Although Your Dominion Is Small: The Curious Connection Between Abraham Lincoln And San Marino

For whatever reason, I have an interest in quirky and small and often obscure states, and while I was looking up soccer rankings and 2014 world cup qualifying, I came across an intriguing monument to the republican virtue of Abraham Lincoln, when he graciously responded to the honorary citizenship given to him by the Republic of San Marino, providing in his letter of recognition of that honorary citizenship the official American recognition of San Marino as an independent republic at a time of considerable danger for both republics. This letter deserves to be quoted in full [1]:

“Great and Good Friends

I have received and read with great sensibility the letter which as Regent Captains of the Republic of San Marino you addressed to me on the 29th of March last. I thank the Council of San Marino for the honor of citizenship they have conferred upon me.

Although your dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored, in all history. It has by its experience demonstrated the truth, so full of encouragement to the friends of Humanity, that Government founded on Republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.

You have kindly adverted to the trial through which this Republic is now passing. It is one of deep import. It 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.

Wishing that your interesting State may endure and flourish forever, and that you may live long and enjoy the confidence and secure the gratitude of your fellow citizens, I pray God to have you in his holy keeping. Your Good Friend.

Abraham Lincoln”

This letter was written on May 7, 1861, and it is a letter that has not often been commented on by students of Abraham Lincoln. Nevertheless, this particular letter address the same sort of concerns that Abraham Lincoln would more famously address in the Gettysburg Address, showing his optimism that republican liberty would endure in the United States and elsewhere, and showing his general sympathy with republican regimes in other parts of the world, even parts of the world that were obscure for Americans at the time, and showing that he may have drawn encouragement about the viability of the republican experiment in the United States from the successful statecraft of the much smaller Republic of San Marino. While it would be several decades before the United States formalized relations with San Marino with consular relations (in 1925) or with an ambassador to the nation (who was simultaneously Ambassador to Italy and resident there) in 2006, from the time of Lincoln, the two republics have enjoyed amicable relations.

While the threat of the Civil War to the endurance of the American republic is well-known to many, in truth the 1860’s were a dangerous time for the survival of the much smaller Republic of San Marino as well. When the Piedmontese began their successful unification of Italy in the late 1850’s, Italy was a patchwork of states, and the previously unsuccessful unification supporters in many of these states were given sanctuary in San Marino, an act of generosity that paid off when Garibaldi’s troops respected the independence of San Marino and did not incorporate them into the nation-state of Italy (similar to the fate granted to the Vatican City after the loss of most of its Papal Lands in 1861 and the loss of Rome itself in 1871), the fate that awaited those states which had opposed the Piedmontese-led effort. Since that time, while San Marino has been greatly affected by the political winds of Italy in the areas that surround it, it has retained its independence, and remains a quirky sort of nation that I would like to visit, one whose freedom endures to this day thanks to its savvy statecraft as well as the support of much more powerful friends (including the Allied armies in WWII, who freed San Marino from German occupation once they took the Gothic Line in late 1944 [2] after victory in the little-known Battle of San Marino).

Let us therefore praise the statecraft of San Marino, a nation founded on republican virtues and liberty and that has preserved its independence for well over a thousand years, largely through minding its own business, avoiding interference in the affairs of others, and through its generosity to refugees as well as its cultivation of respectful and friendly relations with others. These skills are all too rare in this world, and especially in the realm of geopolitics, and for its successful practice of these arts of statecraft, it is well worth remembering the wise words of Abraham Lincoln bestowed on this tiny republic: “Although your dominion is small, your State is nevertheless one of the most honored, in all history. It has by its experience demonstrated the truth, so full of encouragement to the friends of Humanity, that Government founded on Republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.” Let all republics be likewise constructed as well so that they also may endure through wise and moderate rule.

[1] http://history.state.gov/countries/san-marino

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_San_Marino

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, International Relations, Military History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Although Your Dominion Is Small: The Curious Connection Between Abraham Lincoln And San Marino

  1. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for showing the significance of a short historical Lincoln letter, linking it to classic republican virtues, and introducing me to the history of a tiny nation. Well done!

  2. Pingback: Book Review: No One Sees God | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: What Has Sweden Done For The United States? | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Pursuit Of Italy | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Let Us Have Faith That Right Makes Might | Edge Induced Cohesion

  6. Pingback: Book Review: The Five Thousand Year Leap | Edge Induced Cohesion

  7. Pingback: Book Review: Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails | Edge Induced Cohesion

  8. Pingback: Right Down The Line | Edge Induced Cohesion

  9. Pingback: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends: On The Legitimacy And Viability Of Mini-States | Edge Induced Cohesion

  10. John T. says:

    Interesting article! One note: republic is a noun and republican is the adjective.

  11. Pingback: Today In History: On July 23, 1940, The United States Denied The Legitimacy Of The Soviet Takeover Of The Baltic States | Edge Induced Cohesion

  12. Pingback: Book Review: Lincoln At Peoria | Edge Induced Cohesion

  13. Pingback: Book Review: The Essential Abraham Lincoln | Edge Induced Cohesion

  14. Pingback: Book Review: President Lincoln: The Duty Of A Statesman | Edge Induced Cohesion

  15. Pingback: Book Review: How To Analyze The Works Of Abraham Lincoln | Edge Induced Cohesion

  16. Pingback: Book Review: The Political Thought Of Abraham Lincoln | Edge Induced Cohesion

  17. Pingback: Book Review: Lincoln On Leadership | Edge Induced Cohesion

  18. Pingback: Book Review: Practical Italian Recipes For American Kitchens | Edge Induced Cohesion

  19. Pingback: Fallow Years | Edge Induced Cohesion

  20. Pingback: The Curious Connection Between Ties And Military History | Edge Induced Cohesion

  21. Pingback: Machiavelli’s Revenge | Edge Induced Cohesion

  22. Pingback: The Curious Connection Between Protestant Theology And Constitutional Law | Edge Induced Cohesion

  23. Pingback: Book Review: The Cause Of All Nations | Edge Induced Cohesion

  24. Pingback: Book Review: Uncle Fred In The Springtime | Edge Induced Cohesion

  25. Pingback: The Curious Connection Between Daylight Savings Time And Military History | Edge Induced Cohesion

  26. Pingback: The Curious Connection Between The Didache And Diotrophes | Edge Induced Cohesion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s