Martin, Josiah

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Martin, Josiah

MARTIN, JOSIAH. (1737–1786). Royal governor of North Carolina, British officer. Born in Dublin, Ireland, on 23 April 1737, Josiah Martin entered the army in 1757. He saw action on Martinique and Guadeloupe, and took part in the Canadian campaign, rising in rank to lieutenant colonel of the 22d Foot Regiment. In 1761 he married his cousin, Elizabeth Martin, of "Rockhall" on Long Island. In 1764 he joined the Sixty-eighth Regiment on Antigua, where he stayed until bad health forced him to sell his commission as lieutenant colonel in 1769. Aided by family connections, he was commissioned the royal governor of North Carolina in 1770, succeeding William Tryon. He took up his new office at New Bern on 12 August 1771.

Arriving shortly after Tryon had forcefully put down the Regulators, Martin faced a number of difficult obstacles. He was immediately embroiled in a losing battle on matters of taxation, the "foreign attachment issue" when the legislature insisted on the right of North Carolina creditors to seize the property of British debtors, and other local matters. Since he could not reconcile the demands of the assembly with his instructions from the Crown, Governor Martin saw the colony's juridical system collapse even before he was faced with the local Patriot movement that started in 1774. He had the unfortunate impression that he could muster sufficient Loyalist strength to hold his province, and in March 1775 he urged General Thomas Gage to send him arms and ammunition. As the Patriot militia gathered around him, Martin sent his family off to New York, and on 31 May 1775 he himself fled to the safety of Fort Johnston, on Cape Fear, in South Carolina. On 18 July he boarded the H.M.S. Cruizer, just a jump ahead of capture.

Martin's incorrect evaluation of the local situation, coupled with that of other royal governors-in-exile, led the British to send Henry Clinton's ill-fated expedition to Charleston in 1776 and helped bring about the abortive Loyalist uprising that was crushed at Moores Creek Bridge on 27 February 1776.

After watching the Charleston fiasco in June, Martin went to his wife's home on Long Island. In 1779 he returned to Charleston with Clinton and served creditably as a volunteer under General Charles Cornwallis in the Carolinas in 1780 and 1781, taking part in the battles of Camden and Guilford. Again bothered by ill health, he left Cornwallis at Wilmington in April 1781, and after a visit to Long Island he sailed to London. He drew his salary as governor until October 1783 and was compensated for the loss of his property in North Carolina. He died in London on 13 April 1786.

SEE ALSO Regulators; Tryon, William.


Martin Papers. London: Manuscript Collections, British Museum.

Stumpf, Vernon O. Josiah Martin: The Last Royal Governor of North Carolina. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1986.

                            revised by Michael Bellesiles