Index - Science - It's past President Lincoln that there are no wild elephants in America today
In international diplomacy, every actor (government or just a celebrity company) tries to give gifts to the leaders of the target country in his or her country. Sometimes it works out better, sometimes it gets embarrassing (remember the apricot brandy sent to Peach Obama).
In democracies, leaders cannot afford these gifts at very low thresholds, but must give them to the state. However, among the unsuitable gifts, there is certainly room for the many offered elephant pairs that the Siam King would send to the United States if President Abraham Lincoln, in his infinitely polite style, did not pass up the opportunity at the last minute.
The elephants were not originally intended for Lincoln, but for their predecessor, President James Buchanan. After the two countries concluded the Harris Convention, which included peaceful trade and cultural relations in 1856, in 1859 he sent a letter congratulating President Buchanan to the king of Siam (now approximately Thailand), Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut, also known as IV. Rama.
The King is known for his novel Anna and the King and its feature film, starring Jodie Foster. Many view him as a modernizer of Thailand, with a keen interest in the West.
The US letter was accompanied by 192 government-issued books as gifts. At that time, communication was slower, so the package arrived only a year later, in the year of the American presidential election.
& nbsp; Captain Berrien took the letter to America aboard the USS John Adams. Berrien made an official visit to Bangkok and during his conversations with the King mentioned that although America is a vast continent, there are no elephants. He added, trying to flatter the king's pride, that in the United States the elephant is considered to be the greatest four-legged animal, and if only a larger elephant appears somewhere, masses would rush to marvel at its miracle.
It was then that the king (or one of his advisers) thought that Americans might be interested in elephants, so Siam could give his new friend a gift that was quite different from boring diplomatic offers. But the fangs were only meant to be a taste of a more grandiose gift, the offer of which was contained in a letter sent with the gift.
It has come to our attention that many young male and female elephants should be released in the forests of the American continent wherever there is sufficient water and grass. In our opinion, over time they would grow into a huge herd like Asia. Then the people of America could capture and tame them, then use the animals as a draft animal and benefit the country.
The king admitted that he did not have a fully developed plan for solving the logistical problems of transporting a multitude of elephants by sea, but the idea nevertheless seemed to him to be a good idea. He was expecting a solution to the transportation from the Americans, he wrote in a letter to send ships loaded with hay and other food and huge water tanks for watering. He also described that the elephant needed a stable where he could stand and lie down if he wanted to.
Abraham Lincoln was the president when the message arrived. The answer, written by Secretary of State William Seward on behalf of President Lincoln, reads as follows regarding the offering of elephants:
This government would not hesitate to accept this generous offer if the subject matter were to be used for practical purposes in the present state of the United States. Unfortunately, however, our country does not stretch so far south that would favor elephant reproduction. In addition, steam seems to be the most advantageous means of propulsion in land, water and inland freight transport.
It is not known whether any White House official was seriously raised to accept the offered elephants. By this time, the Civil War was in full swing, so they probably had bigger problems.