Member Biography

Robert Moffett Palmer 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1859       7 Republican
1860     Speaker 7 Republican
1861     Speaker 7 Republican

COUNTIES: Schuylkill  


12/14/1820 - 04/26/1862

Robert Moffett Palmer (R7) Schuylkill County 1859-1861

Early Life:

Robert Moffett Palmer, born December 14, 1820, Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey; son of Judge Strange N. Palmer and Jane Donaldson Moffett, family relocated, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania; common school education; apprentice training, printer’s assistant, manager, father’s Pottsville printing business; editor, Pottsville Emporium; married Isabelle Seitzinger, 1840, Doctor Charles T Palmer, Bertha J Palmer Stinear, Frank C Palmer; studied law, admitted, Schuylkill bar, 1845; attorney, criminal law practice;  appointed, District Attorney, Schuylkill County, 1850; member, Union Republican State Central Committee; elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1858-1861, Speaker, 1860-1861; appointed, Minister, South America Argentine Confederation, 1861-1862; died, April 26, 1862, (age 41), off the coast of Brazil, shipboard during a return voyage, United States; buried, at sea; cenotaph, Charles Baber Cemetery, Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Politics:

Gubernatorial appointment, Governor William Freame Johnston, District Attorney, Schuylkill County, 1850.

Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 7th district, Schuylkill County, 1858-1861, Speaker, 1860-1861; chaired, Estate’s and Escheats Committee, 1860.

Supported, Washington Peace Conference resolution 1861; caucus chair, successful re-election of United States Senator David Wilmot over Harry Welsh, 1861; supported,  same session’s $500,000 military appropriations-soldier’s bill,1861; supported a measure naming Governor Curtin supreme commander in chief of the state’s military; endorsed, Pennsylvania Railroad’s attempt to operate exempt from the tonnage tax; backed the wartime Morrill (prohibitive) Tariff, replacing the lower (adequate) Walker and 1857 federal tariffs; supported John Penney’s General Banking Act, 1859; creating additional state currency, producing stringent penalties for bank fraud; supported Schuylkill coalminers’ fair wage bill; supported John Penney’s “Free Banking Bill” 1860; pioneer legislation leading to the modern national bank system. 

Continued Government Service/National Politics:

Presidential Appointment, President Abraham Lincoln, Minister, South America Argentine Confederation, 1861-1862; died, April 26, 1862, off the coast of Brazil, shipboard during a return voyage to the states; buried, at sea. 


Grandson, Pennsylvania State Senator Nathan Palmer, Luzerne and Northumberland Counties, 1808-1812.  

Nathan Palmer  - Pennsylvania Senate Library ( 

Lineal descendant, Miles Standish, hired as military adviser for Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts, by the Pilgrims. Accompanied the Pilgrims, on the ship Mayflower, played a leading role in the administration and defense of Plymouth Colony from its foundation in 1620.


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members P"Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

Robert M Palmer (1820-1862) - Find a Grave Memorial