America’s Wars With the Barbary Pirates

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 February 2018

Review of ‘Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801-1805’, by Joseph Wheelan

“The Terror,” raids by pirates who believed themselves to be on a holy mission, were “an accepted hazard of conducting foreign trade, much like hurricanes”. So notes Joseph Wheelan in his 2004 book, Jefferson’s War. That changed after a naval expedition by the United States put down the trade in the first two decades of the nineteenth century.

BACKGROUND

The corsairs came from the so-called Barbary States, the polities of North Africa. These included Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, which were formally regencies of the Ottoman Empire, and Morocco, an independent entity. The Barbary states conducted what they saw as “naval jihad,” and the West called piracy, from the early sixteenth century onward (p. 13). Theoretically, this was an attempt to reverse the 1492 Reconquista that had, after eight centuries of Islamic rule, put Iberia back in the hands of Christendom (p. 9). Material considerations, of course, played their part, and while the Barbary corsairs made little progress in re-capturing European territory, their thefts of people and property—and the threat of theft—extorted considerable payment from Europeans, which was classified (p. 16) by the Barbary states as jizya (the tax non-Muslims pay to a Muslim authority to gain safety).

The expulsion of the “Moors” and the Jews from Spain and Portugal after the Reconquista was a process that would continue for decades. During the rule of Sulayman the Magnificent (1520-66) the Ottoman state aspired to naval supremacy from the Levant to the Morocco, and the intolerance of the inquisitors, especially in Spain, provided a flow of intellectual capital that assisted this project. In 1568, the “Moriscos,” those of Arab descent in Spain who had converted to Christianity (some sincerely), rebelled against the increasing persecution. The Spanish delighted in the opportunity for a final showdown with this community and, by May 1570, Morisco culture and presence in Spain was ended when some 50,000 people were either enslaved or deported to North Africa. The Ottomans were defeated in the great contest at Lepanto in October 1571, but the spread of religious intolerance in Europe, through France and Spain, helped keep the Ottomans replenished with skills and soldiers, and their burning hatred for Spain in particular alive (pp. 12-15).

The Barbary state-model was parasitic. Prisoners of war were taken by both sides, of course, but the Barbary corsairs abducted Europeans from commercial vessels and indeed from their homes, and regarded not just the capture equipment, food, clothes, jewels, and gold, but the Christians themselves, as property (p. 19). “Redemption” missions, attempting to free Christian captives, were a routine fact of life from no later than 1575 (p. 25).

The Barbary states constantly raided Spain and Italy, which in the 1610s reported the loss of between 300,000 and 500,000 people each (about 5% of their populations), leaving whole tracks of coastline abandoned (p. 18). In 1617, 800 corsairs took 1,200 captives from Madeira in Portugal, and in June and July 1627, a series of Barbary raids in Denmark Iceland, led by a German who had “turned Turk,” captured 800 people (p. 17). In June 1631, Barbary corsairs abducted the entire village of Baltimore in Ireland. Father Pierre Dan was sent to negotiate over Baltimore, and found Irish families in a “piteous” state, on sale at markets in Algeria, where families were sold off as individuals and never saw one-another again.

Wheelan notes (pp. 20-24):

An abundance of European slaves magnified the atmosphere of unbridled opulence [in the Barbary states in the early seventeenth century]; there were so many slaves that the middle and upper classes enjoyed unparalleled freedom from every sort of drudgery. …

As soon as [Europeans] fell into the raiders’ hands, the captives were stripped of their clothes, given rags to wear, and either were put in irons or made to work the ship. The pashas had their pick first. The youngest, handsomest male slaves were usually chosen as palace pages, and the prettiest women were sent to Constantinople as gifts to the sultan.

The rest were auctioned in the slave mart. Algiers’s “zoco” was in the middle of the commercial district. Potential buyers examined the prisoners carefully, as they would any domestic animal they were considering purchasing. They checked over their teeth, walked them back and forth to see if they limped, poked and prodded them, made them jump, stripped them naked and felt their hands for calluses, a reliable indicator of their worth as manual labourers. Young boys and girls were prized above all, of course. …

Literature and the Redemptionist religious orders commonly depicted the Moslems as heartless, barbaric captors. … [But] Christians were usually treated no worse than Moslem captives in Christian hands. It was in the owners’ interests to keep slaves healthy for ransom or labour, although they rarely gave them much more than bare-minimum subsistence. … At night, they were chained to stanchions  or iron rings embedded in the floors of their squalid dungeons. …

Two thousand slaves built the Moroccan city of Meknes during the last quarter of the seventeenth century; some were burned alive operating lime kilns. Slaves were bastinadoed—the soles of their feet and their buttocks flailed with inch-thick sticks—flogged, half-starved, tortured, burned, and skewered. As punishment for the capital crime of killing a Moslem, a condemned Christian faced the unspeakable fate of being cast from a parapet upon gleaming hooks cruelly protruding from the city walls and, impaled, dying a slow, agonizing death that could last for days.

It is estimated that up to 1.25 million Europeans were enslaved by the Barbary states between 1530 and 1780. This is atop the 22 million or so Africans the various Islamic Empires, from the ninth century until its gradual abolition in the twentieth century, took into slavery. By comparison, the Atlantic slave trade—dominated by Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, and the Netherlands—lasted from 1450 to 1850, and involved the abduction and transportation of 12 million souls. The victims of the Middle Passage were used as manual labourers, either on plantations or in mineral mines, and in time as domestic servants. In Europe and her colonies in the New World, sexual attacks on slaves were an endemic feature of the system; it was also a feature that was key to undoing it. Abolitionists in America, Britain, and elsewhere had great success in turning public opinion against the institution of slavery by arguing, at various levels of directness, that slavers wanted to keep their captives in order to rape them. In Islamdom, this accusation would have had no force: concubinage was an advertised aspect of slavery, a system vouchsafed by God. When the British requested of the Ottoman sultan in 1842 what his government was doing to help eradicate slavery, a bewildered Abdulmejid I wrote back that “the traffic in slaves is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam … up to this day”; the right to trade in slaves is “manifest … and requires no more demonstration than the light of day”. The version of slavery in Islamdom has no parallel in the West with the possible exception of the antebellum South in the United States; it was sown into the fabric of society, physically, as a means of wealth-production, and psychologically, a yardstick of one’s standing as it relates to the state and to God.

Originally, European powers had tried to tame the Barbary corsairs by dealing through their formal masters in Constantinople. In 1622, England ruptured this scheme by directly dealing with Algiers, and thereafter the other European states made deals individually with the Barbary states as they evolved into ever-more-autonomous dynasties governed by the praetorianist janissaries, the Mameluke slave soldiers (p. 25). There were punitive raids on the Barbary states at various times, perhaps most prominently the 1655 assault on Tunis by Oliver Cromwell’s representative, Admiral Robert Blake, which was forceful enough to have Algiers pre-emptively comply with London’s terms, and the English “fireships” raid in Algiers by Admiral Edward Spragg in 1671 that destroyed 3,100 men and toppled the janissary regime, installing a “dey” for the first time, whose descendants would rule until the French conquest in 1830 (p. 27). But the effect never endured from these raids, and a collective, sustained European effort to halt the trade—for example via a blockade—never seems to have occurred to anyone. To the contrary, the European states tended to use the Barbary practice as a lever against rival Europeans (pp. 25-6).

The Barbary model required replenishments in the form of “tribute” (extortion) from Europe—payment of masts, cannons, gunpowder, and so on—plus European renegades to operate them, as technology advanced (pp. 29-31). In the seventeenth century, the military tide was turned, when the Ottoman advance into Europe was halted at the walls of Vienna in September 1683, but before that the political trends had altered; in composing itself in the aftermath of the terrible religious wars that ended in 1648, Europe had settled on a more gentle governing system and for the first time the refugees started to flee East to West. This was a severe strain for the Barbary polities. “By the end of the eighteenth century,” says Wheelan (p. 31), “the Barbary States were shadows of their former selves, surviving largely on their reputation.” In the days when Father Pierre Dan saw Algiers, the state boasted a population of nearly 100,000, served by 25,000 European slaves. In the 1780s, one-hundred-and-fifty years later, Algeria’s population had been destroyed by plague and economic stagnation, down to 30,000, and the slave population of Algiers was about 1,000 (p. 31).

Despite the weakness of the Barbary states by the end of the eighteenth century, “Europe continued to pay obeisance to the Barbary States’ jihad racket” as if these states remained at the height of their power (p. 31). The United States, born in 1783—the year the Ottoman Empire suffered its perturbing territorial loss to date, in Crimea—and consolidated in 1791, had an elite with different ideas about how to handle the Barbary corsairs.

AMERICA AND THE BARBARY STATES

The Barbary states preyed on the young United States, which needed trade through the Mediterranean to assist its fragile economy, from the beginning. In October 1784, an American ship, Betsey, loaded with salt was overrun by Moroccan pirates; in July 1785, the Maria and then the Dauphin, merchant ships and their crews, were captured by Algiers. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were dispatched to London tasked with inquiry into the appropriate price and mechanism for getting the American captives back. The British government treated Jefferson and Adams coolly, this being immediately after the Revolution that had so wounded British pride (p. 33). Indeed, there is evidence the British had incited the Algerians to seize the Maria and the Dauphin (p. 49). The Betsey was returned the same month the Algerians took their American captive because the Moroccan emperor in Tangier, Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdullah, had only ordered its seizure in the first place to get the Americans’ attention. An American envoy, Thomas Barclay, finally arrived in Morocco in 1786, and a friendship treaty demanding symbolic American tribute was signed (p. 48-9).

In this environment, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli’s ambassador to London, seemed like a useful contact. Jefferson and Adams describe meeting Adja in a letter dated 28 March 1786. The ambassador took the occasion to explain the rates that would be charged for friendship treaties—these supposedly protecting states form having their nationals taken hostage—and the desirability of making a long-term arrangement since it avoided increases in the price at every renewal. Adja also added details about his own cut.

Jefferson and Adams explained [spellings edited to conform with modern parlance]:

We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the grounds of their pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all Mankind as our friends, who had done us no wrong nor had given us any provocation.

The Ambassador answered us, that it was founded on the law of their great prophet: that it was written in the Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners: that it was their right and duty to make war upon them, whenever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; and that every Mussalman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise.

That it was a law, that the first who boarded an enemy’s vessel should have one slave more than his share with the rest, which operated as an incentive to the most desperate valour and enterprise …, which so terrified their enemies, that very few ever stood against them.

U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs—a position later renamed Secretary of State—John Jay had authorised Jefferson and Adams to borrow $80,000 to settle with all the Barbary states; the total being demanded was $1.3 million (pp. 40-41). This extortion and the religious justifications irritated Jefferson, though he had advocated a confrontation with the Barbary pirates—and the building of a Navy to do so—long before. This had been impossible under the post-revolutionary Confederation; under the constitutional framework it became plausible. With Britain having orchestrated peace between Portugal and Algiers in October 1793, lifting the limitations Lisbon had imposed, Algiers went on a rampage against American shipping, helping shift public opinion in favour of creating a standing Navy (pp. 60-61). In March 1794, Congress voted to create a Navy, albeit a minimal one (p. 70), and after Jay became president he expanded it (p. 80).

Though the U.S. paid tributes in the late 1790s—including the famous Tripoli Treaty of 1797, which said that America “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”—it was simultaneously building up a military capacity. By the time Jefferson became the third U.S. President in March 1801, the situation was set to allow him to enact his ideas for disciplining the Barbary states.

The U.S. had been in an undeclared naval contest, the “Quasi-War”, with France between mid-1798 and September 1800, and this had, because it had ended on acceptable terms, made public sentiment more amenable to Jefferson’s plans for the Barbary states, and as those states agitated for war—demanding revisions to extant treaties to extort further tribute—Jefferson took no moves to mollify them and instead dispatched the fleet, without even bothering to tell Congress, to the Barbary shores (pp. 104-5). The prevailing view of the Islam as a religion and its effect in shaping Islamdom—the creation of tyrannies, the extinction of inquiry and reason and enterprise, and the apparent paradox of repressive approaches to female sexuality on one hand, with sex-segregation held to lead to other vices like homosexuality, and extreme licentiousness on the other hand—meant that once the American public found out the Barbary expedition was underway they were wildly enthusiastic about it (pp. 108-9).

THE FIRST BARBARY WAR: TRIPOLI

The bashaw (ruler) in Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli, cut down the American flag—declaring war—on 14 May 1801. The first American war vessels reached Gibraltar just over a month later, on 26 June. Richard Dale, the captain of the USS President, met one of Tripoli’s representatives, Murat Reis, born Peter Lisle in Scotland, a convert to Islam in captivity after he had been abducted aboard the Betsey five years earlier. Reis flatly lied to Dale and said Tripoli was not at war with America; Dale found the truth by asking around Gibraltar. Dale and the fleet sailed on to Algiers and Tunis, where cash bought time for the U.S. to deliver its promised naval equipment. A delegation to Tripoli on 25 July 1801 promised to destroy the Libyan fleet if the state of war remained in place, then said it was a shame that Yusuf maintained this posture because aboard the U.S. warships was a letter of friendship from President Jefferson and $10,000. Yusuf refused to back down. From his Tunisian consulate, on 23 July 1801, U.S. representative William Eaton wrote a circular to America’s diplomats in Europe, telling them that the U.S. was blockading Tripoli and asking them to inform their host governments of this. (pp. 112-7)

The first serious engagement came on 1 August 1801: the USS Enterprise shattered the Tripoli¸ despite its two-gun advantage, and Reis—who had finally made it back to Tripoli after his crew mutinied on Gibraltar and abandoned them in Morocco—was publicly humiliated and flogged by the bashaw (p. 118). The war then entered a somewhat phony phase, with Dale showing extreme caution, mounting no offensive operations into Tripoli harbour and telling some subordinates he foresaw an end to the blockade altogether in the near future (pp. 121-2). In Tunis, Eaton fumed at the performance of Dale and USS Constellation captain Alexander Murray for their lackadaisical performance, which left him mocked by his Barbary interlocuters and powerless to affect it (pp. 138-9).

On 15 January 1803, the Enterprise intercepted a Tunisian vessel, the Paulina, as it tried to run the blockade; the bey of Tunis threatened war, and after a process that lasted two months Morris conceded everything, not excluding outrageous additional charges after the bey effectively kidnapped him on the way out of a 5 March meeting (pp. 141-6). This helped precipitate radical change, given that Jefferson was already impatient with proceedings. Morris and Dale were soon cashiered, and Edward Preble took command of the USS Constitution in a decision dated 14 May 1803 (pp. 146-7).

The situation had become genuinely active for the first time in a while just the day before, on 13 May, with Reis’ old ship, the Meshuda, having been reflagged as a Moroccan vessel, trying to bring guns and other contraband into Tripoli. The Meshuda was driven ashore but not defeated; an exchange of fire between the U.S. and Tripoli on 18 May was also inconclusive, ditto another skirmish on 1 June (pp. 149-50).

The bashaw was unimpressed by American arms, and when Morris decided to try diplomacy on 7 June 1803, he found the demands to be extreme—$200,000 for peace, $200,000 annual tribute, war expenses, and annual shipments of military supplies. Morris probably would have ended up a captive in Tripoli had the French ambassador not told the bashaw that the American’s safe-passage was guaranteed with the full might of Napoleon. Morris left and went to Malta, where his wife gave birth to a son on 9 June. Morris’ final act was to abandon the blockade entirely on hearing a false report that Tunis and Algiers were sending a war fleet against America. Morris received his letter of dismissal, dated 21 June, shortly after this. The failure of Morris was highlighted around this time when Lord Horatio Nelson bombarded Algiers for its conduct against Britain and forced the dey, Bobba Mustapha, into an abject surrender, releasing all British citizens, with compensation, and promising not to offend Britain’s honour again. Morris was later court martialed for “inactive and dilatory conduct”, having mostly failed to impose the blockade and botched the few actions he had taken. (pp. 153-8)

THE PHILADELPHIA

The capture of the Philadelphia by the Tripoli regime on 31 October 1803 was the next major event. The ship had chased corsairs and hit an uncharted reef; despite the best efforts of captain William Bainbridge, the ship and crew were taken, though Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon interceded at the behest of U.S. diplomats to ensure the officers were not treated as slaves, much to Jefferson’s annoyance since the expedition was supposed to impress Europe. The rest of the Philadelphia crew found themselves in dire conditions within the month; one of the five among their number who converted, John Wilson, became an especially abusive guard, and one man attempted suicide. Preble learned of the disaster on 24 November. (pp. 159-67)

Jefferson was criticized at home for trying to wage a war on the cheap, and capitalized on this sentiment fully to extract more money for more warships from Congress. With more willing operatives in theatre, Preble and the new Barbary consul general Tobias Lear having deployed in August—and narrowly averted a separate war with Morocco in October—events were trending more in Jefferson’s preferred direction of a victor’s peace, even as his Cabinet had agreed in May that they would now accept a negotiated outcome with Yusuf. (pp. 168-79)

Probably the most iconic episode of the Barbary wars if the blowing up of the captured Philadelphia by an American team led by Lt. Stephen Decatur on 16 February 1804. This was enabled by the capture of a vessel beforehand that gave accurate intelligence about the Tripoli port. Four men—Decatur, Lt. James Lawrence, midshipman Thomas McDonough, and Charles Morris—sailed into the harbour on the Intrepid, fought their way aboard, and set the ship alight. It burned all night. The political effect was even greater, and exactly what Jefferson had intended. Nelson referred to it as “the most bold and daring act of the age”. The pope, Pius VII, said the American team had “done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages”. Decatur, at 25-years-of-age, became the youngest officer; awards were bestowed by Congress and a play written about him. (pp. 180-95).

Painting: “Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia in the Harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804″, by Edward Moran in 1897

MID-1804: ESCALATING THE WAR

Preble had a clear sense of his mission: to work in tandem with the diplomat Lear to apply relentless pressure to the bashaw so that he would either make a reasonable peace, or see his city destroyed (p. 209). Preble tried to parley with Yusuf, again, on 12 June, offering ransoms and an additional bribe, and it had been refused (p. 201). There were several skirmishes in July (p. 2010). And on 3 August 1804, an assault was launched intended to cripple the bashaw’s fleet at anchor and the guns on shore (pp. 199-201). The Americans killed forty-four of Tripoli’s fighters but the city’s defences remained (pp. 203-7). Tripoli tried to reassure itself by saying this was a spasm of drunkenness, and further mistreating the Philadelphia crew (p. 208). A second assault to lure Tripoli’s ships into open water was launched on 7 August, with the Americans bolstering their attack with three captured Libyan vessels; it did not succeed (pp. 214-6).

Preble was made aware at this point that he would be replaced at the head of the mission by Samuel Barron; the Jefferson administration was thrilled with Preble’s conduct, but Barron outranked him, a source of bitterness for Preble who felt the moment of victory was at hand (pp. 216-8). Having initially resolved to wait for Barron, Preble returned to his prior track and decided to harry Tripoli until Barron arrived. The June offer was repeated to the bashaw on 9 August and refused. An ineffective round of shelling on 24 August was followed by a more effective round on 28 August. Yusuf was terrified of the effect and the casualties were said to be considerable (pp. 219-21). A second Intrepid raid on 4 September 1804 failed entirely: the ship was hit directly or botched its own cannons, blowing up and killing all thirteen crewman without so much as injuring a Libyan (pp. 226-8). Despite this unevenness, Preble’s operations had the major gain of conferring experience on the nascent American Navy, with the veterans of this campaign distinguishing themselves in the War of 1812 (p. 224-5).

GROUND WAR AND REGIME CHANGE

On his return to America, Eaton had told anybody who would listen of the need to commit troops to press America’s war more firmly. Troops could find partners to topple Yusuf, since Tripoli’s population was ripe for rebellion, said Eaton. In June 1804, Jefferson met Eaton and gave him the go-ahead, installing Eaton at a position in the Navy department. The chosen client was Hamet Karamanli, Yusuf’s brother, who had been deposed as bashaw in 1793 by the Ottomans and exiled by Yusuf. Hamet was a singularly awful candidate: uninspiring, lacking charisma, self-indulgent, and politically inept—in July 1803, despite Eaton’s warning, Hamet had returned to his brother’s realm, to Derna in the east, at Yusuf’s invitation, and then had to flee to Egypt when Yusuf tried to kill him. But, while Bainbridge agreed that a ground force was needed, Secretary of War Henry Dearborn did not, so Hamet was the only instrument available. Combining his own money with state money, Eaton brought the plan together. (pp. 232-5)

Eaton’s team landed in Alexandria, Egypt, on 25 November 1804. Barron was instructed to cooperate with the Hamet track (pp. 236-7). Eaton had committed to this mission entirely; he had learned four dialects of Arabic and, as mentioned, committed his own money. On arrival in Egypt, Eaton found chaos; this was just after the French had invaded and then been ejected by the British. The Turkish sultanate was trying to restore order; a ferocious rebellion by the Mamelukes raged. Hamet, who could not initially be found, had thrown in his lot with the rebels, making Eaton’s position somewhat awkward, a position not helped when the French spread rumours that Eaton was a British spy who was helping the Mameluke rebels. (pp. 239-45)

Yusuf was aware that he was unpopular and leant on Cairo to keep Hamet from entering Libya, which did not work. In November 1804, Yusuf suffered a seizure and a marabout (holy man) was summoned to drive the devil out. The French had more success in blocking Hamet getting to Alexandria by propaganda to the local governor, so the sea route to Derna was blocked. But this worked politically to Hamet’s favour—his followers could not all get on the ship and without him present most would not have made it to meet him in Libya. Still, it meant the Eaton-Hamet party had to cross 460 miles of rocky desert to get to Bomba, where they could be resupplied. From Bomba it was three days to Derna, then one-hundred miles to Benghazi, and four-hundred miles after that to Tripoli. (pp. 245-46).

Hamet had met Eaton at Damanhur, north-eastern Egypt, on 5 February 1805, and on 23 February a document was signed formally sealing their alliance (p. 251). At 11 AM on 8 March 1805, a rag-tag force from eleven nations of about 400 people—consisting of ninety men from Hamet’s exiled Libyans, twenty-five Turks, forty Europeans, and three-hundred Arabs cavalrymen, with just ten American Marines leading them—began their march across the desert with the intention of overthrowing Yusuf and replacing him with Hamet. (pp. 247-8; 252)

The expedition was fraught from the beginning, with thievery of food and even weapons; constant strikes by the Arab caravan because of rumours they were to be cheated and other grievances; and Hamet’s nerve was always about to give way, though Hamet did at one point ride 120 miles to recover an Arab faction that had deserted, returning with them on 2 April 1805. Having crossed into Libya and incited the population against Yusuf, Eaton and his core group were nearly slaughtered by Hamet’s party in a stand-off over rations on 8 April. Miraculously not a shot was fired and after Eaton berated his antagonists in their own tongue, unity was restored. It was nearly shattered again when they reached Bomba on 14 April and found no American resupply after a five-week march through the desert. The Argus, captained by Isaac Hull, arrived in the nick of time on the morning of 15 April. (pp. 255-66)

THE FALL OF DERNA

The Eaton-led force set out from Bomba on 23 April 1805, bound for Derna, sixty miles away. The expeditionary force swelled to 1,000 men as locals rallied to Hamet’s cause, and Hamet enforced a ban on any forces loyal to him picking from the harvest. Just as Eaton had engaged in rudimentary psychological warfare, Hamet understood the need for political warfare (“hearts and minds”) against Yusuf. In the capital, Yusuf was bolstered by 1,500 Turkish mercenaries, 12,000 Arab and Berber cavalry, and another 10,000 or so irregular militiamen. Less than a day away from Derna on 26 April, the Arab party again threatened to walk away on hearing that Yusuf had sent a major force to Derna. Eaton resolved the matter with cash and the march resumed. (pp. 255-68)

Jefferson did not know how close Eaton was to Derna when he surveyed the situation in April 1805: with 2,000 seamen on twelve ships and a blockade lasting four years, it was disappointing that Tripoli had not been fired on for eight months. The 3 August attack had shaken Yusuf, and hardships had been imposed by the blockade, but Yusuf was also able to adapt without constant pressure and had no incentive to sue for peace. Jefferson was now prepared to ransom the prisoners, though he would not pay for peace; a permanent, if smaller, blockade would be maintained. Such would not cost any more than tribute anyway, said Jefferson. The 297 American crewmen trapped in Tripoli’s jails had also lost hope (pp. 269-72).

Barron had been terribly ill at Syracuse for a long time, and, while there, Lear, worked to turn him against Eaton’s mission since if Eaton succeeded, Lear would be superfluous. Lear succeeded, hence Barron’s lack of supporting strikes at Tripoli as Eaton’s force moved in on the ground in the east. The irony, as Wheelan notes, is that this left Lear having to hope for the success of the very mission he was working to undermine, otherwise there would be nothing to “force Yusuf to sign an honourable peace for which Lear could then claim credit” (pp. 277-9).

Eaton’s party reached the hills around Derna on 26 April 1805. Eaton presented an ultimatum to Mustifa Bey, the governor of Derna, offering him a post in a future Hamet government in exchange for letting the expedition pass through his city and purchase supplies. “I shall see you tomorrow in a way of your choice”, Eaton wrote. Bey returned a laconic response on 27 April—“My head or yours”—and by 13:30 the battle began. The three American ships in the harbour—Argus, Hornet, and Nautilus—were fired upon; they soon shelled the gunners on the walls of the city. Inside the city, Eaton’s army of about sixty men, for whom the word “motley” might well have been invented, managed to wrong-foot a force ten times as large, whose morale was high since they were awaiting Yusuf’s 1,200 reinforcements, with a brazen frontal assault. (pp. 280-3)

Just after 16:00 on 27 April 1805, Hamet and his retinue stormed the governor’s office. Eaton’s Marines pulled down the bashaw’s flag and raised the American flag, the first time the stars and stripes were planted on foreign shores and the first decisive victory of the Barbary War. American vessels shelled the collapsing forces of Mustifa. “At the head of a mutinous army, Eaton had crossed 520 miles of forbidding desert and wrested Tripoli’s second city” from an overwhelming force, which was behind stern fortifications and had backup on the way, Wheelan writes, and the cost was two dead Marines, John Whitten and Edward Seward, and a dozen wounded, Eaton being one of them (hit by a musket ball). “To the shores of Tripoli” was inscribed as a lyric in “The Marines Hymn”, one of only two battles mentioned by name. (pp. 283-4)

Hassan Bey’s forces had arrived on the edge of Derna on 8 May 1805 and, on 12 May, Mustifa escaped the city, having been harboured by a shaykh who would not allow the sanctity of his home to be violated. On 13 May, Hassan, having prepared the ground through spies and agitprop, began an assault on Derna. Hassan’s forces were far larger than Eaton’s army of around 1,000 men, and likely would have overrun the city but for one accidentally exact shell from an American vessel, which landed among Hassan’s cavalry and broke their nerve; they fled into the countryside. Hassan’s forces suffered 39 killed and 45 wounded; Eaton’s forces suffered fourteen killed and wounded (pp. 285-7) The panicked response of Yusuf was to threaten to murder the Philadelphia’s crew by burning them alive (p. 289).

THE PEACE PROCESS

Eaton had succeeded despite withholding of money, weapons, and the one-hundred requested Marines by Barron—or, really, Lear, since Barron was so ill at this time. And Eaton foresaw, too, that Yusuf would sue for peace one he felt a threat to his regime. Eaton was not opposed in principle to making peace on such terms, but he thought it better to finish the job and at a minimum that America owed it to Hamet to put him out of his brother’s reach (pp. 287-92). With Eaton on the march, and Barron recognising that his health was not improving, preparing to hand over to captain John Rodgers, who favoured Jefferson’s course of setting the peace terms through war, Lear moved quickly to undermine Eaton and secure a peace agreement he could claim as his own (pp. 293-4)

Barron sent two letters to Eaton—both likely written by Lear. The second was dated 19 May and essentially pulled the plug on the expedition: naval assistance would be given but no further guns, money, or men. Barron/Lear obliquely told Eaton to find a way out. Barron formally resigned on 22 May, yet he hamstrung Rodgers from complementing Eaton’s success with the insurgency in the east with a naval bombardment in the west by informing him that Lear’s plan for peace had to be adhered to. As Wheelan puts it, such a strike at such a time would “most likely … have ended the war quickly, without ransom or tribute”, but the “Barbary War leaders seemed congenitally unable to act decisively, except for Preble and Eaton”. (pp. 295-6)

Lear entered Tripoli harbour on 26 May and through a runner conducted negotiations from the Constitution with Yusuf. The price for the Philadelphia prisoners came down sharply from $200,000 to $130,000, and Lear pressed further, on 29 May, to see if Yusuf was serious about wanting peace: America’s final offer was $60,000 for the prisoners; peace with no annual tribute; and in turn the U.S. returning of eighty-one Tripolitanian prisoners. (A secret clause provided for the release of Hamet’s family—after four years, if he did not offend Yusuf in that period (pp. 325-6).)

On 31 May 1805, Yusuf announced that a state of peace existed between Tripoli and the United States. The treaty was formally signed on 4 June (p. 325) and on 5 June, the Americans left the Tripoli harbour with the 297 Philadelphia prisoners who had survived the nineteen-plus months in captivity. Five prisoners had converted to Islam. Wilson was unable to return to the U.S. because of his cruelty to the other prisoners; the other four opted to go home, but were led away by Yusuf’s agents—who likely suspected the conversion had been a ploy for better conditions—and they were never seen again. (pp. 297-300)

The issue now was retrieving Eaton. Eaton had stayed in Derna for the duration of the negotiations, seeing (correctly) his holding the city as integral to any effort to secure peace on advantageous terms. Indeed, on 28 May, Eaton led a raid against a force twice the size of his own, killing a captain and taking prisoners; on 3 June, Eaton repelled a raid by Hassan’s forces. The American forces were gaining real popularity, hailed as “friends and protectors” by the local population (p. 301). On 10 June—after peace had been made, and was being ratified by the Divan in Tripoli—Hassan massed for a decisive attack on Derna, and Hamet repelled it in a pitched battle over four hours that resulted in fifty killed on both sides. American Naval power had been unable to intervene and Eaton confessed later “I had little to do with” what had transpired. “Too late, Hamet had proved himself an able leader”, Wheelan concludes (p. 302).

Rodgers dispatched a letter to Eaton telling him of the peace treaty and calling for him to leave Derna. The Constellation brought this note to Eaton on 12 June 1805. Eaton had told Hamet that he had been denied further resources by the U.S. government just after the 10 June attack, and now it was clear that the great expedition they had led would come to nought. To cover his retreat on 13 June, Eaton made even his own men believe an attack was being planned—and then under cover of darkness pulled them out, with Hamet’s forces. An envoy from Yusuf had come to Derna on the American ship and went ashore offering amnesty; the population rose against him. As Eaton lamented, the people had been surrendered to an unjust ruler “for no other crime but too much confidence in us”, and that while the peace Lear had secured was certainly better than any state had had with a Barbary regency for centuries, had they pressed on “it might have been more favourable and more honourable”. (pp. 302-5)

AFTERMATH OF THE TRIPOLI WAR

After the conclusion of the Libyan expedition, the bey of Tunis, Hamouda Pacha, began threatening war in relation to ships seized by the American blockade. On 30 July 1805, Rodgers sailed all eighteen American vessels and 2,500 men into the port at Tunis and asked if Hamouda really intended for war. Lear gave Hamouda an out, and the crisis fizzled (pp. 308-11).

Meanwhile, the Tripoli Treaty worked out by Lear became controversial in the U.S.: with Eaton holding Derna and Rodgers having a fleet available to him, why had there been any payment at all for the Philadelphia captives? Preble took this view. The prospect of the prisoners being massacred was the main justification offered (pp. 306-7). Eaton became more embittered against Lear for selling out 12,000 to 15,000 people in Derna, plus America’s honour, to conclude a treaty with a ruler like Yusuf, when “with no very extraordinary effort” Yusuf could have been driven from Tripoli entirely. Eaton landed in America in September 1805 (pp. 312-13), and quickly became an enemy of the Jefferson administration, working with his Federalist enemies and railing against Lear (p. 316).

(Eaton had some of the prejudices of the age—he referred to Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin as behaving “like a cowardly Jew” at one point. Eaton was the primary prosecution witness against Aaron Burr, who had shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in July 1804 and then been accused of treason for secession from, and even the overthrow of, the government. Eaton said he had heard Burr voice this ambition, but his heavy drinking and outbursts did neither him nor the prosecution much good. Burr was acquitted, Eaton’s own Federalists turned on him, and Eaton was ousted from office in 1808. Eaton died in June 1811. (pp. 341-3).)

Hamet was domiciled on Syracuse with three-dozen retainers, living off the charity of friends and a $200-per-month stipend from America, where he refused to go because he feared crossing the ocean in a ship. In June 1806, Congress paid Hamet $2,400 as a final settlement and terminated his monthly payments. In total, Hamet had received $6,800, a miserable price given what his exertions had helped the U.S. achieve. Hamet’s family remained in captivity; Lear had kept the clause on their release from Congress and Jefferson had decided not to renew the war over the matter—yet. When the U.S. representative returned to Tripoli in May 1807, he told Yusuf to release the family, that failure to do so would be considered a violation of the treaty, and that the U.S. did not accept the four-year delay. After much badgering, Yusuf released the family in October 1807 and they joined Hamet. The U.S. consul even got Yusuf to pay Hamet $1,000 per year; the U.S. Congress refused to match this. Jefferson acknowledged the treaty provision on Hamet’s family in public on 11 November 1807, claiming, probably truthfully given how Lear operated, not to have known about this clause at the time. (pp. 324-9)

A Senate committee released a 472-page report on the Tripoli expedition in April 1806, and it threw the book at Lear. What Lear had done was an “inglorious deed”, the report said. Lear’s denial that there was a de jure alliance with Hamet was mendacious, the report concluded: the United States had joined in a common cause with Hamet, and, for a fraction of the $60,000 paid for the Philadelphia prisoners, the land mission could have been completed and placed Hamet on the throne in Tripoli. Instead, the report said, Lear had paralyzed military operations at every turn—clouding the judgment of Barron and/or taking advantage of his incapacity. Despite the wide coverage of this report, other events were overshadowing North Africa—the contest with Spain over Florida, the Louisiana purchase, and the ongoing struggle to defend U.S. sovereignty from European powers present on the North American continent. The Senate ratified the Tripoli Treaty on 12 April 1806. (pp. 317-18)

BETWEEN THE WARS

After the Tripoli war, though the United States’ reputation in the world had been much-enhanced, considerable challenges remained, at home and abroad.

Jefferson had doubled the size of the U.S. by purchasing the Louisiana territory from France, announcing what he had done to the country on 4 July 1803 as an act that would “change vast solitudes into flourishing districts” and place America “among the powers of the first rank”. The Army’s Corps of Discovery had already been dispatched into the territories, led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark, to map the zone and establish an American presence that prevented other powers asserting themselves. The Lewis and Clark expedition returned to the U.S. “proper”, arrive in St. Louis, Missouri, on 23 September 1806.

Simultaneous to this nation-building effort, the process that would incorporate Florida into the U.S. had begun, with the U.S. taking a large slice of western Spanish Florida—Jefferson claimed it was included in the Louisiana purchase—and later supporting local uprisings that wrested further chunks of then-north-western Florida from a helpless Spain. The whole area was handed over in 1821, and in time the skirmishes that had occurred between the U.S. and the Native tribes in northern Florida, would become the “Trail of Tears” as the Indians in the areas that are now Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida were deported west of the Mississippi River.

It is well-known that Jefferson kept slaves at his home in Monticello, despite being ideologically opposed to the slave trade. With Jefferson’s support, the U.S. Congress banned the further importation of slaves on 2 March 1807, though a self-sustaining population of four million slaves remained inside the U.S., concentrated mostly in the south, and would have await the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 for emancipation.

(Britain ended its participation in the Atlantic slave trade three weeks later and became the first state to internally abolish slavery in 1833. Britain had been the largest individual beneficiary of the slave trade itself and the output of their labour—mostly sugar, in Britain’s case. Britain sacrificed these interests, hoping its example would lead to emulation; it did not. The cost fell solely on Britain; America, France, Brazil, and the African kingdoms that captured the slaves carried on as before. Britain undertook to eradicate the trade entirely, by force where necessary. Over the sixty years after 1807, Britain lost about 2% of GDP annually and 5,000 lives trying to put down the slave trade. The British Empire also incurred a less calculable cost to its security: its stance on slavery created diplomatic and military clashes that would not otherwise have occurred, the 1841 Creole affair being a good example of this. Nonetheless, Britain persisted, forcing Brazil to implement its 1831 ban on slave importation in 1850, and finally ending the trade altogether by coercing Cuba into banning the slave trade in 1867.)

Jefferson was replaced as President by his Secretary of State, James Madison, in March 1809. Madison had long been a close ally of Jefferson’s, most importantly in the framing period in the early 1790s, when Jefferson and Madison had co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists, who wanted a more centralized American government. Jefferson had undergone something of a turnaround in his politics by the time he left office, favouring a more robust Federal government—even at home—if this would enhance the power and prestige of the United States, and Madison seems to have followed this evolution.

The most significant event of the Madison presidency—and of this period—was America’s second round with Great Britain. It was Madison who picked the timing of the War of 1812, sending a message to Congress detailing British transgressions against the U.S. that triggered a Declaration of War on 18 June. The war lasted about thirty months, with the British reaching into Washington, D.C., and setting fire to the White House on 24 August 1814. The British, whose main focus at this time was on the European Continent and the Napoleonic Wars, were repelled, and on 24 December 1814 the U.S. and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent. After a final engagement in New Orleans in January 1815, which American troops led by Andrew Jackson won, the U.S. Congress ratified the treaty on 16 February 1815, ending the war. The status quo ante bellum was restored, and relations between America and Britain were normalized, becoming relatively friendly—with occasional exceptions, notably Britain’s siding with the slave mutineers aboard the Creole in 1841 and London’s tilt in favour of the Confederate insurrection in the 1860s.

SECOND BARBARY WAR: ALGIERS

With the U.S.’s attention elsewhere, the fact that Algiers was beginning to “act like the piratical Algiers of old”, as Wheelan puts it, had been de-prioritised (p. 343). In truth, there was scarcely any grace period in Algiers’ behaviour.

The 1795 Treaty with Algeria survived “the Tripolitan war and Algerian revolts and regime changes”, Wheelan documents. “It was the only U.S. agreement that still required annual tribute”, and in total the treaty would see about half-a-million dollars transferred from America to Algiers (p. 345). Nonetheless, in November 1807, Algerian pirates seized the Eagle, Mary Ann, and Violet, three American merchant vessels. The Americans aboard the Mary Ann revolted as they were being transported to Algiers, throwing four of their captors overboard, arresting the others, and sailing for Naples (p. 343). In his book, The Muslim Discovery of Europe (reviewed here), Bernard Lewis records a cynical Barbary ambassador saying that “peace is no more than writing on water”, and this was indeed the attitude of the Algerian dey, Haji Ali ben Khrelil.

The Algerian dey’s pretext on this occasion was that the U.S. had fallen two years behind in tribute payment (p. 343). When Lear was sent to release the American hostages, he abjectly paid everything: the “overdue” extortion, the price for the captured Eagle and Violet, and $18,000 for Algerians that the Mary Ann crew had taken away (pp. 343-4). “Algiers had managed to avoid a direct confrontation with the Jefferson administration and the U.S. Navy”, writes Wheelan, and in time, “with Britain’s encouragement, [Algiers] grew confident that it had nothing to fear from the new republic across the ocean” (p. 344).

The American annual tribute to Khrelil arrived in Algiers on 17 July 1812 aboard the Alleghany. This had seemed ordinary enough, until the dey, demanded that the supplies be taken back on board, a payment of $27,000 be made within three days, and then the ambassador, Lear, was to leave. The dey had exchanged letters with the British Foreign Minister earlier in the year, and been influenced to think it was the better part of wisdom to take sides in the then-impending War of 1812. When Lear confronted Khrelil, saying this was a violation of the treaty, the dey responded that he followed the shorter Ramadan calendar, not the Gregorian calendar, and thus this had been building up. Khrelil threatened to seize Lear, the Alleghany, and all Americans in Algiers. The only mercy Lear received was a two-day extension to get the money together—borrowing it from the Bacri money house—and on 25 July the Americans sailed away from Algiers (pp. 346-7).

Algerian corsairs seized the Edwin, her captain, and ten other crewman on 12 August 1812, between Malta and Gibraltar. Around the same time, a Spanish vessel was stopped and an American on board, known to history only as Mr. Pollard, was kidnapped by Algiers’ agents. Madison directed the consul in Tunis to offer the dey $3,000-per-man. Khrelil refused the offer, in line with an earlier statement: “My policy and my views are to increase, not to diminish the number of my American slaves; and not for a million dollars would I release them”. Khrelil sold two of the Edwin prisoners to Britain, which needed extra manpower, for $2,000 each. (p. 348)

Decatur began the war of 1812 in command of the USS United States, and defeated HMS Macedonian, commanded by his peacetime friend, John Carden, on 22 October that year. But after pulling the Macedonian into New London in January 1813, Decatur was unable to get to sea again. Transferred to command the President, Decatur tried to run the British blockade in New Orleans in January 1815 and failed immediately, spending the last month of the war in a cell in Bermuda (pp. 350-1).  After the war, Decatur was given command of the Guerriere, and Bainbridge, forgiven for the Philadelphia disaster after inflicting a resounding defeat on HMS Java off the coast of Brazil on 29 December 1812, was to be his deputy in an expedition back to the Barbary coast. (pp. 349-52)

Khrelil formally declared war (p. 209) on the United States in 1814. Khrelil was assassinated in March 1815 and replaced by Mohamed Kharnadji, who lasted for seventeen days before he was strangled to death and replaced by Umar bin Muhammad, the agha (master) of the janissaries—often known as Umar Agha—on 7 April 1815.

President Madison recommended to Congress that they declare war on Algiers on 23 February 1815—just five days after news of the Treaty of Ghent reached Washington (P. 352). Congress duly complied on 2 March, granting to Madison “the authority to take whatever measures he deemed necessary”. Decatur and his fleet of ten ships sailed from the U.S. on 10 May; Bainbridge would follow six weeks later (p. 352).

Decatur reached Gibraltar on 15 June. The first engagement took place on 17 June, when the USS Constellation raked the Meshuda with cannon fire, doing terrible damage to the ship and crew. Boxed in by three other American warships, Guerriere, Epervier, and Ontario, the Meshuda struck its flag. Thirty Algerians were dead, among them the grand admiral, Reis Hammida, a man of Berber descent, who had been torn in half, and 406 Algerians were in American captivity. Decatur’s fleet ran a second Algerian ship, the Estedio, to ground off Cape Palos on 19 June. (pp. 353-5)

Nine American warships massed on the Algiers harbour on 28 June 1815, and negotiations began. Decatur and the new U.S. Barbary consul-general, William Shaler, worked through John Norderling, the Swedish consul whom Lear had left to handle American interests after Khrelil had expelled Lear. The dey invited them ashore to negotiate, but Decatur and Shaler said negotiations must be conducted on the Guerriere. Decatur and Shaler “formally outlined to Norderling and the port captain the treaty terms that would be acceptable to them: abolition of tribute forever; release by both parties of all American and Algerian prisoners; $10,000 compensation for the Edwin and other confiscated American property; and freedom for any Christian slave who managed to escape to an American warship. Captives in any future U.S.-Algerian war would be prisoners of war, and not slaves” (p. 356). “If you insist in receiving powder as tribute,” Decatur reportedly (p. 28) said, “you must expect to receive balls with it”. Umar demanded the return of the Meshuda and Estedio; Decatur and Shaler agreed—but not as part of the treaty. Umar asked for three hours to consider this and was told “no”. Umar was to send the Edwin crew to Decatur on a ship flying a white flag, and only then would hostilities be suspended. At this point, a vessel from Tunis containing Turkish soldiers appeared and Decatur prepared to engage. The dey sent out the white-flagged ship containing the Edwin crew and the war was over (pp. 356-7).

The treaty with Algiers, “dictated at the mouths of our cannon”, as Decatur wrote to Navy Secretary Benjamin Crowninshield on 5 July, was “the best made with Algiers … in more than 200 years”, according to Wheelan (p. 357). The original treaty never made it back to Washington, however. The Epervier, under the command of Lt. John Shubrick, was given the treaty and Edwin crew to take back to the United States, sailed past Gibraltar on 12 July, and was never was seen again, quite possibly lost to a hurricane that is known to have taken place around this time (p. 357).

THE SECOND BARBARY WAR: TUNIS

Between 17 and 21 February 1815, the American privateer Abellino had taken two captured British ships—the Dunster Castle, laden with oil, and the Charlotte, loaded with fish—into the harbour in Tunis, where the bey, a supposed neutral in the War of 1812, was, in the American view, meant to offer protection; instead the bey permitted London to retake the ships. Decatur had not known about this when he set sail from America in May 1815, which meant he had no instructions for dealing with it, but, learning about it once in the Mediterranean, he decided to settle accounts. (p. 358)

On 26 July 1815, the Decatur-led squadron pulled into Tunis harbour. The bey, Mahmud ibn Muhammad, the seventh ruler of the Husainid dynasty, was told to pay $46,000 within twelve hours as reparations for the Dunster Castle and the Charlotte, or face bombardment. The U.S. consul, M. M. Noah, reminded Mahmud that Decatur was responsible for blowing up the Philadelphia, and pointed out that America was not the feeble maritime power it had been a decade earlier—giving as an example the fact that the Guerriere and Macedonian had once been in the Royal Navy. After brief consideration, the bey paid. (p. 358)

SECOND BARBARY WAR: TRIPOLI

Decatur left Tunis on 2 August 1815 and arrived at Tripoli on 5 August. As in Tunis, the American claim against the bashaw—still Yusuf—was for two British vessels that Abellino had brought into port and the Libyans had allowed the British to reclaim. Decatur demanded $30,000 from Yusuf. After an initial refusal and a mobilisation for war, Yusuf quickly changed his mind when news from Algiers and Tunis filtered in, and a settlement of $25,000 and the release of ten Christian prisoners was arrived at (pp. 358-9). Decatur departed Tripoli on 9 August, just seventy-one days after leaving America.

THE END OF THE BARBARY WARS

Bainbridge’s squadron reached Gibraltar on 29 September 1815, after Decatur had already brought Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli into line. On 7 October, Decatur and Bainbridge sailed home. The treaty swiftly ratified by the Senate after Madison submitted it on 6 December. (p. 359)

This was not quite the end of the Barbary confrontation. With the end of the Napoleonic wars having freed Britain from critical dependency on Gibraltar, and seeking to capitalise on the American mission, London sent Edward Pellew (Lord Exmouth) to Algiers to demand negotiate on behalf of the Neapolitan and Sardinian governments to release their citizens, and to implore the regime to end its piratical practices. Exmouth ended up paying $400,000. (p. 360)

Exmouth’s excursion buoyed Umar sufficiently that when Shaler presented him the ratified 1815 treaty in April 1816, he rejected it. The U.S. had returned the Meshuda to Algiers, Umar said, but not the Estedio, which the American were still negotiating to retrieve from Spain, making the treaty void. After a five-ship squadron and 1,200-man amphibious landing force drew up in the Algerian harbour, Umar called a truce. However, when writing to President Madison Umar tried to restore the 1795 treaty and its tributes. (p. 360)

The British government was furious with Exmouth and sent him back at the head of a joint Anglo-Dutch force to demand the release of all Christian prisoners from the Barbary states and the end of the practice of enslaving Europeans. Tunis and Tripoli conceded quickly. Umar, predictably, refused, and on 27 August 1816 a terrible bombardment was unleashed on Algiers (p. 361). 50,000 rounds were fired, more than in any of Nelson’s battles; the Algerian fleet and fortifications were wrecked, and hundreds of casualties inflicted. The British themselves lost over one-hundred men. Exmouth issued a terse letter the next day, reiterating his demands and threatening further action—which was mostly a bluff, since the majority of ordinance had already been fired. The Algerian dey, Umar, bowed to Exmouth’s terms on 28 August, releasing 1,200 Christian slaves, meaning Exmouth’s trip had freed 3,000 men in all.

The Americans returned to Umar’s now-shattered city in December 1816, bringing with them the Estedio, and a letter from President Madison saying: “It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute”. The treaty was signed on 23 December 1816, and Umar asked only one thing: that the Americans give him a written statement saying that without this treaty they would have waged war against Algiers. Shaler provided the affidavit, but it did little to help Umar shore-up his regime and he was assassinated in September 1817. (pp. 361-2)

Ruminating on American policy toward the Barbary states, Jefferson had written in July 1786, “I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace through the medium of war”. That view would eventually become American policy, and “[f]inally, after 400 years, trade in the Mediterranean became truly free” (p. 367).

The sustenance that kept the Barbary states afloat was gone; internal war racked these states in a competition for scarce resources and then came the external conquests. France invaded Algeria in 1830 and subdued it in 1847, ruling the country as a wholly annexed area until 1962. Tunisia was added to the French imperial realm in 1881. Libya was brutally brought under Italian rule in 1911. And Morocco became a French protectorate in 1912, with small zones in the north and south given to Spain.

One thought on “America’s Wars With the Barbary Pirates

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