Our Oldest Continuing Ally - And Response

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Who is America’s oldest continuing ally? 

France?  Sorry, Francophiles, the first Franco-American Alliance ended in 1798 when the naval Franco-American War began (it ended in 1800).  The temperature did not warm up until after the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of Napoleon III in 1870 following the collapse of the French intervention in Mexico.  France gifted the Statue of Liberty to the USA in 1884, and in his original draft Francis Bellamy included the French revolutionary values of “liberty, equality, fraternity” in his Pledge of Allegiance.

England?  Sorry, Anglophiles, even though our two countries traded ambassadors as early as 1785 and began trading as early as 1783, relations were still shaky. 

In fact, when England went to war with France in 1793, over King Louis getting his head cut right off and thus having his constitution spoiled (for Edmund Burke, the greater outrage was his wife’s death), the United States and Great Britain almost went to war as well. 

With the War of 1812, numerous border disputes, the actions of the British Empire during the Civil War, the Fenian invasions of Canada from America in 1866 and 1867, things didn’t thaw until the late 19th century.  There was what might be called a “cold war” until the Great Rapprochement, the period from 1895 through 1914 that coincided with the Progressive Era in the U.S.A. and the Belle Epoque in the U.K.G.B.I. (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) and the rest of Europe.

Israel?  Sorry, the State of Israel didn’t even exist until 1948 and the land upon which it was erected that year, Palestine, had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the 16th century, and other empires before that since about 587 BCE.  Besides, even with the urging of Harry Truman’s best friend, our President did not acknowledge that country until the Soviet Union did so first.  It wasn’t until after the Six Day War in 1967 (which included the attack by Israeli air forces upon the USS Liberty) that US-Israel relations began to thaw.

No, the answer lies at the far western end of North Africa.

The first ruler in the rest of the world to recognize the United States as a legitimate nation in its own right was Mohammad III of the Sultanate of Morocco in 1777.  A decade later, in 1787, the two countries cemented a formal alliance that has continued unbroken down to the current date.  The alliance held even while Morocco was a protectorate of France between 1912 and 1956. 

Today our oldest ally, a Muslim majority country, is known as the Kingdom of Morocco, its current ruler being Mohammed VI.  With a population 99.1% Berber and Arab, with the former being the clear majority, the country borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and includes the autonomous region of Western Sahara and the major cities of Casablanca, Marrakesh, Tangier, and several others in addition of the capital at Rabat.  Its king belongs to the Alaouite dynasty, which has been ruling since 1666.

Chuck Hamilton 

* * * 

Somehow, Mr. Hamilton has confused a “naval salute,” a formality common to establishing trade during that time period, with official diplomatic relations that created an alliance between nations.   

In 1777, Morocco's Mohammad III of the Sultanate of Morocco was in an international trade and economic expansion mode, eager to explore opportunities through Triangular Trade, an existing trading route among three regions of the world. He extended a “naval salute” via message to the consuls of European and other countries announcing that Moroccan ports were now officially open to their trade and seeking same in return. A "naval salute” pledges that ships entering the ports of that country shall be treated with respect and accommodation and not subject to attack. Since America had already declared independence from Great Britain, it was added to the Moroccan list of potential Triangular Trade partners, just as they would other emerging countries/colonies that might offer mutual trade opportunities. Nothing more should be drawn from that inclusion.   

America declared independence in 1776. Thus followed the 1783 Treaty of Paris that formally recognized America's independence from Great Britain. Within that treaty appears the names of America's existing allies: France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic. Try as I might, I do not find Morocco listed among those “allies” despite Mr. Hamilton's claim that the alliance was established in 1777. 

Then, in 1784, ignoring the existing "naval salute" with America, Morocco seized a U.S. merchant ship. The reason given for the ship's seizure? America had ignored Moroccan diplomatic overtures!  That declaration implies that there was no formal diplomatic alliance between the two countries prior to that time. But the trick worked, and a “treaty of amity and commerce” was forged in 1787.  

Facts again contradict Mr. Hamilton's claim that Morocco is our "oldest continuing ally,” since it appears there was existing trade--strictly business dealings--but no formal diplomatic recognition between our countries before 1787, the year the U.S.-Moroccan treaty was signed. As a reminder, that treaty occurred some 10 years after America declared independence in 1776, and four years after the Treaty of Paris (1783) recognized America as a sovereign nation and after it's allies were named in that document. 

Among agreements outlined within the “treaty of amity and commerce” between America, a Christian nation, and Morocco, a Muslim country, are these words:  “In the name of Almighty God, This is a Treaty of Peace and Friendship established between us and the United States of America, which is confirmed, and which we have ordered to be written in this Book and sealed with our Royal Seal at our Court of Morocco on the twenty fifth day of the blessed Month of Shaban, in the Year One thousand two hundred, trusting in God it will remain permanent...And it is further declared that whatever indulgences in Trade or otherwise shall be granted to any of the Christian Powers, the Citizens of the United States shall be equally entitled to them...This Treaty shall continue in full Force, with the help of God for Fifty Years.” The full content of the treaty is worthy of study by Mr. Hamilton. The 1787 treaty was renegotiated with Morocco in September 1836, or 49 years after the original treaty, essentially reinforcing the safe passage of ships during peace and wartime and restating and updating rules for confiscation of property and persons on US and Moroccan ships.  

Given the chronological facts shown, along with Morocco's own internal power struggles with other nations throughout the years since, it would be a stretch to declare Morocco as our “oldest continuing ally." 

However, I must admit that Mr. Hamilton's version of events certainly made for some interesting reading. 

Mya Lane

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