CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
December 22, 2014
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
112 North Sixth Street
Springfield, Illinois 32701
To whom it may concern:
Thank you for your kind invitation for this Consulate to send some remembrances of President Lincoln on the 150th anniversary of his tragic death. I read with great interest the letter sent by my predecessor, Colonel Lawrence, in May 1865, which reported on a meeting with resident and visiting American citizens in Florence as they discussed their "profound horror and grief" in hearing of the assassination of "One of the best of Presidents, one of the purest of statesmen, one of the truest of men." I would like to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts so many years later on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln in this consular district, which includes the Italian regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, as well as the sovereign country of San Marino.
The American citizen community has grown exponentially since the time of Colonel Lawrence: our recent counts indicate we have over 7,000 students, 50,000 residents, and over a million American visitors each year. Many students are studying topics that President Lincoln would find unfamiliar, such as biorobotics or digital photography. Nevertheless, the majority of American students here focus on what was just as important during Lincoln's time as it is now: international relations, human rights, foreign languages, public policy, and culture. These students continue to build bridges between our two countries, creating a (increasingly virtual) space where we can have discussions about human rights, equality, the status of minorities, and the ongoing challenge of creating a peaceful world----issues that Lincoln, at his core, believed the United States should exemplify.
Italy boasts an historic relationship with President Lincoln. Lincoln corresponded with Giuseppe Garibaldi, a military commander and statesman who is considered one of the founding fathers of Italy. Lincoln and Garibaldi had a relationship of mutual respect --such that Garibaldi offered his services at the outbreak of the Civil War and was invited to serve as a U.S. army general. Although Garibaldi ultimately declined the invitation to serve, later on, following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote to Lincoln, "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure."
At the U.S. Consulate General in Florence we are reminded daily of this special relationship by a bronze statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi which adorns the east side of our building. The statue depicts Garibaldi's body facing east, but his head and determined gaze look south towards Rome, most likely to symbolize his ardent belief in a unified Italy and the establishment of its capital city in Rome. Then, as now, Italy and the U.S. cherish and remember our shared principles of democracy on which both countries were founded.
Another fascinating tie between this region and President Lincoln is the President's connection with the Republic of San Marino. In 1861, the Captains Regent of San Marino, the oldest constitutional republic in the world, sent a letter to President Lincoln expressing their support for Lincoln and his ongoing struggle to keep the country united. The San Marino leadership held Lincoln in such high esteem that the letter also granted Lincoln honorary citizenship. Lincoln's response, also signed by Secretary of State William Henry Seward, accepted the "honor of citizenship" and noted that San Marino "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."
And, 150 years later, although there are continual challenges, the United States---the second oldest constitutional republic---continues to strive for a world that supports citizens' freedom to choose their government, and that government's obligation to protect the humanity of all within its borders. I like to think that President Lincoln would be proud of how we in Florence are honoring his legacy.
With greatest respect,
Abigail M. Rupp
United States Consul General