Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Daniel Martin (1780-1831)
MSA SC 3520-1451

Governor of Maryland, 1829-1830, 1831

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 91-94.

"DANIEL MARTIN, the second governor to die in office, was born at 'The Wilderness,' near Easton in Talbot County, the son of Nicholas and Hannah (Oldham) Martin. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but from the inscription on his tombstone, it can be assumed that he was born about 1780.1 His father seems to have been a prominent merchant in Talbot County, while his forebears had been active in public life for many years. When he was eleven years of age, Daniel and his brother Edward entered St. John’s College in Annapolis in 1791, but neither received his degree. Nicholas Martin died in 1807, and by his will, he left 'The Wilderness' to Daniel.

"Daniel Martin married Mary Clare Maccubbin in Annapolis on February 6, 1816, and they had five children.2

"He began his public career in 1819. In that year, Talbot County elected him as one of its representatives to the General Assembly, he remained in the Legislature until 1821, following which he retired temporarily from politics.

"Because of his advocacy of internal improvements as well as his pro-Adams political beliefs, Martin was elected governor in January of 1829, defeating Colonel George E. Martin by a margin of fifty-two to thirty-eight votes. Following his inauguration, members of the Senate 'partook of a splendid collation' at the government house. The following toast was drank thereat:
'. . . our downright republican institutions, by the rule of which, no man has a right to do as he pleases, when it is contrary to the wishes of the majority, even so far as to refuse to be governor of the state;' a short concise summary of Martin’s own philosophy of government.3

"Martin’s first term was not noted for its accomplishments. He reported to the General Assembly, however, that he had asked the Army [p. 92] Corps of Engineers to survey a route for a lateral canal to connect the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal with the Chesapeake Bay, near Annapolis, without injury to the canal. This project proved unfeasible and nothing further came of his proposal.4 He advocated public education and exerted his energies towards the advance of a system of education. 'It is the imperative duty of the Legislature to place the means of education within the convenient attainment of all,' he reminded the Legislature. 'This the people have a right to claim at your hands, and to none can they apply with better assurance of being gratified, than to those who have been selected by their favour, to watch over their interests.'5

"He favored having fewer state officers. 'No maxim is more sound than that the fewer officers we have, the more distinct we render responsibility, and the less are the incentives to those combinations, intrigues and corruptions, which a lust for office and multiplicity of officers occasion,' he noted.6 He advocated better utilization of those confined in the Penitentiary. 'Regarding the institution as a great manufactory under rigid discipline, in which the convicts are placed at labour as a punishment for crimes, and restrained for different periods according to their respective transgressions, from committing further injuries by being prohibited from going at large in society, scarcely an instance would occur of any one being sentenced to the Penitentiary, where an extension of some of the shortest periods of time would become an act of injustice.'7 He also recommended that before the State actually subscribe to the Canal, it would be desirable to ascertain if private subscribers had actually paid for their shares.

"Martin’s term expired in January 1830. In the fall elections of 1829, the Jacksonians gained control of the General Assembly, so Governor Martin was replaced by Thomas King Carroll. When the latter’s term expired in January of 1831, the Anti-Jacksonians had a majority so it once more chose Martin to succeed him.

"There was opposition in the Legislature towards Martin’s bid for a second term. The Senate did not favor his candidacy on constitutional grounds. The Senators were reminded that they had to ascertain his eligibility since the Constitution of 1776 provided that 'the governor shall not continue in that office longer than three years successively, nor be eligible as governor, until the expiration of four years after he shall have been out of that office.' The Senators were also warned that 'a long continuance in the first executive departments of power, and trust, is dangerous to liberty,' especially if the governor should serve for more than three years out of seven. The Senate found no 'inhibition in those instruments to his serving three years if now eligible. If then he would be eligible for three successive years, it is manifest that he can serve four years out of five, and that in this manner two individuals may be alternated upon the state as governors for their lives.' The Committee con- [p. 93] cluded by expressing its doubts on whether Martin was eligible, so it asked the Senate to request the House of Delegates to reconsider his nomination. The entire Senate refused to concur in its Committee’s report, and in the election which followed, Martin received fifty-one votes, with an additional thirty-two blanks being recorded.8

"Martin’s second term lasted from January to July of 1831. Shortly after he had taken office for the second time, his health began to fail. In the summer of that year, he returned to his Talbot County home to look after his farm. Oswald Tilghman, in his History of Talbot County, gives the following account of Martin’s death:

“'He was at his home in Talbot preparing to harvest his wheat crop in the first week of July, 1831, when he dreamed three nights in succession that he saw his mother on board a beautiful sailing ship off ‘Boufield,’ on the broad Choptank river. She told him that on the third day following her first appearance to him, he would he called home at the hour of noon, on the morning of the third day. It is said, that when at the breakfast table, the Governor, with tears in his eyes, related his strange dream, the family laughed at the idea of his deep concern, as he himself had never placed any belief in dreams. At half-past eleven o’clock, he mounted his saddle horse and rode out into his harvest field, where his slave farm hands headed by his overseer were cradling wheat. Just as he reached his overseer and attempted to speak to him, he fell from his horse dead, at noon on July 11th, 1831.' He was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton.

"Martin’s premonition evidently affected him quite deeply, for he drew his will on the same day he died.  He divided his estate among his children and directed the manumission of all Negroes over twenty-eight years of age, after his death. All young Negroes and their issue as well as the issue of those over twenty-eight years of age, were to be manumitted when they became twenty-eight. His wife, who survived him and who was also to be his executor, received a double carriage and horses over and above her dowry. His estate was valued at $9,338.05 1/4.10

"George Howard, 'the first named of the Council,' became de jure Governor upon Martin’s death. On July 20, 1831, when the Council held a special meeting, Thomas C. Worthington offered the following resolution:

“'Whereas the Members of the Council, penetrated with sincere sorrow for the death of His Excellency Daniel Martin, late Governor of Maryland, and deeply regretting the loss they have sustained in a guide so experienced, conciliating and prudent, feel it due to the memory of their deceased friend to testify their high esteem for his frank, manly and polite deportment, his liberal, social and benevolent disposition; his republican simplicity of manners; his firmness and consistency as a politician and his ever warm and unwavering devotion to what he conceived to be the public good. Be it, therefore,

[p. 94] “'Resolved that the members of this Board will, for the space of one month, wear crepe on the left arm as a tribute of their respect for the memory of His Excellency Daniel Martin, late Governor of Maryland.

“'Resolved, that the Armourer cause Nineteen Guns to be fired on the morning of Thursday the 21st Instant at Sunrise, and nineteen at Sunset, and that the State flag be hoisted half staff, as funeral honors to the deceased.'

"Hezekiah Niles eulogized Martin as follows:

“Mr. Martin possessed a strong and nicely discriminating mind—a resolute honesty and fearlessness of consequences in the doing of what he thought right and was yet more remarkable for the kindness of his heart. He was highminded, generous and truly hospitable—zealous in the defense and support of the poor and the worthy, against the oppressions or dictations of the wealthy and presuming—always ready to resist mean and cruel actions. He was the delight of his private friends—and political opponents forgot all their enmities when associating with him as a man. But how great the loss of such a husband and father!'12

"Because both of Martin’s two terms were too short, his administration cannot be adequately evaluated. Martin, however, emerges as a man of opinions on many different matters of public concern. His admonition to the Legislature in 1829 reveals what he considered to be his duty as a public servant:

“'To preserve the simplicity of our institutions, is a deep concern; to guard them as far as possible, from innovation or hurtful change, is a sacred duty. The chief objects of our care are, a prudent and wise frugality in directing the public expenditures; a vigilant attention to every contemplated new disbursement; a rigid adherence to the system of cutting off and resisting the addition of all supernumerary or unnecessary offices; these, together with the preservation of a virtuous and enlightened judiciary, well selected, and rendered independent by the tenure of office, will afford an indestructable rampart against all the throes and convulsions that can endanger the stability of government, or the peace and welfare of society.'

"Like Thomas Sim Lee and John Henry, Daniel Martin left no portrait of himself."

Notes on sources

Return to Daniel Martin's introductory page

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