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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Martin, Sir William

Martin, Sir William, M.A., D.C.L., the son of Henry Martin, of Birmingham, was born in 1807, and educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was Scholar from 1826 to 1831, and graduated B.A. as 26th wrangler and 2nd Chancellor's medallist in 1829. In 1831 he was elected Fellow of St. John's College, and having taken the M.A. degree in 1832, he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1836. In 1838 he resigned his fellowship, and in 1841 he was appointed Chief Justice of New Zealand, and went to that colony in company with the newly appointed Attorney-General, Mr. Swainson. During his long career in the colony Sir William Martin had great experience of the Maoris, and on several occasions pleaded in public on their behalf. In 1847 he joined with Bishop Selwyn in protesting against the instructions of the Colonial Office regarding the treatment of the Maori lands, and published a pamphlet, "England and the New Zealanders." Subsequently, in 1861, he issued another pamphlet upon the Waitara question, entering into controversy with Mr. Richmond, the native minister, upon the subject. Once more, in 1863, he protested against the New Zealand Settlements Act, which embodied a policy of confiscation, and throughout his public career may be said generally to have contended for the validity of the Treaty of Waitangi. Sir William Martin, who was knighted in 1860, and received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the University of Oxford in July 1858, retired on a pension, and died at Torquay, on Nov. 18th, 1880. He was the intimate friend of Bishops Selwyn and Patteson, and assisted the former in drawing up the New Zealand Church Constitution. Sir William married in 1841 Mary, daughter of the Rev. W. Parker, rector of St. Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, London, and Prebendary of St. Paul's. Sir William Martin was one of the most skilled linguists of his day, and after his return to England issued a work entitled "Inquiries concerning the Structure of the Semitic Languages," which was published in two parts in 1876 and 1878.