Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.

PASTOR SERVES AS FIRST SPEAKER OF HOUSE

April 1st, 2010

Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg (1750-1801) was the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. A Pennsylvania delegate and member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he was also a Lutheran Pastor by profession. He served as Speaker of the House a second time (1793-1795), two years after his first election as Speaker (1789-1791).

During the war, he was in New York when the British marched on the city, forcing him and his family to flee to his parents’ home in Pennsylvania. Frederick changed his mind about Pastors being directly involved in the fight with the British and became involved. He is one of the patriots who fought valiantly behind the battle lines as America forged its way to power and greatness. He became active in Pennsylvania politics and was elected to the US Congress. He was also the first signer of the Bill of Rights. While serving in Congress, he cast the deciding vote on a controversial bill, and was stabbed by his brother-in-law. He survived the attack, but apparently his vote did cost him his political career, proving that taking a stand on political issues is dangerous, even among close relatives. [1]

Frederick Muhlenberg was the son of Pastor Henry Muhlenberg, an immigrant from Germany and considered the founder of the Lutheran Church in America. His brother, Peter, was a General in the Continental Army. Muhlenberg was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania.

He attended the University of Halle, Germany, where he studied theology, and was ordained by the Pennsylvania Ministerium as a minister of the Lutheran Church on October 25, 1770. He preached in Stouchsburg, Pennsylvania, and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from 1770–1774, and in New York City from 1774 – 1776. When the British entered New York at the onset of the American Revolutionary War, he felt obliged to leave, and returned to Trappe. He moved to New Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, and was pastor there and in Oley and New Goshenhoppen until August 1779. [1]

His Pastor Brother Also a Patriot

The Muhlenberg family and the two brothers Frederick and John Peter, both Lutheran Pastors, had an enormous impact on the early history of the United States.

Rev. John Peter Muhlenberg told his Woodstock, Virginia congregation on Sunday January 21, 1776, “a time to preach and a time to pray. But there is also a time to fight and that time has now come.” He faced a crowded church that Sunday morning. In his long black clerical gown, he read the first eight verses of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, then preached the sermon that has come down through the years as a tradition and a challenge.

After the benediction, he then cast aside his clerical robe to stand before the congregation in the uniform of a Colonel in the Eighth Virginia Regiment. He marched down that aisle as he said “we came here to practice our religious and civil liberties and if we don’t get involved we are going to lose those liberties. Who’s going with me to defend those liberties?” Drums beat in the churchyard and 300 men and boys followed him and enlisted in the Continental Army with their pastor as their leader which became the 8th Virginia Brigade.

He became a Major General and was one of George Washington’s most trusted men. His brother the Reverend Frederick Muhlenberg disagreed with him at the onset and had sent him a letter telling him he would have acted for the best if he’d kept out of this business from the beginning and that John Peter was wrong.

John Peter wrote back in his letter “you accused me of getting involved-that I shouldn’t because I am a clergyman. I am a clergyman it is true. I am a member of society as we ll as the poorest of laymen. My liberty is as dear to me as it is to any man shall I then sit still? Heaven forbid it. I am convinced it is my duty so to do and duty I owe to God and my country” [quotes is from David Barton of Wallbuilders on his CD America’s Birthday]

In 1777 British invaded NY City and they desecrated and seized his church. Rev. Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg then changed his mind. He too got involved– so much so that he became the First Speaker of the House. His is one of the two signatures on the Bill of Rights (other is John Adams).

Do you think he would want the First Amendment misinterpreted as the Courts do now? Most certainly not. He and his brother are great examples to the truth behind the first amendment. Courts need to do their job which is to interpret it according to the Founding Fathers intent. Now you know.

These pastors were great leaders of the American Revolution. Another example–the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord. Their leader was the Rev. Jonas Clark. They fought so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy today and one of them is to fight for change in our government peaceably–with discourse and informed votes. Hope many pastors will take up their stand and become involved. [2]

[1] www.answers.com/topic/frederick-muhlenberg
[2] Faith Facts, Charles and Cindy Meek

Endnote: THE EPIC STORY OF THE HEROIC MUHLENBERG FAMILY, Published by the MVHLENBERG BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION, Inc., MuhLenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, May 23, 1942 ; Gordon B. Foster, Editor – a digital book at http://goo.gl/Zfib

A SIGN FROM GOD

February 21st, 2010

The presidential election of 1824 did not give a majority to any of the

Stephen van Rensselaer

candidates. There also was no majority in the Electoral College. Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were the major contenders. Henry Clay of Kentucky and William H. Crawford of Georgia were the other two candidates.

The Twelfth Amendment (adopted in 1804 following the disputed Election of 1800) provided that elections in which no candidate received a majority should be decided by the House of Representatives from among the top three candidates. Clay was out of contention and Crawford was an unlikely prospect because of a serious illness.

Jackson clearly expected to win, figuring that the House would act to confirm his strong showing. However, Clay, as Speaker of the House, used his influence to sway the vote to Adams. Although they were not close, Clay knew that he and Adams shared a common political philosophy; Clay also knew that Jackson was an avowed opponent of the Bank of the United States, a vital component of the American System. Clay also was not interested in doing anything to further the career of the hero of New Orleans, his main rival in the West. [1]

In spite of Clay’s influence, the House of Representatives was divided and it came down to the vote of single representative from upstate New York, Stephen van Rensselaer III. Van Rensselaer was born in New York City, the eldest child of Stephen Van Rensselaer, the ninth patroon (1742–1769, a great-grandson of Mayor of New York Stephanus Van Cortlandt) and Catharina Livingston (daughter of Philip Livingston). His family was very wealthy, and the Van Rensselaer Manor House was a rich childhood environment for the young boy to grow up in. However, his father died in 1769, when van Rensselaer was only five, and the heir to his father’s estate. Van Rensselaer was raised by his mother and his stepfather, the Rev. Eilardus Westerlo, whom his mother married in 1775. [2] He served in the New York State Assembly (1789) and Senate (1791) , as lieutenant governor of New York State (1795), general of the state militia, as a member of the United States House of Representatives (1822-29). He was the founder of Renssselaer Polytechnic Institute. [3]

Each state was given one-vote in the House of Representatives. Adams had the support of twelve states, one short of what was needed. When Representative van Rensselaer entered the Chamber for the vote, he was ushered into the speaker’s room where Clay and Daniel Webster tried to persuade him to vote for Adams. They were unsuccessful in convincing him, but the combination of two of the best persuaders in American history still had its effect. Before voting, van Rensselaer bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was a slip of paper with Adam’s name on it. Accepting it is a sign from God, he put the slip of paper into the ballot box, making John Quincy Adams the sixth president of the United States. [4]

[1] U-S-History.com
[2] Stephen Van Rensselaer, Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Van_Rensselaer_III
[3] Stephen Van Rensselaer III, by Stefan Bielinski, New York State Museum
[4] On This Day, Dr. Paul E. Barkey, self-published