Luther Martin

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Martin, Luther,

c.1748–1826, American lawyer and political leader, b. New Brunswick, N.J. He practiced law in Maryland and became the first attorney general of the state, holding office from 1778 to 1805 and again from 1818 to 1822 (although he was inactive in his last two years of office). He was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention but refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights. Martin, considered one of the nation's leading lawyers, was one of the defense counsel in the trials of Justice Samuel Chase (1805) and of Aaron Burr (1807). He was a bitter opponent of Thomas Jefferson.


See biography by P. S. Clarkson and S. R. Jett (1970).

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Martin, Luther

(c. 1748–1826) lawyer; born in New Brunswick, N.Y. After graduating from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) (1766), he worked as a teacher while reading law, eventually being admitted to the Virginia bar (1771). He served as attorney general of Maryland (1778–1805, 1818–22) and as a delegate from Maryland to the Continental Congress (1785). He went to the Constitutional Convention in 1789, but as an opponent of a strong central government, he left the convention and then unsuccessfully tried to prevent Maryland from ratifying the new constitution. He got into a legal quarrel with Thomas Jefferson and went over to the Federalist Party, helping Justice Samuel Chase in his impeachment trial (1804) and Aaron Burr in his treason trial (1807). His final years were marked by family problems, his own health problems, and his alcoholism; he ended up destitute and living with his former client, Aaron Burr.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.