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WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("Go. Washington") as President, to the Emperor of Morocco (Muhammad III, 1757-1790), New York, 1 December 1789. 1 full page, large folio (20 x 18 5/8 in), on fine-quality laid paper watermarked WHATMAN, text in an elegant clerical italic, minor spotting, slight fold tears neatly mended.
WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("Go. Washington") as President, to the Emperor of Morocco (Muhammad III, 1757-1790), New York, 1 December 1789. 1 full page, large folio (20 x 18 5/8 in), on fine-quality laid paper watermarked WHATMAN, text in an elegant clerical italic, minor spotting, slight fold tears neatly mended.

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WASHINGTON, George. Letter signed ("Go. Washington") as President, to the Emperor of Morocco (Muhammad III, 1757-1790), New York, 1 December 1789. 1 full page, large folio (20 x 18 5/8 in), on fine-quality laid paper watermarked WHATMAN, text in an elegant clerical italic, minor spotting, slight fold tears neatly mended.

"THE UNITED STATES HAVE THOUGHT PROPER TO CHANGE THEIR GOVERNMENT, AND TO INSTITUTE A NEW ONE, AGREEABLE TO THE CONSTITUTION." ALTHOUGH "THIS YOUNG NATION" HAS NO MINES "EITHER OF GOLD, OR SILVER," FOR THE PAYMENT OF TRIBUTE, WASHINGTON PREDICTS THAT "WE SHALL GRADUALLY BECOME USEFUL TO OUR FRIENDS"

The President, seven months after taking office under the new Constitution, belatedly replies to an important diplomatic letter from the Emperor. Warships of the Barbary states--Algiers, Morocco, Tunis and Tipoli--regularly intercepted American maritime vessels plying the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic, taking cargoes and capturing crews and passengers to hold hostage for ransom. It was usual to pay substantial sums of tribute to prevent these piratical seizures. But the new nation, in its weakened financial condition, could ill afford the often exhorbitant sums demanded. In 1785, Thomas Barclay arranged a very advantageous treaty with the Muhammad III of Morocco, securing the release of certain captives and waiving annual tribute payments. An additional treaty between the two nations, governing trade relations, was ratified on 18 July 1787. Relations between the two states were, though tentative, on a positive footing, reflected in the warmth of Washington's formal letter to the "great and magnanimous friend," the Emperor.

Washington explains the change in his nation's government: "Since the Date of the Letter, which the late Congress, by their President, addressed to your Imperial Majesty, the United States has thought proper to change their Government, and to institute a new one, agreeable to the Constituion...The Time necessarily employed in this arduous Task, and the derangements occasioned by so great, though peaceable a Revolution, will apologize, and account for your Majesty's not having received those regular Advices and Marks of attention, from the United States which the Friendship and Magnanimity of your conduct towards them, afforded reason to expect."

"The United States, having unanimously appointed me to the supreme executive Authority, in this Nation, your Majesty's Letter of 17th August 1788, which, by reason of the dissolution of the late Government, remained unanswered, has been delivered to me. I have also received the letters, which your Imperial Majesty has been so kind as to write, in favor of the United States, to the Bashaws of Tunis and Tripoli, and I present to you the Sincere Acknowledgments and Thanks of the United States, for this important Mark of your Friendship for them."

Both Tunis and Tripoli had demanded large sums in annual tribute from the U.S., funds the new nation's exhausted treasury could not supply, as the President explains: "We greatly regret the hostile Disposition of those Regencies, towards this Nation, who have never injured them, is not to be removed, on Terms in our Power to comply with. 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."

Washington expresses gratitude to the Emperor for "the Encouragement which your Majesty has been pleased, generously, to give to our Commerce with your Dominions, the punctuality with which you have caused the Treaty with us to be observed..." These gestures, he adds, "make a deep impression on the United States, and confirm their Respect for and attachment to your Imperial Majesty." He assures the Emperor 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..." The "national Legislature (which is called by the former name of Congress), will assemble, and I shall take Care that nothing be omitted that may be necessary to cause the Correspondence, between our Countries, to be maintained and conducted in a manner agreeable to your Majesty...May the Almighty bless your Imperial Majesty, our great and magnanimous Friend...." Fitzpatrick, 30:474-476.

Provenance: George A. Ball, Muncie, Indiana -- Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 April 1978, lot 294).
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