Palfrey, John G.

Born: 1796-05-02 Boston, Massachusetts

Died: 1881-04-26 Cambridge, Massachusetts

John G. Palfrey graduated from Harvard College in 1815, attended the school's divinity school, and was ordained as a Unitarian in 1818. He served as pastor of the Unitarian Church at Brattle Square from 1818 to 1831 and became one of Boston's most prominent intellectual and religious leaders. In 1820, Palfrey joined the editorial board of the Christian Disciple - becoming editor two years later and renaming it the Christian Examiner. In 1823, Palfrey married Mary Ann Hammond, with whom he had six children. Palfrey resigned from his editorial position at the Christian Examiner in 1825 to complete a translation of the New Testament and joined the Harvard faculty in 1831. Palfrey bought the North American Review from Edward Everett in 1837 and became editor. He won election to the Massachusetts General Court as a Whig in 1842 and sold the Review before finishing his term in office in 1843. Palfrey became an active abolitionist in 1843, when his father (who had abandoned him early in life) died in New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving Palfrey a share of his slaves. Palfrey immediately set about freeing them and therefore became a hero in the anti-slavery movement. He helped purchase the Boston Whig in 1846 and became an active editorialist for the party. Palfrey won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847 and served one term, before joining the Free Soil Party and losing his seat. He spent the rest of his career as a prominent historical and abolitionist writer, although he served as postmaster for Boston from 1861 to 1867.

Robert L. Gale, "Palfrey, John Gorham," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:932-34.