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On President’s Day, the Long History of Morocco’s Kings and America’s Presidents

Washington, DC, February 20, 2017, Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) — George Washington, whose birthday is celebrated the third Monday in February as President’s Day—holds a special place in Morocco’s diplomatic history. Morocco became the first country to recognize the newly independent United States, when Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah announced in 1777 that “all vessels sailing under the American flag could freely enter Moroccan ports.” The Sultan sought to formalize this friendship and corresponded with President Washington and American diplomats over the next decade, eventually negotiating and signing the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship in 1786 (of which future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were signatories).

Since then, Morocco and the United States have maintained strong relations, with many exchanges recorded between top leadership, including letters, remarks, and more. To mark President’s Day and to honor the long and fruitful relationship between the United States and Morocco, we review just a few:

  • In a December 1789 letter to Sultan Sidi Mohammed, President Washington wrote, “Within our Territories there are no Mines, either of Gold, or Silver, and this young Nation, just recovering from the Waste and Desolation of a long War, have not, as yet, had Time to acquire Riches by Agriculture and Commerce. But our Soil is bountiful, and our People industrious; and we have Reason to flatter ourselves, that we shall gradually become useful to our Friends…. It gives me Pleasure to have this Opportunity of assuring your Majesty that, while I remain at the Head of this Nation, I shall not cease to promote every Measure that may conduce to the Friendship and Harmony, which so happily subsist between your Empire and them…”
  • In a letter to President Washington following the death of Sultan Sidi Mohammed, his son and successor Sultan Moulay Slimane, wrote, “… we are at peace, tranquility and friendship with you in the same manner as you were with our father who is in glory. Peace.” (He said to US Consul in Morocco James 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.”)
  • In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt sent Sultan Mohammed V a message stating “I have been highly pleased to learn of the admirable spirit of cooperation that is animating you and your people in their relationships … with the forces of my country.” The next year, President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill convened in Morocco for the famed Casablanca Conference, during which the Allies planned their strategy for the remainder of the war.
  • In November 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower welcomed Sultan Mohammed V to Washington, announcing at Washington National Airport, “Your Majesty, it is my great pleasure to speak for the American people in welcoming you to this land. It is a particular distinction that I have, because the records show that your nation was one of the very first, in the early days of our existence, to give us the encouragement and moral support of your recognition of us as a nation.” In his remarks, the Sultan said, “My desire has been realized today at the moment when my country has recovered its independence and is in a position to strengthen, by this visit, those ties of friendship which have bound our two peoples ever since the United States attained its freedom and became an independent nation.”
  • In March 1963, on the occasion of an official visit from Morocco’s King Hassan II to Washington, President John F. Kennedy said, “This is the first spring that North Africa has found peace, and a good deal of the stability which we hope to and will find, I think, in North Africa will be due to His Majesty’s efforts. So I think we are fortunate to have him here. I think he knows he is very welcome. We value our old friends and we value, particularly, those that are seeking, under great difficulty, under great pressure, to find a position for their country which advances the welfare of their people, the stability of their area, and the peace of the world.”
  • In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan remarked following meetings with King Hassan II in Washington, “King Hassan is the leader of a great nation at the crossroads of two continents, lying on NATO’s southern flank at the entrance to the Mediterranean. It has deep ties to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the whole Islamic world… I deeply value the depth of experience and breadth of vision that His Majesty brings to the issues of profound mutual concern… And I expressed to His Majesty the great value the United States places on cooperation with him and on friendship with Morocco, a country that stood with us at Our independence, fought at our side during the Second World War, and joins with us today in the quest for world peace and security.”
  • In July 1999, on the death of King Hassan II, President Bill Clinton said, “Over his 38-year reign, King Hassan II demonstrated time and again his leadership, his courage, and his willingness to embrace change. He worked tirelessly to promote the welfare of his people, and in recent years he took important steps to deepen freedom in his country. He offered wise counsel to every U.S. President since John F. Kennedy. He worked to break down barriers among the peoples of the Middle East, bravely opening a dialog with Israel, helping to arrange President Sadat’s historic journey to Jerusalem, seeking greater tolerance and stability across the region.”
  • In April 2002, President George W. Bush said in remarks following a meeting with King Mohammed VI, “No question that Morocco is a great friend of the United States of America, and for that, Your Majesty, we are very grateful. I appreciate your steadfast support when it comes to the war on terror. I appreciate your leadership in the region.” The President announced plans to broker a free trade agreement between the two countries—the first for the US with an African nation—that went into effect in 2006.

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 Contact: Jordana Merran, 202.470.2049

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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