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Martin, Luther

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Martin, Luther

(c. 1748–1826) Born near Piscataway, New Jersey, February 9, 1748 (the date usually given), son of Hannah and Benjamin Martin (farmer). Attended the grammar school of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) before entering the college in 1761; graduated in 1766. In 1767, he became schoolmaster in Queenstown, Maryland, where he remained until 1770, using the law library of one his pupil’s father, Solomon Wright. From 1770 until 1771, he was schoolmaster at Onancock, Accomac County, Virginia, while continuing study of law. Admitted to the bar in Virginia in 1771. Settled in Somerset County, Maryland, and built up a lucrative practice of law. Served on committee to enforce boycott of British goods in 1774 and represented county in provincial congress at Annapolis. Was appointed attorney general of Maryland by Governor Thomas Johnson on the recommendation of Samuel Chase in 1778; moved to Baltimore and served until 1805. Served briefly with Baltimore Light Dragoons in 1781. In December 1783, married Maria Cresap, with whom he had two surviving daughters. Elected delegate from Maryland to Continental Congress in 1784, but did not serve. Elected delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, where he helped draft New Jersey plan for revising the Articles of Confederation. He bitterly and unsuccessfully opposed the Constitution in the Maryland ratifying convention. In 1797, launched public attacks on Thomas Jefferson, whose Notes on the State of Virgina had implicated Martin’s father-in-law, Captain Michael Cresap, in the 1774 murder of family of a Mingo chief. Eventually became a staunch Federalist and anti-Jeffersonian. In 1805, defended Justice Samuel Chase in impeachment trial. With Edmund Randolph, defended Aaron Burr at his trial for treason before John Marshall in federal circuit court in Richmond in 1807. He was chief judge of the court of oyer and terminer for Baltimore County from 1813 until 1816; was appointed again as state attorney general in 1818. He was an attorney for Maryland in McCulloch v. Maryland (Marshall court ruled against him), against Daniel Webster, William Wirt, and William Pinkney in 1819. Forced to retire in 1822 because of ill-health, the legislature enacted an annual $5 fee on all attorneys for his support (repealed in 1823). In poor health and straitened financial condition, he was taken in by Aaron Burr in New York City in 1823, where he lived until his death on July 10, 1826.