Strengthening U.S.-Morocco Relations
The history of the relationship dates back ten years prior to the Treaty of Marrakech. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, American ship merchants who had sailed under the British flag lost the protection of British tribute payments to the North African coastal states. While the American peace commissioners in Paris vainly tried to secure French assurances of protection against the Barbary powers, on December 20, 1777 the Sultan, in what amounted to virtual recognition of United States' independence, declared to the European consuls and merchants in the Moroccan ports of Tangier, Sale, Larache and Essaouira, that all American ships were to be given the right to freely enter Moroccan ports to "take refreshments and enjoy in them the same privileges and immunities as those of the other nations with whom his Imperial Majesty is at peace."
Shortly after the Sultan opened his ports to American ships, he appointed Stephen D'Audibert Caille, a French merchant in Sale, to act as consul for all countries which had no consular representation in Morocco. In late 1779, Caille, acting on instructions from the Sultan, wrote to the American Congress through the American Commissioner in Paris, Benjamin Franklin. The letter informed Congress of the Sultan's appointment of Caille as Consul and also stated Sultan Sidi Mohamed's desire to conclude a treaty of peace with America. On November 28, 1780 Con- gress directed Franklin to correspond with Caille and assure him that the United States wanted to "cultivate the most perfect friendship" with the Sultan and that the United States would like to negotiate a commercial treaty with Morocco.
In May 1784, the American Commissioners in Paris, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, were authorized by Congress to conclude treaties of friendship and commerce with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. In 1785, Thomas Barclay, the Consul General of the United States in Paris was appointed to travel to Morocco and conduct the negotiations.
Mr. Barclay arrived in Marrakech, on June 19, 1786, and had two audiences with the Sultan. Barclay's proposals, based on a text drafted by Jefferson in Paris, formed the basis of the agreement eventually signed. Offering only the friendship of the United States in return for a treaty, Barkley had no difficulties in negotiating and concluding the agreement with Sultan Sidi Mohamed. The major points of the twenty five article agreement provided for the protection of American shipping along the Moroccan coast and for commerce between the two nations on the basis of most favored nation. The treaty, binding for 50 years, was sealed by the Sultan on June 28,1786 and an additional article was added July 6th. Signed and sealed by Ministers Plenipotentiary of the United States, Thomas Jefferson in Paris on January 1, 1787, and John Adams in London on January 25th, it was ratified by Congress and entered into force on July 18, 1787. The treaty was significant in that it was the first between the United States and any Arab, Muslim or African country and it demonstrated the commitment of both nations to peace and friendship
The Relationship is Strengthened
Shortly after the organization of the government of the United States under the new Constitution, President George Washington wrote a letter of appreciation, to his "Great and Magnanimous Friend" Sultan Sidi Mohamed. Dated December 1, 1789, the letter informed the Sultan that the United States had adopted a new Constitution and apologized for the delay in communicating with Morocco. Washington added:
"...It gives me pleasure to have this opportunity of assuring your majesty that I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your empire and these. within our territories, there are no mines of either gold or of silver, and this young nation, just recovering from the waste and desolation of a long war, has not, as yet, had time to acquire riches by agriculture and commerce. But our soil is beautiful, and our people industrious, and we have reason to flatter ourselves that we shall gradually become useful to our friends .... may the Almighty bless your Majesty with his constant guidance and protection...
During his rule, Sultan Sidi Mohamed faithfully abided by the terms of the treaty. However, the struggle for succession which followed his death in April 1790 caused President Washington and his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to be concerned. Both men recognized the importance of peace with Morocco and quickly acted to obtain the new Sultan's off irmation of Moroccan commitment to the treaty. As Jefferson told Congress, "...the friendship of this power is important because our Atlantic as well as Mediterranean trade is open to his annoyances and because we carry on useful commerce with his nation." To maintain the peace, Barclay was again appointed to negotiate with the Sultan and given the title of Consul. Unfortunately he died in route and was replaced by James Simpson, the American Consul at Gibraltar.
James Simpson was successful in getting Sultan Moulay Suliman to reaffirm Morocco's commitment to the Treaty of Marrakech.
The Sultan wrote a letter to President Washington in which he conveyed his commitment to the Treaty of Friendship saying "... we are at peace, tranquility and friendship with you in the same manner as you were with our father who is in glory. Peace." Sultan Suliman admired the American people and said so publicly. As he told Consul Simpson " ... the Americans, I find, are the Christian nation my father most esteemed ... I am the same with them as my father was and I trust they will be so with me." With good relations thus reaffirmed, Simpson was appointed consul to Morocco and took up his post in Tangier in 1797.
In 1821, Sultan Suliman again demonstrated his admiration for the United States when he provided a house to be used by the American Consul General, John Mullowny, and all future American Consuls. This action placed the American diplomats in Tangier on an equal footing with those of the other major powers. He further expressed his high regard for the United States when he wrote Consul Mullowny that" ... I order and permit free trade with all Americans in any part of my empire ... the Americans mean more to me than any other nation, and whatever footing the most favored nation is on, they are to be favored more than any other."
In 1835, with the 50 year term of the Treaty of Marrakech about to expire, President Andrew Jackson dispatched James R. Leib to secure a renewal of the treaty with Sultan Abderrrahman. To this end, Lieb was directed to secure greater privileges for American Ships and to marked every effort to insert a clause providing that, except on a twelve month notice bey either party, the treaty would remain in effect indefinitely. Again negotiations went smoothly with the Sultan and the Treaty was renewed with the changes requested. The treaty, with the original text in Arabic, was signed in Meknes on September 16,1836, endorsed by Leib in Tangier on October 1, 1836 and was officially proclaimed on January 30, 1837. As Lieb noted in his report to the Department of State, one of the most remarkable features of the negotiations was that the treaty was sealed by the Sultan on the basis of friendship, without any stipulations and before the presentation of gifts.
Morocco's commitment to a friendly relationship with the U.S. government was reaffirmed during the American Civil War when the Minister of Foreign Affairs assured American Consul, Jesse H. McMath, that his country, "being a sincere friend of the American nation would never air or give countenance to the insurgents."
In 1865, the Cape Spartel Lighthouse Treaty was signed by the United States and nine other countries. First proposed by John Mullowny in 1821, construction began in 1861 and was completed in 1864. The Sultan granted neutrality for the lighthouse at the Straits of Gibraltar under the condition that the ten naval powers who used it would supervise and maintain it. The Treaty, ratified by President Andrew Johnson on July 14, 1866 and proclaimed March 12, 1867 was the first International convention to which the United States was a party. As U.S.-Moroccan relations continued to warm in the early seventies, the new American Consul Peter Mathews boasted that his reception in the Moroccan capital was greater than "any ever before accorded to any representative of even the most favored European states."
During the Madrid Conference in 1880 and again at the Algeciras Conference in 1906, American representatives spoke eloquently in defense of Morocco. At the turn of the century the U.S. reaffirmed its 'open door' policy with regard to Morocco, calling for the maintenance of order and guarantees of religious and racial toleration in Morocco: "in short, fair play is what the United States asks for Morocco and all interested parties." Declaring its neutrality in the controversy over domination of Morocco, the United States stressed the introduction of "reforms based upon the triple principle of the sovereignty of His Majesty, the Sultan, the integrity of his domains, and economic liberty without any inequality."