This collection consists of items related to German American politician Gustave Koerner's service in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844. It includes copies of speeches, a cabinet card, and a portrait of Koerner.
A native of Germany, Gustave Koerner (1809-1896) moved to St. Clair County, Illinois in 1833. He became a respected lawyer and influential figure in Illinois and national politics, particularly amongst the German American settlers of St. Clair County. Gustave Koerner (sometimes spelled "Gustav") served as a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844. He resigned his position in the legislature to become an Associate Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1844 until 1848, when he returned to his law practice in Belleville, Illinois. Koerner was the lieutenant governor of Illinois from 1853 to 1857.
Originally a Democrat, Koerner strongly opposed Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas's 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act--a measure that repealed the prohibition of slavery in some Western territories--and two years later joined the Republican Party. Koerner chaired the Illinois Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois, in 1858, which nominated Abraham Lincoln to run against Douglas for the U.S. Senate. Between 1856 and 1860, Koerner led many German Americans in Illinois to join the Republican Party, creating an important minority voting group during Lincoln's first presidential election. Under Lincoln's presidency, Koerner served as the Minister of Spain from 1862 to 1864. After the Civil War, Koerner joined the Liberal Republican Party, later returning to the Democratic Party in 1876 due to his belief that the Republican Party had fallen to corruption. Koerner remained active in his law firm, which he ran with his son, until his death in 1896.
The collection contains items from Koerner's time in the Illinois Legislature (1842-1844). It includes a copy of a speech given July 5, 1852, in which Koerner voiced his support for the Illinois Michigan Canal Bill; a speech written in French and given in Cahokia, Illinois, criticizing the nature of the government, the National Bank, and anti-Van Buren views; and a signed cabinet card photograph of Koerner. It also includes a photographic print and negative of a portrait of Koerner, dating from the 20th century.
Timothy Tucker donated the cabinet card to the Library in 1968; the remainder of the collection was acquired prior to 1957. Additional items related to Gustave Koerner, including political papers and letters, can be found in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collection's Illinois and US History Broadsides and Ephemera Collection (MS 418).