Luther Martin (1748-1826)
MSA SC 3520-875
Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey,
February 20, 1748. Son of Benjamin
and Hannah or Elenora Martin. Episcopalian. Attended
Princeton, A.B., A.M., 1769. Married Maria Cresap, daughter of
Captain Michael Cresap; five children, of which three daughters
survived childhood. Resided in Somerset County, Maryland and
City. Died in New York City, July 8, 1826, at the home of Aaron
Burr. Buried in
Church Cemetery, New York City.
Schoolmaster and lawyer. Following graduation from the College of
New Jersey (now Princeton University), Luther Martin settled in
Queenstown, Maryland, where he served as a schoolmaster at the Queen
Anne's County Free School. He undertook the study of law and moved to
Somerset County, Maryland, were he read in the office of Samuel Wilson.
He completed his studies in Virginia, while superintendent of the
Onancock Grammar School in Accomack County. Martin was admitted to the
Virginia bar in 1771, and later returned to Somerset County to
establish his law practice.
Martin, a patriot, was elected to the Somerset County Committee of
Observation in 1774, and appointed a commissioner to oppose British
Claims. He attended the
Provincial Convention in Annapolis during December 1774. During the
Revolutionary War, Martin "espoused the Colonial side with all the
energy of his nature, and from the beginning to the end of the
struggle, by speeches, addresses and in his profession, showed himself
the uncompromising enemy of George the Third and the Tories."1 One
of his most well known addresses, To
the Inhabitants of the Peninsula between the Delaware River and the
Chesapeake to the Southward of the British Lines, was printed
and circulated on handbills among the largely Loyalist population of
Maryland's lower Eastern Shore.
In 1778, Governor
Thomas Johnson appointed Luther Martin Attorney General of
Maryland, a position created under the 1776 state
constitution, and one he remained in until 1805. Martin was elected
to the Continental Congress in 1784, but did not serve. In 1787, he was
elected to the Constitutional Convention, where he was an ardent
supporter of states' rights. "No other member held more extreme views
regarding the rights of the states than did Martin, who insisted,...
'that the General Government was meant merely to preserve the State
Governments, not to govern individuals.'"2 Martin returned
to Maryland before the work of the Convention was completed and never
signed the Constution. As a member of the Maryland Ratification
Convention in 1788, he lead an effort to prevent ratification, but
failed. He also promoted the abolition of slavery on the national stage.
Following the conventions, Martin returned to his legal practice in
Maryland. Martin gained additional national exposure through his legal
career. He represented U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel
at his impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate in 1805. Two years
later, he defended former U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, who presided
Chase's impeachment, against treason charges
From 1813-1816, Martin served as Chief Judge of the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Baltimore. In 1819, he returned to the position of Attorney General, during which time he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark McCulloch v. Maryland case. Martin suffered a stroke in 1820. In 1821, the Maryland General Assembly passed a resolution requiring all attorneys of the state to pay a $5 for a license, the proceeds of which were to be directed for the care of Martin. This resolution was repealed during the next regular session. Martin, in poor health and financial difficulty, was taken in by his old friend Aaron Burr, who oversaw his care for the remainder of his life.
Return to Luther Martin's Introductory Page
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