1821: Sultan Moulay Slimane Gives Tangier Legation to U.S.

TALIM Sultan Moulay Slimane sepia 190 years ago, in 1821, Morocco's Sultan Moulay Slimane (the French transliteration tends to be used, vice the more familiar to Anglophones "Suleiman") gave the original building of the Tangier Legation to the United States.

Now, 190 doesn't have quite the same ring as 200, but this is notice to those who care about such things: the Bicentennial of the Tangier American Legation (Institute for Moroccan Studies) is only 10 years away.

The image here of TALIM's benefactor is not a portrait, but rather an artist's rendering of the Sultan from contemporary descriptions.  It was explained to me by a Moroccan historian that royal portraits were only done after Moulay Slimane's reign.

His reign was rather tumultuous.  According to Larousse, it included sibling rebellion, pressure from Turks, Berbers, and Islamic fundamentalists – wahabism, which Moulay Slimane saw as an antidote to practices such as maraboutism or veneration of saints.

To top it all off, the plague hit Morocco.  Imagine being a Sultan – or an American diplomat in Black Death-ridden Tangier – during this dark time.

Little, it appears, has been written about this enigmatic Sultan.  My historian friend, who has already written about other Alawite sultans, is working on a book on Moulay Slimane.  One of Morocco's newest universities is named after him, and we hope to interest AIMS American and Maghribi scholars in this Sultan who reached out to both wahabi fundamentalism and the young democracy called the United States of America.  He died in 1822, the year after he gave us this property.

With all that going on, Sultan Moulay Slimane managed to free the last of Morocco's Christian slaves and give the U.S. a permanent home for its diplomats.  From which, 190 years later, I write this post.

Thank you, Sultan Moulay Slimane.  Your image, even if an artist's impression, will assume its appropriate place at the Legation.  And we hope to make a splash in a decade to mark your generosity of almost two centuries ago.

Gerald Loftus

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