Herman Schaepman, J.A.M.
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Orator, poet, and statesman, b. at Tubbergen, Holland, 2 March, 1844; d. at Rome, 21 Jan., 1903. He made his studies in the college of Oldenzaal and the seminaries of Kuilenberg and Ryzenburg, was ordained priest at Utrecht in 1867, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1869 at Rome. In 1870, he was professor of church history at the seminary of Ryzenburg. At the same time he became a collaborator on "De Tyd", and in 1871, in conjunction with Dr. W.J.F. Nuyens, he founded the periodical "De Wachter" (from 1874-83, "Onze Wachter"). Schaepman was a great poet. The appearance of his first poem, "De Paus" (published in 1866), was a literary event. Among his later poems those of especial note are: "De Pers, De eeuw en haar koning, Napoleon" (1873), and his master work "Aya Sofia" (1886). Schaepman ranks equally as prose-writer and poet. By turns lofty, incisive, sarcastic, vigorous, witty, his whole soul finds expression in his prose, the originality of its style being so striking that its authorship is recognized at first glance. His principal prose writings are collected in five volumes under the title "Menschen en Boeken" (Utrecht, 1893-1902).
Schaepman was no less distinguished as an orator. For many years he was considered the first orator of the nation. His convincing, powerful, and irresistible manner was first displayed in his famous "Park speech", delivered in Amsterdam (1871), and was evinced in his speech at the Congress of Middelburgh (1872) and in those on Pius IX, Vondel, the Maid of Orléans, De Taal, Daniel O'Connell, Michel Angelo etc. His last oration, delivered in 1902, was in honour of Monseigneur Hamer. Schaepman's eloquence won him great honours in the political arena; he was the first priest to be elected to the States-General, and he ever fought valiently for the emancipation of the Catholics. In 1883 he formulated and presented a programme of action, his motto being " Catholics constitute a political personality which demands liberty." Unfortunately the majority of Catholic politicians had as yet no notion of such a personality, and Schaepmann was either ignored or opposed. But even at that time he entertained the idea of an eventual coalition between Catholics and Protestants, and for that reason supported the project for the revision of the Constitution (1887). The revision of the school-law is mainly due to him. Schaepman developed more and more the qualities of the true statesman. The democratic movement was a fact, the significance of which he fully realized, and, instead of vainly trying to stem it, he endeavoured to secure a hold on it. For this reason he acted independently in regard to the law concerning personal military service (1891-98), the Tak elections law (1894), and the compulsory education law (1900), his Catholic oppononents had, no doubt, good intentions, but they forgot that now they had influence and were able to obtain what was formerly beyond their reacy. Unquestionably Schaepman, in the beginning of his political career, was adverse to paternalism in government and wished to limit its functions to what was absolutely necessary. Later, however, he followed more in the footsteps of von Ketteler. Instead of allowing inevitable events to become detrimental to Catholics, he sought to shape them as far as possible, to Catholic advantage. One of Schaepman's greatest achievements was the coalition which, in conjunction with Dr. Kuyper, he brought about between Catholics and anti-revolutionists, whereby the influence of the Catholics was greatly increased. Since that event, Holland has had three successive ministries animated by distinctively Christian principles. Schaepman's merits were recognized by Leo XIII, who bestowed upon him the rank of domestic prelate and prothonotary Apostolic.
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