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Lincoln to Thai king: Thanks but no thanks for the elephants

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A visitor tours the exhibition titles “Great and Good Friends,” inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 22. Elephants are Thailand’s national animal, so it’s only natural that King Mongkut in 1861 offered to send a pair to the United States as a gift of friendship that has now endured 200 years. President Abraham Lincoln politely declined, saying his country uses the steam engine and would have no use for the working animals. As part of the anniversary celebrating the long-lasting relationship, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is showcasing historic gifts the two countries have exchanged.

BANGKOK >> Elephants are Thailand’s national animal, so it’s only natural that King Mongkut in 1861 offered to send a pair to the United States as a gift of a friendship that has endured 200 years.

President Abraham Lincoln, likely bemused and relieved at the distraction from America’s then-raging Civil War, politely declined, saying his country uses the steam engine and would have no use for the working animals.

As part of the anniversary celebrating the long-lasting relationship, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is showcasing historic gifts the two countries have exchanged on the grounds of Thailand’s Grand Palace. It includes the first ever official letter sent in 1818 from a Thai diplomat to President James Monroe, as well as the correspondence between Lincoln and Mongut.

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