John Martin (Governor of Georgia)


John Martin (c. 1730 – January 1786) was an American planter, soldier, and politician.

John Martin
Governor of Georgia
In office
January 3, 1782 – January 8, 1783
Preceded byNathan Brownson
Succeeded byLyman Hall
Personal details
John Martin

c. 1730 (1730)
Providence Rhode Island, U.S.
Died (aged 55–56)

Early lifeEdit

Little is known of Martin's early life. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island and moved to St. Philip's Parish, Savannah, Georgia in 1767 with his brother James, where they bought adjoining plantations.

Revolutionary WarEdit

Martin was active during the American Revolution, serving as a delegate to the provincial congress in July 1775, as well as a member of the local Committee of Safety. In the War of Independence he was appointed lieutenant of the 7th company of the Georgia Regiment in the Continental Army in January 1776, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1777. He was made lieutenant colonel for Chatham County in 1781.

Political lifeEdit

His political service includes mayor of Savannah, Georgia (1778), sheriff of Chatham County, Georgia, member of the Georgia House of Representatives, state Treasurer, and revolutionary governor of Georgia from 1782 to 1783. Martin took the office of governor on January 2, 1782, from Sir James Wright, who said, "The rebel Governor Martin, now at Ebenezer, has issued three proclamations, one to the King’s troops, one to the Hessians, and another to the militia, inviting them all to revolt and join the virtuous Americans against the tyranny of the British government."[1] Wright also referred to Martin as "Black Jack from the Northward."[2]

When Martin began his term as governor, the British held Savannah as part of the southern theater of the American Revolution which, though near an end, was still being fought in Georgia. Martin wrote to General Anthony Wayne, "Nothing but the present deplorable situation of this country, & the starving condition of the greatest part of the inhabitants, many of whom have not tasted bread kind for more than a month past, could have induced me to trouble your Excellency on this occasion; but impressed with the idea that our distresses, which have been owing to the accumulated horrors of war this country has experienced for this four years past, might entitle us to hope for some small relief for the present from our sister State, has encouraged me to make this application."[3]

During Martin's term as governor, Georgia adopted several important laws and proclamations. He offered protection to citizens from Creek and Seminole Indians,[4] preferring to fight over peace. Martin declared that Georgians would not hesitate "a moment respecting which you would prefer--the sword, or olive branch."[5] He offered full pardons to all Loyalists who surrendered to General Wayne, as well as offering land to Hessians who left the British. These actions increased desertions from the British forces. With Georgia in a state of financial ruin at the end of the war, he also passed a Confiscation and Banishment Act in 1782 which seized the property of 342 Loyalists identified by name.[6]

Regarding the Revolutionary War in Georgia, Martin wrote on January 11, 1782: "It is true, this war has made us poor, and we are not ashamed to own it; because our cause is just; but we shall soon be rich and happy."[7] Georgia then retook Savannah from the British on July 11, 1782, and the Revolutionary War in Georgia came to an end.[8]

On January 9, 1783, Lyman Hall was elected governor, and Martin's term as governor of Georgia ended. After the war, Martin served as a commissioner in meetings with Creek[9] and Cherokee[10] Indians. He negotiated for the assistance of the governor of British Florida in stopping the bands of plunderers, and he worked to restore peace with the Creek Indians.[11]

On January 31, 1783, Martin was elected treasurer of the state, a position he held until his retirement on March 17, 1784.

Death and legacyEdit

The Georgia Gazette of February 2, 1786, contained this record: "Last week died, on his way to the Westward, whither he was bound for the recovery of his health, the Hon. John Martin, Esq."[12]

The town of Martin, in Stephens County, is named in his honor.


  1. ^ "Official letters of Governor John Martin". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 1 (4): 281. 1917. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  2. ^ Smith, George Gilman (1900). The story of Georgia and the Georgia people, 1732 to 1860. Atlanta: Franklin. p. 102. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  3. ^ "Official letters of Governor John Martin". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 1 (4): 296. 1917. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  4. ^ "Petition of the inhabitants of Burke County, 1782 Mar. 2, Burke County, Georgia to John Martin, Governor of Georgia and the Executive Council". Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  5. ^ Martin, John (1917). "Official Letters of Governor John Martin, 1782-1783". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 1 (4): 281–335. JSTOR 40575562.
  6. ^ Lamplugh, George R. (1986). Politics on the Periphery: Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806. Newark: University of Delaware Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780874132885.
  7. ^ "Official letters of Governor John Martin". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 1 (4): 285. 1917. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  8. ^ Harris, Joel Chandler (1896). Stories of Georgia. New York: American Book Company. p. 145. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  9. ^ Martin, John. "A talk delivered by Governor Martin at Savannah, 1782 Oct. 29, to the Tallesee King and the headmen and warriors of the upper [and] lower Creek Nations". Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  10. ^ Martin, John. "A Talk del[ivere]d to Kaakee, 1782 June 8, by Governor Martin of the State of Georgia". Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  11. ^ Rae, James. "Letter [enclosing a] talk [given by] the Fat King, 1782 Dec. 28, Augusta, [Georgia to] John Martin Esquire, Savannah, Georgia". Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  12. ^ "Official letters of Governor John Martin". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 4 (1): 281. 1917. Retrieved May 19, 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • Cook, James F. The Governors of Georgia. Mercer University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-86554-954-0.
  • Georgia State Archives Roster of State Governors
  • Georgia Governor's Gravesites Field Guide (1776-2003)
  • Schmidt, Jim. "John Martin (ca. 1730-1786)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. September 15, 2014. Web. May 18, 2016.
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Georgia
1782 - 1783
Succeeded by