Article 11: As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; - signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797

Article 11

Article 11 has been a point of contention in disputes on the doctrine of separation of church and state as it applies to the founding principles of the United States.

Article 11 reads:

Art. 11. 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 against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States 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.

Advocates of the separation of church and state claim[17] that this text constitutes evidence that the United States Government was not founded on the Christian religion. The Senate's ratification was only the third recorded unanimous vote of 339 votes taken. The treaty was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and two New York papers, with no evidence of any public dissent.


The translation of the Treaty of Tripoli by Barlow has been found faulty, and there is doubt whether Article 11 in the version of the treaty ratified by Congress corresponds to anything of the same purport in the Arabic version.[18]

In 1931 Hunter Miller completed a commission by the United States government to analyze United States's treaties and to explain how they function and what they mean in terms of the United States's legal position in relationship with the rest of the world.[19] According to Hunter Miller's notes, "the Barlow translation is at best a poor attempt at a paraphrase or summary of the sense of the Arabic" and "Article 11... does not exist at all."[15]

After comparing the United States's version by Barlow with the Arabic and the Italian version, Miller continues by claiming that:

The Arabic text which is between Articles 10 and 12 is in form a letter, crude and flamboyant and withal quite unimportant, from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli. 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.[15]

From this, Miller concludes: "A further and perhaps equal mystery is the fact that since 1797 the Barlow translation has been trustfully and universally accepted as the just equivalent of the Arabic... yet evidence of the erroneous character of the Barlow translation has been in the archives of the Department of State since perhaps 1800 or thereabouts..."[15] It is important to note, though, that as Miller said:

It is to be remembered that the Barlow translation is that which was submitted to the Senate (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, II, 18-19) and which is printed in the Statutes at Large and in treaty collections generally; it is that English text which in the United States has always been deemed the text of the treaty.[15]

However the Arabic and English texts differ, the Barlow translation (Article 11 included) was the text presented to, read aloud in, and ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate. Via

Last updated by Morgan Matthew Jul 27, 2009.

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