United States Treaties with the Barbary States (continued)
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 02:48:29 PM EST
Last week, in response to Chuck Norris's two recent WorldNetDaily articles, "A 200-year-old lesson on 9/11" and "Is America a Christian nation?", I decided to serialize, in three installments, the chapter of my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, that covers the 1797 treaty with Tripoli and a number of other topics related to our early government's dealings with the Barbary States. (For those who missed the first installment, it can be found here.)

What prompted me to serialize this entire chapter was a particular quote used by Norris in "A 200-year-old lesson on 9/11," a quote also used by David Barton in his book Original Intent. In Norris's article, the quote appears in the third item on a list of "Diplomacy lessons from long ago."

3. Once a religious war, always a religious war. Whether justified as vengeful sentiment for the Crusades or not, Islamo-fascism cannot see any argument or altercation with the West outside the lens of a religious one. In his April 8, 1805, journal entry, even Gen. William Eaton said of Muslim radicals, "We find it almost impossible to inspire these wild bigots with confidence in us or to persuade them that, being Christians, we can be otherwise than enemies to [Muslims]. We have a difficult undertaking!" To this day, extremists still view America as it did back then, as being packaged together with the other European countries and Muslim conquests of the Middle Ages. To them the jihad hasn't begun but continues.

Like Barton, Norris uses this quote to make it appear that "General" Eaton (who wasn't even a real general) was describing the enemy -- "Muslim radicals." He wasn't. He was talking about his own troops, a motley army consisting mainly of Arab mercenaries, raised by Eaton to carry out what was essentially an unauthorized military operation.

This installment of my chapter on "Treaties with the Barbary States" wraps up the section on the 1797 treaty with Tripoli, and begins the story of "General" Eaton.

Chapter Seven

Treaties with the Barbary States (continued)

The third argument against the Treaty of Tripoli is that Joel Barlow and/or John Adams were forced to agree to the not founded on the Christian religion statement because the Bashaw of Tripoli had to be reassured that the United States wouldn't try to force the Muslims to convert to Christianity. The problem with this argument is that it contradicts their other argument -- that Article 11 didn't appear in the Arabic version of the treaty. If Article 11 never appeared in the Arabic version, how would the Bashaw of Tripoli have been reassured by it?

Because their authors make up the facts to fit their stories, religious right American history books often contradict each other. A good example of this is how Joel Barlow, the likely author of Article 11, is portrayed in these books. Reading David Barton's Original Intent, one would think that Barlow was, above all else, a Christian minister. In contrast, Gary DeMar, in America's Christian History: The Untold Story, claims that Barlow "deceptively altered" the Treaty of Tripoli to remove all religious references, and describes his beliefs as "radical deistic views."

According to Gary DeMar:

Joel Barlow oversaw the original translation process from Arabic to English. In 1930 the original Arabic version was retranslated into English by Dr. Hurgronje. Barlow's translation and Dr. Hurgronje's retranslation bear faint resemblance to each other. For example, in Article 12 of Barlow's version, all religious references have been removed: "Praise be to God!"; "May God strengthen [the Pasha of Tripoli], and the Americans"; "May God make it all permanent love and a good conclusion between us"; and, "by His grace and favor, amen!"

It seems that Barlow's translation deceptively altered the treaty. The deception does not end with Article 12. There was even more tampering with the document in its translation process. In fact, the controversial Article 11 simply does not exist in the original Arabic text.

To say that Barlow's and Dr. Hurgronje's translations "bear faint resemblance to each other" is extremely misleading. Barlow's translation was not a word for word translation of the Arabic text, but this was nothing unusual. Literal translations of the Arabic and Turkish versions of even the simplest articles were often long, confusing, and grammatically incorrect. When these articles were translated into English, they were rewritten in clearer, more concise statements that meant the same thing as their Arabic or Turkish counterparts. With the exception of the missing Arabic version of Article 11, Barlow's translation of the Treaty of Tripoli was no different than translations of other treaties. The following is an example of Dr. Hurgronje's literal translation of an article from the Treaty of Tripoli, and Barlow's translation of the same article.

Praise be to God! Declaration of the fourth article. We have also agreed concerning all the ships sailing out from the well-preserved Tripoli, that they [evidently the Tripolitans] are not allowed to take any of the American ships until a term of eighteen months shall have expired, and likewise there shall not be taken any of the Tripolitan ships until the condition of eighteen months shall be fulfilled, because the country of the Americans is at a great distance. This stipulation is connected with the passports; when the number of months of the term that we have mentioned shall be complete, and we have observed the term of one year and a half, beginning by the date which we have mentioned, then all the ships of the Americans must have passports. Thus.(7)

ARTICLE 4. Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And, considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers belonging to such vessels shall be sufficient for their protection.(8)

Omitting the exclamations "Praise be to God!" and "Thus," which, in the literal translation are found at the beginning and end of almost every article, and putting the actual content of the article into understandable English, can hardly be considered a deceptive alteration of the treaty.

Barlow also omitted other superfluous phrases, some religious and some not. This was also nothing unusual. For example, in Arabic documents, the name of a ruler was almost always followed by the words "may God strengthen." A similar customary religious phrase was used in Turkish documents. These phrases were always omitted in the English translations, by both Barlow and other consuls.

The following examples are from two different treaties with Algiers, one negotiated in 1795 by Joseph Donaldson, and the other in 1816 by Isaac Chauncey and William Shaler. In the English translations of both, the religious phrase following the Dey's name was removed, as were any unnecessary non-religious words.

In the literal translation from the Turkish of Article 1 of the 1795 treaty, the treaty was between:

...the ruler of America, George Washington, President, our friend and actually the Governor of the States of the island of America, and the lord of our well-preserved garrison of Algiers, His Highness Hassan Pasha -- may God grant to him what he wishes -- the Dey, together with the Agha of his victorious army, his minister, all the members of the Divan, and all his victorious soldiers, and equally between the subjects of both parties.(9)

In the English translation it was between:

...the President and Citizens of the United States of North-America, and Hassan Bashaw, Dey of Algiers, his Divan and Subjects...(10)

In the literal translation from the Turkish of the introductory statement in the 1816 treaty, the parties were:

...the President and ruler of the American people, living in the island called America, belonging to the islands of the ocean [and] His Excellency, the strong Vizier and the noble Marshal, Omar Pasha -- may God grant to him what he desires -- as President of the Divan...(11)

In the English translation they were simply:

The President of the United States [and] His Highness Omar Bashaw, Dey of Algiers.(12)

Most religious right American history authors actually want Joel Barlow to be an atheist or a deist. This gives them someone to blame the not founded on the Christian religion phrase on. For some, the entire argument is that the words were just the opinion of one infidel, and don't reflect the opinion of the rest of the founders.

David Barton, on the other hand, not only wants Barlow to be a Christian, but wants him to be a minister. In fact, in his book Original Intent, Barton never even mentions that Barlow had anything to do with the Treaty of Tripoli. Barlow doesn't appear until about ten pages after Barton's section about the treaty, in a list intended to show that "the strong religious convictions of so many Founding Fathers is evidenced through their leadership roles in establishing and guiding numerous religious societies or through serving in active ministry." Barlow is included in this list as a "Chaplain in the American Revolution for three years." Barlow is also included in the appendix of biographical sketches at the end of the Barton's book.

The following is Barton's biographical sketch of Barlow (up until he became Consul to Algiers in 1795):

Joel Barlow (1754-1812; Connecticut) Minister, educator, attorney, poet, and diplomat; tutored by Rev. Nathaniel Bartlett (1772-1773); attended Moore's School, Dartmouth, and entered Yale in 1774 in the same class as Oliver Wolcott (signer of the Declaration), Zephaniah Smith (author of America's first law text), and Noah Webster (considered the 'Schoolmaster of America'); graduated from Yale (1778); studied philosophy at Yale (1779-1787) but during those years he also taught school, managed a business, published a journal, wrote a version of the Psalms, served as a chaplain in the Continental Army (1780-1783), and was admitted to the bar (1786); travelled to France and London (1788); made citizen of France (1792); Consul to Algiers (1795-1797)...

To begin a sketch of Joel Barlow by saying he was a minister is beyond misleading. It is true that he was a chaplain in the army, but this was not because he had any genuine interest in being a minister. It is also true that he wrote a psalm book, but this was later banned by Congregationalist clergymen.

When the Revolutionary War began, Joel Barlow was a student at Yale College, and, although staying in school, he joined a militia unit and fought on vacations, distinguishing himself at the battle of White Plains. In 1778, he graduated from the college and began studying law. At this time, Timothy Dwight, a friend of Barlow's from Yale, was in the army serving as a chaplain. Dwight told Barlow that chaplains were performing a very useful service by keeping the morale of the troops up, but there weren't enough of them to go around. So, Barlow, being a patriot and wanting to help the cause in any way he could, decided to postpone his law studies and join the army -- as a chaplain. He wasn't going to let the fact that he had no religious training stand in his way. He studied theology for all of six weeks, presented himself to an association of Congregationalist ministers, passed their test, got a license to preach, and became a chaplain. While serving in this capacity, Barlow put his talent as a poet to work and inspired the troops not with sermons, but by writing patriotic songs and poems. When the war ended, so did Barlow's career as a minister.

After the war, Barlow resumed his law studies, but after being admitted to the bar in 1786, discovered that he enjoyed studying law far more than actually practicing it. During this time, Barlow also co-founded a weekly newspaper, The Hartford Mercury, to which he regularly contributed both editorials and poems. But, he soon sold his interest in the paper to his partner to devote his time to completing his epic poem, The Columbiad, and preparing it for publication. In 1785, Barlow's talent as a poet had also landed him another job. He was hired by the General Association of Congregational Ministers of Connecticut to write an Americanized version of Dr. Watts's Imitation of the Psalms of David. Once his psalm book and The Columbiad were published, Barlow opened a bookstore in Hartford, specifically to promote these two works and maximize his income from them. As soon as sales of these two books slowed down, he sold the store.

Much of Barlow's other writing during this time was for The Anarchiad, a satirical political paper anonymously published from time to time by his literary club, the Hartford Wits. Among the original members of this club was David Humphreys, who, in 1797, as Commissioner Plenipotentiary in Lisbon, was the official who approved Barlow's translation of the Treaty of Tripoli and submitted it for ratification. Among those rejected for admission to the club were Oliver Wolcott and Noah Webster, two of the very religious founders that David Barton makes a point of associating Barlow with in his biographical sketch. Barlow may have started out together at Yale with Wolcott and Webster, but couldn't have ended up more different from these former classmates in both politics and religion. While Wolcott and Webster were die-hard New England Federalists and Congregationalists, Barlow became a Jeffersonian Republican and a deist.

By 1788, Barlow was running out of money. His law practice had never been very successful, the royalties from his psalm book and The Columbiad had slowed down, and The Anarchiad, although popular, didn't generate much income. Needing a job, Barlow went to work for the Scioto Company, a group of land speculators selling land claims in the Northwest Territory. Few Americans at this time had money to buy land, so Barlow was hired to be the company's agent in Europe. He first went to England, but, not having much luck there, moved on to France, where began to have some success. This didn't last long, however, because it was soon revealed that the Scioto Company's land sales were a scam. Barlow may have been a bit deceptive in his advertisements about the wonderful and easy life people would have in Ohio, claiming, for example, that it almost never snowed there, but he had no idea that the land claims themselves were not legitimate.

Barlow was left with no source of income other than what he could make from his writing. By this time, however, he was already caught up in the political affairs of France, and making a name for himself writing tracts supporting the views of the Girondists. For a while, he divided his time between England and France, but when his political writings began to get him in a bit of trouble in England, he decided to make France his permanent home. So, Barlow and his wife Ruth, who had been living in England, moved to France, where they lived for a number of years in what appears to have been a ménage à trois with Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat.

One of Barlow's closest friends in France was Thomas Paine. In 1793, when Paine knew he was about to be arrested, he entrusted the manuscript of the first part of Age of Reason to Barlow, who got it published while Paine was imprisoned in Paris.

Eventually, the Congregationalists in Connecticut found out that the psalm book they were using in their churches had been written by a heathen, and clergymen started banning it. Although Barlow's version continued to be used by a few other churches until the mid-1800s, Barlow's old friend, Timothy Dwight, by this time president of Yale, was hired to write a new one for the Congregationalists.

David Barton ends his story about the Treaty of Tripoli with a number of quotes from the letters and journal of William Eaton, Consul to Tunis under both Adams and Jefferson.

Barton introduces William Eaton with the following:

...the writings of General William Eaton, a major figure in the Barbary Powers conflict, provide even more irrefutable testimony of how the conflict was viewed at that time. Eaton was first appointed by President John Adams as "Consul to Tunis," and President Thomas Jefferson later advanced him to the position of "U. S. Naval Agent to the Barbary States," authorizing him to lead a military expedition against Tripoli. Eaton's official correspondence during his service confirms that the conflict was a Muslim war against a Christian America.

First of all, William Eaton was not really a general. He had been in the army prior to his service as a consul, but the highest rank he achieved was captain. How he was given the rank of general -- not by the United States, but by an exiled Bashaw of Tripoli -- is explained later in this chapter. Second, Thomas Jefferson didn't exactly authorize Eaton to lead a military expedition against Tripoli. Eaton's appointment as a naval agent was not a promotion, as Barton implies, but merely a temporary change in his chain of command, described by Jefferson as an "occasional employment." As a consul, Eaton's instructions came from the Department of State, but, for reasons also explained later, Jefferson wanted him under the control of Commodore Barron, the naval commander in the Mediterranean. While Barron was authorized to use Eaton in a military expedition against Tripoli, Eaton himself was given no military authority.

According to Barton:

Eaton later complained that after Jefferson had approved his plan for military action, he sent him the obsolete warship "Hero." Eaton reported the impression of America made upon the Tunis Muslims when they saw the old warship and its few cannons:
[T]he weak, the crazy situation of the vessel and equipage [armaments] tended to confirm an opinion long since conceived and never fairly controverted among the Tunisians, that the Americans are a feeble sect of Christians.

Jefferson did not send Eaton the Hero for use in a military action. In fact, Jefferson didn't send Eaton the Hero at all. What Barton quotes was written by Eaton in June 1800, nine months before Jefferson took office as president, and nearly four years before he sent Eaton to Tripoli under Commodore Barron. The Hero is part of a completely different story. Apparently, Barton didn't want to pass up a perfectly good quote with the word "Christians" in it, and had to find a way to work it in to his story. Barton's anachronism aside, the fact that the Tunisians viewed the Americans as a "sect of Christians" says nothing more than that the Muslims in the Barbary states wrongly assumed that the United States was a Christian nation like the nations of Europe.

The Hero belongs to the story of a treaty made with Tunis in 1797. When this treaty was submitted to the Senate by John Adams in February 1798, it was not approved. The Senate would only go as far as passing a resolution of conditional approval, the condition being the removal or modification of three of the treaty's articles. In December 1798, Adams sent William Eaton and James Cathcart, the Consul to Tripoli, to renegotiate the three articles. Eaton and Cathcart set sail on the brig Sophia, which met up with a convoy of four other ships, including the Hero, which was carrying goods to Algiers for payment on a treaty with that state. Eaton and Cathcart stayed in Algiers long enough to make sure that the Dey was satisfied with the goods being delivered, then returned to the Sophia and sailed for Tunis.

After several weeks of negotiations with the Bey of Tunis, a modification of the three treaty articles was agreed upon. At this point, Cathcart sailed for Tripoli, leaving Eaton to deal with the Bey's demands for payment. In addition to the money and goods originally agreed to, the Bey now wanted extra presents for agreeing to modify the treaty, for the delay of the original payments, and, as was the custom, for receiving a new consul. He had heard that the United States gave Algiers a brand new frigate as compensation for late treaty payments, so he wanted one too.

The original cost of the treaty was to be $107,000 -- $50,000 in cash, $22,000 in jewels and other presents for various officials, and $35,000 in naval stores and weapons. This included forty cannons, twelve thousand cannon balls, and about thirty thousand pounds of gunpowder. As of the spring of 1799, however, all the Bey had received was the $50,000 in cash and a few small presents. Eaton was stuck in Tunis this entire time making excuses for the delay of the jewels and other articles. Eventually, the Bey got tired of Eaton's excuses and threatened to declare war on the United States. But, just when it was beginning to look like the Bey was going to make good on his threats, the Hero arrived with the promised naval stores. The Bey was somewhat appeased because of the quality of these items, but there was still no sign of the jewels, which had been ordered from London, or the cannons, cannon balls, and gunpowder.

The opinion of the Tunisians that the Americans were a "feeble sect of Christians" was reinforced because the arrival of the tribute ship meant the United States was giving into their demands, not because Eaton was sent an obsolete warship, as David Barton claims. The "crazy situation," which Eaton complained about in a number of letters, was that the high quality of the goods that were delivered gave the impression that America was a wealthy nation, but one that was afraid to fight -- an impression that would lead to endless demands.

Barton follows the quote about the Hero with two more Eaton quotes from around the same time, which, like the Hero quote, prove nothing more than that the Muslims assumed America was a Christian nation.

In a later letter to Pickering, Eaton reported how pleased one Barbary ruler had been when he received the extortion compensations from America which had been promised him in one of the treaties:
He said, "To speak truly and candidly . . . . we must acknowledge to you that we have never received articles of the kind of so excellent a quality from any Christian nation."

When John Marshall became the new Secretary of State, Eaton informed him:

It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that "The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well."

As further evidence that the Barbary Wars were a "conflict between Christian America and Muslim nations," Barton presents a few entries from William Eaton's journal. The journal Barton quotes is from 1805, when Eaton actually was on his military expedition, a march across the desert for which, in Barton's version of the story, Jefferson sent him a ship.

According to Barton:

...when General Eaton finally commenced his military action against Tripoli, his personal journal noted:
April 8th. We find it almost impossible to inspire these wild bigots with confidence in us or to persuade them that, being Christians, we can be otherwise than enemies to Musselmen. We have a difficult undertaking!

What Barton fails to mention about this journal entry is that the "Musselmen" Eaton was referring to weren't an enemy he was fighting. They were his own troops!

The plan that led to Eaton marching an army of Arabs across the desert in 1805 was hatched by Eaton four years earlier. In March 1801, when Jefferson took office as president, the Bashaw of Tripoli demanded that the United States pay $250,000 in tribute. This went directly against Article 10 of the 1797 treaty, which guaranteed that no further payment or annual tribute would ever be required.

It's interesting to note that Gary DeMar, while being very concerned with the differences between Barlow's translation of the 1797 treaty and the Arabic text, doesn't appear to have actually read the treaty. If he had, he would know that the United States wasn't paying tribute to Tripoli in 1801, yet he seems to think the demand for the $250,000 was an increase to existing tribute payments.

According to DeMar:

Piracy remained a problem despite the 1797 Treaty. In addition, Tripoli demanded increased tribute payments in 1801. When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute, Tripoli declared war on the United States.

Because the Bashaw of Tripoli's demand for a tribute payment violated the 1797 treaty, Jefferson ignored it. When the Bashaw's deadline for this payment came and went with no response at all from the United States, Tripoli declared war.

The Bashaw of Tripoli at this time, Jusuf Caramanli, was not the legitimate heir to the throne. Nine years earlier, Jusuf had driven the legitimate heir, his older brother Hamet, into exile and assumed power. When Tripoli declared war on the United States, William Eaton was still in Tunis. So was Hamet Caramanli.

Eaton approached Hamet and proposed a plan by which the United States would help restore him to his throne. Eaton thought his plan would accomplish two things. First, it would end the war because Hamet would negotiate a new peace treaty as soon as he regained power. Second, the use of military force to restore Hamet would send a message to the other Barbary States that the United States was not a country to mess with.

From the start, Eaton was at odds with the Jefferson administration. Eaton wanted to solve the problem with Tripoli militarily, and Jefferson wanted to solve it diplomatically. As of 1802, Eaton could get nothing more from Jefferson than very vague approval of his plan to restore Hamet. Secretary of State Madison wrote to Eaton in August of that year, informing him that the administration was not opposed to cooperating with an ally who shared a common goal if it was to the advantage of the United States to do so. However, Eaton was not given any means by which to carry out his plan, and Madison made it clear that, in the event that a treaty was negotiated with the reigning Bashaw, any plan to restore Hamet was to be abandoned. Jefferson and Madison were obviously under the impression at this point that Hamet had a sizeable army and much greater resources and support among his own people than he actually did. They had no intention of providing troops to Eaton, or paying for the army of Arabs that he would later assemble.

In May 1803, Eaton returned to the United States to try to settle his accounts with the government. Some of Eaton's expenses in Tunis were being questioned, such as a bill for the loss of income from his private ship, the Gloria, which he had taken upon himself to attach to the navy, although having no authority to do so. While in Washington on this business, Eaton went to see Jefferson in an attempt to talk him into providing a military force to restore Hamet.

Eaton wrote the following to his friend Timothy Pickering about his meeting with Jefferson. As was often the case in his letters to Pickering, Eaton was quite sarcastic about Jefferson and his policies.

I waited on the President and the Attorney-General. One of them was civil, and the other grave....I endeavored to enforce conviction on the mind of Mr. Lincoln of the necessity of meeting the aggressions of Barbary by retaliation. He waived the subject, and amused me with predictions of a political millennium which was about to happen in the United States. The millennium was to usher in upon us as the irresistible consequence of the goodness of heart, integrity of mind, and correctness of disposition of Mr. Jefferson. All nations, even pirates and savages, were to be moved by the influence of his persuasive virtue and masterly skill in diplomacy.(13)

When Jefferson sent Eaton back to the Mediterranean, he gave him no specific authority or instructions. Eaton was far too eager to carry out his plan for Jefferson to give him the authority to do it. Instead, Jefferson sent Eaton back with Commodore Barron as a naval agent, leaving any plans involving Hamet to Barron's discretion, with instructions that if he thought Eaton's knowledge of the region would be useful, he could use him. But, at the same time, Barron was also instructed to assist the Consul General, Colonel Tobias Lear, in negotiating a peace treaty with Jusuf, the reigning Bashaw. As in 1802, it was made clear that if a treaty could be negotiated, any other plans were to be abandoned. Eaton was not happy with any of this, as he wrote to Timothy Pickering.

The President becomes reserved; the Secretary of War "believes we had better pay tribute," -- he said this to me in his own office. Gallatin, like a cowardly Jew, shrinks behind the counter. Mr. Madison "leaves everything to the Secretary of the Navy Department." And I am ordered on the expedition by Secretary Smith, -- who, by the by, is as much of a gentleman and a soldier as his relation with the Administration will suffer, -- without any special instructions to regulate my conduct.(14)

To be continued...

7. David Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 2, (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1931).
8. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 8, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1867), 154.
9. Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts.
10. Peters, Statutes at Large, vol. 8, 133.
11. Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts, vol. 2.
12. Peters, Statutes at Large, vol. 8, 244.
13. Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903), 431.
14. ibid.


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I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (331 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (148 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (90 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (214 comments)

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