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The great pillars of American liberty

By Steve Farrell
web posted May 16, 2005
Recently, I watched a noted atheist spit his venom against American Christians for standing up for the right of their kids to have access to the truth in the classroom, the truth about America's unique founding, a founding centered not just on the triumph of reason, as some wrongfully claim, but on the triumph of reason coupled with faith, particularly the Christian faith.
Coming to the ACLU member's defense, one of the interviewers cited as proof that America was not founded by Christians -- nor upon the principles of Christianity -- the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, which declared in Article XI: "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
He asserted this as legal proof, under the supremacy clause, that this must be and still is the case -- but more than that, with key founder President John Adams' signature on it, a personal, in-your-face testimony against Christians and their incessant claims about God's hand in founding this nation.
Sure, we're all convinced.
Notwithstanding that such a claim contradicts everything in John Adams' writings to the contrary (we'll get to that in a minute), and the rest of the key founders, for that matter, and notwithstanding the testimony of two centuries before our founding, and nearly two centuries after that founding that embraced America's Christian tradition in Congress, in the courts, in presidential speeches, in the public school classrooms, and in state and local governments, without question.
Notwithstanding that little sidestep, here's another: The U.S. does not have and has not had the original copy of this treaty for at least two centuries (it is lost); the two originals that do exist (in Italian and Arabic) have no such phrase, no such clause in the treaty, period.

Joel Barlow

What we do have is a 'certified copy' written by a man, Joel Barlow, who brought to publication Thomas Paine's diatribe against Christianity, "The Age of Reason," and whose motives might be described as suspect.
The Avalon Project at Yale University, without assigning any motives to Mr. Barlow, notes of the blatant discrepancy:

As even a casual examination of the annotated translation of 1930 shows, the Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic; and even as such its defects throughout are obvious and glaring. Most extraordinary (and wholly unexplained) is the fact that Article 11 of the Barlow translation, with its famous phrase, "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion," does not exist at all. There is no Article 11. The Arabic text which is between Articles 10 and 12 is in form a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant. … How that script came to be written and to be regarded, as in the Barlow translation, as Article 11 of the treaty as there written, is a mystery and seemingly must remain so. Nothing in the diplomatic correspondence of the time throws any light whatever on the point (1)

These Yale researchers then note that:

[E]vidence of the erroneous character of the Barlow translation has been in the archives of the Department of State since perhaps 1800 or thereabouts; for in the handwriting of James Leander Cathcart [the American Consul to Tripoli, at the time] is the statement … that the Barlow translation is "extremely erroneous." (2)

A "poor attempt at a paraphrase," "defects throughout," "obvious and glaring," "extremely erroneous," a "famous phrase … [that] does not exist at all"; of these I have little doubt.
But returning to Mr. Barlow's motives in penning such a copy upon provisions that did not exist: his connection to the doctrines of the fallen angel Thomas Paine, and his own descent from his former involvement in the ministry into what was then dubbed "liberal Christianity" looms large, and helps unravel "the mystery."
So do a couple of other possible character flaws.
A little over a decade after the signing of the Treaty of Tripoli, in an April 24, 1812 letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, we read of Madison's concerns about Barlow's fidelity to representing America in yet another land, France:
A letter from Barlow to Granger fills us with serious apprehensions that he is burning his fingers with matters which will work great embarrassment and mischief here, and which his instructions could not have suggested. (3)
Madison was concerned about the man's fidelity to his American commission, and common sense. John Adams had similar concerns. After denouncing the recent works of Tom Paine as "the Ravings and Rantings of Bedlam," in a July 15, 1813 letter to Jefferson, Adams moved to the subject of Tom Paine's publisher, Joel Barlow, who was "about to record Tom Paine as the great author of the American Revolution!"

John Adams

To which Adams retorted, "If he was; I desire that my name may be blotted out forever, from its records." (4) For Barlow to even consider repeating this outrageous fallacy for the reading of future generations, demonstrated a tendency for easy manipulation by Paine, and if not that, then toward delusion, or rank dishonesty.
Finally, the original Treaty of Tripoli of 1805 that IS in our possession, and is signed by a Founding President, has no such, Barlow inspired, anti-Christian clause. (5)
The bottom line: If this is the best Founding Era ‘proof' these historical revisionists can come up with against Christianity (and John Adams), it is pathetic. -- An original treaty signed by Adams that is not the original, not signed by Adams (on the copy in dispute), at odds with both of the originals that we do have, declared by the then American Consul to Tripoli, Leander Cathcart, to be an "extremely erroneous" copy, at odds with the treaty that followed but a few years later, and written by a man whose motives and judgment were suspect. Pathetic indeed.
Equally pathetic is any attempt to attach the noble name of John Adams to a denunciation of America's godly beginnings.
A small sample of the real John Adams reveals just how deep the fraud of the anti-Christian crowd. When Adam's was asked by an educational group of youth to identify America's founding pillars, here is what he answered in a document that can be authenticated:

Science [the science of government] and Morals are the great Pillars on which this Country has been raised to its present population, opulence and prosperity, and these alone, can advance, support and preserve it.

He then added:

Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity, or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction, that after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no Principles, Institutions, or Systems of Education, more fit, IN GENERAL to be transmitted to your posterity, than those you have received from your Ancestors. (6)

Years later in a letter to Jefferson, Mr. Adams further elaborated on what he meant that day:

Could my Answer be understood, by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend, to all others[:] The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved Independence were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly … could unite … And what were these general principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general principles of English and American liberty … 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." (7)

This is typical John Adams, the same man who laid it on the line quite clearly that "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," that it was "wholly inadequate to the government of any other." (8)
That "Statesmen … may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand." (9)
That "The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity." (10)
And, eleven years before Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, "[that rights preceded government], rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws -- Rights derived from the great Legislator of the Universe." (11)
Well, these are the roots, the Great Pillars that past and future generations of youth ought to frequently refer back to as learning and science move forward, these "eternal and immutable" principles that lay at the foundation of everything good -- lest in the name of progress we pass down to posterity nothing more than a high-brow, high-tech house of cards.
But here's one more vital point: Adams would have nothing to do with the lie that passes around the university and public school system today as solid granite truth, that America's roots go deep into another soil, that of the amoral, libertine, European ‘Enlightenment.' Here is what Adam's said of that ‘illustrious' founding group:

[They appear] to me like young scholars from a college of sailors flushed with recent pay or prize money, mounted on wild horses, lashing and spearing, till they would kill the horses and break their own necks. (12)

He wasn't kidding. And the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, two world wars, the invention and perpetuation of mass murdering, liberty destroying communism and fascism, and now the socialist, world government promoting, secularist European Union on that continent, proved him prophetic. License is not liberty. The European Enlightenment with all of its anti-God, anti-private property, anti-limited government rhetoric is not the legacy this country's ancestors passed down to our children.
Yet it is to these latter ‘founders' that the ACLU and the revisionist ‘scholars' young and old, who have hijacked America's educational system, and rewritten America's story to fit their Godless, socialist paradigm, would have you and your kids look back to -- look back like Lot's wife to the polluted, prideful, despotic people and political philosophies our progenitors barely escaped, back to the land where the battle cry ‘Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!" hid a more absolute, more thorough ‘Tyranny!'
Adams had it right. One pillar of salt is enough. We don't need 300 million more. Not on our watch.
Author's note:
There were other factors at play that may have influenced Joel Barlow to insert such ideas in his "extremely erroneous" copy of the original. Read this insightful article by David Barton at http://wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=5
NewsMax pundit Steve Farrell is associate professor of political economy at George Wythe College, a press agent for Defend Marriage, and author of the highly praised inspirational novel "Dark Rose" (available at Amazon.com). Contact Steve. Follow Steve's daily Liberty Letters Blog at LibertyLetters.blogspot.com, and get a daily peek into the writings of America's Founders.

1. Miller, Hunter. "The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: The Barbary Treaties: Tripoli 1796." Found online at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/diplomacy/barbary/bar1796n.htm
2. Ibid.
3. Madison, James. Writings of James Madison, Volume 2, 1794-1815, p. 533.
4. Cappon, Lester J. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson & Abigail and John Adams, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1959, renewed 1987, p. 358.
5. "Treaty of Peace and Amity, Signed at Tripoli June 4, 1805, online at
6. Cappon, Lester J. Quoted from Adams' answer to "the Address of the Young Men of the City of Philadelphia, the District of South Wark, and the Northern Liberties," p. 339.
7. Ibid., pgs. 339-340.
8. Adams, John; Adams, Charles Francis, ed.. "The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Volume IX," Boston: Little Brown, 1854, p. 229.
9. Ibid. p. 401
10. Adams, John; Butterfield, L.H.. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Volume III Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961, p. 234, from diary entry for June 21, 1776.
11. Adams, John; Taylor. Robert J., editor. Papers of John Adams, Volume 1, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977– p. 109, as quoted in Grant, James. "John Adams: Party of One," Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2005, p. 62.
12. Cannon, Lester. J. Pgs. 357-358.

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