Francis Daniel Pastorius and his image of America in the late 17th century

Term Paper, 2003

20 Pages, Grade: 2-


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Francis Daniel Pastorius – A Life for Germantown

III. Rob Kroes’ Selection of European Metaphors of America

IV. Francis Daniel Pastorius Recalls for Settlement (1685) - An Example for Kroes’ Theory?

V. Conclusion


I. Introduction

The idea of this work is to analyse Francis Daniel Pastorius’ perception of America in one of his first letters that encourages German people to come to the New World and settle in Pennsylvania. Being the initiator of Germantown, the first province in America founded by German immigrants, he created a special image of America.

For this purpose, I will make use of Rob Kroes’ theory which says that images of America are always influenced by certain metaphorical dimensions. In the second part of the work at hand you may learn about the metaphorical dimensions by the Dutch professor in his book “If you’ve one, you’ve seen the mall”. He is of the conviction that these dimensions have always been used in history when creating America images.

To what extent can Rob Kroes’ theory be applied to Pastorius’ image of America? As a result I can say that Pastorius’ image of America partly confirms Kroes’ metaphors, because two of the metaphorical dimensions, the spatial and the temporal ones, are contained in the analysed letter.

II. Francis Daniel Pastorius – A life for Germantown

By having a closer look on a few aspects of Pastorius’ biography, we can learn how he got the idea of immigrating to America. This is highly significant to understand his America perception which can be helpful for the later analysis of his letter.

As a son of Melchior Adam Pastorius who was a jurist and burgomaster of the important German city of Windsheim Francis Daniel was born in Sommerhausen that lies near Wurzburg, Germany, on September 26th of the year 1651, three years after the end of the Thirty-Years-War. When Pastorius was seventeen years old, he began to study law and different languages at the ‘Nürnberger Universität von Altdorf’, because his father was a jurist and he did very well in learning languages. After graduading he worked as a lawyer in Windsheim for two years: “Here in Windsheim I practiced law two years and a half, keeping mine own horse, marching from one nobleman’s house in the Province unto the other […] and in short, making nothing but work for repentance.”[1] This is an important aspect, because we learn that he was never satisfied with his profession and, in the end, with his life in Germany, although he had received a good education and worked successfully as a lawyer.

Moving to Frankfurt/Main, he got in contact with the Pietists of Frankfurt which was a religious movement of the German Protestantism[2] and also very interested in America, because they thought about creating a religious province in Pennsylvania. There, they could practice their life in deep faith--which was not possible in the European system.

While learning about the Pietists and their values Pastorius also met William Penn who was the later Governor of the Province of Germantown. He promised free land for every immigrant coming to Germantown, where a life in social freedom and religious tolerance was guaranteed. Those ideas filled Pastorius with enthusiasm, and he decided to go to America in order “to escape the disturbances and oppressions of that time.”[3] In the meantime, Pastorius became an agent of the Frankfort Land Company that worked together with the Pietists.

To sum it up there were two main reasons for leaving Europe: “One highly important cause of this emigration […] was undoubtedly the demoralized condition of Germany in consequence of the terrible civil and religious wars that again and again swept over that country.”[4] Pastorius could not practise his faith and did not see a successful future in Europe. A free practice of religion in Europe was not possible, so the Pietists’ idea of founding a province in America was a good opportunity to achieve that aim. Consequently, it appears that his image of America was a land of religious freedom and mutual tolerance, before he had ever seen the New World. A second point was the financial interest. Working for the Frankfort Land Company Pastorius learned from William Penn that America offered the chance to make a profitable business.

On September 26th of the year 1683 Pastorius landed in Philadelphia and--only one year later--he already welcomed thirteen families from Crefeld settling to the New Continent. With a sailing ship named “Concord” their passage went from Germany over London to the East coast of America. It can be assumed that Pastorius did a great job, because a year later, in 1684, more families from Rhine provinces in Germany entered the Province near Philadelphia which grew immensely. After Pastorius who was the founder of the Province of Germantown had called for more settlement in America, more and more German families emigrated and found a new home in Germantown.

Under Pastorius’ leadership the Province of Germantown developed to a big city. Therefore, he created the official seal of Germantown and became the first burgomaster in the year 1689, because he was the most respected man there. He died on February 27th of the year 1719.

III. Rob Kroes’ Selection of European Metaphors of America

In his opening essay of the book “If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen the Mall” Kroes’ focus lies on the European perception of America. Intellectuals in Europe have always created an imaginative “America” with strongly negative, but also deeply positive characteristics throughout the centuries, since the New Continent had been discovered. He provides numerous examples of positive attitudes towards America as well as negative ones. Concerning the democratic government, for instance, H.G. Wells states that America has not got problems with an old aristocratic system: “There is no territorial aristocracy, no aristocracy at all, no throne, no legitimate and acknowledged representative of that upper social structure of leisure, power, State responsibility.”[5] With his statement Wells intimates the American forms of governing and public life in that positive way to show an alternative to Europe. You can not deny that his comparison between Europe and America is very superficial, because for him the American model at all seems to be better than the European one.

On the other hand there are completely negative America images such as John Trumbell’s: “Each time Americans wondered whether their national culture really measured up, they had to admit to their lagging behind Europe.”[6] Obviously, he accuses the Americans that they have always been in Europe’s shadow.

In general, it is significant, however, that they all do not know anything about the real America. That is why they have just imagined America in metaphorical dimensions. Rob Kroes is of the opinion that these metaphors can be structured in three categories which I would like to explain in the following.

The first metaphorical dimension can be seen as a high-low component. After having been discovered by Christopher Columbus in the year 1492 a widely spread image of America was that of a vacuous and empty continent, lacking any cultural or civilizing standards. Kroes calls it a ‘Tabula Rasa’: Nothing but pure nature with natives--in other words an uncivilized country dominated by horizontal but no vertical dimensions. This blankness can be interpreted in two different ways: On the one hand a negative contemplation is possible, because America is nothing but “a loss, a void, [and] the denial of Europe’s rich cultural heritage.”[7] Having a lack of orders and institutions America can not be an equal associate of Europe and, consequently, it becomes an inferior status than Europe. By using that permanent comparison European writers have always had the intention to see themselves in an advanced position. In Kroes’ words they have constantly been “beneath the surface”.[8]


[1] Albert B. Faust, Francis Daniel Pastorius and the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of Germantown, Philadelphia 1934, 7.

[2] Vgl. Artikel Pietismus. Aus: Microsoft Encarta Enzyklopädie 2002. 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation.

[3] Albert B. Faust, F.D. Pastorius and the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of Germantown, 9.

[4] Oscar Kuhns, The German and Swiss Settlement of Colonial Pennsylvania, New York 1971, 2.

[5] Rob Kroes, American Culture in European Metaphors, The West As Will And Conception, in: Ders. (Hg.), If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen the Mall. Europeans and American Mass Culture, Chicago 1996, 10.

[6] Ebd., 11.

[7] Ebd., 13.

[8] Ebd., 14.

Excerpt out of 20 pages


Francis Daniel Pastorius and his image of America in the late 17th century
University of Kassel  (Fachbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaften)
Imagining the New World - Transatlantic Perceptions 1492-2001
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Francis, Daniel, Pastorius, America, Imagining, World, Transatlantic, Perceptions
Quote paper
Tobias Kollmann (Author), 2003, Francis Daniel Pastorius and his image of America in the late 17th century, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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