Shelby  County  Indiana

Martin  M.  Ray

1823 - 1872

MARTIN M. RAY (deceased). --- Martin M. Ray  was the son of   John Ray.  He was born in Butler County, Ohio, and has left us little or no account of his early childhood and youth.  We know nothing of his career until we find him in the Clerk's office of Wayne County, earning a livelihood in the capacity of Deputy Clerk and laying up means for the foundation of that legal knowledge and the distinction which made him one of the brightest ornaments of the bar of Indiana, a thorough lawyer, and an urbane, courteous and accomplished gentleman.  He subsequently read law for awhile with Governor Ray, who was his father's brother, and then went to the law school of Harvard University, where he heard lectures and pursued his studies for about eighteen months.  Upon his return to Indianapolis, he resumed his studies under the direction of his uncle, and in 1843, having been licensed to practice law, opened an office in Shelbyville.  After the usual trials and difficulties incident to the beginning of a professional career in a county town, he finally obtained solid footing as a lawyer; and in the spring of 1845, married  Miss Susan Cross,  and thus gave society his pledges of fidelity to its welfare and happiness.  No marriage could have been more wisely chosen, or the source of greater blessings. He and his good wife have been blessed with children, several of whom have been carefully educated and prepared to enter upon the greater theater of life with honor to themselves and advantage to society, and all of whom would have been, had death not deprived three younger children of his labors and his care, for never was father more entirely devoted to his family.
           It was his good fortune settling at Shelbyville, to be brought early into association and contact with the Hon. T. A. Hendricks, whose excellent manners, careful habits and sound learning afforded him a constant measure for his own.  As lawyers, they were planted and grew up together, and although we have never heard their mutual influence upon each other's habits and modes of thought, speech and professional discussion, we think we run no risk of mistake in saying that both were better lawyers and more accomplished men than either would have been but for the other.  They were for the first ten or twelve years, of different politics.  Mr. Ray begin a Whig and Mr. Hendricks a Democrat.  It is needless to say that, while thus opposed, they naturally led their parties in the county.
           In 1854, when the Whig party died, like its other members, he looked about him for some political organization, where a man of his principle and patriotism might go.  He was induced by persuasions of a friend to enter a Know-Nothing Lodge, but immediately and openly discarded and denounced it as unworthy of the support of an American citizen, and always afterward spoke with feeling of the trick which had induced him to go into it.  His mind rested on principles too broad and generous for its narrow creed.  He united with the Democratic party then led by the Little Giant, and ever afterward, maintained his connection with it.  He was not, however, servile in his adherence to the party platform, but held and fearlessly uttered his own opinions whenever occasion led him to differ with his brothers.
           In 1858, the convention of his party in his district honored him with his nomination for Congress, and he made the race, being opposed by the Hon. A. G. Porter, by whom he was defeated.  This was the result of the defection of the Douglas wing of the party, and not from any failure of Mr. Ray to carry on the canvass with great zeal and ability.  Nor was any contest conducted with greater energy and consistency on both sides; and it is scarcely saying too much to say that, if the entire Democracy of the district had stood by Mr. Ray, he would have been elected.  But it was not to be.  He was destined never to adorn our National Congress, in which he was well fitted both by nature and culture to shine.  In 1860, Mr. M. M. Ray voted the Democratic Union ticket, with the following written protest over his signature attached thereto, which was returned to his son, W. S. Ray, on September 27, 1887, by W. P. Fishback, Master of Chancery in the United States Court, in Indianapolis, into whose possession it had come.  The protest reads as follows:  "Knowing the men on this ticket, and believing them loyal and patriotic, I vote it; but protesting at the same time against a portion of the speeches, resolutions and proceedings of  the 8th of January convention; protesting also against the spirit and tone which the Breckenridge element has sought to infuse into the Democratic party; protesting also against every word and deed by which ambitious men have sought to commit the party to a political alliance with the rebellion; and glad of the great change that has taken place in Democratic sentiment within six or twelve months, and believing that I can do more good in than out of the party, I vote the ticket."  In 1860, he was chosen by the Democracy of Shelby County to represent it in the Senate of the State.  He felt deeply the situation on the country when he entered that body in January, 1861, and, like many other leaders of the party, said many things to induce it, if possible, to compromise between the North and South, until it became perfectly clear that no such compromise could be effected. One would have believed that he sympathized profoundly with the South, but, when the war began and it became perfectly clear that the questions must be fought out, he, like Mr. Douglas, took bold ground for the Government against the seceders, and made some of the ablest speeches of  his life in support of the war.  He was a true and devoted patriot, and regretted with all his heart whatever tended to the injury of the cause of the country.  He felt the defeat of our armies as sorely as any man in the Union, and rejoiced in their triumphs as sincerely, if not as noisily.  On the other hand, he regretted with sincere grief the unnecessary harshness of martial law and military arrests, which he justly regarded as illegal, because unnecessary.  As a lawyer, he profoundly respected the methods of peace, and hated to see them departed from by those entrusted with the conduct of our affairs.  In 1864, his profoundest convictions brought him square affront of the military arrests and trials of Dodd, Bowles, Milligan and others, and when called upon, he did not hesitate a moment to engage in their defense.  In his arguments before the military commission which tried them, he performed great labor and displayed great learning and eloquence; and although his speeches were devoted to the discussion of the facts of their cases, he missed no opportunity to place his opinion upon the record against the assumed jurisdiction of the commission.  Throughout these trials he displayed great patience, great learning and courage in maintaining the rights of his clients, and must have established himself in the confidence of all who witnessed his efforts, as a man of fortitude and ability, devoted to his cause.  Never shall we forget the rare beauty of the closing paragraph of his speech in defense of  H. H. Dodd, Esq., who had escaped from his prison, and was tried in his absence.  He closed thus:  "With much solicitude and anxiety, we commit the cause of the defendant, in his absence, to the learning, to the patriotism, to the honor and to the justice of this court.  To the learning, because the great legal question of jurisdiction lying at the threshold of your inquiries is still open; to your patriotism, because the highest interests of public liberty and the victory of reason over passion are in your hands; to your honor, because the graces of magnanimity and mercy which should follow the weak, the unfortunate, and even the guilty, and plead against the calamities of conviction; to your justice, because she sits blind to the scenes of our national drama, unseduced by the blandishments of power, and deaf to the cries of resentment and passion."
History of Shelby County, Indiana, Chicago: Brant & Fuller, 1887, pp 527-28.
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming

Ray, Martin M. (1823-1872) of Shelby County, Ind.  Born in Butler County, Ohio, 1823. Nephew of  James Brown Ray  and  Martin M. Ray (1795-1865).  Lawyer; delegate to Whig National Convention from Indiana, 1848; Presidential Elector for Indiana, 1856; candidate for U.S. Representative from Indiana, 1858; delegate to Democratic National Convention from Indiana, 1860, 1872; member of Indiana state senate, 1861-63. Irish ancestry.  Died in Indianapolis, Marion County, Ind., August 5, 1872.  Interment at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Terre Haute, Ind.
The Political Graveyard

Biography Index       Main Page

To contact researchers listed above, use the  Surname Index