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Gustavus Köerner

A. W. Snyder



Of the German-American leaders in Illinois politics none deserves more general recognition than Gustav Koerner. Coming to Illinois in 1833 as a result of the revolutionary uprising in Frankfort, he never lost his affection for his fatherland. Yet he was equally loyal in the service of his adopted country. He insisted always that it was the duty of the German-American to work with his neighbors for the promotion of sound ideals in politics and higher standards of civilization. This attitude won him the respect of the community in which he lived and he held a series of important public appointments. He was successively a member of the legislature, judge of the State Supreme Court, lieutenant governor, and United States minister to Spain.

During his long public career he gained a wide acquaintance among the public men of his time in Illinois and elsewhere. He was an active correspondent and left to his family an interesting collection of letters, some in English and some in German, written by many of his most prominent contemporaries. Through the courtesy of his daughters, Mrs. R. E. Rombauer of St. Louis and Mrs. Henry Engelmann of Lakewood, Ohio, I have been able to present for the annual volume of the transactions a few of the letters written to Koerner in English. The copies were carefully prepared for this purpose by his grand-daughter, Miss Bertha E. Rombauer, of St. Louis.

Brief accounts of Koerner's life may be found in Ratterman, Gustav Koerner, Ein Lebensbild; in the Illinois Historical Society's Transactions, 1904 (article by R. E. Rombauer); in Deutsch-Amerikanische Geschichtsblätter, April, 1907, (article by E. B. Greene); also in Koerner's Deutsche Element, Chicago, 1884. Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.


Letter from A. W. Snyder.

CITY OF WASHINGTON, 29th August, 1837.

Dear Sir

I reached here on day before yesterday evening and found your letter for which I am much obliged to you, there have arrived about forty or fifty members. Mr. Polk the former Speaker and Mr. Bell are here, both wish to be elected — the contest will be a close one, but I believe Mr. Polk will succeed, there is no certainty about what we are convened for, the impression prevails that no other business will be taken up but merely providing means to defray


the expenses of the Government until the money in the deposit banks can be reached by some permanent measures adopted by the general session, should this view be correct Congress will probably not sit more than six weeks and adjourn until the general session.

On the subject of the sale of land to Mr. Hilgard I am perfectly willing to sell the quantity and in the manner that he wishes it and have written by this mail to General Semple to call and see you and make the bargain. I will send a deed as soon as the land is surveyed and I can have a description.

I am much astonished at John Eckart, but a few days before I left home he called at my house, and asked me if I would as soon rescind the contract I made with him for the land. I told him I would, he said he would rather and he would pay me what he owed me, but had not the money with him, I told him that would make no odds another time would do as well, I am willing now and at all times to perform my contract if he wishes it, and pay him the moment he makes a title, but he is certainly a very strange man, he most unqualifiedly rescinded the contract with me, please tell to him I am ready to perform when he gives title to the land the deed from not good as you will perceive by reading it.

Please sell Mr. Martin the lot he wishes at $3 per acre, interest 12 per cent until paid, if he can pay one-third down I should prefer it, but sell to him at the price even should he pay none down, but pay interest.

I have this moment called on to see Blow & Rives the editors of the Globe, send me two numbers of the German Paper, I will enclose one to the editor of the Pennsylvanian and will convey one to the Globe office & effect if possible the exchange.

There are here for me upwards of forty letters, most of them on subjects connected with my representative duties and it will occupy all this week to attend to them, I will try and write you frequently and fully, and in the meantime you will always confer a favor by writing me often.

My health is somewhat impaired, I have some hopes it will gradually get better, I assure you from the business pouring in on me it is much needed.

May you enjoy health and all the blessings of life is the fervent wish of your sincere friend.




1. Probably Blair and Rives.