A native of Germany, Gustave Koerner (1809-96) moved in 1835 to St. Clair County, Ill., where he became a respected lawyer and an influential figure in state and national politics, eventually serving as the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois (1853-57) and the U.S. Minister to Spain (1862-64). Originally a Democrat, in 1854 he opposed Sen. Stephen A. Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act, and two years later joined the Republican Party. In 1858 Koerner chaired the Illinois Republican State Convention, at Springfield, which nominated Abraham Lincoln to oppose Douglas for the U.S. Senate. The persuasive Koerner led many German Americans in Illinois to join the Republican Party between 1856 and 1860, creating an important minority voting group during Lincoln's first presidential election. However, in the 1870s Koerner soured on the Republican Party--arguing that its leaders were corrupt and too easily swayed by business interests--and again supported the Democratic Party.
This collection contains items relating to Koerner's years in the Illinois legislature, 1842-44, including two printed copies of his speech, July 5, 1842, speech regarding the Canal Bill; a handwritten speech (in French; probably written by Koerner) on the nature of government, with regard to the National Bank, the depreciation of money, and Koerner's anti-Van Buren views; and a carte de visite of Koerner. The collection also contains two Koerner election appeals (with multiple copies of each) which are filed under "Democratic Party, St. Clair County, Ill., 1836-48, in the Broadside Collection.