History was quoted out of context


Regarding Mr. Gallagher’s letter to the editor of Feb. 27, 2013, it is sad that there are people who do not take the time to fully investigate the claims they make about the origins of our Constitution and government. These people may be either misinformed, and acting rashly out of ignorance, too lazy to do their own research and rely on whatever propaganda gives them fuzzy-snuggles, or perhaps even deliberately feeding misinformation for some personal agenda.

After a few hours of research on the internet, I was able to find a lot of information regarding the “Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli of Barbary.”

This treaty was written during a time of piracy committed by the then Muslim-led countries of Tripolotania, with the captives taken in those acts being held either for ransom, as slaves, or murdered.

The worlds most powerful countries all had “government sanctioned denominations” (specific Christian Churches), and the writers of this treaty made an effort to distance the United States from that type of behavior in order to promote the freedom of Christian Faith expression without regard to denomination.

I’ve cobbled together a few quotes from just two available sources, and included those sources for anyone who wants to take the time to do their own research.

“Article 11 reads:

Art. 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 Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] 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.”

According to Frank Lambert, Professor of History at Purdue University, the assurances in Article 11 were “intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers.” Lambert writes, “By their actions, the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion. Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic. Ten years after the Constitutional Convention ended its work, the country assured the world that the United States was a secular state, and that its negotiations would adhere to the rule of law, not the dictates of the Christian faith. The assurances were contained in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 and were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers.

The American envoy who negotiated and signed the treaty, Joel Barlow, on the basis of Barlow’s book Advice to the Privileged Orders (1793). [NOTE: As President Washington’s appointed envoy (in 1793) to negotiate treaties with Algeria, Tripoli, and Tunis, Colonel David Humphreys ultimately delegated his responsibilities to junior agents, including Joel Barlow as well as Joseph Donaldson.

In the commencement of his denunciation of “The Church,”

Barlow included a footnote to eliminate the very misunderstanding that atheists seek to perpetrate on others. He explained: “From that association of ideas, that usually connects the church with religion, I may run the risque [sic] of being misunderstood by some readers, unless I advertise them, that I consider no connection as existing between these two subjects; and that where I speak of church indefinitely, I mean the government of a state, assuming the name of God, to govern by divine authority; or in other words, darkening the consciences of men, in order to oppress them. In the United States of America, there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as a Church; and yet in no country are the people more religious… (pp. 53-54, italics in orig., emp. added) In the United States of America there is no church; and this is one of the principal circumstances which distinguish that government from all others that ever existed; it ensures the un-embarrassed exercise of religion, the continuation of public instruction in the science of liberty and happiness, and promises a long duration to a representative government.” His declaration that in America “there is no church” meant that there is no state religion, there is no religion (specifically, any one Christian denomination) that has been elevated by the federal government to the status of the state church.

As Supreme Court Justice and Father of American Jurisprudence, Joseph Story, succinctly explained in his comments on the wording of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government. It thus cut off the means of religious persecution.”

Even John Adams, under whose presidency the Treaty of Tripoli was finalized and sanctioned by Congress, and then signed by Adams himself, forthrightly affirmed the role of Christianity in the founding of the Republic. In a letter he wrote to Thomas Jefferson, dated June 28, 1813, he explained that the great foundation of the nation is Christianity: “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite…. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united, and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence. Now 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.”

The point is that the treaty was assuring the Tripolitan Muslim warlord that the government of the United States would never show hostility toward his country based on America’s intimate affiliation with Christianity. [NOTE: Interestingly, the only known surviving Arabic copy of the Treaty of Tripoli lacks the allusion to America not being a Christian nation.]

Even more telling proof that the phrase in Article 11 is misconstrued by atheists is seen in Article 14 of the subsequent treaty made with Tripoli on June 4, 1805, which reads in full: “Art. 14th.

As the government of the United States of America 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 voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, except in the defence of their just rights to freely navigate the high seas, it is declared by the contracting parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two nations. And the consuls and agents of both nations respectively, shall have liberty to exercise his religion in his own house. All slaves of the same religion shall not be impeded in going to said consul’s house at hours of prayer. The consuls shall have liberty and personal security given them, to travel within the territories of each other both by land and sea, and shall not be prevented from going on board any vessel that they may think proper to visit. They shall have likewise the liberty to appoint their own drogerman and brokers.”

As John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams and 6th President, declared:

“From the day of the Declaration, the people of the North American Union and of its constituent States, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians, in a state of nature; but not of Anarchy. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct.”

References: apologeticspresswikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Tripoli

I think its important that we not quote history out of context.

Sam Magnussen                                                                             Battle Ground