Uncovering evidence of our country’s Christian heritage
On June 4, 1805, a Treaty of Peace and Amity with the Barbary States was signed in Tripoli by Tobias Lear, Consul General of the United States under President Jefferson as well as George Washington’s former secretary. The intention of this Treaty, which was ultimately ratified on April 12, 1806, was to prevent the Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast of North Africa from seizing American ships, confiscating their cargo, and selling their crews and passengers into slavery. The United States was able to renegotiate a previous Treaty based on victories after Tripoli had declared war in 1801. In fact, the U.S. Marines seized the pirate harbor of Derne, Tripoli in the spring of 1805, which is remembered in the Marine Hymn: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”
What is notable about this updated Treaty is an omission from the previous Treaty, signed on June 7, 1797. The earlier English version of the Treaty, prepared by Joel Barlow, American Consul, included these words in Article XI:
“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 [hatred] against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] and as the said States [America] have 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.”*
Article XIV in the 1805 Treaty, negotiated from a position of strength, addresses religion from a perspective of mutual respect, and makes no denials of Christianity to placate the Muslim leaders of the Barbary States.* The omission of the previous denial is a lost episode in American history.
Here’s a quote that gives some perspective to the matter of our nation’s foundations as laid out by our forefathers, and is a hint to other facts you might learn from our Lost Episodes tour:
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
~ John Adams
Read and Reflect: Read Luke 12:8-9 and reflect on Jesus’ assertion and compare it with what the 1797 Treaty did in essentially denying Christ and how it was reversed later.
*Source Citations: Acts Passed at the First Session of the Fifth Congress of the United States of America (Philadelphia: William Ross, 1797), 43-44; Richard Peters, ed., Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1848), 8:216.
A portion of this article was originally published on the FRC Watchman on the Wall blog