The Treaty of Tripoli was authored by American diplomat Joel Barlow in 1796. On May 26, 1797, President John Adams communicated to the Senate:

Gentlemen of the Senate:
I lay before you for your consideration and advice, a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, concluded, at Tripoli, on the 4th day of November, 1796.
The treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate on June 7, 1797, where it was voted on and unanimously approved. The text from the Journal of the executive proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1805 WEDNESDAY,June 7, 1797 follows:
Mr. Bloodworth, from the Committee to whom was referred the consideration of the treaty of peace and friendship, between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, made report, that it be adopted; and the report being amended,

On the question to agree to the report as amended,

It was determined in the affirmative, Yeas 23.

The yeas and nays being required by one-fifth of the Senators present,

Those who voted in the affirmative, are--Messrs. Bingham, Bloodworth, Blount, Bradford, Brown, Cocke, Foster, Goodhue, Hillhouse, Howard, Langdon, Latimer, Laurance, Livermore, Martin, Paine, Read, Rutherfurd, Sedgwick, Stockton, Tattnall, Tichenor, and Tracy.

So it was

Resolved, (two-thirds of the Senators present concurring therein,) That the Senate do advise and consent to the ratification of the treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey, and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary.

Ordered, That the Secretary lay this resolution before the President of the United States.
President John Adams signed the treaty and proclaimed it to the nation on June 10, 1797. His statement on it reads:
"Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof."

This treaty came about because the pirates of the Barbary Coast and particularly those of Tripoli (now known as Libya), were destroying America's ships and taking American prisoners and demanding ransom throughout the 1790s. Diplomats were dispatched to work out some sort of agreement with Tripoli to stop future attacks on U.S. shipping. During these negotiations the U.S. agreed to provide Tripoli with more money and other presents. (Please read the excellent writeup by montecarlo in the node Barbary Coast for a better description of the situation).

The treaty is notable mainly due to Article 11, which proclaims, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;" The entire treaty and Adams' statement about the treaty were printed in at least three papers, two in Philadelphia and one in New York. Despite the public having access to the text of the treaty and Adams' statement and having full knowledge that every Senator present voted for its ratification, there was no public outcry mentioned in any later newspaper accounts. Also, one can discover that none of the senators suffered any political damage as a result of the affirming votes. In fact, many were reelected many times to the Senate, some became governors, and one even became Speaker of the House (Theodore Sedgewick of Massachusetts).

One could hardly imagine any modern American politician withstanding the tremendous onslaught that would occur if any were to vote on a bill or treaty containing this language today. In fact, with times as they are now, it would be almost impossible to find a single senator that would even state publicly that America was not founded on the Christian religion. Things are not as they were and the things that were are not what we have been led to believe.

The entire text of the Treaty at it appeared in the Appendix of Volume 7 of the Annals of Congress, (5th Congress) appears below:



Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United
States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary

Article 1. There is a firm and perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, made by the free consent of both parties, and guarantied by the most potent Dey and Regency of Algiers.

Art. 2. If any goods belonging to any nation with which either of the parties is at war, shall be loaded on board of vessels belonging to the other party, they shall pass free, and no attempt shall be made to take or detain them.

Art. 3. If any citizens , subjects, or effects, belonging to either party, shall be found on board a prize vessel taken from an enemy by the other party, such citizens or subjects shall be set at liberty, and the effects restored to the owners.

Art. 4. Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty, shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers, belonging to such vessels, shall be sufficient for their protection.

Art. 5. A citizen or subject of either party having bought a prize vessel, condemned by the other party, or by any other nation, the certificates of condemnation and bill of sale shall be a sufficient passport for such vessel for one year; this being a reasonable time for her to procure a proper passport.

Art. 6. Vessels of either party, putting into the ports of the other, and having need of provisions or other supplies, they shall be furnished at the market price. And if any such vessel shall so put in, from a disaster at sea, and have occasion to repair, she shall be at liberty to land and re-embark her cargo without paying any duties. But in case shall she be compelled to the land her cargo.

Art. 7. Should a vessel of either party be cast on the shore of the other, all proper assistance shall be given to her and her people; no pillage shall be allowed; the property shall remain at the disposition of the owners; and the crew protected and succored till they can be sent to their country.

Art. 8. If a vessel of either party should be attacked by an enemy, within gun-shot of the forts of the other , she shall be defended as much as possible. If she be in port she shall not be seized on or attacked, when it is in the power of the other party to protect her. And when she proceeds to sea, no enemy shall be allowed to pursue her from the same port, within twenty-four hours after her departure.

Art. 9. The commerce between the United States and Tripoli; the protection to be given to merchants, masters of vessels, and seamen; the reciprocal right of the establishing Consuls in each country; and the privileges, immunities, and jurisdiction, to be on the same footing with those of the most favored nations respectively.

Art. 10. The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli, as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part, and on the part of his subjects, for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship, are acknowledged to have been received by him previous to his signing the same, according to a receipt which is hereto annexed, except such as part as is promised, on the part of the United States, to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoli; of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no pretense of any periodical tribute of further payments is ever to be made by either party.

Art. 11. 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 tranquillity, 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.

Art. 12. In case of any dispute, arising from a violation of any of the articles of this treaty, no appeal shall be made to arms; nor shall war be declared on any pretext whatever. But if the Consul, residing at the place where the dispute shall happen, shall not be able to settle the same, an amicable referrence shall be made to the mutual friend of the parties, the Dey of Algiers; the parties hereby engaging to abide by his decision. And he, by virtue of his signature to this treaty, engages for himself and successors to declare the justice of the case, according to the true interpretation of the treaty, and to use all the means in his power to enforce the observance of the same.

Signed and sealed at Tripoli of Barbary the 3d day of Junad in the year of the Hegira 1211— corresponding with the 4th day of November, 1796, by

JUSSOF BASHAW MAHOMET, Bey.
MAMET, Treasurer.
AMET, Minister of Marine.
SOLIMAN KAYA.
GALIL, General of the Troops.
MAHOMET, Commander of the City.
AMET, Chamberlain.
ALLY, Chief of the Divan.
MAMET, Secretary.
Signed and sealed at Algiers, the 4th day of Argill, 1211—corresponding with the 3d day of January, 1797, by
HASSAN BASHAW, Dey,
And by the agent Plenipotentiary of the United States of America,
JOEL BARLOW





The Treaties' Aftermath:
As it turns out the Treaty of Tripoli failed to achieve its stated purpose of ensuring peace and friendship. In 1800 the ruler of Tripoli, angry because his tribute payments were late, was again harassing U.S. shipping. President Thomas Jefferson beefed up the fledgling Navy and sent her ships to blockade Tripoli. Then in 1803, disaster struck when the U.S.S. Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli, and its 300-man crew was imprisoned. Jefferson called for war (the first between the United States and a muslim nation).


Recommended reading:

  • "Treaty of Tripoli". Annals of Congress Volume VII, pg 3093-3096. Websites: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac2&fileName=009/llac009.db&recNum=340 and http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llac2&fileName=009/llac009.db&recNum=341
  • "Joel Barlow and the Treaty of Tripoli," by Rob Boston. Church & State, Vol. 50, No. 6 (June 1997), pp. 11-14; Website: http://www.au.org/c&sjun6.htm
  • The Journal of the Senate, including The Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate, John Adams Administration, 1797-1801, Volume 1: Fifth Congress, First Session; March-July, 1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1977.
  • "Little-Known U. S. Document Signed by President Adams Proclaims America's Government Is Secular," by Jim Walker. Early America Review, Vol. II, No. 1 (Summer 1997); Website: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer97/secular.html
  • "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary," 1796-1797. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Edited by Hunter Miller. Vol. 2. 1776-1818. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1931, p. 383.

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