PALMER, Sir James Frederick (1803-1871)


PALMER, Sir James Frederick (1803-1871)
Victorian pioneer, first president of legislative council
son of the Rev. John Palmer, was born at Torrington, Devonshire, England, on 7 June 1803. His father was a nephew of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Palmer was educated for the medical profession, practised in London, and for a time was surgeon at St Thomas's hospital. He came to Melbourne at the end of September 1840, and in addition to practising his profession, was proprietor of a cordial manufactory. He was an early member of the Melbourne city council, was elected mayor in 1845, and in that capacity laid the foundation-stone of the first Melbourne hospital building on 20 March 1846. In 1848 he was elected a member of the legislative council of New South Wales, but resigned within a year. When Victoria became a separate colony in 1851, Palmer was elected a member of the legislative council and its speaker. When responsible government was granted Palmer became a candidate for the council and was elected in 1856 for the Western Province. He was its first president and continued in that position until 1870, when he did not seek re-election to the council on account of his failing health. He died at Hawthorn, Melbourne, on 23 April 1871. He married on 21 November 1831 Isabella, daughter of Dr John Gunning, C.B. He was knighted in 1857.
Palmer was not a man of outstanding ability, but he was a good president of the council, took much interest in the Melbourne hospital, of which he was president for 26 years, and was also greatly interested in education; he was president of the national board of education and subsequently of the board of education. Before coming to Australia he edited the four volume edition of the Works of John Hunter, published in 1835-7, and he also supplied the glossary to A Dialogue in the Devonshire Dialect, written by his grandmother in the eighteenth century, but not published until 1837.
The Argus, Melbourne, 24 and 25, April 1871; The Age, Melbourne, 24 April 1871; Kenyon Papers at Public Library, Melbourne; E. Finn, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne; H. G Turner, A History of the Colony of Victoria; W. Westgarth, Personal Recollections of Early Melbourne and Victoria.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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