The Treaty of Tripoli & America as a Christian Nation


Or is it?

Today Columnist Laurie Roberts invoked the Treaty of Tripoli in her refutation of my decision to have Christian-only invocations in Coolidge City Council sessions. In fact, we anticipated this and prepared our response ahead of time. Laurie wrote that my decision was in opposition to American history itself. Her point: early American founders never called America a Christian nation. To put it in her words,

“[Rob Hudelson did not] quote the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, submitted by President John Adams, in which he said; ‘As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..’”

I’m thankful this was brought up because this quote from the treaty is often taken out of context. Two responses are necessary. First, the quote above is partial. When taken in its full context, it becomes clear that the point the treaty was making was that, to paraphrase, “America is not found on the Christian religion in the same way prior countries were founded on it.” The point being, other European nations used Christianity as an excuse to wage war solely for religious reasons. Just being a Muslim would be reason enough for, say, 18th century England to wage war on you. We, as a new nation, were not founded on Christianity in that way.

The Treaty of Tripoli was worded in this way to assure regional Muslims that American ships passing through the Mediterranean Sea were simply peaceful merchant ships intent on nothing more than economic trade and mutual benefit between trading nations.

Having prefaced our point, here is the full quote that Columnist Laurie Roberts quotes partially:

“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 [hatred] against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] and as the said States [America] have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan 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.”


The words “as it has” mean everything here. We are not founded on Christianity in the sense that we hold hatred of the Muslims or intent to wage war. We are a different kind of Christian nation.

The second point we must make is this: President John Adams, who is said to have submitted this treaty, is the same man who explicitly referred to America as a Christian nation. In his letter to Thomas Jefferson, Adams spoke plainly of the fact that, despite the various denominations of Christianity among the colonies, the authors of American Independence all united on the general principles of Christianity. In his words:

“The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were united: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.

“Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System. I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present Information, that I believed they would never make Discoveries in contradiction to these general Principles.”



Adams went on to say that the general principles of Christianity were so profound, even secular scholars had a hard time disagreeing with them! This and many more such quotes can be found by Adams and many other Founding Fathers pertaining to the Christian foundation of America.

See also:
*Referencing this site does not imply that I endorse all of its content

For a President who so adamantly stood firm in his conviction that America was founded on the “general principles of Christianity,” it would be shocking to think that a treaty endorsed by Adams would contain contrary language. I am sure that columnist Laurie Roberts is not trying to misquote history, she is simply another victim of the Progressive Agenda to rewrite the textbooks on American History with historical misrepresentation and omission. A talented writer, she pens many solid articles, but this one I have to disagree with.


One thought on “The Treaty of Tripoli & America as a Christian Nation

  1. Thanks for posting this. I happened upon it while looking for information that may refute Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion, where he quotes the Treat of Tripoli without having the context that you have so adequately provided. It is much appreciated!

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