Alexander Martin

4th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1782 to 1784 and 1789 to 1792

Date Born: c.1739 or 1740

Date Died: November 10, 1807

Place Born: Hunterdon County, NJ

Place Buried: Danbury,
Stokes County, NC

Residence: Guilford County, Rockingham County, Stokes County, NC

Occupation: Merchant,
Lawyer


Alexander Martin was born circa 1739 or 1740 in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister, Hugh Martin, and Jane (Hunter) Martin. His parents were of Scots-Irish descent. He attended the College of New Jersey (later known as Princeton University), graduating with an B.A. degree in 1756 and an M.A. in 1759.

He moved to North Carolina around 1760 or 1761 and became a merchant and a practicing attorney in Salisbury (Rowan County). Although he never married, he left a son, Alexander Strong Martin, whom he had publicly acknowledged.

By 1766, Alexander Martin was a justice of the peace and county attorney. In 1770, he was one of several county officials attacked by the Regulators in Hillsborough, and during the next year he was reproved by Royal Governor Josiah Martin for unauthorized negotiations with the Regulators near Salisbury.

In 1773, Alexander Martin relocated to a tract of land along the Dan River in present-day Rockingham (then Guilford) County, North Carolina.

Also in 1773, Alexander Martin was first elected as one of two men to represent Guilford County in the House of Burgesses of the:
- 25th General Assembly that met in 1773
- 26th General Assembly that met from 1773-1774

In 1775, Alexander Martin was first elected to represent Guilford County in the:
- 2nd Provincial Congress that met in April of 1775
- 3rd Provincial Congress that met in August of 1775

On September 1, 1775, Alexander Martin was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel under Col. Robert Howe in the 2nd NC Regiment (Provincial Troops). On November 28, 1775, this regiment was placed on the Continental Line. In December of 1775, Lt. Col. Alexander Martin led half of the 2nd NC Regiment into South Carolina to support the Patriot cause in the battle of Great Cane Break then in the famous Snow Campaign against SC Loyalists.

On April 10, 1776, he was promoted to full Colonel over the 2nd NC Regiment. Click Here for a concise history of the 2nd NC Regiment. Col. Alexander Martin was accused of cowardice at the battle of Brandywine Creek, PA, (most historians incorrectly say the battle of Germantown, PA) but he was soon exonerated of these charges. However, he resigned his commission on November 22, 1777 and returned to civilian life in North Carolina.

In 1778, Alexander Martin was elected to represent Guilford County in a special election to replace Ralph Gorrell (already held another office) in the NC Senate of the:
- 2nd General Assembly that met in 1778
- 3rd General Assembly that met in 1779
- 4th General Assembly that met in 1780 - elected Speaker of the Senate
- 5th General Assembly that met in 1781 - elected Speaker of the Senate
- 6th General Assembly that met in 1782 - elected Speaker of the Senate

Soon after Gov. Thomas Burke was captured on September 12, 1781, Alexander Martin was sworn in as the Acting Governor until Burke escaped and returned to North Carolina in January of 1782.

On April 22, 1782, Alexander Martin was elected the fourth governor of North Carolina and he had to give up his seat in the Senate as as Speaker of the Senate. He was re-elected twice and served until 1784.

In 1785, Alexander Martin was again elected to represent Guilford County in the NC Senate of the:
- 10th General Assembly that met in 1785 - elected Speaker of the Senate
- 12th General Assembly that met in 1787 - elected Speaker of the Senate
- 13th General Assembly that met in 1788 - elected Speaker of the Senate

In 1789, Alexander Martin was once again elected by the General Assembly to be the next governor of North Carolina. He again served three terms until 1792.

In 1793, Alexander Martin was elected to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, and he retained this office for one term, until 1799. As an Anti-Federalist member of Congress, he opposed the Jay Treaty but supported the Alien and Sedition Acts.

In 1804, Alexander Martin was first elected to represent Rockingham County in the NC Senate of the:
- 29th General Assembly that met in 1804
- 30th General Assembly that met in 1805 - elected Speaker of the Senate

Alexander Martin died on November 10, 1807 and was buried on his Danbury estate in Stokes County, NC.


During the period that Governor Thomas Burke was a prisoner of the British on Sullivan's Island, SC, the Speaker of the Senate, Alexander Martin, became Acting Governor. Martin, born in New Jersey, had moved to North Carolina after first living in Virginia. After his military service in the Continental army, he served several years in the state Senate and was elected governor five times.

As governor he advocated establishment of educational facilities, preparedness, and for leniency for former enemies. In 1793, he began a six-year period of representing North Carolina in the U.S. Congress. When he returned to the state, he again served North Carolina in the state Senate.


Alexander Martin was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey in 1740. His education was attained at Newark College, and at Princeton University, where he earned an A.B. degree in 1756 and an A.M. degree in 1759. After moving to North Carolina, he studied law, and then established his legal career. He served as royal attorney, as well as serving as justice of the peace and judge. During the American Revolution, Martin served as Lieutenant Colonel and full Colonel of the 2nd North Carolina Continental Regiment. Accused of cowardice for his actions at the battle of Germantown, he was court-martialed but exonerated. He resigned shortly thereafter, and later served as a member of the North Carolina Board of War. Martin first entered politics as a member of the North Carolina House of Burgesses, a position he held from 1773 to 1774. He also served in the Provincial Congress in 1775; was a member and speaker of the North Carolina Senate from 1778 to 1782, 1785, and 1787 to 1788; and served as the Acting Governor of North Carolina from 1781 to 1782 while Gov. Thomas Burke was a prisoner. Martin first won election to the governorship in 1782, and was re-elected annually until 1784. Thereafter, he served as a delegate to the 1787 state convention. After the new federal constitution was adopted in 1789, Martin was again elected governor. He went on to win re-election annually until 1791. During his tenure, educational improvements were promoted; and funding was secured for the establishment of the University of North Carolina. After leaving office, Martin was elected to the U.S. Senate, a position he held from 1793 to 1799. In 1804, he was re-elected to the North Carolina Senate, where he also served as speaker in 1805. Governor Alexander Martin, who served seventeen years as a University of North Carolina Trustee, passed away on November 10, 1807. He was buried on his Danbury estate in Stokes County, North Carolina.

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