A Brief History

Morocco is the first country to recognize the United States, in December 1777.

Through his representative in Tangier, the Sultan of Morocco informed a number of countries "including the Americans" that they were allowed to enter Moroccan ports without payment of duties or tariff. (letter above). This constituted de facto recognition of the United States.

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Straits of Gibraltar from Dutch Map 18th century

George Washington established the first diplomatic mission to Morocco in December 1797 when an American Consulate was established in Tangier with the hope of ensuring the safe passage of American shipping into the Mediterranean.

In 1821, the Moroccan ruler, Sid Suleiman, gave the United States, a building in the old medina of Tangier.

The Moroccan rulers had given buildings in the Old Medina to other diplomatic missions in Morocco in order to encourage the diplomatic corps to deal with the Sultan's representative, the Mendoub, who was assigned to Tangier. The Americans were the last country to receive the Sultan's gift and the only country that held on to this site down to the present day. From 1821 to the end of the French and Spanish Protectorates in 1956, the American Legation in Tangier served as our diplomatic mission to Morocco.

During the Second World War, officers at the Legation helped prepare for the Allied Landings in North Africa that took place in November 1942. One of these officers, Gordon Browne, was decorated for bravery in designating a landing field for Allied glider planes.

During the Second World War, the international city of Tangier, was administered as a neutral city by General Franco of Spain. The atmosphere of intrigue and espionage portrayed in the famous movie, Casablanca—filmed entirely in Hollywood—starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, really best describes Tangier during World War II.

Following the successful Allied landings in North Africa, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, met in Casablanca in January 1943. to confer on the future conduct of the war. General DeGaulle of France also attended along with high ranking British and American officers.

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Seated are King Mohamed V of Morocco, Roosevelt, and Churchill

With the end of the French and Spanish Protectorates in 1956, all foreign diplomatic missions moved to Rabat. The Legation building continued as the Consulate General for five years and then served as an Arabic Language school for American diplomats and as a Peace Corps training center. In 1975 the building stood empty and might have been sold if US diplomats in Morocco and friends in Washington had not acted (as explained elsewhere) to save and protect it.

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