Martin, Richard (1754-1834) (DNB00)
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Martin, Richard (1754-1834)
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MARTIN, RICHARD (1754–1834), known as ‘Humanity Martin,’ born in February 1754, probably at Dublin, was the eldest son of Robert Martin of Dangan in Galway, who died on 7 Aug. 1794, by his first wife, Bridget Barnewall, third daughter of John, eleventh baron Trimleston, who died on 2 Feb. 1762. The family claimed to have settled in Galway in the thirteenth century. Richard was sent to Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, being the first of his family who was brought up from childhood as a protestant, but left the university without taking a degree in order that he might enter parliament, which he did in 1776. In Easter term 1781 he was called to the Irish bar, and in 1783 went the Connaught circuit, but as he was merely qualifying for the duties of a magistrate his practice in the law was limited to one well-known case, that of Charles Lionel Fitzgerald v. (his brother) George Robert Fitzgerald [q. v.], ‘Fighting Fitzgerald,’ when the latter was convicted and sentenced. Martin acted as high sheriff for co. Galway in 1782, and was colonel of the county volunteers and also of its troop of yeomanry. He dwelt at the castle of Ballinahinch, and practically ruled over the district of Connemara. His property at Connemara alone comprised two hundred thousand acres in extent, stretching for a distance of thirty Irish miles from his house door, and including some of the loveliest scenery in Ireland, but it was largely encumbered.
His territorial influence gave him a seat in parliament for many years. From 1776 to 1783 he represented in the Irish parliament the borough of Jamestown, co. Leitrim, and from 1798 to 1800 he sat for Lanesborough in the same county; but in the appendix to the official return he is also entered as the member for co. Galway, in the place of Lord Wallscourt. In 1801, the first parliament after the union—a measure which he warmly advocated—he was returned for co. Galway, and continued to represent it until the dissolution in 1826. George IV was long Martin's personal friend, and first called him ‘Humanity Martin;’ but Martin avowed sympathy with Queen Caroline, and a temporary estrangement followed. In 1821 a reconciliation took place in Dublin. The king remarked, ‘I hear you are to have an election in Galway: who will win?’ Martin replied, ‘The survivor, sire.’ He felt some anxiety in 1825 about his return at the coming election, and to conciliate ‘the priests and O'Connell’ he announced that he would not vote for the suppression of the Catholic Association (Canning's Correspondence, ed. Stapleton, i. 242–6). He was always a firm supporter of Roman catholic emancipation. After a contest characterised by much violence he was again returned to parliament in 1826, and his majority was stated to be eighty-four votes, but by an order of the house (11 April 1827) his name was erased from the return, and that of James Staunton Lambert was substituted. Martin after this defeat withdrew to Boulogne, and died there on 6 Jan. 1834, aged 79.
He married, first, on 8 Feb. 1777, Elizabeth, daughter of George Vesey of Lucan, co. Dublin, by whom he had two sons, George (1788–1800) and Thomas Barnewall (see below), and a daughter, Lætitia (1808–1858). Martin's second wife, whom he married on 5 June 1796, was Harriet, second daughter of Hugh Evans, senior surgeon 5th dragoon guards, and relict of Captain Robert Hesketh, R.N., who died on 27 Sept. 1846. She was author of ‘Historic Tales’ and ‘Helen of Glenross’ (1802). By her he had, besides three daughters, a son, Richard (1797–1828), who emigrated to Canada in 1833 and founded a family there.
Martin was widely known for his love of animals and for his readiness in duelling. In spite of considerable opposition from such men as Canning and Peel, he succeeded in carrying into law an act ‘to prevent the cruel and improper treatment of cattle’ (3 Geo. IV, cap. 71), ‘the first modern enactment in Great Britain for protecting the rights of animals;’ it received the royal assent on 22 July 1822, and was amended in 1835. While in London he brought before the magistrates every case which he thought to come within its provisions. He was one of the founders of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1824), and his half-length portrait, the gift of Mrs. Ratcliffe Chambers, hangs in the society's board-room in Jermyn Street, London. He laboured strenuously to abolish the punishment of death for forgery, and brought in a bill to allow counsel to prisoners charged with capital crimes. His own account of his duels with ‘Fighting Fitzgerald’ and with Eustace Stowell are printed in Sir Jonah Barrington's ‘Personal Sketches’ (1869), ii. 264–73, 296–8. His benevolence was unbounded, and his memory is still revered in Galway. He is said to have been the original of Godfrey O'Malley, uncle of the hero in Lever's ‘Charles O'Malley.’ He twice declined an offer of a peerage.
Martin's only surviving son by his first wife, Thomas Barnewall Martin, of Ballinahinch, who sat for Galway county from 1832 to 1847, broke the entail for the sake of his only child, Mary Letitia Martin [q. v.], and the property was mortgaged to the Law Life Assurance Society. In the famine years the rents were not paid, and he died on 23 April 1847 of famine fever, caught when visiting his tenants in the Clifden workhouse. The insurance society soon took possession, and the estates, said then to consist of 197,000 acres, were sold under the Encumbered Estates Act for very inadequate prices.
Martin's eldest daughter by his second wife, Harriet Letitia (1801–1891), was born in London on 5 July 1801, and died at Dublin on 12 Jan. 1891. When staying in Paris with John Banim and his wife, she wrote a tale entitled ‘Canvassing,’ which was appended to Michael Banim's novel of ‘The Mayor of Windgap,’ 1835. Emboldened by the success of this venture, she published in 1848 a novel called ‘The Changeling, a Tale of the Year '47.’ Miss Martin was an accomplished linguist, and had travelled much in Europe and America.
[Genealogy of Martin Family of Ballinahinch, printed for private circulation by Archer E. S. Martin of Winnipeg, 1890; Western Law Times (Winnipeg), ii. 55–8; Animal World (with portrait), 1 Sept. 1871; Gent. Mag. 1834, pt. i. pp. 554–5; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biog. p. 586; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. iii. 328, 417, 522–3, viii. 427, 478, ix. 14; Burke's Vicissitudes, ed. 1883, i. 322–9; Hansard for 1822, vii. 758–9, 873–4; Jerdan's Men I have known, pp. 312–21; Barham's Life of Theodore Hook, i. 233; Hood's Ode to Richard Martin.]