Martin, John (1812-1875) (DNB00)

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MARTIN, JOHN (1812–1875), Irish nationalist, born at Loughorne, in the parish of Donoughmore, co. Down, on 8 Sept. 1812, was the second child of Samuel Martin by Jane Harshaw his wife. Like his parents, he was a presbyterian through life. He was educated at Dr. Henderson's school at Newry, where he first made the acquaintance of his lifelong friend, John Mitchel [q. v.l, and subsequently at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in the summer of 1834. He commenced the study of medicine, but abandoned it before taking a medical degree. On the death of his uncle John Martin in 1835 he inherited a small property at Loughorne, where he resided for the next few years. In 1839 he travelled in America, and in 1841 visited the continent. Martin became a member of the Repeal Association, and vainly counselled a regular publication of accounts. He joined the secession of the Young Ireland party, and was expelled from the Repeal Association, being refused a hearing in Conciliation Hall. He subsequently took a prominent part in the meetings of the Irish Confederation, and became a contributor to Mitchel's 'United Irishman.' Three weeks after the arrest of Mitchel and the seizure of his paper Martin reoccupied his friend's offices, and on 24 June 1848 issued from them 'The Irish Felon, successor to the "United Irishman,"' with the avowed purpose of promoting the same principles which had been advocated in his friend's paper. A warrant for his arrest was issued, and on 8 July Martin, having kept out of the way until the adjournment of the commission which had been sitting in Dublin, surrendered himself to the police. While in Newgate he wrote the letter which appeared, signed with his initials, in the fifth and last number of the ' Irish Felon' ('22 July 1848),and in which he exhorted the people to keep their arms in spite of the proclamation, and declared that the work of overthrowing the English dominion in Ireland i must be done at any risk, at any cost, at any sacrifice.' On 14 Aug. he was indicted, under 11 and 12 Vict. c. 12, for treason-felony, before Lord-chief-baron Pigot and Baron Pennefather, at the commission court in Green Street, Dublin. He was defended by Isaac Butt, Q.C., Sir Colman O'Loghlen, Holmes, and O'Hagan. After a trial which lasted three days Martin was found guilty, but was at the same time recommended to mercy by the jury 'in consequence of the particular letter upon which he was convicted being written in prison.' On 19 Aug. he was sentenced by the lord chief baron to transportation beyond the seas for ten years. A writ of error was subsequently brought in the queen's bench, Dublin, but without success. Martin arrived at Van Diemen's Land in November 1849, and resided in the district assigned to him until 1854, when a pardon, on condition of his not returning to Great Britain or Ireland, was granted him. He settled in Paris in October 1854, and in June 1856 received an unconditional pardon. In 1858 he returned to Ireland to reside, and in January 1804 established with The O'Donoghue the short-lived 'National League,' the object of which was to obtain the legislative independence of Ireland. He took a prominent part in the funeral procession through Dublin in honour of the ' Manchester Martyrs ' on 8 Dec. 1867, and delivered an address to an enormous crowd outside Glasnevin cemetery. For his share in these proceedings he was prosecuted by the government in February 1868, before Mr. Justice Fitzgerald and Mr. Baron Deasy, but owing to the disagreement of the jury any further attempt to obtain a conviction against him was abandoned. While on a visit to America in December 1869, Martin was put forward as a candidate in the nationalist interest at a by-election for co. Longford. The priests had, however, already pledged themselves to support the Hon. K. J. M. Greville Nugent, the liberal candidate, and Martin was defeated by 1,578 to 411 votes. In May 1 870 Martin joined the 'Home Government Association for Ireland,' and at a by-election for co. Meath in January 1871 he was returned to parliament as a home ruler by a majority of 456 votes over his conservative opponent, the Hon. G. J. Plunket. He spoke for the first time in the House of Commons in May 1871 during the debate on the second readingof the Protection of Lifeand Property (Ireland) Bill, when he declared that he did not ' intend to vote upon this bill nor indeed upon any other measure which the parliament may think proper to pass in respect to the government 'of his country, and contended that it was' the inalienable right of the Irish people to be a free people, and as a free people to be bound only by laws made by the queen and a free parliament of that kingdom' (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. ccvi. 908-14, 1039-45). He renewed his protest against the bill on the motion for going into committee, and replied with great spirit to Mr. Gladstone's allusions to his 'antiquated' opinions (ib. pp. 1342-6). On 8 Aug. 1872 he took part in the debate on Mr. Justice Keogh's judgment in the Gal way election petition, when he attempted unsuccessfully to read through the whole of his speech, which he had previously written out at length (ib. ccxiii. 810-1 8). He was again returned for Meath at the general election in February 1874. In July and August 1874 he warmly opposed the passing of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, which he described as an attempt of the government 'to sandwich three Coercion Bills bet ween thirty other measures' (ib. ccxxi. 735-6, 1006-7, 1010, 1014, 1020). On 18 Feb. 1875 he defended his friend Mitchel from the charge of having broken his parole (ib. ccxxii. 518-19), and on the 26th of the same month moved for the papers relating to his friend's trial in 1848 (ib. pp. 964-72). He spoke for the last time in the House of Commons on 12 March 1875 (ib. pp. 1726-7). He died on 29 March 1875 aored 63, at Dromalane House, near Newry (the residence of Mr. Hill Irvine), from an attack of bronchitis caught while attending the funeral of John Mitchel, and was buried at Donoughmore on 1 April following.

Martin was a sturdy and uncompromising politician, with a keen sense of honour and much simplicity of character. His popularity in Ireland was great, and he was known throughout the country as i Honest John Martin.' He married, at Roslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, in November 1868, Henrietta, the daughter of the Rev. John Mitchel, presbyterian minister at Newry, and sister of his friend John Mitchel. Shortly before his death he resigned the post of paid for that of honorary secretary to the Home Rule League. He was succeeded in the representation of Meath by the late Charles Stewart Parnell [q.v.], who thereby entered the House of Commons for the first time.

[Life and Letters of John Martin, by P. A. Sillard, Dublin, 1893; Sir C. G. Duffy's Young Ireland, pt. i. (1884), p. 179, pt. ii. (1887) passim; Sullivan's New Ireland, 1878; Mitchel's Jail Journal, 1868; Sullivan s Speeches from the Dock, 1887, pp. 96-109, 324-60; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878, pp. 332-3; Freeman's Journal, 15, 16. 17 Aug. 1848, 21 and 22 Feb. 1868, 30 March and 2 April 1875; Times, 30 March and 2 and 3 April 1876; Nowry Reporter, 30 March and 1 and 3 April 1875; Nation, 3 April 1875 (with portrait); Drogheda Argus. 3 April 1875; Annual Register, 1875, ii. 137; Hodges's Report of the Proceedings under the Felony Act, 11 Vict. cap. 12, at the Commission Court, Green Street, Dublin, August and October 1848 (1848); Catalogue of Graduates of Dublin Univ. 1869, p. 374; Dod's Parl. Companion, 1874, p. 266; Debrett's House of Commons. 1875, p. 163; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 493, 515.]

G. F. R. B.