John Lothrop Motley (April 15, 1814 – May 29, 1877) was an American historian and diplomat.
J.L. Motley was born on April 15, 1814 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. His grandfather, Thomas Motley, a 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 McClelland, whose counting house was on Fore Street. Both concerns centered on Portland's thriving on 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". The senior partner, Thomas, 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...
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