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Biography of John Motley


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JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY, L.L.D., D.C.L., etc., American historian, was born at Dorchester, Massachusetts, April 15th, 1814. After graduating at Harvard University, he spent a year at Gottingen, another at Berlin, and travelled in Italy and Southern Europe. Returning to America, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1837; but preferring literature, he wrote a historical romance entitled "Morton's Hope," (1839), which had little success. In 1840, he received the appointment of secretary of legation to the American Embassy to Russia, but soon resigned, and in 1849 published another unsuccessful novel, entitled "Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony." He attracted attention however, by some valuable historical essays for American reviews, among which may be mentioned one on DeTocqueville's "Democracy in America," and another on "Peter the Great;" and having planned a history of Holland, he proceeded to Europe for materials, and after five years labor, published in 1856, "The Rise of the Dutch Republic," which had an immediate and marked success, was translated into French, Dutch, and German, and caused him to be elected to the French Institute, and many learned societies in Europe, and to receive the degrees of Doctor of Laws from Harvard, and Doctor of Civil Laws from Oxford University. He afterwards published a "History of the United Netherlands." In 1869, he was sent as Ambassador to England by President Grant, but was relieved from the office in 1870. Towards the close of 1874, he published the "Life and Death of Barneveld," and he subsequently undertook the "History of the Thirty Years War." He died in Dorsetshire, England, on the 29th of May, 1877.