Civil War Wiki

This wiki's URL has been migrated to the primary domain.Read more here


Civil War Wiki

Template:Infobox Governor John McAuley Palmer (September 13, 1817 – September 25, 1900), was an Illinois resident, an American Civil War General who fought for the Union, the 15th Governor of Illinois, and presidential candidate of the National Democratic Party in the 1896 election on a platform to defend the gold standard, free trade, and limited government.

Palmer switched political parties throughout his life, starting out a Democrat. He became in turn an anti-Nebraska Democrat (against state sovereignty on slavery), a Republican, a Liberal Republican, returned to being a Democrat, then ended as a Bourbon Democrat. He said, "I had my own views. I was not a slave of any party," and added, "I thought for myself and [have] spoken my own words on all occasions."

Early life and career[]

Born at Eagle Creek in Scott County, Kentucky, Palmer's family in 1831 moved to Alton, Illinois. They were very poor, but he later worked his way through college. In 1839, he was admitted to the bar in that state. Palmer married Malinda Ann Neely in 1842 and had ten children with her. His early careers included being a lawyer, school teacher, coopering, and selling clocks.

Palmer was a member of the state constitutional convention of 1848. Between 1852 and 1855, he was a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, but joined the Republican party upon its organization and became one of its leaders in Illinois.

He presided over the 1856 Illinois Republican Convention in Bloomington that founded the party in his home state. In 1859 he was the Republican candidate in a special election to a vacancy in the 36th Congress caused by the death of Thomas L. Harris, but he was defeated by John A. McClernand. He later became a Republican presidential elector in 1860, and was one of the leading people who got his friend Abraham Lincoln nominated for the presidency at the national convention in Chicago.

In 1861, he was appointed by Lincoln to be a delegate to the peace convention in Washington. It failed when no compromise could be reached.

Civil War[]

During the American Civil War, Palmer served in the Union army, rising from the rank of colonel to that of major general in the volunteer service. He enlisted in 1861 and was commissioned Colonel of the 14th Illinois Infantry, serving under his friend John C. Fremont in an expedition to Springfield, Missouri, to put down the rebellion in that state. On December 20, 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned command of a brigade under John Pope.

Palmer took part in the capture of New Madrid and Island No. 10, commanding a division in the latter campaign. Taken ill in the field, he returned home to recuperate and raised a new regiment, the 122nd Illinois Infantry. Taking the field again in September, he was assigned by William S. Rosecrans to command the first division of the Army of the Mississippi in Alabama and Tennessee. On November 29, 1862, he was promoted to major general of volunteers, and was conspicuous in the Battle of Stones River, where his division held an important position within the Union lines.

Palmer effectively led his troops during the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He commanded the 14th Corps of the Army of the Cumberland during the Chattanooga Campaign (November 23,–November 25, 1863), and served under George Henry Thomas in the Atlanta Campaign. Palmer's corps was a part of William T. Sherman's March to the Sea and the actions to capture Savannah, Georgia, late in the year. In early 1865, he asked to be relieved of command and was reassigned to command all Federal forces in Kentucky, helping to assert Federal control over the state for the next three years.

Postbellum career[]


John McAuley Palmer

In 1868, he resigned from the Army and was elected Governor of Illinois as a candidate of the Republican Party. He succeeded fellow Republican, General Richard James Oglesby. He was succeeded in turn by Oglesby in 1873. In the Presidential election of 1872, Governor Palmer received three electoral votes for Vice President by electors who had voted for the Liberal Republican Party's Vice Presidential candidate B. Gratz Brown for President after the death of Horace Greeley. In 1890, he was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat and served one term.

1892 Presidential Possibility[]


Palmer made a deal to make Russell his running mate in the event he received the Democratic presidential nomination.

In 1892, Palmer was seriously considered as a candidate for the presidency.[1] At first, Palmer was taken up as a “refuge” candidate. Some Chicago Democrats, who were not prepared to accept Cleveland, Hill, or Gorman, were to support Palmer until they could go to the winner. This in itself was a point gained by Palmer and he proceeded to utilize it at once.

In early February 1892, Palmer had a conference with Patrick A. Collins, a former Democratic Massachusetts Congressman. At this conference, the two Democrats concluded a treaty. The purpose of the treaty was to make Palmer the Democratic Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor William Russell, Collin’s personal and political friend, the Vice Presidential candidate. It was argued by Collins that Palmer, being a Western Senator of Kentucky stock, would be acceptable to the Southern Democrats. The objection as to Palmer’s age would be met by pointing out that Russell, the youngest of governors, would become President in the event of his death. Russell’s nomination would command the support of New England Democrats.[2]

Before the 1892 Democratic National Convention, Cook County Democrats held a convention and endorsed Senator Palmer for President.[3] In the end, Palmer stood faithful to former President Grover Cleveland and worked to have him nominated. Even though he supported Cleveland, many Illinois Democrats still supported him for President. Palmer was such a serious candidate that he had to go to the Democratic Convention in Chicago to discourage his own nomination.[4] [5]

Rather than running for reelection in 1896, he ran for President.

Defending the Gold Standard[]


The National "Gold" Democratic Convention

Palmer was the presidential candidate for the National Democratic Party in the 1896 election. The National Democratic Party was a conservative splinter group opposed to the free-silver platform of the regular Democratic Party and its nominee, William Jennings Bryan. His running mate on this "Gold Democratic" ticket, was Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr., a former Confederate general and governor of Kentucky. The National Democratic Party ticket received the coveted endorsement of the New York Times.[6]

The party arose out of a split in the Democratic Party due to the economic depression that occurred under Democratic president Grover Cleveland. At the 1896 presidential convention, one of Palmer's main Illinois rivals was Governor John Peter Altgeld, who succeeded in getting his own candidate, former Illinoisan William Jennings Bryan, nominated for the presidency. The currency issue dominated the campaign, blurring party lines. Eastern Democrats, unable to accept the party's free-silver platform and unwilling to support McKinley for his tariff views, created their own political party and nominated Palmer as their own candidate.[7]

Palmer opposed free silver, which was a plan to place the value of silver to gold at 16-to-1 ratio, and then to tie the U.S. dollar to that value. Palmer noted that this plan ran contrary to the world market value of silver and gold, which was about 32 to 1. But, with Altgeld and Bryan in control of the Democratic convention, free silver won the day. Palmer believed it would have ruined the American economy, and he ran for president for a third party that was a breakaway group of Democrats. In waging this quixotic campaign, he was a key figure in the "last stand" of classical liberalism as a political movement in the nineteenth century [8].

Palmer and the other founders were disenchanted Democrats who viewed the party as a means to preserve the small-government ideals of Thomas Jefferson and Grover Cleveland, which they believed had been betrayed by Bryan. In its first official statement, the executive committee of the party declared, the Democrats had believed “in the ability of every individual, unassisted, if unfettered by law, to achieve his own happiness” and had upheld his “right and opportunity peaceably to pursue whatever course of conduct he would, provided such conduct deprived no other individual of the equal enjoyment of the same right and opportunity. [They] stood for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of trade, and freedom of contract, all of which are implied by the century-old battle-cry of the Democratic party, ‘Individual Liberty’” The party criticized both the inflationist policies of the Democrats and the protectionism of the Republicans.[9].

The 79-year-old Palmer received just under 1 percent of the vote in the election. Most supporters of the ideals of the National Democratic Party probably voted for McKinley because of his support of the gold standard.[citation needed]

Palmer died in Springfield, Illinois in 1900, and was interred in the City Cemetery at Carlinville, Illinois.

John M. Palmer Elementary School, located at 5051 North Kenneth Avenue on the northwest side of Chicago was named in his honor.[10]

See also[]

32x28px American Civil War portal
32x28px United States Army portal


  1. "GEN. JOHN M. PALMER DEAD.; Candidate for Presidency on National Democratic Ticket in 1896 Succumbs to Heart Disease." (PDF). New York Times: p. 1. 1900-09-26. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  2. "SENATOR PALMER'S SCHEME.; HOW F.A. COLLINS WAS TO AID IN SECURING A NOMINATION." (PDF). New York Times: p. 1. 1892-02-22. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  3. "COOK COUNTY INDORSED PALMER.; BUT THE RESOLUTION DID NOT SOUND A VERY SHRILL NOTE." (PDF). New York Times: p. 1. 1892-03-05. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  4. "SENATOR PALMER GOES TO CHICAGO.; HE IS TO WORK FOR CLEVELAND AND DISCOURAGE "FAVORITE-SON" IDEAS." (PDF). New York Times: p. 1. 1892-06-20. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  5. "GUIDED BY PRINCIPLE; GEN. JOHN M. PALMER HAS BEEN A TRUE INDEPENDENT." (PDF). New York Times: p. 1. 1896-09-04. Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  6. "The Choice". New York Times: p. 4. 1896-09-30. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  7. William DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, Gramercy 1997
  8. David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75
  9. David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75
  10. John M. Palmer Elementary School
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • The Personal Recollections of John M. Palmer: The Story of an Earnest Life, published posthumously in 1901.
  • Mostly Good and Competent Men, Second Edition, by Robert H. Howard, revised and updated by Peggy Boyer Long and Mike Lawrence in 1998.
  • Perrin, William Henry (1884). Counties of Christian and Trigg, Kentucky : historical and biographical. F.A. Battey Publishing Company. pp. 114–115. 

Template:Start box Template:S-off |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Richard James Oglesby |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Governor of Illinois
1869–1873 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Richard James Oglesby |- |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box Template:S-ppo |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
none |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|National Democratic Party presidential candidate
1896 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
none |- |} Template:Governors of Illinois Template:USSenIL

ar:جون أم .بالمر de:John Palmer fr:John M. Palmer la:Ioannes McAuley Palmer sv:John M. Palmer