John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 82 pages of information about John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 2.

Some of the criticisms of Dutch scholars will be considered in the pages which deal with his last work, “The Life of John of Barneveld.”


1868-1869.  AEt. 54-55.

Visit to America.—­Residence at no. 2 Park Street, Boston.—­Address on the coming presidential election.—­Address on historic progress and American democracy.—­Appointed minister to England.

In June, 1868, Mr. Motley returned with his family to Boston, and established himself in the house No. 2 Park Street.  During his residence here he entered a good deal into society, and entertained many visitors in a most hospitable and agreeable way.

On the 20th of October, 1868, he delivered an address before the Parker Fraternity, in the Music Hall, by special invitation.  Its title was “Four Questions for the People, at the Presidential Election.”  This was of course what is commonly called an electioneering speech, but a speech full of noble sentiments and eloquent expression.  Here are two of its paragraphs:—­

“Certainly there have been bitterly contested elections in this country before.  Party spirit is always rife, and in such vivid, excitable, disputatious communities as ours are, and I trust always will be, it is the very soul of freedom.  To those who reflect upon the means and end of popular government, nothing seems more stupid than in grand generalities to deprecate party spirit.  Why, government by parties and through party machinery is the only possible method by which a free government can accomplish the purpose of its existence.  The old republics of the past may be said to have fallen, not because of party spirit, but because there was no adequate machinery by which party spirit could develop itself with facility and regularity.
“And if our Republic be true to herself, the future of the human race is assured by our example.  No sweep of overwhelming armies, no ponderous treatises on the rights of man, no hymns to liberty, though set to martial music and resounding with the full diapason of a million human throats, can exert so persuasive an influence as does the spectacle of a great republic, occupying a quarter of the civilized globe, and governed quietly and sagely by the people itself.”

A large portion of this address is devoted to the proposition that it is just and reasonable to pay our debts rather than to repudiate them, and that the nation is as much bound to be honest as is the individual.  “It is an awful thing,” he says, “that this should be a question at all,” but it was one of the points on which the election turned, for all that.

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