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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


MARTIN, Samuel McDonald


Doctor of medicine, early colonist, and journalist.

A new biography of Martin, Samuel McDonald appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

S. McD. Martin was born at Kilsmuir, Isle of Skye, and took his M.D. at Glasgow. He emigrated to New South Wales in the 1830s where he engaged in sheep farming. In 1839, anticipating the proclamation of British sovereignty, he visited New Zealand and acquired land at Coromandel. In Sydney he organised merchants and speculators with interests in New Zealand, and in January 1840 led a deputation to Hobson to ascertain British intentions. With another land claimant, Martin purchased sawmilling machinery, which they proposed to erect at Coromandel. He returned to New Zealand in 1840, but difficulties over his land claim led Martin to become a political journalist. In January 1842 he was appointed editor of the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette, and wielded his pen against the Government coterie to such effect that the paper was suppressed two months later. Martin thereupon addressed a pamphlet to Lord Stanley (New Zealand in 1842) in which he chronicled pungently the shortcomings of Hobson's administration. On 22 April 1843 he began editing a new paper, the Southern Cross, and throughout Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland's administration he continued his vendetta against Government corruption, particularly in regard to native lands. He enjoyed friendlier relations with Fitz-Roy who appointed him a non-official member of the Legislative Council (13 May 1844), upon the understanding that this did not necessarily oblige him to support Government policies. He resigned on 3 March 1845, when he accompanied another early Auckland colonist, W. Brown, to England to petition the House of Commons on native matters. While there he published (1845) New Zealand in a Series of Letters, in which he gave a valuable, if controversial, picture of colonial politics. He was afterwards appointed Resident Magistrate at Berbice, British Guiana, where he died on 22 September 1848.

In his day Martin was one of the most forceful and influential political journalists in the colony. His opposition to the Government's native policies arose from his realisation of the manifest absurdity of the attempt to impose, at the stroke of a pen, English law and customs upon the Maoris, and in defence of this view he spared no one.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • New Zealand in a Series of Letters, Martin, S. M. (1845)
  • Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958)
  • Newspapers in New Zealand, Scholefield, G. H. (1958).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.