28 June 2007

From the halls of Montezuma

Since it's a busy day, with little time, I had seen this comment by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in First Things, and thought it was interesting. I had known Congressman Keith Ellison, from Minneapolis, used Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Qur’an when he took the Oath of Office, but I wasn't aware of the connection to Jefferson and the Marine Hymn. Although I knew what the words of the hymn were referring to, I never put two and two together to realize that Jefferson was the president at that time. Ironic.

But then there is this delicious irony: [Keith] Ellison is pictured taking the oath on a copy of the Qur’an borrowed from the Thomas Jefferson collection in the Library of Congress. Now, as it happens, Jefferson had very definite, and less than complimentary, views about Islam and good reason for consulting the Qur’an. After American independence, the Muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast, as it was then called, waged a war of terror against American shipping, taking thousands of American sailors and civilians captive as slaves. Payments in ransom and tribute to the privateering Barbary states amounted to 20 percent of United States government annual revenues in 1800. Jefferson thought enough was enough. When he was the U.S. ambassador to France, he had had some experience in negotiating with Muslims and was not favorably impressed. In 1786 there were negotiations with Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. He was asked by what right he extorted money and took slaves. Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay, and to the Congress: “The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet (Mohammed), that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered 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 Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to heaven.” After being inaugurated as president in 1801, Jefferson declared the U.S. policy to be “millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.” In 1805, the Marines were sent in, marching across the desert of Egypt into what was then called Tripolitania, compelling the surrender of Tripoli and the release of all American slaves. Hence the U.S. Marines sing to this day: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli/ We will fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.” It is not evident from the news accounts whether Congressman Ellison intended the choice of Jefferson’s Qur’an as a sign of his support for America’s current struggle against Jihadism.

Many of the Founding Fathers would not even recognize this place today.

4 comments:

fertlmertl said...

Thoroughly fascinating-I LOVE history. I wish I had time to look this up myself. Now I have that song in my head and probably will all night..."From the Halls of Montezu-uma, to the shores of Tripolieeeeee".....

swissmiss said...

I think it's like "history's six degrees of separation"...there's always some connection you didn't know about until someone draws your attention to it. For weekly history/current events lessons, you should check out Father Welzbacher's Pastor's Page. I'm going to add a link to it where all the other blogs are that I visit.

Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

Sounds like what the philosopger Santyana said about those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

swissmiss said...

Very true, Caveman. Alarmingly so.
BTW: Someone from the US House of Reps just visited my site. Wonder if they see the irony in this.