Abraham Lincoln to Gustave P. Koerner, 25 July 18581
Hon. G. KoernerMy dear Sir,
Yours of late date was duly received– Many germans here are anxious to have Mr. Hecker come; but I suppose your judgement is best–2 I write this mostly because I learn we are in great danger in Madison– It is said half the Americans are going for Douglas; and that slam will ruin us if not counteracted–3 It appears to me this fact of itself, would make it, at least no harder for us to get accessions from the Germans. We must make a special job of Madison– Every^/^edge must be made to cut– Can not you, Carnesius ^Cannisius^, and some other influential Germans set a plan on foot that shall gain us accession from the Germans, and see that, at the election, none are cheated in there ^their^ ballots?– Gillespie4 thinks that thing is sometimes practiced on the German in Madison.–5 Others of us must find the way to save as many Americans as possible– Still others must do other things– Nothing must be left undone– Elsewhere things look reasonably6 well– Please write me.7
Yours as everA. Lincoln.
1This letter is a copy typed on a typewriter and is attributed to Abraham Lincoln . The original in Lincoln’s hand has not been located.
2Abraham Lincoln wrote to Gustave P. Koerner on July 15 asking him to ascertain if German Republican Friedrich K. F. Hecker would visit the Springfield region and address local German-Americans. Koerner responded two days later, writing to Lincoln that a visit from 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 was the Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 1858. See 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."
Hecker addressed a crowd of German Republicans in Bloomington in late October, and he was described by one newspaper as "the political idol of the German population of this state." Hecker also spoke in Chicago on October 23 and in Galena on October 28.
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; The Daily Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), 30 October 1858, 3:1; Chicago Daily Press and Tribune (IL), 26 October 1858, 1:4; 30 October 1858, 1:3.
3At this time the Illinois General Assembly elected the state’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, thus the outcome of races for the Illinois House of Representatives and Illinois Senate in Madison and other counties were of importance to Lincoln’s senatorial campaign.
Lincoln expressed concern about the votes of former members of the American Party in a letter to Joseph Gillespie on July 16. Gillespie responded on July 18 that Lincoln's concerns were largely correct and that at least half of the American Party votes in Illinois Senate District Twenty-One, the district Gillespie served in the Illinois Senate that included Bond, Madison, and Montgomery counties, would go to Douglas.
Allen C. Guelzo, “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392; John Clayton, comp.,The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 219; Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1923), 681;
4Handwritten “e” written over the typed “I”.
5Gillespie expressed concern about this in his letter to Lincoln on July 18. In the months following the election of 1858, there were no widespread accounts of voter fraud or convictions blamed for Lincoln's defeat. However, during the campaign, Douglas supporters attempted to win German votes by portraying Republicans as enemies of all immigrants.
Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 211, 289.
6Handwritten “y” written over the typed “e”.
7Koerner's response, if he wrote one, has not been located.
Lincoln's concern about Madison County proved prescient; Democrats swept to victory in Madison County. Madison County was located in the Eighth Illinois Congressional District. In the 1858 congressional election, Democratic candidate Phillip B. Fouke defeated Republican candidate Jehu Baker with 57.2 percent of the vote to 41.8 percent of the vote, with Madison County giving Fouke 51.2 percent of the vote to 48.1 percent for Baker. In elections for the Illinois General Assembly, Democrat Samuel A. Buckmaster from Madison County beat Gillespie by 184 votes in the Senate race. The men elected to the House in Madison County—Zephaniah B. Job (over Republican Isaac Cox) and Joseph H. Sloss (over Republican Curtis Blakeman) — both voted for Stephen A. Douglas for U.S. Senate in the 1858 Federal Election, as did Buckmaster. Lincoln would lose the Senate race to Douglas.
Howard W. Allen and Vincent A. Lacey, eds., Illinois Elections, 1818-1990 (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 11, 143; Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1923-1924, 682; Illinois Senate Journal. 1859. 21st G. A., 30; W. T. Norton, ed., Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois, and Its People, 1812 to 1912 (Chicago: Lewis, 1912), 1:81; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:547.

Typed Transcription, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).