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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : GERMANTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

GERMANTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA.

33. Early Germans in America. -- In the Colonial days, next to the English, the Germans were foremost in settling and developing our country. Long before the Puritans thought of emigrating to America, Germans had landed in various parts of the New World. As early as 1538, J. Cromberger established a printing-office in the City of Mexico, from which he issued numerous books. From 1528 to 1546 German explorers came to Venezuela also with a printing-press and with fifty miners to explore the mountains. A number of German craftsmen accompanied the first English settlers who came with Captain John Smith to Virginia. Soon after Henry Hudson had discovered the river which bears his name, Christiansen, a German, became the explorer of that stream. He also built the first homes on Manhattan Island, 1613, and laid the foundations of New Amsterdam and Fort Nassau, the present cities of New York and Albany. Peter Minuit (Minnewit), the first Director-General of New Netherland, was also a German, born in Wesel, on the lower Rhine. He arrived in New Amsterdam on May 4, 1626, and one of his first acts was the purchase of Manhattan Island, 22,000 acres, from the Indians for trinkets valued at [USD]24. He remained at his post till 1631, when he, soon after, became the founder and first director of New Sweden, at the mouth of the Delaware River. He lost his life in the West Indies during a hurricane. His successor in New Sweden was another German, Printz von Buchau, during whose regime, from 1643 to 1654, the colony became very successful and thereby aroused the jealousy of the Dutch, who, while Buchau was on a trip to Europe, attacked the colony and annexed it to New Netherland. When New Netherland, in 1664, fell a prey to the English, the colony had among its citizens numerous Germans, most of them Lutherans. A native of Hamburg, Nicholaus de Meyer, became burgomaster of New York in 1676. Another German, Augustin Herrman, made the first reliable maps of Maryland and Virginia. J. Lederer, a young German scholar, who came to Jamestown in 1668, was the first to explore Virginia and part of South Carolina. Lederer's itinerary, written in Latin, was translated by Governor Talbot of Maryland into English and published 1672 in London; etc. However, it was at Germantown, at present a suburb of Philadelphia, that Germans broke ground for the first permanent German settlement in North America. A group of Mennonites, 33 persons, landed October 6, 1683. They were received by William Penn and Franz Daniel Pastorius, a young lawyer from Frankfort on the Main. In Germantown Gerhard Henkel preached before 1726, and St. Michael's Church was begun 1730 and dedicated by the Swede J. Dylander in 1737. Pastorius had landed in America with several families on August 20 of the same year in advance of the Mennonite emigrants, in order to prepare for their arrival. The official seal of Germantown bore the inscription: |Vinum, Linum et Textrinum,| the culture of grapes, flax-growing, and the textile industries being the principal occupations of the colony. In 1690 W. Rittenhaus established in Germantown the first paper-mill in America. Here also Christopher Sauer, a native of Westphalia, published the first newspaper in German type, and in 1743 the first German Bible, antedating, by forty years, the printing of any other Bible in America. The Germans in the cloister Ephrata, Pa., established by the Tunker, or Dunkards, also owned a printing-press, a paper-mill, and a bookbindery. They published, in 1749, the Maertyrer-Spiegel, a folio of 1514 pages, the greatest literary undertaking of the American Colonies. To the Germans enumerated must be added the German Reformed; the Moravians, who founded Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania; the Salzburgers in Georgia; the Palatines in New York; etc. And what may be said of Germantown, is true also with regard to Philadelphia. June 6, 1734, Baron von Reck wrote concerning the conglomerate community of this city: |It is an abode of all religions and sects, Lutherans, Reformed, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, Quakers, Dunkards, Mennonites, Sabbatarians, Seventh-day Baptists, Separatists, Boehmists, Schwenkfeldians, Tuchfelder, Wohlwuenscher, Jews, heathen, etc.| (Jacobs, 191.) Concerning the thrifty character and all-round good citizenship of the German immigrants in Pennsylvania generally, McMaster remarks: |Wherever a German farmer lived, there were industry, order, and thrift. The size of the barns, the height the fences, the well-kept wheat fields and orchards, marked off the domain of such farmer from the lands of his shiftless Irish neighbor.| |They were,| says Scharf in his History of Maryland, 2, 423, |an industrious, frugal, temperate people, tilling their farms, accustomed to conflict with savage and other enemies on the border, and distinguished for their bold and independent spirit.| (Jacobs, 235.) Also in the cause of liberty and humanity the German immigrants in America stood in the front ranks.

34. First Anti-Slavery Declaration in America. -- The importation of negro slaves to America was practised by the English and Dutch since the sixteenth century, without disapproval on the part of the Puritans and Quakers, who boasted of being the fathers of liberty and the defenders of human rights. The inhabitants of Germantown, led by Pastorius, were the first to draw up, on February 18, 1688, a protest against this trade in human flesh and blood. The remarkable document, addressed to the meeting of the Quakers in Pennsylvania, reads as follows: |This is to ye Monthly Meeting held at Richard Warrel's. These are the reasons why we are against the traffick of men Body, as followeth: Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearful and fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vessel, being afraid it should be a Turk, and they should be taken and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done as Turcks doe? Yea rather is it worse for them, which say they are Christians; for we hear that ye most part of such Negers are brought hither against their will and consent; and that many of them are stollen. Now, tho' they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men, like as we will be done our selves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are. And those who steal or robb men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike? Here is liberty of conscience, which is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of ye body, except of evildoers which is another case. But to bring men hither, or to robb and sell them against their will, we stand against. In Europe there are many oppressed for conscience sake; and here there are those oppressed which are of a black colour. And we, who know that men must not commit adultery, some doe commit adultery in others, separating wifes from their husbands and giving them to others; and some sell the children of those poor creatures to other men. Oh! doe consider well this things, you who doe it; if you would be done at this manner? and if it is done according to Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quackers doe here handel men like they handel there ye cattel. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither, and who shall maintaine this your cause or plaid for it? Truly we can not do so, except you shall inform us better hereoff, that Christians have liberty to practise this things. Pray! What thing on the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, and sell us for slaves to strange countries, separating housbands from their wifes and children. Being now this is not done at that manner, we will be done at, therefore we contradict and are against this traffick of menbody. And we who profess that it is not lawful to steal, must likewise avoid to purchase such are stollen but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possible; and such men ought to be delivered out of ye hands of ye Robbers and sett free as well as in Europe. Then is Pennsylvania to have a good report, instead it hath now a bad one for this sacke in other countries. Especially whereas ye Europeans are desirous to know in what manner ye Quackers doe rule in their Province; and most of them doe look upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evill? If once these slaves (which they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should joint themselves, fight for their freedom and handel their masters and mastrisses as they did handel them before, will these masters and mastrisses tacke the sword at hand and warr against these poor slaves, like we are able to believe, some will not refuse to doe? Or have these Negers not as much right to fight for their freedom, as you have to keep them slaves? Now consider well this thing, if it is good or bad? and in case you find it to be good to handel these blacks at that manner, we desire and require you hereby lovingly, that you may inform us here in, which at this time never was done, that Christians have such a liberty to do so, to the end we shall be satisfied in this point, and satisfie lickewise our good friends and acquaintances in our natif country, to whose it is a terrour or fairfull thing that men should be handeld so in Pennsylvania. This is from our Meeting at Germantown held ye 18. of the 2. month 1688, to be delivered to the monthly meeting at Richard Warrel's. gerret hendericks derick op de graeff Francis Daniell Pastorius Abraham op Den graeff.| (Cronau, German Achievements, 20.) This protest was submitted at several meetings of the Quakers. But it was not before 1711 that the Quakers introduced |an act to prevent the importation of Negroes and Indians into the province,| and still later that they declared against slave-trading. Also the Salzburgers in Georgia were opposed to slavery, though Bolzius himself was compelled to buy slaves on account of the lack of white laborers. The Germans also were first and most emphatic in condemning the cruelties connected with the |white slavery| of the so-called Redemptioners.

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