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John Lothrop Motley
The Witty US Minister to Vienna
Chapter 1 of Foreign Vistas: Stories from a Life in the Foreign Service
by William Sommers

If success in the diplomat’s trade were based solely on education, language facility, mastery of the verbal and written arts and moral courage, then John Lothrop Motley (1814–77) should have been an outstanding success. He was a graduate of Harvard College, attended the universities of Gottingen and Berlin, became extraordinarily fluent in German and French, was the first American historian to write a best-seller, and never wavered in his belief in American principles and policy. And yet for all his talent, devotion and intelligence, he is remembered, if at all, for botching serious assignments in Venice and England. He became involved in a bitter controversy that, after more than 100 years, still smolders in anger in the dispatches, correspondence and memoirs of those who were deeply involved in those events.

Who was John Lothrop Motley? How did he enter the diplomatic service? What were the circumstances of his service? What are we to make of his initially promising but tragic career? These are questions worth pursuing for they yield the fascinating story of one man’s destiny at a crucial time in the growth of the American Foreign Service. It is a tale of people, events and politics that ought not to be forgotten.

John Lothrop Motley was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1814, the second of eight children. His father was a successful merchant, and his mother was the daughter of a well-known clergyman, the Reverend John Lothrop. Young Motley was a voracious reader and, even at Harvard, was more intent on following his own course of reading than that required by his teachers.

He was surrounded from birth by ease and Boston culture. In fact, said a contemporary of Mr. Motley and his peers, “in no other group of friends in New England were the characteristics and engaging qualities of Puritan and Cavalier more happily combined.” His father once scolded him on his variegated tastes and habits, to which young John replied: “I can spare the necessities of life, but not the luxuries.” Even at that age, it was a most undiplomatic reply!

After graduating from Harvard in 1831, Mr. Motley studied at the University of Gottingen for two years, toured Europe and returned to Boston in 1835, where he married another illustrious Bostonian, Mary Benjamin, sister of Park Benjamin, a then-famous writer on the Boston scene. At Gottingen, his roommate was the young Bismarck: their friendship was close, broken only by Mr. Motley’s death in 1877. Herr Bismarck recalled his early impression of Motley, in reply to a query from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote a memorial biography in 1878. “He exercised a marked attraction by a conversation sparkling with wit, humor or originality.” Herr Bismarck said, “The most striking feature of his handsome and delicate appearance was his uncommonly large and beautiful eyes.”

Although Mr. Motley made a pretense of studying for the law, his real interest focused on writing. In 1839 he wrote a dismal novel, Morton’s Hope, followed by the not-much-better Merrymount. He served a term in the Massachusetts legislature, but found the political game not to his liking. In retrospect, fuller immersion in the muddy pool of political experience might have served him better in his diplomatic career than his intimate knowledge of German or his facile gift for writing and speaking.

After the failure of his novels, what he was to do with himself became a subject of some importance. It was then that he thought of the diplomatic life. The choice was not out of context. He had already made the European circuit, spoke German fluently and achieved high marks in French and Spanish. In his circle of friends, some either had brief experience as consuls overseas or were connected to the currents of the day. Convinced that such service would be useful for him and his country, Mr. Motley applied to the State Department for an appointment. He was soon informed that he had received a post as secretary to the American legation at St. Petersburg. This was, however, a post not generally sought after. He could expect to be underpaid in the extreme, and to serve in a cold and inhospitable climate which, even for a Bostonian, could prove to be too much.

His journey to take up the new post was not carefully “advanced” by one of today’s travel services; it was “by hook or by crook” all the way. Because of the uncertainty of what he could expect in St. Petersburg, Mr. Motley decided wisely to leave his wife and family at home and to send for them later. His arduous journey to post was an unhappy introduction to the vagaries of Foreign Service travel; he was buffeted about like the codfish weather vane on Boston’s Statehouse getting caught in a nor’easter.

In the first part of his journey, from Boston to Halifax, Mr. Motley encountered unusually heavy seas. It was decidedly unpleasant. “Everything is dirty, disorderly and disgusting,” he wrote to his wife. “There is no room in the stateroom to put as much as a toothpick, not a drawer or a shelf, but everything is left to knock about on the floor at its own sweet will. There is no cabin to sit in, the narrow piggery in which we are fed being entirely filled with the troughs and benches…”

He arrived at Liverpool and transferred to London, where he met Colonel Todd, the newly-appointed US minister to Russia. In London, he tried to figure out with the help of the Russian ambassador to Great Britain what was the best route to St. Petersburg. No “frequent flyer” arrangements were available, no computerized bookings and no Eurail assistance.

The plan he settled on was to take the mail steamer from London to Hamburg, then catch another steamer at Lubeck bound for St. Petersburg. Minister Todd went on ahead of Mr. Motley, who was a few days behind. Mr. Motley’s steamer ran into fearfully heavy winds and, by the time he reached Hamburg, the last steamer of the winter had already left for Russia. Mr. Motley was forced to make the rest of the long journey overland. To his wife he wrote in dejection; “…it seems I have only to form a resolution, however secretly, to go to sea to any given place for the wind instantly to make a point of blowing a gale exactly from that direction.”

He arrived in St. Petersburg on November 17, 1841, and was ensconced in “comfortable rooms” in the house Minister Todd had taken for himself. He began to make the official rounds, but his presentation, as was that of the minister, was delayed—first by the absence of the czar, then by the death of the Queen Dowager of Bavaria. While waiting he tried to immerse himself in the work of the legation. He noted in a letter to his wife: “I like the office par… very well. In fact, the only part of the whole business that I do like is the office business—that is to say, I should like it, but there is none of it. The relations between the United States and Russia are at present so completely settled that there is nothing at all to do… the profession of diplomacy, which I should prefer to any other (and which I conceive myself better fitted for than any other) does not exist with us.” Mr. Motley exhibited here, perhaps, the hubris of many a newly-appointed Foreign Service officer in feeling ready immediately for “the big time.”

Finally, on Christmas Day, he was formally presented to the czar at the Winter Palace, with a large group of newly-arrived members of the diplomatic corps. Mr. Motley, whose letters are replete with witty and deft descriptions of all his Russian encounters, said of the ritual: “His Majesty, on reaching our end, dispatched
each victim with a bow or a single question… my introduction consisted of the announcement of my name and office, and an exchange of bows, for just as he was about to address me… his eye caught sight of Sir Robert Porter, who had lived formerly a great many years in St. Petersburg, and whom the Czar welcomed with great cordiality—very flattering to me, wasn’t it?”

This bit of wit betrayed a personal sensitivity that was to become for Mr. Motley, as it sometimes does for many a beginner, an obstacle during his overseas experience. In a follow-up passage, on conversations after the presentation, Mr. Motley described one of the czar’s chief administrators, Count Nesselrode, as “the great bureaucrat of the great autocrat…. He is a small man with a hooked nose and spectacles, of affable and supple manners and apparently gifted with ubiquity, for I have been honored by several short interviews with him, and I regret that I did not take down his conversation in shorthand, that I might transmit it to you. The topics have usually been the state of the weather, the heat of the rooms, and comparative view of the state of the thermometer this year and this time last year. Upon all of these subjects of general and exciting interest he seemed full of general information, and delivered his opinions with decision, and at the same time with a frankness hardly to have been expected of a man so deeply versed in the wiles of diplomacy.”

But Mr. Motley found that he could not continue. St. Petersburg was frightfully expensive; he had to draw substantially from his own funds to maintain himself. He was also concerned and unhappy about being separated from his wife and family. Yet the expense of maintaining a larger household and the disagreeable weather made it almost impossible for him to consider bringing his family to St. Petersburg. Coupled with this was the realization that there seemed to be no opportunity for him to show his diplomatic skills, and thus little expectation of a promotion.

On January 10, 1842, just two weeks after his presentation to the Czar, be tendered this resignation. “As there is not an earthly thing to do at the legation,” he wrote, “I have no hesitation in resigning a sinecure whenever I please, and, as the Minister has made no objection, I shall leave sometime in March.”

After less than six months at his first diplomatic post, he headed home. The only thing he had gained from the assignment was material for an essay on Peter the Great, which was published in the North American Review in October 1845. While the essay had little or no historical significance, “it showed…  clear and picturesque style, the flow of humanity and the eloquence which characterized his later historical writings.”

Back in the United States, Mr. Motley fastened on history as his field and the Dutch as his object. For nearly 10 years he labored on his first work, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, published in 1856. He had little encouragement from scholars and publishers and finally had to solicit the help of his father and uncle to finance the printing of these three large volumes. But much to everyone’s surprise, they became best-sellers, probably the first European history written by an American that won notice here and abroad. Some 17,000 copies were sold in England in the first year of publication, and nearly the same number in the United States. The history got rave reviews from historians on both sides of the Atlantic, including favorable comments by the leading Dutch historian of the day. It was, as one American historian has written recently, “one of the most extraordinary events in publishing history… Motley’s name was made.”

Mr. Motley visited London and The Hague and became an international literary figure. At the same time, he set to work on a second project, The History of the United Netherlands. By 1860, the first two volumes of a projected four-volume set had been published.

But Mr. Motley had not abandoned his hopes for a diplomatic career. He noted that his good friend and Harvard classmate, Charles Sumner, had lately become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Sumner was close to Motley in their college days and had gone out of his way to extol Mr. Motley’s early literary flop, Merrymount. Mr. Motley, now well-established as a best-selling historian, wrote to Mr. Sumner, suggesting that “our new government might be inspired with a sufficient interest in a literary man who has always been an earnest Republican as to give him the not very imposing or lucrative but very convenient post of Minister to The Hague.”

Right after President Lincoln’s inauguration, Mr. Motley again presented himself to Mr. Sumner as ripe for appointment. “It will not be supposed,” he wrote, “that my private labors would interfere with my public duties as a minister…. I am sure that I should do my best to promote the interest and defend the reputation and honor of my country.”

But rival jobseekers who swirled about Mr. Lincoln while he was trying to avert war could not be so easily overcome. The Hague has been promised to J.S. Pike of Maine, a journalist who worked for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and whose articles and letters during the Lincoln campaign showed him to be an ardent Republican. They earned him the appointment. He was to stay five years at The Hague, leaving eventually out of boredom.

But the man from Dorchester was not to be put off. Though hurt that he had not won The Hague (and time to do his research at the source), he suggested in another letter to Mr. Sumner that, since Vienna was open, why couldn’t he be appointed there? The opening in Vienna resulted from a chance occurrence. The post had been promised to Anson Burlingame, a Boston lawyer and three-term US Congressman from Massachusetts. Mr. Burlingame had worked hard and long to build the Republican party in Massachusetts and, with the Lincoln victory, he was high on Mr. Sumner’s patronage list. Vienna was to be his reward – except that, early in his career, Mr. Burlingame had championed the cause of Kossuth and Hungarian independence. Now, when his name was submitted to the Austrian foreign office for approval, the office pronounced him persona non grata; the appointment had to be withdrawn. So Mr. Motley had timed his second appeal well.

He stressed to Mr. Sumner his fluency in German, his long sojourns on the continent and his close connection with Austro-German culture. Moreover, he wrote, “I am not an office seeker in the ordinary sense of the word—I don’t care for the salary—I haven’t even the least idea what it is, but I have an inclination almost amounting to frenzy to be enrolled in public service at this great crisis.”

President Lincoln would probably have agreed with Mr. Motley. Most of the job seekers who besieged his office were indeed in a “frenzy,” and it was clear that among the New England jobseekers there was no one who would allow himself to be labeled “ordinary.” Still, Mr. Sumner had repeatedly urged the President to appoint American men of letters to diplomatic posts. He was especially insistent that the men of letters be from New England and, more particularly, Massachusetts. Mr. Lincoln, in exasperation protested to Mr. Sumner: ‘I suppose you think your state could furnish suitable men for every diplomatic and consulate station the Government has to fill.”

Then, just as the Vienna posting was beginning to look like a sure thing, a shadow crossed the appointment paper:  one John Jay presented himself as an old friend of Senator Sumner, and he too had his eye on Vienna. Mr. Jay was a New Yorker, a long-time worker in the Republican ranks, a namesake and grandson of the late and venerated chief justice—and no mean writer himself. Mr. Motley objected, pointing out to Mr. Sumner that New York should not have more patronage than Massachusetts. He concluded his latest letter with a bit of special pleading: “It seems to me that I am a far older friend of yours than Jay. You are my sole reliance which is of infinite importance to me.”

Whether Mr. Motley’s special pleading was better phrased than Mr. Jay’s or whether the old Harvard ties were paramount, we are not privileged to know. Suffice it that Mr. Motley got the nod, with Senator Sumner recommending his appointment as US Minister to the Austrian empire. Mr. Motley, on receiving the news, came to Washington in June 1861, visited with President Lincoln, Senator Sumner and Secretary Seward, toured the battlefields and, before leaving, had a final talk with the President. They discussed England’s position in the Civil War and were in agreement on most points. As a result, Mr. Lincoln endorsed the senator’s “recommendation,” and Mr. Seward formalized the actual appointment on August 15. Mr. Motley left for England two weeks later to pick up his family, then headed for Vienna. While he had not passed a Foreign Service exam nor sat before a board of interviewers, he did go through a series of “patronage pleadings” that got down to bareknuckle competition, in some ways not unlike the intellectual games that are now wrapped into the Foreign Service entrance exam.

As a postscript to the Motley-Jay contest for the Vienna post, the record shows that Mr. Jay, upon learning of Motley’s appointment, did not play dead. He immediately wrote Mr. Sumner a 46-page letter decrying being passed over, while admitting that he wanted the appointment “as the only possibility of honorably exempting my son from going into the army.” He also reported a conversation he had with Mrs. Lincoln while in New York, in which she informed him that both she and the President regretted that he had not been appointed.

Mr. Jay, like Mr. Motley, was tenacious—when Mr. Motley left Vienna, Mr. Jay was sent out to replace him. Shortly after Mr. Motley’s death in 1877, Mr. Jay delivered a tribute to his predecessor before the New York Historical Society, noting: “I had occasion to read most of his dispatches, which exhibited a mastery of the subjects which they treated, with much of the clear perception, the scholarly and philosophic tone and decided judgment, which supplemented by his picturesque descriptions, full of life and color, have given character to his histories.”

Upon giving Mr. Motley the appointment, Secretary Seward told him that the previous minister, in four years, sent in only a few dispatches. This reflected the low esteem in which the Vienna post had been held by the Department, and the paucity of US-Austrian interchanges. But to Mr. Seward, this was all wrong. Vienna was an important listening post for central Europe, he said, and one of Mr. Motley’s important tasks, therefore, would be to sift through the information that came his way and give frequent and detailed analysis of it to the Department. Mr. Motley took Mr. Seward’s instructions to heart and, after his first year in office, he sent the Secretary a 64-page confidential report on his observations. In the six years that Mr. Motley served in Vienna, he sent the Department 236 official dispatches, not to mention scores of confidential messages and personal letters. This means an average of 40 official dispatches a year, or more than one a month. Had the Department then had a productivity and inventive award for its reporting diplomats, Mr. Motley would have won hands down.

The new minister and his family arrived in Vienna early in November, and took temporary housing at the Hotel Archduke Charles. After a rigorous search, they found a small apartment recently vacated by a Mr. Lippitt, the secretary of the legation, who, it turned out, was a Harvard classmate of Mr. Motley’s friend, James Russell Lowell. The Veritas connection was formidable even then! He engaged his daughter Lilly as assistant secretary; her knowledge of languages and marked penchant for order proved a boon to the minister. Thus Mr. Motley, in making his office a “family affair,” was but emulating his colleague in England, Charles Francis Adams, who engaged his son, the young Henry Adams, as private secretary. The latter’s observation of these tense and vexing times is reported well in that established American classic, The Education of Henry Adams. Unlike his experience in St. Petersburg, Mr. Motley did not have to cool his heels waiting to be presented to the emperor. Shortly after his arrival, he had two interviews with the minister of foreign affairs, and was given a formal audience with the Emperor Franz Joseph on November 12. The presentation was carried on in German and the Emperor, struck by the flawless German spoken by Mr. Motley, grew suspicious. “Are you German?” he asked. Mr. Motley replied that he had spent a good portion of his life in Germany and central Europe but the Emperor persisted, cutting him off with another question: “But are you of German birth and parentage?” When Mr. Motley assured him that he was a bona fide American from Boston (what could have more bona fides than that?) the Emperor was immensely relieved:  he had feared that the US Minister was really a German exile returning in the guise of a diplomat.

What Mr. Motley came upon in Austria, and to which he devoted a great deal of his reportage, was the last stage of an empire that had been held together by privilege, centralized rule and an aristocracy that held land privileges under almost feudal conditions. It held, as well, a polyglot of nationalities that knew neither allegiance nor any reason to justify the empire.

A new Europe was beginning to emerge, prompted by the beginnings of German unification, the revolutionary protests of the Italians, and the demand for recognition of Hungary as a national entity in its own right. The situation was further complicated by the fiercely determined longtime friend of Mr. Motley, Count von Bismarck, who was slowly assembling his force under a weak but willing king, to make Prussia the centerpiece in a new and unified German state. And this is not to mention the continual machinations of Louis Napoleon, a man whom Mr. Motley learned quickly to hate. He was convinced that the French leader was conspiring with England for some sort of intervention in the rebellion. Mr. Motley even went so far as to write to the Iron Chancellor during his first year in Vienna, asking for possible clues on the intentions of the French ruler,”…. Let me know anything you can pick up in regard to the French Emperor’s intentions or intrigues in regard to our Civil War. Of course I don’t suggest to you for an instant any violation of confidence, but many things might be said with great openness to you that would not, from reserve or politeness, be said to an American.”

The Bismarck connection is one of the most interesting aspects of Mr. Motley’s sojourn in the diplomatic field, one which came to its highpoint during the Vienna posting. It began in Mr. Motley’s student days at Gottingen, where he met the young Bismarck and where they soon became roommates. Herr Bismarck was a roistering, hard-drinking, sword-fighting Prussian aristocrat who took easily and enthusiastically to the handsome young Bostonian of regal bearing.

They caroused together, although the Puritan in Motley held him back from sword-play; they argued incessantly about the virtues of democracy and the military aristocracy; and they retained long-standing interest in each other’s intellectual and political ideas. Their friendship was punctuated by a ready flow of letters and while Mr. Motley was abroad, both as an historian and a diplomat, they met frequently. Mr. Motley and his family were frequent guests at Herr Bismarck’s home.

In one letter Herr Bismarck upbraided Motley for his slackness in letter writing; “Where the devil are you, and what do you do that you never write a line to me? I am working from morn til night and you have nothing to do – you lazy chap, what keeps you from thinking of your old friend?” In still another letter Herr Bismarck complained to Mr. Motley about the political treadmill: “I hate politics, but, as you say truly, like the grocer hating figs, I am none the less obligated to keep my thoughts increasingly occupied with those figs.”

During the efforts to end the Austrian-Prussian War, Herr Bismarck came to Vienna for negotiations, and sent his ambassador to bring the Motleys to dinner at the Prussian embassy at 5 o’clock. Herr Bismarck, however, was still engaged in heated negotiations, with no foreseeable letup, the Prussian ambassador wrote out the word “Motley” on a card, and went into the conference room and handed it to Herr Bismarck. This terminated the conference, and they all went to a long and boisterous dinner. Herr Bismarck joked about his king, telling Mr. Motley that the latter would come to him and ask questions about the papers people had given him to read, and Herr Bismarck would reply: “You must give me time to read them and then I will tell you what to think.”

Mr. Motley and Herr Bismarck were in sharp disagreement about democracy and aristocracy. Mrs. Motley reported in a letter to her daughter that Herr Bismarck “has no relief in the liberal element in Germany and treats democracy in Europe with the same contempt your father does aristocracy in America… “While Mr. Motley was in full agreement with Herr Bismarck’s efforts to bring Germany together, he was unhappy about the consequences for a defenseless, well-intentioned but misgoverned Austria. At the same time, he was circumspect in his reports to Secretary Seward on the Prussian intention and the effect “reunification” would have on Austria and the balance of power in Europe. That one day France and Germany would clash he had no doubt but, having little patience with the machinations of Louis Napoleon, he felt he would not be unhappy with the results.

“To the eyes of an impartial observer,” he wrote to Mr. Seward, “not allowing himself to be prejudiced in any direction by his hopes, fears or sympathies, Prussia would seem by the law of her existence to be an aggressive military monarch. By obeying that law, she has become a great European power; and perhaps the same conduct may lead her to still greater aggrandizement.”

Again, in assessing for the Department the gravity of another confrontation between Austria and Prussia and the possibility of a peaceful settlement, Mr. Motley wrote: “It seems almost idle to talk about pacific arrangements as long as the present prime minister of Prussia holds his place. He is daring, firm of purpose, fertile in resources and possesses almost boundless influence over the King.”

Even after Mr. Motley left Vienna, they kept up their correspondence and visits. When Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote his biographical note on Mr. Motley, Herr Bismarck contributed a sketch of their student life and his appraisal of Mr. Motley as a friend. In 1888 the Chancellor delivered his great speech on German unification to the German parliament; he quoted an old college song which, he noted, he had learned from “my dear deceased friend, John Motley.” It was a friendship built not upon principles, nor upon a mutual belief in common ideas, nor even upon a cultural linkage: it was a friendship that had as its commonality two people who liked each other enough to tolerate their differences.

When Mr. Motley was not reeling off his dispatch-of-the-month, or tending to the minutiae of legation affairs, or attending social functions in the baroque manner of the empire, he was busy putting together the last two volumes of his History of the United Netherlands. At first he found it hard to work with interest or passion. “The sixteenth century,” he wrote his mother, “pales before the nineteenth.” In the summer of 1862 Secretary Seward suggested that Mr. Motley exchange posts with the minister to Spain, Gustave Koerner. The Secretary’s offer was prompted by the thought that Mr. Motley might have a better time doing his research and writing in Spain, where the workload was lighter. Or, one might speculate, Mr. Seward was becoming overwhelmed by the length, breadth and weight of the dispatches he was receiving from Mr. Motley, and saw the shift to Spain as a way to cut down the traffic. In any event, Mr. Motley tendered his thanks and regrets to the Secretary, citing the Austrian attitude on American diplomats who were native Germans: “The United States has few friends in Europe—we should hardly wish to incur the risk of alienating the most cordial of all.”

The minister was further frustrated in his efforts to work on the great history when he was denied access to the archives by “a very civil little dried up gentleman who has obviously occupied his present position ever since the Thirty Years War.” He was assured however, that once the necessary permit was received from the minister of state, all assistance would be given him. Mr. Motley found to his utter consternation that “…it was an ancient and immutable law that no member of the diplomatic corps could have entrance into the archives. I tried in vain to assault, undermine and flank the position. All in vain—I am excluded, and I am ready to knock my head against the walls of the Foreign Office in despair.”

Even so, he managed to complete the fourth volume just before his departure from his post. It was a herculean task, and yet the modern ambassador, deluged with tons of incoming cables, called to regional meetings by the traveling assistant secretaries of state and preparing for the continual stream of congressional delegations might well look across the years to Mr. Motley’s time and wish a bit of that literary leisure might rub off on today’s diplomatic roundelay.

During his tour in Vienna, Mr. Motley was deeply concerned about the English and European view of the Civil War. He believed that France and England were conspiring to intervene and had sent representatives to Spain to discuss strategies. He was also sensitive to the Austrians and their propensity toward viewing the aristocracy as God’s gift. He stayed in touch with many people in England, debating the issues and pointing out the basis for the Union side, and the effect of the rebellion on America’s national strength and posture. He sided with those who believed that in England and Europe the ruling classes favored the Confederacy because they saw in the latter a kindred spirit. He corresponded regularly with Lady Russell, the wife of the British prime minister, J.S. Mill, John Bright and other loyal friends of the North. They convinced him that it was not so much hatred of the United States as opposition to democratic principles that set the ruling class to condemn the North. He admonished his countrymen to see the difference between the majority of Europeans, including the educated and the working class, and a minority of aristocrats who ran the countries. He wrote: “On the continent we have millions of friends, those oppressed for ages who have been taxed to starvation… they have looked across the Atlantic for a release from the eternal bondage. They are with us in the mighty struggle to sustain the cause of freedom… against the conspiracy of an oligarchy founded on… bondage.”

But if Mr. Motley’s devotion to the quest for freedom as exemplified in the United States is shown in his diplomatic work, it is even more the foundation of his work as an historian. The Rise of the Dutch Republic received both its impetus and popularity from an emphasis on the struggle for freedom against an imbedded aristocracy and on the oppressive structure of the governments involved. As one scholar has noted: “…The most important question… is whether the sudden and unexpected popularity of the Rise of the Dutch Republic was connected with the underlying but unspoken theme of devotion to libert…. Almost certainly it was.” This same analysis goes on to conclude that Mr. Motley’s work “…preached the necessity of war for freedom. As such it cannot have failed to play a part in the growing climate leading to the Civil War.” It was this dogged persistence and absolute determination of the “right” cause that became, as well, an obstacle in Mr. Motley’s ability to take criticism and to survive in the diplomatic whirlpool.

By contrast, however, the Austrian government, although in sympathy with the Union cause, did not conform to this line of reasoning; in fact, the Austrian struggle for survival as an empire was doomed to defeat because the empire could not accept the need for liberty until it was too late. What the Austrians disliked about the rebellion of the South was the attack on an existing government. As Mr. Motley said in one of his dispatches: “Austria is the last country that will acknowledge the slave confederacy. She deems our cause identified with law, order and legitimate authority against rebellion and anarchy. It is fortunate for us that the cause of law and order is also the cause of freedom.”End.

Coming next issue: The Fall from Grace of John Lothrop Motley


Author William Sommers worked as a municipal administrator for many years in the United States and worked overseas advising on various local government assistance programs.  He and his wife, Joan, lived and worked in Poland, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Egypt and Hungary.  Sommers’ last overseas assignment was in Bosnia.


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