The historical work of John Lothrop Motley

IN 1846 Motley began to collect materials for a history of Holland, and in 1851 he went to Europe to ransack its libraries. By the end of 1855 he had erected from the materials found a historical monument that will remain for ever a prominent literary landmark. The Rise of the Dutch Republic, first published in 1856, was received with enthusiasm in Europe and America. Its distinguishing characters are its graphic narrative and warm sympathy; Froude said of it that it is 'as complete as industry and genius can make it, and a book that will take its place among the finest stories in this or any language.' Guizot praised its research, but criticised the way in which Motley 'argues the cause of his client -'William of Orange.


THE north-western corner of the vast plain which extends from the German Ocean to the Ural Mountains is occupied by the countries called the Netherlands.

The history of the development of the Netherland nation from the time of the Romans during sixteen centuries is ever marked by one prevailing characteristic, one master passion-the love of liberty, the instinct of self-government.

Compounded of the bravest Teutonic elements-Batavian and Frisian-the people of this region has ever battled to the death with tyranny and throughout the dark ages struggled resolutely towards the light, wresting from a series of petty sovereigns a gradual and practical recognition of the claims of humanity.

With the advent of the Burgundian family, the power of the commons reached so high a point that it was able to measure itself, undaunted, with the spirit of arbitrary power. Peaceful in their pursuits, phlegmatic by temperament, the Netherlanders were yet the most belligerent and excitable population in Europe.

For more than a century the struggle for freedom, for civic life, went on, Philip the Good, Charles the Bold, Mary's husband Maximilian, and Charles V in turn assailing or undermining the bulwarks raised against the despotic principle.

At last, in the sixteenth century, a new and more powerful spirit, the genius of religious freedom, came to participate in the great conflict. Arbitrary power, incarnated in the second Charlemagne, assailed the new combination with unscrupulous, unforgiving fierceness. In the little Netherland territory humanity, bleeding but not killed, still stood at bay and defied the hunters. The two great powers had been gathering strength for centuries. They were soon to be matched in a longer and more determined combat than the world had ever seen.

On October 25, 1555, the Estates of the Netherlands were assembled in the great hall of the palace at Brussels to witness amidst pomp and splendour the dramatic abdication of Charles V as sovereign of the Netherlands in favour of his son Philip. The drama was well played. The happiness of the Netherlands was apparently the only object contemplated in the transaction, and the stage was drowned in tears.

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