On The Barbary Coast

Most Americans do not realize that the US involvement in the Arab world is over 200 years old…..its involvement began with the very founding of the country after the great Revolution of independence…..

As usual I cannot help myself…..you will get a bit of my usual historic perspective…….

The US involvement in the Arab world began with its confrontation with the Barbary republics of North Africa……

These actions were called “the Barbary Wars”……

  • The Berber Muslim states of northwest Africa—Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco, collectively known as the Barbary States—regularly attacked ships in the Mediterranean, demanding tribute from various countries.
  • President Jefferson’s administration refused to give the tribute and went to war in the Mediterranean in 1800, ending in an American victory and a treaty of peace in 1805.
  • After the First Barbary War, the United States found its attention diverted to its deteriorating relationship with Great Britain, and the Barbary States took this opportunity to resume attacking American and European merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The Second Barbary War occurred in 1815 under President Madison’s administration again as a result of piracy in the Mediterranean. Like the first war, the second war ended in victory for the United States and granted it full shipping rights in the Mediterranean Sea.

The First Barbary War…..

The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitan War or the Barbary Coast War, was the first of the two wars fought between the United States and the Northwest African Berber Muslim states, known collectively as the Barbary States. These included Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers, which were quasi-independent entities nominally belonging to the Ottoman Empire, along with (briefly) the independent Sultanate of Morocco. Pirate ships and crews from the Barbary States regularly attacked and captured ships in the Mediterranean, extorting ransom for the lives of captured sailors and demanding tribute from various countries to avoid further attacks.
The war began when Thomas Jefferson became president of the United States in 1800 and refused to pay the Barbary States a tribute, the amount of which was greatly increased upon his election. Upon Jefferson’s refusal, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, declared war on the United States; however, Algiers and Tunis did not follow their ally in Tripoli. In response, Jefferson sent a U.S. naval fleet to the Mediterranean on May 13, 1801, under the command of Commodore Richard Dale. Throughout the war, the U.S. navy bombarded the various fortified cities along the coast and maintained a blockade in Tripoli’s harbor. After a stunning defeat at Tripoli and wearied from the blockade and raids, Yussif Karamanli signed a treaty ending hostilities on June 10, 1805, and the United States was given fair passage through the Mediterranean.
Seldom is the end of this conflict covered beyond…the US won the engagement….but there was so much more to this……
In agreeing to pay a ransom of $60,000 for the American prisoners, the Jefferson administration drew a distinction between paying tribute and paying ransom. At the time, some argued that buying sailors out of slavery was a fair exchange to end the war. William Eaton, however, remained bitter for the rest of his life about the treaty, feeling that his efforts had been squandered by the state department diplomat Tobias Lear. Eaton and others felt that the capture of Derna should have been used as a bargaining chip to obtain the release of all American prisoners without having to pay ransom. Furthermore, Eaton believed the honor of the United States had been compromised when it abandoned Hamet Karamanli after promising to restore him as leader of Tripoli. Eaton’s complaints generally went unheard, especially as attention turned to the strained international relations which would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from the area in 1807 and to the War of 1812
But this was NOT the end of our conflict in this region…..Pres. Monroe had to deal with it also……

After the First Barbary War, the United States found its attention diverted to its deteriorating relationship with Great Britain over trade with France, which culminated in the War of 1812. The Barbary pirate states took this opportunity to resume their practice of attacking American and European merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and holding their crews and officers for ransom.

The Second Barbary War, also known as the Algerine or Algerian War, occurred in 1815 under President Madison’s administration. At the conclusion of the War of 1812, the United States returned to the problem of Barbary piracy, and on March 3, 1815, Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers. By the final week of June, the U.S. navy had won several battles at sea and reached the coast of Algiers. The United States initiated negotiations and made demands for compensation, and the Algerians signed a treaty under which they agreed to return all American captives and pay $10,000 for seized shipping. The treaty guaranteed no further tributes by the United States and granted the United States full shipping rights in the Mediterranean Sea.


As you can see Monroe did not compromise the status of the US at the end of this conflict as Jefferson had with the 1st war…..
But there is so much more to these wars that our history does not teach us…that is unless one is a grad student……
Here are some interesting and little known facts about the First Barbary War.
I do so enjoy teaching little known history to my readers….I know sometimes my historic perspectives are a pain in the ass but knowledge is well worth any momentary discomfort….
Class Dismissed!

9 thoughts on “On The Barbary Coast

  1. I’m a bit of a history nut as well.. so you will appreciate this little known historical tidbit I accidentally uncovered when clicking on one site leads you to another..
    At one time many moons ago I lived in a town of 150,000 for six years called Rockford, IL When I lived there I did a fair amount of metal detecting so I frequented the local library to learn the local history (no internet back then). But I never heard of this thing… The Palmer Raids. Here’s from the Rockford site…

    In January 1920, Rockford was a principal target of the infamous Palmer Raids, and between 140 and 180 citizens were summarily arrested, charged with conspiracy and sedition. The most important result of these raids was the sedition trial of Arthur Person in the Winnebago County Court. Defended by Clarence Darrow, Person was found not guilty in April 1920. Undaunted by official terrorism, citizens of Rockford elected a new mayor in 1921, J. Herman Hallstrom, nominee of the newly formed Labor League. Hallstrom was a Swedish immigrant, a veteran, a union president, a former Socialist, and former editor of the newspaper Rockford Labor News. He was reelected twice, lost, then reelected twice again, before being permanently retired in 1933 by C. Henry Bloom, a former Socialist alderman with widespread labor support. Bloom served as mayor until 1951, with one four-year interruption. In the 1970s, the city’s labor movement reawakened after a placid quarter century and a succession of moderate Democratic mayors were elected, oddities in a region of pronounced Republican inclinations.
    Check Wkipedia.. there’s an entire national history writeup there about this as Rockford was just one of many locations nationwide where this Palmer guy raided and arrested anarchists. While I was already aware of the rise in anarchist and labor-related terrorism activity in the big cities following the 1918 communist revolution in Russia, I was unaware of Palmer and his newly appointed subordinate, J. Edgar Hoover, formed the precursor to the FBI. Anyway, I found it interesting that in those days of random bombings going off around the country, the public outcry regarding immigrants, and subsequent ACLU challenges to laws being enacted… rather seemed similar to what is occurring now (although far less deadly now than back then).
    Again… those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

    1. I remember the days of no internet….now I have my own library in 3 rooms of my house….most of those historic movies were great fictionalized…..even Lawrence of Arabia…go figure…LOL

  2. Good post, my friend; always interesting, even if the history we read mostly consists of what the winners chose to write… At least, when one takes the approach of reading more than merely the easy to find, like this post & its links, a balanced view can be achieved to some degree….


    1. Thanx glad you liked it…..Americans know nothing about this region other than the BS they are taught…so much more they need to be aware of…..chuq

  3. Nothing much changes in the world, and the lessons of history continue to be ignored.
    But that was all before oil was discovered of course.
    As for T.E. Lawrence, if you read his book ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, you will understand how the Arab allies were betrayed after WW1, and see many of the roots of our current problems in that region.
    Best wishes, Pete.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.