By Ray Hanania
Chicago – One of my first journalism reports was written in 1976 when I was asked by the City of Chicago to cover a meeting between Morocco’s Washington D.C. Ambassador and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
The meeting was at City Hall and was intended to commemorate the longstanding friendship between the Arab country of Morocco and the United States of America. Morocco was the first country to recognize America’s independence, in 1787, and Moroccans are very proud of that fact.
For many years, Mayor Daley recognized and worked with American Arabs in his city and I was proud to be invited to attend and document those events for my English-language newspaper that I published between 1975 and 1977, The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper. Daley’s son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, continued that tradition of respecting the role of American Arabs during his more than 22 years in office ending in 2011.
As publisher of The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper, I also traveled to Morocco and wrote extensively about its culture and the strong friendship that remained between Moroccans and Americans. As one of the only American Arab journalists in America at the time, I was able to document these events in my small newspaper, until I was later hired full time by the mainstream news media.
As a reporter who later covered Chicago City Hall between 1977 and 1992, I saw how Chicago mayors demonstrated their commitment to diversity and openness by building their relationship with Chicagoland’s American Arab community.
Sadly, Daley’s successor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has severed all ties with American Arabs preferring to work only with non-Arab Muslims and ignoring the many great contributions that American Arabs have made to the city of Chicago and to this country.
The Moroccan American Center in Washington D.C. today commemorates that important event when Morocco stepped up and became the first nation to recognize America after its independence on “President’s Day” Feb. 16, 2015, which recognizes the birthdays of two U.S. Presidents, our 16th President Abraham Lincoln, and our first President George Washington:
At the outbreak of the American Revolution, American merchant ships could no longer count on Britain’s maritime agreements with North African coastal states for safe passage. On December 20, 1777, Morocco’s Sultan Sidi Mohamed, “in what amounted to virtual recognition of United States’ independence,” announced that all American ships could freely enter Moroccan ports to “take refreshments and enjoy in them the same privileges and immunities as those of the other nations with whom his Imperial Majesty is at peace.”
Two years later, the Sultan’s consul, Stephen D’Audibert Caille, informed Congress of the Sultan’s desire to conclude a treaty of peace with America. On November 28, 1780 Congress directed Benjamin Franklin to inform Caille that the United States wanted to “cultivate the most perfect friendship” with Morocco and negotiate a commercial treaty with the country.
On July 18, 1787-nearly ten years after initial contact was made-Congress ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the US’s longest-standing such treaty, and the first between the United States and any Arab, Muslim, or African country.
On December 1, 1789, President George Washington wrote a letter to his “Great and Magnanimous Friend” Sultan Sidi Mohamed.
Following the Sultan’s death in April 1790, Jefferson reminded Congress, “…the friendship of this power is important,” and the Americans worked to maintain the treaty under Morocco’s new ruler Sultan Moulay Suliman.
The Sultan wrote a letter to President Washington in which he conveyed his commitment to the Treaty of Friendship saying “… we are at peace, tranquility and friendship with you in the same manner as you were with our father who is in glory. Peace.” As he told the soon-to-be US Consul to Morocco, ” … the Americans, I find, are the Christian nation my father most esteemed … I am the same with them as my father was and I trust they will be so with me.”
And here is the letter George Washington sent in 1790 to the Moroccan Sultan Sidi Mohamed:
“Great and Magnanimous Friend,
“Since the date of the letter which the late Congress, by their President, addressed to your Imperial Majesty, The United States of America have thought proper to change their government and institute a new one, agreeable to the Constitution, of which I have the honor, herewith, to enclose a copy. The time necessarily employed in the arduous task, and the disarrangements occasioned by so great though peaceable a revolution, will apologize, and account for your Majesty’s not having received those regularly advised marks of attention from the United States which the friendship and magnanimity of your conduct toward them afforded reason to expect.
“The United States, having unanimously appointed me to supreme executive authority in this Nation. Your Majesty’s letter of August 17, 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 acknowledgements and thanks of the United States for this important mark of your friendship for them.
“… Within our territories there are no mines, wither of gold or silver, and this young nation just recovering from the waste and dissolution 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.
“… It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity of assuring Your Majesty 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, and shall esteem myself happy in every occasion of convincing Your Majesty of the high sense (which in common with the whole nation) I entertain the magnanimity, wisdom and benevolence of Your Majesty.
“May the Almighty bless Your Imperial Majesty, our Great and Magnanimous friend, with His constant guidance and protection.
“- George Washington”
Originally published on The Arab Daily News. Published with consent of the author
Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist who covered the beat from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley). Palestinian Arab Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.