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Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Treaty of Tripoli

America is at war. And it is very much a religious war. She is besieged on two fronts: fanatical Muslims on the one extreme, led by the most “irrepresible” leader since Saladin, Osama Bin Laden, and American atheists on the other, who not believing in a deity, are led by the American Civil Liberties Union.

As early as 1628, America had trouble with the piratical, Muslim states of the Barbary Coast (northern Africa). The Barbary nations (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis) considered themselves to be at war with any Christian nation that had not negotiated a "peace treaty" with them for a sum of money.

Hostages captured by the Barbary privateers (government-sanctioned pirates) were either ransomed or forced into slavery, contributing greatly to their vast slave-trade. Captives, particularly Christian captives, were treated harshly and many died from their treatment. Some captives converted to Islam, making life in captivity easier and increasing the ranks of the Muslims.

Advances in European military strategies and armament finally began to curb the marauding Barbary nations. The American Colonies were under the protection of Great Britain and her considerable Navy. During the American Revolution, we came under the protection of France.

After the U.S. won its independence with the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), it had to face the threat of the Barbary pirates on its own. Two American ships were captured by Algerian pirates in July 1785 and the survivors forced into slavery, their ransom set at $60,000. Without a standing navy, the U.S. was forced to pay tribute monies and goods to the Barbary nations for the security of its merchant and naval fleets and the freedom of its captured citizens.

The Treaty of Tripoli, otherwise known in English as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey [“chieftain”] and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, was signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796 and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on Jan. 3, 1797, finally receiving ratification from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

Treaties with some of the other Barbary Coast nations - the Barbary Treaties – had previously been reached. Individual treaties were negotiated with Morocco (1786), Algeria (1795). The Treaty with Tunis was signed in 1797. All of them had been negotiated more than once, all of them required money, and all of them were broken.

The Pasha (bashaw, or Lord) of Tripoli broke the treaty with the U.S. in 1800, a mere three years after it was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

General William Eaton, consul to Tunis, wryly explained to Secretary of State John Marshall in 1800, "It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that ‘The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well.’”

In the course of negotiating with the Barbary nations, each of the Barbary rulers continuously demanded increased payments to maintain peace, even while occasionally capturing U.S. ships. The Pasha of Tripoli was jealous of the ships the U.S. “presented” to Algeria, and demanded a similar tribute.

On September 25, 1800, Tripoli captured the U.S.S. Catherine, robbed the crew, and plundered its cargo. Although the Pasha said it was a mistake and the captain responsible for the capture had been punished, he warned American Consul James Cathcart that if the U.S. didn’t send additional payments, within six months he would declare war on the United States and its vessels.

The Pasha told him that America had to pay tribute to him the way every other nation did. When Cathcart pointed out we had already paid him, the Pasha noted that was for arrears of peace. If we wanted to maintain that peace, we had to keep paying him.

According to the Wikipedia entry:

Meanwhile, the U.S. was quickly losing patience with the Barbary nations, and had been building up its Navy in preparation for armed confrontation. On May 15, 1801, President Thomas Jefferson's cabinet again advised him to send a squadron to the Mediterranean, but only as a retaliatory force.

On May 20, 1801, Commodore Richard Dale was commissioned to lead three frigates and a schooner to patrol the Mediterranean sea lanes. They set sail on June 2, 1801.

However, unknown to Jefferson, the Pasha of Tripoli declared war against the United States on May 10, 1801. In sending the Navy squadron to the Mediterranean, Jefferson declared,

"To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean."

Soon after Commodore Dale sailed into a neutral British port near the Straits of Gibraltar, he discovered that Tripoli had declared war on the U.S. Dale’s commission only authorized him to blockade adversarial ports and capture hostile ships, so he could not attack Tripoli directly. However, he notified the Pasha of Tripoli that he could negotiate terms of surrender.

Through subsequent battles, Tripoli eventually agreed to terms of peace with the United States. Tobias Lear negotiated a second "Treaty of Peace and Amity" with the Pasha Yusuf on June 4, 1805.

To the dismay of many Americans, the new settlement included a ransom of $60,000 paid for the release of prisoners from the USS Philadelphia and several U.S. merchant ships.

By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking U.S. ships and seamen hostage. Distracted by the preludes to the War of 1812, the United States was unable to respond to the provocations until 1815, with the Second Barbary War, thereby concluding the encompassing Tripolitan Wars (1800-1815).

One of the most controversial articles of the Treaty of Tripoli is Article 11, which states:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The official treaty was in Arabic, and a translated version was ratified by the United States on June 10, 1797. Article 11 of the treaty was said to have not been part of the original Arabic version of the treaty; in its place is a letter from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. However, it is the English text which was ratified by Congress.

The Pasha of Tripoli did not consider the treaty valid until he received his gold.

This scholarly assertion is of dubious merit; there is no proof and it is highly unlikely the U.S. would have willingly made such declaration. The U.S. Consul-General to the Barbary states, Joel Barlow, had been a chaplain in Washington’s Army. However, he renounced Christianity in favor of rationalism and was said to have had a hand in the authoring of this treaty.

This is the source President Obama and the Liberals consider the authority for his contention in April 2009 that “we are not a Christian nation.” The conservatives and the liberals have been debating this clause, unbeknownst to any of us, for years and years.

So imbedded is this debate in the national elite dialogue, that even our own conservative constitutionalists have forgotten to clue us average Americans in on this little-known treaty. Thank goodness for the Internet and Google.

This is one of the documents the Liberals use in their Jeffersonian argument of separation of church and state; “the wall.” as they like to call it. The treaty had already been signed long before it reached this side of the Atlantic, although President Adams readily supported Barlow’s treaty.

No Christian-American wants a government-sponsored, state religion. The very reason the colonists fled here was to escape religious persecution in Europe and worship God their way. There are too many factions among them, and all that would result is religious war within a religious war.

What American Christians want is for the government to honor and respect that clause in our U.S. Constitution that states the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of.”

But that doesn’t mean the government should be telling them when and where they can worship. ‘Worship God anywhere you like – as long as it’s not on public property’ – something, with TARP and all the government bail-outs, that’s becoming increasingly hard to find.

It goes to the old saw about Ford’s assembly line, everyman Model T – you can have any color you want – as long as the color you want is black. You can talk about God anywhere – as long as you don’t do it at a high school graduation, on the subway (‘public’ transportation), or in some public venue (that’s prosleytization).

Conversely, you can’t criticize the government in God’s house. If your minister or priest does, say, criticize the “science” of global warming, your church could lose its tax-exempt status.

The Constitution says “Congress” shall make no law, of course; it says nothing about the U.S. Supreme Court. American Christians believe the government, in staking its flag on what it calls “government property”, is prohibiting the free exercise of religion on what it is declaring as neutral territory.

The Liberals admit, grudgingly, there is a religious, Christian-based ethic in the Declaration of Independence. But not in the U.S. Constitution, they cry. These are the laws of the people, say they. Only the first amendment deals with that very subject: the free exercise of religion.

President Adams, the second president of a very new and unique nation, no doubt took great pride in our young nation’s public stance on religious neutrality. Young America knew all too well the dangers of mixing religion and government.

Towns were forming in which only practitioners of certain religions could live. Before we became a nation, with constitutional laws, Maryland was originally devoted to those of the Catholic faith. Jews were driven out of certain conclaves in New England.

The U.S. Constitution put a stop to all that, guaranteeing that anyone of any religious persuasion could live in any community they had a mind to live in. That was the Jeffersonian ideal, and what the “Founding Fathers” were thinking of when they agreed to that clause in the Treaty of Tripoli.

Should schools be teaching religion? Perhaps not. But in its ever farther, claw machine grasp of power, the U.S. government is making it more difficult for private schools that do want to teach religion and parents that want to send their children to those schools.

Religious schools find themselves under the same textbook mandates, for instance, and the same progressive, liberal standards for promoting socialism that reach far beyond that mandate of public education.

The Boy Scouts of America have increasingly found themselves “unwelcome” in any public buildings for their steadfast stance against homosexuality, one concretely founded in their religious beliefs, even though they are not, per se, a religious organization, but a community group.

And this is just the domestic religious war that the Treaty of Tripoli propagates. There are also the international implications.

According to the website “Wall Builders”:

The Muslim Barbary Powers (Tunis, Morocco, Algiers, and Tripoli) were warring against what they claimed to be the "Christian" nations (England, France, Spain, Denmark, and the United States). In 1801, Tripoli even declared war against the United States, 7 thus constituting America's first official war as an established independent nation.

Throughout this long conflict, the four Barbary Powers regularly attacked undefended American merchant ships. Not only were their cargoes easy prey but the Barbary Powers were also capturing and enslaving "Christian" seamen 8 in retaliation for what had been done to them by the "Christians" of previous centuries (e.g., the Crusades and Ferdinand and Isabella's expulsion of Muslims from Granada 9).

In an attempt to secure a release of captured seamen and a guarantee of unmolested shipping in the Mediterranean, President Washington dispatched envoys to negotiate treaties with the Barbary nations. 10 (Concurrently, he encouraged the construction of American naval warships 11 to defend the shipping and confront the Barbary "pirates" – a plan not seriously pursued until President John Adams created a separate Department of the Navy in 1798.)

The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, as noted, was broken, and a new treaty drafted in 1805. Article 14 of The Treaty Of Peace and Amity between the United States of America and the Bashaw, Bey and Subjects of Tripoli in Barbary read:

As the Government of the United States of America, has in itself no character of enmity against the Laws, Religion or Tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan Nation, except in the defence of their just rights to freely navigate the High Seas: It is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from Religious Opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the Harmony existing between the two Nations;

The phrase declaring that the “government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" goes away. The treaty offers assurances that the United States will not interfere with their religion or laws, but the assurances are reciprocal.

What comes of a conflict between a secular government, founded on Christian values but governed by democratic principles, and a theocracy, whose government is guided completely by religious dogma?

What kind of relationship evolves between a federated republic that does in fact, build a wall between government and the various religions its population chooses to individually worship so that it cannot dictate to its citizens how to worship (if at all), and an emirate that demands lifelong subjugation to its religion, where there is no differentiation between government and religion, and where apostasy is considered a criminal act punishable by death?

The former, time and again, declared war upon the other, without provocation, breaking every treaty to peace, whose terms were strictly monetary and favorable only to the former. The only terms favorable to America were that her ships would not be captured and her sailors and passengers, enslaved.

The United States was basically negotiating with terrorists then and is still doing so. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, therefore, is an invalid document, having been violated by the other side who, today’s Liberals, would defend, and are defending still today.

Remember that America – now that you’ve learned this little-known item of history, if you had not known it before. There’s a difference between freedom of religion and freedom from religion. The ACLU and the Liberals are no better than the Pasha of Tripoli in their determination to hold us hostage.

They demand the same tribute and hold the same hostages for defying their all-encompassing decrees, passed by our potentate Supreme Court. As with the Muslims, its all or nothing for the Atheists and their ilk. When Boy Scouts - kids, for God’s sake – are denied use of a public building for their beliefs, the gods can’t be pleased.

As for the Muslims, we find ourselves very much in the same position we were in in the Mediterranean in 1797. Pirates are seizing our ships on the Horn of Africa and in the South China Sea. We have a dilettante president reshaping our foreign policy to accommodate them and a propagandist media propping up this humbug and holding the American public at bay while we pay tribute to religious theocracies obviously antithetical, even hostile, to freedom.

Our president, using the earlier Treaty of Tripoli as his model, declares we are not at war with any Muslim nation. He will not even permit – if an American president can censor words – the words “Islam” or “Muslim” to be used in regard to this war on terrorism. H e But as every Conservative pundit has pointed out, they are at war with us.

And we have every right, obligation, and duty to defend ourselves. We are not bound by a treaty our enemy has already violated time and again.


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