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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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

NEW YORK, Aug. 13, 1851.


I have been here some five or six days. Shall be required to remain here three or four days longer — then go to Washington — all on business of the R. R. Co. — so that it will be about the 20th before I can start for home. I am very anxious to return as speedily as possible; and I trust I shall be there as early as the 26th inst. After I left home, and before my arrival here the R. R. Co. had sent for me to come on here — so that my departure from home was opportune.

I was nearly two days in Chicago, Douglas was absent — so was Peck, and nearly every body else. They are very much divided there on the question of a candidate for Gov. Mattison has his friends, as


well as some enemies there. I staid but a part of one night at Springfield — conversed with Calhoun and Treat. They are opposed to Mattison. Whether that circumstance is to be regarded as indicative of a prevalent sentiment round about the capitol, you can judge as well as I. I did not anywhere let my own preferences be known.

You would be acceptable everywhere, so far as I can judge, as a candidate for Lieut — and so I hope it may turn out.

Douglas has been pushed too fast, just exactly as we anticipated. I wish he were back right where he was six months ago. It would then be much easier to nominate him. There is already a regularly organized opposition to him; and with some men it is even bitter. The danger just now is from Buchanan's friends. If the free-soilers of this state will strike for Douglas at the right time, they can secure his nomination and his election and there is no other party or set of men in the Union can do the same. I am on good and intimate terms with Dix, John Van — and others of the Eve. Post. And I think I shall have the satisfaction of effecting some good for Douglas in that quarter before the convention sits. I cannot help but remark however that his ridiculous R. R. letter, all uncalled for and unnecessary, and designed solely to increase his importance in Chicago has injured him here in the estimation of every one who has taken the trouble to read his letter — I should rather say his stump speech for it is nothing else; and hardly creditable to his intellect even at that. He must give up meddling in little petty local matters if he wants to be considered a sufficiently large man for President. He ought to be above grocery stump speeches now.

If you meet my little girls tell them you have heard from me.

Yours ever