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A rare signed enamel miniature portrait of Royal Governor Josiah Martin (1737-1786)


Artist: Jeremiah Meyer

Enamel, signed with cursive monogram JM on the obverse, gold and almandine-garnet frame, bracelet clasp reverse

Even though Meyer was Painter in Enamels to King George III signed enamels by him are extremely rare. Meyer painted another, unsigned, enamel of Josiah Martin, formerly in the collection of the Late Nigel Davis, which was sold at Bonhams, 20 May 2009. Being signed, the current enamel is likely to have been the original and the Davis version a copy. It is plausible that the enamels were commissioned to celebrate the marriage to his cousin, Elizabeth January, 1761.

The last British governor of North Carolina, Josiah Martin was born in April 1737 in Dublin, Ireland. He was an ensign in the British army rank, having risen to Lietuenant-Colonel by 1771, the same year in which he was appointed royal Governor of North Carolina.

Governor Martin, angered by North Carolina's representation at the Continental Congress, called the colonial assembly to New Bern in April 1775. Speaker John Harvey, Samuel Johnston, and other members of the Second Provincial Congress clashed with Governor Martin in New Bern, and after the North Carolina assembly pledged their support to the Continental Congress, Martin ordered the cancelation of the Second Provincial Congress. In just a few short days the first battles of the American Revolution occurred at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.

Patriots in North Carolina became aware of the impending revolution in the spring of 1775, and the last royal governor understood that his time as governor was coming to a conclusion. Governor Martin and his family remained at the Tryon Palace in New Bern to avoid Patriot spite and heckling. However, as the situation grew alarming for the governor, he sent his family to New York.

Governor Martin soon followed his family, leaving Tryon Palace at night on May 31, 1775. With high hopes to regain the colony for the crown, Governor Martin moved to Fort Johnston on the Cape Fear River. Patriot forces soon discovered Martin's location and planned an attack. On July 18, 1775, Cornelius Harnett and John Ashe led several hundred militiamen to burn down Fort Johnston. To their dismay, Governor Martin escaped a few days earlier to the British man-of-war, Cruzier, on the Cape Fear.

Even so, Josiah Martin carried out the crown's commands. Martin devised a plan to retake the colony. The crown approved it, so Martin ordered General Donald MacDonald and some 1,600 Loyalists to march toward Wilmington in February 1776. General MacDonald eventually encountered Colonel James Moore and his Patriot forces, and the colonists won what was later dubbed the Lexington and Concord of the South, or the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge.

Even though the colonists owned the early victory at Moore's Creek Bridge, Josiah Martin continued to hold to the belief that North Carolina would eventually become a British colony. Later in the American Revolution, Martin joined Lord Cornwallis and his company in Charles Town in 1780. Martin continued contact with his Loyalist friends, and he believed this small group was enough to bring the colony back under crown rule.

Martin continued with General Cornwallis in his journey into North Carolina in 1780 to 1781. An overzealous Martin continued to feed Cornwallis about the 'loyalty' of the North Carolina. After Cornwallis's arrival in Charlotte in September 1780, Josiah Martin proclaimed that the royal government had been reestablished. Yet, only a few days later, Cornwallis referred to Charlotte as the 'Hornet's Nest' of the Revolution. Martin was also present during Cornwallis's defeat at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The last royal governor of North Carolina refused to understand that his colony had started her journey to independence.

After the American Revolution, Martin moved back to his homeland of Ireland. On April 13, 1786, Martin passed away at his Irish home.
More Information
Provenance                 William Fanshawe Martin, Christie's, 24 January 1923
Mr and Mrs. John W. Starr Collection, Kansas City, Mo., in 1965
Exhibition                 Edinburgh, The Arts Council of Great Britain, The Arts Council Gallery, British Portrait Miniatures, 1965, no. 400 (lent by Mr and Mrs. John W. Starr, Kansas City, Mo.).
Condition                 Good
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