Question Regarding the
Treaty of Tripoli Quotation

Benjamin Carlton

From: “Benjamin Carlton”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Date: November 4, 2006
Subject: Treaty of Tripoli Quotation Question


I was perusing John Adams’ quotes on your site and I was particularly intrigued by the quotation from the Treaty of Tripoli. I had heard of the treaty prior to this and was aware of its importance in discussions of Church and State boundaries but I was surprised by the sentence,


The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or Mohammedan nation


since it seemed to make the issue so clear. So I checked the text of the treaty found on Yale’s website and could not find this particular sentence. Is there an alternate version that I’m unaware of?

Ben Carlton


From: “Positive Atheism”
To: “Benjamin Carlton”
Date: November 14, 2006
Subject: Treaty of Tripoli Quotation Question

Here are some clues. I do not intend for these to be an authoritative answer. I simply do not have the tools to give you a more complete answer at this moment. If I cannot find the time to dig through my notes, then surely a reader or a future editor shall help us out in this respect.

This much I know:

The text in question is from the draft that was approved by Congress (both assemblies?). Yale’s version is what the diplomat eventually delivered to our allies in Tripoli.

Separationists find value in this “approved” draft because it clearly demonstrates the fact that these opinions and sentiments existed at the time and, most importantly, that they were strong and prevalent to the point of having been given such prominence in the document’s intended form.

Its value, of course, is in the fact that it was approved by Congress with the strong Separationist language still intact.

I used to know why it was changed. But human memory being what it is, I do not want to risk getting that one wrong. I remember with near certainty, however, that their removal did not reflect upon the validity of the sentiments themselves.

Please do not quote me on this! Rather, kindly verify for yourself what I am suggesting here! This is strictly from memory. Most importantly, I have no source citations to offer. I give it to you simply as a lead, to aid you in your own research. This is not to be considered a comprehensive and detailed description by any stretch!

Cliff Walker