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 Koerner's autobiography, which contains much matter of great interest, still remains unpublished.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

WASHINGTON Feb. 19th 1847


Your favor was duly recd and I have delayed answering it, hoping I might be able to give you some definite intelligence in relation to the prospect of accomplishing your wishes in regard to young Engelmann. The President gives us only three companies out of the ten regiments to be raised. He had lots of applications and I found I could do nothing for him in organizing these Companies. A law will pass before we adjourn I think, authorizing the President to retain as many of the Volunteers now in the Service, as may wish to continue during the war. In this organization I think I can provide for Engelmann I will do all in my power to procure for him the post you name. We have had a noisy, boisterous Session & will leave a great deal of business unfinished. Will probably levy a War duty on Tea & Coffee &c & as a revenue measure, reduce the price of the public Lands. My labors have been such as to preclude me from writing my friends. When I see you I will give you a history of matters and things in general. I am in haste

Truly your friend & obt. Servt.