Abraham Lincoln: King Mongkut’s “Great and Good Friend”

In Act I, the King asks Anna if President Abraham Lincoln has “enough guns and elephants” for winning the war in America. Although this anecdote from the musical is not entirely historically accurate, King Mongkut did offer elephants (for domestic, not war purposes) to James Buchanan in 1859. By the time the letter reached America, Abraham Lincoln had been elected president. He responded:

“Great and Good Friend:

…I appreciate most highly Your Majesty’s tender of good offices in forwarding to this Government a stock from which a supply of elephants might be raised on our own soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful in the present condition of the United States.

Our political jurisdiction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce.

I shall have occasion at no distant day to transmit to Your Majesty some token of indication of the high sense which this Government entertains of Your Majesty’s friendship.

Meantime, wishing for Your Majesty a long and happy life, and for the generous and emulous People of Siam the highest possible prosperity, I commend both to the blessing of Almighty God.

Your Good Friend,

Abraham Lincoln

Washington, February 3, 1862

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