Treaty of Tripoli, 1796 Quote

“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.”

~ Treaty of Tripoli, 1796

ARTICLE XI of the Treaty of Tripoli, 1796, signed in the last part of Washington's presidency, ratified under John Adams.
Written in Algiers and signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796, and at Algiers on Jan. 3, 1797, by Hassan Bashaw, dey or bey of Algiers, and Joel Barlow (1754-1812), U.S. Consul to Algiers. The original is in Arabic, and the English text was translated by Joel Barlow. Both texts were submitted to the U.S. Senate on May 29, 1797, and the treaty was ratified and proclaimed in Philadelphia on June 10, 1797. George Washington was president when the treaty was signed at Tripoli, but by the time it reached the Senate for ratification, John Adams was president and presented it to the Senate. Joel Barlow was co-author with Moslem officials of this treaty and sole author of Article XI which contains the non-Christian statement.
Interestingly, there is no Article XI in the original Arabic, and in its place is a crude letter of no importance from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. This discrepancy remains a mystery to this day.

Ratings and Comments

Paul, Tacoma

This quote certainly makes it appear the nation was not created on Christian foundations, but a good report on the quote is found at
...far too lengthy to repeat here.

Mike, Norwalk

I have also read an account demonstrating that the document Adams originally presented did not have the subject clause but such was present on the document offered for signing. The clause does have certain merit though. The founders were almost as much against a theocracy as a democracy. The record of discussions bringing about the Declaration of independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution, along with the writings of almost every founder negates the here clause.

Bruce, Alabama

Not founded on Christian principles but founded by men who generally held some respect for divinity or representatives of people who held some respect for divinity. For a thorough understanding of the interaction of religion and the creation of the United States of America read "Religious History of the American People" by Sydney Ahlstrom, Princeton University.

Robert L. Johnson, Florida

This quote from the Treaty of Tripoli makes it clear the US was NOT founded as a Christian nation. Many of the key Founders were Deists, not Christians. For more info on Deism visit

helorat, Milton

Ultimately what you see is an attempt to kiss the terrorist's butts because we were tired of war. And the result was the same as it always is when weakness is shown... aggressive war without provocation came anyway " the shores of Tripoli," and we defeated them and quieted them down for a while. The Islamic Facisists have been violently attacking us on and off since, as they have continuously attacked western civilization, when ever they percieved weakness. They will not stop, hence we can not stop. They must be defeated again. This is historic fact, and plain truth.

E Archer, NYC

Very interesting. Something the Christian Right should read. Just because the word Creator or God may be used in discussions in Congress, let it not be assumed that Christianity is implied. The devil calls himself God, too. Perhaps that's why Deists used words like 'Divine Providence' instead of 'God'. Even Muslims and Hindus believe in 'God'. ;-)

Paul, Tacoma

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion" understandably causes a knee-jerk modern, secularist understanding, "but what we hear is not what they said." This was a time when the first Islamic war of terror was being conducted on the US, and up to 22% of our national budget for decades went to paying ransom (not counting collections by churches). Muslims saw Americans in the same way they saw Europeans, as Christians ...and therefore, hated Crusaders out to destroy Islam. The US in this treaty was assuring the Muslims the US was NOT a Crusader nation, and our form of govt by its very blueprint was neither "Crusader" nor out to get ANY religion (now read the balance of the quote), as it was neutral on what people believed and practiced. However, to say the US govt was formed to be godless, without special affection for the general Christian religion, is to distort the Treaty into a modern, secularist meaning, and is an error. It is recognized the public at this time was VERY religious, as was John Adams. Neither would have supported it in any way, shape or form if the meaning then was the secularist's interpretation of today.

Bruce, Alabama

THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL THOUGHT: Ahlstrom in "The Religious History of the American People" says this and I paraphrase. "When the Baptists came to Massachusetts they campaigned to stop the Puritan Theocracy from hanging avowed atheists. Then they started telling the Puritans that people in Northern Europe decided in the 1400's that they no longer needed the Pope. Then they started telling the Puritans that they now no longer needed the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was in the 1730's. These Baptists were espousing freedom of conscience and independence. Independence from Rome and from Canterbury (the Church of England). Ahlstrom partly relieing on John Adams' (Adams stated the American Revoulution started during the religious Great Awakening of 1730) recollections says it was a short leap from 1730 thought processes to 1776 when many of the colonists decided: "You know what we don't need the King either." Add the Quaker experience in Philadelphia and the Rhode Island experience in tolerance and there is no way that one can say these colonies did not unite under the influence of religion in politics or that relgious history did not affect political history. The Tripoli Treaty was simply saying that under the American ideal of society mens conscience in matters of religion is free and tolerated and respected. That is why America was so unique. The conflict with radical Islam is that they do not tolerate or respect freedom of religion or conscience Paul is correct.

E Archer, NYC

For goodness sakes, are you guys going to parrot the party line all the way back to 1796? "Terrorists"? "War of terror"? You guys watch way too much TV. Stop using the word 'terror' for everything Muslim. War is war -- you don't make war on war. Today's war-mogers use the same arguments the Crusaders used to justify bombing the Middle East back to the stone age. "They hate us for our freedom" is a crock of BS -- they hate us because we blew up their cities and killed their familes, for one thing, and for seizing their nation's resources -- I'd say that is reason enough to hate the US government -- I'm not too pleased with it either..

Mike, Norwalk

This nation was based, not on religionists but, on the principles established through Judeo / Christian history. The Bible was the most quoted source for establishing the Constitution. By way of brief example: the three independent branches of government, and the judicial premise that an individual is innocent until proven guilty were founded in biblical doctrine.

Tony D., Bible Belt

The Founding Fathers knew that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to the U.S. They certainly were aware that he had weapons of mass destruction and by making this statement they were buying time before they attacked. Otherwise those Muslims would have conquered America in a month and sold Americans as slaves. By the way, Three branches of Government, a coincidence you think?!, ( Trinity ), I think not. Are you with me right-wing christo-fascists?

  • Reply
    Anonymous    8/14/07

    If the nation was based on Judeo Christian principles why doesn't the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution mention the Bible, Jesus, Moses, etc.??? It only mentions God in Deistic terms. And the US Constitution doesn't mention God at all. Bob

    Bruce, Alabama

    Listen y'all. Europeans came here because Europe was screwed up. Like 300 years of fighting over religious issues. The original colonists were a devout lot and in general believed in the idea of God. Remember this was all before Darwin and all of that stuff. Deists did not consider themselves to be non-Christian. If you go to Christ Chruch in Philly and sit in pew 28 you will be sitting in Washington's pew. Jefferson wrote a translation of the new testament and he stated his admiration for Jesus. The difference is that the colonial north american society was at it's highest levels Christian. They generally went to chruch regularly. But the puritan/congreationalists from Mass. and the Anglican/Episcopalians from Virginia and the Baptists and Methodists from Georgia, Quakers from Penna. etecetera did not see eye to eye on everything. They knew that to get along they had to establish a religiously neutral government. So the government they wisely established would be free of a particular church influence. That was not to say that the men in the offices established by the new constitution had to be secularists only that they had to rule fairly and wisely and non-denominationally. When you speak of the USA you must separate the society from its government. My European friends see America and Americans as the most relgious nation they know yet our government officially is not. I suggest that Islam is going through what Europe went through 500 years ago. Interestingly enough virtually every European nation has adopted the American political experience of freedom of relgion

    Bruce, Alabama

    I think you are missing something Mr. Archer. There may be many reasons why radical Islamists hate us (beyond the propensity to always hate the guy on top of the hill) but I suggest that their is something dreadfully wrong with the minds of folk who blow themselves up along with hundreds of their fellows. And something wrong with the theology behind it. To my knowledge the government of every Islamic country except Iran and Syria is at peace and on good terms with the USA

    helorat, Milton

    Hey Anonymous or Bob or who ever you are who does not think God is mentioned in the Constitution (or if it was true [it is not] why it would be relevant; the founders intent is clear to anyone who wants to read it) perhaps you could explain the following: "Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth." just who is that Lord he is referring to? Do I need to tell you? As for the Declaration, "— And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Deists do not believe in Divine intervention or the "protection of Divine Providence". Wake up and read the source material.

    warren, olathe

    They hate us because we are not radical Muslim and that all. Don't be stupid. They have been at it for 1500 years. The quote is proof of nothing. It was a treaty to try to appease. It failed. Has nothing to do with how or why this country was formed. Get a grip.

    jim k, Austin, Tx

    Whether this country was founded as a Christian nation depends on your idea of what the word "Christian" means. If you are thinking that our founding fathers were Trinitarian- Jesus died for our sins and you better accept that or else Christians you are wrong. For an example of Jefferson's ideas and beliefs, read his letters in a book by Martin Larson, "The Essence Of Jefferson".

    Mike, Norwalk

    The Bible was the most quoted source of the Founding Fathers. John Locke then William Blackstone were respectfully the second and third most quoted (which often referenced the Bible as the originating thought of their political persuasions) The process of creating the originating documents was first to see if the principle was biblically sound, and then go to which ever society (Roman, Greek, etc.) applied best the principle at law. The Judeo / Christian experience occurred over a millennia, fine tuning the a system of natural law (thus outlining a consistency of human frailties, nature, behavior, and a system at law that secures freedom and liberty; not an immediate now - this is how we want other people to act). Bankruptcy is another, straight out of the Bible principle at law defined by code, ordinance, regulation, rule, statute, etc. Another Biblical principle is the individual is a Devine noble heir, being personally sovereign with inherent and inalienable right(s) (there being no majority or any other superior to the individual - the individual, individually and in concert having a representatives to ensure a government of law, as is averse to a government of men). I could go on and on but suffith for now. For those that find some sort of twisted pleasure in using a distorted reference to Deist and, what significance that may have played, need to read the process of how all the founding documents of the US came about (including there was a minister at every session. Such was called upon regularly for prayer and reference to the principle being discussed). Much of the Law of Moses was in fact, perverted by non-inspired ruthless despots. Some of the Koran is a rehash of Mosaic law. That is also apparent when the Book is read with a historical perspective. That is one reason the Old and the New Testament were both used to get the greatest overview of the desired principle. It was the Biblically sound principle of acceptance of others views (political, religious, etc.) that was called upon for the quotes greater understanding.


    Get a Quote-a-Day!

    Liberty Quotes sent to your mail box daily.