Henry Honore Martell, merchant, politician, legislator, was born on August 3, 1806.
Some sources claim his place of birth was Main a Dieu, Cape Breton, while others claim he was born at Arichat. The son of Joseph and Barbara Martell, he was educated in Arichat. In 1833, he married Julie Peltier of Quebec.
In 1840, Martell took his first plunge into provincial politics. It was not uncommon for elections to be fraught with controversy and the election of 1840 was no exception. For Arichat Township, Laurence O’Connor Doyle, the incumbent, was defeated by Henry Martell. It was widely believed that Doyle’s non-resident status led to his loss against the candidate from Arichat. Martell, though French, was Catholic and “of decidedly Liberal leanings.”
In the 1844 election, Henry Martell was returned for Arichat, and James Turnbull of Port Hood won for the county. Then in 1847, Martell, a staunch Liberal, defeated Isaac LeVesconte by two votes for the Arichat seat, while Charles F. Harrington was elected for Richmond.
The election of 1851 saw Martell returned along with James Boyle Uniacke, the premier of the province. It was the first, and thus far, the only time Richmond would be represented by a sitting premier. Uniacke resigned in 1854 and Thomas Horace Fuller, in a by-election, replaced him.
Fuller and Martell were returned in the election of 1855; however, both defeated candidates, C.F. Harrington and Hypolite Marmaud, protested the outcome. Harrington, who had lost by only nine votes for Richmond, claimed that at least 17 of his supporters at L’Ardoise were attacked and intimidated by partisans of Fuller and that bribery in the form of free rum was used. All of this was overlooked by the sheriff, John Fuller, father of the accused candidate.
Marmaud, who contested the Arichat seat, maintained that the sheriff failed to count votes intended for him and credited Martell with some that were not his. A committee of the legislature returned decisions in favour of Martell and Fuller.
Voting along religious-party lines was the order of the day until the mid-1850s. Up to this time, every Roman Catholic elected to the Assembly had been a Liberal-Reformer. Fuller and Martell of Richmond were both Roman Catholics.
In March 1856, a bill was brought forward by the Liberal government of William Young to implement a tax to support public schools. Catholics opposed the bill and proposed separate schools. This effectively aroused the parochialism and ire of Protestants across the province and in the House. Both Catholic ministers resigned from the government. On February 5, J.W. Johnston tabled a motion of non-confidence, which the government lost 28-22. Richmond’s representatives, Martell and Fuller, voted against the government.
In consequence, the vote of 1859 was fought predominantly along religious lines. For this election, the township system was abolished so that two members represented the whole county. Three candidates stood for election, the incumbents Martell and Fuller, as well as C.F. Harrington, and Fuller was the odd man out.
In 1863 the first Conservative government was elected since responsible government was formed, taking 41 of 55 seats. In Richmond, there were three candidates, including Henry Martell who had served consecutively for 23 years. This time he came in third to Isaac LeVesconte, Conservative, and William Miller, unpledged.
In addition to his political career Martell was a school commissioner and a commissioner for the St. Peter’s Canal. He served on the Legislative Council from 1869 until his death at 77 on December 21, 1877 at Arichat.