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Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer pages



Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (1801-1876)

Dutch politician and historian, was born at Voorburg, near The Hague, on the 21st of August 1801. He studied at Leiden University, and graduated in 1823 both as doctor of literature and LL.D. From 1829 to 1833 he acted as secretary to King William I of Holland, afterwards took a prominent part in Dutch home politics, and gradually became the leader of the so-called Anti-Revolutionary Party, both in the Second Chamber, of which he was for many years a member, and outside. In Groen the doctrines of Guizot and Stahl found an eloquent exponent. They permeate his controversial and political writings and historical studies, of which his Handbook of Dutch History (in Dutch) and Maurice et Barnevelt (in French, 1875, a criticism of Motley's Life of Van Olden-Barnevelt) are the principal. Groen was violently opposed to Thorbecke, whose principles he denounced as ungodly and revolutionary. Although he lived to see these principles triumph, he never ceased to oppose them until his death, which occurred at the Hague on the 19th of May 1876. He is best known as the editor of the Archives et Correspondance de la Maison d'Orange (12 vols., 1835-1845), a great work of patient erudition, which procured for him the title of the Dutch Gachard. J. L. Motley acknowledges his indebtedness to Groens Archives in the preface to his Rise of the Dutch Republic, at a time when the American historian had not yet made the acquaintance of King Williams archivist, and also bore emphatic testimony to Groen's worth as a writer of history in the correspondence published after his death. At the first reception, in 1858, of Motley at the royal palace at the Hague, the king presented him with a copy of Groen's Archives as a token of appreciation and admiration of the work done by the worthy vindicator of William I, prince of Orange. This copy, bearing the kings autograph inscription, afterwards came into the possession of Sir William Vernon Harcourt, Motley's son-in-law.

(From the Encyclopaedia Brittanica 1911)

Two recent biographies of Groen van Prinsterer:

Gerrit J. Schutte 2016 Groen van Prinsterer: His Life and Work. Translated by Harry Van Dyke. Neerlandia, Alberta: Inheritance Puiblications.

H. Smitskamp 2017. Building a Nation on Rock or Sand. (Translated by Harman Boersema). Ontario: Guardian Books

Harry Van Dyke 2019. Challenging the Spirit of Modernity: A Study of Groen van Prinsterer's Unbelief and Revolution (Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology) (Lexham Press)

A recent PhD:

Schlebusch, Jan Adriaan 2018. Strategic Narratives Groen van Prinsterer as Nineteenth-Century Statesman-Historian. PhD thesis. University of Groningen.



Authored by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer
Translated by Colin Wright
This outline of Christian political action was written by the nineteenth-century pioneer of the genre, the Dutchman Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer. Groen not only developed a political philosophy based solidly in Reformation truths but he also formed a political party to bring those truths to bear in the political forum of his day.
Then, as now, the battle was against the Revolution: ?the invasion of the human mind by the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of man, thus making him the source and centre of all truth, by substituting human reason and human will for divine revelation and divine law.? It is ?the history of the irreligious philosophy of the past century; it is, in its origin and outworking, the doctrine that-given free rein-destroys church and state, society and family, produces disorder without ever establishing liberty or restoring moral order, and, in religion, inevitably leads its conscientious followers into atheism and despair.?
Against the Revolution there is only one antidote: the Gospel. To proclaim and elaborate this truth was Groen van Prinsterer's life work. This volume - never before published in English - is an adept summary of it.
Details are available from the publisher's website


Articles by Groen are available online here (primarily in Dutch) 



1799         Birth of eldest sister Cornelia Adriana (aka Keetje)

1801         Birth

1805         Spends winter season in mansion on Korte Vijverberg

1808/9      attends private school run by the Hague chapter of the Society for the common Utility

1813         Spends short time at a boarding school in Haarlem

1815         Hieronmymus School, Utrecht

1816         Saves girl from drowing

1817         Enrols at Leyden University to study both law and letters

1817         Poet Willem Bilderdijk comes to live in Leyden

1818         Attends Bilderdijk's private seminar

1821         Sister Keetje marries Mari Hoffman

1822         Touched by the baptism of Da Costa

1823         Passes qualifying exams - decides to do two doctorates

1823         Defends two doctorates dissertations

1924         Barrister in The Hague

1826         General History of Netherlands invitation by the King issued

1827         Appointed to post of Secretary in King's Cabinet

1828         Marries Elizabeth Maria Magdalena van der Hoop (b 1807) (21 May)

1829         Moves to small house on Haagse Voorhout, The Hague

1829         First issue of De Nederlandsche Gedachten published (122 issues in total published in its 3 year life)

1830         Belgium revolt

1832         Moves house to Plein Square, The Hague

1832         De Nederlandsche Gedachten ceases publication (July)

1832         Writes to Minister pointing out the inherent injustice of the Education Act.

1833         January mother dies

1833         January seriously ill

1833         July travels to Switzerland for convalescence - meets Merle d?Aubigne

1833         December discharged from role of Secretary to the King - but charged with supervision of family archives

1833         Becomes a Christian

1834         Seccession (afscheiding) movement begins

1835         March fist volume of Archives ou correspondance inédite de la Maison d'Orange-Nassau. He edited 13 volumes, covering the period 1552 to 1688

1837         Father dies

1837         Tract: Measures Against the Seceders Tested Against Constitutional Law

1838         Lives in mansion on Korte Vijverberg

1840         Elected to the Double Chamber of parliament

1841         First instalment of Handboek der Geschiedenis van het Vaderland [Handbook of the History of the Fatherland] published

1842         May wrote an open letter to the Synod with 6 others


1845         Begins to deliver the lectures that became Unbelief and Revolution to an invited audience in his home

1845         The Christian Friends begin to meet in Amsterdam

1846         Handbook completed: over 1100 numbered paragraphs

1848         Writes a series of pamphlets: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Explanation of the Slogan of the Revolution

1848         Essays on Constitutional Revision and National Concord

1849         January takes up seat in the lower house of parliament

1850         Begins editorship of daily De Nederlander and becomes co-owner

1850         Surrenders manorial rights in the village of Ursem

1853         Leyden history teacher, Robert Fruin, launces a written attack on Groen

1855         De Nederlander ceases publication

1855         Re-elected to a seat in Second Chamber

1855         Visits England and Scotland with wife

1857         Second Chamber passes the Primary Education Act (votes 47 to 13)

                 Groen resigns his seat in protest by walking out of the chamber

1860         Devotes energy to Association for Christian National Primary Education

1862         Returns to Second Chamber

1862         December becomes ill

1864         Election year

                  Begins correspondence with Abraham Kuyper

1865         Resigns seat in Second Chamber because of illness

1861         Publishes the French tract The Anti- Revolutionary and Confessional Party in the Reformed Church of the Netherlands.

1866         Groen's friend Levinus Keuchenius. Keuchenius previously secretary-general of the Department of Colonial Affairs and a member of the Council of the Netherlands East Indie takes seat in Second Chamber

1867         Writes two brochures condemning Prussian Chancellor Otto van Bismark?s politics and the idolatry of nationalism

1869         He begins a new series of Nederlandsche Gedachten

1871         Elections - he  endorses only Kuyper, Van Otterloo and Baron van Wassenaer

                 Resigns from the post of Royal Archivist

                 Fourth edition of Handbook - distributed free to hundreds of school teachers

1872         Kuyper begins De Standaard. Groen had contributed 3000 guilders towards the set up.

1875         Publishes Maurice et Barnevelt

1876         Published a collection of letters related to the conflict with Van der Brugghen over the 1857 Education Bill

1876         19 May death. Buried in Ter Navolging cemetery.

1879         14 March Betsy, his wife, dies






De Vries, T Mr G. Groen van Prinsterer: Een bibliographie Utrecht: Wentzel, 1908.

Zwaan, Jan Groen van Prinsterer en de klassieke oudheid Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1973.


By Groen van Prinsterer (in English)

Unbelief and revolution: A series of Lectures in History.
Abridged and translated by Harry Van Dyke © 1989, 2000 (Jordan Station, ON: Wedge) and now republished by Lexham Press (2019)

Lectures VII and IX are available here as a pdf
Spanish translation: Incredulidad y Revolución, translated and edited, with an introduction, by Adolfo García de la Sienra (Xalapa: Fábrica de Ideas, 2010). 
  • Lecture I: Introduction
  • Lecture II: The Wisdom of the Ages
  • Lecture III: The Anti-Revolutionary Principles
  • Lecture IV: Historical Governments
  • Lecture V: Abuses
  • Lecture VI: The Perversion of Constitutional Law
  • Lecture VII: The Reformation
  • Lecture VIII: Unbelief
  • Lecture IX: Unbelief (continued)
  • Lecture X: The Conflict with Nature and Law
  • Lecture XI: First Phase - Preparation (till 1789)
  • Lecture XII: Second Phase - Development (1789-94)
  • Lecture XIII: The Reign of Terror
  • Lecture XIV: Overview - 1794-1845
  • Lecture XV: Conclusion

English language publications about Groen van Prinsterer

Essen, J. L. van. 1982. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer and His Conception of History. Westminster Theological Journal 44 (1982): 205?49.

Essen, J. L. van, and Morton, H. Donald 1990. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer: Selected Studies. Jordan Station, ON: Wedge, 1990.
This collection contains the title mentioned immediately above, plus three other essays.

Freeke, Jan 1999. 'The life and work of Groen van Prinsterer' Banner of Truth 430 (July 1999) pp 17-24
On Groen's struggle for Christian education as well as a special essay on Groen's prose style.

Friesen, Glenn 2019. New Research on Groen van Prinsterer and the idea of Sphere Sovereignty. Philosophia Reformata 84(2): 1-30.

Hall, David W. no date Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer: political paradigm from the West.

Hospers, G. H. 1935. Groen van Prinsterer and His Book Ongeloof en RevolutieEvangelical Quarterly 7 (1935): 267?86.

Klapwijk, Jacob.1973. Calvin and Neo-Calvinism on Non-Christian PhilosophyPhilosophia Reformata 38 (1973): 43-61, at 49-51.

Kuiper, Dirk Theodoor. 1999. "Groen and Kuyper on the racial issue." Kuyper Reconsidered: Aspects of his life and work. C van der Kooi and J. de Brujin (ed). VU Stuides on Protestant History Vol 3. Amsterdam: VU, 1999, ch. 5. 

Langley, McKendree R. 1971. Pioneers of Christian Politics I. Vanguard (April 1971): 7-9.

Langley, McKendree R. 1976. What Does It Mean to Be a Christian in the World The Presbyterian Guardian (Jan. 1976): 8-13.

Langley, McKendree R. 1979. The Witness of a World View. Pro Rege 8.2 (1979): 2-11.

Langley, McKendree R. 1985. The Legacy of Groen van Prinsterer. Reformed Perspective (Jan.1985): 25-28.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. 1975. The French Revolution and After. In The Christian and the State in Revolutionary Times. London: Westminster Conference, 1975. Pp. 94-99.

Pall Mall Gazette, 27 April 1867, pp. 4ff. discusses the implications of the first of Groen's pamphlets of 1867, La Prusse et les Pays-Bas.

Herman, Paul, 2004. "Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer: A Critical Reappraisal," Fides et Historia 36.2 (Summer/Fall 2004): 67-82. 

Runner, H. Evan. 1974. Scriptural Religion and Political Task. Toronto: Wedge, 1974. Pp. 89?99.

Sap, John W. 2001. Paving the Way for Revolution: Calvinism and the Struggle for a Democratic Constitutional State. Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij, 2001. Pp. 289-302.

Schutte, Gerrit J. 2005. Groen van Prinsterer: His Life and Work translated by Harry Van Dyke. Publisher's Imprint, 2005.
The text of this translation is based on Schutte's book of 1976 entitled Mr. G. Groen van Prinsterer (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre)

Taylor, E. L. Hebden. 1969. The Christian Philosophy of Law, Politics and the State. N.d. Pp. 18-42, 238.

Van Dyke, Harry. 1989. Groen van Prinsterer's Lectures on Unbelief and Revolution. Jordan Station, ON: Wedge, 1989.
Contains a translation (abridged) of Unbelief and Revolution at pp. 293?539 as well as a sketch of Groen's life and time at pp. 1-83.

Van Dyke, Harry. 20102. "Groen van Prinsterer: Godfather of Bavinck and Kuyper" Calvin Theological Journal (2012)  

Zylstra, Bernard.1976.  Voegelin on Unbelief and RevolutionAnti-Revolutionaire Staatkunde 46 (1976): 155-65.
Reprinted in C. Bremmer and M. G. Kool, eds., Een Staatsman ter navolging: Groen van Prinsterer herdacht (1876-1976). The Hague, 1976. Pp. 191?200.

Doctoral dissertations on Groen

1860:  D. Koorders, about constitutional law according to Groen
1905:  M. P. Th. a Th. van der Hoop van Slochteren, about Groen on church and state
1907:  F. J. Fokkema, on Groen's platonizing philosophy
1925:  C. Tazelaar, about Groen's formative years
1931:  J. A. H. J. S. Bruins Slot, about Groen's response to the no-popery movement of 1853
1933:  G. M. den Hartogh, about Groen's conduct during the election campaign of 1871
1940:  H. Smitskamp, on Groen van Prinsterer as historian
1943:  I. A. Diepenhorst (at 21-61), on Groen and the theory of the Christian state
1948:  J. D. Dengerink (at 69-95), on Groen and the development of the doctrine of sphere-sovereignty
1949:  G. J. Laman, on Groen as a member of parliament, 1862-65
1951:  J. L. P. Brants, on Groen's spiritual growth up to his conversion
1973:  J. Zwaan, on Groen van Prinsterer as a classicist
1989:  A. J. van Dijk, on Groen's lectures on Unbelief and Revolution
1993:  J. W. Kirpenstein, about Groen on church and state



Publications by Groen in French

Archives de la Maison d'Orange-Nassau, 1835-1861.

Prolégomènes. In Archives ou correspondance inédite de la maison d?Orange-Nassau. Series I: 9 vols.; Leyden, 1835?47; Series II: 5 vols.; Utrecht, 1857?61. These are lengthy introductions to the published correspondence in which Groen gives his own interpretation of the historical significance of the letters and the times they were written.

Le parti anti-révolutionnaire et confesionnel dans l?Eglise Reformée des Pays-Bas. Etude d?histoire contemporaine. Amsterdam, 1860. La Hollande et l?influence de Calvin. Amsterdam, 1864.


La Hollande et l'influence de Calvin. Amsterdam, 1864.

La nationalité religieuse en rapport avec la Hollande et l?Alliance Evangélique. Amsterdam, 1867. Reprinted in M. Cohen Stuart (see below), 47?51.

La Prusse et les Pays-Bas; à mes amis de Berlin. Amsterdam, 1867.

L'Empire prussien et l'Apocalypse; à mes amis de Berlin. Amsterdam, 1867.
Maurice et Barnevelt. Etude historique. Utrecht, 1875.

Publications about Groen in French

Albert Reville. Monsieur G. Groen van Prinsterer. Revue des Deux Mondes 46 (1876): 478?80.

M. Cohen Stuart. In memoriam Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer: Notice biographique. Utrecht, 1876.

J. C. Versluys. Lamennais et Groen van Prinsterer. Neophilologus 17 (1932): 8?17.

Harry Van Dyke. Conférences de Groen van Prinsterer sur l'Incrédulité et la Révolution (Résumé). In Groen van Prinsterer's Lectures (see above),

Other resources

Images of his home 3 Korte Vijverberg

Brief comments from George Edmundson's History of Holland.

Statement of the principles and general political program of the Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands 1961