Johan Rudolph Thorbecke

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His Excellency
Johan Rudolph Thorbecke
Johan Heinrich Neuman - Johan Rudolf Thorbecke.jpg
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
In office
4 January 1871 – 4 June 1872
Monarch William III
Preceded by Pieter Philip van Bosse
Succeeded by Gerrit de Vries
In office
1 February 1862 – 10 February 1866
Monarch William III
Preceded by Schelto van Heemstra
Succeeded by Isaäc Dignus Fransen van de Putte
In office
1 November 1849 – 19 April 1853
Monarch William III
Preceded by Jacob de Kempenaer
Succeeded by Floris Adriaan van Hall
Minister of the Interior of the Netherlands
In office
4 January 1871 – 4 June 1872
Preceded by Cornelis Fock
Succeeded by Pieter Philip van Bosse
In office
1 February 1862 – 10 February 1866
Preceded by Schelto van Heemstra
Succeeded by Johan Herman Geertsema Carelszoon
In office
1 November 1849 – 19 April 1853
Preceded by Jacob de Kempenaer
Succeeded by Gerlach Cornelis Joannes van Reenen
Member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands
In office
25 February 1868 – 4 January 1871
In office
19 November 1866 – 3 January 1868
In office
14 March 1866 – 1 October 1866
In office
27 June 1853 – 31 January 1862
In office
17 October 1848 – 31 October 1849
In office
21 May 1844 – 19 October 1845
Personal details
Born Johan Rudolph Thorbecke
(1798-01-14)14 January 1798
Zwolle, Netherlands
Died 4 June 1872(1872-06-04) (aged 74)
The Hague, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Political party Independent (Liberal)
Spouse(s) Adelheid Solger
(m. 1836–1870; her death)
Children 4 sons and 2 daughters
Alma mater Leiden University (Master of Letters, Master of Laws, Doctor of Philosophy)
Occupation Politician
Civil servant
Jurist
Historian
Professor
Author
Religion Evangelical Lutheran
Signature

Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (14 January 1798 – 4 June 1872) was a Dutch politician and statesman of Liberal signature, one of the most important Dutch politicians of the 19th century.

In 1848 he virtually single-handedly drafted the revision of the Constitution of the Netherlands, giving less power to the king, and more to the States General of the Netherlands.

Life and politics[edit]

Early life[edit]

Birthplace. The Thorbeckehuis in Zwolle.

Thorbecke was born in Zwolle, and began studying classical literature and philosophy in Amsterdam, studies he finished in Leiden defending a thesis on Asinius Pollio. After studying at several universities in Germany he was appointed at the chair of diplomacy (history of international relations) and was at the University of Ghent, then part of the Netherlands. Because of the Belgian revolution of 1830 he had to give up this position, and one year later he was promoted to professor in diplomacy and modern history at the Leiden University.

Political career[edit]

In 1839, he published his criticisms of the contemporary Dutch constitution in a very detailed study Aanteekening op de grondwet (Note on the constitution); as a result, he became a well-known political figure. Five years later, together with eight other politicians, he formulated a proposal to change the Dutch constitution. The proposal, known as the Voorstel der Negenmannen ("proposition of the nine men"), was not approved by the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Dutch parliament.

With much of Europe convulsed by the Revolutions of 1848, King William II decided to form, at his own initiative, a committee for revision of the constitution - rather than be forced into such a step by popular pressure, as were many other monarchs at the time. Thorbecke was appointed as head of that committee. The changes, which were virtually all created by Thorbecke, were grudgingly approved by parliament. The most important changes were those limiting the powers of the monarch, introducing direct elections, establishing liberty of religion, and strengthening the powers of parliament and ministers. The new constitution was proclaimed on 3 November 1848.

In 1849 Thorbecke became minister of internal affairs, thereby de facto becoming the first Prime Minister of the Netherlands. This cabinet devised several important laws, most important of which were laws on elections (1850), municipalities (1851) and provinces (1850). His cabinet was forced to resign in 1853 because of the so-called Aprilbeweging ("April Movement"), a Protestant group which protested against re-instituting the Catholic dioceses, which Thorbecke's cabinet had allowed.

On 31 January 1862 Thorbecke again became minister of internal affairs. During his second cabinet a new law regarding secondary education was among the most important achievements. Important works regarding national transportation were initiated. The cabinet collapsed on 10 February 1866 and Thorbecke resigned after a conflict regarding criminal law in the Dutch East Indies.

During periods he was not part of government, Thorbecke was still a very influential member of parliament, often advising his colleagues and ministers how to interpret the constitution. On 4 January 1871, Thorbecke led his third and final cabinet. His plans for reforms in the army failed, and he fell ill in December of that year. He never fully recovered and he died at his home in The Hague.

Hated by some (he was not a man of concessions), he is nowadays considered a towering figure in Dutch parliamentary history.[citation needed] There are two statues of Thorbecke (one in Amsterdam and one in Zwolle) and a room in the Dutch parliament building is named after him.

Statue of Thorbecke in Zwolle

Thorbecke wrote many articles on history and several newspaper articles (especially in the Journal de La Haye) on topics of the day. He published a study on the philosophy of history (in German). All of his speeches in parliament have been published.

Further reading[edit]

  • J. Drentje: Thorbecke: een filosoof in de politiek. Amsterdam, 2004.
  • C.H.E. de Wit: Thorbecke en de wording van de Nederlandse natie. Nijmegen, 1980.
  • J.C. Boogman: Rondom 1848. Bussum 1978.
  • J.B.Manger: Thorbecke en de historie. 1938. Second edition with a preface by H. te Velde: Utrecht, 1986.
  • J. Brandt-van der Veen: Thorbecke-Archief (3 volumes). Contains Thorbecke's letters up until September 1830. Utrecht, 1955, Groningen, 1962, Utrecht, 1967.
  • G.J. Hooykaas e.a.: De Briefwisseling van J.R. Thorbecke (7 delen). Contains Thorbecke's letters as of October 1830 until his death. These volumes appeared between 1975 en 2002.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jacobus Mattheüs de Kempenaer
Minister of the Interior
1849-1853
Succeeded by
Gerlach Cornelis Joannes van Reenen
Preceded by
Jacobus Mattheüs de Kempenaer
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
1849-1853
Succeeded by
Floris Adriaan van Hall
Preceded by
Schelto van Heemstra
Minister of the Interior
1862-1866
Succeeded by
Johan Herman Geertsema Carelszoon
Preceded by
Schelto van Heemstra
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
1862-1866
Succeeded by
Isaäc Dignus Fransen van de Putte
Preceded by
Cornelis Fock
Minister of the Interior
1871-1872
Succeeded by
Pieter Philip van Bosse
Preceded by
Pieter Philip van Bosse
Prime Minister of the Netherlands
1871-1872
Succeeded by
Gerrit de Vries