This 4th of July, millions of Americans will celebrate the birth of our country by bridging ideological divides and coming together in the name of fireworks, cookouts, and pool parties. We celebrate America’s independence, and the values for which it stands. We remember the sacrifices made to gain this independence, and the unfathomable odds a ragtag American “army” overcame to defeat the most powerful empire in the world.
It seems all together fitting and proper to commemorate those who helped to make this possible. And while we rightly salute figures such as George Washington, I thought that we might also pause to remember America’s oldest friend abroad who played a small role in making all of this occur. The Kingdom of Morocco.
(No, it’s not France. Sorry Francophiles. It’s Morocco.)
Seriously, the first country to recognize the United States of America as a sovereign state independent of the British Empire was the Kingdom of Morocco.
I don’t know about you, but this was definitely not in my history books growing up – but I promise you that it’s true. Today, I’d like to share this story with you as it has been told to me.
During the midst of the Revolutionary War, our fledging and fragile economy was desperate for revenue and safe harbors abroad. The British Empire controlled a considerable portion of the world’s trade, so the young Republic’s options were limited. Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin enthusiastically sought entrepreneurial opportunities for American enterprises in key trade zones. Morocco, controlling half of the entrance to the Mediterranean, was one of them.
The honor of being the first country to recognize the United States is connected to a trade treaty made in 1777. In the midst of our uncertain struggle against the British, the Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed ben Abdallah, made history by making Morocco’s valuable ports along the Atlantic and Mediterranean open to ships flying the American flag. They did this despite the risk of inviting ire from the British red coats.
In 1787, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship solidified this early understanding and mutually beneficial relationship. This treaty was renegotiated back in 1836, and is still in force today in 2017, making it the oldest unbroken treaty in U.S. history. Letters from President George Washington to the Sultan of Morocco expressed the young country’s gratitude for protecting U.S. ships from pirates during an age in which an American Navy was still a dream.
So as we sit in our lawn chairs gazing upon fantastic displays of fireworks with our families, happily content with our hamburgers and beverages, let’s take a moment to thank our oldest friend for doing their small part in making this possible. Morocco. Even when the chips were down, you were there for us. Uncle Sam remains much obliged to this day. As do I.
Happy Independence Day everyone. Thanks for taking the time out of your holiday to join me in learning about America’s oldest friend abroad.