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  Motley, J. Lothrop
NameJ. Lothrop Motley
, Massachusetts , United States
Born April 15, 1814
DiedMay 29, 1877 (63 years)
Last ModifedRBH
Jan 09, 2016 10:32pm
InfoJohn Lothrop Motley
American historian, son of Thomas Motley, born on the 15th of April 1814 at Dorchester (now a part of Boston), Massachusetts, and graduated at Harvard in 1831. He then studied at Göttingen and Berlin, becoming a friend of Otto von Bismarck at Göttingen, and after a period of European travel returned in 1834 to America, where he continued his legal studies. In 1837 he married Mary Benjamin (d. 1874), a sister of Park Benjamin, and in 1839 he published anonymously a novel entitled Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial. In 1841 he entered the diplomatic service as secretary of legation in Russia, but resigned his post within three months. Returning to America, he soon entered definitely upon a literary career. Besides contributing various historical and critical essays to the North American Review, including a remarkable essay on the Polity of the Puritans, he published in 1849, again anonymously, a second novel, entitled Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony. About 1846 the project of writing a history of Holland had begun to take shape in his mind, and he had already done a large amount of work on this subject when, finding the materials at his disposal in the United States inadequate, he went to Europe in 1851. The next five years were spent at Dresden, Brussels and the Hague in investigation of the archives, which resulted in 1856 in the publication of The Rise of the Dutch Republic, which became very popular. It speedily passed through many editions, was translated into French, and also into Dutch, German and Russian. In 1860 Motley published the first two volumes of its continuation, The United Netherlands. This work was on a larger scale, and embodied the results of a still greater amount of original research. It was brought down to the truce of 1609 by two additional volumes, published in 1867. In 1861, just after the Civil War had broken out in America, Motley wrote two letters to The Times defending the Federal position, and these letters, afterwards reprinted as a pamphlet entitled Causes of the Civil War in America, made a favorable impression on President Abraham Lincoln. Partly owing to this essay, Motley was appointed United States minister to Austria in 1861, a position which he filled with great success until his resignation in 1867. Two years later he was sent to represent his country in London, but in November 1870 he was recalled by President Ulysses S. Grant. After a short visit to Holland, he again took up his residence in England, where the Life and Death of John Barneveld appeared in two volumes in 1874. Ill health now began to interfere with his literary work, and he died at Frampton Court, near Dorchester, Dorset, on the 29th of May 1877, leaving three daughters. The merits of Motley as an historian are undeniably great. He has told the story of a stirring period in the history of the world with full attention to the character of the actors and strict fidelity to the vivid details of the action. But it may safely be said that his tale is best where most unvarnished, and probably no writer of the same rank has owed less to the mere sparkle of highly polished literary style.

Wife - Mary Benjamin (m. 1837, d. 1874)

High School: Round Hill School, Northampton, MA
University: Harvard University (1831)
University: University of Göttingen
University: Humboldt University, Berlin

U.S. Ambassador to Austria 1861-67
U.S. Ambassador to Great Britian 1869-70

Is the subject of books:
John Lothrop Motley: A Memoir, 1879, BY: Oliver Wendell Holmes

Author of books:
Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial (1839, novel, anonymous)
Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony (1849, novel, anonymous)
The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856, history, 3 vols.)
History of the United Netherlands (1860-67, history, 4 vol.)
The Life and Death of John of Barneveld (1874)

Vote totals for elections in which was nominated for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans (1900-1965): 1900-41, 1905-47, 1910-51.


Title Purchase Contributor

Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor

Importance? 0.00000 Average


  04/13/1869 US Ambassador to England Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  08/10/1861 US Ambassador to Austria Won 100.00% (+100.00%)