living in the ‘Land of Smiles’

Chiang Mai, Thailand

1865 – Thai Army

photo: Via Teak Door


Mongkut- via wikipedia

‘King Mongkut offer of elephants to President James Buchanan’

Contrary to popular belief, King Mongkut did not offer a herd of war elephants to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War for use against the Confederacy.

He did, however, offer to send some domesticated elephants to President James Buchanan, to use as beasts of burden and means of transportation.

The royal letter of February 14, 1861, which was written even before the Civil War started, took some time to arrive in Washington DC, and by the time it reached its destination, President Buchanan was not in office any longer. (Text of the royal letter here. Although the Smithsonian Institution describes it as the “translation”, in fact it was written by the King himself in his”self-educated” English.)

Lincoln, who succeeded Buchanan, is said to have been asked what the elephants could be sed for, and in reply he said that he did not know, unless “they were used to stamp out the rebellion.”

However, in his replying letter dated February 3, 1862  Lincoln did not mention anything about the Civil War. The President merely politely declined to accept King Mongkut’s proposal, explaining to the King that the American climate might not be suitable for elephants and that American steam engines could also be used as beasts of burden and means of transportation.

A century later, during his state visit to the US, King Bhumibol of Thailand, who is Mongkut’s great-grandson, referred to this event in his address before the US Congress on June 29, 1960. He said, “my great-grandfather offered to send the President and Congress elephants to be turned loose in the uncultivated land of America for breeding purposes. That offer was made with no other objective  than to provide a friend with what he lacks, in the same spirit in which the American aid program is likewise offered.”




August 12, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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