Today, the Constitution Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin remembers a letter written by George Washington to appease the Emperor of Morocco 226 years ago.
In Volume X of the Writings of George Washington, published in 1840, Jared Sparks included the contents of the letter and a brief explanation.
To the Emperor of Morocco
GREAT AND MAGNANIMOUS FRIEND,
Since the date of the last 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 to institute a new one, agreeably to the constitution, of which I have the honor of herewith enclosing a copy.
The time necessarily employed in the 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 the 17th of 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.
We greatly regret, that 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, has 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.
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, and the just and generous measures taken in the case of Captain Proctor, make a deep impression on the United States, and confirm their respect for, and attachment to, your Imperial Majesty.
It gives me pleasure to have this 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 of the magnanimity, wisdom, and benevolence of your Majesty.
In the course of the approaching winter 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, and satisfactory to all the parties concerned in it.
May the Almighty bless your Imperial Majesty, our great and magnanimous friend, with his constant guidance and protection.
Written at the City of New York, the 1st day of December, 1789.
A treaty with the Emperor of Morocco, made by Mr. Barclay on the part of the United States, was dated the 28th of June, 1786, and ratified
by Congress on the 18th of July, 1787. By this treaty certain commercial advantages were allowed to vessels from the United States trading to Morocco, and the Emperor seemed disposed to be on terms of amity.
Owing to the circuitous mode of communication from the agent in Morocco, through the American ministers in Spain, France, and England, and also to the change of government in the United States, a long time had elapsed since there had been any direct intercourse; and in a letter recently received from Mr. Chiappe, the American agent at Mogadore, were hints implying that the Emperor was not well satisfied with the apparent neglect.
In this state of affairs the above letter was written to the Emperor, accompanied by one from Mr. Jay to the agent.
According to a promise, which he had made, the Emperor wrote letters to the Bashaws of Tunis and Tripoli, dated August 17th, 1788, in which he said, “We wish, that you may make an undisturbed and perfect peace with the Americans, and that you may do good to the same and to their vessels, because they behave with friendship.”
The reason given for this wish was, that such a peace would facilitate the communication between Morocco and the dominions of Tunis and Tripoli by means of American vessels. This was represented in the letter as an advantage to all the parties.
In a recent instance the Emperor had shown his fidelity to the treaty with the United States, by releasing an American vessel commanded by Captain Proctor, which his cruisers had brought into Mogadore.
The Constitution Commemorative Gold Five Dollar Coin shows beside an image of the first page of the preamble of the Peace Treaty with Morocco, circa 1786.