"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg

This 1790 portrait of Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (1750-1801) by Joseph Wright hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, a former Lutheran minister and a member of the most prominent German family in America, was elected the first Speaker of the United States House of Represent­atives. A jolly fellow famous for his oyster suppers, Muhlenberg had considerable experience as a presiding officer; he had served a stint as president of the Continental Congress and had presided over the state convention called to ratify the Constitution in 1787. With President George Washington coming from the South and Vice President John Adams hailing from New England, Muhlenburg's selection provided a nice geographic balance for the new government's start.

Muhlenberg is pictured in the act of signing House Bill 65, "An Act to regulate Trade and Inter­course with the Indian Tribes," which he did on July 20, 1790." -- National Portrait Gallery
Frederick Muhlenberg is the subject of the "Muhlenberg Legend".
"The Muhlenberg legend is an urban legend in the United States and Germany. According to the legend, Frederick Muhlenberg, the first ever Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, kept German from becoming an official language of the United States.

The kernel of truth behind this legend is a vote in the United States House of Representatives in 1794, after a group of German immigrants asked for the translation of some laws into German. This petition was rejected by a 42 to 41 vote and Muhlenberg was later quoted as having said 'the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be.'

The United States has no statutory official language; English has been used on a de facto basis, owing to its status as the country's predominant language. At times various states have passed their own official language laws." -- Wikipedia
 See also: Snopes: The German Vote

Frederick's brother Peter is also subject to mythology. See: The Portrait Gallery: John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg

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