John Lothrop Motley : biography
John Lothrop Motley (April 15, 1814 – May 29, 1877) was an American historian and diplomat.
J. L. Motley was born on April 14, 1815 at Dorchester. His grandfather, Thomas Motley, jail-keeper (a public position) and innkeeper in Portland, Maine, had been a Freemason and radical sympathizer with the French Revolution. (An article in The Eastern Herald, the only newspaper then published in Maine, announced that "Citizen Motley" would host a celebration on Washington’s Birthday 1793 "rejoicing at the emancipation of our sister republic, France.") Motley’s father Thomas and uncle Edward served mercantile apprenticeships in Portland, Thomas with James Deering on Long Wharf and Edward with Hugh McClellan, whose counting house was on Fore Street. Both concerns centered on Portland’s thriving importation trade from Liverpool, averaging one ship to arrive or sail every week of the year. Return cargoes usually consisted of salt, crates of crockery and glassware, window glass, iron, hardware, and dry goods. These goods were then shipped to Boston on the regular sailing packets, to be sold on commission.
In 1802 Thomas Motley moved to Boston and established a commission house on India wharf, taking his brother Edward with him as clerk. This became one of the leading commission houses in Boston, under the eventual name of "Thomas and Edward Motley." Boston Advertiser (June 7, 1877), reprinted from The Portland Press. The senior partner, father of J.L. Motley the historian, married Anna Lothrop, daughter of the Rev. John Lothrop, product of an old and distinguished line of Massachusetts clergymen. Like other successful Boston merchants of the period, Thomas Motley devoted a great part of his wealth to civic purposes and the education of his children. The brilliant accomplishments of his second son, J.L. Motley, are evidence of the care both the father and mother—known both for her learning and what Motley’s boyhood friend Wendell Phillips called her "regal beauty"—bestowed on the boy’s intellectual development.
Motley attended the Round Hill School, Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard in 1831. His boyhood was spent in Dedham, near the site of the present day Noble and Greenough School. His education included training in the German language and literature, and he went to Germany to complete these studies at Göttingen, during 1832–1833, during which time he became a lifelong friend of Otto von Bismarck. After this, Motley and Bismarck went study civil law together at Frederick William University, Berlin. After a period of European travel he returned in 1834 to America, where he continued his legal studies.
In 1837 he married Mary Benjamin (died 1874), a sister of Park Benjamin, and in 1839 he published anonymously a novel entitled Morton’s Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial about life in a German university, based on his own experiences. It was poorly received, but has later been recognized for featuring a valuable portrayal of Bismarck, "thinly disguised as Otto von Rabenmarck", as a young student.Steinberg (2011), pp. 39–41
In 1841 he entered the diplomatic service as secretary of legation in St. Petersburg, Russia, but resigned his post within three months, because, according a letter that he wrote to his mother, of the harsh climate, the expenses living there, and his reserved habits. Returning to America, he soon entered definitely upon a literary career. Besides contributing various historical and critical essays to the North American Review, such as "life and Character of Peter the Great", (1845) and 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, based again on the odd history of Thomas Morton and Merrymount.
In 1861, just after outbreak of the American Civil War, 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 favourable impression on President Lincoln.