The Trial of Frederick Eberle: Language, Patriotism and Citizenship in Philadelphia's German Community, 1790 to 1830

Overview

Winner of the 2011 St. Paul, Biglerville Prize from the Lutheran Historical Society of the Mid-Atlantic

In the summer of 1816, the state of Pennsylvania tried fifty-nine German-Americans on charges of conspiracy and rioting. The accused had, according to the indictment, conspired to prevent with physical force the introduction of the English language into the largest German church in North America, Philadelphia’s Lutheran congregation of St. ...

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The Trial of Frederick Eberle: Language, Patriotism and Citizenship in Philadelphia's German Community, 1790 to 1830

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Overview

Winner of the 2011 St. Paul, Biglerville Prize from the Lutheran Historical Society of the Mid-Atlantic

In the summer of 1816, the state of Pennsylvania tried fifty-nine German-Americans on charges of conspiracy and rioting. The accused had, according to the indictment, conspired to prevent with physical force the introduction of the English language into the largest German church in North America, Philadelphia’s Lutheran congregation of St. Michael’s and Zion. The trial marked the climax of an increasingly violent conflict over language choice in Philadelphia’s German community, with members bitterly divided into those who favored the exclusive use of German in their church, and those who preferred occasional services in English. At trial, witnesses, lawyers, defendants, and the judge explicitly linked language to class, citizenship, patriotism, religion, and violence.

Mining many previously unexamined sources, including German-language writings, witness testimonies, and the opinions of prominent legal professionals, Friederike Baer uses legal conflict as a prism through which to explore the significance of language in the early American republic. The Trial of Frederick Eberle reminds us that debates over language have always been about far more than just language. Baer demonstrates that the 1816 trial was not a battle between Americans and immigrants, or German-speakers and English-speakers. Instead, the individuals involved in the case seized and exploited English and German as powerful symbols of competing cultural, economic, and social interests.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is microhistory at its best. Baer has selected a single event and brilliantly used it to explore the larger culture and society of the time. With great clarity and insight Baer has investigated multicultural issues of language and the assimilation of immigrants that are as relevant for us today as they were to Americans two centuries ago. This is a very important and timely book."

-Gordon S. Wood,Brown University

"Vividly recreates this fascinating inter-ethnic group controversy about the meaning of language for culture and citizenship in the early republic."
-American Historical Review

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“This case study is fascinating in part because of the richness of its sources.”
-The Journal of American History

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“Baer presents the larger history of the congregational conflict, which began long before the trial and continued long afterwards. She also exposes the thick complexity of the conflict, which involved competing understandings of citizenship in the new American republic. Hers is at once a social, cultural, and religious history.”
-Lutheran Quarterly

,

“Baer presents the larger history of the congregational conflict, which began long before the trial and continued long afterwards. She also exposes the thick complexity of the conflict, which involved competing understandings of citizenship in the new American republic. Hers is at once a social, cultural, and religious history.”
-Lutheran Quarterly

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814799802
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Friederike Baer teaches American Studies at Temple University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Language and Nation 1

1 Dragged into Courts of Justice Unnecessarily: The Trial 22

2 A Controversy Has Arisen: The History 43

3 Germans and Anglicized Eyrisch-Germans: The Parties 69

4 They Want to Steal Our Property, to Rob Our Churches: Class 95

5 All the Stimulants of a Political Election: Disorder 118

6 One of Those Cases, in Which Strong Feelings Are Unavoidably Excited: The Summations 143

7 Endeavor to Inform Our Judgments and Act Impartially: The Outcome 166

Appendix 1 The Defendants 191

Appendix 2 Members of the Grand Jury (Mayor's Court, March 1816 Session) 194

Appendix 3 Nisi Prius Jury 196

Appendix 4 The Prosecution Witnesses 197

Appendix 5 The Defense Witnesses 198

Notes 199

Bibliography 245

Index 265

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