America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe
By Gerard W. Gawalt
Ruthless, unconventional foes are not new to the United States of America. More than two hundred years ago the newly established United States made its first attempt to fight an overseas battle to protect its private citizens by building an international coalition against an unconventional enemy. Then the enemies were pirates and piracy. The focus of the United States and a proposed international coalition was the Barbary Pirates of North Africa.
Pirate ships and crews from the North African states of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers (the Barbary Coast) were the scourge of the Mediterranean. Capturing merchant ships and holding their crews for ransom provided the rulers of these nations with wealth and naval power. In fact, the Roman Catholic Religious Order of Mathurins had operated from France for centuries with the special mission of collecting and disbursing funds for the relief and ransom of prisoners of Mediterranean pirates.
Before the United States obtained its independence in the American Revolution, 1775-83, American merchant ships and sailors had been protected from the ravages of the North African pirates by the naval and diplomatic power of Great Britain. British naval power and the tribute or subsidies Britain paid to the piratical states protected American vessels and crews. During the Revolution, the ships of the United States were protected by the 1778 alliance with France, which required the French nation to protect "American vessels and effects against all violence, insults, attacks, or depredations, on the part of the said Princes and States of Barbary or their subjects."
After the United States won its independence in the treaty of 1783, it had to protect its own commerce against dangers such as the Barbary pirates. As early as 1784 Congress followed the tradition of the European shipping powers and appropriated $80,000 as tribute to the Barbary states, directing its ministers in Europe, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to begin negotiations with them. Trouble began the next year, in July 1785, when Algerians captured two American ships and the dey of Algiers held their crews of twenty-one people for a ransom of nearly $60,000.
Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, opposed the payment of tribute, as he later testified in words that have a particular resonance today. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote that in 1785 and 1786 he unsuccessfully "endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredation from them. I accordingly prepared, and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation." Jefferson argued that "The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical States to perpetual peace." Jefferson prepared a detailed plan for the interested states. "Portugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an association," Jefferson remembered, but there were "apprehensions" that England and France would follow their own paths, "and so it fell through."
Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America's minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, "I acknolege [sic] I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro' the medium of war." Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: "The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both." "From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money," Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, "it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them."
Jefferson's plan for an international coalition foundered on the shoals of indifference and a belief that it was cheaper to pay the tribute than fight a war. The United States's relations with the Barbary states continued to revolve around negotiations for ransom of American ships and sailors and the payment of annual tributes or gifts. Even though Secretary of State Jefferson declared to Thomas Barclay, American consul to Morocco, in a May 13, 1791, letter of instructions for a new treaty with Morocco that it is "lastly our determination to prefer war in all cases to tribute under any form, and to any people whatever," the United States continued to negotiate for cash settlements. In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty on Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli.
When Jefferson became president in 1801 he refused to accede to Tripoli's demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. The pasha of Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. As he declared in his first annual message to Congress: "To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . ."
The American show of force quickly awed Tunis and Algiers into breaking their alliance with Tripoli. The humiliating loss of the frigate Philadelphia and the capture of her captain and crew in Tripoli in 1803, criticism from his political opponents, and even opposition within his own cabinet did not deter Jefferson from his chosen course during four years of war. The aggressive action of Commodore Edward Preble (1803-4) forced Morocco out of the fight and his five bombardments of Tripoli restored some order to the Mediterranean. However, it was not until 1805, when an American fleet under Commodore John Rogers and a land force raised by an American naval agent to the Barbary powers, Captain William Eaton, threatened to capture Tripoli and install the brother of Tripoli's pasha on the throne, that a treaty brought an end to the hostilities. Negotiated by Tobias Lear, former secretary to President Washington and now consul general in Algiers, the treaty of 1805 still required the United States to pay a ransom of $60,000 for each of the sailors held by the dey of Algiers, and so it went without Senatorial consent until April 1806. Nevertheless, Jefferson was able to report in his sixth annual message to Congress in December 1806 that in addition to the successful completion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, "The states on the coast of Barbary seem generally disposed at present to respect our peace and friendship."
In fact, it was not until the second war with Algiers, in 1815, that naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the United States. European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. However, international piracy in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters declined during this time under pressure from the Euro-American nations, who no longer viewed pirate states as mere annoyances during peacetime and potential allies during war.
Jefferson Had Quran To Know His Enemies
By Bob Unruh
A Special Forces veteran and commentator says new Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (Hakim-Mohammad) of Minnesota was absolutely right when he said Thomas Jefferson gleaned knowledge from the Quran – only it was knowledge about his enemies that Jefferson likely gleaned.
A report in the FreePress reported Ellison said the fact that Jefferson owned the book confirmed that it was “definitely an important historical document in our national history” and he said it “demonstrates that Jefferson was a broad visionary thinker who not only possessed a Quran, but read it.”
“It would have been something that contributed to his own thinking,” Ellison was quoted as saying.
In an interview with USINFO, Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert went further, saying the choice of Jefferson’s Quran was significant because it “dates religious tolerance back to the time of our founding fathers.”
“Jefferson was … one of the more profound thinkers of the time, who recognized even then that there was nothing to fear, and in fact there was strength in recognizing religious tolerance,” he said.
Ted Sampley, the publisher of U.S. Veteran Dispatch, agreed with Ellison, who used the Library of Congress Quran that Jefferson once owned for his ceremonial swearing-in to Congress, that Jefferson used the Quran for his own thinking, but not with the same result.
“There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be ‘gleaned’ from the Muslim Quran,” Sampley writes. “At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic ‘Barbary’ states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli.”
He noted that over 10 centuries, Muslim pirates had cruised the African and Mediterranean coastline, pillaging villages and abducting slaves, mostly by making pre-dawn raids that left high casualty rates.
“It was typical of Muslim raiders to kill off as many of the ‘non-Muslim’ older men and women as possible so the preferred ‘booty’ of only young women could be collected,” he said. The women were sought for their value as concubines in Islamic markets.
“Boys, as young as 9 or 10 years old, were often mutilated to create eunuchs who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East,” Sampley wrote.
When American colonists rebelled against the English in 1776, merchant ships from what later would be the United States lost British navy protection, and they were attacked “and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the ‘Dey of Algiers’ – an Islamist warlord ruling Algeria.”
The Continental Congress then met in 1784 to talk about treaties with leaders of the region, and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were appointed to oversee the work.
“Tribute” and “ransoms” first were paid to the Muslim slavers, and Adams argued that was the cheapest way to get commerce moving, Sampley wrote. But Jefferson was opposed, proposing a settlement of the issue “through the medium of war.”
Sampley writes that two years later, when Jefferson was ambassador to France, and Adams was ambassador to Britain, they met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador to Britain from the “Dey of Algiers.”
Seeking a peace treaty, based on Congress’ vote to pay tribute, the two Americans asked Dey’s ambassador why Muslims had so much hostility towards America. They later reported to Congress the ambassador told them Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Sampley notes that for years the American government paid Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages, but not long after Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, he dispatched the USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Philadelphia, USS Chesapeake, USS Argus, USS Syren and USS Intrepid to the Mediterranean.
Jefferson’s first presidency coincided with what generally is called the Barbary Wars running from approximately 1801-1805. That year the Marines marched from Egypt into Tripolitania, freeing Americans held there as slaves, he wrote.
Gary DeMar, president of AmericanVision.org, added his endorsement of Sampley’s interpretation of history.
DeMar cites Joseph Wheelan’s book, “Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror,” in noting Jefferson said, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!”
DeMar notes that research treatise concludes that, “Jefferson’s war pitted a modern republic with a free-trade, entrepreneurial creed against a medieval autocracy whose credo was piracy and terror. It matched an ostensibly Christian nation against an avowed Islamic one that professed to despise Christians.”
“Wheelan’s historical assessment of the time is on target,” DeMar noted. “‘Except for its Native American population and a small percentage of Jews, the United States was solidly Christian, while the North African regencies were just as solidly Muslim – openly hostile toward Christians.’”
“So what did Jefferson learn from the Quran? …Unless a nation submitted to Islam, whether it was the aggressor or not, that nation was by definition at war with Islam. It’s no wonder that Jefferson studied the Quran. He realized that if Americans ever capitulated, the Muslims would be singing ‘From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of A-mer-i-ca,’” DeMar concluded.
As WND has reported Ellison has allowed his supporters to shout, “Allahu Akbar!,” the same phrase allegedly used by the 9/11 suicide pilots, he’s spoken to various Islamic groups, he’s used that Quran to be sworn into office, but he hasn’t responded to WND requests to confirm he will base his decisions on the laws of the U.S. on the Constitution, not the Quran.
He has confirmed that “in terms of political agenda items, my faith informs these things.”
Jauert confirmed to WND that the congressman does not believe there will be a conflict between his religious beliefs and his duty under the U.S. Constitution.
But when asked which would take priority if there is a conflict, or to describe how the congressman will resolve the differing philosophies provided by the U.S. Constitution and the Quran, which calls for beheading “infidels,” he said he could not answer immediately.
One blogger was a little concerned over the situation:
“During the victory celebration for the nation’s first Muslim congressman (not that there’s anything wrong with that… in principle), Congressman Keith Ellison’s supporters scream ‘Allahu Akbar!’, the same phrase that the 9/11 hijackers screamed, the same phrase suicide bombers scream, the same phrase head choppers scream before slicing off the heads of hapless and bound victims. May God protect this country,” the blogger wrote.
WND also has reported Ellison has been linked to a radical Islamic school of thought that requires loyalty to the Quran over the U.S. Constitution.
A black convert to orthodox Sunni Islam, Ellison spoke to the North American Imams Federation, or NAIF, at the group’s Nov. 19 conference in Minneapolis.
His talk flowed into a breakout session listed on the agenda simply as “American Open University,” according to the conference program. It turns out the university is a “distance-learning” center based in Alexandria, Va., and known to local law enforcement as “Wahhabi Online.”
Later that day, Ellison met with NAIF’s president, Omar Ahmad Shahin, who lectures at the same American Open University. (He also met at the time with New York imam Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.) The radical Islamic school trains many of NAIF’s more than 150 members, who control mosques across America.
American Open University supports Sharia, or Islamic law. And its founder and chairman, Jaafar Sheikh Idris, has denounced the U.S system of democracy as “the antithesis of Islam” and argued no man has the right to make laws outside Allah’s laws expressed in the Quran.
Ellison’s campaign also was backed by the Washington-based lobby group Council on American-Islamic Relations, a partner organization to American Open University-affiliated NAIF. CAIR held fundraisers for Ellison, a civil-rights lawyer and one-time acolyte of Louis Farrakhan who admits to making anti-Semitic remarks in the past (under various alias including Keith Hakim, Keith Ellison-Muhammad and Keith X Ellison).
CAIR’s founder has argued the Quran should replace the Constitution as the highest authority in the land. The group’s director of communications, moreover, has expressed his desire to see the U.S. become an Islamic state.