LONG-TIME FRIENDS: A HISTORY OF EARLY U.S.-MOROCCAN RELATIONS 1777-1787
BY SHERRILL B. WELLS
Office of the Historian -
United States Department of State
Morocco and the United States have a long history of friendly relations. This North African nation was one of the first states to seek diplomatic relations with America. In 1777, Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah, the most progressive of the Barbary leaders who ruled Morocco from 1757 to 1790, announced his desire for friendship with the United States. The Sultan's overture was part of a new policy he was implementing as a result of his recognition of the need to establish peaceful relations with the Christian powers and his desire to establish trade as a basic source of revenue. Faced with serious economic and political difficulties, he was searching for a new method of governing which required changes in his economy. Instead of relying on a standing professional army to collect taxes and enforce his authority, he wanted to establish state-controlled maritime trade as a new, more reliable, and regular source of income which would free him from dependency on the services of the standing army. The opening of his ports to America and other states was part of that new policy. The Sultan issued a declaration on December 20, 1777, announcing that all vessels sailing under the American flag could freely enter Moroccan ports. The Sultan stated that orders had been given to his corsairs to let the ship "des Americans" and those of other European states with which Morocco had no treaties-Russia Malta, Sardinia, Prussia, Naples, Hungary, Leghorn, Genoa, and Germany-pass freely into Moroccan ports. There they could "take refreshments" and provisions and enjoy the same privileges as other nations that had treaties with Morocco. This action, under the diplomatic practice of Morocco at the end of the 18th century, put the United States on an equal footing with all other nations with which the Sultan had treaties.
By issuing this declaration, Morocco became one of the first states to acknowledge publicly the independence of the American Republic.
On February 2O, l778, the sultan of Morocco reissued his December 20, 1777, declaration. American officials, however, only belatedly learned of the Sultan's full intentions. Nearly identical to the first, the February 20 declaration was again sent to all consuls and merchants in the ports of Tangier, Sale, and Mogador informing them the Sultan had opened his ports to Americans and nine other European States. Information about the Sultan's desire for friendly relations with the United States first reached Benjamin Franklin, one of the American commissioners in Paris, sometime in late April or early May 1778 from Etienne d'Audibert Caille, a French merchant of Sale. Appointed by the Sultan to serve as Consul for all the nations unrepresented in Morocco, Caille wrote on behalf of the Sultan to Franklin from Cadiz on April 14, 1778, offering to negotiate a treaty between Morocco and the United States on the same terms the Sultan had negotiated with other powers. When he did not receive a reply, Caille wrote Franklin a second letter sometime later that year or in early 1779. When Franklin wrote to the committee on Foreign Affairs in May 1779, he reported he had received two letters from a Frenchman who "offered to act as our Minister with the Emperor" and informed the American commissioner that "His Imperial Majesty wondered why we had never sent to thank him for being the first power on this side of the Atlantic that had acknowledged our independence and opened his ports to us." Franklin, who did not mention the dates of Caille's letters or when he had received them, added that he had ignored these letters because the French advised him that Caille was reputed to be untrustworthy. Franklin stated that the French King was willing to use his good offices with the Sultan whenever Congress desired a treaty and concluded, "whenever a treaty with the Emperor is intended, I suppose some of our naval stores will be an acceptable present and the expectation of continued supplies of such stores a powerful motive for entering into and continuing a friendship."
Why Morocco is a friend to USA
The Kingdom of Morocco is the oldest strategic ally of the United States, having recognized the nation shortly after it declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776. The treaty of friendship between the United States and the Kingdom of Morocco, which is still in force, was the first international treaty ratified by the American Congress, making Morocco America's oldest diplomatic partner.
Morocco places high value on its long-standing history of friendship and cooperation with the United States. It has been an invaluable partner in the wake of terrorist attacks on the United States. Its own commitment to progressive political and social development has also made the Kingdom an exemplary partner in the United States effort to promote and support political, economic and social reforms in the broader Middle East region. As it has in the past at critical moments, Morocco also continues to play a strategically important role in the effort to resolve the on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Chief among the Center's objectives is to assist the Kingdom of Morocco to obtain American support for its efforts to construct a stable, progressive, democratic and economically dynamic region in North Africa. In pursuit of this broader strategic objective, the Center will focus a substantial amount of its resources and its activities on helping to facilitate a viable political solution to the longstanding issue of the Western Sahara.
Morocco - U.S. Relations
"We are delighted with our strategic partnership with the United States of America…and we are particularly keen to consolidate and diversify our partnership relations."
H.E. King Mohammed VI, "Throne Day" Speech, 30 July 2004
> 1750 - 1912
> World War I - World War II
> 1956 - Present
1750 - 1912
During the American Revolution, so many American ships called at the port of Tangiers that the Continental Congress sought recognition from the "Emperor" of Morocco. This was accorded, in effect, in 1777, making Morocco the first country to recognize the fledging American republic. Negotiation of a formal treaty began in 1783, and resulted in the signing in 1786 of the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both future U.S. Presidents, were the American signatories.
During the American Civil War, Morocco reaffirmed its diplomatic alliance with the United States by assuring Washington that the Kingdom, "being a sincere friend of the American nation, would never air or give countenance to the [Confederate] insurgents."
The first international convention ever signed by the United States, the 1865 Spartel Lighthouse Treaty, dealt with a navigational aid erected on the Moroccan side of the Strait of Gibraltar. The Treaty, ratified by Morocco, President Andrew Johnson and nine European heads of state, granted neutrality to the lighthouse with the condition that the ten naval powers signing the agreement assumed responsibility for its maintenance.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, as European colonizers gazed hungrily as Morocco's resources and strategically located harbors, the United States strongly defended the Kingdom's right to its continued sovereignty at the 1880 Madrid Conference and at the Algeciras Conference in 1906.
In 1912, after Morocco became a protectorate of Spain and France, American diplomats called upon the European powers to exercise colonial rule that guaranteed racial and religious tolerance: "In short," the U.S. Consul in Tanger declared," fair play is what the United States asks for Morocco and all interested parties."
World War I - World War II
During World War I, Morocco was aligned with the Allied forces. In 1917 and 1918, Moroccan soldiers fought victoriously alongside U.S. Marines at Chateau Thierry, Mont Blanc and Soissons.
With France occupied by the Nazis during World War II, colonial French Morocco sided with the Axis Powers. When the Allies invaded Morocco on November 8, 1942, Moroccan defenders quickly yielded to the American and British invaders. Shortly after Morocco surrendered, President Franklin Roosevelt sent a message to Morocco's King, H.E. Mohammed V, commending him on the "admirable spirit of cooperation that is animating you and your people in their relationships with the forces of my country. Our victory over the Germans will, I know, inaugurate a period of peace and prosperity, during which the Moroccan and French people of North Africa will flourish and thrive in a manner that befits its glorious past."
In what was to be the most pivotal meeting of Allied leaders during the World War II, President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Free French commander General Charles De Gaulle, met for four days in the Casablanca suburb of Anfa in January 1943 to discuss the war. During the Anfa Conference, the Allies agreed that the only acceptable outcome of the conflict was the "unconditional surrender" of the Axis forces. Roosevelt also conferred privately with King Mohammed V to assure him that the United States would support Morocco's quest for independence.
1956 - Present
When Morocco finally gained independence on March 2, 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower sent a congratulatory message to King Mohammed V: "My government renews it wishes for the peace and prosperity of Morocco, and expresses its gratification that Morocco has freely chosen, as a sovereign nation, to continue in the path of its traditional friendships."
In November 1957, King Mohammed V traveled to Washington to pay an official call on President Eisenhower. Two years later, Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, traveled to Rabat to meet with the King.
In 1961, H.E. King Hassan II, Mohammed V's successor, made the first of several diplomatic visits to the United States to confer with President John F. Kennedy. King Hassan II would later journey to Washington to meet Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
President Clinton personally flew to Rabat in July 1999 to attend King Hassan II's funeral, and to meet the son who succeeded him, H.E. King Mohammed VI. One year later, King Mohammed VI made his first official visit to Washington.
In the 21st century, both countries have become close allies in the global war on terror. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Morocco shared valuable information with the United States about al Qaeda. Conversely, when Casablanca was the victim of terrorist bombings on May 16, 2003, the U.S. government offered Morocco - one of it oldest allies -- the full resources of its military and intelligence community.
It is this extensive network of relations - political and diplomatic, commercial and economic
, military and security, and our common sense of purpose and commitment to economic reform and development that underscore the strength of the Moroccan-US relationship