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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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

ROCK SPRINGS, ILL. May 28th 1847.

HON. G. KOERNER, DEAR SIR, I have been requested by the Committee of the Literary & Historical Society of Illinois to correspond with you with the view of ascertaining if your official & other duties will permit you to deliver the Annual Address to the Society on its anniversary, the fourth Thursday (22d) July at Upper Alton. It is the unanimous desire not only of the Committee, but of many members of the Society who have opportunity of consultation.

The Committee desire to leave to your choice & convenience the special topic, but we take the liberty respectfully to suggest that a discourse on some topic allied to German character, intellect or history would be very acceptable. Every fact & illustration that tends to remove prejudice, and furnish each class with more exact knowledge of each other's character, habits, modes of thought and history, will tend to cultivate brotherhood, good feelings and nationality.

Please give me an answer, (encouraging I hope) soon as convenient.

Yours respectfully
J. M. PECK, Cor. Secy.