Phillips was born in Salem, Massachusetts, to Stephen and Dorcas (Woodbridge) Phillips. He was a descendant of Rev. George Phillips of Watertown, the progenitor of the New England Phillips family in America.  He graduated from Harvard University in 1819. Phillips' engaged in mercantile pursuits in Salem, and was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1824 to 1829. He then served in the Massachusetts State Senate in 1830.
Phillips was elected as a National Republican to the Twenty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Rufus Choate. He was reelected as a National Republican to the Twenty-fourth Congress, and elected as a Whig to the Twenty-fifth Congress serving from December 1, 1834, to September 28, 1838, when he resigned.
Phillips was mayor of Salem from 1838 to 1842, but was defeated as the Free-Soil candidate for governor in 1848 and 1849. He engaged in the lumber business in Canada. He perished in the burning of the steamer Montreal on the St. Lawrence River on June 26, 1857. His body was never found, but there is a monument to him in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem.
- Essex Institute historical collections, Volume 15, Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1878, p. 289.
- Hurd, Duane Hamilton (1888), History of Essex County, Massachusetts: with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Volume 1, Issue 1, Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & CO., p. 236.
- Essex Institute historical collections, Volume 15, Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1878, p. 162.
- Essex Institute historical collections, Volume 15, Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1878, p. 288.
- Bond, Henry and Jones, Horatio. Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Including Waltham and Weston: To which is Appended the Early History of the Town. New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1860, pgs. 872-882
|Party political offices|
|First|| Free Soil nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
1848, 1849, 1850
John G. Palfrey
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd congressional district
December 1, 1834 – September 28, 1838
| 2nd Mayor of
Stephen Palfrey Webb