In A.D. 1795, our government ratified a treaty with the nation of Algiers. One of the two signatories to to that treaty was Algiers; the other was “the United States of North America”. The phrase “the United States of North America” appears roughly 20 times in that treaty.
Thus, it appears that in A.D. 1795—seven years after ratification of the Constitution of the United States—either:
1) at least with respect to international treaties, the proper name for our national government may have been “the United States of North America”;
2) no one, including George Washington, had yet agreed on a proper name for this country; or,
3) “the United States of North America” has subsequently been supplanted by the “United States”.
You can read a complete copy of the treaty as posted in the Public Treaties of the United States , in force on The First Day of December, 1873” at: page 1, TREATY OF PEACE AND AMITY BETWEEN THE DEY OF ALGIERS AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Thus, the signatories knew that the proper name for our nation was “The United States of America”—but the treaty nevertheless refers repeatedly to “the United States of North America”.
Could it be that the reference to “the United States of North America” reflected growing awareness that the term “United States” as created in our Constitution was ambiguous in that it might refer to the several States of the Union or it might refer to the national government?
It seems undeniable that the phrase “the United States of North America” was intended to signify something other than “The United States of America” (the proper name for this nation/Union/Confederation as declared in the Articles of Confederation of A.D. 1781). Was the reference to “the United States of North America” intended to signify the national government acting in an international capacity rather than acting in a “federal” capacity among the States of the Union . . . ?
Is the term “the United States of North America” the proper name for a government or country, or is it merely some sort of description?
I have no answer for those questions. I don’t know if this information is important or merely a curiosity.
Perhaps one of you will unravel this mystery.
Here’s part of the text of the original Treaty:
TREATY OF PEACE AND AMITY BETWEEN THE DEY OF ALGIERS AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, CONCLUDED SEPTEMBER 5, 1795; RATIFICATION ADVISED BY SENATE MARCH 2, 1796.
A Treaty of peace and Amity, concluded this present day 1—Ima Artasi, the twenty-first of the Luna Safer, year of the Hegira 1210, corresponding with Saturday, the fifth of September one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, between Hassan Bashaw, Dey of Algiers, his Divan and Subjects and George Washington, President of the United States of North America, and the Citizens of the said United States. [Emphasis added.]
From the date of the present treaty there shall subsist a firm and sincere peace and amity between the President and citizens of the United States of North America and Hassan Bashaw, Dey of Algiers, his Divan and subjects; the vessels and subjects of both nations reciprocally treating each other with civility, honor, and respect.
All vessels belonging to the citizens of the United States of North America shall be permitted to enter the different ports of the Regency, to trade with our subjects, or any other persons residing within our jurisdiction, on paying the usual duties are customhouse is paid by all nations at peace with this Regency; . . . .
P.S. A day or two after I posted the previous text, one of my readers sent the following links dealing with “the United States of North America”. The implication is that “the United States of North America” may be an obscure issue, but has been recognized for some time: