Lyndon B. Johnson photo

The President's Toast at a Dinner Given in Honor of the King and Queen of Thailand

October 29, 1966

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Highnesses, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

A distinguished visitor to my country once said: ". • • from the beginning of our relationship, right up to the present time, no conflict of any kind has arisen to disturb our cordial friendship and understanding. On the contrary, there has been mutual good will and close cooperation between our two countries. The time is ripe for an even closer cooperation. It will demonstrate to the world that we are one in purpose and conviction, and it can only lead to one thing--mutual benefit."

Those words were said about Thailand and the United States of America.

They were the words Your Majesty used when you addressed the joint session of our Congress in 1960.

Since then, the relations between our two countries have followed the course set out by Your Majesty.

Cooperation between our two countries has grown.

That cooperation has shown the world that our purposes are the same.

And it is surely clear to all--except, possibly, to those who wish to misunderstand-that the result of Thai-American cooperation has been mutual benefit.

Most of us think of this cooperation as new. I read, recently, for example, a report which said that the first offer of assistance between Thailand and the United States was in 1951.

Whoever wrote that report did not know his history very well.

In fact, the first offer of assistance between our countries was made in 1861.

It was made by your great King Mongkut to our great President Abraham Lincoln.

We, in our country, were then engaged in a great Civil War. Our people and our Government were sorely pressed.

Your King wished very much to help. And he acted directly on that wish.

He did not send us a negotiating team or a military mission.

He did ask his councilors for advice, but then he did not request any public hearings.

He did not propose a joint working group to survey and evaluate and study the situation.

He merely picked up his pen and wrote a letter to President Lincoln.

He had learned, he wrote, that the United States had no elephants. He pointed out the very great importance of elephants in economic life. And he suggested that perhaps, conceivably, they could play a useful part in this tragic period in America.

He asked the President to consider the matter, and to let him know if he decided to try the experiment.

And he said, very generously, if President Lincoln so decided, he would provide the elephants--and the United States could supply the transportation.

I would hope that you would consider for a moment tonight the happy simplicity of this proposal.

--No suggestion that President Lincoln send some Americans to Thailand to learn how to handle elephants;

--No proposal to set up a technological school outside Washington, where Thai technicians would instruct Americans on the care and maintenance of elephants;

--No long-term agreement proposed or considered to ensure a supply of spare parts or replacements.

Mr. Lincoln pondered and, with all of his problems, duly considered and seriously thought about the proposal. Then he picked up his pen and wrote a letter to King Mongkut.

He thanked the King and he said he would happily accept the offer--save for the fact that the climate in our country was too cold for elephants to prosper.

Perhaps the President felt that the supply system of the American Army was not able at that time to absorb this new technology. President Lincoln may have felt that he lacked the technicians necessary to use these weapons effectively.

I have sometimes wondered, as people do at times, whether the President was right.

That tragic war lasted for 4 years more after President Lincoln received your King's letter.

Who can say tonight what the effect would have been if in 1861--on a foggy morning in the rolling Virginia hills--the Army had advanced behind a screen of charging Thai war elephants?

In any case, I think this incident from our common past makes one thing clear: The disposition of our two countries to help each other goes well back into the past.

I am sure that it will continue way into the future--and that it will always be, as Your Majesty stated, mutually rewarding.

Your Majesty, President Lincoln closed his letter to your great grandfather--more than 100 years ago--with these words:

"... wishing for Your Majesty a long and happy life, and for the generous . . . people of Siam the highest possible prosperity, I commend both to the blessing of Almighty God."

On that occasion--as upon others--Mr. Lincoln spoke for all Americans--and he spoke for all time.

Your Majesty, I find myself tonight unable to improve upon his words. I can only reinforce his sentiments. For the friendship between our nations is a very great and a very special treasure to us.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to His Majesty, the King.

Note: The President spoke in Sarasahathai Hall in the Palace Compound, Bangkok, Thailand. In his opening words he referred to King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand.

Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's Toast at a Dinner Given in Honor of the King and Queen of Thailand Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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