History, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Germans in America: Retrospect and Prospect. Tricentennial Lectures Delivered at the German Society of Pennsylvania in 1983. Edited by Randall M. Miller (Philadelphia: The German Society of Pennsylvania, 1984), pp. 57- 74.


Copyright © 1984 The German Society of Pennsylvania.


For a hundred years, from the Age of Jackson to the Era of Franklin Roosevelt, German Americans complained about the political apathy they perceived to be characteristic of their ethnic group. As they saw it, German immigrants tended to be phlegmatic or lethargic when it came to political matters, at least in contrast to the vigor and industry they displayed in their economic pursuits. The Germans also appeared to be politically backward and ineffective, at least in comparison to the Irish. In this view, apathy explained why the number of German Americans nominated and elected to political office was rarely commensurate with the proportion of German Americans in the electorate. The frequently voiced complaint went still further: American politicians paid insufficient attention to the needs and desires of their German constituents, and they rarely seemed to appreciate the magnificent contributions Germans had made to American greatness.