MARTIN, John (1774-1832), of Overbury, Worcs. and 68 Lombard Street, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1812 - 4 Jan. 1832

Family and Education

b. 27 Nov. 1774, 1st s. of James Martin† of Overbury and Penelope, da. of Joseph Skipp of Upper Hall, Ledbury, Herefs. m. 5 Mar. 1803, Frances, da. of Richard Stone, banker, of Lombard Street and Chislehurst, Kent, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1810. d. 4 Jan. 1832.

Offices Held


Martin, who became senior partner in the London banking firm of Martin, Stone and Foote in 1807, inherited his father’s property in Worcestershire three years later.1 He was the fifth member of his family to represent Tewkesbury, which was close to the Overbury estate, and it was apparently ‘the pride of his political life’ to exhibit the same spirit of ‘tenacious and uncompromising integrity’ as his father.2 In 1820, on being returned unopposed for the third time with the Tory John Edmund Dowdeswell, he recommended economy, tax reductions and ‘a disposition ... to redress every real and substantial grievance’, as the remedies for distress and popular discontent.3

He was a regular attender who continued to vote with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9 Mar., 18 Apr., 9, 10, 31 May 1821, 25 Apr., 24 June 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 13, 27 Apr., 26 May 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. On 9 May 1820, during the debate on the motion for inquiry into the evidence against George Edwards, the government spy among the Cato Street conspirators, his adjournment motion was ‘immediately negatived’.4 He argued that the chancellor of the exchequer, Vansittart, had ‘violated’ statute in the way he had borrowed from the consolidated fund, 9 June 1820. He declared that he would not ‘vote away any more of the public money until a more clear mode of keeping the accounts should be adopted’, 14 Feb. 1821. He said he regarded it as ‘a more sacred obligation to consult the privations and distresses of the people than to vote superfluities to any branch of the royal family’, 18 June, when he was a minority teller against receiving the report of the committee on the duke of Clarence’s grant. He accused ministers of a ‘violation of faith’ towards public creditors during the years of depreciated currency, 5 Mar.5 He was listed as a steward of the City of London Tavern reform dinner, 4 Apr. He advocated Sunday postal deliveries, 17 May.6 He warned of future opposition to the forgery punishment mitigation bill ‘unless the punishment ... in all cases was transportation for life’, 25 May, and was a majority teller for the amendment to except promissory notes, bills of exchange and money orders drawn on bankers, 4 June 1821. He divided for Brougham’s motion for more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., but against Lord Althorp’s similar resolution, 21 Feb. 1822; he continued to vote for economy and retrenchment that session. He supported reduction of the salt duty ‘on the principle of economy’, insisting that ‘it would not interfere with his former vote’, 28 Feb. He advocated conversion of the navy five per cents into four-and-a-half per cent stock rather than adding to the national debt, 25 Feb., and complained that the government was rushing its plan through without giving Members time to consider the amendments made in committee, 8 Mar.7 On 18 Apr. he expressed the hope that if the select committee on public accounts, to which he had been named, was unable to execute its duties fully that session it would be reappointed.8 He condemned the ministerial plan for funding naval and military pensions, which proved that ‘they were determined not to reduce the expenditure ... they had made up their minds to continue the employment of useless postmasters-general and expensive clerks’, 1 May. He supported the amendment to use the sinking fund to pay these pensions, 24 May, observing that ‘it was a palpable juggle to talk of having a sinking fund at a time [when] we were borrowing money to defray the expenses of our ordinary establishments’. He moved to abolish the lottery tax, 1 July 1822, but was defeated by 74-34.

He divided against Hume’s call for further tax reductions, 3 Mar. 1823, explaining three days later that he thought the government had done ‘as much as could be done in the present circumstances of the country’, although he lamented the ‘state of inexplicable confusion’ in the public accounts.9 He ‘objected to some of the charges incurred by junior branches of the royal family’, 9 June 1823.10 He denounced the usury laws as ‘injurious to all classes ... especially ... the agricultural interest’, 16 Feb. 1824. He presented, without comment, a Tewkesbury mechanics’ petition for repeal of the combination laws, 9 Mar.11 He supported the game laws amendment bill in principle, but warned that he would oppose it if a clause allowing landowners to kill game without the tenant’s permission was added, 25 Mar. He urged referral of the hides and skins repeal bill to a select committee, 14 Apr., and said he could not vote for repeal of the leather duty as he ‘entirely approved of the measures taken by ministers for the reduction of taxes’, 18 May 1824. He considered the new game laws amendment bill ‘exceedingly objectionable’ in its present form but was willing to support the second reading in the hope of modifying it in committee, 7 Mar. 1825. He moved an amendment to give property rights in game to the tenant, 24 Mar., which was defeated by 33-4.12 He dismissed the large anti-Catholic petition from London, Westminster and Southwark, 21 Apr., observing that such petitions were often improperly got up. He favoured the issue of silver 3d.s for their ‘very general convenience’, 12 May. He believed he would have ‘grossly violated his duty to his constituents’ by supporting the financial provision for the duke of Cumberland, but he had ‘far less objection’ in the case of the duchess of Kent, 27 May 1825. He complained that ‘much unmerited odium had been thrown upon the country bankers’, 7 Mar. 1826, when he was a minority teller against the third reading of the promissory notes bill. He moved next day for an account of how many commissions of bankruptcy issued against country bankers since 1816 had been proceeded with.13 At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Tewkesbury.14

Martin gave a ‘decided negative’ to the financial provision for the duke of Clarence, 16 Feb., voting against the annuity bill, 2, 16 Mar. 1827. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He presented a Tewkesbury petition for retrenchment and reform, 8 Mar., and ones from Dissenters for repeal of the Test Acts, 25 May, 7 June.15 He voted against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar. He divided for inquiry into the allegations against Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and to postpone the committee of supply, 30 Mar. He voted against Canning’s coalition government to disfranchise Penryn, 28 May 1827. He divided against the Wellington ministry for naval retrenchment, 11 Feb., against the grant for the Society for Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 6 June, to reduce civil list pensions, 10 June, condemn the misapplication of public money for work on Buckingham House, 23 June, cut the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, and omit the grant for North American fortifications, 7 July 1828. He voted to repeal the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and criticized the proposed new oath, which would exclude Quakers and Jews, as ‘not creditable to the good sense or sound policy of the country’, 2 May. He divided for Catholic claims, 12 May. He voted against extending the East Retford franchise to Bassetlaw freeholders, 21 Mar., and recommitting the disfranchisement bill, 27 June. He divided for a lower pivot price for the corn duties, 22 Apr., and a smaller protective duty, 29 Apr. He voted to condemn delays in chancery, 24 Apr. He moved an amendment to the offences against the person bill providing for stronger penalties in cases involving aggravated cruelty towards children, 5 May, but withdrew it at the request of the home secretary, Peel, who considered it impracticable, 23 May. He described the usury laws as beneficial only to ‘low attornies and an inferior description of agents’, 20 May, and was a majority teller for the second reading of the repeal bill, 19 June. He divided for inquiry into the circulation of small bank notes in Scotland and Ireland, 5 June, and against the bill on this subject, 16, 27 June. In the debate on the savings banks bill, 3 July, he confirmed from his own experience that high interest rates were attracting money from those who were not poor. He voted for the corporate funds bill, 10 July. He divided against the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill, 16 June, the additional churches bill, 30 June, and for inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June. He opposed the cider and perry excise licences bill, 26 June, arguing that ‘public houses in which gin was consumed’ were the real source of immorality. He unsuccessfully attempted to add a clause to the sale of game bill giving occupiers rather than owners of land the power to grant sporting licenses, 27 June 1828.

He divided for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., expressed ‘heartfelt pleasure’ at the ministry’s conduct, 9 Mar., and condemned the ‘inflammatory language’ used by peers, clergymen and magistrates in encouraging anti-Catholic demonstrations, 16 Mar. 1829. He voted to allow O’Connell to take his seat without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May. He thought ‘a reduction of our unfunded debt’ was ‘very desirable’, 11 May 1829. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5 Mar. 1830, when he opposed voting by secret ballot as he did not believe it would ‘diminish bribery or corruption, or even intimidation’ and was ‘satisfied that a great moral good is effected when an individual comes forward boldly and openly ... and votes against what appears to be his pecuniary interest’; he voted against the disfranchisement bill, 15 Mar. He divided for Lord Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He regularly voted with the revived Whig opposition that session on retrenchment motions. He had been unable to ‘make up my mind as to the propriety of ever abolishing the punishment of death’ in cases of forgery, 1 Apr., but concluded on 24 May that since the prospect of execution was deterring prosecutions, ‘we should try the experiment of a mitigated punishment’; he voted in that sense, 24 May, 7 June. He was ‘flattered at the honour’ of being asked to present a Worcester Catholics’ petition for Jewish emancipation, which was ‘a complete answer to the charges of bigotry and illiberality’ made against them, and voted accordingly, 17 May. He divided for reform of the civil government of Canada, 25 May, and of the divorce laws, 3 June, and repeal of the Irish Vestries Acts, 10 June. He voted to prohibit sales for on-consumption in beer houses, 21 June, and to delay it for two years, 1 July. He divided against the increased recognizances required of printers by the libel law amendment bill, 6, 9 July 1830. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Tewkesbury after assuring his constituents of his ‘abhorrence’ of slavery.16

The ministry of course listed Martin among their ‘foes’, and he voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented and ‘cordially advocated’ a Tewkesbury anti-slavery petition, 19 Nov. He supported the suspension of Evesham’s writ, as it was ‘one of the most corrupt boroughs in existence ... where the grossest bribery was carried on at every election’, 16 Dec. 1830. He warned that the proposed tax on the transfer of property would be ‘highly injurious to the public’ without greatly benefiting the exchequer and entered a ‘protest’ against the alternative suggestion of a property tax, 15 Feb. 1831. He expressed his ‘entire concurrence’ in the motion for inquiry into more efficient modes of secondary punishment, 17 Mar. That day he presented a Tewkesbury petition in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, observing that ‘I approve of the measure not only for what it contains but also for what it does not, namely, a proposition for annual parliaments, vote by ballot and universal suffrage’. He divided for the second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he headed the poll at Tewkesbury as ‘the advocate ... of economy, retrenchment and reform, the enemy of colonial slavery, in whatever state and under whatever modification existing’, and as ‘the warm and devoted friend of civil and religious liberty’.17

He drew attention to the ‘disgraceful state’ of Westminster Hall, 1 July 1831. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and generally supported its details, although he voted against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., and for the Chandos amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election, 23 Aug. He voted to reduce the grant for civil list services, 18 July, and while supporting that for building work already done at Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, 28 Sept., he was ‘not ... prepared to vote ... any further sums’. He divided with the minority against the truck bill, 12 Sept. He was prevented by ‘severe illness’ from voting on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831.18 His death in January 1832 was attributed to his ‘close attendance during the whole of the protracted and harassing debates on reform’.19 He left freehold property in Herefordshire and Warwickshire to his eldest son John and other freehold property in Herefordshire to his second son James; his personalty was sworn under £90,000.20 All of his sons served as partners in the family bank.21 John Martin (1805-80) was Liberal Member for Tewkesbury, 1832-5, 1837-59, and James Martin (1807-78) similarly represented the borough, 1859-65.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. The will was sworn under £35,000 (PROB 11/1508/94; IR26/156/260); J.B. Martin, ‘The Grasshopper’ in Lombard Street, 100-1.
  • 2. J. Bennett, Tewkesbury Yearly Reg. (1840), 82.
  • 3. Gloucester Jnl. 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 10 May 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 6 Mar. 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 18 May 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 26 Feb., 9 Mar. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 19 Apr. 1822.
  • 9. Ibid. 7 Mar. 1823.
  • 10. Ibid. 10 June 1823.
  • 11. Ibid. 10 Mar. 1824.
  • 12. Ibid. 25 Mar. 1825.
  • 13. Ibid. 9 Mar. 1826.
  • 14. Gloucester Jnl. 5, 12 June 1826.
  • 15. The Times, 9 Mar., 26 May, 8 June 1827.
  • 16. Gloucester Jnl. 10, 24, 31 July 1830.
  • 17. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 18. Ibid. 24 Dec. 1831.
  • 19. Gent Mag. (1832), i. 80-81.
  • 20. PROB 11/1796/102; IR26/1295/49.
  • 21. Martin, 102.