PCA Historical Center

Archives & Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

The Southern Presbyterian Review
Digitization Project: Author Biography

Benjamin Morgan Palmer
(25 January 1818 - 25 May 1902)

Benjamin Morgan Palmer was born in Charleston, SC on January 25, 1818 to parents Edward and Sarah Bunce Palmer. He later attended Amherst College, 1832-34, taught from 1834-36, attended the University of Georgia in 1838 and Columbia Theological Seminary from 1839-41. He was licensed to preach in 1841 by Charleston Presbytery and ordained in 1842 by Georgia Presbytery. His first pastorate was at the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah, GA, 1841-42. From there he pastored the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC from 1843-55, served as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary from 1853-56, and finally assumed the post of his last church, First Presbyterian of New Orleans, in 1856, serving there until his death in 1902. He was struck by a street car on 5 May 1902 and died on 25 May 1902.

Dr. Palmer preached the opening sermon at the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U.S. and served as Moderator of that first Assembly (4 Dec 1861). His published works include: Life and Letters of J.H. Thornwell; the Family in Its Civil and Churchly Aspects; Theology of Prayer; the Broken Home or Lessons in Sorrow; Formation of Character; and two volumes of Sermons. Most of these titles remain in print to this day.
Obituary appearing in The Interior:
--"The decease of Dr. Palmer of New Orleans is like a change in the landscape of the South. As far as it is possible for one man in the space of a lifetime to be a part of the fixed order of things, Dr. Palmer has become identified like some old-time landmark with his denomination, his city and his section of the nation. He was one of that class of men who are incapable of change; what he was as he came to the maturity of manhood he remained until death. It is doubtless true that the world would be unfortunate if all its strong men should crystallize in that adamantine way, but living in a time that suffers little lack of impulses to progress, we ought to thank God that he still scatters through the churches some immovable men to hinder and obstruct headlong haste. From an almost opposite pole of Christian temperment THE INTERIOR clearly recognizes that Dr. Palmer served God and his generation as a symbol of the immutability of the great essentials of our religion. His faithful witness to Jesus Christ in the word of his preaching and the example of his ministry gave him such power in New Orleans as few of the Lord's ambassadors have ever wielded in any age of the church. By all consent he was acknowledged for years to be the most influential man in that city, and he was so brave and outspoken that he made for righteousness not only in the private lives of men but in the civic life of the community. He was born in Charleston, S.C. in 1818 and had been over leading churches in Savannah and Columbia before he went to the First Presbyterian church of New Orleans in 1856. His pastoral term there covered fifty-six consecutive years. He retained excellent vigor and still preached powerfully despite his great age, and his life might have been prolonged still for several years if he had not suffered injury beneath a street car which ran him down in the streets of New Orleans a few weeks ago. He did not die from the direct effects of that accident, but the shock seemed so to weaken his vital powers that fatal disease soon supervened."

[Excerpted from The Interior, Volume 33, Number 1671, June 5, 1902, page 734.]


The papers of Dr. Palmer
are in at least three locations, as per Robert Benedetto's Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990)
1. The Presbyterian Historical Foundation, Montreat, NC - .75 cu. ft., with portions on 3 rolls of microfilm, including printed sermons, sermon notes, course outlines, a diary from 1857 describing New Orleans, lecture notebooks for a course on the life of Christ, letters to Thomas McCall Lowry(1855-1927), eulogies on Palmer's death, and an album containing 46 carte de viste photographs of various PCUS pastors and theologians.
2. Louisiana State University, within its holdings for the Hennen-Jennings families, has a letter and printed speeches and sermons by Palmer.
3. Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, TX, preserves there a single folder with a sermon by Palmer. The text or title of the sermon is not provided in Benedetto's Guide.


Searching the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections produces another two archival entries:

4. Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA, has correspondence from Palmer as a portion of its collection of the papers of Thomas Cary Johnson [1859-1936].
5. Utah State University Special Collections, (Logan, Utah, 84322) holds a microfilm copy (Control No.: UTSW89-A1194) of a lecture on Mormonism delivered by Palmer before the Mercantile Library Association of Charleston, S.C. on January 26, 1853. The lecture was originally published by I.C. Morgan of Columbia, SC in 1853 and was 34 pages in length.

A Bibliography of the Works of Benjamin Morgan Palmer:
Articles in the Southern Presbyterian Review-
A Plea for Doctrine as the Instrument of Sanctification, 3.1 (July 1849) 32-53.
A Vindication of Secession and the South, 14.1 (April 1861) 134-177.
An Inquiry into the Doctrine of Imputed Sin, 1.4 (March 1848) 97-128.
Baconianism and the Bible, 6.2 (October 1852) 226-253.
Christianity Vindicated from the Charge of Fanaticism, 4.2 (October 1850) 198-230.
Church and State, 3.2 (October 1849) 210-233 and 3.4 (April 1850) 573-608.
Fraternal Relations, 34.2 (April 1883) 306-330.
Import of Hebrew History, 9.4 (April 1856) 582-610.
Lay Evangelism and the Young Men's Christian Associations, 29.2 (April 1878) 354-377.
Life, Character, and Genius of the Late Rev. James H. Thornwell, D.D., LL.D., 15.2 (October 1862) 255-309.
Mormonism, 6.4 (April 1853) 559-590.
The Art of Conversation, 14.4 (January 1862) 550-569.
The Claims of the English Language, 6.3 (January 1853) 301-331.
The General Assembly of 1859, 12.3 (October 1859) 513-604.
The Intellectual and Moral Character of the Jews: Review of Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, 1.2 (Dec. 1847) 30-55.
The Relation Between the Work of Christ and the Condition of the Angelic World, 1.1 (June 1847) 34-63.
The Sensualistic Philosophy of the Nineteenth Century Considered, 27.3 (July 1876) 486-511.
The Tribunal of History, 23.2 (April 1872) 245-262.
Articles appearing in The Presbyterian Quarterly-
Inter-Professional Responsibilities, 4.2 (April 1890) 188-202.
The Ancient Hebrew Polity, 12.2 (April 1898) 153-169.
The Ground of Certitude in Religious Belief, 1.1 (July 1887) 87-106.
The Majesty of Law, 2.1 (April 1888) 28-39.

Other publications-
1. Address of the Rev. B. M. Palmer, D. D., at the Commencement Exercises of the Medical Department of the University of Louisiana, New Orleans, March 17, 1881. New Orleans, 1881.
2. The Broken Home, or, Lessons in Sorrow. New Orleans: E.S. Upton, 1890.
3. Christianity and law : or The claims of religion upon the legal profession. A discourse upon the occasion of the death of the late Alfred Hennen, the Patriarch of the New Orleans Bar, delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, February 27th, 1870 (New Orleans : T.H. Thomason, Book and Job Printer, 1870), 31 p. ; 21 cm. [Reprinted, (
Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1871).
4. A Discourse Upon Female Excellence, Delivered Before the Fayette Female Academy, at Its First Commencement, July 28, 1859. (New Orleans: True Witness Book and Job Printing Office, 1859).
5. The Life and Letters of James H. Thornwell. Richmond, 1875.
6. The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects. (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1876).
7. Formation of Character. (New Orleans: Religious Book Depository, 1889).
8. In Memory of Professor T.G. Richardson, M.D.. New Orleans: Published by the Faculty of the Medical Department of Tulane University of Louisiana. 1893.
9. The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell. (Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1875).
10. Memorial Service in Honor of William Preston Johnston, LL.D., First President of Tulane University, 1884 - 1899.. New Orleans? 1900.
11. National Responsibility Before God; A Discourse, Delivered on the Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, Appointed by the President of the Confederate States of America, June 13, 1861. (New Orleans: Price-Current, 1861). Text: 2 Chronicles 6:34-35. Reprinted in "God Ordained This War": Sermons on the Sectional Crisis, 1830-1865 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991), pages 201-220.
12. Never Too Late. (Richmond: Committee of Publication, 18--).
13. The Oath of Allegiance to the United States . 1863?
14. The South: Her Peril, and Her Duty: A Discourse Delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, on Thursday, November 29, 1860. (New Orleans: Trace Witness and Sentinel, 1860).
15. Thanksgiving Sermon, Delivered at the First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, on Thursday, December 29, 1860. (New York: G.F. Hesbit & Co., Printers, 1860).
16. Theology of Prayer, As Viewed in the Religion of Nature and in the System of Grace. (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1894).
17. The Threefold Fellowship and the Threefold Assurance. (Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1902).
18. The Tribunal of History: A Lecture Delivered Before the Historical Society of New Orleans, February 16, 1872.. (Columbia, SC: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1872).

19. A Vindication of Secession and the Sputh from the Strictures of Rev. R.J. Boecher Ridge... in the Danville Quarterly. (Columbia, SC: Southern Guardian Steam Power Press, 1861).
20. Weekly Publication Containing Sermons. (New Orleans: Clark & Hofeline, 1876).
21. Opening Address at the Semi-Centennial of Columbia Seminary, in Memorial Volume of the Semi-Centennial of the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina, (Columbia, SC: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1884), pages 3-8.
22. The Grandeur of Faith, in The Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, Volume 15, Number 9 (October 1881), pages 289-295. [Reprinted from The Homiletic Monthly, volume and number not specified.]
23. Biographical Sketch of Rev. William L. Hughes, in Memorial Volume of the Semi-Centennial of the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina, (Columbia, SC: Printed at the Presbyterian Publishing House, 1884), pp. 294-295. [HC]
24. "The Church a Spiritual Kingdom," in Memorial Addresses delivered before the General Assembly of 1886, on Occasion of the Quarter-Centennial of the Organization of the Southern Assembly, in 1886 (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1886), pp. 43-63.
25. "Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Savannah, GA" (Savannah [GA] : Geo. N. Nichols' Steam Power Presses, 1872). The sermon was delivered on 9 June 1872 at the dedication of the church building on Monterey Square. A copy of the sermon is on file at the church, as well as at the Georgia Historical Society, the University of Georgia, Tulane University, Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of South Carolina, and the University of Texas at Austin.
26. A discourse commemorative of the life, character, and genius of the late Rev. J.H. Thornwell, D.D., LL.D., professor of didactic and polemic theology in the Theological Seminary at Columbia, S.C. (Columbia, S.C. : Southern Guardian Steam-Power Press, 1862), 57pp.; 22 cm.

Articles on the life and ministry of Benjamin M. Palmer:
DesChamps, Margaret Burr, "Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Orator-Preacher of the Confederacy, Southern Speech Journal, 19.1 (1953) 14-22.
Eubank, Wayne C., "Benjamin Morgan Palmer's Lottery Speech, New Orleans, 1891," Southern Speech Journal, 24.1 (1958) 2-15.
Eubank, Wayne C., "Palmer's Century Sermon, New Orleans, January 1, 1901, Southern Speech Journal, 35.1 (1969) 16-27.
Eubank, Wayne C. and Dalls C. Dickey, "Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Southern Divine," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 30.4 (1944) 422-428.
Mallard, R.Q., "Personal Reminiscences of Rev. Benjamin Morgan Palmer, D.D., LL.D., Union Seminary Magazine, 14.2 (1903) 1110-119.
Monroe, Haskell, "Bishop Palmer's Thanksgiving Day Address," Louisiana History, 4.1 (1963) 105-118.
Nall, J.H., "Benjamin Morgan Palmer, D.D., LL.D.," Presbyterian Quarterly, 16.1 [#59] (1902) 77-91.
Reilly, Timothy F., "Benjamin M. Palmer: Secessionist Become Nationalist," Louisiana History, 18.3 (1977) 287-301.
Smith, Samuel M., "Dr. B.M. Palmer: An Appreciation," Union Seminary Magazine, 19.2 (1908) 132-135.

See also the brief biographical sketch in
Myers, Robert Manson, The Children of Pride (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972), page 1639.

Works published by Benjamin Morgan Palmer, the elder [1781-1847], uncle of B.M. Palmer [1818-1902]--
1809
Believer's baptism, no argument against infant baptism a sermon delivered in the Independent Church, Beaufort (S.C.), (Charleston (S.C.) : Printed by J. Hoff, 1809), 14 p.

Infant baptism, a Gospel ordinance considered in two discourses on 1 Cor. VII ... delivered in the Independent Church, Beaufort (S.C.), (Charleston (S.C.) : Printed by J. Hoff, 1809), 14, 20, 8 p.

1814
Gratitude and penitence, recommended from the united conisderation [i.e. consideration] of national mercies and judgments a sermon, delivered in the independent or Congregational Church, Charleston, South-Carolina, October 5, 1814
(Charleston [S.C.] : Printed by W.P. Young, 1814), 28 p. ; 19 cm.

1816
The dejected Christian encouraged two discourses preached in the independent or Congregational church, Charleston, S.C., (Charleston, S.C. : Printed by J. Hoff, 1816), 21 p.

[The] signs of the times discerned and improved in two sermons delivered in the independent or Congregational church, Charleston, S.C. (Charleston, S.C. : Printed by J. Hoff, 1816), [12, 8] p.

1819
A sermon delivered at the anniversary of the Sabbath School Association
(Charleston, S.C.: Printed for the Association by J. Hoff, 1819), 18, 14pp.

Floyd, Loami, and Benjamin M. Palmer, Ministerial ordination a sermon preached in the circular church, Charleston, December 17, 1819, at the ordination of the Rev. Jonas King and the Rev. Alfred Wright (Charleston [S.C.] : Printed by T.B. Stephens, 1819), 20 p. [“to which is added the charge delivered on that occasion by Benjamin M. Palmer.”]

1820
Importance of the ministerial office; a sermon preached in the Independent or Congregational Church of Charleston, S.C., January 3, 1821, at the ordination of the Rev. Messrs. Reynolds Bascom, Joseph Brown, Charles B. Storrs, Epaphras Goodman, and Elipha White; as evangelists (Charleston, Printed by T.B. Stephens, 1820), 30 p. 24 cm. [“To which is added a charge to the ministers ordained, by the Rev. Loami Floyd.”]

1821
The harvest great; the laborers few. A sermon, preached in the Circular Church, Charleston, on sabbath evening, February 11, 1821, in aid of the funds of the South Carolina Auxiliary Education Society. ...[Gould and Riley, printers ... Charleston.] [S.C.] 1821), [1],2-12 p. 18 cm.

1822
Religion profitable: with a special reference to the case of servants. A sermon preached on September 22, 1822, in the Circular Church, Charleston, S.C. (Charleston, S.C., J.R. Schenck, 1822), 21 p. 21 cm.

1826
Good men the protection and ornament of a community. A sermon, delivered in the Independent or Congregational Church, in Charleston, S.C. February 19, 1826, on the occasion of the death of Josiah Smith, Esq. eldest deacon of the church. ... (Charleston, S.C. Printed by W. Riley ... 1826), [iii], iv-vi, [1],8-24 p. 21 cm.

1828
A plain and easy catechism, designed chiefly for the benefit of coloured persons, to which are annexed suitable prayers and hymns. (Charleston [S.C.] Observer Office Press, 1828), 72 p. 18 cm.

1835
The children of professing believers-- God's children, or, the right of the children of God's people to the initiating seal of the covenant : asserted and maintained, being the substance of a discourse delivered in the Independent, or Congregational Church, Charleston (S.C.) March 22, 1835 (Charleston : Observer Office Press, 1835), 32 p. ; 21 cm.

1848
The family companion; or, Prayers for every morning and evening of the week, and for various special occasions; together with brief remarks on sundry passages of Scripture, with short prayers appropriate to each. (Charleston, Burges and James, printers, 1848), x, 347 p. 20 cm. [“To which have been appended, by request, a few sermons, from the pen of the lamented author.”]


Sources:
Scott, E.C., Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1861 - 1941, (Austin, TX: Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1942), page 551.
Parker, Harold M., Jr., Bibliography of Published Articles on American Presbyterianism, 1901-1980 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985)