Thoughts on ancestry.

Note: All quotations are from “German-American Folklore”, Mack E. Berrick.

I used to know somebody on Facebook who got upset when I claimed that Southerners weren’t especially persecuted. As an example I mentioned the fact that we were called “dumb Dutchies” growing up. They took that as one town in PA mocking another town’s dialect, but Southerners were especially persecuted because they had become a byword for stupidity. My point wasn’t that Southerners weren’t picked on, certainly they’re more widely known than the PA Dutch, but rather that other groups got picked on for many of the same things they claimed as uniquely Southern persecutions, e.g. not being able to handle/complaining about the weather, their slow way of speaking, and so on. I gave up because the discussion was pretty pointless, but even though they’ll likely never read this, I figured I’d document that, among other things. So let’s start with the stupidity.

“During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), the Palatinate was again overrun, and migration to Pennsylvania began in earnest. Fearing that these Germans would become a dominant force, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed laws requiring them to swear allegiance to the British Crown, increasing taxes on newcomers, and threatening disenfranchisement until they learned English.1 The attitude of the English toward the Germans is epitomized in a letter written by Benjamin Franklin in 1753, characterizing them as “the most stupid of their nation,” and expressing the fear that German would soon become the official language of the state.2 Ironically, there is an apochryphal legend that when the first national House of Representatives met in 1789 to decide, among other matters, the official language of the new nation, a tie vote between German and English was broken by the speaker, Friedrich Augustus Mühlenberg, a Pennsylvania German, who voted in favor of English.3″

So not only were we considered stupid, we were the original immigrant terror. Yay us! Speaking of Republicans, my mom once said that she hated to tell me, but my great grand father helped establish the Republican party in Schuylkill County. Let’s recall though that the Republicans were a very different beast back in the day, and probably closer to what the Democrats are today. So for example: “Some came as farmers, but substantial numbers remained in St. Louis, where their liberal political inclinations helped keep Missouri in the Union”.

I keep saying that when I moved from PA to WI, in a lot of ways I felt like I hadn’t really moved, you get polkas on the radio in both places, for instance. Apparently there’s a reason for that.

“Similarly in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania Germans who had lived for a time in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, or Illinois constituted a considerable number of settlers in the southern counties.15 However, the majority of German settlers were Forty-eighters-political refugees who had arrived with an intention of establishing German republics in the New World. In fact, when Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in
1848, there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish it as a solely German state.16 Between 1836 and 1850, about forty thousand immigrants, mostly from southern Germany, many of them Catholic, arrived in the state. One immigrant noted as early as 1852 that “German customs and usage reign in Milwaukee.”17 The long-lasting evidence of their influence, here as in St. Louis, was the founding of German breweries, making Milwaukee synonymous with beer production in the United States.18”

So let’s see, I’m liberal and generally opposed to war, good chunk of PA Dutch were and possibly still are pacifists, so check. I’ve said many times that if the Republicans changed, I’d have no problem being Republican. I’m not a Democrat because of the party, I’m a Democrat because they seem to most closely support my ideals. And the Republicans were probably closer back in the day. So check that one off too. Of course I like beer, I’m German. Mustard too, we may as well get that one out of the way. It’s sort of interesting, politically, to find so many potential similarities. I’m reminded of my grand father, who fought in WW II, but also once remarked of Native Americans “we should’ve left them the hell alone”. I couldn’t agree more.


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