MARTIN, Richard (1570-1618), of the Middle Temple, London.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1570, s. of William Martin of Exeter by his 1st w. Anne, da. of Richard Parker of Suss. educ. Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1585; New Inn; M. Temple 1587, called 1602. unm.

Offices Held

Lent reader, M. Temple 1615, bencher by 1616; recorder, London 1618.


Whether born at Exeter, as he stated in his maiden speech in Parliament, or at Otterton, as he wrote in his will, Martin had a riotous student career at the Middle Temple, and had still not been called to the bar when, aged just over 30, he was nominated by Robert Chichester to one of the Barnstaple seats in Elizabeth’s last Parliament. ‘Mr. Martin of the Temple’ took to the House as a duck to water. His first speech, 10 Nov. 1601, was in favour of a bill for uniting several small churches in Exeter, and ‘against such a man as he that last spake [the bishop’s servant of Exeter, as the journal puts it] who spake more for his master’s benefit than for God’s honour’. Martin next took a swipe at ‘Serjeant Heale [John Hele I] that had yesterday so much flattered his prince’ in the subsidy debate, and went on to urge the committal of the bill. This wish to get the discussion off the floor of the House and into committee is interesting at this stage of the evolution of the House of Commons. It recurred on 2 Dec. when he thought discussion on the bill for church attendance was a ‘matter more fit to be decided at a committee than here’. Martin disliked the ‘extravagant speeches’ some Members were making on the depredations of the Dunkirk pirates, 3 Dec.,

like to men whose houses be ing on fire ... run out into the streets like madmen ... I wish that those who first propounded this matter to the House had also laid down some project, though never so small, of remedy.

He spoke against fining recusants £20 a month (under the 1581 Act) and 1s. a week, ‘the law will not tolerate two remedies for one inconvenience ... I can never agree in conscience to consent to a double remedy for one offence’. He was outspoken against monopolies, 20 Nov.:

I speak for a town that grieves and pines, and for a country that groans under the burden of monstrous and unconscionable substitutes, to the monopolitans of starch, tin, fish, cloth, oil, vinegar, salt, and I know not what. Nay, what not? The principal commodities both of my town and country are ingrossed into the hands of these bloodsuckers of the commonwealth ... If these bloodsuckers be still let alone, to suck up the best ... commodities which the earth ... has given us, what shall become of us, from whom the fruits of our own soil and the commodities of our own labour, which, with the sweat of our brows (even up to the knees in mire and dirt) we have laboured for, shall be taken from us by warrant of supreme authority, which the poor subject dares not gainsay?

And the next day he persuaded the House not to allow ‘the old officers’ of the Exchequer to have counsel to represent them before the committal of the Exchequer reform bill. ‘I am utterly against that they should have counsel ... I hold it best to proceed to the question.’ Martin was himself appointed to the committee. The bill passed both Houses and was vetoed by the Queen.

On 23 Nov., on the adjourned monopolies debate, it was Martin who seconded Henry Montagu’s motion ‘that the patentees shall have no other remedies than by the laws of the realm’. That afternoon, at the committee, Martin spoke after the same John Davies who had broken a cudgel over Martin’s head at dinner in Middle Temple Hall 9 Feb. 1598. Davies wished to proceed to rectify the grievances by bill. His zeal, said Martin, had masked his reason—a petition would be better. This was something of a volte face on Martin’s part, and it may be significant that he was one of those selected, 28 Nov., to thank the Queen for her concessionary message about monopolies. By this time Martin had obviously acquired something of a reputation in Parliament. On 8 Dec. he was appointed to a privilege committee, and the following day he humiliated Secretary Cecil. The business was trivial enough: whether a proviso in favour of a Mr. Dormer should be inserted in a land bill. The Speaker put it to the question, pronounced for the ayes, the noes demanded a division, ‘so the door being set open, no man offered to go forth’. At this point Martin intervened:

Mr. Speaker I have observed it that ever this Parliament the noes upon the division of the House have carried it. The reason whereof, as I conceive it, is because divers are loth to go forth for fear of losing their places. And many that cry aye aye aye will sit still with the noes. I therefore do but move this unto the House, that all those that have given their aye aye aye would, according to their consciences, go forth. And for my part I’ll begin.

Martin and the rest of the ayes had 178, the noes, including Cecil, 134. Cecil was furious, saying that Martin ‘spake persuadingly to draw those out of the House who perhaps meant it not’, that he had ‘laid an imputation upon the House’ which he should answer ‘at the bar’. But Knollys, comptroller of the Household, backed Martin: ‘Surely for not removing out of places, I have heard fault found before this time’. Martin asked the Speaker if he might answer. ‘The House cried aye, aye, aye. "No", quoth the Secretary, "you must stand at the bar". And the House cried no, no, no.'

Then Mr. Secretary desired it might be put to the question, whether he should speak or no, and so it was, and not twenty said No. Then it was put to the question whether he should speak at the bar or no? And Mr. Brown the lawyer [probably John Browne] stood up and said 'Mr Speaker, par in parem non habet imperium, we are all members of one body and one cannot judge of another'. So, being put to the question, there were not above twelve aye, aye, aye that he should stand at the bar.

Martin could now rub it in. 'Standing in his seat [he] showed the cause of his speech to have been only for the order of the House, and not out of any persuasive meaning that he had, for ... he neither knew the man nor the matter.'

Martin's last intervention in this Parliament was typical both of his wit and his liking for pressing on with the business. During a straggling debate on alehouses, Martin justified an intervention by another Member, then went on 'But that hath led us out of the ale house ... I wish that we might make a quick return by putting it, without further disputation, to the question'. He continued to sit in the next period, making an interesting suggestion for reforming the committee system 16 Apr. 1604, was sworn recorder of London 1 Oct. 1618, and died on the 31st according to Aubrey, of drink. He appointed as executor his brother Thomas, mayor of Exeter at the time the will was made, and left £5 to Otterton 'where I was born'.

DNB: Townshend, Hist. Colls. 206, 219, 228, 234, 237, 243, 244, 276, 278, 281-2, 301-3, 306; D'Ewes, 640, 645-6, 649, 650, 651, 657, 664, 666, 673, 675; Inner Temple Petyt ms 501/1, f. 319; PCC 111 Meade.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler