John M. Palmer, Governor 1869-1873

Governor of Illinois, 1869-1873.
John Dougherty, Lieutenant Governor.

John McAuley Palmer was born at Eagle Creek, Scott County, Kentucky, September 13, 1817. He came with his parents to Madison County, Illinois, in 1831. He entered Shurtleff College in 1835. He was admitted to the Bar in 1839. In 1843 he was elected Probate Judge of Macoupin County. Mr. Palmer was married December 20, 1842, to Miss Malinda A. Neely, at Carlinville, Illinois. Mr. Palmer was a member 0f the State Constitutional Convention of 1847. He was elected to the State Senate in 1852 to fill a vacancy and was re-elected in 1854. He was Chairman of the Convention held in Bloomington, May 29, 1856, the first Republican State Convention in Illinois. Mr. Palmer was a delegate from Illinois to the Peace Convention which met in Baltimore, February 4, 1861. On the 15th of May, 1861, Mr. Palmer took command as Colonel of the 14th Illinois Volunteer Regiment. He was promoted to Brigadier General, December 21, 1861. He was appointed Major General November 29, 1863. Placed in command of the 14th Army Corps, succeeding General George H. Thomas. General Palmer was appointed by Mr. Lincoln, Commander of the Military Department of Kentucky, February 18, 1865, and served until April 1, 1866, but remained in the service of the United States until September 1, 1866.

In 1868, General Palmer was elected Governor of Illinois. During his administration the present Constitution of the State was framed.

In 1888, Governor Palmer was nominated for Governor by the Democratic party. In 1891 he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1896 he was nominated by the National Democratic or Sound Money Democratic party for President of the United States.

On April 4, 1888, General Palmer married Mrs. Hannah Lamb Kimball of Springfield.

General Palmer edited a history of the Bench and Bar of Illinois, and late in his life he wrote his personal reminiscences which were published under the title of Personal Recollections of John M. Palmer, The Story of an Earnest Life.

General Palmer died at his home in Springfield, September 25, 1900. He is buried at Carlinville.

Source: "The Governors of Illinois, 1818-1918"; Issued by the Illinois Centennial Commission

JOHN M. PALMER—1869—1873.

JOHN M. PALMER, the fifteenth governor of Illinois, was a native of Kentucky. He was born at Eagle Creek, Scott Co., Ky., September 13, 1817. His father, an ardent Jackson man, held strong anti-slavery sentiments. These he impressed upon his children. In 1831, he emigrated with his family to Illinois, settling in Madison County, where he lived on a farm for about two years, with his wife and children. At this time the death of the wife and mother broke up the family.

It was about this time that Alton College was opened on the “manual labor” system, and young Palmer with his brother Elihu entered. They remained there eighteen months. After this John M. Palmer tried various pursuits, among them the cooper’s trade, peddling, and school-teaching. But he had not yet found his calling.

When he had but reached the age of twenty-one, he first met Stephen A. Douglas and came under the spell of his personality. Young, ardent, and in political accord with the “Little Giant,” young Palmer found his ambition fired and his purpose in life fixed. The winter following this first meeting with Douglas, whose leadership he was to follow for more than thirty-five years, Palmer was teaching school near Canton and began to read law.

A little later he made his home with his elder brother at Carlinville, continued his law studies, was admitted to the bar and practiced in the courts there.

He became interested in local politics and in 1843 was elected probate judge. Two years later he was chosen a member of the State Constitutional Convention where he was active and influential. At the age of thirty-five he served his first term in the state senate. Here he took a firm stand on the slavery question, vigorously opposing the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The Nebraska question soon became a party issue and this man proved himself true to sentiments which were his as an inheritance from his father. He refused a nomination to the state senate by the Democratic Party. Regretting this necessary break with his party he yet accepted the nomination for the state senatorship by the Anti-Nebraska Democrats and was elected. The following winter, Palmer put Lyman Trumbull in nomination for United States Senator to succeed Senator Shields and he was one of the five men who remained steadfast, voting for him until the unexpected candidacy of Gov. Matteson, who was an uncompromising pro-slavery man, caused Abraham Lincoln to turn his support among the Whigs to Trumbull, and he was elected. Trumbull, like Palmer, was a Democrat who had espoused the new Anti-Nebraska Party. Two years later Palmer was conspicuous in the formation of the new party, being chairman of the Anti-Nebraska Convention at Bloomington. A year later he was Republican elector for the state at large. He was one of the five Republican delegates representing Illinois at the Peace Congress to Washington.

Entering the army when the war broke out, he was made colonel of the 14th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was in a number of important engagements. At Stone River, he stood like a rock and for his gallantry was made major general. He rendered valiant service at Chickamaugua. He took part in the Atlanta campaign under Sherman, and his prudence at Peach Tree Creek has become an historical record as having averted disaster. His service as military governor of Kentucky shows great tact.

General Palmer was nominated for governor of Illinois at the Republican State Convention, at Peoria, Map 6, 1868, in spite of his persistent declaration that he did not want the office. He gave an administration which was clean and worthy the man.

Governor Palmer was a atatesman and a patriot. When, because of certain unjust criticism and, perhaps, natural affection for first political affiliation, the Republican Party lost his support, it was indeed a misfortune to it.

Governor Palmer was a lawyer with a clear insight and rare appreciation of his profession. This was shown by the vetoes of a number of the bills passed by the Legislature during his administration. Although these became laws over his veto, their weakness have since proved the wisdom of his opposition.

The new and improved constitution of 1870 was adopted during the administration of Governor Palmer.

The great Chicago Fire occurred during his term of office and his prompt response to the call for help alleviated much suffering.

In personal appearance, Governor Palmer was tall, with robust frame and ruddy complexion. He was of sanguine-nervous temperament. He was social in disposition, easy of approach, and democratic in his habits and manners.

Source: Decisive Dates in Illinois History, A Story of the State, By Lottie B. Jones. Danville, Illinois: Illinois Printing Company, 1909.

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