Father Abdul the Rahman: the Moorish Prince who beat the Slave System
By Jide Uwechia
The Treaty of Friendship between United States and the Empire of Morocco
One of the main aims of this treaty was to establish a tribute payable by the United States of America to the Emperor of Morocco in exchange for his agreement to end attacks on the merchant ships of the United States operating in the Mediterranean sea.
The United States of America in Congress had in May 12 1784, constituted John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as their Ministers Plenipotentiary, and invested them with full authority and powers to negotiate that treaty with the Ambassador of His Majesty the Emperor of Morocco. The treaty was signed by Thomas Barclay Agent Commerce on behalf of the Ministers Plenipotentiary who had duly delegated him with such authority to bind the United States.
The treaty of amity and commerce made between United States and the Emperor of Morocco, was sealed at Morocco with the seal of the Emperor of Morocco June 23, 1786 (25 Shaban, A. H. 1200), and delivered to Thomas Barclay, American Agent, June 28, 1786 (1 Ramadan, A. H. 1200). Original in Arabic.
Below some parts of the treaty are reproduced:
“In the name of Almighty God,
This is a Treaty of Peace and Friendship established between us and the United States of America, which is confirmed, and which we have ordered to be written in this Book and sealed with our Royal Seal at our Court of Morocco on the twenty fifth day of the blessed Month of Shaban, in the Year One thousand two hundred, trusting in God it will remain permanent.
1. We declare that both Parties have agreed that this Treaty consisting of twenty five Articles shall be inserted in this Book and delivered to the Honorable Thomas Barclay, the Agent of the United States now at our Court, with whose Approbation it has been made and who is duly authorized on their Part, to treat with us concerning all the Matters contained therein.
2. If either of the Parties shall be at War with any Nation whatever and take a Prize belonging to that Nation, and there shall be found on board Subjects or Effects belonging to either of the Parties, the Subjects shall be set at Liberty and the Effects returned to the Owners. And if any Goods belonging to any Nation, with whom either of the Parties shall be at War, shall be loaded on Vessels belonging to the other Party, they shall pass free and unmolested without any attempt being made to take or detain them.
6. If any Moor shall bring Citizens of the United States or their Effects to His Majesty, the Citizens shall immediately be set at Liberty and the Effects restored, and in like Manner, if any Moor not a Subject of these Dominions shall make Prize of any of the Citizens of America or their Effects and bring them into any of the Ports of His Majesty, they shall be immediately released, as they will then be considered as under His Majesty’s Protection
16. In case of a War between the Parties, the Prisoners are not to be made Slaves, but to be exchanged one for another, Captain for Captain, Officer for Officer and one private Man for another; and if there shall prove a deficiency on either side, it shall be made up by the payment of one hundred Mexican Dollars for each Person wanting; And it is agreed that all Prisoners shall be exchanged in twelve Months from the Time of their being taken, and that this exchange may be effected by a Merchant or any other Person authorized by either of the Parties.
20. If any of the Citizens of the United States, or any Persons under their Protection, shall have any disputes with each other, the Consul shall decide between the Parties and whenever the Consul shall require any Aid or Assistance from our Government to enforce his decisions it shall be immediately granted to him..”
See: The Barbary Treaties 1786-1816.Treaty with Morocco June 28 and July 15, 1786. Ratified by the Congress in 1897. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1786t.asp
Abdul-Rahman – The Black Moorish Prince of Sudan
In the late 18th century, there was this African Prince from Guinea, native of Futa Jallon, the mountains from which rose the river Niger. His name was Abdul Rahman Ibrahima Ibn Sori (also known as Abdul Rahman). By ethnicity he was a Fulbe or Fulani, one of the members of the Niger-Congo family of languages and culture.
Ibrahim left Futa in 1774 to study at the famous and ancient University of Timbuktu, in present day Mali. He was trained in law and philosophy. He completed his studies and returned to Futa to play a role in the daily life of his father’s court.
Upon return to Futa, Ibrahim became the leader of one of his father’s army divisions. This was how he got sold into slavery, after losing a battle in an expedition against one of the troublesome neighbours.
He was captured and subsequently sold to different slave traders until he ended-up in the United States in the year 1788 at the age of 26. This was two years after the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the Government of United States and the Empire of Morocco.
He was ended up in Mississippi on a cotton and tobacco farm owned by one Thomas Forster. By using his knowledge of growing cotton in Futa Jallon, and his literacy skills which were transposed to this new circumstance, Abdul-Rahman rose to a position of authority on the plantation and became the de facto foreman.
By virtue of this position he was able to grow his own vegetable garden and sell at the local market.
During this time, he met an old acquaintance, Dr. John Cox.
Dr Cox the Irish Surgeon:
Dr. Cox was an Irish surgeon who served on an English ship. He was the first European person to reach Timbo in the Futa Jallon areas where Abdul Rahman was born.
He fell sick in Timbo and was stranded by his ship.. Cox ended up staying ashore for six months and was taken in by Abdul Rahman’s family. Who treated his illness, fed and housed him then sent him back on his way to Europe all at their expenses.
Cox told Forster this serendipitous story and then asked Foster to “sell” him the Prince so he could help him return to Africa.
Forster refused since Abdul Rahman had made himself the soul and brain of the Foster farm. He was too valuable to be lost.
Dr. Cox continued, until his death in 1816, to seek Abdul Rahman’s freedom, to no avail. After Cox died, his son took up the cause.
Abdul Rahman’s Petition of Rights:
Abdul Rahman became aware of the existence of a Treaty of Friendship signed between the United States and the Emperor of Morocco the protector of all the Moors found on every shore of the globe, guaranteeing the sovereignty and the inviolability of any Moor within the realms of the United States of America.
Being a trained lawyer, and a seasoned observer of America socio-economic ties, he understood the significance of the treaty. Since he was a Moor by legal definition (a noble or subject of any of the ancient realms belonging to the Emperor of Morocco), who had been sold in slavery after the ratification of the Treaty, he understood immediately that he should have been a free man all along.
In 1826, Abdul Rahman wrote a letter to the President of the United States of America, the Secretary of States of the United States and copied the Emperor of Morocco the protector of the Moors seeking for the enforcement of his rights pursuant to Articles 2, 6, 16 and 20 of the Treaty of Friendship between United States and Morocco in 1776.
He argued that he was covered by this treaty since he, Abdul Rahman as a Moor (any noble or subject of any of the ancient realms belonging to the Emperor of Morocco including North and West Africa) could not be legally enslaved in the United States whether he was captured in a war by the United States or obtained by the odious instrumentality of the slave trade networks.
Moors as Freemen under the Constitution of the United States of America:
Under Article 2 of the treaty a moor captive who falls into the possession of United States was entitled to his freedom. Article 2 of the Treaty states as follows:
“2. If either of the Parties shall be at War with any Nation whatever and take a Prize belonging to that Nation, and there shall be found on board Subjects or Effects belonging to either of the Parties, the Subjects shall be set at Liberty and the Effects returned to the Owners. And if any Goods belonging to any Nation, with whom either of the Parties shall be at War, shall be loaded on Vessels belonging to the other Party, they shall pass free and unmolested without any attempt being made to take or detain them.”
By virtue of Article 16 of the Treaty, any Moor who was capture by any American in any war was entitled to his freedom. According to Article 16:
16. “In case of a War between the Parties, the Prisoners are not to be made Slaves, but to be exchanged one for another, Captain for Captain, Officer for Officer and one private Man for another; and if there shall prove a deficiency on either side, it shall be made up by the payment of one hundred Mexican Dollars for each Person wanting; And it is agreed that all Prisoners shall be exchanged in twelve Months from the Time of their being taken, and that this exchange may be effected by a Merchant or any other Person authorized by either of the Parties.”
Under Article 6 of the treaty, it was explicitly indicated that a citizen of United States who ended up in the realm of his Majesty the Emperor of Morocco, was entitled to his freedom. The doctrine of comity of nations is an acceptable interpretative tool in the construction of International Treaties.
6. “If any Moor shall bring Citizens of the United States or their Effects to His Majesty, the Citizens shall immediately be set at Liberty and the Effects restored, and in like Manner, if any Moor not a Subject of these Dominions shall make Prize of any of the Citizens of America or their Effects and bring them into any of the Ports of His Majesty, they shall be immediately released, as they will then be considered as under His Majesty’s Protection..”
This principle has been enshrined in these modern times in the Vienna Convention on the Interpretation of Treaties in effect since the 1960s. The doctrine of comity of sovereign nations (a doctrine of International law since the time of Hugo Grotius 1660s) would here imply a principle of reciprocity. As such this obligation undertaken by the Emperor of Morocco to protect American citizens from being sold or enslaved by Moors also applied in a similar manner as an obligation on the American government to protect Moors from being sold or enslaved in America.
As such, any Moors that happen to be brought into the territories of the United States as a slave, such a moor was immediately entitled to his freedom upon notification being sent to the Secretary of States.
International Dispute Resolution:
Finally, Abd Rahman urged the secretary of States to take immediate action to effect his release. He requested a Dispute Settlement between the Forsters and him, arbitrated by the Secretary of States in accordance with the provisions of Article of 20 the Treaty of Friendship. Article 20 reads:
20.” If any of the Citizens of the United States, or any Persons under their Protection, shall have any disputes with each other, the Consul shall decide between the Parties and whenever the Consul shall require any Aid or Assistance from our Government to enforce his decisions it shall be immediately granted to him.”
On locus standi (his eligibility) to bring this application, Abdul Rahman simply cited his Moorish citizenship. The fact that he was a Moor could not be disputed because he was obviously and self evidently a Black West African from the Futa Jallon the mountains wherein the great River Niger arises, the original Moors. He thus claimed and demanded the rights that came with his Moorish citizenship under the constitution of the United States.
Incidentally at this time in history, Americans were well aware of the physical type of a Moor because President Jefferson had just launched his famous Barbary wars, backed by diplomacy against Tunisia and Algeria to suppress what he ironically termed as acts of piracy against US naval ships. Eminent American military, diplomatic and business cadre went back and forth between North Africa and the United States.
Elite Americans of those days being great racists, they were of course well versed in all the nuances of the physiognomy and the phenotype of the Moors of North Africa. So they took Abdul Rahman’s claim seriously; especially upon conferring with the family of Dr. Cox who provided confirmation of most of Abdul Rahman’s claims.
Abdul Rahman’s mastery of the law, publicity science, his ability to write fluently in Arabic and English languages, and speak both with equal ease, his mastery of the protocols of Moorish courts and the language of international trade and commerce required that he be treated with utmost caution.
To cap his petition, Abdul Rahman invited his detractors to check and confirm his claims with the Emperor of Morocco, citing his name, family origins and professional standing.
A local newspaperman, Andrew Marschalk, who was originally from New York, sent a copy of the petition to Senator Thomas Reed in Washington, who forwarded it to the U.S. Consulate in Morocco.
Treaties are Supreme Law under the United States Constitution
Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants power to the President to make treaties with the “advice and consent” of two-thirds of the Senate.
Article Six of the United States Constitution establishes among other things that duly enacted laws and treaties of the United States are the supreme law of the land
Article 6 reads:
“(i) All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
(ii) This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
(iii) The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Clause 2 of Article 6
Clause 2 of Article 6 provides that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it and treaties made under its authority, constitute the supreme law of the land. State courts are bound by the supreme law. Even state constitutions are subordinate to federal law. In the case of conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be upheld. See Martin v Hunter’s Lessee 1816.
The Treat of Amity and Commerce with the Emperor of Morocco was and still remains one of the supreme laws of the United States of America.
Since Abdul Rahman was clearly a black man who wrote fluently in Arabic, the U.S. government presumed his Moorish origins. The Government then referred the matter to the Emperor of Morocco for investigation and reaction.
After the Emperor of Morocco read the letter, he undertook the investigation of Abdul-Rahman’s claim, sending officials as far as Futa Jallon in Guinea to confer with the family and verify the contents of the letter. The officials came back confirming the information that was contained in the letter.
Abdul Rahman was thus validated as a real Prince of the Moors. The Emperor of Morocco as the protector of all Moors ancient and present was obliged and available to come to his aid and succour.
The Emperor of Morocco upheld his claims and sent a request to President Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay for the release of Abdul Rahman from servitude since he was a Moor covered by the Treaty of Friendship and Commerce.
Upon hearing of the true status of Abdul Rahman as confirmed by the president of the United States himself, Thomas Foster agreed to the release of Abdul-Rahman, without payment.
In 1828, by the order of President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay, he was freed after spending 40 years in slavery.
Return to Africa:
Abdul-Rahman wanted to leave America and return to Africa as soon as he could. He was not interested in the rights of being a free man in America.
Within two days, Abdul-Rahman raised $200 to buy his wife’s freedom and assumed he could do the same for his children.
Before he returned home, he and his wife went to various states and Washington, D.C. Dressed in African Princely Robes, he made speeches through the press, personal appearances, about his African Moorish origins, called for the abolition of slavery as well as solicited donations for the freedom of his children still in slavery in Mississppi.
At this time, Abdul Rahman became the most famous black man in North America. He was known as the Moorish Prince or the African Prince.
After ten months, of touring America, and 40 years of exile Abdul Rahman knew his mission in America was over. He and Isabella his wife made arrangements to leave America. They delegated the fund-raising to free their children to members of family and friends.
On March 18, 1829, Abdul-Rahman returned to Africa. Before he left, he met the then President of United States in the White House and received a personal apology for the misuse and the dehumanization he went through under the slavery institution.
He then departed to Monrovia, Liberia with his wife where he became an instant sensation.
Abdul-Rahman lived for four months before he contracted a fever and died at the age of 67. He lies buried in Liberia.
The Lesson of Father Abdul the Rahman
Every African that went through slavery in the United States came from Royal roots, because they had very old lineages and ancient cultures, going all the way back to when the world was only peopled by black people in the Empire of the Muurs.
Every so called Negro had an ancient lineage which dated back to the divine muurs, a family, culture, a legacy, and a past, a world in which he or she was royal, divine, loved and respected. The distant and ancient rivers of Le muuria, Ta Muuria, and Moor-ab, mythical nations of the past still flow in each of our veins and nourish our genetic renewal.
Every one of you that that kept silent and who came to terms with his or her submission died as a Negro from Negro land…utterly disrespected. Those who stand up for their rights shall always be free, for no chains cannot bind a free spirit.
Abdul Rahman was a lawyer from the land of Ethiopia Maghrib also called Morocco. He was educated and confident enough to argue his case. They recognized his identity and nationality and had to let him go. They also apologised for the insult and the degradation.
He was the first Mandela, an Ethiopian King, Moorish nobility who suffered more than 40 years of unjust incarceration which he defeated with nobility, patience and perseverance. Sometimes it is said that the joy of the victory is never as sweet as the thrill of the challenge.
He taught us the planter’s patience and perseverance. He taught us the principles of militant non violent resistance. He showed us that victory comes to who dares, even against a system as formidable, incomprehensible and cruel as the United States and the Queens commonwealth.
He showed us that the beauty of life is in the struggle. He showed us that the meaning of the struggle is making it through with one’s sovereignty and nobility untainted by the evil system which shall wither in its due time.
Abdul Rahman’s life agenda was to teach the Moorish Americans who still saw themselves as Negros their true origins and identity as well to prepare them for their coming emancipation.
He reminded us that in our emancipation we must be magnanimous as well as conscious. He taught us that we should be inclusive rather than exclusive as a people. We should be curious rather than obtuse. That most of all we should be enlightened with the true enlightenment and education of the soul.
In the 400 years of the European sponsored slave trade, 160 million people were lost. Those are the lost house of the Moors, the lost house of Israel, which has now been found. Those dead bones shall also arise again and make a mighty nation. See the book of Ezekiel Chapter 37 verse 5., the Bible.
The lesson left for us by father Abdul Rahman is to know who we are, where we are coming from, and to stand up for our rights. As well, father Rahman taught us, never to forget our brothers and sisters, our children, friends and neighbours, whether the going is good or bad.
Father Abdul Rahman taught us all that we the children of the Moorish Empire in America, that we started from freedom and that we will end again in our princely robes, our riches, our kingdom, our fame and most of all our freedom.
In Ethiopia, al Maghrib, your home land. Never forget the motherland.
Arise o Muurish nation, you were once great, you will be great again.
“Hear the Children crying.. One Love” (Bob Marley)
The son of Rahman’s slave owner was married to the daughter of a minister. Their relationship soon broke up when his wife found out that he was in a relationship with Rahman’s daughter and they both had, had children.
July 1, 2009.
Los Angeles Times Feb 04, 2008, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/feb/04/entertainment/et-prince4
Curtis A. Bradley , Unratified Treaties, Domestic Politics, and the U.S. Constitution: 48 Harv. Int’l L.J. 307 (2007)