Palmer, James Frederick (DNB00)

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PALMER, Sir JAMES FREDERICK (1804–1871), first president of the legislative council of Victoria, youngest son of John Palmer, rector of Great Torrington, Devonshire, and prebendary of Lincoln, and of Jane, daughter of William Johnson, was born at Torrington in 1804. His great-uncle was Sir Joshua Reynolds. He was educated for the medical profession, and for some years practised in London, where he was, till 1838, the senior surgeon to the St. George's and St. James's Dispensary. His health seems to have failed, and induced him to go out, in 1839, to New South Wales; he practised as a doctor at Port Phillip for some time, and then he began business as a manufacturer of cordials, eventually becoming a wine merchant.

Taking a prominent part from the first in the social and political life of the new settlement, Palmer was made mayor of Melbourne in 1846, and in that capacity laid the foundation-stone of the Melbourne hospital. In September 1848 he was elected to the legislature of New South Wales as member for Port Phillip, for which he sat till July 1849. On the separation of Victoria he became, on 29 Oct. 1851, member of the legislative council (the single chamber) for Normanby district, and was elected speaker, though he frequently left the chair and interposed in debate. On 23 Nov. 1855, when the constitution was altered, he was elected for the western province to the new legislative council, of which he became president on 21 Nov. 1856. He was re-elected five times, resigning in October 1870 on account of the ill-health which had compelled his absence in England from March 1861 to 18 June 1862. For several successive years he was chairman of the commissioners of education, and president of the board under the system instituted in 1862. He was knighted in 1857. On 23 April 1871, soon after his retirement, he died at his residence, Burwood Road, Hawthorn, and was buried at the Melbourne general cemetery.

Palmer edited, with notes, ‘The Works of John Hunter’ the anatomist, in 4 vols. 8vo, with a 4to volume of plates, 1835–7, and compiled, in 1837, a glossary to the ‘Dialogue in the Devonshire Dialect’ of his great-aunt, Mary Palmer [q. v.]

He married, in 1832, Isabella, daughter of Dr. Gunning, C.B., inspector of hospitals.

[Melbourne Daily Telegraph, 24 April 1871; Mennell's Dict. of Austral. Biogr.]

C. A. H.