Member of Parliament
In 1873, Kuyper stood as candidate in the general election for parliament for the constituency of Gouda, but he was defeated by the incumbent member of parliament, the conservative Jonkheer Willem Maurits de Brauw. When De Brauw died the next year, Kuyper stood again in the by-election for the same district. This time he was elected to parliament, defeating the liberal candidate Herman Verners van der Loeff.
Kuyper subsequently moved to the Hague, without telling his friends in Amsterdam. In parliament he showed a particular interest in education, especially the equal financing of public and religious schools. In 1876, he wrote "Our Program" which laid the foundation for the Anti Revolutionary Party. In this programme he formulated the principle of antithesis, the conflict between the religious (reformed and Catholics) and non-religious. In 1877, he left parliament because of problems with his health, suffering from overexertion.
In 1878, Kuyper 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-Revolutionary 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 the general election of 1894, Kuyper was re-elected to the House of Representatives 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 House of Representatives. 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" (klokkeluider van de kleine luyden). His position on suffrage also led to a conflict within the ARP: a group around Alexander de Savornin Lohman 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, labour, and foreign affairs. 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. These lectures were given 10–11 October 14 and 19–21 in 1898. He also received a honorary doctorate in law there. 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.
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