William Plumer

William Plumer (June 25, 1759 – December 22, 1850) was an American lawyer, Baptist lay preacher, and politician from Epping, New Hampshire. He is most notable for his service as a Federalist in the United States Senate (1802–1807), and Governor of New Hampshire as a Democratic-Republican (1812–1813, 1816–1819).

William Plumer
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
June 17, 1802 – March 3, 1807
Preceded byJames Sheafe
Succeeded byNahum Parker
7th Governor of New Hampshire
In office
June 5, 1812 – June 3, 1813
Preceded byJohn Langdon
Succeeded byJohn T. Gilman
In office
June 6, 1816 – June 3, 1819
Preceded byJohn T. Gilman
Succeeded bySamuel Bell
Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1759-06-25)June 25, 1759
Newburyport, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedDecember 22, 1850(1850-12-22) (aged 91)
Epping, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Other political
Spouse(s)Sarah Fowler Plumer (1762–1852)
RelationsAdelaide Cilley Waldron, niece
ChildrenWilliam Plumer, Jr.
ResidenceEpping, New Hampshire
Alma materNewburyport South Writing School

Early lifeEdit

Plumer was born in Newburyport, Province of Massachusetts Bay on June 25, 1759, the son of farmer and merchant Samuel Plumer and Mary (Dole) Plumer. His family moved to Epping, New Hampshire in 1768, and he was raised at his father's farm on Epping's Red Oak Hill. Plumer attended the Red Oak Hill School until he was 17.

Frequent ill health left him unsuited for military service during the American Revolution or life as a farmer, and after a religious conversion experience in his late teens, Plumer was trained as a Baptist exhorter (a lay preacher). For several years he traveled throughout the state to deliver sermons to Baptist churches and revival meetings. He briefly considered a career as a doctor, and began to study medicine. Later deciding on a legal career, he studied law with attorneys Joshua Atherton of Amherst and John Prentice of Londonderry. While studying under Atherton, his fellow law clerks included William Coleman, who remained a lifelong friend. Plumer attained admission to the bar in 1787, and began to practice in Epping.

Early careerEdit

In addition to practicing law, Plumer was active in local politics and government. He held several town offices, including selectman. Plumer served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1785 to 1786, in 1788, from 1790 to 1791, and from 1797 to 1800. In 1791 and 1797 he served as Speaker of the House. Plumer was a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1791-1792.

US SenateEdit

Plumer was elected to the US Senate as a Federalist and filled the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Sheafe. Plumer served from June 17, 1802 to March 3, 1807 and was not a candidate for re-election.

In 1803, Plumer was one of several New England Federalists to propose secession from the United States because of the lack of power by Federalists, the rising influence of Jeffersonian Democrats, and the diminished influence of the North since the Louisiana Purchase. Recalling his involvement in the secession scheme in 1827, Plumer said, "This was, I think, the greatest political error of my life: & would, had it been reduced to practise [sic], instead of releiving [sic], destroyed New England.... Fortunately for my own reputation the erroneous opinion I formed produced no bitter fruits to myself or my country."[1]

New Hampshire SenateEdit

Plumer served in the New Hampshire Senate in 1810 and 1811, and was chosen in both years to serve as the Senate's president.


By now a Democratic-Republican, in 1812, Plumer was the party's successful nominee for Governor of New Hampshire, and he served until 1813. He returned to office in 1816, and served until 1819.

Presidential elector, 1820Edit

In the 1820 presidential election, Plumer was one of New Hampshire's electoral college members. He cast the only dissenting vote in the Electoral College against incumbent President James Monroe, voting instead for John Quincy Adams. Some accounts say that it was to ensure that George Washington remained the only US president to be unanimously chosen by the Electoral College, but others assert that he was instead calling attention to his friend Adams as a potential future presidential candidate or was protesting against the "wasteful extravagance" of the Monroe administration. Plumer also eschewed voting for Daniel D. Tompkins for Vice President as "grossly intemperate" and having "not that weight of character which his office requires" and "because he grossly neglected his duty" in his "only" official role as president of the Senate by being "absent nearly three-fourths of the time."[2] Plumer instead voted for Richard Rush.

Other activitiesEdit

Plumer was a founder and the first president of the New Hampshire Historical Society. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1815.[3]

Death and burialEdit

Plumer died in Epping on December 22, 1850 and was buried at the Plumer Family Cemetery in Epping.


Sally Fowler Plumer

In 1788, Plumer married Sarah "Sally" Fowler of Newmarket, New Hampshire. They were the parents of six children -- William, Sally, Samuel, George Washington, John Jay, and Quintus. William Plumer Jr. was an author and attorney who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1819 to 1825.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lynn W. Turner. William Plumer of New Hampshire, 1759–1850. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1962, p. 150.
  2. ^ "Daniel D. Tompkins, 6th Vice President (1817–1825)" United States Senate web site.
  3. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

External linksEdit

  • United States Congress. "William Plumer (id: P000393)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • William Plumer at Find a Grave
  • William Plumer at National Governors Association
  • Memoir of William Plumer, Senior, by Albert Harrison Hoyt. 1871.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Democratic-Republican nominee for Governor of New Hampshire
1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. senator (Class 3) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: Simeon Olcott, Nicholas Gilman
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
Preceded by
John Taylor Gilman
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Oldest living U.S. Senator
February 25, 1845 – December 22, 1850
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

August 12, 1849 – December 22, 1850
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Oldest living United States governor
April 7, 1844 – December 22, 1850
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Oldest United States governor ever
December 17, 1848 – April 19, 1860
Succeeded by