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Frederick Muhlenberg

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg (part 1)


In 1774, on the eve of the Revolutionary War, British forces were moving into New York City. Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, then serving as a Lutheran minister, fled to a small town called Trappe in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. From his birth, Muhlenberg was a prominent German-American, having been born in Trappe in 1750 to Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, responsible for bringing the Lutheran Church to America, and Anna Maria Weiser, daughter of the famous Conrad Weiser, who served as a Native American translator.  Frederick married the daughter of an established Philadelphia businessman, Catherine Schaeffer, in 1771[1].  Along with the auspicious impetus that brought Muhlenberg back to Montgomery County, the political career on which he would soon embark would also follow a somewhat extraordinary path.

In just four short years, Muhlenberg became a participant in the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780, joining the Pennsylvania House of Representatives shortly after.  In 1780, he was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania for three years.  The following years saw his election to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania, attempting to ratify the Federal Constitution, for which he served as President.  Within two years, he was elected to hold the significant role of the first Speaker of the House of Representatives for the United States.[2]  As the child of immigrants, Muhlenberg held an interesting position in serving as a bridge between many Pennsylvania Germans and the other constituents he represented.  While participating in all of these larger governmental functions, Muhlenberg did not lose sight of his responsibility to the people of his district within Montgomery County.  He served as Justice of the Peace for his area, even holding meetings in his own home in Trappe, as there was no public meeting place for court sessions in the early 1780s.[3]





[1] Seidensticker, Oswald. “Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg: Speaker of the House of Representatives in the First Congress, 1789.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 13 (July 1889): 184-206.
[2] “The Uniquely American Life of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg”, The Speaker’s House. http://www.speakershouse.org/, 2010.
[3] “The Uniquely American Life of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg”.