Saturday, August 06, 2005

A little about the treaty with Tripoli

Years ago I had a great interest in the entire subject of the "Faith of the Founding Fathers" and a recent interchange has prompted me to get into the matter again. One of the favorite issues years ago, I found, is still around, though matters have progressed somewhat since I last checked. The issue? An item found in a treaty reached with certain Muslim pirates of the African coast, one part of which, Article 11, 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 Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan 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.

dot dot dot

The point to be made here is that America was in no position, at this time in the 1790s, to worry about the minutiae of the Treaty. A treaty had to be negotiated, for as the site also notes, "The Barbary states considered themselves at war with any country that did not have a peace agreement with them." Delays in negotiation meant more piracy, more being at war with the pirates, and more possibilities of innocent Americans being captured and sold into slavery, and more economic burdens for businesses in the fledgling nation. With no help forthcoming from the international community -- who preferred to use the pirates, even against America, as lackeys to destroy the small fry -- and with treaties taking such an extraordinary amount of time to negotiate and agree to -- what would the American government be expected to do? Even if anyone objected to Article 11, it would have been foolish and counterproductive to send it back for re-negotiation. We would suggest that matters were weighed in the balance, and that it was considered more important to get the Treaty through than to rework it.

With that said, it is well to note that when the Treaty was reworked 8 years later, Article 11 was conspicuously absent. In that context it is also well to note that by this time, America had the upper hand and was in a position to give the pirates the short end of the stick. The sites we have linked to tell the story.

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