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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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

WASHINGTON Dec. 1st 1851


This is the day which opens the great national debating club. Senators and members are nearly all here. Boyd Ky nominated Speaker. Forney of the Penn'a Clerk — there may be some trouble in the election but I think not. The attempt to make the Compromize the basis of the Democratic creed failed as it ought. The movement was Foote's who is here. He is always in some fidget about great movements and never doing any good. Kossuth will receive a national reception. Foote means to introduce a resolution into the Senate today for that purpose. Foote says the Whigs will make capital out of Kossuth unless the Democrats make a great display. This is the feeling here. Kossuth is valued by Filmore Webster Foote and such for the amount of political capital he brings. I have just got an invitation to the dinner to Kossuth at New York. I think I will go. Genl Scott will be the Whig can'te and God knows who the Dem. The bank has paper and we will be able I fear to borrow no money — so much for State management.