A Brief History of Morocco-US Relations
Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies/MAC
Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States, in December 1777, providing a boost to the newly independent American colonies while George Washington and members of the Continental Army were going through their darkest moments wintering in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Straits of Gibraltar from Dutch Map 18th century
Through his representative in Tangier, the Sultan of Morocco informed a number of countries “including the Americans” that they were allowed to enter Moroccan ports without payment of duties or tariff. This constituted de facto recognition of the United States.
Copies of Actual Letters on File:
1789 Letter from George Washington to Sultan of Morocco, thanking him for his support, including the Morocco-US Treaty of Friendship & Peace, ratified by US Senate in 1787, and still in force today.
George Washington established the first diplomatic mission to Morocco in December 1797 when an American Consulate was established in Tangier with the hope of ensuring the safe passage of American shipping into the Mediterranean.
The Moroccan rulers had given buildings in the Old Medina to other diplomatic missions in Morocco in order to encourage the diplomatic corps to deal with the Sultan’s representative, the Mendoub, who was assigned to Tangier.
The Americans were the last country to receive the Sultan’s gift and the only country that held on to this site down to the present day. From 1821 to the end of the French and Spanish Protectorates in 1956, the American Legation in Tangier served as our diplomatic mission to Morocco.
In 1821 Morocco ruler Seid Suleiman gave United States a building in TangierDuring the Second World War, officers at the Legation helped prepare for the Allied Landings in North Africa that took place in November 1942. One of these officers, Gordon Browne, was decorated for bravery in designating a landing field for Allied glider planes.
During the Second World War, the international city of Tangier, was administered as a neutral city by General Franco of Spain. The atmosphere of intrigue and espionage portrayed in the famous movie, Casablanca—filmed entirely in Hollywood—starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, really best describes Tangier during World War II.
Following the successful Allied landings in North Africa, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill, met in Casablanca in January 1943. to confer on the future conduct of the war. General DeGaulle of France also attended along with high ranking British and American officers.
Seated are King Mohamed V of Morocco, Roosevelt, and Churchill
With the end of the French and Spanish Protectorates in 1956, all foreign diplomatic missions moved to Rabat. The Legation building continued as the Consulate General for five years and then served as an Arabic Language school for American diplomats and as a Peace Corps training center. In 1975 the building stood empty and might have been sold if US diplomats in Morocco and friends in Washington had not acted to save and protect it.
Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, a US Nat’l Historic Landmark, site of 1st US public property outside US, given by Morocco in 1821, & symbol of oldest US treaty relationship.
*Illustrated tour of American-Moroccan relations
by Jerry Loftus, director of American Legation in Tangiers
Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies, MAC, Morocco Board, by Anouar Majid (Tangiers, Morocco and Washington, DC, July 13, 2013) – My son Ridwan and I paid a visit to Jerry Loftus, director of the American Legation in Tangier, and followed him on an illustrated tour of American-Moroccan relations, beginning in the late 18th-century.
Quiet and westbound, Morocco doesn’t feature large in the American imagination. But the country has its own special place in the epic story of America, and there is no better raconteur to tell it than Jerry. Even since he assumed his post in 2010, Jerry has managed to give the Legation a central place in the cultural life of Tangier. Rooms and hallways, long shuttered, have been rehabilitated and used to exhibit new histories, such as the one in this video.
Even more colorful is the story of Perdicaris, whose traces are boldly visible at the Legation. Here’s how Jerry presents it:
Of course, if you want to experience the whole drama of the Perdicaris episode, you must watch John Milius’s 1975 film, The Wind and The Lion. The film is so good it could be a parable for America’s troubles in Muslim lands today. So if you are in Tangier one of these days, go to Rue d’Amérique and visit the American Legation. You never know what (or who) you might find there.