Treaty with Tripoli (1796)

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The Treaty of Tripoli (the Treaty of Peace and Friendship) was a 1796 peace treaty between the United States and Tripoli. It was signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796 and at Algiers (for a third-party guarantee) on January 3, 1797 by Joel Barlow, the American consul to the Barbary states of Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis. It was ratified by the United States on June 10, 1797.


Article 11

The Treaty is notable for Article 11, which reads:

"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."

In 1930, it was discovered that the existent original Arabic version of Article 11 was gibberish. Presumably, it was changed at some point after Barlow certified his English translation on January 4, 1797. Regardless, it was the English version that was approved by President John Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and ratified by the Senate.

The Treaty was broken in 1801 by the pasha of Tripoli and renegotiated in 1805 after the First Barbary War, at which time Article 11 was removed.

Historical context

Barbary Pirates

At the time of the Treaty and for 300 years prior, the Mediterranean Sea lanes were largely controlled by the north African Muslim states of the Barbary Coast (Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco, and Tunis) through piracy. Hostages were either ransomed or sold into slavery. Over time, most countries found it expedient to simply pay a yearly tribute (bribe) to the Barbary sultans in exchange for safe passage through the Mediterranean.

Following the American Revolution, America was no longer under the protection of the British tribute treaties, resulting in the crippling of American commerce in the Mediterranean. Having no significant Navy, the U.S. decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary states, such as this 1796 Treaty of Tripoli.

First Barbary War

In March 1801, the pasha of Tripoli demanded more tribute than previously agreed upon. The newly inaugurated U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, having long disagreed with the policy of paying tribute, refused the pasha's demand. On May 10, 1801, the pasha declared war on the United States.

307 Americans captured from the ship Philadelphia were forced to work building Tripoli's fortifications.

On April 27, 1805, Marines led by William Eaton stormed the Barbary pirates' harbor stronghold of Derna, Tripoli. It is in honor of this victory that the phrase "to the shores of Tripoli" is commemorated on the U.S. Marine Corps' flag and later in the Marine Hymn.

On June 4, 1805, under the imminent threat of U.S. action, Tobias Lear negotiated the Treaty of Peace and Amity ( with the Pasha Yusuf. To the dismay of many Americans, this included a ransom of $60,000 paid for the release of prisoners from the Philadelphia and several American merchant ships.

By 1807, Algiers had gone back to taking American ships and seamen hostage. Distracted by the preludes to the War of 1812, the Americans were unable to respond to the provocations until 1815, with the Second Barbary War, thereby concluding the encompassing Tripolian War (1800-1815).

See also

External links


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