Intelligence, ambition and self-belief took Martin, the son of the Governor’s Irish groom, to the pinnacles of colonial law and politics. He is the only man to have been both been Premier and Chief Justice of New South Wales.
He made his name as a fierce and partisan contributor to the vitriolic political debates of the 1840s. A brilliant young lawyer, he was in Parliament in 1848, before the age of 30. He stayed there, in and out of government, until 1873 when he made an honourable exit to the highest judicial office in the colony. Knighthood and civil honours followed.
Self-made, rich, arrogant and married to the wealthy daughter of a former convict, Martin attracted enemies so that, as Premier, he could not always guarantee the passage of his legislation, and at times lost his parliamentary seat. Through all this, he conducted a huge Bar practice and was appointed Chief Justice.
Remembered as a man “springing from the people and educated amongst them”, he showed “every quality which is necessary to a great and good Judge” in a career of rare accomplishment.
The NSW State Set of Lives of Australian Chief Justices, which includes, Sir Francis Forbes, Sir James Dowling, Sir Alfred Stephen, Sir James Martin and Sir Frederick Darley is available for $210.00 – contact us to order.
A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.