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Post In Praise of German-Americans
Created by John Eipper on 06/20/17 6:32 AM

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In Praise of German-Americans (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 06/20/17 6:32 am)

The following post is dedicated to our esteemed Moderator and to all Deutschamerikaners.

Why not a Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika?

In 2010, of a population of about 325,000,000, almost 50,000,000 Americans were of German ancestry, while another 100 million had some German blood. The other nationalities are Irish 35 million, Mexicans 31 million and increasing, Britons 26 million, Italians 17 million, Poles 9 million, and Scots 5 million. If we include Austrians, Swiss and Sudetens, Germans may even reach the majority.

So why is the US known as a British country instead of German?

There are several reasons why the US is not a German nation. I will try to explain how it seems to me but I may be wrong.

The Germans started to move in great numbers to America only after the Napoleonic wars.  Up to then they had migrated Eastwards. When they moved to America they already found a British state.

Furthermore, at that time there was not a united Germany but almost 300 small states, including free towns all the way up to the Kingdom of Prussia. Therefore the inhabitants identified as Saxons, Bavarians, Svevs, Prussians, Austrians, Frisians, etc.

On top of this you should add the various culture such as Yiddish, North German, South German, plus the various religious denominations. Therefore the impact in North America was not unified.

To be precise, also prior to 1776 Germans moved, mostly to Pennsylvania, and during the war of independence they divided their loyalties--some 50,000 German soldiers were hired by the British, of whom 5000 deserted and joined the colonists.

Among the early immigrations we also had the Amish and the Mennonites, who still speak German (or an old German dialect).  They arrived beginning in 1683. By the way, Bismarck is the only US town that is named after a foreign leader.

In spite of the persecution 1917-45, when many Germans changed their names, they prospered. In fact, the so-called persecution was compensated by the nomination of great German-American leaders to guide the nation to victory--see Pershing, Eisenhower, Spaatz, Nimitz, Arnold. I personally may have reservations about some of them, but it is another story.

The Germans have transformed the soul of the United States. With their naturally developed social discipline, egalitarianism and industry, the Germans have succeeded in overcoming and forgetting their original small mosaic Vaterlands to create a new nation. Uniting the Presbyterianism of the Scots and the morality of the Britons to the values they have created Evangelism, a main point of the national ideology.

Let's hope that in the future this noble influence will not dwindle.

JE comments:  The 50% German in me (33%?  Don't know if that's possible) thanks you, Eugenio!  It's not hard to explain why the US is English and not German-speaking:  It has to do with the original colonial institutions and the hegemony of English-speaking elites.  The more interesting question concerns the "invisibility" of German ancestry in the US.  Why is it that, say, Italian or Polish or Irish ancestry makes you permanently and proudly "ethnic," but Germanness disappears in a generation?

We should pose this question to Mr Drumpf.

To Bismarck as a US city, we should add the several Bolivars scattered around the US.  And how about my residence of three years, Ypsilanti (Michigan)?

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  • Did German Almost Become the Official Language of US? (David Fleischer, Brazil 06/20/17 11:50 AM)
    During the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, there was a debate as to which should be the official language of the new USA--German lost by a few votes. Maybe John can find a citation for this affirmation.

    JE comments: I "knew" this fact, too, but apparently it's an urban legend. The great debunker website, Snopes, offers this:


    Candidates for the "almost" official language of the USA include Hebrew and Greek. Benjamin Franklin's (or conversely, the Mayflower pilgrims') preference for Hebrew has become an especially durable narrative.


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  • German-Americans in the US Civil War (Luciano Dondero, Italy 06/20/17 3:13 PM)
    Another element to factor is, adding to the thorough list outlined by Eugenio Battaglia in his excellent post of June 20th, was the character of the German immigrant population, which was to play a crucial role during the US Civil War.

    Because of their experiences in a fragmented Germany with the rotten nobility, who inflicted hundreds of years of pain on the common people, they were not so keen on slavery and had very little respect for the Southern boors' pretension to be seen as gentry.

    JE comments: Many of the German immigrants of the mid-19th century had escaped from the revolutions of 1848, and so were very "liberal" on the political spectrum. Add to this the anti-slavery convictions of the German Evangelical sects.


    Among the many impacts of the Germans on the US Civil War, it is said that the German vote/influence in St Louis kept Missouri from seceding from the Union.

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