Luther Martin's Theses. (Flashback)

By Kauffman, Bill | The American Enterprise, January-February 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Luther Martin's Theses. (Flashback)

Kauffman, Bill, The American Enterprise

Martin Luther launched a Reformation, Martin Luther King got a national holiday, yet what does their nominal inversion, Luther Martin, get? No respect!

Luther Martin of Maryland, perhaps the finest lawyer at the Constitutional Convention, is remembered if at all as a loquacious drunk who bored the other Founders silly in that Philadelphia summer of 1787. That's what happens when a man chooses the losing side.

Historians have not been kind to the anti-Federalists, the misleading name slapped on those who opposed ratification of the new Constitution. They have generally been written off as bucolic bumpkins unable to grasp the exquisiteness of the Madisonian argument or as agrarian radicals motivated by antipathy toward wealth, commerce, and fine clothing.

Luther Martin has gotten an especially bad posthumous press. He has been called: "Slovenly, often drunk and in debt." "Without grace or bearing of speech." "Impulsive, undisciplined, altogether the wild man of the Convention." He was a "notorious reprobate genius," in Henry Adams's words, who delivered a two-day harangue to the Convention with "much diffuseness and considerable vehemence," as Madison noted snottily.

Okay, so he was a long-winded dipsomaniac. But what did he say?

Martin, who served as Maryland's attorney general for 30 years, lodged objections to almost every aspect of the Constitution. The House of Representatives with its proportional representation would allow the larger states to control the government and employ the behemoth to God knows what ends. The Senate was just as flawed. States could not recall refractory senators like under the Articles of Confederation, and the six-year term was so long that members would shift their allegiance to the national government: "If he has a family, he will take his family with him to the place where the government shall be fixed, that will become his home, and ... his future views and prospects will center in the favours and emoluments ... of the general government."

Martin scorned the President as a virtual monarch, thanks to his power of appointment and role as Commander in Chief. The national judiciary, he predicted, would eventually strip state and local governments of power, making them subjects of the omnipotent central state.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Luther Martin's Theses. (Flashback)


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?