PALMER, Thomas (?1685-1735), of Fairfield, Stoke Courcy, nr. Bridgwater, Som.
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Family and Education
b. ?1685, 1st s. of Nathaniel Palmer, M.P., of Fairfield by Frances, da. of Sir. William Wyndham, 2nd Bt., M.P.; bro. of Peregrine Palmer. educ. New Coll. Oxf. 10 Oct. 1700, aged 15; M. Temple 1702, m. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Wroth, 3rd Bt., M.P., of Petherton Park, nr. Bridgwater Som., s.p. suc. fa. 1717.
Recorder, Bridgwater, c.1720-34.
Palmer, whose family had been settled in Somerset since the sixteenth century,1 was returned for Bridgwater in succession to his father, who had represented the county, Minehead, and Bridgwater on the Tory interest in most Parliaments between James II’s and George I’s accessions. Himself a Tory, his name was included in a list of supposed sympathizers sent to the Pretender in 1721.2 His only recorded speech in his first Parliament was made on 10 June 1721 in favour of allowing John Aislabie to keep as much of his fortune as he possessed before the South Sea bill was introduced.
In 1722 Palmer was at first reported to be putting up for the county3 but in the end he stood again for Bridgwater, where he was returned after a contest. In this Parliament he spoke against an augmentation of the army, 26 Oct. 1722, and in support of a petition from one of the Atterbury conspirators for the postponement of the second reading of a bill of pains and penalties against him, 27 Mar. 1723. He was one of the managers of Lord Chancellor Macclesfield’s impeachment in 1725. In 1727 he supported amendments to an address condemning a memorial published by the imperial minister against the Government,4 and spoke against a vote of credit, 12 Apr., and against diverting the surplus of certain duties from the sinking fund to fund a new loan, 26 Apr.
Palmer did not stand in 1727, but was returned at a by-election in 1731, when he spoke against taking off the duty on Irish yarn and against a bill for naturalizing children born abroad of British fathers. In a debate on 3 Apr. 1732, when many of the opposition expressed the hope that Hanover would one day be under some other power, he said that
the provinces of Bremen and Verden must one day ... be annexed to the crown of Great Britain ... They are not to be esteemed accessions to Hanover ... but accessions to Britain. Till this be done, the crown of England will be at eternal charges to defend those provinces, all our treaties and motions will have a tendency and direction to their preservation, and the mind of English subjects never easy to their Prince.
As a member of the select committee of inquiry into the frauds of the Charitable Corporation, he made a ‘very eloquent and moving speech’ condemning Sir Robert Sutton, one of the directors of the Corporation. In the next session he repeated his attack on Sutton, opposed a lottery for the relief of the victims of the frauds, and proposed instead a grant confined to hard cases, belonging to ‘the fair sex’. In the same session he also spoke in favour of a reduction in the army, against the diversion of £500,000 from the sinking fund to current services, and against the excise bill.5 In 1734 he opposed a small increase in the army and ‘spoke himself sick’ against an address authorizing an increase in the forces during the recess if necessary.6
Palmer did not stand in 1734 but at a pre-election meeting of Somerset country gentlemen he ‘distinguished himself so remarkably’ by extolling the merits of the family of Lord Hinton (afterwards Earl Poulett), a Whig, who had offered himself to the meeting as a candidate, ‘that it has lost him some of the esteem many of the gentlemen had for him’. In the end he ‘found it necessary to send to those manors where he had an interest to secure them’ for a Tory candidate.7
Palmer died 16 Mar. 1735, leaving a projected history of Somerset unfinished.8 After making provision for various members of his family, he left the residue of his estate to his wife, thinking himself ‘in conscience obliged to make her the best return I can, which is to give her the entire possession of an estate redeemed by her own generosity’. In his will he further left directions that his body should be opened in the presence of his medical advisers so ‘that the calamitous illness which I have been so long afflicted with, and to which all the persons I have applied to have neither been able to find the cause or the cure, may after my death be of use to some other unhappy persons who may be in the same condition, and may be helped by the knowledge.’9