Images of the 1861 letters have been added to the collection of the
Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project dedicated to tracking down all
documents to and from America's 16th president.
The first of the
two letters was sent to Lincoln by San Marino's regent captains, the
nation's joint heads of state. In English and Italian, they said
that as a "mark of high consideration and sincere fraternity" for
the United States, citizenship in the Republic of San Marino had
been conferred on Lincoln. They also acknowledged America's
"political griefs" and prayed that God would "grant you a peaceful
In his response dated May 7, 1861, Lincoln thanked the Council of
San Marino "for the honor of citizenship" and assured them that
"although your dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of
the most honored in all history." He explained that the Civil War
"involves the question whether a Representative republic, extended
and aggrandized so much as to be safe against foreign enemies, can
save itself from the dangers of domestic faction."
"I have faith in a good result," Lincoln assured them. Secretary
of State William H. Seward countersigned and may have drafted the
In 2011, 150 years after this exchange, the regent captains of
San Marino sent a letter to President Barack Obama assuring him of
continued friendship between San Marino and the United States. They
said Lincoln's response to their predecessors' letter "has become
one of the documents most cherished by the citizens of our
The San Marino documents were cited by Dr. Don H. Doyle, the
McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina,
in a New York Times blog. Doyle then helped the Papers of Abraham
Lincoln contact the San Marino national archives.
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San Marino is a nation about 24 square miles in size, surrounded
on all sides by Italy. It has 32,000 residents and traces its
history back to the year 301.
For the past decade, the staff of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln
has been collecting images of documents written by or to Abraham
Lincoln. The project has scanned more than 97,000 documents from
more than 400 repositories and 180 private collections in 47 states
and six foreign countries. The archive will likely grow to more than
150,000 documents when complete.
"These documents from San Marino demonstrate what an
international event the American Civil War was," said Daniel W.
Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. "When Lincoln
described the United States as the last best hope of earth,' it was
not mere rhetorical flourish. Republican government government of
the people, by the people, for the people had been defeated in
many areas of Europe and was under assault throughout the world. The
Civil War threatened America's example to the world that democracy
could work. San Marino's offer of honorary citizenship and Lincoln's
gracious reply were a moment of diplomatic hopefulness in a period
of domestic trouble and international uncertainty."
The Papers of
Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project
dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating and
publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his
lifetime. The project is administered through the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum, and is co-sponsored by the Center
for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois
Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]