Abraham Lincoln to Gustave P. Koerner, 15 July 18581
Hon. G. Koerner:My dear Sir
I have just been called on by one of our german republicans here, to ascertain if Mr Hecker could not be prevailed on to visit this region, and address the germans, at this place, and a few others at least.2 Please ascertain & write me– He would, of course, have to be paid something– Find out from him about how much–3
I have just returned from ChicagoDouglas took nothing by his motion there– In fact, by his rampant indorsement of the Dred Scott decision he drove back a few republicans who were favorably inclined towards him–4 His tactics just now, in part is, to make it appear that he is having a triumphal entry into; and march through the country; but it is all as bombastic and hollow as Napoleon's bulletins sent back from his
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campaign in Russia5– I was present at his reception in Chicago, and it certainly was very large and imposing; but judging from the opinions of others better acquainted with faces there, and by the strong call for me to speak, when he closed, I really believe we could have voted him down in that very crowd– Our meeting, twentyfour hours after, called only twelve hours before it came together and got up without trumpery, was nearly as large, and five times as enthusiastic–6
I write this, for your private eye, to assure you that there is no solid shot, in these bombastic parades of his–
Yours very trulyA. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Lincoln was the Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 1858. He ran against, and lost to, Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent. See the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention; 1858 Federal Election.
The moralizing tone of the Republican platform to stop the spread of slavery led many German-Americans to push for the party to defend immigrants. However, the Republican Party needed both the German votes and the votes of former American Party members to win in 1858. These two groups possessed decidedly opposing viewpoints, with the nativism of the American Party directing its anger at immigrants such as the Germans. Lincoln was not a supporter of nativism and in a letter to Joshua F. Speed in 1855 he wrote, "How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty refined."
In Gustave P. Koerner's reply to this letter, he writes to Lincoln that a visit from Fredrich K. F. Hecker would be unlikely to do much good because he could not win over political opponents, some of whom considered him to be the Anti-Christ. Lincoln relented, writing, "I suppose your judgement is best–" Nevertheless, Hecker did speak to German Americans on behalf of Lincoln and other Republican candidates at several locations in Illinois during the campaign, including a nearly two-hour speech in Chicago on October 23, 1858.
Alison Clark Efford, "Abraham Lincoln, German-Born Republicans, and American Citizenship," Marquette Law Review 93 (Summer 2010): 1376-78; Sabine Freitag, Friedrich Hecker: Two Lives for Liberty, trans. by Steven Rowan (St. Louis: St. Louis Mercantile Library, University of Missouri–St. Louis, 2006), 199; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:432, 458, 547; Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 15 October 1858, 1:1; 26 October 1858, 1:4; The Daily Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), 27 October 1858, 2:1.
3Koerner replied to Lincoln that no mention of payment should be brought up to Hecker, who would "feel very indignant" because "he is so disinterested that he would never claim any compensation."
4Douglas spoke to a large crowd in Chicago on July 9, 2023. Describing Lincoln's view of the Dred Scott decision, Douglas said, "He (Lincoln) thinks it is wrong because it deprives the negro of the privileges, immunities and rights of citizenship, which pertain, according to the decision, only to the white man." Describing the U.S. government, Douglas noted, "It was made by white men for the benefit of white men, to be administered by white men in such a manner as they should determine." Although conceding that any "inferior race" should have "all the rights and all the privileges and all the immunities which he is capable of exercising consistent with the safety of society," Douglas insisted that each state had a right to determine the nature and extent of those rights for itself.
Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 10 July 1858, 1:4.
5In June 1812, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia with his Grande Armée, a campaign that ended in a disastrous defeat for the French. Throughout the campaign, however, French bulletins were released to the public, twisting the truth to appear in favor of Napoleon and offering a falsely optimistic view of events. See Napoleonic Wars.
Robert Wilson, Narrative of Events During the Invasion of Russia by Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Retreat of the French Army. 1812., ed. by Herbert Randolph (London: John Murray, 1860), 14-15, 22, 368-70, 405; John Philippart, Northern Campaigns, from the Commencement of the War in 1812, to the Armistice Signed and Ratified June 4, 1813(London: Patrick Martin, 1813), 2:188-339.
6Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Chicago on July 10 in response to Douglas' speech the previous evening. He responded directly to many of his opponent's assertions, including the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court, for which he repeated his opposition to Douglas' support.
Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 12 July 1858, 1:2-6; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois; Report of Speech at Chicago, Illinois.

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).