Abraham Kuyper
Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1 August 1901 - 17 August 1905
He was preceded in the office of prime minister by Nicolaas Pierson and succeeded by Theo de Meester.
He was founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party.

Abraham Kuyper was born in Maassluis, Netherlands on 29 Oct 1837 and he died at The Hague, Netherlands on 8 Nov 1920.  He was married to Johanna Hendrika Schaay.  His religious affiliation was with the Reformed Church.
He was a journalist, statesman and theologian.


Early Life

Kuyper received his schooling at home by his father, Jan Frederik Kuyper, who was a minister for the Dutch Reformed Church in Hoogmade, Maassluis, Middelburg and Leiden. He had no formal primary education, but received secondary education at the Gymnasium of Leiden.

In 1855 he graduated from the gymnasium and began to study literature, philosophy and theology at Leiden University. He received his literature degree in 1857, and philosophy in 1858, both summa cum laude. He also took classes in Armenian, Arabic and physics.

In 1862 he was promoted to doctor in Theology on basis of a theological-historical dissertation showing the differences in the rules of the church, between John Calvin and John Łaski). It compared the views of John Calvin and Jan Łaski, Kuyper showed a clear sympathy for the more liberal Łaski.   He was of the more liberal persuasion within the Dutch Reformed Church.

 Religious Life

In May 1862 he was declared eligible to be a minister and in 1863 he accepted a call to become one for the Dutch Reformed Church for the town of Beesd.   That same year he married Johanna Hendrika Schaay. They would have five sons and three daughters.   In 1864 he began corresponding with the anti-revolutionary MP Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, who heavily influenced his political and theological views.

Around 1866 he began to sympathize with the orthodox tendency within the Dutch Reformed Church. He was inspired by the simple reformed faith of Pietje Balthus, a farmer's wife. He began to oppose the centralization in the church and began to plead for the separation of church and state.

In 1867 Kuyper was asked to become minister for the parish in Utrecht and he left Beesd. In 1870 he was asked to come to Amsterdam. In 1871 he began to write for the "De Heraut" ("The Herald") .

In 1872 he founded his own paper, "De Standaard" ("the Standard") this paper would lay the foundation for the network of reformed organization which Kuyper would found.


In 1886 Kuyper led an exodus from the Dutch Reformed Church. He grieved the loss of Reformed distinctives within this State Church, which no longer required office bearers to agree to the Reformed standards which had once been foundational.

Kuyper and the consistory of Amsterdam insisted that both ministers and church members subscribe to the Reformed confessions. This was appealed to Classis, and Kuyper, along with about 80 members of the Amsterdam consistory, were suspended in Dec. 1885. This was appealed to the provincial synod, which upheld the ruling in a July 1, 1886 ruling.

Refusing to accept his suspension, Kuyper preached to his followers in an auditorium on Sunday, July 11, 1886. Because of their deep sorrow at the state of the Dutch Reformed Church, the group called itself the Doleantie (grieving ones).

By 1889 the Doleantie churches had over 200 congregations, 180,000 members, and about 80 ministers.

Kuyper, although at first antagonistic towards them, soon began to seek union with the churches of the Secession of 1834, the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken (Christian Reformed Church). These churches had earlier broken off from the Dutch Reformed Church. This union was effected in 1892, and the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Reformed Church in the Netherlands) was formed. This denomination has its counterpart in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Member of Parliament

In 1873 he tried to enter parliament for the district Gouda, but he was defeated by the conservative lord, Willem de Brauw.

In 1874 Kuyper succeeded and was elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Gouda. He defeated the liberal, Herman Verners van der Loeff.  He consequently moved to the Hague, without telling his friends in Amsterdam. In parliament he showed particular interest for education, especially the equal financing of public and religious schools. In 1876 he wrote "Our Program" which would lay the foundation for the Anti Revolutionary Party Kuyper would found. In this program he formulated the principle of antithesis, the conflict between the religious (reformed and catholics) and non-religious. In 1877 he left the Tweede Kamer because of problems with his mental health, suffering from overexertion.

In 1878 he returned to politics, he led the petition against a new law on education, which would further disadvantage religious schools. This was an important impetus for the foundation of the Anti-Revolutuonary Party (ARP) in 1879, of which Kuyper would be chairman between 1879 and 1905. He would be the indisputed leader of the party between 1879 and 1920. His followers gave him the nickname "Abraham de Geweldige" (Abraham the Great). In 1880 he founded the Free University in Amsterdam and he was made professor of Theology there. He also served as its first rector magnificus.  In 1881 he also became professor of literature. In 1886 he left the Dutch Reformed Church, with a large group of followers. The parish in Amsterdam was made independent of the church, and kept their own building. Between 1886 and 1892 they would be called the Dolerenden, (those with grievances). In 1892 those Dolerenden founded a new denomination called The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands after merging with other orthodox Reformed people who had seceded from the Dutch Reformed Church in 1834.

In 1894 Kuyper was re-elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Sliedrecht. He defeated the liberal Van Haaften and the anti-takkian anti-revolutionary Beelaerts van Blokland. He also ran as a candidate in Dordrecht and Amsterdam, but was defeated there. In the election he joined the so-called Takkians, in a conflict between the liberal minister Tak, and a majority Tweede Kamer. Tak wanted to reform the census-suffrage, but a majority in parliament rejected his proposal. Kuyper favoured the legislation because he expected the enfranchised lower class voters would favour his party. This orientation towards the lower classes gave him the nickname "De bellringer of the common people" .   His position on suffrage also led to a conflict within the ARP: a group was opposed on principle to universal suffrage because they rejected popular sovereignty; they left the ARP to found the CHU in 1901. The authoritarian leadership of Kuyper also played an important role in this conflict. Lohman opposed party discipline and wanted MPs to make up their own mind, while Kuyper favoured strong leadership. After the elections Kuyper became chair of the parliamentary caucus of the ARP. In his second term as MP he concentrated on more issues than education, like suffrage, foreign affairs, and labour.  In foreign affairs especially the Second Boer War was of particular interest to him, in the conflict between the Dutch-speaking reformed farmers and the English-speaking anglicans he sided with the Boers, and heavily opposed the English. In 1896 Kuyper voted against the new suffrage law of Van Houten, because according to Kuyper the reforms did not go far enough. In the 1897 elections Kuyper competed in Zuidhorn, Sliedrecht and Amsterdam. He was defeated by liberals in Zuidhorn and Amsterdam, but he defeated the liberal Wisboom in Sliedrecht. In Amsterdam he was defeated by Johannes Tak van Poortvliet.  As an MP Kuyper kept his job as journalist, and he even became chair of the Dutch Circle of Journalists in 1898; when he left in 1901 he was made honorary president. In the same year, at the invitation of B.B. Warfield, Kuyper delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary, which was his first widespread exposure to a North American audience. He also received an honorary doctorate in law from Princeton.  During his time in the United States, he also traveled to address several Dutch reformed congregations in Michigan and Iowa and presbyterian gatherings in Ohio and New Jersey.

[edit] Minister President

In the 1901 elections Kuyper was re-elected in Sliedrecht, defeating the liberal De Klerk. In Amsterdam he was defeated again, now by the Nolting. He did not take his seat in parliament however but was instead appointed formateur and later prime minister of the Dutch cabinet. He also served as minister of Home Affairs.  He originally wanted to become minister of labour and enterprise, but neither Mackay or Heemskerk, prominent anti-revolutionaries, wanted to become minister of home affairs, forcing him to take the portfolio. During his time as prime minister he showed a very authoritarian leadership style: he changed the rules of procedure of cabinet in order to become chair of cabinet for four years (before him, the chairmanship of the cabinet had rotated among its members).

The portfolio of home affairs at the time was very broad: it involved local government, industrial relations, education and public morality. The 1903 railway strike was one of the decisive issues for his cabinet. Kuyper produced several particularly harsh laws to end the strikes (the so-called "worgwetten", strangling laws), and pushed them through parliament. He also proposed legislation to improve working conditions;  however only those on fishing and harbour construction passed through parliament. In education Kuyper changed several education laws to improve the financial situation of religious schools. His law on higher education, which would make the diplomas of faith-based universities equal to that of the public universities, was defeated in the Eerste Kamer. Consequently Kuyper dissolved the Eerste Kamer and after a new upper house was elected the legislation was accepted. He was also heavily involved in foreign policy, giving him the nickname "Minister of Foreign Travels".

[edit] Minister of State

In 1905 his ARP lost the elections and was confined to opposition. Between 1905 and 1907 Kuyper made a grand tour around the Mediterranean. In 1907 Kuyper became honorary doctor at the Delft University of Technology. In 1907 he was re-elected chair of the ARP, a post which he would hold to his death in 1920. In 1907 Kuyper wanted to return to parliament. In a by-election in Sneek he needed the support of the local CHU. They refused him support. This led to a personal conflict between Kuyper and De Savorin Lohman. In 1908 he came into conflict with Heemskerk, who had not involved him in the formation of the CHU/ARP/Catholic General League cabinet, thereby denying him the chance to return as minister. In 1908 Kuyper received the honorary title of minister of state. He was elected into the Tweede Kamer for the district of Ommen in the by-elections in the same year, defeating the liberal De Meester. He also ran in Sneek where he was elected as sole candidate. Kuyper took the seat for Ommen. In 1909 he was made chair of the committee which would write the new orthography of the Dutch language. In the same year he also received an honorary doctorate at the Catholic University of Leuven. In the 1909 elections he was re-elected in Ommen, defeating the liberal Teesselink, but he was defeated in Dordrecht by the liberal De Kanter.

In 1909 he came under heavy criticism in the so-called decorations affairs (lintjeszaak). While minister of home affairs, Kuyper allegedly received money from one Rudolf Lehman, to make him Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. A parliamentary debate was held on the subject and a committee of wise men was instituted to research the claim. In 1910 the committee reported that Kuyper was innocent. Between 1910 and 1912 he was member of the committee headed by Heemskerk, which prepared a revision of the constitution. In 1912 he resigned his seat in parliament for health reasons, but he returned to politics in the following year, this time as a member of the Eerste Kamer for the province of South Holland. He would retain this seat until his death. In 1913 he was made commander int the Order of the Dutch Lion. During the First World War Kuyper sided with the Germans, because he had opposed the English since the Boer wars. In 1918 Kuyper played an important role in the formation of the first cabinet led by Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck. In 1920, at the age of 83 Kuyper died in The Hague and was buried amid great public attention.