Johan Rudolf Thorbecke (1798-1872), a true statesman

The liberal politician Thorbecke is celebrated as the founder of the present-day constitution of the Netherlands. Prior to entering the political arena Thorbecke pursued an academic career. He became a professor of philosophy and literature at Ghent University in 1825. At the outbreak of the Belgian Revolution in 1830 Thorbecke returned to the Netherlands, where he was appointed professor of law at Leiden University. His political career began in 1840 when he became a member of parliament. Thorbecke joined the Liberals, whose efforts to oppose the conservative majority were fruitless until 1848, when revolutions swept throughout Europe, and they were unexpectedly given the opportunity to implement their ideas. King William II ordered Thorbecke to submit a proposal for amending the constitution. This new constitution, which greatly expanded the powers of parliament and severely limited those of the monarchy, laid the foundations of the Netherlands’ present parliamentary democracy. Thorbecke also drafted separate laws regulating the position of municipal and provincial governments. After 1848 he led three cabinets: 1849-1853, 1862-1868 and 1871-1872.

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