Remarks to the Delegates of the German Societies Received at the White House

November 19, 1903

Mr. Voelckner, and gentlemen:

It gives me peculiar pleasure to greet you to-day; and it is a matter of real regret to me that I can not attend formally your celebration.

You are quite right, Mr. Chairman, when you speak of the stand that the German element in our citizenship has always taken in all crises of our national life. In the first place, from the beginning of our colonial history to this day, the German strain has been constantly increasing in importance among the many strains that go to make up our composite national character. I do not have to repeat to you the story of the early German immigration to this country—the German immigration that began in a mass toward the end of the seventeenth century, but before that time had been represented among the very first settlers. Allow me to give you one bit of ancestral experience of mine. The first head of the New York City Government who was of German birth was Leisler, about the year 1680. He was the representative of the popular faction in the New York colony of that day, and among the Leislerian aldermen was a forbear of mine named Roosevelt. You are entirely familiar, of course, with the German immigration that went to the formation of Pennsylvania from the beginning. That element was equally strong in the Mohawk Valley in New York; it was equally strong in Middle and Western Maryland. For instance, in the Revolutionary War, one of the distinguished figures contributed by New York to the cause of independence was that of the German Herkimer, whose fight in the Mohawk Valley represented one of the turning points in the struggle for independence; and one of the New York counties is now named after him. The other day I went out to the battlefield of Antietam, here in Maryland. There the Memorial Church is the German Lutheran Church, which was founded in 1768, the settlement in the neighborhood of Antietam being originally exclusively a German settlement. There is a list of its pastors, and curiously enough a series of memorial windows of men with German names—men who belonged to the Maryland regiment recruited largely from that region for the Civil War, which Maryland regiment was mainly composed of men of Ger man extraction. In the Civil War it should be difficult to paint in too strong colors what I may well-nigh call the all-importance of the attitude of the American citizens of German birth and extraction toward the cause of Union and Liberty, especially in what were then known as the border States. It would have been out of the question to have kept Missouri loyal had it not been for the German element therein. It was the German portion of the city of St. Louis which formed the core of the Union cause in Missouri, And but little less important was the. part played by the Germans in Maryland, and also in Louisville and other portions of Kentucky.

Each body of immigrants, each element that has thus been added to our national strain, has contributed something of value to the national character; and to no element do we owe more than we owe to that element represented by those whom I have the honor this day of addressing.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks to the Delegates of the German Societies Received at the White House Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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