The Treaty of Tripoli

Article 11 of the 1797 “Treaty of Tripoli” 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.

Many people like to misquote this article, putting a period in place of the first semi-colon. They don’t want want that read in context. The full context is that the Muslims (“Mussulmen”) had declared holy war (Jihad) on Christian countries. Many Muslims then, as now, believed that they were directed by the Koran to war against Christian “crusaders”.

Several of our founding fathers pointed out that American Government and American Christians were not like the European Governments and European Christians that DID have “enmity against the laws, religion, and tranquillity, of Mussulmen”, HAD entered into “war against Mahometan nations”, and DID have “pretext arising from religious opinions”.

The U.S. representatives involved in this treaty were trying to differentiate American Government and Christianity from European Governments and Christianity. It was not intended to say that Biblical principles had nothing to do with the founding of our Government.

Many people ignore over 75% of article 11 and only look at the following quote out of context and mis-quote it by trying to make it a stand-alone sentence as follows:

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

That’s not what it says. You can change the meaning of a sentence by truncating 3/4 of it and putting a period where it doesn’t belong.

If you believe that this truncated and mis-quoted portion of article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli implies that the Christian religion had nothing to do with the founding of the Government of the United States of America, then how do you explain that the treaty that ended the American Revolution began with these words:

In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity. It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain.

Only Christianity teaches a Trinitarian view of God.

Our founders were overwhelmingly Christian, and they based many of the concepts in our government on Bible passages.

Does the misquoted portion of article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli mean that our Constitution is not in any sense founded on Biblical principles?  No. 

Does it mean that our Constitution prohibits the endorsement of the Christian religion?  No.  It, like the 1st Amendment, asserts that the Government of the United States prohibits the establishment of religion. 

Keep in mind who was on the other end of that treaty.  Then, like now, the religious structures of Islam were and are a part of Islamic governments.  This statement above in the treaty was to assure a Muslim government that the USA would not depose that government and impose Christianity by force.  The USA was assuring the Dey (ruler) of Tripoli that in its struggle with the Barbary pirates “it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,” and that “the said states never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan [Muslim] nation” due to religious considerations.

It is important to note that the 1805 treaty with Tripoli, drafted during Jefferson’s administration, differs from the 1797 Treaty in that the phrase “as the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” is conspicuously absent.  (Article 14 of the new treaty corresponds to Article 11 of the first treaty.)  Perhaps Jefferson understood that that phrase had been misconstrued, and ensured it did not appear in the updated treaty.

And again , if treaties are going to be used to establish the religious foundation of America, then it’s essential that we look at more than one treaty.  In 1783, at the close of the war with Great Britain, a peace treaty was ratified that began with these words:

In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.  It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain.

Only Christianity teaches a Trinitarian view of God.

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10 Responses to The Treaty of Tripoli

  1. What would you say about a 21st-century American government which used more “politically correct” language in a treaty with a Muslim country than in a treaty with a country which did have a legally “established” state church? Might you be likely to say “what hypocrisy, the founding fathers would never have done that”?

  2. I don’t believe in using “politically correct” language.

    I believe in speaking the truth.

    Jesus Christ is the truth

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

    John 14:6

  3. Pingback: Obama Tells Muslims and Atheists What They Want to Hear « I Took The Red Pill (and escaped the Matrix)

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    In no fewer than six different treaties from 1786 — prior to the Constitution — through 1816, the U.S. noted that it had no religious conflict with Moslem nations as European, Christian nations did, because the U.S. was not a religion-based nation. As you know, treaties become the law of the land when ratified by the Senate. All of these treaties were ratified by the Senate, some unanimously.

    It was clear to the founders and the next generation that the U.S. was in no way a Christian nation or a nation founded on religion. No matter how that grinds your gears personally, it has led to a flowering of religious devotion in this nation unparalleled anywhere else in any other time.

    In Europe, where several nations still have established churches, on Sundays the pews are empty. Fewer than 25% of Europeans (including the English) say they have any great faith

    You’re trying to push America down that road. Why? What do you have against the church? What do you have against God? Don’t put your mouth on honoring Jesus when you deny with screeds like this one.

  5. People really shouldn’t discuss the Treaty of Tripoli without reading this and understanding the larger context.

  6. Aaron says:

    “In no fewer than six different treaties from 1786 — prior to the Constitution — through 1816, the U.S. noted that it had no religious conflict with Moslem nations”

    Correct, the US didn’t have the conflict with the muslims; the muslims has the conflict with the US. The subtext of the treaty–written by US diplomats–was basically telling those muslim regimes, “Unlike Europe, we never had a problem with you to begin with and their actions have nothing to do with us. If you didn’t start a conflict, there wouldn’t be a conflict.”

    In other words, those conflicts against the US were wholly instigated and owned by the muslims; all bloodshed from those conflicts was exclusively on muslim hands.

  7. Aaron, I agree. Thank you for your comment.

  8. Pingback: When Did Unprovoked Muslim Terrorism Against the U.S.A. Begin? « I Took The Red Pill (and escaped the Matrix)

  9. When it comes to the Founders and the Constitution, David Barton knows orders of magnitude more than Jon Stewart.

    Jon Stewart threw every straw man (that his staff gave him on note cards) that he could at David Barton, and Barton knocked every single one of those straw men down. Barton has spent decades studying thousands of primary source documents. Stewart has spent minutes, possibly hours, studying the note cards his staff gave him. It was no contest. Every time Stewart threw a false accusation at Barton, Barton countered with the truth. And every time, Stewart would interrupt Barton’s answer. Stewart could only crack a joke or change the subject; he couldn’t have a straight-up discussion of the truth.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/david-barton-pt–1

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/david-barton-pt–2

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/exclusive—david-barton-extended-interview-pt–1

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/exclusive—david-barton-extended-interview-pt–2

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/exclusive—david-barton-extended-interview-pt–3

    I would love to see a similar discussion between David Barton and “Constitutional Law” lecturer Barack Obama.

    When it comes to the Founders and the Constitution, David Barton knows orders of magnitude more than Barack Obama.

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