens of the United States have undertaken the 
connection of the two oceans by means of a railroad 
across the Isthmus of Tehauntepec, under grants of the 
Mexican government to a citizen of that republic. It is 
understood that a thorough survey of the course of the 
communication is in preparation, and there is every rea- 
son to expect that it will be prosecuted with characteris- 
tic energy, especially when that government shall have 
consented to such stipulations with the government of 
the United States as may be necessary to impart a feel- 
ing of security to those who may embark their property 
in the enterprise. IS'egotiations are pending for the 
accomplishment of that object; and a hope is confidently 
entertained that, when the government of Mexico shall 
become duly sensible of the advantage which that coun- 
try can not fail to derive from the work, and learn that 


•the government of the United States desires that the right 
of sovereignty of Mexico in the isthmus shall remain 
unimpaired, the stipulations referred to will be agreed to 
with alacrity. 

"All experience has demonstrated the wisdom and pol- 
icy of raising a large portion of revenue, for the support 
of government, from duties on goods imported. The 
power to lay these duties is unquestionable, and its chief 
object, of course, is to replenish the treasury. But if, in 
doing this, an incidental advantage may be gained by 
encouraging the industry of our own citizens, it is our 
duty to avail ourselves of that advantage. 

"A duty laid upon an article which can not be pro- 
duced in this country — such as tea or coffee — adds to 
the cost of the article, and is chiefly or wholly paid by 
the consumer. But a duty laid upon an article which 
may be produced here, stimulates the skill and industry 
of our own country to produce the same article, which is 
brought into the market in competition with the foreign 
article, and the importer is thus compelled to reduce his 
price to that at which the domestic article can be sold, 
thereby throwing a part of the duty upon the producer 
of the foreign article. The continuance of this process 
creates the skill, and invites the capital which finally 
enables us to produce the article much cheaper than it 
could have been procured from abroad, thereby benefit- 
ing both the producer and the consumer at home. The 
consequence of this is, that the artisan and the agricul- 
turalist are brought together, each affords a ready market 


for the produce of the other, the whole country beconies^^ 
prosperous^ and the ability to produce every necessary of 
life renders us independent in Avar as well as in peace. 
* * # * * * ^f 

" The papers accompanying the report of the secretary 
of the treasury will disclose frauds attempted upon the 
revenue, in variety and amount so great as to justify the 
conclusion that it is impossible, under any system of ad, 
valorem duties levied upon the foreign cost or value of 
the article, to secure an honest observance and an effect- 
ual administration of the laws. The fraudulent devices 
to evade the law which, have been detected by the vigi- 
lance of the appraisers, leave no room to doubt that sim- 
ilar impositions not discovered, to a large amount, have 
been successfully practiced since the enactment of the 
law now in force. This state of things has already had 
a prejudicial influence upon those engaged in foreign com- 
merce. It has a tendency to drive the honest trader from 
the business of importing, and to throw that important 
branch of employment into the hands of unscrupulous 
and dishonest men, who are alike regardless of law and 
the obligations of an oath. By these means, the plain 
intentions of Congress, as expressed in the law, are daily 
defeated. Every motive of policy and duty, therefore, 
impel me to ask the earnest attention of Congress to this 
subject. If Congress should deem it unwise to attempt 
any important changes in the system of levying duties, at 
this session, it will become indispensable to the protection 
of the revenue that such remedies, as in the judgment of 


Congress may mitigate the evils complained of, should 
be at once applied. 

fi * * * $f 'ft * 
''The unprecedented growth of our territories on the 
Pacific in wealth and population, and the consequent in- 
crease of their social and commercial relations with tho 
Atlantic states, seem to render it the duty of the govern- 
ment to use all its constitutional power to improve the 
means of intercourse with them. The importance of open- 
ing 'a line of communication, the best and most expedi- 
tious of which the nature of the country will admit,' be- 
tween the valley of the Mississippi and the Pacific, was 
brought to your notice by my predecessor, in his annual 
message ; and as the reasons which he presented in favor 
of the measure still exist in full force, I beg leave to call 
your attention to them, and to repeat the recommenda- 
tions then made by him. 

" I also beg leave to call your attention to the pro- 
priety of extending, at an early day, our system of land 
laws, with such modifications as may be necessary, over 
the state of California and the territories of Utah and 

New Mexico. 


"More than three-fourths of our population are engaged 
in the cultivation of the soil. The commercial, manu- 
facturing, and navigating interests are all, to a great ex- 
tent, dependent on the agricultural. It is, therefore, the 
most important interest of the nation, and has a just 

claim to the fostering care and protection of the govern- 


ment, so far as they can be extended consistently with 

the provisions of the constitution. As this can not be 

done by the ordinary modes of legislation, I respectfully 

recommend the establishment of an agricultural bureau, 

to be charged with the duty of giving to this leading 

branch of American industry the encouragement which it 

so well deserves. 

* * *-* * * # * # 

"I commend, also, to your favorable consideration the 
suggestion contained in the last mentioned report, and in 
the letter of the general-in-chief, relative to the estab- 
lishment of an asylum for the relief of disabled and des- 
titute soldiers. This subject appeals so strongly to your 
sympathies that it would be superfluous in me to say 
anything more than barely to express my cordial appro- 
bation of the proposed object. 

" I invite your attention to the view of our present 
naval establishment and resources presented in the report 
of the secretary of the navy, and the suggestions therein 
made for its improvement, together with the naval policy 
recommended for the security of our Pacific coast, and 
the protection and extension of our commerce with East- 
ern Asia. Our facilities for a larger participation in the 
trade of the east, by means of our recent settlements on 
the shores of the Pacific, are too obvious to be overlooked 

or disregarded. 

• •«*** ** 

"I also earnestly recommend the enactment of a law 

authorizing officers of the army and navy to be retired 


from the service, when incoinpetent for its vigorous and 
active duties, taking care to make suitable provision for 
those who have faithfully served their country, and 
awarding distinctions, by retaining in appropriate com- 
mands those who have been particularly conspicuous for 
gallantry and good conduct. While the obligation of the 
country to maintain and ■ honor those who, to the exclu- 
sion of other pursuits, have devoted themselves to its ar- 
duous service, this obligation should not be permitted to 
interfere with the efficiency of the service itself. 

" I am grateful in being able to state, that the esti- 
mates of expenditure for the navy in the ensuing year ar« 
less, by more than one million of dollars, than those of 
the present, excepting the appropriation which may be- 
come necessary for the construction of a dock on the coast 
of the Pacific, propositions for which are now being con- 
sidered, and on which a special report may be expected 

-early in your present session. 

# « « # # »* # 

" I entertain no doubt of the authority of Congress to 
make appropricitions for leading objects in that class of 
public works comprising what are usually called works 
of internal improvement. This authority I suppose to 
be derived chiefly from the power of regulating commerce 
with foreign nations, and among the states, and the power 
of levying and collecting imposts. Where commerce is 
to be carried on, and imposts collected, there must be 
ports and harbors, as well as wharves and custom-houses. 
If ships, laden with valuable cargoes, approach the shore, 
or sail along the coast, lighthouses are necessary at 


suitable points for the protection of life and property. 
Other facilities and securities for commerce and naviga- 
tion are hardly less important ; and those clauses of the 
constitution, therefore, to which I have referred, have 
received, from the origin of the government, a liberal and 
beneficial construction. 

" I recommend that appropriations be made for com- 
pleting such works as have been already begun, and for 
commencing such others as may seem to the wisdom of 
Congress to be of public and general importance. 
««### %^« 

" It was hardly to have been expected that the series 
of measures passed at your last session, with the view 
of healing the sectional differences which had sprung 
from the slavery and territorial questions, should at once 
have realized their beneficent purposes. All mutual con- 
cessions in the nature of a compromise must necessarily 
be unwelcome to men of extreme opinions. And though 
without such concessions our constitution could not have 
been formed, and can not be permanently sustained, yet 
we have seen them made the subject of bitter controversy 
in both sections of the Eepublic. It required many 
months of discussion and deliberation to secure the con- 
currence of a majority of Congress in their favor. It 
would be strange if they had been received with imme- 
diate approbation by people and states, prejudiced and 
heated by the exciting controversies of their representa- 
tives. I believe those measures to have been required 


by the circumstances and condition of the country. I 
believe they were necessary to allay asperities and ani- 
mosities that were rapidly alienating one section of the 
country from another, and destroying those fraternal 
sentiments which are the strongest supports of the con- 
stitution. They were adopted in the spirit of concilia- 
tion, and for the purpose of conciliation. I believe that 
a great majority of our fellow citizens sympathize in that 
spirit, and that purpose, and, in the main, approve, and 
are prepared, in all respects, to sustain, these enactments. 
I can not doubt that the 'American people, bound 
together by kindred blood and common traditions, still 
cherish a paramount regard for the Union of their 
fathers, and that they are ready to rebuke any attempt 
to violate its integrity, to disturb the compromise on 
which it is based, or to resist the laws which have been 
enacted under its authority. 

" The series of measures to which I have alluded are 
regarded by me as a settlement, in principle and sub- 
stance — a final settlement of the dangerous and exciting 
subjects which they embraced. Most of these subjects, 
indeed, are beyond your reach, as the legislation which 
disposed of them was, in its character, final and irrevo- 
cable. It may be presumed, from the opposition which 
they all encountered, that none of those measures were 
free from imperfections ; but, in their mutual dependence 
and connection, they formed a system of compromise, the 
most conciliatory and best, for the entire country, that 
could be obtained from conflicting sectional interests and 


** For this reason I recommend your adherence to the 
adjustment established by those measures, until time and 
experience shall demonstrate the necessity of farther 
legislation to guard against evasion or abuse. 

*' By that adjustment we have been rescued from the 
wide and boundless agitation that surrounded' us, and 
have a firm, distinct, and legal ground to rest upon. 
And the occasion, I trust, will justify me in exhorting 
my countrymen to rally upon, and maintain, that ground 
as the best, if not the only, means of restoring peace and 
quiet to the country, and maintaining inviolate the integ- 
rity of the Union. 

" And now, fellow citizens, I can not bring this com 
munication to a close without invoking you to join me in 
humble and devout thanks to the Grreat Ruler of nations, 
for the multiplied blessings which he has graciously be 
stowed upon us. His hand, so often visible in our pre- 
servation, has stayed the pestilence, saved us from for- 
eign wars and domestic disturbances, and scattered plenty 
throughout the land. 

" Our liberties, religious and civil, have been main- 
tained; the fountains of knowledge have all been kept 
open, and means of happiness widely spread and gener- 
ally enjoyed, greater than have fallen to the lot of 
any other nation. And, while deeply penetrated with 
gratitude, for the rest, let us hope that his all-wise Provi- 
dence will so guide our counsels, as that they shall result 
in giving satisfaction to our constituents, securing the 
peace of the country, and adding new strength to the 
united government under which we live." 


The tone of the foregoing extracts is conservative and 
patriotic, and indicates a feeling, than which none could 
be more desirable in a chief magistrate. With a com 
prehensive, vigorous perception, in his message, he em- 
braces all the great subjects then agitating the country, 
and in their elucidation, expresses the soundest national 
sentiments. In the messages and writings of Mr. Fill- 
more there is one remarkable fact developed : bitter and 
hostile as may be the feelings of party strife, political 
opponents have never been able to cull from them a sin- 
gle expression that could be tortured into the semblance 
of anything unpatriotic. They can not find a feature in 
his whole political career, upon which they can consist- 
ently heap abusive denunciation. The message from 
which the extracts are taken, as a state paper, is unsur- 
passed in its ability and correct views of national policy, 
by any document on the American archives. It is a 
paper that will live among the records of ability, and be 
regarded a " model message." 



Fillibusteriiig — The Cuban movement — Proclamation of. the presi- 
dent — Progress of the adventurers — Their delusion — General 
Quitman — The Lopez expedition — Condensed history of that 
movement — Its disastrous termination — The Crescent City and 
Captain General of Cuba — European interference — Their pro- 
posals in regard to Cuba — Mr. Fillmore's views — A second 
Hulsemann letter — Mr. Fillmore's course in regard to Cuba — 
Kossuth — His mission — His interviews with Mr. Fillmore and Mr. 
Clay — Their views of his mission — Sound views in regard to 
foreign and domestic pohcy — Wisdom of Mr. Fillmore's adminis- 
tration — The American party — Its rise and progress — Causes that 
led to the defeat of the whig party — Mr. Fillmore's American- 
ism — His tour to Europe — Reflections, etc. — His nomination 
for the Presidency — Mr. Fillmore at home. 

The spirit of fillibustering, that has since resulted in 
the almost entire conquest of Nicaragua, began to man- 
ifest itself in the early part of Mr. Fillmore's adminis- 
tration. The sound conservative doctrine communicated 
to Congress, indicated the course he would take; in case 
executive interposition should be deemed necessary to 
quell the restless spirit of adventure, on the part of 
American citizens. A strict conformity to our neutrality 
laws was very desirable, and by a perusal of the mes- 
sage, it will be seen from sentiments embodied therein, 
that in regard to them, he entertained sound and patri- 
otic views. 

In various parts of the Union, demonstrations of no 


very pacific nature were made, in regard to the island of 
Cuba. These demonstrations, and speculations as to 
their ultimate result, furnished fruitful themes for news- 
paper comment, and created quite an excitement. Ad- 
venturers, whose fortunes could not be worsted, but 
stood some chance of being benefited, were ready to 
embark in any lawless enterprise. The invasion of Cuba 
was interdicted by our existing neutrality laws, and em- 
broilment with Spain and European afi^airs generally, 
would have been the result, in case of no official action on 
the subject. As soon as indications became sufficiently 
manifest that an invasion of Cuba was to be the object 
of the fillibusterers, the president issued the following 
proclamation : 

" Whereas, there is reason to believe that a military 
expedition is about to be fitted out in the United States 
with intention to invade the island of Cuba, a colony of 
Spain, with which this country is at peace ; and whereas, 
it is believed that this expedition is instigated and set on 
foot chiefly by foreigners, who dare to make our shores 
the scene of their guilty and hostile preparations against 
a friendly power, and seek, by falsehood and misrepresen- 
tation, to seduce our own citizens, especially the young 
and inconsiderate, into their wicked schemes — an ungrate- 
ful return for the benefits conferred upon them by this 
people in permitting them to make our country an asylum 
from oppression, and in flagrant abuse of the hospitality 
thus extended to them. 

" And whereas, such expeditions can only be regarded 
as adventures for plunder and robbery, and must meet 


the condemnation of the civilized world, whilst they are 
derogatory to the character of our country, in violation 
of the laws of nations, and expressly prohibited by our 
own. Our statutes declare, ' that, if any person shall, 
within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States, 
begin or set on foot, or provide or prepare the means for 
any military expedition or enterprise, to be carried on 
from thence against the territory or dominions of any 
foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or peo- 
ple, with whom the United States are at peace, every 
person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high mis- 
demeanor, and shall be fined not exceeding three thou- 
sand dollars, and imprisoned not more than three years.' 
" Now, therefore, I have issued this, my proclamation, 
warning all persons who shall connect themselves with 
any such enterprise or expedition, in violation of our 
laws and national obligations, that they will thereby sub- 
ject themselves to the heavy penalties denounced against 
such offenders, and will forfeit their claim to the protec- 
tion of this government, or any interference on their 
behalf, no matter to what extremities they may be 
reduced in consequence of their illegal conduct. And, 
therefore, I exhort all good citizens, as they regard our 
national reputation, as they respect their own laws and 
the laws of nations, as they value the blessings of peace 
and the welfare of their country, to discountenance, and 
by all lawful means prevent, any such enterprise ; and I 
call upon every officer of this government, civil or military 
to use all efforts in his power to arrest for trial and pun- 
ishment every such offender against the laws of the country 


" Given under my hand the twenty-fifth day of April,- 

in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and 

fifty-one, and the seventy -fifth of the independeiice of the 

United States. 

" Millard Fillmore. 
" Bv the President : 

" W. S. Derrick, Acting Secretary of State.'^ 

This timely proclamation, however, did not suppress 
the operations of the fiUibusters. The work of fitting out 
an expedition still went on, though with great caution. 
General Quitman, of Mississippi, was implicated in the 
movement, and many other men of note advanced means 
and gave aid to these adventurers. The movement con- 
tinued to gain strength until the equipment of the unfor- 
tunate Lopez was ready to embark for Cuba, carrying 
many deluded adherents to a fate awful to contemplate. 
With such secrecy and enterprise had the movement been 
conducted, that the officials were ignorant, at the time, 
of the extent of their preparations. Through the faithless 
collector at the port of Orleans, the Pampero, bearing the 
ill-fated crew of the Lopez expedition, got under way 
before day-light on the third of August. The followers 
of Lopez were misled ; they had been made to believe 
that the island of Cuba was on the eve of a rebellion, 
and that the appearance of a band of United States troops 
on the island would produce general insurrection on tho 
part of the Creoles. This they found to be a great mis- 
take, and paid for their folly with the forfeit of their lives 
or liberties. The following, from tho president's message, 
in regard to the Cuba difficulties, furnishes a condensed 


-history of the expedition, and some very patriotic views 
in regard to our domestic policy and foreign relations : 

"Verj^ early in the morning of the third of August, 
a steamer called the Pampero departed from Kew Orleans 
for Cuba, having o^ board upwards of four hundred 
armed men, with evident mtentions to make War upon 
the authorities of the island. The eApedition was set 
on foot in palpable violation of the laws of the United 
States. Its leader was a Spaniard, and several of the 
chief officers, and some others engaged in it were for- 
eigners. The persons corfiposing it, however, were mostly 
citizens of the United States. 

" Before the expedition set out, and probably before it 
was organized, a slight insurrectionary movement, which 
appears to have been soon suppressed, had taken place 
in the eastern quarter of Cuba. The importance of this 
movement was, unfortunately, so much exaggerated in 
the accounts of it published in this country, that these 
adventurers seem to have been led to believe that the 
Creole population of the island not only desired to throw 
off the authority of the mother country, but had resolved 
upon that step, and had begun a well-concerted enter- 
prise for effecting it. The persons engaged in the expe- 
dition were generally young and ill-informed. The 
steamer in which they embarked left ISTew Orleans 
stealthily and without a clearance. After touching at 
Key West, she proceeded to the coast of Cuba, and, on 
the night between the eleventh and twelfth of August, 
landed the persons on board at Playtas, within about 
twenty leagues of Havana. 


" The main body of them proceeded to, and took pos- 
session of, an inland village, six leagues distant, leaving 
others to follow in charge of the baggage, as soon as 
the means of transportation could be obtained. The 
latter, having taken up their line of march to connect 
themselves with the main body, and having proceeded 
about four leagues into the country, were attacked, on 
the thirteenth, by a body of Spanish troops, and a 
bloody conflict ensued ; after which they retreated to the 
place of disembarkation, where about fifty of them 
obtained boats and reembarked therein. They were, 
however, intercepted among the keys near the shore, by 
a Spanish steamer cruising on the coast, captured, and 
carried to Havana, and, after being examined before a 
military court, were sentenced to be publicly executed, 
and the sentence was carried into effect on the sixteenth 
of August. 

" On receiving information of what had occurred. Com- 
modore Foxhall A. Parker was instructed to proceed, in 
the steam frigate Saranac, to Havana, and inquire into 
the charges against the persons executed, the circum- 
stances under which they were taken, and whatsoever 
referred to their trial and sentence. Copies of the instruc- 
tions from the department of state to him, and of his let- 
ters to the department, are herewith submitted. 

"According to the record of the examination, the 
prisoners all admitted the offences charged against them 
of being hostile invaders of the island. At the time of 
their trial and execution, the main body of the invaders 


\pas still in the field, making war upon the Spanish author- 
ities and Spanish subjects. After the lapse of some days, 
being overcome by the Spanish troops, they dispersed on 
the twenty-fourth of August, 

** Lopez, their leader, was captured some days after, 
and executed on the first of September. Many of his 
remaining followers were killed, or died of hunger and 
fatigue, and the rest were made prisoners. Of those, none 
appear to have been tried or executed. Several of them 
were pardoned upon application of their friends and 
oth&rs, and the rest, about one hundred and sixty in num- 
ber, were sent to Spain. Of the final disposition made 
of these we have no official information. 

" Such is the melancholy result of this illegal and ill- 
fated expedition. Thus, thoughtless young men have 
been induced, by false and fraudulent representation, to 
violate the law of their country, through rash and un- 
founded expectations of assisting to accomplish political 
revolutions in other states, and have lost their lives in 
the undertaking. Too severe a judgment can hardly be 
passed, by the indignant sense of the community, upon 
those who, being better informed themselves, have yet 
led away the ardor of youth, and an ill-directed love of 
political liberty. The correspondence between this 
government and that of Spain, relating to this transac- 
tion is herewith communicated. 

"Although these ofi'enders against the laws have for- 
feited the protection of their country, yet the govern- 
ment may, so far as is consistent with its obligations to 
other countries, and its fixed purpose to maintain and 


enforce the laws, entertain sympathy for their nnofifending 
families and friends, as well as a feeling of compassion 
for themselves. Accordingly, no proper effort has been 
spared, and none will be spared, to procure the release 
of such citizens of the United States, engaged in this 
unlawful enterprise, as are now in confinement in Spain ; 
but it is to be hoped that such interposition with tho 
government of that country may not be considered as 
affording any ground of expectation that the government 
of the United States will, hereafter, feel itself under any 
obligation of duty to intercede for the liberation or pardon 
of such persons as are flagrant offenders against the law 
of nations and the laws of the United States. These 
laws must be executed. If we desire to maintain our 
respectability among the nations of the earth, it behooves 
us to enforce steadily the neutrality acts passed by Con- 
gress, and to follow, as far as may be, the violation of 
those acts with condign punishment. 

" But what gives a peculiar criminality to this invasion 
of Cuba is, that under the lead of Spanish subjects, and 
with the aid of citizens of the United States, it had its 
origin, with many, in motives of cupidity. Money was 
advanced by individuals, probably in considerable 
amounts, to purchase Cuban bonds, as they have been 
called, issued by Lopez, sold, doubtless, at a very largo 
discount, and for the payment of which the public lands 
and public property of Cuba, of whatever kind, and tho 
fiscal resources of the people and government of that 
island, from whatever source to be derived, were pledged, 
as well as the good faith of the government expected to 


be established. All these means of payment, it is evident, 
were only to be obtained by a process of bloodshed, war, 
and revolution. None will deny that those who set on 
foot military expeditions against foreign states by means 
like these, are far more culpable than the ignorant and 
the necessitous whom they induce to go forth as the 
ostensible parties in the proceeding. These originators 
of the invasion of Cuba seem to have determined, with 
coolness and system, upon an undertaking which should 
disgrace their country, violate its laws, and put to hazard 
the lives of ill-informed and deluded men. You will 
consider whether further legislation be necessary to pre- 
vent the perpetration of such offences in future. 

*'No individuals have a right to hazard the peace of 
the country, or to violate its laws, upon vague notions 
of altering or reforming governments in other states. 
This principle is not only reasonable in itself, and in ac- 
cordance with public law, but is engrafted into the codes 
of other nations as well as our own. But while such are 
the sentiments of this government, it may be added that 
every independent nation must be presumed to be able 
to defend its possessions against unauthorized individuals 
banded together to attack them. The government of the 
United States, at all times since its establishment, has 
abstained, and has sought to restrain the citizens of the 
country, from entering into controversies between other 
powers, and to observe all the duties of neutrality. At 
an early period of the government, in the administration 
of Washington, several laws were passed for this purpose. 
The main provisions of these laws were reenacted by the 


act of April, ISIS, by which, amongst other things, it 
was declared that, if any person shall, within the terri- 
tory or jurisdiction of the United States, begin, or set on 
foot, or provide or prepare the means for any military 
expedition or enterprise, to be carried on from thence 
against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince 
or state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom 
the United States are at peace, every person so offending 
shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall 
be fined, not exceeding three thousand dollars, and im- 
prisoned not more than three years; and this law has 
been executed and enforced, to the full extent of the 
power of the government, from that day to this. 

" In proclaiming and adhering to the doctrine of neu- 
trality and non-intervention, the United States have not 
followed the lead of other civilized nations ; thev have 
taken the lead themselves, and have been. followed by 
others. This was admitted by one of the most eminent 
of modern British statesmen, who said in Parliament, 
while a minister of the crown, that, ' if he wished for a 
system of neutrality, he should take that laid down by 
America in the days of Washington and the secretary- 
ship of Jefferson ; ' and we see, in fact, that the act of 
Congress of 1818 was followed, the succeeding year, by 
an act of Parliament of England, substantially the same 
in its general provisions. Up to that time there had been 
no similar law in England, except certain highly penal 
statutes passed in the reign of George II, prohibiting 
English subjects from enlisting in foreign service, the 

avowed object of which statutes was, that foreign armies, 


raised for the purpose of restoring the house of Stuart 
to the throne, should not be strengthened by recruits from 
England herself. 

" All must see that difficulties may arise in carrying 
the laws referred to into execution in a country now hav- 
ing three or four thousand miles of sea-coast, with an 
infinite number of ports, and harbors, and small inlets, 
from some of which unlawful espeditions may suddenly 
set forth, without the knowledge of goYernment, against 
the possessions of foreign states. 

" Friendly relations with all, but entangling alliances 
with none, has long been a maxim with us. Our true 
mission is not to propagate our opinions, or impose upon 
other countries our form of government, by artifice or 
force : but to teach by example, and show by our suc- 
cess, moderation and justice, the blessings of self-govern- 
ment, and the advantages of free institutions. Let every 
people choose for itself, and make and alter its political 
institutions to suit its own condition and convenience. 
But, while we avow and maintain this neutral policy our- 
selves, we are anxious to see the same forbearance on the 
part of other nations, whose forms of government are 
different from our own. The deep interest which we 
feel in the spread of liberal principles and the establish- 
ment of free governments, and the sympathy with which 
we witness every struggle against oppression, forbid that 
we should be indifferent to a case in which the strong 
arm of a foreign power is invoked to stifle public senti- 
ment and repress the spirit of freedom in any country." 

With the disastrous result of the Cuban expedition the 



countr}^ is too well acquainted to need any recapitnlulion 
here. Many of them suffered the criielest deaths ; some 
were sent to the chain gang as prisoners, who were sub- 
sequently released by the interposition of Congress. The 
faithless collector was dismissed, and the vessel that car- 
ried the expedition to Cuba was condemned, as the pen- 
alty of her offence. 

Such was the conclusion of the famous Lopez invasion 
of Cuba. One would have thought, from the disasters 
that attended it, and the prompt efficiency of the execu- 
tive in quelling such excitements, that further attempts 
of that sort would not be contemplated. But such was 
not the case. Subsequent to the Lopez affair, the Cres- 
cent City and Purser Smith excitement created no small 
sensation. The governor of Cuba prevented the steamer 
Crescent City from landing at the port of Havana, upon 
the allegation that the purser of the vessel, Smith, had 
been inciting the citizens of the United States against 
the island. With the demand of the governor to remove 
that gentleman, as the only conditions by which he could 
land the vessel, the commander refused to comply. From 
this affair considerable diiSculty originated, and it finally 
became a subject of executive attention. In the estima- 
tion of the president, the conduct of both the commander 
of the Crescent City and the governor of Cuba was 
reprehensible. The former was informed that in case of 
a forfeiture of his ship in consequence of violating the 
law, by endeavoring to force his entry into a foreign port, 
he could expect no remuneration from the government. 
The conduct of the captain-general was made a subject 


of investigation before the tribunals of his country. The 
excitement growing out of these fillibustering expeditions 
to the colony began to excite alarm in Europe, and 
elicited the considerations of the crowned heads. The 
Toluntary mediation of France and England resulted in 
the proposition to the United States, through her secre- 
tar}^ for a treaty between the three powers, a stipulation 
of which forever prevented either of the parties from 
interfering in the affairs of Cuba. It is almost needless 
to say, from the expressed and demonstrated views of Mr. 
Fillmore in regard to our policy with reference to other 
countries, that he was opposed to such an "entangling 
alliance," as this proposed treaty would create. The 
following is a portion of Hon. Edward Everett's reply, 
as secretary of state, to the proposition. It is an able 
document, and indicates the views of the administration 
upon the proposition, and sets forth some of the objec- 
tions to its favorable entertainment : 
. " But the president has a graver objection to entering 
into the proposed convention. He has no wish to dis- 
guise the feeling that the compact, although equal in its 
terms, would be very unequal in substance. England 
and France by entering into it would disable themselves 
fi'om obtaining the possession of an island so remote 
from their seats of government, belonging to another 
European power, whose natural right to possess it must 
always be as good as their own — a distant island in 
another hemisphere, and one which by no ordinary or 
peaceful course of things could ever belong to either of 
them. If the present balance of power should be broker 


up — if Spain should become unable to maintain the 
island in her possession, and England and France should 
be engaged in a death struggle with each other, Cuba 
might then be the prize of the victor. Till these events 
all take place, the president does not see how Cuba can 
belong to any European power but Spain. The United 
States, on the other hand, would by the proposed conven- 
tion disable themselves from making an acquisition which 
might take place without any disturbance of existing 
foreign relations, and in the natural order of things. 

" The island of Cuba lies at our doors ; it commands 
the approach to the Gulf of Mexico, which washes the 
shores of five of our states ; it bars the entrance to that 
great river which drains half the North American 
continent, and, with its tributaries, forms the largest 
system of water communication in the world ; it keeps 
watch at the doorway of our intercourse with California 
by the Isthmus. If an island like Cuba, belonging to 
the Spanish crown, guarded the entrance to the Thames, 
or the Seine, and the United States should propose a 
convention like this to England and France, those powers 
would assuredly feel that the disability assumed by our- 
selves was far less serious than that which we asked 
them to assume. 

" The opinion of American statesmen, at different times 
and under varying circumstances, have differed as to the 
desirableness of the acquisition of Cuba by the United 
States. Territorially and commercially, it would, in our 
hands, be an extremely valuable possession. Under cer- 
tain contingencies, it might be almost essential to our 


safety ; still, for domestic reasons on which, in a com- 
muuieatiou of this kind, it might not be proper to dwell, 
the President thinks that the incorporation of the island 
into the Union at the present time, although effected 
with the consent of Spain, would be a hazardous meas- 
ure, and he would consider its acquisition by force, except 
in a just war with Spain, should an event so greatly to 
be deprecated take place, as a disgrace to the civilization 
of the age. The President has given ample proof of the 
sincerity with which he holds these views. He has 
thrown the whole force of his constitutional power against 
all illegal attacks upon the island. It would have been 
perfectly easy for him, without any seeming neglect of 
duty, to allow projects of a formidable character to 
gather strength, by connivance. No amount of obloquy 
at home, no embarrassments caused by the indiscretions 
of the colonial government of Cuba, have moved him 
from the path of duty. In this respect the captain- 
general of the island, an offirier apparently of upright 
and conciliatory character, but probably more used to 
military command than the management of civil affairs, 
has, on a punctilio in reference to the purser of a pri- 
vate steamship, who seems to be entirely innocent of the 
matters laid to his charge, refused to allow passengers 
and the mails of the United States to be landed from a 
vessel having them on board. This is certainly a very 
extraordinary mode of animadverting upon a supposed 
abuse of the liberty of the press by the subject of a for- 
eign government in his native country. The captain- 
general is not permitted by his government, three thousand 


miles off, to hold any diplomatic intercourse with tho 
United States. He is subject in no degree to the direc- 
tion of the Spanish minister at Washington'^; and tho 
president has to choose between a resort to force to 
compel the abandonment of this gratuitous interruption 
of commercial intercourse, which would result in war — 
and a delay of weeks and months, necessary to a nego- 
tiation with Madrid, with all the chances of the most 
deplorable occurrences in the interval, and all for a trifle 
that ought to have admitted of a settlement by an 
exchange of notes between Washington and Havana. 
The president has, however, patiently submitted to these 
evils, and has continued faithfully to give to Cuba the 
advantage of those principles of the public law, under 
the shadow of w^hich she has departed, in this case, from 
the comity of nations. But the incidents to which I allude, 
and which are still in the train, are among many others 
which point decisively to the expediency of some change 
in the relations of Cuba; and the president thinks that 
the influence of England and France with Spain, would 
be well employed in inducing her so to modify the admin- 
istration of the government of Cuba, as to afford the 
means of some prompt remedy for evils of the kind 
alluded to, which have done much to increase the spirit 
of unlawful enterprise against the island. That a con- 
vention such as is proposed would be a transitory arrange- 
ment, sure to be swept away by the irresistible tide of 
affairs in a new country, is, to the apprehension of the 
president, too obvious to require a labored argument. 
The project rests on principles, applicable, if at all, to 


Europe, where international relations are, in their basis, 
of great anti(|uity, slowly modified for the most part in 
the progress of time, and events, and not applicable to 
America, which but lately a waste, is filling up with 
intense rapidity, and adjusting on natural principles, 
those territorial relations which, on the first discovery of 
the continent, were, in a good degree, fortuitous. The 
comparative history of Europe and America, even for a 
single century shows this." 

The following extracts from Webster's famous Hulse- 
mann letter, indicate the views of the administration. 
"While it manifests an active sympathy and a lively 
interest for those struggling for freedom in all countries, 
it conveys an avowed determiination to maintain invio- 
late all neutrality relationships, and to keep aloof from 
all foreign alliances : 

* * * " But the interest taken bv the 

United States in those events, has not proceeded from 
any disposition to depart from that neutrality toward 
foreign powers, which is among the deepest principles 
and the most cherished traditions of the political history 
of the Union. * * # * 

" The power of this republic, at the present moment, 
is spread over a region, one of the richest and most fer- 
tile on the globe, and of an extent in comparison with 
which the possessions of the House of Hapsburg are but 
as a patch on the earth's surface. Its population, already 
twenty-five millions, will exceed that of the Austrian 
empire within the period during which it may be hoped 


that Mr. Hulsemann may yet remain in the honorable 
discharge of his duties to his government. Its naviga- 
tion and commerce are hardly exceeded by the oldest and 
most commercial nations ; its maritime means and its 
maritime power may be seen by Austria herself, in all 
seas where she has ports, as well as it may be seen, also, 
in all other quarters of the globe. Life, liberty, prop- 
erty, and all personal rights, are amply secured to all 
citizens, and protected by just and staple laws ; and 
credit, public and private, is as well established as in 
any government of Continental Europe. And the coun- 
try, in all its interests and concerns, partakes most 
largely in all the improvements and progress which dis- 
tinguish the age. Certainly the United States may bo 
pardoned, even by those who profess adherence to the 
principles of absolute governments, if they entertain an 
ardent affection for those popular forms of political 
organization which have so rapidly advanced their own 
prosperity and happiness ; which enabled them, in so 
short a period, to bring their country, and the hemisphere 
to which it belongs, to the notice and respectful regard, 
not to say the admiration, of the civilized world. Nev- 
ertheless, the United States have abstained, at all times, 
from acts of interference with the political changes of 
Europe. They cannot, however, fail to cherish always 
a lively interest in the fortunes of nations struggling for 
institutions like their own. But this sympathy, so far 
from being necessarily a hostile feeling towards any of 
the parties to these great national struggles, is quite 

consistent with amicable relations with them all." 


The course pursued by Mr. FillmoreT in regard to the 
Cuban movements, elicited the universal approval of his 
countrymen of all parties, not infected with a spirit of 
fillibustering enterprise. From his action in regard to 
those movements, a full appreciation of his views upon 
the subject of our foreign and domestic policy may be 
derived. It was a sound, conservative, patriotic course, 
prompt in action, and conciliatory in effect, and affords 
an instructive example for chief executives of our coun- 
try. Another event, important from subsequent events 
whose maturity it tended to accellerate, affords an oppor- 
tunity of ascertaining Mr. Fillmore's view upon foreign 
alliances. I allude to the visit of Louis Kossuth to 
America, during his administration. 

Kossuth came to this country to plead for Hungary, his 
' fatherland.' The condition of that unhappy country was 
of itself sufficient to excite sympathy. Eobbed of her jew- 
els, deprived of her freedom, disrobed of her independence, 
quivering with the Austrian bayonet in her heart, and 
weeping over the fragments of her nationality, she pre- 
sented a spectacle well calculated to arouse sympathy. 
But when, in all their magnitude, her sufferings were por- 
trayed to Americans by the burning words of her exiled 
chief, the picture possessed a double potency. Never did 
a warmer embrace of a nation, extend a more heartfelt 
welcome than did we to him. The deep, wide-spread 
sympathy m^anifested for him wherever he went, was un- 
paralleled ; but he misconstrued it, and was much cha- 
grined when forced to discriminate between sympathy 
and policy. To unsettle the national policy of a country 


consolidated on the maxims of Washington and Jefferson, 
was a task he .could not accomplish. He visited our 
extensive cities, and created sympathy everywhere. But 
the wily chief, from the elicitation of that, directed his 
hopes to "material aid." lie was invited to Washington 
City, by a resolution of Congress. Accepting this invi- 
tation, he visited the capital. There he had an interview 
with Henry Clay and President Fillmore. Among the 
last acts of Clay's life was to extend to him a true sym- 
pathy, and to utter an emphatic protest against his de- 
signs, in regard to bringing the United States, as a party, 
into the difficulties of Europe. Let America engrave 
with a diamond pen upon her heart of hearts, this almost 
dying advice of Henry Clay. On the last day of the 
year, Kossuth was introduced to Mr. Fillmore by Daniel 
Webster. In the presence of the nation's executive, the 
Hungarian delivered the following address : 

" President : I stand before your Excellency a living 
protestation against the violence of foreign interference, 
oppressing the sovereign right of nations to regulate their 
own domestic concerns. 

"I stand before your Excellency a living protestation 
against centralization oppressing the state right of self- 

" May I be allowed to take it for an augury of better 
times, that, in landing on the happy shores of this glorious 
republic, I landed in a free and powerful country, whoso 
honored chief magistrate proclaims to the world that this 
country can not remain indifferent when the strong arm 


of a foreign po^Ye^ is invoked to stifle public sentiment 
and repress the spirit of freedom in any country. 

"I thank God that he deemed me not unworthy to act 
and to suffer for my fatherland, 

" I thank God that the fate of my country became so 
intimately connected with the fate of liberty and, inde- 
pendence of nations of Europe, as formerly it was inti- 
mately connected with the security of Christendom. 

" I thank God that my country's unmerited woe and 
my personal sufferings became an opportunity to seek a 
manifestation of the spirit and principles of your republic. 

"May God the Almighty bless you with a long life, 
that you may enjoy the happiness to see your country 
great, glorious, and free, the corner-stone of international 
justice, and the column of freedom on the earth, as it is 
already an asylum to the oppressed. 

" Sir, I pledge to your country the everlasting grati- 
tude of Hungary." 

To the above Mr. Fillmore made the following appro- 
priate reply : 

*'I am happy. Governor Kossuth, to welcome you to 
this land of freedom ; and it gives me pleasure to con- 
gratulate you upon your release from a long confinement 
in Turkey, and your late arrival here. As an individual, 
I sympathize deeply with you in your brave struggle for 
the independence and freedom of your native land. The 
American people can never be indifferent to such a con- 
test ; but our policy as a nation in this respect has been 
uniform, from the commencement of the government ; and 
my own views, as the chief magistrate of this nation, 


are fully and freely expressed in my recent message 
to Congress. They are the same whether speaking to 
Congress here or to the nations of Europe. 

" Should your country be restored to independence and 
freedom, I should then wish you, as the greatest blessing 
you could enjoy, a restoration to your native land ; but 
should that never happen, I can only repeat my welcome 
to you and your companions here, and pray that God's 
blessing may rest upon you wherever your lot may be." 

Mr. Fillmore viewed Kossuth's mission as one having 
dangerous tendencies if encouraged beyond the limits of 
sympathy. He took the same view of it that Clay did. 
It was evidently the design of Kossuth, from the moment 
he set foot upon our shores, to appeal to the hearts of a 
people, who, he knew, were lovers of liberty, and after 
arousing their sympathies to procure the assistance of 
men or money, or perhaps both, for Hungary. Had ho 
succeeded, and we had become entangled just at that time 
in foreign broils, no human sagacity can tell where we 
would have been placed by the storm that has just blown 
over the trans- Atlantic world. But with men at the head 
of affairs, entertaining the sentiments embodied in Mr. 
Fillmore's reply to Kossuth's address, and demonstrated 
throughout his entire administration, there is not the 
remotest chance of bringing about such a result. It waf^ 
during this administration that the oppressed Madiais 
were groaning under the cruel tyranny of the papal 
hierarchy. Mr. Fillmore wrote to the Grand Duke of Tus- 
cany, through his secretary of state, Hon. Edward 
Everett, to have that unfortunate family released. His 


active syinpathj' in their behalf ^vas, doubtless, what 
dieted the denunciatory eflfusions of Archbishop Hughes' 
journal, of which the following is a specimen : 

" It does not escape the independent judgment of the 
universe, that the administration, now happily defunct, has 
been as bigoted as it has been imbecile. The universe 
congratulates the country upon having elected a states- 
man (Pierce !) for president, and for permitting the Uni- 
tarian ex-preacher, late secretary of state, to return to 
his pulpit to proclaim that Jesus is not God, and Mr. 
Fillmore himself to become a village lawyer." 

Under the broad shield of our constitution, there is 
certainly no true American who can endorse such a sen- 
timent as the above. Among true patriots, in regard to 
]\[r. Fillmore's administration, there exists but one opin- 
ion — that in wisdom, virtue, and patriotism, it has never 
been excelled. 

Many wise and important measures were adopted 
during Mr. Fillmore's administration. Among others 
were extensive exploring expeditions, that were highly 
creditable to the nation. The commerce to Japan was 
opened. A three cent letter postage was established, 
and a number of measures of infinite utility to the country. 
Never did a chief magistrate close an administration with 
more unbounded approbation. Never did one retire from 
office clothed with brighter lustre. 

Never did official term weave for man a nobler, civic 
crown. Never did an individual more firmly enthrone 
hmself in the grateful hearts of his countrymen. Never 


did one wear more fadeless laurels, and never were they 
more proudly worn. 

We now propose giving a brief notice to the American 
party, as being to some extent associated with the great 
man of whom we are writing, and figuring conspicuously 
in the measures of the country. Native Americanism had 
its origin in the almost utter prostration of the ballot-box, 
and the grossest abuses of the elective franchise in the 
municipal elections of our extensive cities. 

The first American movement was in the city of New 
York in 1S34. The intolerant frauds practhied upon the 
city by foreigners, and the immense influx into that city 
of the thousands annually disgorged from the old world, 
resulted in an organization for the purpose of counter- 
acting their influence. Prof. Morse was run by that 
party for mayor of the city, and received a very respec- 
table vote. The appeals made by the young party to 
the people in behalf of the sacredness of the ballot box, 
and warning them against foreign influence, had a pow- 
erful effect, and it gained many adherents. 

This party, however, began, so far as the organization 
was concerned, to die away without having accomplished 
much more than the avowal of principles that were event- 
ually to take deeper hold upon the masses. The Ameri- 
can feeling received a startling impetus again in 1S40, 
by the endeavors of Archbishop Hughes and Gov. Seward 
to set aside a portion of New York's cherished school 
fund for the support of catholic schools. This was the 
most dangerous innovation, as they conceived, that had 
yet indicated itself, and to counteract it and other abuses 


they re-organized in 1843. This time they published 
their principles, calling on other cities to follow their 
example. Many cities responded to the call and pursued 
the same course, and several succeeded in discomfiting 
the foreigners entirely. In 1844, the city of New York 
elected their mayor upon the American ticket, and most 
of the city council. The native American feeling was 
again lost sight of amid the smoke of battle in the presi- 
dential canvass of 1844, to remain in comparative quiet 
until 1851-52, when it assumed a more prominent aspect 
than it had at any time previous, and continued to 
increase until 1854 and 1855 it was tlie question of the day- 
The resuscitation and rapid progress of the principles of 
the party from that date may be attributed to a variety 
of concurrent causes. The compromise had just passed, 
and, the difficulties adjusted that had caused such fearful 
agitation, the minds of the people were called to the 
more immediate investigation of foreign influence, and 
were brought to see the necessity of some counteracting 
efforts. The defeat of Clay in 1844 was, to a great extent, 
the effect of naturalization frauds and the foreign vote, 
and people began to open their eyes and become alarmed 
at the fearful balance of power exerted by them. The 
campaign of 1852 and the excitement occasioned by and 
over the foreign vote, tended to accelerate the develop- 
ment of the party's strength. The political demagoguery 
and chicanery that had been riianifest for years, and the 
prospect afforded for checking its influence, advanced and 
gave stability to the party. The death of the whig party 
created a national vacuum \Yhere the disaffected and 


those who had become couvmced of the folly of partisan 
strife of all parties could marshal under the broad ban- 
ners of Americanism. As whig has been mentioned, it 
may not be improper to advert to some of the causes 
that led to the eventual decay and disruption of that party. 
One thing that operated against the whigs, even in their 
palmiest days, was Ihe attitude in which they placed their 
candidates. Instead of having that confidence in the 
man that circumstances justified, and regarding his past 
course as a sufficient guarantee for his future, they 
required pledges and indorsements, until they complicated 
with a multiplicity of national and local measures. 

They required too much at the hands of their leaders — 
so much, that infalibility would not more than satisfy 
some of the party. They lacked consolidated, active 
organization in their campaigns, necessary to insure 
success. These, however, and various others, needless 
to enumerate, were secondary causes. The great cause 
of that party's destruction was the defeat of Clay in 
1844. The acknowledged leader of his party, through 
many a hard-fought battle — thrice rejected by his country- 
men, the people lost all confidence in their party. They 
thought if such men as Clay and Webster could not 
elicit the support of their party, that ability and patriot- 
ism w^ere wholly unappreciated, and losing all confidence 
in the success of measures being carried in other hands, 
that had failed in Clay's, they bowed with the ruins of 
their party. The campaign of 1844 was an epoch in 
American politics, — the result of Clay's defeat was not 
unforeseen. From the very day the result became known 


a spirit of " all is lost " hung in gloom over the party. 
No signs indicated renewed energies at another time. 
A perfect "give up " disposition pervaded the entire 
party. Such was the result of the defeat of Henry Clay. 

The vacuum thus produced by the defection of the old 
whig, was very appropriate for the re-organizatioii of the 
American party. Eeared upon the ruins of its great 
predecessor, it gained strength from 1851, continually, 
until 1854 and 1855 it swept like an avalanche over several 
entire states. Of its principles, aims, and objects, I need 
not speak here, they are known all over the country ; 
suffice it to say, they are essentially American in letter 
and spirit, and number among their adherents the ablest 
men from all parties. 

Mr. Fillmore became formally identified with the 
American order in 1855. If any additional evidences 
Were needed, to those transpiring around him, to convince 
him of the utility of the American movement, they were 
furnished by the conduct of Kossuth, who, finding himself 
unable to make any impressions other than sympathy 
upon the native born citizens of our country, commenced 
appealing to the foreign voters. 

The following is a sample of these appeals, and their 
results; it is a portion of a speech he made to the Ger- 
mans of .New York City in 1852 : 

" You are strong enough to effect the election of that 
candidate for the presidency who gives the most attention 
to the European cause. I find that quite natural, be- 
cause between both parties there is no difference as 
regards the internal policy, and because only by the inan- 


ity of the German citizens of this country, the election 
will be such, that, by and by, the administration will turn 
their attention to other countries, and give every nation 
free scope. No tree, my German friends, falls with the 
first stroke ; it is therefore necessary, that, inasmuch as 
you are citizens, and can command your votes, you sup- 
port the candidate who will pursue the external policy in 
our sense, and endeavor to effect that all nations become 
free and independent, such as is the case in happy 

The following resolutions are the result of a similar 
effusion a short time afterwards : 

*' Hesolved, that as American citizens, we will attach 
ourselves to the democratic party, and will devote our 
strength to having a policy of intervention in America 
carried out. 

" Eesolved, that we expect that the candidates of the 
democratic party will adopt the principles of this policy, 
which has been sanctioned by all distinguished statesmen 
of this party. 

"Resolved, that we protest against the manner in 
which, heretofore, the government of the United States 
has interpreted and applied ilie policy of neutrality, 
which is a violation of the spirit of the constitution of 
the United States. 

''Eesolved, that we ask that every American citizen, 
not being attached to the soil, may support the strength 
of any other people in the sense as the juries have inter- 
preted the principles of the American constitution, and 
especially of the policy of neutrality." 


And here again is his secret circular in very strict 
keeping with his " President : I stand before your excel- 
lency a living protestation against the violence of foreign 
interference, oppressing the sovereign right of nations to 
regulate their own concerns." Then he was addressing 
President Fillmore. In this circular he addressed him- 
self to the Germans, and thought it best to play on a 
harp of another string : 

" Nevst York, June 28th, 1852. 

" Sir : I hope you have read already my German 
farewell speech, delivered June 23d, in the Tabernacle 
at New York, and also the resolution of the meeting, 
which was passed subsequently. 

" I hope, further, that the impression which this matter 
has made upon both political parties has not escaped 
your attention. 

" Indeed, it is not easy to be mistaken, that the Ger- 
man citizens of America will have the casting vote in 
the coming election, if they are united in a joint direction 
upon the platform of the principles set forth in the speech 
before mentioned. 

" They may decide upon the exterior policy of the 
next administration of the United States, and with that 
the triumph or the fall of liberty in Europe." 

Whether Kossuth's mission, and such effusions as the 
foregoing, had effect upon Mr. Fillmore's feelings with 
immediate reference to his identification with the Amer- 
ican party, or not, they were circumstances well calcu- 
lated to induce serious reflection on the part of all. Mr. 


Fillmore's convictions on these principles had heen pretty 
well settled for a number of years ; they were the results 
of a palpable necessity, of whose existence he had long 
been satisfied. 

The following letter, from Mr. Fillmore to a /riend 
residing in Philadelphia, gives his views more fully upon 
the principles of the American party : 

"Buffalo, New York, Jan. 3d, 1855. 
** Hespected Friend Isaac Newton : 

* * * u J i-eturn you many thanks for your 
information on the subject of politics. I am always 
happy to hear what is going forward ; but, independently 
of the fact that I feel myself withdrawn from the politi- 
cal arena, I have been too much depressed in spirit to 
take an active part in the late elections. I contented 
myself with giving a silent vote for Mr. Ullman for 

" While, however, I am an inactive observer of public 
events, I am by no means an indifferent one ; and I may 
say to you, in the frankness of friendship, I have for a 
long time looked with dread and apprehension at the cor- 
rupting influence which the contest for the foreign vote 
is exciting upon our elections. This seems to result from 
its being banded together, and subject to the control of 
a few interested and selfish leaders. Hence, it has been 
a subject of bargain and sale, and each of the great polit- 
ical parties of the country have been bidding to obtain 
it ; and, as usual in all such contests, the party which is 
most corrupt is most successful. The consequence is, 


that it is fast demoralizing the whole countiy ; corrupt- 
ing the very fountains of political power ; and convert- 
ing the ballot-box — that great palladium of our liberty — 
into an unmeaning mockery, where the rights of native- 
born citizens are voted away by those who blindly follow 
their mercenary and selfish leaders. The evidence of 
this is found not merely in the shameless chaffering for 
the foreign vote at every election, but in the large dis- 
proportion of offices which are now held by foreigners, at 
home and abroad, as compared with our native citizens. 
Where is the true hearted American whose cheek does 
not tingle with shame and mortification, to -see our high- 
est and most coveted foreign missions filled by men of 
foreign birth, to the exclusion of native born 1 Such 
appointments are a humiliating confession to the crowned 
heads of Europe, that a republican soil does not produce 
sufficient talent to represent a republican nation at a 
monarchical court. I confess that it seems to me, with 
all due respect to others, that, as a general rule, our 
country should be governed by American-born citizens. 
Let us give to the oppressed of every country an asylum 
and a home in our happy land ; give to all the benefits 
of equal laws and equal protection; but let us at the 
same time cherish as the apple of our eye the great prin- 
ciples of constitutional liberty, which few who have not 
had the good fortune to be reared in a free country know 
how to appreciate, and still less, how to preserve. 

"Washington, in that inestimable legacy which he left 
to his country ; — his farewell address — has wisely warned 
us to beware of foreign influence as the most baneful foe 


of a republican government. He saw it, to bo sure, in a 
different light from tliat in which it now presents itself; 
but he knew that it would approach in all forms, and 
hence he cautioned us against the insidious wiles of its 
influence. Therefore, as well for our own sakes, to whom 
this invaluable inheritance of self-government has been 
left by our forefathers, as for the sake of the unborn mil- 
lions who are to inherit this land — foreign and native — 
let us take warning of the father of his country, and 
do what we can to preserve our institutions from corrup- 
tion, and our country from dishonor ; but let this be done 
by the people themselves in their sovereign capacity, by 
makiug a proper discrimination in the selection of officers, 
and not by depriving any individual, native or foreign- 
born, of any constitutional or legal right to which he is 
now entitled. 

" These are my sentiments in brief; and although I 
have sometimes almost despaired of my country, when I 
have witnessed the rapid strides of corruption, yet I 
think I perceive a gleam of hope in the future, and I now 
feel confident that, when the great mass of intelligence 
in this enlightened country is once fully aroused, and the 
danger manifested, it wul fearlessly apply the remedy, 
and bring back the government to the pure days of 
"Washington's administration. Finally, let us adopt the 
old Eoman motto, 'Never despair of the republic' Let 
us do our duty, and trust in that providence which has 
so signally watched over and preserved us for the result. 
But I have said more than I intended, and much more 
than I should have said to any one but a trusted friend, 


as I have no desire to mingle in political strife. Eemem- 
ber me kindlj^ to your family, and, believe me, 

" I am truly j^ours, 

"Millard Fillmore." 

Since the close of Mr. Fillmore's administration, he 
has been visited with the severest domestic afflictions 
that fell with a crushing weight upon his heart. He has 
continued to reside in Buffalo, a pattern for the old, and 
an example for the young. He recently took a tour to 
Europe, and visited the places in the old world hallowed 
by their historic associations. He was everywhere an 
object of respect and admiration. The plain, unostenta- 
tious manner of his traveling, won the approval of his 
countrymen at home, and demonstrated our republican 
principles abroad. He had personal interviews with 
Queen Victoria, Louis ISTapoleon, the Pope of Eome, and 
other crowned heads of Europe, and was on all occasions 
the recipient of marked respect. The reflections he 
made upon the governments of the old world were favor- 
able to the highest appreciation for the beloved institu- 
tions of his own country. Mr. Fillmore is essentially 
American in manners, looks, and feelings, and in his 
intercourse with the friends of royalty evinced his purely 
American principles on all occasions. At a convention 
of his countrymen, wholly unsolicited and unexpected, 
held some time since at Philadelphia, he was nominated 
by acclamation as a candidate for the chief magistracy 
of the United States — the position he filled with such 
distinguished ability and patriotism through the struggle 


of 1850-51. He received notice of his nominalion at 
Venice, in Italy, by a communication from the committee 
appointed for that purpose. From Paris he replied, sig- 
nifying his acceptance, and giving his past as a guarantee 
for his future course. He is now, in obedience to the 
wishes of the American people, before the country as a 
candidate for the highest office in their power to bestow. 
On the eleventh of June he left Liverpool fur his 
native land. On reaching New York City, banners were 
flung to the breeze, and the entire population of the me- 
tropolis joined in mass, to give him a heart-felt welcome. 
New York's ovation to her favorite son excelled anything 
of the kind ever witnessed in America — ever witnessed 
anywhere, for it was the spontaneous outburst of free- 
men. From New York City homeward to Buffalo, his 
journey was a triumphal march. Not the march of a 
Caesar, with a coronet on his brow, and captive kings at 
his car; not the march of a Salladin, with the red 
scimitar in one hand, and the trophies of vanquished 
empires in the other ; it was the tread of a freeman, in 
reunion with his fellow citizens and his boyhood com- 
panions. In Buffalo the same imposing manifestations of 
" welcome home " awaited him. The ovation of his 
friends in Buffalo was, indeed, indicative of the lasting 
regard felt for him by his friends and neighbors. He is 
now at his home, on Franklin Street, in Buffalo, in ihe 
quietude of repose, enjoying excellent health, cheerful 
and contented. 




Character of Mr, Fillmore as a domestic man — His adaptation for 
the family circle — Amiability and industry of Mrs. FillmOre — Mr, 
FUlmore as a philanthropist — As a neighbor — His love of 
home — Mr. Fillmore as a husband — As a parent — His resi- 
dence and its sociabilities — His manners — His order and regu= 
larity — His industry — His temperance — His morahty — Mr, Fillmore 
as a statesman — As a patriot — And as a man — Conclusion. 

No man has ever sustained in all tke domestic relations 
of life a character more worthy of emulation than has 
Mr, Fillmore. His spotless reputation in a long career 
of success and usefulness to his country has been tarnished 
by no misdeed calculated to subject him to sensorious 
remarks and criticism from those to whom his every day 
actions have been open to inspection. In looking over 
his past life, in so strict a conformity to the golden rule 
has it been, that the retrospect, instead of being dis- 
agreeable — instead of having to commune with the 
■whisperings of remorse, is extremely pleasant, for it is 
accompanied with the plaudits of an approving conscience. 
As a domestic man, Mr. Fillmore is most happily con- 
stituted by nature to appreciate the blessings of the 
family circle. The most delightful enjoyments — those 
most calculated to anjmate his bosom with liveliest 
emotions — are those that eradiate around the fireside of 
his own home. Studiously careful to make h:*s home the 
abode of love and happiness, he looked to that alone for 


the solid enjoyments of life. After the arduous duties 
of his professional labors, home as the Eden of his heart, 
he would turn, where, in the bosom of his family ho furgot 
the cares and toils of life. After a conclusion of services 
in a public capacity, with delightful emotions he turned 
to the same haven, and in the cup of domestic bliss, 
would be sure to find an anodyne for his weariness. In 
the domestic circle, the amiability of his temperament 
shines most conspicuously. The gentleness of his nature 
and the mild dignity of his manners seem to infuse them- 
selves into the minds of all present, until an harmonious 
assimilation of feeling pervades the entire circle. His 
cheerfulness is of such a nature as to convey an idea of 
the most perfect felicity of feeling. So manifest is his 
cheerfulness, that his entrance into the circle is sufficient 
to dispel all gloomy feelings, unless they are the result of 
an universal cause. He loves the family circle, and the 
peaceful quietude of home better than the grandeur of 
the palace, though decorated in all the ensignia of royal- 
ity. ' His home has ever been the centre of his deepest 
affections, and those to his family regarded as his highest 
duties. In the bosom of his family, surrounded by those 
he loved, he has experienced happier feelings and holier 
comforts than when in the halls of the great. Often, after 
the clouds of adversity began to disperse from the horizon 
of his future, were the smiles of welcome to his homo 
from those he loved prized more highly than the world's 

So admirably adapted to the enjoyment of domestic 
life is his temperament, that, in the seclusion of his fam- 


ily, performing little duties as its head, he has spent 
days, in preference to mingling with the great, where he 
"would have been so justly welcome. The family history 
of Mr. Fillmore is a very quiet one. Quiet, from the 
fact that it is entirely divested of pride and ostentatious 
display, and has exhibited no faults that could- subject it 
to the criticisms of the community. The plain simplicity 
of Mr. Fillmore's taste in the arrangement of family com- 
forts, while it combines neatness and utility, avoids 
extravagant display and gorgeous fixtures. To have a 
comfortable home, and pleasant family occupants, was 
his ardent desire ; — in both he was successful, until the 
interposition of Providence robbed him of his most cher- 
ished flowers. 

The many virtues of his wife, were not unappreciated 
in the circle of their acquaintance. As a wife, she was 
a devoted one j as a mother, none was ever more affec- 
tionate. The guardianship she exercised over the house- 
hold during Mr. Fillmore's absence, engaged in public 
duty, could not have been more faithful, or attended 
with happier results. Her gentleness and devotion 
befitted her admirably for the position she occupied. She 
was anxious at all times to promote that domestic hap- 
piness which she knew was so congenial to her husband's 
feelings, and to make home the abode of those joys he so 
highly prized. In consequence of Mr. Fillmore's fre- 
quent absence, the entire management of the home affairs, 
especially the training of their children, necessarily 
devolved upon her. These duties she discharged with 
the successful devotion of a wife and a mother. 


Meek and mild to a fault, unobtrusive in her deport- 
ment, all who knew her loved her for her purity of soul. 
Quiet and unostentatious, she charmed with her sim- 
plicity. Possessing these traits of character, she was 
most happily moulded to the feelings of Mr. Fillmore, 
and well caculated to promote gentle cheerfulness 
around the domestic hearth. Her efforts to make home 
happy by an exemplification of these traits, were faith- 
fully continued until her death. With such congenial 
spirits as these to mingle, no purer joys belonged to man 
than were Mr. Fillmore's in the midst of his domestic 
circle. These he treasures as the genuine happiness of 
his life — the Sabbath of his soul. 

Mr. Fillmore. as a philanthropist, if philanthropy means 
a love for our species, has no superior. The greatness of 
his heart can not resist the touching appeals of humanity, 
come they from whom, or in whatsoever shape they may. 
He is essentially a feeling man in every sense of the 
word. The actions of his past life have been illustrative 
of these attributes of his nature. The peculiar sensibil- 
ity of his nature, has been evinced in all his actions from 
earliest boyhood. The active sym.pathy he manifested 
for the sufferers of the Emerald Isle, shows he has a soul 
susceptible of entire sway to the promptings of true be- 
nevolence. No man can be for an hour in his presence, 
without becoming impressed with the belief that he loves 
his fellow men ; he manifests it in all his actions ; it is 
legibly written on his countenance ; it beams with mild- 
est radiance from his eye ; it speaks in the tones of his 
voice ; anr! glows in the chambers of his soul. The 


deserver of alms can never say he applied in vain to Mr. 
Fillmore for relief. His heart beats a warm response 
to the dictates of charity, and is overwhelmed with grief 
at the distress of a suffering fellow creature. 

The susceptibility of his nature to the deepest grief — 
the intensest agony — is evidenced by the overwhelming 
sorrow in which he was thrown, by the domestic afflic- 
tions elsewhere related in this book. It is not my pur- 
pose to open those wounds afresh, or to intrude upon the 
ashes of his loved ones. To him they were jewels of the 
heart, worn closely round it every day ; when they were 
torn from his bosom, the intensity of his feelings seemed 
to consume the vitality of existence, and the portals of 
the tomb to close every avenue to happiness. Lost to 
the tender condolence of friends, in the voyage of mourn- 
ful retrospection, he communed with the visions of the 
by-gone, and lived alone in a world of memory. 

Insensible to the offerings of friendship, he mused 
upon the " loved and the lost," and in the mantle of misery 
"mourned the pale ashes of his hopes." The beauteous 
gems of his home had ceased to gladden, and left him 
alone on the Sahara of his hopes, to mourn the departed. 
Such bereavements as these, unstring the stoutest hearts 
not chilled to every impulse; but to one of Mr. Fillmore's 
feelings, it was the pierce of an icicle — the bitterness of 
misery. The wounds were deep and lasting, and though 
he has regained his wonted «erenity, they are still un- 
healed. But, susceptible as are his feelings, Mr. Fillmore 
is not a man of impulse. The feelings of sympathy 
with, and love for, his fellow men do not have to be 


-excited or aroused iu his bosom by pathetic appeals. As 
a part of his nature they exist there, and are always 
ready to manifest themselves. He never forgets tho 
kindness of a friend ; and, if he had one, he would never 
forget the injuries of an enemy. As a man of feeling, 
he manifests this attribute of his nature, in the daily 
walks of life. 

He feels deeply wounded over the wrongs of his coun- 
try, as well as those of his fellow men. In 1849-50, 
when the old ship of state was about to strand on the 
rock of disunion, he manifested the deepest concern. To 
his friends he expressed himself as feeling willing to make 
any personal sacrifice, could it avail in conciliating the 
elements of discord, and cementing the bonds of union. 
To this feeling, humane nature of Mr. Fillmore is attri- 
butable the gi'eat esteem in which he is held by his neigh- 
bors and friends. This esteem can not properly be 
called popularity. It is worthy a higher appellation. It 
is an absolute admiration on the part of the citizens of all 
parties for the intrinsic virtues of the man. 

As to Mr. Fillmore's character as a neighbor, those 
with whom he has lived the longest, and spent the greater 
portion of his life, can bear the best attestation. Let 
the generous Bufi'alonians, who love him so well, and love 
to do him honor, speak out under this head, and not one 
among her many voices would say aught against him. 
Mr. Fillmore's is not one of those characters to which 
^'distance lends enchantment." No distance is so great that 
its intervention would keep him from being admired, but 
ithe nearer the approach to Buffalo, the more attractive 


be becomes, until in the city and his county, his nam©' 
becomes an embodiment of the purest patriotism. The 
fact, that not a man among those who are acquainted with 
him, even though he differ with him in^ politics, can say 
aught against him, shows the euYiable position he occu- 
pies in the midst of his people, and how highly he is 
esteemed as a neighbor. The love Mr. Fillmore has for 
his neighbors has always been peculiarly manifest. Often, 
while absent, in the discharge of his official duty, in let- 
ters to his friends, he expressed anxiety to be in their 
midst. From Europe he frequently wrote, contrasting 
the ceremonial formalities of court with the social life of 
his fellow citizens, and expressing his anxiety to mingle 
with his neighbors and his friends. At Liverpool, when 
the vessel was almost ready to bear him home, and he 
was about '^ turning from a foreign strand," his bosom 
swelled with delight at the prospect of meeting his 

On his arrival in Buffalo, the position he occupied in 
the hearts of the peopl6 as a man and a neighbor, became 
truly manifest. The mutual joy, the outburst of enthu- 
siasm from the assembled thousands who welcom^ed their 
neighbor home, told his valued worth. The greetings 
and gratulations of rich and poor, official and peasant, 
wholly divested of formality, showed the unbounded joy 
they experienced at seeing him again in their midst. The 
offices of honor and responsibility to the elevation of 
which he has always received the cordial support of the 
city of Buffalo and Erie county, show that as a neighbor 
and a citizen he occupies an elevated position in their 


esteem. No man has natural qualities better adapted 
to the discharge of duties as a neighbor, than has Mr. 
Fillmore. Kind, liberal, and generous, his intercourse is 
marked with a great desire to render himself agreeable, 
and to make those happy around him. To all those 
neighborhood courtesies, Mr. Fillmore is particularly 
careful to devote due attention. Living on terms of 
unrestricted sociability with his neighbors, his intercourse 
is entirely free and easy, accompanied frequently with 
kind pleasantries, of a neighborhood, home-like nature. 
Mr. Fillmore is known by almost the entire population 
of the city of Buffalo, and is beloved by all. In the 
recent demonstration of his welcome, all classes and all 
parties engaged in the reception of their fellow citizen. 
Old men were overjoyed and thronged to the stand, pre- 
pared to give a welcome. Ladies of all ages mingled in 
the occasion, and with a thousand handkerchiefs waved 
their welcome. Men of all parties harmonized on an 
occasion at which all were equally gratified. Little girls 
ran joyously to him with boquets, as if to " strew his way 
with flowers." One thing is worthy of note. The young 
men of Buffalo, and in the entire state of New York, all 
admire Mr. Fillmore. There has never been a man who 
has taken a greater hold upon the affections of the young 
men of a state than has Mr. Fillmore upon those of New 
York. The place Henry Clay occupied in the hearts of 
the young men of the noble state of Kentucky, is equaled 
only by that occupied by Mr. Fillmore in the hearts of 
the young men of New York. 

But the high esteem for Mr. Fillmore on the part 


of young men is not confined to the state of New York, 
it prevades over the entire Union. This is a significant 
fact, and should be hailed as a good indication, as sho.wing 
that the young men of the country place a higher esti- 
mate upon virtue and patriotism than upon the leaders 
of party factions. It shows a disposition on the part of 
young men to make moral worth the basis of their good 
opinions, and to emulate a virtuous example, set in a 
career of usefulness and honor. 

Mr. Fillmore's love of home is a prominent trait of his 
character. He loves his home better than any place 
else, and the friendship of his neighbors better than the 
plaudits of the great. He has mingled in public life, 
because he conceived it his duty to do so, when his per- 
sonal inclinations would have kept him under " the vine 
and shadow of his own fig-tree." In his absence in the 
services of his country, his desires to experience the 
solid joys of home, and to be in the bosom of his family 
have amounted to the deepest yearnings, and he looked 
forward to the conclusions of his labors, when no barrier 
would interpose between him and his loved ones, with 
fondest anticipations. 

The pride he took in the city of his adoption, in her 
growing prosperity and increasing commerce, and the 
successful operation of her well conducted educational 
systems, are evidences of his love of home. In the 
rising generation, especially the young men of that city, 
he feels the deepest solicitude, and encourages every 
enterprise tending to their elevation. He is a member 
of the Young Men's Association, whose objects are to 


Infuse a literary taste throughout society, and promote 
the facilities of reading. The enjoyments he feels in the 
social intercourse of his neighbors and friends are, com- 
pared to every other, of a transcendent nature. The city 
of Buffalo is the cradle of his fame, where his young 
aspirations were rocked into maturity, and he doats on 
her citizens and her home associations with the fervor of 
filial affection. The city of his adoption, and the home 
of his heart, he is proud of her proverbial refinement, 
and the high-toned generosity of her children. Sensible 
of the many manifestations of regard for him on the part 
of her citizens, he feels bound to them by the golden 
cord of friendship. Coming in their midst a poor and 
penniless boy, they took him to their bosoms with paren- 
tal solicitude and made him the recipient of their confi- 
dence and esteem. Of these kindnesses he is not forgetful, 
but treasures them as a boon of friendship's offering, and 
in the enjoyment of free intercourse with his friends, he 
feels he has vindicators of his name. 

A resident of the city for a quarter of a century, he 
watched the development of her resources with pride, 
and cheerfully assisted in her progress. The friends of 
his early career for his neighbors, in the quietude of repose 
he would love to glide down the stream of life, till gath- 
ered to the grave of his fathers. In the shades of his 
Buffalo home, he wishes to pass the declivity of age, 
among his friends, and repose at last by the treasures of 
his heart — the loved of his youth. This love of home, 
on the part of Mr. Fillmore, no distance can damp, no 
gorgeous displays of power and pomp can change or sup- 


press. His friends, with whom he has mingled so long-, 
and whose devotion has been evinced by an unchanging 
fidelity to his fortunes through his whole career, are so 
associated with his feelings, that'thej^ have become as a 
part of himself. And his home, so long the bower of his 
heart, the Eden of his joys, though deprived of its fairest 
ornaments, is still the sanctuary of his repose — the 
asylum of his heart. Around his home and in the midst 
of his friends, stands the Ararat of his fortunes — rests 
the ark of his joys — and blooms the olive of his love. 

The recent reception extended to Mr. Fillmore was 
replete with incidents illustrative of this trait of char- 
acter. As the large procession moved on to the tune of 
" Home, Sweet Home," and banners were streaming a 
welcome across the streets of the city, " This is my own, 
my native land," was traceable upon his countenance, 
full of emotional joy. He was overwhelmed with feelings 
of gladness. The friends of his early career flocked 
around him — the wives and daughters of his old neigh- 
bors smiled him " "Welcome ! " 

In his response to the address of welcome, the depth 
of his feelings almost choked his utterance. The expression 
that he had, often, in his travels over the old world, longed 
to be in the city of Buffalo, and on the shores of Lake Erie 
showed his love of home. The expression that he valued 
that spontaneous reception by his fellow citizens, more 
than such an one as Queen Victoria elicited in the city of 
Paris, showed the high estimate he placed upon the good 
will of his neighbors and his friends. The deep feelings 
he could not suppress when the procession halted, to the 


notes of " Sweet Home," at his own door, showed how 
hijlowed to him by the tenderest assoeiations, and how 
enshrined in his bosom was that loved spot of the past. 
When he entered its lone portals, and met no loved smilo 
there that used to give so dear a greeting — no girlhood 
joy to twine a fond embrace, we can but imagine how, 
** gush after gush," the fountain of feeling rolled its 
mighty waves into the deep bosom of the past, and hov- 
ered around the most pleasing recollections of its horizon. 
No heart beats a warmer response to cherished reminis- 
cences than does his. One of his first impulses on step- 
ping from the Atlantic, upon his native soil, was to thank 
God that he was a freeman, and stood in no need of pass- 
ports. More than a king, or a potentate, he was a son 
of Columbia, with the stars and stripes waving over his 
head, and treading a soil unpolluted by the impress of 

His addresses to his fellow-citizens, who gave him re- 
ceptions of welcome at every point, from his landing in 
New York, until his arrival in Buffalo, are replete with 
patriotism, and a spirit elevated by the love of home. 
To the " sea of upturned faces " that met him at every 
point, he returned a response, showing the happiness he 
experienced on being again in the midst of his fellow 
freemen, and upon the soil of his home-land. Ho has 
always loved his home, but by its contrast with the down- 
trodden of other lands, he learned, if possible, to appre- 
ciate it more highly. 

Mr. Fillmore, as a husband, presents himself to our 
view in the light of a model. From the time of his 


marriage, in 1826, up to the time of his first great domes- 
tic affliction, he was the kindest of husliands. The 
peculiar adaptation of his temperament to the enjoyment 
of domestic happiness, and the exalted purity of his 
virtue could not have made him otherwise. During his 
residence at Aurora, before success began to crown his 
efforts to any great degree, and prosperity began to smile 
in his pathway, he maintained an equanimity of feeling 
and cheerfulness, and manifested the greatest devotion as 
a husband. He felt the responsibilities resting upon him 
were of the heaviest nature, and was exceedingly faithful 
in their performance. He was never from home except 
on business, the prosecution of which was to promote its 
interests, and immediately on his release from such duties 
he would hasten to it. Mr. Fillmore's devotion to his 
wife was almost excessive. She was the idol of his being, 
and seemed interwoven in every ligament of his feelings. 
To her he was kind and tender to a fault. Looking to 
the family circle of his home for the purest rays of his 
happiness, he regarded his wife as the source from whence 
they must emanate, and cherished her as a part of his 
being. K-egarding virtuous purity as worthy his warniest 
admjration, he beheld its impersonation in his wife, and 
did homage at its shrine. Possessing the highest appre- 
ciation for the opposite sex, in the many virtues and mild 
gentleness of his wife he saw exemplified all that was 
lovely in woman, and was tenderly solicitous of her com- 
fort. Thus careful to render her happy, and watchful of her 
welfare, they lived a life of conjugal felicity, unmoved 
by the slightest sign of indifference or neglect. He was 


uniform in his kind solicitude up to the time of her* 

Mr. Fillmore, as a parent, has pursued a course that 
has only to be known to be admired. He has had but 
two children, a son and a daughter, but on these ho 
doted with paternal fondness. Mr. Fillmore has a fond- 
ness for children and they a fondness for him. One of 
the most pleasing incidents of the occasion of his recent 
reception in Buffalo was connected with the children. 
Quite a number of fair young girls presented him 
bunches of flowers, at the stand. When the last one of 
the number came to present her's, by some mishap, sho 
droppe^l it. With all the pleasantry of a parent, he 
drew her to him and kissed her in the kindest manner. 
He loves children, and regarding them as but men of a 
smaller growth, he manifests a great interest in their wel- 
fare and moral culture. In training his children to les- 
sons of early duty, he pursued a course, while it produced 
the most implicit obedience, endeared him to them in the 
purest love. He was never harsh and reproachful in 
correction or reproof. In impressing a sense of right and 
wrong upon their minds, he would, with earnestness, point 
out the proper course for them, and tell the importance 
of a correct deportment. He showed to them the beauty 
of an even course, and the deformity of a reckless one. 
He gave them to understand the sure rewards of a vir- 
tuous life, and the equally certain punishments of a 
vicious one. He was careful to set an example he would 
love to have them follow, and demonstrated by practice 
what he taught by precept. He desired to make homo 


an agreeable place, that his children might always look 
to it for their most pleasing " recollections. Knowing it 
to be of vital importance, he was careful to set for his 
children that glorious example they would be proud to 
contemplate. He was careful to rear them to habits of 
industry and usefulness. He always felt that duties of a 
high order devolved upon every one, and wished his chil- 
dren to be useful members of society. For his children, 
no man ever manifested a greater paternal solicitude than 
he. Over their early education he exercised great per- 
sonal supervision, and was extremely careful to supplant 
all mistaken views with correct ones. He sent them to 


good schools, and gave them excellent educations. He 
trained them to habits of regular industry, and gave them 
clear conceptions of duty. His labors and his solicitude 
were rewarded. They grew up, possessed of accomplish- 
ments, and universally beloved. His daughter, at the 
time of her death, in 1853, possessed not only a highly 
cultivated intellect and the knowledge of those fine arts 
that so much adorn a lady, but she was a proficient in 
many useful lessons of life. She had made great pro- 
ficiency in drawing, music, etc., indicating an active mind 
and a correct taste. 

He now has but one child, M. P. Fillmore, a young 
lawyer in Buffalo. In the discharge of every duty as a 
parent, Mr. Fillmore has been faithful. His son and him- 
self compose the entire family, over whose interests he 
presided and exercised guardianship with successful 
fidelity. The chain is broken that bound it together in 
such harmonious felicity for a number of years. It was 


a golden one. Its links were love and happiness. "When 
"life's fitful fever" is over, and the remaining links aro 
passed, may it be reunited in a better sphere. 

The residence of Mr. Fillmore, on Franklin Street, in 
the city of Buffalo, is in one of the most beautiful parts 
of the city. Like its proprietor,.it is plain and unostenta- 
tious. It is a two-story white Uuilding, exceedingly neat 
and handsome. The entrance is into a hall, with a suit 
of rooms below and above. Its rooms are very neatly, 
but not gorgeously furnished. Everything in and about- 
his dwelling displays a taste of the correctest simplicity 
and order. In front of the residence is a row of trees 
arranged with the hajipiest design, that look pleasingly 
cheerful. The yard is decorated with shrubbery taste- 
fully arranged, and cultivated with great care. The 
grounds embracing his yard and garden are not extensive, 
but sufficiently so for all purposes of convenience and 
comfort. Plain, but exceedingly neat, upon the door- 
plate is seen " M. Fillmore," to whose domicil the friend, 
the citizen, and the stranger is ever welcome. From his 
residence, it is but a short and a very pleasant walk to 
the placid waters of Lake Erie. It is in every respect 
adapted to the quiet, home-like temperament of Mr. Fill- 
more. One of his door neighbors is Judge N. K. Hall, 
former post-master-general during Mr. Fillmore's admin- 
istration. Between them a long and friendly intimacy 
has existed of the most disinterested nature. His home, 
like himself, bears the aspect of quiet cheerfulness and 
order, wholly divested of everything like display. 

This has been Mr. Fillmore's home for a number of 


years, and the scene of the most generous hospitalities. 
There his friends, in the sacredness of his domestic circle, 
always met the most cordial greetings, and were the 
recipients of the kindest generosity. To the good and 
the great, the rich and the poor, the peasant and the man 
of rank, its hospitalities are extended with free good-will. 
Go there, and a kind, reception awaits yon. Among his 
books or papers, or with some of his numerous friends, he 
spends the greater portion of his time there, ready to 
extend a cordial greeting to the friend or the visitor. 

In manners, while Mr. Fillmore displays no studied 
formalities, his natural kindness makes him a most agree- 
able companion. We often see men whom the world 
esteem as great, and they often fall infinitely below the 
position we had assigned them in our conceptions. A 
rigid stiffness, indicative of feelings of superiority, seems 
to manifest itself in their looks and their entire manners, 
that assumes to themselves an elevation at least commen- 
surate with, and often above, that assigned them by the 
people. But between true greatness and its assumption, 
there is a very wide distinction. Between the man who 
drinks the cup of adulation till his brain grows dizzy, and 
with arrogant assumption concludes he is great, and the 
one who is really so above the effect of his fellow men's 
plaudits, there is a wide difference. While the one looks 
down upon his fellow men from the elevation of his own 
conceptions, and indicates a superiority of feeling not 
justifiable from any real merits, the other, with feelings 
of gratitude, looks upon his fellow men as his brothers, 
and regards their happiness as a part of his own. Mr. 


Fillmore is an impersonation of true greatness. And if 
we have been disappointed by those we presumed great 
falling below our conceptions, we are apt to be equally 
so in the contraction of Mr. Fillmore's acquaintance, for 
he is sure to rise above them. The plainness of his person 
and attire, the easy dignity of his address, will elicit the 
esteem of all. His manners, though divested of all cere- 
monial formalities, are extremely dignified. It is not that 
assumptive dignity, however, that repels with its formal 
arrogance. While it elevates and commands the great- 
est respect, it divests you of all embarrassment, and 
charms with its winning amiability. It is a dignity of 
the soul. He meets his friends with a smile that, like a 
ray from the sunshine of his bosom, melts the feelings 
into social communion. He extends his hand of welcome 
with all the cordiality of a true friend, and talks over the 
general topics of the day with cheerfulness and freedom. 
His manners are marked with the plainest simplicity, 
entirely divested of all semblance of affectation, and indic- 
ative of true refinement. His natural courtesy, while it 
exhibits a polished exterior, indicates a yet higher polish 
of the soul. The extreme freedom, ease, and sociabil- 
ity, his nature, forbid all satiety and uncomfortable 

There is a uniformity about the manners of Mr. Fill- 
more that is strikingly manifest. In the white house, in 
the city, among his friends, in the quiet seclusion of home, 
mingling with his fellow citizens, or among the crowned 
heads of Europe, he is the same plain, unostentatious, 
amiable, and polished gentleman. 


In regard to Mr. Fillmore's habits, they have, in every 
particular, been most unexceptionable. He has led a life 
of extreme regularity. He has never embarked in any 
enterprise with an active zeal that abated before it was 
successfully completed. He never pursued his studies in 
his boyhood with great zeal one day, and trifled his time 
the next. "With systematic earnestness he applied himself, 
and continued their prosecution with unabated industry. 
•' Let no day pass without one line," he has exemplified 
as his motto. His regularity has been displayed in every 
department of his business. In the domestic duties of his 
home, the exactest regularity was always manifest, and 
the history of a day was the history of a year, unless an 
incidental interference prevented. 

Order he regards as indispensable to success, and of 
the first importance in business. Nothing he ever per- 
forms is done in an indifferent, hasty manner. Regarding 
it an object worth doing dt all, he regards it as being 
worth doing well, and performs it with neatness and cor- 
rectness. From his earliest boyhood he observed the 
strictest punctuality, and complied with his promises just 
as he made them, when not unavoidably prevented. Liv- 
. ing within his means, he contracted no debts ; and promises 
he made in every other respect were sure to be com- 
plied with. So strict was his punctuality, that in his 
earliest career he had the confidence of all, and was pro- 
verbial for the certainty* with which he performed his 

No hastily and badly performed duty can claim him 
for its executor, for he does everything in a proper man- 


ner, and with neatness. His penmanship is neat and 
regular, with no blots upon his manuscript. His manners 
are uniform — the same to-day they were yesterday. His 
whole character, in fact, is impressed with the most even 

Of Mr. Fillmore's industry I scarcely need speak. 
He has never eaten the bread of idleness. From child- 
hood he has been an active laborer. He is, essentially, 
an industrious man. No one ever pursued a profession 
with more energetic activity than did he. He was from 
youth an early riser, and began the duties of the day at 
an early hour. Having in the beginning of his life to 
sustain himself with the labor of his own hands, habits 
of regular industry were acquired in youth. "When ho 
commenced his profession, he applied himself with zealous 
activity to master its intricacies, and after he got into 
practice, the business of his office received the most 
persevering attention. He did not embark in his profession 
from any inducement to lead an easy life, but with a 
determined spirit to render himself useful. If a pro- 
fessional life lorms a bed of ease for some men, Mr. Fill- 
more has not been one of those men. His life has been 
one of triumphant success, but it has not been one of 
ease. Far the greater portion of his life has been spent 
in active labor, either in professional engagements, or in 
a public capacity. His industrial habits have always 
been exhibited about his home in the happiest manner. 
It is his nature to be actively engaged in either mental 
or physical labor. 

After he began to be successful in his career, and not 


necessitated to do so, he labored with his own hands. In 
his garden, with the spade or the hoe, he superintended 
the laborers, and assisted in its arrangement and tillage. 
Out in the early morning air, with his gardening utensils, 
he loved to sow his seed, and plant his vegetation. To 
Mr. Fillmore, there is a morality in labor. Eegarding 
idleness as the parent of misery, and a direct violation of 
duty itself, he has shunned it as an Upasian vale to his 
hopes. *' Thou shalt earn thy bread by the sweat of thy 
brow," he has thoroughly comprehended, and has com- 
plied with the enactment to the fullest extent. Man, as 
having relative duties to perform, the neglect of which 
would prove him recreant to his race, he regards as 
morafly bound to labor. 

As a result of his industry, Mr. Fillmore presents 
himself to our view a statesman of extraordinary capacity 
and world-wide renown. Mr. Fillmore has always been 
the most temperate of men in every respect. According 
to apostolic injunction, he is " temperate in all things." 
From intoxicating drinks he has abstained entirely, dur- 
ing his whole life. He was never tempted, in his younger 
days, by the lure of the wine cup. His family, back to 
John Fillmore, his great-grandfather — and the father of 
all by that name in America — were remarkable for their 
sobriety. So strictly has he adhered to this principle of 
abstinence, that he is scarcely acquainted with anything 
of that nature. 

The lessons of his boyhood, and the principles which 
were impressed upon his mind, in connection with his 
subsequent high-toned resolves, kept him aloof from the 


sway of all such vices. Extremely cautious to preserve 
a correct deportment, and to establish a character of 
moral rectitude, he never was thrown amichthc evil influ- 
ences of corrupt associations. The effects of this regu- 
lar, temperate life, are most happily felt. lie has always 
enjoyed almost uinterrupted good health, and a buoyancy 
of feeling unknown to the epicure, or the wine bibber. 

In his diet he is plain and simple. He is not fastidious 
in regard to dress or diet. His attire is always neat, but 
exceedinly plain and citizen-like. He has never used 
tobacco, in any shape or form ; from the strict adherence 
to his temperate principles, he has been entirely free 
from the effects and expenditures of this pernicious prac- 
tice. In boyhood, he never indulged in a single habit of 
this nature. He has never sworn an oath, or used lan- 
guage in the least profane. From his example let little 
boys learn lessons of temperance and industry, and profit 
by putting them in practice. 

As regards Mr. Fillmore's moral character, it is of an 
elevated nature. In childhood he was more moral than 
most children ; in youth his morality was remarkable for 
its strictness ; in manhood it was unexceptionable, and now 
braced by the moral culture of years, it presents itself 
to our view in noble proportions, without blemish. 

Mr. Fillmore, as a statesman, has left his character 
upon the institutions of his country, and impressed it 
upon the tablets of the American mind. He is decisive, 
patriotic, and conservative. As a statesman, shunning 
all Machavelian artifice, he sees the wide distinction 
between a patriot and a politician, and spurns the schemes 


of the Oiie with the moral purity of the other. The 
purity of his character as a statesman stands above the 
men of his day and reminds us of our illustrious 

It is a little remarkable, that since the author has been 
engaged on these pages, he has received numerous letters 
fi'om different sections of the country, in every one of 
"which occur the enviable words " Our Purest States- 
man," applied to Mr. Fillmore. Mr. Fillmore, as a man, 
possesses the attributes of God's true noblemen. 

We are now at the conclusion of our labors. We 
have endeavored faithfully to record the career of a 
patriot. Of the manner in which the task is performed, 
ihQ reader must judge. If, in conclusion, the author of 
these pages should be the means of casting a ray of light 
along the dark path traveled by struggling youth in 
adversity — if he should dispel a cloud of despair from 
the horizon of impoverished worth- — if he should thrill a 
single heart that bleeds under the chill blast of penury 
with hopeful pulsations — if he should light a smile upon 
the pale and fevered brow of friendless genius — if he 
should dry a burning tear that drops from the fount of 
orphaned ambition — and if, in the example of one so 
noble as the subject of these pag^s, the struggling youth 
may see a light to guide his steps — he will feel rewarded.