Translation of letter from King Mongkut to President Buchanan


Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
Bangkok, Thailand

Inspired by a discussion King Mongkut had with an American captain about how elephants would be perceived in the United States, the king wrote to President Buchanan offering the United States a pair of elephants to “increase and multiply in the continent of America.” Along with his letter, the king included a pair of elephant tusks “the glory and renown of Siam may be promoted.

By the time the letter reached Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was president of the United States, and the country had descended into civil war. In 1862, President Lincoln politely declined the king’s kind offer out of concern that the U.S. climate would not “favor the multiplication of the elephant,” though it is also possible that the ongoing conflict at home contributed to the decision.

Although the elephants never made the voyage around the world, the generosity of King Mongkut’s offer and the graciousness of President Lincoln’s reply nonetheless underscore the friendly spirit between both nations.


  • Title: Translation of letter from King Mongkut to President Buchanan
  • Date Created: 1861
  • Location Created: Maryland, USA
  • Physical Dimensions: 32.7 x 18.4 cm - Framed: 50 x 36.195 cm
  • Provenance: Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
  • Type: Document

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