Letter from King of Siam to President Buchanan

Letter from King of Siam to President Buchanan, February 14, 1861 - Smithsonian Institute, October 23, 2003
The Smithsonian forwarded us a copy of the famous letter from King Rama IV to President Buchanan offering elephants to the U.S.

Translation of letter from King of Siam to President Buchanan, February 14, 1861 - Transcription (Excerpts) - The true translation of the preceeding Siamese Royal letter into English

Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongkut
By the blessing of the highest Superagency of the whole Universe. The King of Siam-the Sovereign of all interior Tributary Countries adjacent and around in every direction-viz.-

His Most Respected Excellent Presidency
The President of United States of America who having been chosen by the Citizens of the United States as most distinguished, was made President and Chief Magistrate in the affairs of the Nation for an appointed time of office viz.-

Buchanan Esquire who had forwarded an official letter to us from Washington dated at Washington 10th May Anno Christi 1859 which was Wednesday 10th night of Waxing moon in the Lunar month of Visakh, the 6th month reckoning from the commencement of the cold Season in the Year of Goat-1st Decade of the Siamese Astronomical Era 1221, with a package of Books, 192 volumes in number which came to hand in the year following or to whomsoever the people have elected anew as Chief ruler in place of President Buchanan. & & &

Sendeth friendly Greeting!
Respected and Distinguished Sir,
At this time We are very glad in having embraced an excellent opportunity to forward our Royal letter under separate envelope together with complimentary presents-viz. A sword with a photographic likeness of ourselves accompanying herewith. . .

On this occasion, occurred in February Christian Era 1861 corresponding to the lunar time being in connection of the Siamese month of Magh and Phagun, the 3rd and 4th month from the commencement of the cold Season in the Year of Monkey, second decade Siamese Astronomical Era 1222-a ship of War, a sailing vessel of the United States' Navy, the "John Adams" arrived. . . . Captain Berrien with the officers of the ship of war came up to pay a friendly visit to the Country, and has had an interview with ourselves, hence, to him we have entrusted our Royal Letter in separate envelope which accompanies this and the presents specified in that letter.

We are assured that Captain Berrien will deliver them in safety to you who are President of the United States when our letter would reach Washington: During the interview in reply from Captain Berrien to our enquiries of various particulars relating to America, he stated that on that continent there are no elephants. Elephants are regarded as the most remarkable of the large quadrupeds by the Americans so that if any one has an elephants' tusk of large size, and will deposit it in any public place, people come by thousands crowding to see it, saying, it is a wonderful thing. . . .

Having heard this it has occurred to us that, if on the continent of America there should be several pairs of young male and female elephants turned loose in forests where there was abundance of water and grass in any region under the Sun's declination both North and South called by the English the Torrid Zone-and all were forbidden to molest them; to attempt to raise them would be well and if the climate there should prove favorable to elephants, we are of opinion that after a while they will increase till there be large herds as there are here on the Continent of Asia until the inhabitants of America will be able to catch them and tame and use them as beasts of burden making them of benefit to the country. Since Elephants being animals of great size and strength can bear burdens, and travel through uncleared woods and matted jungles where no carriage and cart roads have yet been made. . . .

On this account we desire to procure and send elephants to be let loose in increase and multiply in the continent of America. But we are as yet uninformed what forests and what regions of that country are suitable for elephants to thrive and prosper; Besides we have no means nor are we able to convey elephants to America, the distance being too great. . . .

In reference to this opinion of ours if the President of the United States and Congress who conjointly with him rule the country see fit to approve let them provide a large vessel loaded with hay and other food suitable for elephants on the voyage, with tanks holding a sufficiency of fresh water, and arranged with stalls so that the elephants can both stand & lie down in the ship- and send it to receive them. We on our part will procure young male and female elephants and forward them one or two pairs at a time.

When the elephants are on board the ship let a steamer take it in tow that it may reach America as rapidly as possible before they become wasted and diseased by the voyage.

When they arrive in America do not let them be taken to a cold climate out of the regions under the Sun's Declinations or Torrid Zone-but let them with all haste be turned out to run wild in some jungle suitable for them not confining them any length of time.

If these means can be done we trust that the elephants will propagate their species hereafter in the continent of America.

It is desirable that the president of the United States and Congress give us their views in reference to this matter at as early a day as possible.

In Siam it is the custom of the season to take elephants from the herds in the jungles in the months of Phagun and Chetre = 4th & 5th generally corresponding to March and April.

If the president and Congress approve of this matter and should provide a vessel to come for the elephants, if that vessel should arrive in Siam in any month of any year after March and April as above mentioned, let notice be sent on two or three months previous to those months of that year, in order that the elephants may be caught and tamed. Whereas the Elephant that have been long captured & tamed and domesticated here are large-and difficult to transport- and there would be danger they might never reach America. . . .

Given at our Royal Audience Hall Anant Samagome in the Grand Palace . . . at Bangkok Siam on Thursday the 5th night of the waxing moon in the lunar month of Phagun the 4th month from the commencement of the Cold Season in the Year of Monkey 2nd Decade Siamese Astronomical Era 1222 corresponding to the Solar date of 14th February Anno Christi 1861 which is the 11th year, and this day is the 3564th day of our Reign.

[Ileg.] from the worthy & good friend of [ileg.] United States of America & her Government

Major Rex

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