Thomas Jefferson and Islam

U.S. Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is the subject of Rep. Virgil Goode’s recent controversial remarks regarding Islam, will be taking his Oath of Office on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Many have noted the irony in this given that Goode represents Jefferson’s home now, including this snarky little piece from the WashPo.

Of course, no one has bothered to look into WHY Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Koran or what his own experience was with Islam.  That is why I found the following article from the Hawai’i Free Press by Andrew Walden to be of such interest.

Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams and James Madison: Young America’s Fight with Islamism

Hawai`i Free Press | 01/03/07 | Andrew Walden

America has been fighting Islamists for longer than many realize. Even before independence was declared, American ships were pirated and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”—an Ottoman Islamist warlord ruling Algeria. When the colonists rebelled against British rule in 1776, American ships lost Royal Navy protection. A Revolutionary-War era alliance with France offered French protection to US ships, but it expired in 1783. Immediately US ships came under attack and in October 1784 the American trader “Betsey” was taken by Moroccan forces. This was followed with Algerians and Libyans (Tripolitans) capturing two more US ships in 1785.

Lacking the ability to project US naval force in the Mediterranean, America tried appeasement. In 1784, Congress agreed to fund tributes and ransoms in order to rescue US ships and buy the freedom of enslaved US sailors.

In 1786 Thomas Jefferson, then US ambassador to France, and John Adams, then US Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Dey’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. To the US Congress these two future Presidents later reported the reasons for the Muslims’ hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.

“…that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Sound familiar?

In this 1790 satirical piece, his last published letter, Ben Franklin, in the midst of a Congressional debate on slavery, compares the arguments of pro-slavery Southerners (“Mr. Jackson”, a South Carolina delegate) to the arguments of a hypothetical Algerian Muslim “Mussulmen” pirate, Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim. The rationalizations, justifications and excuses of Franklin’s “Sidi” are almost word-for-word those of the Georgia and South Carolina Congressional delegates. The Algerian Islamic “Erika” sect was an allegory to members of the American Christian “Quaker” sect who in 1790 unsuccessfully petitioned Congress, with Franklin’s support, for an end to the importation of slaves from Africa. (Text and link below)

Ben Franklin died on April 17, 1790 just twenty-five days after his letter was published.

Congress in 1790 did not come up with a means to end the slave trade, much less slavery itself. This is largely because representatives of South Carolina and Georgia threatened secession which would have led to war. As with any appeasement of evil to avoid war, the problem continued and festered, growing worse until finally a much larger war–the Civil War– broke out 71 years later causing 600,000 US casualties. Also killed by appeasement; untold numbers of African slaves during the Atlantic crossing and while held in slavery in the US.

And the Muslims? By 1800 the annual tribute and ransom payments first agreed in the mid 1780s amounted to about $1 million–20% of the federal budget. (For fiscal year 2007, 20% of the US revenues would equal $560 billion.) In May, 1801 Yussif Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli, declared war on the US by chopping down the flagpole in front of the US Consulate. Seventeen years after appeasement and tribute payments had begun; President Thomas Jefferson led America into the First Barbary War.

From May 1801 to June 10, 1805 sailors and Marines of the young American nation fought battles immortalized in a line of the Marine Hymn: “…to the shores of Tripoli”. As American forces approached Tripoli on land threatening to capture it, Karamanli suddenly became interested in negotiations. The war ended with a treaty exchanging prisoners, Americans giving Karamanli another $60,000 in ransom and an agreement from the Muslims to cease attacks on US ships.

But for a Muslim to keep his word to an Infidel at the expense of opportunities to expand Islamic power is the Islamic equivalent of a mortal sin. In 1807 Muslim pirate attacks on American ships began anew. As a result Americans led by President James Madison fought Algerians in the Second Barbary War in 1815, leading to another treaty under which the Muslims paid American $10,000 for damages. The Algerian ruler almost immediately repudiated the new treaty after the US departure and again began piracy and the enslavement of captured Christian sailors necessitating an 1816 Anglo-Dutch shelling of Algiers and ultimately the colonization of Algeria in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881 by France and Libya in 1911 by Italy. By then most of the Islamic world was under Christian domination. With the Ottoman Empire defeated in WW1, secularist Turkish rebels in 1923 overthrew the last Islamic Caliphate, destroying the pinnacle of Islamist power and ending a line of succession allegedly reaching back to Mohammed.

The trend of Muslim defeat began to reverse after the Second World War even though many Muslim leaders had backed Hitler’s Third Reich. Most Islamic countries became independent of Christian colonial rule between 1946 when Jordan achieved independence and 1971 when Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE finally became independent of Britain. The next year Muslim terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and one German police officer at the Olympic Games in what became known as the Munich massacre, an attack which some see as opening the current war between Islam and the West. In an echo of the Barbary Pirates, an airliner was hijacked in October 1972 causing Germany to release to Libya the two terrorists being held for trial in the attack.

And the Quakers? Today the Quaker “American Friends Service Committee” no longer demands resolute action against slavery. They are on the other side–serving the modern equivalents of Franklin’s allegorical Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim by demanding that America once again appease the Islamists. Their demand for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of Islamist attacks aimed to re-enslave the populations of those countries will get US into a much larger war a lot sooner than the 17 years to took for appeasement to lead to war at the end of the 18th Century.

Ben Franklin’s use of an imaginary Algerian pirate to satirize a pro-slavery Congressman shows his clear understanding of the danger posed by Islamism. Modern-day Americans would do well to consider the lessons of the War with Islamism fought by Thomas Jefferson and again by James Madison and this alternate meaning in Franklin’s final words of warning.


Full Text of Ben Franklin’s last letter:

On the Slave-Trade To the Editor of the Federal Gazette March 23d, 1790


Reading last night in your excellent Paper the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress against their meddling with the Affair of Slavery, or attempting to mend the Condition of the Slaves, it put me in mind of a similar One made about 100 Years since by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin’s Account of his Consulship, anno 1687. It was against granting the Petition of the Sect called Erika, or Purists who pray’d for the Abolition of Piracy and Slavery as being unjust. Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it. If, therefore, some of its Reasonings are to be found in his eloquent Speech, it may only show that men’s Interests and Intellects operate and are operated on with surprising similarity in all Countries and Climates, when under similar Circumstances. The African’s Speech, as translated, is as follows.

“Allah Bismillah,&c. God is great, and Mahomet is his Prophet.”

“Have these Erika considered the Consequences of granting their Petition? If we cease our Cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the Commodities their Countries produce, and which are so necessary for us? If we forbear to make Slaves of their People, who in this hot Climate are to cultivate our Lands? Who are to perform the common Labours of our City, and in our Families? Must we not then be our own Slaves? And is there not more Compassion and more Favour due to us as Mussulmen, than to these Christian Dogs? We have now about 50,000 Slaves in and near Algiers. This Number, if not kept up by fresh Supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If we then cease taking and plundering the Infidel Ships, and making Slaves of the Seamen and Passengers, our Lands will become of no Value for want of Cultivation; the Rents of Houses in the City will sink one half; and the Revenues of Government arising from its Share of Prizes be totally destroy’d! And for what? To gratify the whims of a whimsical Sect, who would have us, not only forbear making more Slaves, but even to manumit those we have.

“But who is to indemnify their Masters for the Loss? Will the State do it? Is our Treasury sufficient? Will the Erika do it? Can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think Justice to the Slaves, do a greater Injustice to the Owners? And it we set our Slaves free, what is to be done with them? Few of them will return to their Countries; they know too well the great Hardships they must there be subject to; they will not embrace our holy Religion; they will not adopt our Manners; our People will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them. Must we maintain them as Beggars in our Streets, or suffer our Properties to be the Prey of their Pillage? For men long accustom’d to Slavery will not work for a Livelihood when not compell’d. And what is there so pitiable in their present Condition? Were they not Slaves in their own Countries?

“Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states govern’d by Despots, who hold all their Subjects in Slavery, without Exception? Even England treats its Sailors as Slaves; for they are, whenever the Government pleases, seiz’d, and confin’d in Ships of War, condemn’d not only to work, but to fight, for small Wages, or a mere Subsistence, not better than our Slaves are allow’d by us. Is their Condition then made worse by their falling into our Hands? No; they have only exchanged one Slavery for another, and I may say a better; for here they are brought into a land where the Sun of Islamism gives forth its Light, and shines in full Splendor, and they have an Opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true Doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal Souls. Those who remain at home have not that Happiness. Sending the Slaves home then would be sending them out of Light into Darkness.

“I repeat the Question, What is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the Wilderness, where there is plenty of Land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free State; but they are, I doubt, to little dispos’d to labour without Compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing, and they are treated with Humanity. The Labourers in their own Country are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged, and cloathed. The Condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no further Improvement. Here their Lives are in Safety. They are not liable to be impress’d for Soldiers, and forc’d to cut one another’s Christian throats, as in the Wars of their own Countries. If some of the religious mad Bigots, who now teaze us with their silly Petitions, have in a Fit of blind Zeal freed their Slaves, it was not Generosity, it was not Humanity, that mov’d them to the Action; it was from the conscious Burthen of a Load of Sins, and Hope, from the supposed Merits of so good a Work, to be excus’d Damnation.

“How grossly are they mistaken in imagining Slavery to be disallow’d by the Alcoran? Are not the two Precepts, to quote no more, ‘Masters, treat your Slaves with kindness; Slaves, serve your Masters with Cheerfulness and Fidelity,’ clear Proofs to the contrary? Nor can the Plundering of Infidels be in that sacred Book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the World, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of Right as fast as they conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable Proposition, the Manumission of Christian Slaves, the Adoption of which would, by depreciating our Lands and Houses, and thereby depriving so many good Citizens of their Properties, create universal Discontent, and provoke Insurrections, to the endangering of Government and producing general Confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise Council will prefer the Comfort and Happiness of a whole Nation of true Believers to the Whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their Petition.”

The Result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to this Resolution; “The Doctrine, that Plundering and Enslaving the Christians is unjust, is at best problematical; but that it is the Interest of this State to continue the Practice, is clear; therefore let the Petition be rejected.”

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like Motives are apt to produce in the Minds of Men like Opinions and Resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this Account, that the Petitions to the Parliament of England for abolishing the Slave-Trade, to say nothing of other Legislatures, and the Debates upon them, will have a similar Conclusion? I am, Sir, your constant Reader and humble Servant,

(Signed) HISTORICUS. (Pseudonym of Ben Franklin)


Kind of makes you wonder if the Jefferson Koran that Ellison is using isn’t just a spoil of war that one of the first U.S. Marines acquired from a Barbary pirate “on the shores of Tripoli” rather than a sign of religious tolerance.


25 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson and Islam

  1. Boys and girls, only Virgil Goode and his little band of hate mongerers and racists really care what someone is sworn in on. As you are aware several US Presidents did not put their hand on anything to take the oath. Virgil needs to take a trip to one of the infamous stills in Franklin County and get a load on.

  2. Harry, have you even read Virgil’s letter? Or have you simply read all the distortions and obfuscations about it?

    At no point in his letter to me and others in the 5th District does he dispute Ellison’s right to use the Koran.

  3. I am reminded about the joke — told by Methodists and Presbyterians — that goes something like this:

    Upon reaching the Pearly Gates, Jack is led upon a tour, which includes all the lush gardens and beautiful vistas. After a while they reach a large wall, and Jack inquires: “What’s over there?”

    His host replies “Shussh! It’s the Baptists — they think they’re the only ones up here!”

    The point is — and please don’t question the depth of my belief because I have seen God’s grace in ways I can only hope that you someday will — there are plenty who can use language like this to divide and embitter.

    My God and my Savior ask me to seek reconciliation. Is that something you can handle?

  4. Harry, you said several Presidents did not put their hands on a book to take the oath of office. Name them. I know John Quincy Adams placed his hand on a law book, but I do not recall anyone else not having their hand on a book of any kind.

  5. One note of interest, in the Franklin letter and the surrounding argument. The Quakers were the instigators in the petition to end slavery, supported by legislators from PA and NY (and Franklin of course). James Jackson and William Loughton Smith of the traditional “Deep South” spoke in support of slavery, with Madison and the VA contingent pretty much just wishing the whole matter would just blow over.

    In his letter, Franklin parodies the entire situation, with all players as Muslim (Jackson the pirate, Quakers the Erika, and the august chamber adopting the “Virginia Compromise”). Not just the slave-captuing pirate, but also the petitioning Erica, and the Divan in its entirity. As a whole, it is a (albeit farcical) depiction of a fractuous Muslim society, which makes the same calculated error which he deems our country to have made. I would say as such to read into it a criticism of Muslim’s is to read it as a criticism of America.

  6. The Barbary Pirates were just that – pirates. They did not represent any organized Muslim group or state.

    In response to the raids on their shipping, the United States (represented by Thomas Jefferson) signed a treaty in 1786 with Islamic Morocco (the first country to recognize the United States upon independence, BTW) to protect shipping lines and assert the friendship between the US and Morocco.

    It remains, to this day, the oldest unbroken treaty ever signed by the US.

  7. Shahed, you are grossly misinformed about the history of the Barbary wars. These pirates were not acting in a vacuum, they were acting on the behest of the Barbary states. This is shown by the fact that their attacks ceased when a treaty was signed with one of the Barbary states or when they were beaten into submission. Not to mention the fact that these same states never denied connection with these savages but openly declared their connection!

    In 1802 the state of Morocco declared war against the United States and only backed down because they realized there were five USN Ships which the Sultan could defend himself against. Later on they captured the Hanna and the Celia, the former was a merchant ship and the latter a brig, taking American prisoners (most notably Richard Bowen the captain of the Celia). In September of 1804 they again threatened war against the US. All of these events occurred after the 1786 treaty. This kind of error occurs when you rely on “mob-ruled” sources like Wikipedia for your information.

    Sources: Joseph Wheelan’s “Jefferson’s War” and McKee’s “Edward Preble”

  8. Hey people. If you think Ben Franklin was such an ‘authority’ on International relations and should be heeded to in deciding friends and foes, then please, I beg you, take a look at this and PAY HEED:

    (This prophecy, by Benjamin Franklin, was made in a “CHIT CHAT AROUND THE TABLE DURING INTERMISSION”, at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787. This statement was recorded in the dairy of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a delegate from South Carolina.)

    “I fully agree with General Washington, that we must protect this young nation from an insidious influence and impenetration. The menace, gentlemen, is the Jews.
    In whatever country Jews have settled in any great number, they have lowered its moral tone; depreciated its commercial integrity; have segregated themselves and have not been assimilated; have sneered at and tried to undermine the Christian religion upon which that nation is founded, by objecting to its restrictions; have built up a state within the state; and when opposed have tried to strangle that country to death financially, as in the case of Spain and Portugal.
    For over 1,700 years, the Jews have been bewailing their sad fate in that they have been exiled from their homeland, as they call Palestine. But gentlemen, did the world give it to them in fee simple, they would at once find some reason for not returning. Why? Because they are vampires, and vampires do not live on vampires. They cannot live only among themselves. They must subsist on Christians and other people not of their race.
    If you do not exclude them from these United States, in their Constitution, in less than 200 years they will have swarmed here in such great numbers that they will dominate and devour the land and change our form of government, for which we Americans have shed our blood, given our lives our substance and jeopardized our liberty.
    If you do not exclude them, in less than 200 years our descendants will be working in the fields to furnish them substance, while they will be in the counting houses rubbing their hands. I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude Jews for all time, your children will curse you in your graves.
    Jews, gentlemen, are Asiatics, let them be born where they will nor how many generations they are away from Asia, they will never be otherwise. Their ideas do not conform to an American’s, and will not even thou they live among us ten generations. A leopard cannot change its spots. Jews are Asiatics, are a menace to this country if permitted entrance, and should be excluded by this Constitutional Convention.”
    Benjamin Franklin

    Hey, don’t get carried away so soon, here’s more:

    George Washington:
    ( in Maxims of George Washington by A. A. Appleton & Co.)
    “They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy’s armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in… It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.”
    (George Washington)

    The ‘visionary’ Mr. Thomas Jefferson:
    “Dispersed as the Jews are, they still form one nation, foreign to the land they live in.”
    Thomas Jefferson (D. Boorstin, THE AMERICANS)
    “Those who labor in the earth are the Chosen People of God, if ever he had a chosen people.”
    Thomas Jefferson (NOTES ON VIRGINIA)

    So, Dear friends, if we really were to follow the ‘visionaries’ of the 18th century, we’ll be following such racist policies, which divide rather than help us understand each other. We must realize that after all their ‘vision’, they were merely humans with their specific understanding of the contemporary world in their own limited ways. Today, whether one is a Jew or a Muslim, he is a human first and anything else afterwards. Kindly DO NOT generalize and incrementalize the labels of ISLAMISTS, ZIONISTS, JIHADISTS or any other BULL*HITISTS on any Jew or Muslim you come across. Cultures can not be conquered, they can only be understood and cross-cultural peace has existed in the past and can exist if people STOP RACISM FOR HUMANITY’S SAKE!!!

  9. Sorry, Syd, but you are preachng to the choir. It is those who fly planes into buildings that need lessons in racism and humanity, not us.

  10. Wow Syd, so false… the lies you reported were originated from anti-semitics and Nazi’s and repeated by Osama Bin Laden. Here are some links to provide some opposing evidence.

    It’s really sad that liberals are so undiscerning of the truth as to take it from the mouths of anti-semitics without a flash of doubt.

  11. The United States Constitution has become a suicide document by the way our senators and congressmen are behaving. G-d help US and f–k Muhammed (who was a child molester) and all of his followers

  12. It is strange that whoever wrote this obviously biased and racist forgot a few details, like the fact that USA has the longest unbroken friendship treaty with Morocco, a muslim and Arab country, and was signed by Thomas Jefferson and King Muhammed III over 220 years ago
    And also this small detail: THE WHITE HOUSE Press Release:
    ” … in 1777, the first nation in the world to recognize the United States was the Kingdom of Morocco.”

  13. If Tommy boy can sneak down to the quarter and rape a child repeatedly and later free her (sally hemiings) and still be Pres..what is there such disbelief about the Koran.? Get real..he is not the only one..just the one who got caught

    1. If you had any intelligence, you’d know that story was disproven. TJ wasn’t at Monticello when conception would have to occurred. More likely than not according to historians and geneticists, it was one of his cousins that fathered the child with Hemmings.

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