The "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," is often referred to as the Treaty of Tripoli.
The Treaty of Tripoli was the first treaty concluded between the United States of America and Tripolitania, signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and at Algiers on January 3, 1797. President John Adams and the US Senate ratified the Treaty on June 7, 1797, effective June 10, 1797.
In Article 11, it states:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen (Muslims); and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan (Muhammad or Islamic) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Cynics have mischievously used the language underlined above as proof that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The alternate explanation usually offered is America was founded by Deists as a secular nation. The fact the Treaty was ratified by the US Congress and President Adams, then published in a handful of newspapers with nary a whimper of dissent from the press or public, would appear to confirm their assertions.
Not so fast!
When the facts are reviewed in historical context, the truth contradicts that narrative. The truth is more nuanced and far more interesting. The story even touches on broader issues relevant to our heritage of freedom of speech and of the press, and America's early clash with Islamic terrorism, kidnapping and piracy.