Washington to Sultan: “Great and Magnanimous Friend”

TALIM 225 anniversaryThankfully, someone remembered to mark the 225th anniversary of one of America's oldest treaties, the 1787 Treaty of Marrakesh – "The Treaty of Friendship & Amity" – between Morocco and the United States.

Appropriately, the event was celebrated by the Amity Series, an interfaith dialogue initiative between Muslims and Christians, and took place last week – on the eve of Ramadan – at George Washington University.

White House Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, addressed the conference.

Mount Vernon historian Mary V. Thompson's remarks at the symposium described the context:

On December 1, 1789, George Washington sat down to write a letter to an old friend of his country, someone he had never met.  Just over seven months before, Washington had been inaugurated the first president of the United States and had set up his office in the country’s temporary capital of New York City.  In the intervening months, he had begun putting together his cabinet; gotten Mrs. Washington and the two grandchildren they were raising settled in their new house; organized a scheme for his official entertaining; survived a near-fatal illness; and taken a one-month tour of the New England states.  Now, as he started the letter, he began with the salutation, “Great and Magnanimous Friend.”  Many Americans today would probably be surprised to learn that the recipient of the letter he wrote that day was Mohammed Ibn Abdullah, the Emperor of Morocco, and that Washington might have written more accurately, “Great and Magnanimous and Patient Friend.”

Thompson's stress on the Sultan's patience refers to the opportunity almost missed – the failure of the fledgling country, which had just declared its independence a year before, to respond to the Sultan's overture in 1777.  At the time, General George Washington was settling down to a harsh winter at Valley Forge, and the American Revolution's course was by no means assured.

So Morocco waited for years for the American Revolution to come to a successful conclusion, and continued to wait for an American response.  Finally, the capture of The Betsey, an American brigantine seized by Moroccan corsairs off the coast of Cadiz, succeeded in getting the attention of the United States.

Diplomat Thomas Barclay was dispatched to Morocco, and the fruit of his negotiations is what was celebrated 225 years later.

The GWU anniversary conference was covered by the Moroccan press service MAP, and by Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard.  Below, a portion of the Sultan's letter to George Washington.


TALIM Sultan's Letter to GW in Arabic

Note: hegira date equates to 1788 in the Roman calendar

 Gerald Loftus


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.