Thomas Barclay and The Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship

Thomas Barclay and The Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship

Thomas Barclay was an early and active member of the American Revolution.

Eventually, Barclay was sent to Europe to work as a Diplomat with other, more famous Founders like Adams, Franklin and Jefferson.

He was then sent to negotiate a much-overlooked treat with the Sultan of Morocco.

Thomas Barclay

Thomas Barclay immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia in his thirties and established a successful mercantile firm.

Barclay became a leader in the city’s burgeoning Irish community and joined Thomas Fitzsimons as a founder of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a charity organization for the community.

When the American Revolution began, Thomas was elected to all of the Committees of Correspondence as well as the Provincial Assembly. Furthermore, he was chosen to sit on the board of the Pennsylvania Navy.


When it was discovered that William Palfrey’s ship vanished on the high seas, the Continental Congress chose Barclay as his replacement. Thomas soon sailed to assume the office of Consul to France.

While in Paris, Barclay worked closely with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and (briefly) John Jay.

These Diplomats had been ignoring requests of the Barbary States in North Africa to send an Ambassador with the intent of establishing a peace treaty.

This was about to change…

Ignoring Morocco

Earlier, in 1778, Morocco became one of the first nations in the world to request a treaty of alliance with the United States.

Unfortunately, the Ministers in Europe were more concerned with winning the Revolutionary War than expanding their group of friends.

After the Treaty of Paris was signed, and having been ignored by the Americans for six years, the Sultan of Morocco decided it was time to get their attention.

The Sultan had an American ship, Betsy, and her crew captured.

Hatching a Plan

The Sultan’s tactic worked, and Adams and Jefferson immediately began working toward getting a representative to Morocco.

Communication across the Atlantic Ocean was slow. It took almost a year until someone was chosen to negotiate with the North African nation.

That person was Thomas Barclay.

The Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship

Thomas undertook an arduous five month journey to Morocco arriving in the capital on June 19, 1786 with a draft of a treaty which was written by Jefferson.

Nine days later, Barclay left. 

The Sultan’s Ambassadors were accommodating and eager to work with the United States and The Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship was agreed to without incident.

This agreement is one of the oldest (arguably THE oldest) official alliances still in use by the United States today.

Further Diplomacy

Five years later, Thomas Barclay was instructed to return to Morocco.

The Sultan had passed away and his sons were fighting a civil war to determine who that nation’s newest Head of State would be. Barclay waited for the fighting to cease before successfully confirming that the original treaty still stood.

Barclay returned to Europe but was soon asked to go to Algiers and form another alliance.

Unfortunately, while making his way through Spain, Barclay became ill. The unknown disease ended his life in just two days, still serving his adopted country after more than a decade away from home.

Here are some other Founders who served as diplomats across the ocean:

William Short - Jefferson’s First Disciple

Francis Dana and the League of Armed Neutrality

Ralph Izard Journeys to Tuscany

Thomas Barclay has a biography, though be warned, it is very rare and therefore expensive.

The full story of Barclay’s involvement in the American Revolutionary Diplomacy is amazing. In fact, he almost had to make treaties with ALL FOUR of the Barbary States. ‘Consul in France, Diplomat in Barbary’ covers all of this and more in full detail.

If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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