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As Well As The Art Of Diplomacy, There Are Also The Arts Of Diplomacy
February 1974 | Volume 25, Issue 2
Through the years the enforcement of Article I, Section 9 produced several tragicomic incidents. In 1839 Thomas N. Carr, United States consul at Tangier, was forced to accept a dismaying present. The story is best told in the words of his report to the Secretary of State: Sir, I am sorry to inform the Department that, although I have exerted myself to the utmost to prevent the presentation of any animals from the Emperor [of Morocco], and to convince his ministers of the impossibility of accepting a gift or present of any kind, my exertions have not been attended with success.… [Having failed to convince the Emperor’s officers of my earnestness], I resolved to write to the Emperor himself, but before a letter could be prepared the sound of drums announced the arrival of the Bashaw’s Nephew at the head of a troop of soldiers with an enormous, magnificent Lion & Lioness . As my determination was well known, the commander of the troop had prepared himself with the most “conclusive answers” to all my objections. I told him that [it] was perfectly impossible to receive the animals, the Laws of my Country forbid it. He replied that they were not for me, that they were for my Government. I told him that the President, the head of my Government, was in the same predicament as myself, that he had not the power to receive them. He said that the Sultan knew that but that they were not for the President but for my Congress. I replied that Congress had resolved never to receive any more presents, and that the Law prohibiting Public Officers to receive presents was part of the Constitution, & superior to the power of Congress itself. He wanted to know who made the Constitution, I replied the people [;] then said he if Congress will not receive them the Emperor desires them to be presented to the people, as a mark of his respect and esteem for the “Sultans” of America. At last I told him that I would not receive them , that my mind was fully made up; then said he, my determination is as strong as yours; I am ordered to deliver them to you; it will cost me my head if I disobey; I shall leave them in the street. The street upon which is the American Consulate is a narrow Cul de sac with a half dozen few houses in it beside my own. Preparations were made for placing a guard at the open end, and turning the lions loose in the street. Seeing further resistance hopeless … I was compelled to surrender to this novel form of attack, and to open one of my rooms for the reception of the animals where they now are. … I hope that I shall have the honour, and pleasure, of hearing upon this subject from the Department as soon as possible.
At virtually the same time, the imam of Muscat dispatched to President Martin Van Buren a magnificent selection of gifts including two Arabian horses, a bottle of attar of roses, five demijohns of rosewater, a package of cashmere shawls, a bale of Persian rugs, and a box of pearls. The consent of Congress to receive all this bounty was requested, and a resolution authorizing the acceptance and sale of the Moroccan lions and the gifts from Muscat was reported out of the House Committee on Foreign Relations by its chairman, future President James Buchanan. It was passed, but only over the bitter protest of former President John Quincy Adams, then representing Massachusetts in the lower house. In his journal he wrote: “I … affirmed that Congress never had in any one instance authorized the acceptance of presents.” Two days later he was still agitated about the matter: “No small part of this day,” he wrote, “was engaged in hunting up documents respecting the acceptance of presents by officers of the United States from foreign powers.”
The Moroccan lions were shipped to Philadelphia on the brig Tacon at a cost to the United States government of six hundred fifty dollars. They disappeared from the scene when they were sold at auction in the Philadelphia Navy Yard on August 31, 1840, to a Mr. Robert Davis for $375.
An interesting exchange took place between President Abraham Lincoln and His Majesty Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongut, King of Siam. Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, had sent the king a present of government publications to indicate his pleasure in the ratification of a commercial treaty with Siam in 1856. The king responded by sending a handsome sword in a gold scabbard inlaid with silver, a daguerreotype portrait of himself and his child, and a pair of elephant tusks. He took into account both the length of the voyage between Bangkok and Washington and the American custom of rotation in office when he addressed his accompanying letter to
In addition to thanking Buchanan, or “whomsoever the people have elected anew,” the king declared that he had been informed that the United States had no elephants. He offered to remedy this deficiency, explaining that “elephants being animals of great size and strength [they] can bear burdens through uncleared woods and matted jungles where no carriage and cart roads have yet been made.” He proposed to send several pairs that could be “turned loose in forests … [where] they will increase to be large herds. …” He gave detailed instructions in the care and feeding of elephants, saying that