Did Abraham Lincoln have Dual Citizenship with the Republic of San Marino?

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. But in 1861, as the Civil War was threatening to split the country in two, Lincoln may have actually gained dual citizenship. Not only was he an American citizen, the Republic of San Marino granted him citizenship there as well.

For those who have never heard of San Marino, or thought it was merely a quaint Italian city, it actually is an independent country. An enclave nestled into Italy’s northeast, the tiny 24 square mile country claims to be the “oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world” (according to Wikipedia).

San Marino (from Wikipedia Commons)

Tiny as it is, San Marino apparently had a good marketing department when they decided to send a letter to the new President of the United States in 1861. Two recently discovered documents have now been provided to The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project “dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating, and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his entire lifetime (1809-1865).” According to the project:

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 solution.”

Well, how about that. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino conferred citizenship upon Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln even replied, again, as noted by the Papers project:

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.

All of this goes to show that, despite thousands of books in print, there are still things to learn about Abraham Lincoln. I’ve discovered this myself as I’ve reviewed hundreds of letters and documents from the Library of Congress in preparation for a forthcoming book. I’ve even found quite a few interesting “connections” between Lincoln and my other favorite topic – Nikola Tesla. I’ll have more on those connections in a future post.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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