MARTIN, Henry II (1763-1839), of Colston Bassett, Notts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



29 Apr. 1806 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 21 Dec. 1763, 2nd s. of Capt. William Martin, RN, of Stepney, Mdx. by Arabella, da. of Adm. Sir William Rowley, KB. educ. Harrow 1775-80; L. Inn 1784, called 1789. m. 14 July 1795, Maria Elizabeth, da. and h. of Francis Edmunds of Worsborough Hall, Barnsley, Yorks., 4s. 1da.

Offices Held

KC 6 Feb. 1807; bencher, L. Inn 1807, treasurer 1817; master in Chancery Mar. 1831-d.


Martin, a barrister practising on the western and northern circuits who joined the Whig Club on 19 Jan. 1790, entered Parliament in 1806 as a supporter of the Grenville ministry.1 He purchased the seat from Lord de Clifford through his cousin William Rowley, the patron’s agent. De Clifford asked £3,000 for five years.2 He retained the seat until 1818, remaining a thick and thin supporter of the Whigs who occasionally found himself in sympathy with the more radical ‘Mountain’ of the party, but was not committed to them. Although he was a regular attender and a not infrequent speaker, he seldom had anything to say on Irish matters and seems to have been inhibited on the Catholic question, on which, ever silent, he voted with the minority in 1808 and then absented himself and, after pairing in favour, 2 Mar. and 13 May 1813, was again absent on 24 May. He next voted in favour on 21 May 1816 and again on 9 May 1817. He voted for Parnell’s motions on Irish tithes, 11 June 1811 and 23 June 1812. He also voted against the Irish Insurrection Act, 27 July 1807, and against the increase in the viceroy’s salary, 9 June 1810.

Martin took his seat on 12 May and first spoke in favour of investigation of barracks, 16 May 1806. He spoke in defence of the training bill, 24 June, and in July was a critic of the East India Company, of which he had formerly been a stockholder. His first major intervention was a motion to deprive Perceval of the revenue of the duchy of Lancaster, 25 Mar. 1807, at the outset of the Portland ministry: he disclaimed party grounds and succeeded by 208 votes to 115. Subsequently the main theme of his speeches was the reduction of public expenditure with reference to sinecures, pensions and other superfluities. He was tenacious in pursuit of economical reform, but moderate in his approach. Thus on 2 July 1807 he advertised Lord Cochrane’s imminent motion on the subject, but he did not vote for it. On 10 Mar. 1808 he secured a division on the orders in council. Thomas Grenville described him as ‘an opposition reforming lawyer who professes to be of the opposition party and not to be one of Whitbread’s followers’, 17 Apr. 1809.3 He evidently disliked the split in the party ranks, for Creevey reported him, 9 Nov. 1809, as ‘to the last degree rampant after an assault upon Perceval but distracted with apprehensions that "we shan't hang together" '.4 When in April 1809 he gave notice of his motion urging government to act on the third report of the committee on public offices by reducing sinecures, Lord Grenville was urged by Lord Grey to get Martin's resolutions 'reduced to such a form as we might all approve of. I understand that he is very tractable.' Perceval, who found Martin so 'tractable' as to swallow his ostensible concurrence in the resolutions on 8 May, informed the King that their moderation led him to believe that Lord Grenville had toned them down. On 2 June Martin submitted to having his first resolution replaced by one of Perceval's, and on 8 June, when he pressed for the abolition of law court sinecures, accepted the same treatment, as also on 19 Mar. 1810, on the question of economy in government expenditure. On 17 May 1810 he acceded to Bankes's motion on sinecures, 'rather than lose all'.5 Bankes nominated him to the select committee on the subject, 21 Jan. 1811 and 27 Jan. 1812.

Martin had challenged Perceval's brother Lord Arden's tenure of the sinecure of registrar of the Admiralty, 14 June 1810. On 20 Mar. 1812 he brought in a bill to 'regulate' it. This was frustrated by 65 votes to 27, 19 June. On 19 Feb. 1813 he tried again, but was again foiled when on 21 May it was amended to preserve Lord Arden's life interest in the office. When government carried the bill, thus mutilated, on 8 July, he opposed it, suggesting it should now be entitled 'a bill to postpone all regulation of the office of registrar of the Admiralty till after the death of George Lord Arden'.6 After this discouragement, he made only one more bid on his own account in this field, an attack on pension arrangements arising out of the estimates, 20 June 1815: it was lost by 71 votes to 13. He continued to second the attempts of others to promote economy, though less active in debate himself.

Outside his chosen field, Martin seldom had much to say. In February 1809 he cross-examined witnesses as to the Duke of York's conduct. He criticized the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan. 1810, the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811, the frame-breaking bill (as a Nottingham magistrate), 14 Feb. 1812, and raised questions about the Princess Charlotte's establishment in November and December 1814, which she thought were of service to her. This move was perhaps suggested by his connexion with Brougham, for whom Martin was scouting around for a seat in Parliament.7 He had wished to perform a similar service for another legal colleague, Romilly, in 1807.8 He and Romilly were the only lawyers in the House who spoke out against the Duke of York in March 1809 and Martin was one of the Whig lawyers who opposed their chief, Lord Eldon, on critical motions of 25 Feb. 1811 and 16 Apr. 1812.9 He also attempted in March 1811 to reduce the fines to which newspaper editors were liable. On parliamentary reform, Martin was moderate; he voted for Curwen's bill, 12 June 1809, but not for Burdett's motion on the 15th, voted for Brand's motion, 21 May 1810, and was a Friend of Constitutional Reform in March 1811. On 20 May 1817 he paired in favour of Burdett's motion. He voted for Whitbread's motion to prevent war, 28 Apr. 1815, after opposing the property tax the week before. On 18 Mar. 1816 he urged the Irish Members to oppose the tax.

Martin retired in 1818 and became a master in Chancery when his friends returned to power. He carried the reform bill from the Lords to the Commons on its passage in 1832, which Creevey thought a piquant assignment for the descendant of the regicide Harry Martin.10 The proof of this descent does not appear. Martin died 19 July 1839.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. Spencer mss, Irish list, May 1806.
  • 2. Lord de Clifford to Martin, 24 Oct., 17 Dec. 1806 (penes Mrs Jane Evans).
  • 3. Spencer mss.
  • 4. Whitbread mss W1/373/16.
  • 5. HMC Fortescue, ix. 306; George III Corresp. v. 3873.
  • 6. Romilly, Mems. iii. 43.
  • 7. Add. 40183, f. 178; 51545, Holland to Grey, 2 Feb. [1814].
  • 8. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 41-42.
  • 9. Romilly, ii. 274, 375; iii. 30-31.
  • 10. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, ii. 247.