WILLIAM A. PALMER was born in Hebron, Connecticut. After being admitted to the Bar in 1805, he moved to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, practicing law and engaging in farming. Before becoming governor, he served as clerk of the Caledonia Court, a member of the State House of Representatives, Judge of Probate of Caledonia County, and Judge of the State Supreme Court. He was chosen to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, following which he was elected to a full term in his own right, holding the office until 1825. He then returned to the State House of Representatives and to service as a county judge. Chosen the Anti-Masonic candidate for governor in 1831, Palmer failed to receive a majority of the popular vote in a two-man race but did receive a plurality and was selected the winner by the state legislature. In two of the next three gubernatorial elections, the same circumstances arose, with Palmer again being selected the winner by the state legislature. Only once, in 1833, did he receive a majority of the popular vote. His gubernatorial administration was marked by success in the abolishment of imprisonment of females for debt. Palmer promoted commerce, industry, and agriculture in Vermont. And he played a key role in raising additional education revenues and establishing fourteen new schools. In addition, seven new banks were chartered in the state during his tenure as governor, and legislation to expand the railway system was enacted. In 1835, after Palmer once more failed to receive a majority of the popular vote, the state legislature’s inability to decide on a winner resulted in Lieutenant Governor Silas H. Jenison becoming governor. Palmer retired to his farm but continued to be politically active and served as State Senator from Caledonia County. He died and was buried in Danville, Vermont.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 8. New York: James T. White & Company.