01.04.

1789: Did the German Language really almost Become Official in the U.S.?

1789: Did the German Language really almost Become Official in the U.S.?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 1 April 1789
  • Legend has it that an American German - Frederick Muhlenberg - kept German from becoming an official language of the United States. Muhlenberg was at that time, in fact, holding a very high position of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

On this day the First Speaker of the United States House of Representatives – Frederick Muhlenberg – took office. 

The Speaker holds a very high position, the third in the United States chain of political authority, immediately after the President and Vice President.

In the event that the President of the United States dies, he is succeeded by, of course, his Vice President. In the event that he dies as well, he is succeeded by the mentioned Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

It is very interesting that Frederick Muhlenberg was an ethnic German. Though born in Pennsylvania in the U.S., his parents were German immigrants.

Indeed, Muhlenberg went from America to study in Germany, at the University in Halle, near Leipzig. There Muhlenberg studied theology, which was in line with the fact that his father was a Lutheran pastor and one of the founders of the Lutheran (Protestant) Church in America.

There is a false legend that Muhlenberg, as House Speaker, prevented German from becoming the official language of the United States. Namely, the United States do not even have an official language.

The mentioned legend probably originated when some German immigrants sought the translation of U.S. laws into German, on which Muhlenberg reportedly said something like: “the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be”.

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