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Entered according to an Act of Congress, bj

John F. Brown,

In the Clerk's Office of the District of N. H.


Wlleon & Carter,


1- i


It was a remark of that celebrated female writer Mad-
ame de-Stael-Holstein, thai the adventures of almost ev-
ery individual would, in competent hands, supply the
materials for an interesting novel. The truth of this
proposjtion, however paradoxical it may at first seem, can
hardly be doubted. It is from the common events of a
common Ufe, the excited hopes, the pleasing anticipations,
the multiplied disappointments, the numerous vexations,
the unavoidable accidents, the unexpected reversions of
fortune, which make up the every-day round of human
existence, connected with the degree of forben ranee, for-
titude, patience, resignation, prudence and moderation,
with which all these various and varied occurrences have
been endured, w'ith their effects upon after life and the
developement of character, that useful lessons for tlie reg-
ulation of our own conduct may be deduced and much
matter of interest and subject of serious contemplation.
On the other hand, the biography of some startling indi-
vidual, some man of a million, who, like the flashing
meteor or wandering comet, dashes his eccentric course
across the path of the multitude, overthrowing the results
of human calculation, and heedlessly striking down the
barriers which mankind have by common consent, erect-
ed, as the eternal bounds of human enterprize and man's
daring, may serve as a record of this miracle of the age,
but would be far more likely to check the rising ambition
of youth by the immeasurable distance at which its
events must be contemplated, than to nourish their aspi-
rations after fame and the possession of an honorable

The object of Biographical writing, it has been aptly
remarked, is two-fold, — both to impart historical informa-
tion by a sketch of the life and acts of some eminent in-


tittt' Tet^I ^'^pl^p^g those acts in a true and prop-
er light, devoid of false coloring or mis-statemenf tn

miS^fVT"^ T' '°"^^' ^y excitinTfSible
Wrir f t? i^'^?^ ^ ^" unconquerable disgust and

horror of the wicked. To effect this latter and by far the

rrt;;?^^''"' '"'^' "°^^'"g ^«"^d be more appr^oprLte
particularly m a country where there is no aristocracy
of- genius and where poHtical advancement is the chi7f
aim of our young men's ambition, than to note for the
consideration of youth and theinstruction of ah the pro!
gressive steps by which an individual has risen thiXh
his own enterpnze, and by the most unconquerab e peV

tTon^riifrtoVT""- S'"^^^-^' f - thel?umblest^a:
tionm life, to an honorable rank and comparative emi-

Such is the design of this litUe book-a sketch of the
hfe of a man who has borne no inconsiderable pari k the
political events of the last twenty years, who ^s d^nt fi
ed with the interests and success^of one pa ?y and ^ro^"
nent m his opposition to another, has of cou^-se recdvTd
his share of partizan abuse and the maliSy of tW
Tu'Tho^afwi 11!,^^ '""f^''/ ^^^ -ecessf:;;i?otptd

andS/°""f If."' '^"d to whose industry,
LstiSi'o^;' '^"■'*' '" ^"^ P""^°"^^ acquaintance's' wilf bclr


for which the materials were first collcS '^ThT? ^
.tated arc of unquestionable antlou"; of the correct'


Of ]Vew-Hampsliire.

—- X—

Isaac Hill was born of poor but respectable
parentage. His father, also named Isaac, is a
native of the present town of West Cambridge,
then a part of Cambridge, Mass., and known as
the parish of Menotomy. He was a descendant
of Abraham Hill of Cliarlestown, who was admit-
ted freeman 1640, and, leaving two sons, Isaac
and Abraham, died at Maiden, 13 Feb. 1670.
Abraham Hill, the grandfather of the subject of
this memoir, was the fourth in descent from the
first of that name, (the intermediate generations
being Abraham, Abraham and Zachariah,) was a
patriot of the French and Revolutionary wars,
and died about five and twenty years ago.
His wife survived him but a few years. Isaac,
their youngest son, and the father of the^ subject
of this memoir, was born about the year 1767,
and is still living.

Mr. llilPs mother, Hannah Russell, is a descen-
dant of William Russell, who came from England,
lived in Cambridge as early as 1645 and left sev-
jf^ral sons. , She was, likewise, a native of the
"'^fTparish of Menotomy, but of that part which be-
"longed to Charlestown. The Menotomy boys were


far-famed among the " sons of liberty" for their
invincible spirit and undaunted courage, and her
father, Walter Russell, commanded a company of
alarmlist at the battle of Lexington, Avhich did
great service in harrassing the enemy, arresting
the baggage-wagons, &c. He died 5 March
1783, aged 45.

At the house where this patriot and his imme-
diate ancestors lived and died, Mr. Hill was born
on the 6th of April 1788, being but sixteen years
younger than his mother and the eldest of a fami-
ly of nine children, having three brothers and five
sisters, all of whom are living, and, with one ex-
ception, heads of families. The unfortunate
situation of Mr. Hill's family, which might at first
view, appear an irreparable injury, in fact proved
to him a blessing in disguise. His grandfather
returned, at the close of the war, to take charge
of a family rendered destitute by the circumstan-
ces of the times, and was, in a short time, entir-
Jy ruined in his earthly prospects by the depreci-
ation of his wages. The shock proved too great
for his mind to bear, and he became subject to
that awful calamity, which appears to have been
constitutional in the family, partial insanity, which
continued in all the gradations from perfect clear-
ness of mind to raging madness, till his death.
His father, by nature an industrious, capable man,
undertook the charge of a rising family and the
care of his ruined parent, when, shocking to re-
late, scarce yix years had elapsed from his mar-
riage, ere he was overtaken by a similar visitation
of Providence, and his intellectual faculties al-
most entirely destroyed.


The whole burden of course fell upon his moth-
er, and full well did the noble woman fulfil her
part. Young Isaac, as the eldest of the family,
was early called to share in his mother's respon-
sibilities, and at an age, when other children
are hardly permitted out of the reach of their
mother's voice, he became to her a useful assist-
ant, counsellor and friend. Incredible as it may
seem, this mother, amid all the difficulties, which,
to a common mind, would have appeared insuper-
able, contrived to save enough from the wreck of
their ruined fortunes, to purchase a small farm in
the town of Ashburnham, fifty miles distant from
Menotomy. Hither his parents removed, in the
spring of 1798, and here they both still live.

From what has been said, it will readily be
conceived that his advantages in early life, as to
the attainmentof an education, were exceedingly

Young men, at the present day, can hardly have
an idea of the extent of the discouragements
against which an enterprising lad, at that time and
in the situation in which Mr. Hill was placed, was
obliged to struggle to obtain the instruction for
which his young mind thirsted. There existed
then and in such a place,no public libraries, whence
might be drawn food appropriate to the growth of
the intellect, and little opportunity for reading,
either from the newspapers of the day or from
private collections of books. That glorious in-
vention, the Lyceum, which has been, under Prov-
idence, the blessed means of great good to the
present generation, and which, let Americans, in
proportion as they value their political institu-


tions, cherish and sustain, had not yet been es-
tablished, even in the villages and cities of the
land. In addition to all this, in reference to Mr.
Hill's particular case, it is to be remarked, that
the place which his parents had selected for their
future residence, and where young Isaac passed
a brief, yet perhaps the most important part of
his VI hole life, vi^as a stnall and newly settled
country town. It was here, for a portion of the
period between the ages of ten and fourteen years,
and then only during such intervals as the weath-
er or other circumstances would admit of his be-
ing spared from the cultivation of the farm, and
under such instruction as such a town would be
likely to furnish, that Mr. Hill received most of
the schooling that he ever enjoyed.

But, during this period, young Isaac made the
most of his limited advantages. It was at this
time, that he laid the foundation of that un-
tiring industry and indomitable perseverance,
for which he has ever been distinguished, and
which have formed the whole secret of his suc-
cess in private and political life. We have spok-
en of these four years which Mr. Hill passed at
Ashburnliam as perhaps the most important era
in his life. We have ventured the remark, be-
cause we believe at that age are effected nearly
all those important modifications of the natural
disposition and character, which exert an essen-
tial, an all-powerful influence over the modes of
thinking and modes of acting in after life.

But he had manifested at a much earlier period,
his love of knowledge and desire of instruction.
Before he was eight years of age, he had read


the Bible through in course, dwelling, with partic-
ular pleasure, upon the historical portions. In-
deed, historical information was that which he
most longed to acquire. At six years of age, he
had greedily laid hold of a brief account of the
war of the revolution, contained in one of the
school-books of Webster, which he read till he
had committed to memory. Then, for want of
a more complete record of the events of that
stirring period, he would seek from his grandpa-
rents and his uncles an account of the martial
scenes which had occurred in their immediate vi-
cinity, and in«which they had participated. The
stories of the " Concord fight" and the burning
of Charlestown were often described for his
amusement, with a clearness, because from actu-
al observation, that laid in his breast the founda-
tion of that hatred of tyranny and arbitrary rule
which has ever been the governing trait in his

At seven years of age, Mr. Hill participated
with the elder boys in speaking dialogues, and
getting up mimic theatricals, in which they were
encouraged by their instructor. At that period,
his industry and love of learning, rarely allowing
him to leave the school room during the hours of
recreation, to mingle with the sports of his com-
rades, were held up by the master as worthy of
imitation. He read every thing which came in
his way, even from a few tattered leaves of a
"Call to the Unconverted," which his father
chanced to own, to the two penny tales which he
found in the possession of his neighbors.

Ashburnham, at the period when Mr. Hill re-


sided there, was at the distance of twelve miles
from the nearest post-town. The inhabitants,
however, for a part of the time, were united in a
company to take a small weekly paper then print-
ed at Leominster, each going-, by turns, to bring
this precious repository of the news of the day.
When it fell, in its round, into the possession of
young Hill, every word was greedily devoured
before it was suffered to drop out of his hands.
The town, being sparsely settled, the winter
school, as in many new towns at the present
time, was kept but a few weeks in each district,
and the boys were allowed, at the close of the
school, to attend at some other district, in any
part of the town. Of this privilege, Mr. Hill glad-
ly availed himself, even at his tender age, lame
and of weak constitution, at the cost of a daily
journey of four or five miles in the severe storms
of that mountainous region. Rich would he have
considered himself, could he have gained the sit-
uation of the humblest charity scholar at a com-
mon academy !

Mr, Hill had, from necessity, been early inured
to severe labor, but his constitutional infirmities
did not admit of his following the pursuits of the
agriculturalist, or those professions in which bod-
ily strength is the principal requisite. Besides
this, the younger children were fast growing up
to fill his place, and he could better be spared
from the care of the family. Next to the attain-
ment of an education, it had been his highest am-
bit-ion to follow the trade of a printer, which he
had thought would afford him the opportunity of
obtaining what he most desired- — knowledge. He


had never seen a printing office, and knew,
thought nor cared any thing for the severity of the
labor or the expense of carrying on the business.

In these views his father and mother acqui-

It was at the age of fourteen, and after the
enjoyment of such slender privileges, that the
parents of Isaac Hill, with commendable prudence
and an honorable desire to contribute to the fu-
ture welfare of their son, determined to provide
him with means amply sufficient to render him in-
dependent of every reverse of fortune, by send-
ing him to acquire the rudiments of a useful and
lucrative trade. This was, without doubt, the
wisest course that could have been pursued. De-
prived, by their situation and circumstances in
life of the blessed privilege of giving their son
a liberal education, they did not, as far too many
parents do, suffer their child to pass the important
period of youth, in learning the lessons of idle-
ness, dissipation and vice ; to grow up, as it were,
a sort of left-hand member of society and to find
himself a man in stature and years but destitute
of the means and destitute of the disposition to
sustain his proper place among his fellow-men.

We are all, in some degree, mutually depend-
ent upon each other — and this dependence is a
necessary consequence of civilization. But if
there is any portion of the community which can
be termed independent, it is the laboring class ;—
the mechanic and the farmer. They are the
" bone and sinew of the republic ;" the right hand
of freedom ; free from the taint of aristocratic
associations, they are neither prepared servilely


to obey or haughtily to command. In our coun-
try and under our happy form of government,
those who earn their bread by the sweat of their
brow are peculiarly fortunate in their situation.
It is here more particularly, that they assume
their proper place in society, the first file in the
ranks of the free ; it is here that they are made
proudly sensible of their own political importance.
Government, contrived for the express purpose of
attaining the '' greatest good of the greatest
number," is here chiefly based upon a regard for
their welfare, and instead of being a grinding
curse to the faces of the poor, it is here particu-
larly designed to encourage their honest efforts
and defend them in the possession of their inalien-
able rights, from the selfish grasp of the purse-
proud oppressor. The officers of government are
here, not their masters, but their servants ; not
placed in authority by divine right, but by the free
suffrages of a free people. The laboring class
here are not disfranchised or deprived even par-
tially of the rights nature has bestowed upon them.
To them equally with the rest, is open the path to
political preferment, to honors, to fame, to the
respect of their fellow citizens. There is, in our
country no royal road to distinction ; no young
mechanic need envy the lot of a son of luxury.
He is now acquiring lessons of manly indepen-
dence, is learning to think for himself, is gaining
the rich stores of experience — all, acquisitions
which eminently fit him for any station, however
exalted, to which Providence and his own enter-
prize may yet raise him. The numerous bright
instances which the history of our own country


can furnish, where persevering industry, worth
and moral principle have triumphed over the for-
tuitous obstacles of rank and situation in life, are
so many burning and shining lights for the en-
couragement of all who feel that they are at
present below the sphere for which they were by
nature intended.

But to return from this digression, to which
our subject has naturally led us. An unlocked
for opportunity for the accomplishment of their
wishes was soon offered Mr. Hill and his parents.
Mr. Joseph Gushing, a young printer, had just
established a printing office at Amherst, N. H.,
and was in want of an apprentice. Hearing of
young Hill, his situation, capacity and wishes, and
supposing him to be likely to suit his purpose, he
came to his father's residence to see for himself.
Young Isaac was much mortified at being found
by his future master, a genteel young man, in his
ragged working dress and laboring on the farm,
but Mr. Gushing was sensible enough to rely more
upon what he had previously heard of him, than
upon his casually unprepossessing plight. The
bargain was soon made with his father, and in a
short time after on the 3d of December 1802,
young Hill found himself in company with the el-
der Mr. Gushing and on his way to a new scene
of action.

The first number of the Farmers' Cabinet
was issued on the 11 Nov. 1802, consequently but
three numbers had been printed before the com-
mencement of Mr. Hill's apprenticeship,or rather
his residence with his master, for he was never
an indented apprentice. The transition from the


drudgery of a small farm in a thinly settled town
to the bustle of a printing office in a pleasant
country village, was to Mr. Hill, like an entrance
into a new world.

It was in truth an important era in his life ; an
event which fixed his future destiny. The change
was great ; the theatre on which he had now en-
tered was comparatively a vast one. To an in-
quiring mind such as he possessed, there was much
that was instructive, even in the dull and labo-
rious round of the duties of the youngest appren-
tice. His opportunities for the acquisition of use-
ful information, were greatly multiplied, and the
temptations to which his inexperience rendered
him subject, were equally increased.

We can afford only a brief space for a detail of
the particulars of this portion of the life of Mr.
Hill, of which, much of the information we pos-
sess, has been acquired from a conversation late-
ly held with his old master.* Of course what we
can advance, may be considered authentic.
He was. during this period, remarkable as an
excellent, faithful young man. His previously
formed habits of perseverance and patient, untir-
ing industry were now confirmed and were exhib-
ited not less in his daily labors, than in his de-
votion to intellectual improvement. During a sev-
en years' apprenticeship, from his boyhood till he
became of age, not an incident occurred to inter-

* Mr. Cushins; left Amherst and removed to Baltimore
about the time of the expiration of Mr. Hill's apprentice-
ship. He has for nearly thirty years been in business in
that city as a publisher and bookseller, and is now on®
of its representatives in the legislature of Maryland.


rupt the constant liarmony which existed between
his master and himself. Both parties concur in an
affectionate remembrance of each others goodqual-
ities. The one was kind, the other obedient ; the
master showed no inclination to insist upon an un-
due subserviency on the part of the apprentice,and
the latter felt in nowise disposed to rebel against
reasonable demands. He was conscious that
whatever might be his fortunes, he was himself
to be their architect, and that he could hope to ac-
quire assistance, patronage and support in no other
way than by his own industry, morality and good
conduct. He had early been accustomed to as-
sume important responsibilities ;and the severe les-
sons which necessity had taught him, were not
without their fruits. He was remarkable for the
firmness of his principles and his power to resist
temptation, and no instance is remembered of
dereliction on his part from the path of rectitude
and from the duty which he owed to his God, his
master and his fellows.

Besides a faithful attention to his daily labors,
Mr.Hill became, during this period, a hard student.
True, his studies and course of reading were very
desultory, having no other guide than his own
judgment or inclination, but the information which
he was enabled to acquire, was precisely of that
kind most needed for the practical purposes of life.
He became thoroughly conversant with the general
routine of business belonging to his profession, to
which his long apprenticeship enabled him to add
a perfect practical knowledge of the business. He
waslong an active and efficient member of a De-
bating Club, established by the young men of the


vicinity, and the Records, during the time he was
secretary of the Society, r^re still in existence.
Several of the members of tliis association have
since found their way, in different parts of the
world, to comparative distinction and opulence.
Judge Swann of Ohio is remembered as one.
It is related, that young Hill, when defeated in
debate, was inclined to yield to his mortification
and needed the encouraging voice of a kind mas-
ter to relieve him of his despondent feelings.
Mr. Gushing really loved him, placed the most im-
plicit confidence in his abilities and integrity, and
often entrusted to him the entire care of the

Mr. Hill's industrious habits were further dis-
played in the acquisition of a beautiful, rapid and
clerkly style of penmanship — of the rapidity of his
handwriting, he has to this day certainly lost noth-
ing. He acquired it wholly by practice, writing
in his leisure hours, almost incessantly. Ex-
tracts and annotanda derived from his reading, at
first afforded employment for his pen. He soon
launched out into speculations and essays, both
political and miscellaneous, and his first attempts
of this descrii>tion are strongly tinged with the
peculiarities of his intellectual character. Al-
though the newspaper which was published at the
office where Mr. Hill was employed, was then
and always has been since, considered as belong-
ing to the anti-democratic party,and notwithstand-
ing his beloved master was a decided thougli
moderate and consistent federalist, the youthful
apprentice remained true to the republican prin-
ciples in which he had been nurtured and from


wliich he has never yet swerved. At that early
period, he often contributed to the public prints
of the day.

As was perfectly natural in one of his charac-
ter who looked forward to the practice of his
profession as the means of earning his daily bread
and ensuring a respectable and comfortable sub-
sistence, Mr. Hill had long contemplated the
opening ot an office and the establishment of a
newspaper, whenever the expiration of his appren-
ticeship should occur. Accordingly, on the fifth
of April 1809, the day before he was twenty one
years of age, he left his master and came to

About six months previous,* the American Pat-
riot, a small weekly newspaper, had been estab-
lished at Concord, and published by Mr. William
Hoit, Jr., a practical printer, who still follows his
trade and is the senior of his profession in that
place. It was considered a republican paper,
and as far as it went was consistent in the defence
of republican principles and measures ; but it had
neverbeen conducted with that efficiency and reg-
ularity, without which, under such circumstances,
and struggling against such an opposition as that
with which it had to contend, it was likely to
prove rather an hindrance to the progress of truth
than a useful auxiliary in the cause of republi-

Mr. Hill was therefore advised by those who
knew his principles and felt confidence in his
abilities, to purchase the establishment, and com-

* The first No. was issued on the 18 Oct., 180S.

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Online LibraryCyrus P. (Cyrus Parker) BradleyBiography of Isaac Hill, of New-Hampshire → online text (page 1 of 19)