Friday, August 26, 2005

Michael: The Un-Christian Barbary Treaties

In the waning years of the 18th century, a young American Republic under Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson waged war against the piratical depradations of the Barbary Coast states. One result was the creation of the Treaty of Triploli of 1796 which was duly signed and passed by unimous consent of the Senate, becoming the highest law of the land after the Constitution. Article 11 of that treaty proves conclusively that the Founders did not consider America a Christian nation, nor did they consider it to have any sort of religious mission.

"ARTICLE 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 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."

Those who would argue that our laws are based on Christianity, or the Ten Commandments, are quite simply dead wrong. Not even those worthies who were present and held political power at the creation and infancy of our government held such a view, and they had no hestitation declaring this fact publicly and in a legally binding fashion.

Today, our religious 'leaders' have become so swollen with their own perceived self-importance and hubris that they feel justified in issuing Fatwahs of death against foreign leaders, and family physicians, from their televangelistic bully-pupits, while their fawning political and legal errand-boys beseige the wall of separation between religion and the government beneath a ruse of combatting religious discrimination.

This is not a Christian nation, never has been, and was never meant to be; this is a nation where Christians of all creeds, as well as all other religions, are free to worship in peace, free of persecution. Nor is this a nation that will tolerate any combination of religous factions annexing our government to their diocese.

No god commands that religion must not eat the fruit of the Tree of Power, which grows all unguarded in the garden of America. But any religion that does so will find the fruit is impossible to stop eating, even as the body of the Church withers. The fruit cannot provide the spiritual sustenance religion requires. Thus, even if gorged with the fruits, religion will starve to death amidst plenty while stripping the Tree of its entire harvest and depriving its norishment to those whom it could benefit. That is not to say that no believer may eat the fruit, just that if it is eaten solely to further spiritual purposes, it is a deadly trap for the foolish and zealous, and always has been.


At 7:52 PM, Blogger Dimension said...

The best lie is composed mostly of truth. Got Google?

In 1930, it was discovered that the existent original Arabic version of Article 11 was gibberish and that the original Article 11 was not an article at all, but a letter from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. Nevertheless, Joel Barlow's English "translation" of Article 11, as recorded in the certified copy of January 4, 1797, is contained in the version of the treaty that was approved by President John Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and ratified by the Senate.

There exists an additional certified copy of the original Arabic Treaty made by James Cathcart. This copy confirms that Article 11 was not a part of the Arabic original, but was for some reason revised in the English translation that was ultimately ratified.

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.

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Michael said...

So your point is?

"Joel Barlow's English "translation" of Article 11, as recorded in the certified copy of January 4, 1797, is contained in the version of the treaty that was approved by President John Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and ratified by the Senate."

You thus admit that this text was ratified and signed. You think the Senate didn't read it? You think the President didn't read what he was signing? Of course, if it were this President we were talking about that is a distinct possibility...

Nothing you say negates the argument that Article 11 of this treaty is an expression of how American leaders saw their nation and their government at the time this treaty was passed. The fact that it might have been abrogated and changed subsequent is completely irrelevant.

At 1:16 PM, Anonymous jason said...

There's some good quotes here too:

but it will never be enough to please everybody. Everyone wants the founding fathers to be like them.

"The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy."
-George Washington

oops! Pat Robertson.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Joel Gaines said...

I deleted my original comment, so I could be more clear.

The document ratified by Congress was based upon the certainty that the United States, unlike most of the North African nations we made treaties with during this time, had no established church.

That language like this, which was in the English translation ratified by Congress, is not all that shocking when you consider that the lack of an established church was probably what allowed this document to be accepted by the Bey at all.

There were several other treaties during this time with nations of the Barary coast and this is the only oone that such language existed in (yes, I understand it wasn't in the original Arabic). The treaty with Tripoli in 1804 did not have the same language - though it did have language which better conveyed that the US had no established church - and was used with several other nations later (Turkey for example) as a critical factor to making treaties with nations who needed the encouragement that we would not use religion alone as a basis for our dealings with them. Most of these nations needed such assurances because England, France, and Spain DID use religion alone in many cases to decided how they treated other nations.

I do not believe the US is a "Christian Nation'> That is to say, I understand we are a pluralistic people who have the right to worship as we choose (or not). Whoever, there is no doubt that the nation was established by the Judeo-Christian values of our forefathers. Our freedoms are inalienable because of where they come from. We are endowed by our Creator.....

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Michael said...

I don't have any issue with the historicity of anything Joel said in his comment. I agree with all of it, in fact. I happen to believe that our rights are inalienable because we are all human and deserve equal treatment under law and ethics, but not because of a creator. Regardless, as long as someone arrives at the same conclusion, I don't much care how they get there.

The point of my post is not to contest that our nation was initially, and continues to be made up largely of Christians and that Christian ethics informed the foundational principles of our government and society. The point was to illustrate that the founders conceived of the United States as having an essentially secular government and the desire of some contemporary religious fundamentalists to breach the wall of separation is, and always has been, an anathema to the American way of life.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous miked85284 said...

20 years ago James Mitchener in his novel Space,was eerily prophetic when he described the assault on science by the religious right.i would strongly recommend anyone concerned about this phenomenon should read this or re-read ad i did.


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