Joel Barlow

On this date in 1754, Joel Barlow was born in Connecticut. Educated at Dartmouth College and Yale, he served as chaplain in the revolutionary war. His edition of The Book of Psalms, issued in 1785, was widely used by the Congregationalists. Barlow left the ministry, and took up law, admitted to the bar in 1786. As a writer and poet, he was a member of the well-known "Hartford Wits," and made his name with "The Vision of Columbus," written in 1787. (His enduring work is the mock-heroic humorous poem, "The Hasty Pudding.") Barlow became a deist after traveling in France, according to C.B. Todd, who wrote the Life and Letters of J. Barlow, 1886. Barlow translated Ruins by Volney. Barlow's claim to freethought fame was as counsel to Algiers, when he secured the release of prisoners and negotiated the Treaty with Tripoli of 1796-97, which stated that the United States was not a Christian nation. It was written in Algiers in Arabic, and signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796. Barlow translated the treaty, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate on May 29, 1797, and proclaimed in Philadelphia on June 10, 1797. George Washington was president when the treaty was signed in Tripoli, but it was signed by Pres. John Adams. Barlow also befriended Thomas Paine, and was responsible for getting Paine's The Age of Reason published during Paine's imprisonment in Paris. Barlow became American ambassador at Napoleon's court in 1811, and died in Poland traveling to meet Napoleon during his retreat from Moscow. D. 1812.

“. . . the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion . . .”

—Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated and co-written by Joel Barlow, U.S. Counsel to Algiers, ratified in 1797

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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