Morocco, a Majority-Muslim Nation, the First to Recognize Newly Independent United States over Two Centuries Ago

Washington, DC, June 30, 2017 (MACP) — America’s Founding Fathers may have ratified the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; but the document signaled just the beginning of the United States’ long and bloody battle for freedom from British rule. With years of war ahead of them, the colonists needed allies. While the French are perhaps most well-known for taking arms alongside Americans, it was the majority-Muslim nation of Morocco, in northern Africa, that first signaled its recognition of the newly independent U.S.

On December 20, 1777, Morocco’s Sultan Sidi Muhammad Ben Abdullah declared that all ships sailing under the American flag could freely enter Moroccan ports. “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,” explains the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian. “By issuing this declaration, Morocco became one of the first states to acknowledge publicly the independence of the American Republic.”

The following year, Moroccan and American diplomats began correspondence that would eventually lead to the negotiation of a formal treaty between the two countries. On July 18, 1787, Congress ratified the U.S.-Morocco “Treaty of Peace and Friendship,” which set forth the framework for diplomatic relations, assurances of non-hostility, access to markets on “most favored nation” basis, and protection of U.S. ships from attack by foreign vessels in Moroccan waters.

As U.S. President in 1789, George Washington wrote to the Sultan, “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 or 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… I shall not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between your empire and [the US].”

Today, the U.S.-Morocco Treaty of Peace and Friendship remains the longest standing U.S. treaty of its kind still in force. July 18 will mark its 230th year.


 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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