Luther Martin (1748 - 8 July 1826). Born to a comfortable New Jersey farm family, Martin attended the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), then moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he taught school and read for the law. He was a very successful lawyer, and became a leader in the early 1770s to British imperial policy (although living in an area where much of the population was loyalist). He served in the revolutionary assembly that began meeting in Maryland in 1774, and in 1776 was appointed state attorney general (a position he held for almost three decades).

Martin was one of five delegates elected to attend the Constitutional Convention from Maryland. In Philadelphia he opposed the nationalist plans of James Madison and James Wilson, and argued for protection for the "small states;" but supported the so-called "Connecticut Compromise" (that continued state representation in the Senate but made representation in the House of Representatives proportionate to population). He also drafted the famed "Supremacy Clause". (He assumed, incorrectly, that state courts would adjudicate most questions of national law, and the supremacy clause would allow the Supreme Court to adjudicate conflicts between state rulings; he did not anticipate that the clause would be one of the basis for claims of the supremacy of the federal court system over the state), and proposed a bill of rights (as did George Mason)–which found little support among convention delegates.

Unsatisfied with the results of the Philadelphia Convention, he returned to Maryland and fought ratification. His primary concerns were the erosion of state’s rights and the lack of a bill of rights. His efforts to stop ratification failed.

In the immediate aftermath of the ratification debate, Martin came to believe that the Washington’s administration program of creating a strong national government was preferable to the anarchy he feared if Jefferson and his followers took office. Martin, then, was one of a number of prominent anti-federalists (opponents of the Constitution), who became Federalists (backers of the Washington administration)..


Sources: Herbert J. Storing includes several selections from Martin in his edited collection, The Complete Anti-Federalist, and there are others in John P. Kaminski and Gaspare J. Saladino, eds., Commentaries on the Constitution, Public and Private (1986). There is no biography, but there is an exellent essay in James McLachlan, Princetonians, 1748-1768: A Biographical Dictionary (1976).