Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg was born January 1, 1750 in Trappe, Pennsylvania.
His father was Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, an immigrant from Germany and considered the founder of the Lutheran Church in America.
In 1769, Frederick attended the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, where he studied theology. He was ordained as a minister of the Lutheran Church on October 25, 1770.
He preached in Stouchsburg, Pennsylvania, and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from 1770 to 1774, and in New York City from 1774 to 1776.
On October 15, 1771, Frederick married Catherine Schaeffer, the daughter of wealthy Philadelphia sugar refiner David Schaeffer. The couple would go on to have seven children.
Then when the British entered New York at the onset of the American Revolutionary War, he felt obliged to leave and returned to Trappe, Pennsylvania.
His older brother Peter became a General in the Continental Army.
Frederick then moved his family to New Hanover Township, Pennsylvania and was pastor there, then in Oley and finally New Goshenhoppen until August of 1779.
Frederick Muhlenberg represented Pennsylvania as a member of the Second Continental Congress in 1779.
He then served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives beginning in 1780 and was elected its speaker on November 3, 1780.
In 1787, he became president of the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention in order to ratify the new Federal Constitution.
First Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
On March 4, 1789, Frederick became a member of the First United States Congress as a delegate from Pennsylvania to the United States House of Representatives in New York City’s Federal Hall.
Then on April 1, 1789, the House of Representatives held its first quorum and elected Frederick Muhlenberg as its first House Speaker.
According to legend, Frederick Muhlenberg suggested that the title of the President of the United States should be “Mr. President” instead of “His High Mightiness” or “His Elected Majesty”, as John Adams had suggested.
On August 24, 1789, the House approved and forwarded to the Senate the 17 amendments known as the Bill of Rights.
The final version of the Bill of Rights were adopted by a joint resolution of Congress of September 25, 1789. Frederick Muhlenberg was the first signer of the Bill of Rights.
Frederick served as Speaker until March 4, 1791. He was then elected once more as the Third Speaker of the House on December 2, 1793, serving until March 4, 1795.
He did not seek renomination as Speaker in 1796 and retired from Congress to serve as president of the council of censors of Pennsylvania and was oppointed receiver general of the Pennsylvania Land Office on January 8, 1800.
Frederick died at the age of 51 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on June 4, 1801.
He was interred in Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.
After his death, the Township of Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania, was named for him.
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