PALMER, John McAuley (1817-1900)
Senate Years of Service: 1891-1897

PALMER, JOHN MCAULEY, a Senator from Illinois; born at Eagle Creek, Scott County, Ky., September 13, 1817; moved with his family to Madison County, Ill., in 1831; attended the common schools of Kentucky and Illinois; in 1834 entered Alton (later Shurtleff) College, where he remained two years; taught school, peddled clocks, and studied law 1835-1838; admitted to the bar in 1839 and practiced in Carlinville, Ill., 1839-1861; probate judge of Macoupin County in 1843 and 1847; member of the State constitutional convention in 1847; county judge 1849-1852; member, State senate 1852-1854, 1856; unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress in 1859; presidential elector on the Republican ticket in 1860; member of the peace convention of 1861 held in Washington, D.C., in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war; during the Civil War was appointed colonel of the Fourteenth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1861, and was mustered out as a major general in 1866; settled in Springfield, Ill., in 1867; Republican Governor of Illinois 1869-1873; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor in 1888; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1897; chairman, Committee on Pensions (Fifty-third Congress); was not a candidate for reelection in 1896; resumed the practice of law; unsuccessful candidate for president of the United States as a Gold Democrat in 1896; died in Springfield, Ill., September 25, 1900; interment in Carlinville City Cemetery, Carlinville, Ill.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Springfield, IL
Papers: 1811-1906. 2,700 items. Correspondence, documents, and other papers relating to legal practice, politics, Republican party in Illinois and its Bloomington Convention (1856), military district of Kentucky, Chicago fire (1871), Democratic party and National Convention (1872) and service as governor (1869-1873) and U.S. senator (1891).
Additional Papers: Correspondence in Lewis Baldwin Parsons papers, 1656-1908.

Chicago Historical Society
Chicago, IL
Papers: 12 miscellaneous items in various collections.

Pierpont Morgan Library
New York, NY
Papers: 1 letter (May 25, 1861) to T.S. Mather in the Gilder Lehrman collection. Finding aid.

Rosenbach Museum and Library
Philadelphia, PA
Papers: August 1, 1856. 1 letter. From Abraham Lincoln advising Palmer to wait a while before declining publicly to run for Congress.

  • Palmer, George Thomas. A Conscientious Turncoat: The Story of John M. Palmer, 1814-1900. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1941.
  • Palmer, John McAuley. Personal Recollections of John M. Palmer: The Story of an Earnest Life. Cincinnati: R. Clarke Co., 1901.