Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, 3 August 1754

From Henry Melchior Muhlenberg5

Abstract: MS minutes of the German Charitable School Society: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Providence Augt. 3d. 17546

That he rejoiced much in hearing an illustrious Society at home had undertaken to sollicit a Charity and carry on a Scheme for promoting the Knowlege of God among the Germans in Pennsylvania &c. and for making them loyal Subjects to the sacred Protestant Throne of Great Britain;7 and that he was pleas’d the Managment of said Charity was entrusted to such impartial Persons. But, as by long Experience, he was acquainted with almost all the Corners of Pennsylvania, and with the Temper and Circumstances of his Countrymen, he much fear’d some ill-minded Persons would strive to defeat so just and noble a View, as they had of late done many others, to the Offence of many thousand ignorant, but well-meaning Souls, unless proper Measures were taken to prevent it.

The joyful News were no sooner heard than Mr. Sauer, who prints a German News-paper, which is universally read by the Germans all over Pennsylvania and the neighbouring Colonies,8 made haste to ferment them against the Scheme, as may be seen from the Extracts which are subjoin’d and literally translated from his Paper.9 Hence then it appears that such a Man has it much in his Power, and too evidently in his Disposition, greatly to retard this good work and stir up the People against their gracious Superiours and their inestimable Benevolence for the Welfare of poor ignorant Souls.

Mr. Muhlenberg further observes that Mr. Franklin having at great Expence set up another German Press,1 in order to rescue the Germans out of Sauer’s Hands, and the Hands of those whose Interest it is, by Sauer’s Means, to mislead and keep them in Ignorance; but that for Want of a German Printer with sufficient Skill and Correspondence, and a proper Interest made to support Mr. Franklin’s Undertaking, Sauer kept the Advantage, continuing to mislead the People, turn them against their Clergy and every Body that endeavoured to reduce them to Order in Church and State. That he (Mr. Muhlenberg himself) once attempted to buy a Press, on Purpose to rescue his ignorant Country, and instil sound Notions in them concerning the inestimable Privileges, spiritual and temporal, which they enjoy under the sacred protestant Throne of great Britain; but that by Reason of his large encreasing Family and narrow Circumstances, he had been obliged to drop his Design, and beheld his poor Countrymen as much poison’d as ever, with Notions that may produce unhappy Consequences in very remote Periods. That he saw no Way to cure this growing Evil, unless the honourable Society or their Trustees in Pennsylvania, should be at the Expence of bu[y]ing a Press, and make a proper Interest to support a News Paper, Almanack &c. That He would undertake the Direction of the said Press under the Trustees; that he would use his whole Influence among his People and Bretheren to support it, and that a Person might be got who could manage the Press and serve as a Schoolmaster at the same Time. He adds that he did not doubt of the Success of this Scheme, since he had a large Correspondence with pious German Ministers and Congregations, in Pensylvania, New-York, new England, Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Carolina and Georgia, who could be engaged to support it, without putting the Society to any Expence, especially if the Printing house is in the Country, where there is no House-rent and where the same person might serve as Schoolmaster and chief printer.

He further laments the Riots, Disloyalty, and Irreligion which are nursed among his Countrymen by thus stirring them up against pious and regularly ordain’d Clergy, while vicious Vagabonds, coming in without Orders and Credentials are indulged, many of whom are justly suspected to be more in the French than British Interest. They marry People without Discretion, trade with the Sacraments and Ordinances, and sow Prejudices against the English Government. One, who names himself Charles Rudolph, Prince of Wirtenberg and Minister of the Gospel,2 is a Stroler of this Kind. Yet it can be proved that he made a Conspiracy with the Indians against the English and escaped the Gallows in Georgia, by stealing a Boat and running over to the Spaniards; and is infamous all over America for Riots and breaking of Goals, nevertheless he is followed as a Lutheran, and somtimes as a Calvinist Minister. Another, named Engelland,3 turned in Germany Roman Catholic, was under the hands of the Hangman, reprieved at the Intercession of the Jesuits, after receiving 80 Lashes at the Gallows, was banish’d the Spanish Netherlands for stealing and carrying off innocent Children, and now about Lancaster and York he breeds Dissensions &c. by passing as a Lutheran Minister. There are many more of the same Sort, which we shall never get rid of, nor reduce the People to Order, till our gracious Superiors are pleas’d to demand proper Credentials of all who exercise the Ministry, and not suffer Vagabonds to laugh at us, who are regular Clergymen, by saying it is a free Country and turning Liberty into Licentiousness.

In all this, such Vagabonds are supported by Mr. Sauer in his news-paper, who is a professed Adversary to all regularly ordain’d Clergy, and who by varnishing over the Crimes of these People, draws Conclusions a particulari ad Universale, and persuades ignorant People to Quakerism and even Heathenism; For he often tells the People that Clergy of all kinds are Rogues and Tools of tyrranical Government to awe the Mob.

I have no View but the Good of my poor Countrymen, and therefore I hope you’ll consider these Things and pardon my Boldness.4

(sic subscribitur) Henry Mühlenberg

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711–1787), educated at Göttingen, taught at Halle, came to Pennsylvania, 1742, as pastor of the United Lutheran congregation. “I hope, by God’s grace, to establish some order,” he wrote on setting out. He did. Building churches, training ministers, teaching and disciplining the congregations, he likened himself to a sheep dog which must round up sheep and goats in the pasture by barking at them, and herd them into one flock. Paul A. W. Wallace, The Muhlenbergs of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1950), PP. 33, 37; DAB.

6This letter was read at the first meeting of the trustees of the Society for the Relief and Instruction of Poor Germans, held at William Allen’s place at Mt. Airy, August 10. The trustees resolved to open English schools as soon as possible at Reading, York, Easton, Lancaster, Hanover, and Skippack, and to appoint a group of local visitors for each, who must be German Lutheran, German Reformed, and Protestant English in more or less equal numbers. They also directed William Smith, whom they named secretary, to prepare a short account of the Society. Smith’s draft was approved, December 10, and was published in English (by Franklin and Hall) and in German (by Anton Armbrüster) as A Brief History of the Rise and Progress of the Charitable Scheme … For the Relief and Instruction of poor Germans and as Eine Kurtze Nachricht von der Christlichen und Liebreichen Anstalt. A total of 2300 copies were distributed. It was also printed in Pa. Gaz., Feb. 25, 1755. Horace W. Smith, Life and Correspondence of the Rev. William Smith, D.D. (Phila., 1880), 1, 64–5, 88–9.

7See above, pp. 203–6.

8Christopher Saur (see above, II, 358 n), printer of the Pensylvanische Berichte.

9The extracts were from Saur’s paper of June 15 and July 1.

1BF’s Die Hoch Teutsche und Englische Zeitung, published Aug. 10, 1751–Jan. 25, 1752. See above, IV, 259.

2Carl Rudolph, an impostor who claimed to be the Prince of Würtemberg, came into Pennsylvania, where he became minister of St. Michael’s church at Hanover, 1746–47. Muhlenberg mentions him often in his journal, characterizing him in 1747 as one who “roves about the whole country, whoring, stealing, gluttonizing, and swilling during the week, and on Sunday in his sermon he reviles us as horrible Pietists and refutes the Moravians in the manner of a charlatan.” He finally enlisted as a soldier and went to New England. Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein, trans., The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (3 vols., Phila., 1942–48), 1, 154, 185; Frederick L. Weis, “The Colonial Clergy of the Middle Colonies,” Amer. Antiq. Soc. Proc., LXVI (1956), 304.

3Johan Theophil Engelland (or Engelond), born in Würtemberg, after a ministry in Hamburg, Germany, settled at Strasburg, Lancaster Co., Pa., 1751. During the next 22 years he served churches there, in Ephrata and Elizabethtown, Pa., Stone Arabia, N.Y., and finally Lower Swatara, Pa. Muhlenberg recorded an opinion that he was a “very ill-disposed” person “who would break in and scatter the poor sheep and spoil everything that had been accomplished with great labor during the last sixteen years.” Muhlenberg, Journals, I, 642; Weis, “The Colonial Clergy of the Middle Colonies,” p. 214.

4Muhlenberg’s suggestion was adopted. BF offered to sell the Society a press and German types which he owned for £25 less than their fair value, Chief Justice Allen contributed £25, and the materials were acquired for £109 sterling. There was delay in arranging with a printer, and the Philadelpische Zeitung did not appear until July 12, 1755. It was a joint venture of BF and Anton Armbrüster (c. 1717–1796). A native of Mannheim, Germany, and brother of Gotthard Armbrüster, Anton came to Philadelphia about 1743. He and BF were on close terms for several years, and Armbrüster named a son for his partner. Their paper was hardly successful, never selling many more than 400 copies, which was only a fraction of Saur’s paper’s sale. The latest issue located is dated Dec. 31, 1757. Thomas, Printing, I, 247–50; Smith, William Smith, I, 72–3, 96–7.

Index Entries