Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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MARTIN, Francois Xavier, jurist, born in Marseilles, France, 17 March, 1764; died in New Orleans, Louisiana, 11 December, 1846. He received a good education, and at the age of eighteen emigrated to Martinique. Not succeeding there, he came to the United States, and in 1786 took up his residence in New Berne. N. C. He could speak but little English, and determined to learn the printer's trade in order to become familiar with the language. Although entirely inexperienced, he secured employment in a printing-office in the town, in a short time was made foreman of the composing-room, and eventually became proprietor of the newspaper. He printed school-books, almanacs, translations from the French, and, after studying law and being admitted to the bar about 1789, treatises on the duties of sheriffs, justices of the peace, and executors and administrators of estates. He compiled, at the instance of the legislature, the British statutes in operation in North Carolina at the time of the Revolution, and a digest of the state laws. He also published "Notes of a Few Decisions of the Superior Courts of North Carolina and of the Circuit, Court of the United States, 1778-'97" (New Berne, 1797), a translation of Robert J. Pothier's treatise " On Obligations," made by himself (1802), and "Acts of the North Carolina Assembly from 1715 to 1803 " (1804). His researches into the statute law suggested to him the idea of collecting material for a " History of North Carolina," which was published chiefly in the form of annals (New Orleans, 1829). In 1806-'7 he was a member of the legislature. After twenty years of successful practice as a lawyer in North Carolina he was appointed by President Madison in 1809 United States judge for the territory of Mississippi, and a year later was transferred to the bench of the territory of Orleans. The defects of the civil code of 1808, and the confusion resulting from engrafting on the French system of jurisprudence certain principles of the common law, made the post of judge a difficult one, and Judge Martin, by reconciling the conflicting elements, acquired the title of the father of the jurisprudence of Louisiana. On the organization of the state government of Louisiana he became attorney-general in February, 1813, and in January, 1815, he was appointed a judge of the supreme court. He became chief justice in 1837, and in 1845 retired from the bench. During the last years of his life he was nearly blind. Judge Martin devoted himself entirely to study, held aloof from society, and preserved the habits of extreme parsimony that he had acquired in his days of poverty. Though he made no friends, he was universally respected for his uprightness and for his devotion to the duties of his office. His holographic will, devising his large estate to his brother, was contested by the state, which sought to show that the devisee was under a pledge to distribute the property among French heirs, and thus recover the administration duties on property willed to foreigners, or to prove that, being blind, he could not have written the will, but the suit failed. He received the degree of LL.D. from the University of Nashville, and in 1841 from Harvard. He published, in addition to the works previously mentioned, " Reports of the Superior Court of Orleans from 1809 to 1812" (New Orleans, 1811--'13)" "General Digest of the Territorial and State Laws of Louisiana," published in both French and English (1816)" and "Reports of the Supreme Court of Louisiana from 1813 to 1830," in two series (1816-'23 and 1824-'30). He was also the author of a "History of Louisiana from its Settlement to the Treaty of Ghent in 1814" (2 vols., 1827).
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