At the time of U.S. independence, Tunis was a state with nominal dependence to the Ottoman Empire, but which was able to conduct its own foreign policy and conclude treaties. The United States has maintained official representation in Tunis almost continuously since 1795, and a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Tunisia was signed in 1797.
Modern Flag of Tunisia
Tunisian recognition of the United State occurred at some time in mid-1795, when Tunisian authorities accepted the appointment of an American consular representative for Tunis. At the time, Joseph Donaldson held U.S. consular authority over all the Barbary States, and was named Consul for Tunis on March 28, 1795, but remained at post in Algiers. Joseph Étienne Famin, a French merchant at Tunis, was deputized to act as U.S. consular official. Famin also established a truce between the United States and the Tunisian government which took effect on June 15, 1796. He subsequently was empowered to negotiate a formal Treaty of Peace and Friendship on behalf of the United States with the Bey of Tunis, which was signed on or around August 28, 1797.
After a period of increasing political and economic influence in Tunisia, the French government established control over Tunisia by the Treaty of Bardo on May 12, 1881. The La Marsa Convention, signed June 8, 1883, explicitly stated that Tunisia was a French protectorate, and ended Tunisian power to conduct international diplomacy.
The United States recognized Tunisia’s independence from France on March 22, 1956, when U.S. Consul General in Tunisa, Morris N. Hughes, sent an official congratulatory message to Sidi Mohammed Lamine Pasha, Bey of Tunis and the Tunisian Government.
Consular relations began with the deputization of Joseph Flamin in 1795 or 1796. At this time, Joseph Donaldson held U.S. consular authority over all the Barbary States, but remained at post in Algiers. Flamin remained in Tunis after the signing of the August 1, 1797 treaty, until the arrival of William Eaton, who presented his credentials to Hamouda Pasha, Bey of Tunis, on March 15, 1798. The U.S. maintained a consular presence into the Protectorate period, except for several closings. The first closing was from 1882 to 1890, although there is no extant record of an agent until 1894. The Consulate was also temporarily closed from June 30, 1904 until after the confirmation of vice consul Auguste Proux on Ocotber 8, 1904. The consulate closed again after Proux’s retirement, on April 19, 1912. The Consulate was revived again in 1915, but owing to wartime conditions, it was not staffed until the summer of 1916. The Consulate was also closed from late 1942 until spring of 1943. The office was raised to the status of a Consulate General effective May 22, 1946. The Consulate General was elevated to the status of U.S. Embassy on June 5, 1956. This status was recognized the next day.
Other consulates, with extant dates:
Although the United States maintained a consular presence in Tunis from 1795, with interruptions, and a Tunisian envoy visited the United States from 1805-1806, no permanent diplomatic relations existed during the period prior to the French Protectorate.
Diplomatic relations were established on June 6, 1956, when U.S. Charge d’Affaires Morris N. Hughes presented his credentials. The U.S. Government designated the opening of the Embassy on June 5.