Francis Daniel Pastorius

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Francis Daniel Pastorius
Francis Daniel Pastorius relief.jpg
Bas-relief impression of Francis Daniel Pastorius, c. 1897.
Born Franz Daniel Pastorius
(1651-09-26)September 26, 1651
Sommerhausen, Franconia
Died c. 1720 (aged 68–69)
Occupation lawyer, poet, scholar, schoolteacher, abolitionist, founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania
Spouse(s) Ennecke Klostermanns (1658-1723) (m. 1688)

Francis Daniel Pastorius (September 26, 1651 – c. 1720) was the founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania, now part of Philadelphia, the first permanent German settlement and the gateway for subsequent emigrants from Germany. He was "the first poet of consequence in Pennsylvania [ . . . and] one of the most important poets of early America" (Meserole, p. 294). His extensive commonplace compilations provide insight into early Enlightenment culture in colonial Pennsylvania.

Early life[edit]

Born in Sommerhausen, German Duchy of Franconia, to a prosperous Lutheran family, he was trained as a lawyer in some of the best German universities of his day, including the University of Altdorf, the University of Strasbourg and the University of Jena. He started his practice in Windsheim and Frankfurt-am-Main. He was a close friend of the German Pietist leader Philipp Jakob Spener during the early development of Spener's movement in Frankfurt. From 1680 to 1682, he worked as a tutor accompanying a young nobleman during his Wanderjahr through Germany, England, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

To Philadelphia[edit]

In 1683, a group of Mennonites, Pietists, and Quakers – like Abraham op den Graeff – in Frankfurt approached Pastorius about acting as their agent to purchase land in Pennsylvania for a settlement. Pastorius took passage to Philadelphia. In 1688 he drafted the first protest against slavery in America.

Home of Francis Daniel Pastorius in Germantown, as it appeared circa 1919

In Philadelphia, he negotiated the purchase of 15,000 acres (61 km²) from William Penn, the proprietor of the colony, and laid out the settlement of Germantown, where he himself would live until his death.


As one of Germantown's leading citizens, Pastorius served in many public offices and wrote extensively on topics ranging from beekeeping to religion. He was also a skilled poet whose work appears in the New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse (ISBN 0-19-214164-3). Pastorius' most important book was his manuscript “Bee Hive,” which is now in the University of Pennsylvania's rare book room. It is his commonplace book, which contains poetry, his thoughts on religion and politics, and lists of books he consulted along with excerpts from those books. Also of interest is his Geographical Description of Pennsylvania, first published under the title, Umständige geographische Beschreibung der allerletzt erfundenen Provintz Pennsylvania (1700).[1] He also left a published book of letters home to Germany and treatises on horticulture, law,[2] and medicine.


Though raised as a Pietist Lutheran, he grew close to Quakerism. In 1688, he and three Germantown Quakers joined in signing The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, the first petition against slavery made in the English colonies.

Pastorius in the Stream of History[edit]

Civil War[edit]

Before the American Civil War, when abolition of slavery was gaining strength, Pastorius was ripe for celebration. The Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier celebrated Pastorius' life – and particularly his anti-slavery advocacy – in Wikisource-logo.svg The Pennsylvania Pilgrim. Whittier also translated the Latin ode to posterity which Pastorius prefixed to his Germantown book of records.[1]

Operation Pastorius[edit]

Despite the Quaker sympathies of Pastorius, his name was appropriated in 1942 by the Abwehr of Nazi Germany for "Operation Pastorius," a failed sabotage attack on the United States in World War II that included a target in Philadelphia.


For generations Pastorius has won the affections of historians. In the early twentieth century, German-American scholars embraced him and the University of Pennsylvania professor Marion Dexter Learned wrote a lengthy biography; Learned had access to papers that have subsequently been lost. John Weaver's 1985 Ph.D. dissertation documented the cultural background of Pastorius' childhood and youth, and his reasons for emigrating to Pennsylvania in 1683. Most recently Princeton University professor Anthony Grafton has written about Pastorius as a representative of European intellectual culture.[3] Grafton's presidential address to the American Historical Association in 2012 was on Pastorius.[4]



Writings by Pastorius[edit]

  • Deliciæ Hortenses, or Garden-Recreations, and Voluptates Apianæ, ed. Christoph E. Schweitzer (Columbia, South Carolina: Camden House, 1982).

External links[edit]