Benjamin Morgan Palmer , D.D., LL.D.
[1818 - 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.

[Biographical information redrafted from the entry in the Ministerial Directory of the Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1861 - 1941, (Austin, TX: Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1942), page 551.

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 (1818 - 1902):
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. 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.
4. Christianity and the Law; or the Claims of Religion upon the Legal Profession. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, c. 1971.
5. 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.
6. The Life and Letters of James H. Thornwell. Richmond, 1875.
7. The Family Companion; or, Prayers for Every Morning and Evening of the Week, and for Various Special Occasions. Charleston: Burges and James, Printers, 1848.
8. The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1876.
9. Formation of Character. New Orleans: Religious Book Depository, 1889.
10. God's Providence Towards the Bible. Good Men the Protection and Ornament of a Community. 1826.
11. 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 Rev. Messrs. Reynolds Bascom, Joseph Brown, Charles B. Storrs, Epaphras Goodman, and Elphipha White; as Evangelists. Charleston, Printed by T. B. Stephens, 1820.
12. 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.
13. The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell. Richmond: Whittet & Shepperson, 1875.
14. Memorial Service in Honor of William Preston Johnston, LL.D., First President of Tulane University, 1884 - 1899.. New Orleans? 1900.
15. 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.
16. Never Too Late. Richmond: Committee of Publication, 18--.
17. The Oath of Allegiance to the United States . 1863?
18. Religion Profitable: With a Special Reference to the Case of Servants. Charleston, SC: J.R. Schenck, 1822.
19. A Sermon, Delivered at the Anniversary of the Sabbeth School Association. Charleston: Printed at by J. Hoff, 1816.
20. 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.
21. Thanksgiving Sermon, Delivered at the First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, on Thursday, December 29, 1860.. New York: G.F. Hesbit & Co., Printers, 1860.
22. Theology of Prayer, As Viewed in the Religion of Nature and in the System of Grace. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1894.
23. The Threefold Fellowship and the Threefold Assurance. Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1902.
24. The Tribunal of History: A Lecture Delivered Before the Historical Society of New Orleans, February 16, 1872.. Columbia, SC: Presbyterian Publishing House, 1872.
25. 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.
26. Weekly Publication Containing Sermons. New Orleans: Clark & Hofeline, 1876.

Biographical Information: Benjamin Morgan Palmer was a clergyman born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was educated at Amhearst, the University of Georgia, and the Columbia Theological Seminary. After pastoring a church in South Carolina and teaching at Columbia Seminary, Palmer came to New Orleans in 1856 to pastor the First Presbyterian Church. He was a proponent of slavery and secession, spending the Civil War preaching to Confederate troops. Palmer was an eloquent and influential speaker whose speech against the Louisiana Lottery is said to have doomed the project. He was also a leader in the reorganization of the Presbyterian Church. Palmer died in New Orleans.
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