Frederick Muhlenberg, US Congress

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Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg

Also Known As: "Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg"
Birthplace: Trappe, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Died in Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
Place of Burial: Woodward Hill Cemetery Lancaster Lancaster County Pennsylvania
Immediate Family:

Son of Heinrich Melchior Muhlenberg and Anna Maria Muhlenberg
Husband of Anna Catherine Catherine Muhlenberg
Father of Maria Catherine Hiester
Brother of Gen. Peter Muhlenberg (Cont. Army), U.S. Senator; Eve Elizabeth Shulze; Margaret Henrietta Kunze; Gotthilf Muhlenberg, Botanist; Mary Catherine Muhlenberg and 6 others

Occupation: First Speaker of The House of Representatives and first signer of The Bill of Rights (USA)
Managed by: Paul Douglas Van Dillen
Last Updated:

About Frederick Muhlenberg, US Congress

Frederick Muhlenberg

Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (January 1, 1750 – June 4, 1801), was an American minister and politician who was the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. A delegate and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and a Lutheran pastor by profession, Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania.

According to an urban legend, Muhlenberg as House Speaker prevented German from becoming the official language of the United States.

Early life and ministerial career

Frederick Muhlenberg was the son of Henry Muhlenberg, an immigrant from Germany and considered the founder of the Lutheran Church in America. His brother, Peter, was a General in the Continental Army. Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania.

He attended the University of Halle, Germany, where he studied theology, and was ordained by the Pennsylvania Ministerium as a minister of the Lutheran Church on October 25, 1770. He preached in Stouchsburg, Pennsylvania, and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from 1770 - 1774, and in New York City from 1774 - 1776. When the British entered New York at the onset of the American Revolutionary War, he felt obliged to leave, and returned to Trappe. He moved to New Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, and was pastor there and in Oley and New Goshenhoppen until August 1779.

Political career

Muhlenberg was a member of the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780, and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1780 to 1783 and was elected its speaker on November 3, 1780. He was a delegate to and president of the State constitutional convention in 1787 called to ratify the Federal Constitution. He was the first signer of the Bill of Rights.

Elected to the First and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1789–March 4, 1797), Muhlenberg was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for the First Congress (1789-1791) and Third Congress (1793-1795). He did not seek renomination in 1796.

In 1794, during Muhlenberg's second tenure as speaker, the House voted 42-41 against a proposal to translate some of laws into German. Muhlenberg, who himself abstained from the vote, commented later, "the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be." Despite not even voting for the bill, an urban legend called the Muhlenberg legend was started, stating that he was responsible for not letting German become an official language of the United States.

He also according to another urban legend suggested that the title of the President of the United States should be "Mr. President" instead of "High Mightiness" or "His Elected Majesty".

Muhlenberg was also president of the council of censors of Pennsylvania, and was appointed receiver general of the Pennsylvania Land Office on January 8, 1800, and served until his death in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on June 4, 1801. He was interred in Woodward Hill Cemetery there. After his death, the Township of Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania, was named for him.

In World War II the United States liberty ship SS F. A. C. Muhlenberg was named in his honor.

The first Speaker of the House of Representatives, Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania —died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From a distinguished Pennsylvania Lutheran family, Muhlenberg was educated in Germany, and became a Lutheran minister in 1770. Several factors favored his election on April 1, 1789, as House Speaker. First, he had practical experience as the presiding officer of the Pennsylvania legislature. Second, the selection of Muhlenberg was something of a political compromise that powerfully symbolized sectional balance for the new republic: President George Washington of Virginia, was a southerner; Vice President John Adams of Massachusetts, was a New Englander; and Speaker Muhlenberg was from the Mid-Atlantic. Third, Muhlenberg’s physical bearing also conveyed dignity and authority. Columbian Magazine observed that his “rubicund complexion and oval face, hair full powdered, tamboured satin vest of ample dimensions, dark blue coat with gilt buttons, and a sonorous voice, all corresponding in appearance and sound with his magnificent name.” He was the first signer of the Bill of Rights. Frederick Muhlenberg was the son of Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, an immigrant from Germany and considered the founder of the Lutheran Church in America. His brother, Peter, was a General in the Continental Army and his brother Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst was a botanist. Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania.On October 15, 1771, he married Catherine Schaeffer, the daughter of wealthy Philadelphia sugar refiner David Schaeffer. They had seven children.

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Frederick Muhlenberg, US Congress's Timeline

January 1, 1750
Trappe, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, USA
Age 24
June 4, 1801
Age 51
Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
Woodward Hill Cemetery Lancaster Lancaster County Pennsylvania