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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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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.

Oct. 18th, 1837.


Yours of the 7th inst I received today. Am pleased to hear you and your family are well. My own health is as usual, middling. We adjourned on yesterday about 10 o'clock. The subtreasury scheme was laid on the table by a vote of 120 to 107. I voted in the majority believing it better that some expression should be obtained from the people and if it is to be adopted no injury can result from its suspension until December. I do not like to believe that it will ever be adopted, time however will prove all, was it in the power of Congress to restrain Banking in the States the policy of the measure would be


apparent, so long as that is the case, it would be attended with difficult and unpleasant circumstances, the Government exacting one kind of money while the people would be constrained to use another, in Illinois where the Government received much money but never disburses any the effect would be injurious. You know I do not like Banking or Banks, true we are in the midst of the evil, the true course is to apply gentle and restorative remedys.

The passage of the bill extending time to merchants, postponing the fourth installment to the states, giving time to the deposit banks to pay together with the issuing of 10 millions of Treasury warrants has already caused business to increase its activity.

I am glad that my course pleased my friends, you know my independence of thinking, and although I may have differed in some votes with the administration rest assured my aim is to give it a fair full and firm support throughout. All my feelings, all my hopes and all my desires are concentrated in these democratic principles that I was taught from infancy, but there is a time that we should pause before we take hold of party extremes.

You have I suppose seen announced the appointment of General Semple as chargé des affaires to Bogota in New Granada, I do not know whether he will accept or not he was not an applicant. I found the office was vacant and concluded to ask for it for some friend, the idea struck me it would suit Semple. The delegation from my state all united and he was confirmed without a dissenting vote in the Senate. You may rest assured that it is a matter of pride to me to have succeeded & whether Semple accepts or not it must be a source of gratification to him and his friends.

I do not believe that a convention can be got up at Kaskaskia. The truth is that the people composing my congressional district have never been used to that mode of bringing out candidates, it will not take, none but northern & eastern politicians pursue that course, for myself I have no doubt of its correctness, it is indeed the only mode by which you can test party strength. If my health continues to improve I would probably desire reelection if it does not I would decline it. I can only determine that during the winter.

I will learn who is a proper person for you to communicate with in relation to the claim of land for Doctor Bunsen's heir. There were here during the session Mr. Hunt the minister & Mr. — a member of the Texian Congress, they will both be here in December. Suppose you write a letter of inquiry leaving the address blank and enclose it in an envelope to me, I will address it, and send you the reply, do this fearful that I may forget it.

The account you give of Tamaroa is very flattering. I have no doubt but that it must succeed. The petition for a post office is addressed to the Post Master General, inclose it to me, it will require but a few signatures. Suppose you have Million named in it, he was the first that went there is an honest man, and of our side in politicks, do as you choose however about it I only suggest that, the Route is already established and will soon be contracted for. The object is to


have an office established at Tamaroa to insure it a point in the route from Belleville to Kaskaskia via of Preston which is about 12 or 14 miles south of Tamaroa on the east side of the Kaskaskia river.

Mr. Jno. Scott of Carlyle is now here and I was no little gratified to barn from him the people of his county were pleased with the manner in which you managed your law cases. I need not tell you that I take a deep interest in your success.

Congress adjourned yesterday I have been melancholy and despondent since every member almost leaving to see his family and his friends but myself, I on yesterday evening formed the desperate resolution of going to Illinois and starting today, but some fever last night and an increase of pain in my breast this morning brought me to my senses, and reconciles me better to my fate, in a few days I shall take a short tour of 8 or 10 days duration & then spend my time in the Library of Congress, which is a very splendid collection of books, I frequently think of you how you would enjoy it, had you leisure to continue in it, do not wait always to write me, only when you receive a letter from me, I am frequently so hurried that I cannot write you as often as I would wish, and it would gratify me to hear from you more frequently.

Your sincere friend,