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Gustavus Köerner



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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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


On my return from a tour in the country I have the gratification to receive a letter from you having date June 20 containing a suggestion in relation to the distribution of the ‘Messenger of Liberty’ among the German population in Fayette & Effingham counties. I thank you most kindly for the suggestion. It shall be immediately attended to. I will forward the names of some of the most prominent Germans in Effingham. Several numbers are now taken in this place, and as you say its effects are most miraculous.

I am never sanguine in my calculations of election results, but, unless some unlocked for revolution in the public mind, should in the mean time, take place, you may certainly calculate on the election of the entire democratic ticket in this District — Senator & all. Shelby will give a majority for V. B. of, at least 650. Bond will secure her representation in the House of Reps. Montgomery will stand as now. Contrary to all expectation, it is confidently asserted that Coles will elect Democrats. Clark will, almost certainly, do likewise. Both, heretofore, have sent Whigs.

I do conscientiously believe that the Democratic vote of Illinois will be increased — without reference to the increased population — at least 20 per ct. in the approaching presidential election.

The Springfield humbug has wrought, & is working wonders. I would not have stopped it, if I could have done it.

Thanking you most kindly for your note, I am Dr Sir

Yrs Most truly

July 8, 1840.