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James Martin (premier)

Sir James Martin
6th Premier of New South Wales
In office
16 October 1863 – 2 February 1865
Preceded byCharles Cowper
Succeeded byCharles Cowper
ConstituencyTumut (until 1864)
In office
22 January 1866 – 26 October 1868
Preceded byCharles Cowper
Succeeded byJohn Robertson
In office
16 December 1870 – 13 May 1872
Preceded byCharles Cowper
Succeeded byHenry Parkes
Chief Justice of New South Wales
In office
19 November 1873 – 4 November 1886
Preceded bySir Alfred Stephen
Succeeded bySir Julian Salomons
Personal details
Born(1820-05-14)14 May 1820
Midleton, County Cork, Ireland,
Died4 November 1886(1886-11-04) (aged 66)
Potts Point, New South Wales
Resting placeSt Jude's Randwick Cemetery
RelationsFlorence Martin (daughter)

Sir James Martin, QC (14 May 1820 – 4 November 1886)[1] was three times Premier of New South Wales, and Chief Justice of New South Wales from 1873 to 1886.

Early career

Martin was born in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland but emigrated with his parents to Sydney, Australia at the age of one.[1] He was educated at Dame's School, Parramatta and, despite his family's poverty,[2] the Sydney Academy and Sydney College under the tutelage of William Timothy Cape, and left school at the age of 16 to become a reporter.

In 1838, Martin published the Australian Sketch Book, a series of character sketches he dedicated to Sydney barrister Bob Nichols,[3] for whom he was then working as an articled clerk in 1840.

Martin qualified as a solicitor in 1845, and combined his legal career with employment as a newspaper editor and publisher. He married Isabella Long on 20 January 1853 and together they produced 15 children.[2]

Early political career

In February 1848 Martin nominated as a candidate for a by-election for the electorate of Durham in the New South Wales Legislative Council, but withdrew before polling day. In the general election held later in the same year he was a candidate for the electorate of Counties of Cook and Westmoreland, which he won with a margin of 16%.[2] His election however was declared void on the grounds that he did not meet the property qualifications to stand,[4][5] however he was re-elected unopposed.[6] Martin subsequently sued the Speaker of the Legislative Council, Charles Nicholson and the Sergeant at Arms, William Christie, for trespass for having him removed when there had been no decision of the Electoral Court in accordance with the Electoral Act 1843.[7] The Full Court of the Supreme Court held that under the Electoral Act 1843 it was only the Electoral Court that could determine there was a vacancy and not the Governor.[8]

Martin was an effective legislator but his sharp tongue and intemperate speeches to the House made him few friends among his parliamentary colleagues. His most notable political achievement in his first eight years in office was to initiate the Parliamentary debate that led to the establishment of a branch of the royal mint in Sydney.

In 1856 the partly elected unicameral Legislative Council was abolished and replaced with a new parliament with elected members of the Legislative Assembly and appointed members of the Legislative Council. Martin was elected as one of two members for Cook and Westmoreland. When that electorate was largely replaced by the single member electorate of Hartley, Martin successfully stood for the new four member electorate of East Sydney. He was subsequently the member for Orange, Tumut, Monaro, Lachlan and East Macquarie.[2] In August 1856 he was made Attorney-General of New South Wales in the first ministry of Charles Cowper. The appointment was controversial, as Martin was the first holder of the office who had not been admitted as a barrister.[9] He had to resign his seat as a result of accepting the office, however he was re-elected unopposed.[10] The appointment was brief, as the government was defeated in a no-confidence motion in October 1856 and Martin returned to the backbench.

Martin was admitted to the bar in 1856 and was made a Queen's Counsel in 1857.[11] He returned as Attorney General in the second Cowper Ministry in September 1857, and was again re-elected unopposed.[12] As Attorney General however, his reputation for intemperate language continued and after a series of conflicts with fellow Ministers he resigned the office in November 1858.

Premier of New South Wales

In October 1863, Martin was asked by the Governor of New South Wales to form a government with a mandate to address rising State deficits and rural unemployment. As Premier and Colonial Secretary Martin promptly introduced measures to reduce immigration and increase tariffs, but was unable to secure Parliamentary support for many of his reforms. With limited achievements to its credit, the government suffered a substantial swing at the 1865 election and Martin stepped down to make way for the return of Charles Cowper.

Cowper was once again defeated in a no-confidence motion in December 1865, and in January 1866 Martin became Premier for the second time as leader of a coalition government with former rival Henry Parkes. His government resigned in October 1868, but he returned to the Premiership for a third and final time between December 1870 and May 1872.

After politics

Martin retired from Parliament in November 1873 and was immediately named to the vacant position of Chief Justice of New South Wales. He held the post for 13 years, despite considerable ill health in later life.

James Martin died at home in Potts Point, Sydney on 4 November 1886 and buried in St Judes churchyard in Randwick, NSW. in 1909 his remains were moved to a new underground vault in the impressive Waverley Cemetery.


Martin was made a Queen's Counsel in 1857,[2] and was knighted in 1869.[13] Martin Place, a pedestrian mall in the central business district of Sydney was named after him in 1892. 'Lady Martin Beach' a small beach accessible to the public from Wolseley Road, Point Piper, New South Wales is named after his wife, Isabella who resided at nearby Woollahra House. Late in 2020, two new identical statues were put up in Parramatta and Martin Place as he used to go from Parramatta to Martin Place for school.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b Mennell, Philip (1892). "Martin, His Honour the Hon. Sir James" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sir James Martin [1] (1820–1886)". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  3. ^ Nairn, Bede. "Martin, Sir James (1820–1886)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Writ of election". New South Wales Government Gazette. No. 89. 21 June 1849. p. 939. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
  5. ^ "Legislative Council: Mr James Martin". The Sydney Morning Herald. 18 June 1849. p. 2. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
    "Legislative Council: message from the Governor:- Mr James Martin". The Sydney Morning Herald. 20 June 1849. p. 2. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
  6. ^ "Cook and Westmoreland election". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 July 1849. p. 3. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
  7. ^ An Act to provide for the division of the Colony of New South Wales into Electoral Districts and for the Election of Members to serve in the Legislative Council (PDF) (16). 23 February 1843. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  8. ^ Martin v Nicholson (1850) 1 Legge 618 (PDF) Supreme Court (Full Court) (NSW), per Stephen CJ, Dickinson and Therry JJ.
  9. ^ "Law Officers of the Crown". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 September 1856. p. 4. Retrieved 30 January 2019 – via Trove.
  10. ^ "Representation of Cook and Westmoreland: return of Mr Martin". The Empire. 8 September 1856. p. 2. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
  11. ^ "NSW senior counsel appointments". NSW Bar Association. Retrieved 5 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Cook and Westmoreland election: re-election of Mr Martin". The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 22 September 1857. p. 4. Retrieved 22 April 2019 – via Trove.
  13. ^ "No. 23494". The London Gazette. 4 May 1869. p. 2620.
  14. ^ NSW Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment (5 November 2020). "James Martin honour unveiled". NSW Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment. Retrieved 19 January 2021.



Political offices Preceded byCharles Cowper Premier of New South Wales 1863–1865 Succeeded byCharles Cowper Preceded byCharles Cowper Premier of New South Wales 1866–1868 Succeeded byJohn Robertson Preceded byCharles Cowper Premier of New South Wales 1870–1872 Succeeded byHenry Parkes New South Wales Legislative Council Preceded byJohn Panton Member for Counties ofCook & Westmoreland 1848–1856 Council replaced bynew Parliament New South Wales Legislative Assembly New assembly Member for Cook and Westmoreland 1856–1859 Served alongside: Jamison District largely replacedby Hartley New district Member for East Sydney 1859–1860 Served alongside: Black, Cowper/Faucett, Parkes Succeeded byJohn Caldwell Preceded byJohn Peisley Member for Orange 1862–1863 Succeeded byCharles Cowper, Jr. Preceded byCharles Cowper, Jr. Member for Tumut 1863–1864 Succeeded byCharles Cowper, Jr. Preceded byThomas Garrett Member for Monaro 1864–1865 Succeeded byWilliam Grahame Preceded byJohn Ryan Member for Lachlan 1864–1869 Succeeded byJames Watson Preceded byRobert Stewart Member for East Sydney 1869–1872 Served alongside: Buchanan, King, Parkes/Wilson Succeeded byJohn Macintosh Preceded byJohn Suttor Member for East Macquarie 1872–1873 Succeeded byWalter Cooper Legal offices Preceded bySir Alfred Stephen Chief Justice of New South Wales 1873–1886 Succeeded bySir Julian Salomons
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James Martin (premier)
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