Sharia Vs. Freedom, Circa 1876: An American Diplomat’s Clear Perspective

In 1876, U.S. consul to Turkey Horace Maynard (above) understood—and articulated—the irreconcilability between Islam’s Sharia despotism, and Christian aspirations for “ earlier and superior title to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


Horace Maynard (1814-1882) was a trained lawyer, Professor at the University of East Tennessee, Congressman, attorney general of the state of Tennessee, U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and Postmaster general.

An ardent Union advocate, who supported Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Maynard declared his loyalty to the U.S. government when the Civil War broke out, and his property was confiscated, and he and his family were driven from East Tennessee by the Confederate authorities. Nevertheless, Maynard was able to maintain his Congressional seat during the Civil War, and toward the end of the conflict served as Tennessee’s attorney general under Governor Andrew Johnson.  President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Maynard ambassador to Turkey in March, 1875, where he served until his appointment as Postmaster General by President Hayes, in 1880.

Writing from Constantinople, on August 10, 1876, about the failure of Ottoman efforts to reform the Sharia’s negation of basic non-Muslim, mainly Christian rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina (and throughout the Ottoman Empire)—via formal decrees issued in 1839, 1856, and again on December 30, 1875—Maynard identified “…the same two insurmountable difficulties” which confronted the latest iteration of proposed reforms: “the want of confidence in their promises, one the one hand, and the hostile Mussulman [Muslim] sentiment on the other.”

Maynard elaborated his views by including documentary evidence of Turkish Muslim irredentism, and emphasizing the incompatibility between Islam’s Sharia despotism, dictated by an autocratic Allah, and the antithetical Judeo-Christian conception of a divinely inspired individual right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The same difficulties, I may remark just here, still remain, and will always remain unless the temper and character of the people shall be radically changed. The Mussulmans regard themselves as the conquerors of the country and so entitled to rule it…Whatever efforts [at reform] may have been made, and however sincere, they had the ineradicable defect of a hostile popular [Muslim] sentiment. This is embodied in a document of which purports to be the substance [that] has come into my hand. Being satisfied of its authenticity, I think proper to enclose a copy to illustrate, as it undoubtedly does, the Mussulman view of the situation….[From Maynard’s enclosure] “We [the Muslims] have subdued and conquered the Christians, and their territory by the power of the sword, and we are unwilling to divide with them the administration of the country, and to let them participate in the direction of the affairs of the country.”…The Christians assert an earlier and superior title to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How to let the former  [i.e., the Muslims], exercise their saber-earned authority, and the latter [the Christians] enjoy their heaven-descended rights is now, and likely to be for a great while, the insolvable problem.

How tragic that 130 years later, in 2006, despite monotonously repeated historical confirmation, Horace Maynard’s experience-based wisdom about the “insolvable problem” of reconciling Sharia and its conception of freedom, i.e., “hurriyya,” or “perfect slavery to Allah,”  with true individual freedom from the Judeo-Christian perspective, was ignored. Instead, witless U.S. policymaking “elites” doggedly pursued the misbegotten recommendations of their doyen on Islam, Bernard Lewis, epitomized by his muddled, lunatic 2006 essay, “Bring Them Freedom Or They Destroy Us.”

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