In this letter written on August 6, 1863, Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famed military organizer who eventually aided the uniting of the various Italian regions under a single king, offers superlative praise to Abraham Lincoln for his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. The previous year, Lincoln had offered Garibaldi a Major General’s commission to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War, but Garibaldi had refused, busy at the time leading an expedition toward Rome as part of the Italian Risorgimento. A New York infantry regiment, the 39th, was named the “Garibaldi Guard” in his honor.
In the midst of your titanic struggle, permit me, as another among the free children of Columbus, to send you a word of greeting and admiration for the great work you have begun. Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure. You are a true heir of the teaching given us by Christ and by John Brown. If an entire race of human beings, subjugated into slavery by human egoism, has been restored to human dignity, to civilization and human love, this is by your doing and at the price of the most noble lives in America.
It is America, the same country which taught liberty to our forefathers, which now opens another solemn epoch of human progress. And while your tremendous courage astonishes the world, we are sadly reminded how this old Europe, which also can boast a great cause of liberty to fight for, has not found the mind or heart to equal you.