A German emigrant’s comments on July 4th, 1840

Excerpt from Friedrich Muench’s

Fourth of July Speech given in Washington Missouri in 1840

abbreviated and simplified by R. F. Vieth

   In 1840, Washington, Missouri was only one year old when the United States of America was celebrating its 64th birthday. The young city would celebrate the occasion at its’ own Liberty Hall, known for eagle screaming speeches. Friedrich Muench, who had just arrived six years earlier, was honored when a request was made for his comments, as follows:

“We Germans met a hearty welcome from some of you, but at the same time we heard and still hear a loud and passionate cry against us from a party that proudly call themselves “Natives.” Who, then, are properly and solely the natives of the vast territory now in possession of the United States? The red skinned hunters, who by the arms of the whites have been exiled from the country of their birth and driven to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

But, speaking particularly of my countrymen, what makes those “Nativists” cherish so hostile a feeling toward us? We newcomers, far from endangering the happy state of this country, will bring to it our skillful hands, our money, our talents, and our scientific accomplishments. We also bring the sincere desire to promote by any possible means the welfare and independence of this our adopted country.

Perhaps the “Natives” will object that we differ in customs and language. That is a circumstance harder on ourselves than on you! You are the great majority, and your language is, and forever will be, the language of all public transactions. We are eager to acquaint ourselves and our children with your language, but learning a new language is not easily achieved! That we will do, but what we shall never do is discard entirely the sweet language of our mother country, this sacred inheritance from our German forefathers.”

Gottfried Duden, had settled across the Missouri River from what was later Washington, Missouri in 1824, and lived there until 1827. In 1829, he published his Report on a Journey to the Western States of North American, which prompted German emigration to Missouri. By 1834, this prompted Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius to create the Giessen Emigration Society, leading five hundred German emigrants to Missouri. 

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