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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Diplomatic Relations
of the United States
with the Barbary Powers

by
Ray W. Irwin

published by
The University of North Carolina Press
Chapel Hill, 1931

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 2
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p1  Chapter I

Sovereigns of the Mediterranean

The Barbary States, which consist of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli,1 extend across northern Africa for a distance of over two thousand miles. Situated along the Mediterranean, and in close proximity to Europe, they have been in an admirable geographical location with respect to maritime pursuits. Most favorable has been Morocco's position because it has given ready access not only to the Mediterranean and to Europe but to the Atlantic and to shipping carried on through the Straits of Gibraltar. From the Straits eastward for approximately a thousand miles the Barbary coast is precipitous, and beyond that point reefs extend far into the sea. To navigation these factors have presented difficulties which have been augmented by Atlantic currents and by numerous gales, particularly during the autumn, winter, and early spring months.2 Although the climate along the coast is temperate, the heat is sometimes quite excessive, which fact has in the past been largely responsible the frequent visitations of the plague. In the interior are vast desert spaces, and high mountain ranges, which features, in conjunction with those already noted, make Barbary a land of physical contrasts.3

The population of this area during the eighteenth century (the period with which this study chiefly deals) was of a very heterogeneous character, being chiefly composed of Turks, Arabs, Moors, Berbers, and Jews, with  p2 a sprinkling of Europeans who had settled there for commercial purposes. The Turks, who were comparatively few in number, were politically more powerful than any other group although during the century their power was greatly diminished in some of the states.4 The Moors constituted an important element, one which had been increased by the conquest of Granada in 1492 and by another expulsion in 1609. The members of this body were, throughout a large portion of Barbary, denied extensive participation in governmental affairs but they engaged quite actively in trade. In the latter respect, however, they appear to have been outstripped by the Jews, who, although treated with contempt, and compelled to suffer severely at times, nevertheless exercised a tremendously important economic and political influence.5 Estimates of the number of residents in Barbary during this early period are hardly more than rough conjectures. An English officer, who served in Morocco near the close of the eighteenth century, was of the opinion that although no accurate estimate of the number of inhabitants of that kingdom could be obtained, there were at that time not more than two million. In 1796 Joel Barlow, United States agent at Algiers, wrote to the Secretary of State that there were between two and three millions of people within the Algerine dominions. The population of the capital city of Tunis is reported to have been larger about this time than the Algerine capital, and the city of Tripoli smaller.6

 p3  The fact that a vast majority of the population were Mussulmans tended to give some semblance of unity to the racial diversity just described. The head of this majority's religion was the Sultan of Turkey, whose spiritual overlordship was recognized throughout the Mohammedan world. Added to that circumstance, and having an important bearing upon relations with Christian nations, was the fact that the millennium‑old conflict between Christians and Mohammedans could not easily be forgotten.7 From it, indeed, had sprung a rather well-defined, universally accepted, and, to the Barbary rulers, profitable foreign policy, subsequently to be described.

The governments of Barbary during the eighteenth century were largely of a personal character; Deys, Emperors, Beys, and Pashas governed in an arbitrary manner although absolutism was tempered to some degree by assassination and revolution. For Algiers, which was regarded as the most formidable of the piratical states, rulers were, from the middle of the sixteenth century until 1671, chosen by the Sultan of Turkey. After the latter date the Turkish garrison stationed in Algiers was permitted to select its leader, the Sultan merely retaining the authority to confirm or to reject the choice of the soldiers. He appears never to have pursued the latter course, evidently because the request for confirmation was invariably accompanied by handsome gifts.8 When the foregoing change of policy occurred respecting the choice of a Dey,  p4 the Turkish soldiers were at least theoretically given an equal vote, but their attitude towards a candidate for the Deyship was probably greatly influenced by that of the most prominent officers, about forty of whom served as the Dey's Divan, or council. In the course of time, however, the Dey acquired such an ascendancy that this council's powers dwindled almost to the vanishing point. In 1796 Joel Barlow wrote that the Algerine government "has now become a simple monarchy. The Divan has not been assembled for some years, and the Dey is subject to no other check than that which arises from the necessity he is under to distribute foreign presents, and sometimes his own money, among the principal officers, to secure himself from assassination and to prevent mutinies."9 As his chief support in civil and in military affairs, the Dey relied upon a body of about twelve thousand Turks, who were natives of the Near East, and who were as abandoned a set of miscreants as ever policed a large dominion. Any member of this corps of adventurers was eligible to the highest office in Algiers.10

The situation in Tripoli was somewhat similar to that in Algiers with respect to Turkish influence, extortion, and bloodshed. From 1551 to 1714 Tripoli was definitely a part of the Turkish Empire, and, as such, was garrisoned by a Pasha appointed by the Sultan. It retained a large measure of independence, however, as indicated by a number of treaties11 which it formed with European governments prior to the latter date. In 1714 a revolution in Tripoli resulted in the freeing of the province from any real governmental dominance which the Sultan may have  p5 possessed. A certain Hamet Karamanli was the prime mover and chief beneficiary of this upheaval. By his connivance the Turkish garrison in the capital city was slaughtered overnight, and by his presents the anger of the Sultan was soon allayed. As a result of these achievements, supplemented by the conquests of outlying regions, this warlike chieftain won for himself the title of the Great and for his descendants a claim to the governing of Tripoli. He died in 1745, and was succeeded by a son, Mohammed, who "with singular magnanimity permitted seven of his brothers to live through this reign."12 They did not, however, survive the rule of their thorough-going nephew, Ali, the son of Mohammed. Soon after the accession of the latter, in 1762, six of the uncles were put to death, the seventh fleeing to Tunis where he remained in exile. The sons of Ali maintained the family traditions. Yusuf, the youngest, murdered Hasan the oldest; then disposed of another, the less forceful Hamet, by driving him out of Tripoli.13

Between 1535 and 1684 Tunis was under the domination of Pashas sent thither by the Porte. But, in the latter years, a certain Hasan-ben‑Ali succeeded in establishing Tunisian independence, except with respect to the payment of tribute. Hasan's descendants, under the title of Bey, maintained their family's ascendancy, but not until near the close of the eighteenth century was their possession of it secure. In 1782 Hamuda Pasha became Bey of Tunis. Although he ruled in an absolute manner, he nevertheless appears to have secured a firm hold on the affections of his subjects. His administration, which lasted until 1814, was also characterized by a rapid growth of the Tunisian naval force.14

 p6  During the eighteenth century the government of the independent state of Morocco was characterized by a great amount of violence. Muley Ishmael, who ruled from 1672 to 1727, was a monster of cruelty although of him it is written that "he never undertook any affair of importance without first prostrating himself on the ground, and requesting light and assistance from God."15 His son and immediate successor, Muley Debi, ruled only three years, being succeeded in 1730 by one Abdallah. The latter experienced a stormy reign, as evidenced by the fact that he was deposed no less than six times. The next, and the most enlightened of the eighteenth-century rulers of Morocco, was Sidi Mohamet, who reigned for thirty-three years. He was interested in building and in commerce, both of which he greatly stimulated within his dominions.16 He subdued and then pardoned a son who had rebelled against him; released many prisoners "on the principle of making peace with heaven";17 and, on the whole, was inclined to govern far more mildly than had his predecessors. But that his methods were primitive and were likely to result in injustice is suggested by an observer's description of Sidi Mohamet's judicial procedure:

He judges and administers justice in a very hasty and summary way, at his levee. His sentences being sudden inspirations, often before the cause is half heard — hands, heads are cut off; the whole process and execution often the work of a few minutes. But to his great honor there are much fewer executions than formerly, as in Muley Ishmael's time, tho it is a matter of regret to many of his soldiers and subjects.18

The maritime forces of the four piratical states appear contemptible when regarded as an effective instrument  p7 with which to exact tribute19 from every important maritime nation throughout Christendom. In 1786 John Lamb, the first envoy sent by the United States to Algiers, wrote to Jefferson that the Algerine fleet at that time consisted of "nine xebecks and ten row galleys from 36 to 8 guns; the largest is manned with about 400 men, and so on in proportion."20 Two years later an English officer who was serving in a diplomatic capacity in Morocco wrote that the Moroccan navy "now consists of about twenty vessels, the largest of twenty guns."21 This correspondent, it might be remarked, appeared a bit perturbed about the size of the Imperial fleet and suggested that the English government "might, and perhaps should, help him [the Emperor] to double that force, since he likes it. He cannot hurt you much; but he may be a proper checque on your enemies."22 Nor, at the close of the American Revolution, was the navy of Tunis a formidable one. By 1799, however, William Eaton, who was the American consul to that regency, reported that the Tunisian naval force then consisted of ninety-four armed vessels with nine hundred and twenty-eight guns, and eighty-eight swivels; "the whole manned by upwards of eight thousand men." Immediately prior to writing thus to the Secretary of State, Eaton had been informed by the Swedish Consul, "the oldest and perhaps the best informed in the Kingdom," that twenty years earlier, Tunis could send out no more than nine cruisers.23 By 1800 the Pasha of Tripoli had succeeded in collecting a maritime force of only eleven vessels, mounting hardly more than a hundred guns.24

 p8  The commerce of Barbary during the eighteenth century appears to have been quite extent; yet in consequence of numerous wars it was carried on almost exclusively in foreign vessels. Some of the chief exports were wool, horses and cattle, hides, salt, leather, soda, ostrich-feathers, wheat, barley, beans, ivory, oil, dried fruit, wax, rugs, and sashes. Imports consisted in large measure of cloths and garments, sugar, tea, coffee, spices, iron, hardware of every description, and various kinds of military and naval stores. In this commerce the rulers of Barbary participated actively. They granted monopolies to companies for a large consideration, whereupon the rulers' subjects were required to sell specified articles to those organizations at a fixed price. In Tunis, for example, the important traffic in hides and wax was monopolized by a Jewish company which paid the Bey more than seventeen thousand dollars annually for a monopoly on the purchase of those commodities. It was estimated that by this arrangement the company purchased annually, at the rate of eleven cents each, approximately 250,000 hides.25

It was not from peaceful commerce, however, that the Barbary chieftains received their most important revenues. Piracy was the foundation of their economic, and also of their political, system. So important a part did marauding play in their affairs that they were loath to have treaties with many European States at any given time.26 An English officer, on a diplomatic mission to Morocco in 1788, stated that the Emperor had recently become so unpopular by forming a number of treaties with Christian powers that it had "required a great deal of money, and all the arts of a most artful and despotic prince, to make them go down with the people";27 and it was recorded that on at least one occasion there was a debate in the Algerine  p9 Divan to decide upon which nation war should be declared in order to replenish the coffers.28 Near the end of the eighteenth century the Dey solemnly announced that in order to retain his head he must permit his corsairs to engage constantly in piracy.29 In a word, the policy of the Barbary governments was such that the establishment of peace with one country was almost equivalent to a declaration of war upon another.30 The piratical chieftains sent their corsairs throughout the Mediterranean, and even considerable distances into the Atlantic, in search of vessels owned by nations with which the barbarians were at war.31 Nor was the extent of the depredations limited to the high seas. Mediterranean islands and coastal communities were raided in a ruthless fashion, and hundreds of men, women and children were captured and held for ransom.32 Piracy, therefore, was made profitable not only by the confiscation of vessels, cargoes, and other property; it provided an even more important revenue in the form of captives.

The lot of those who in this manner lost their freedom was usually hard. Stripped of their personal effects soon after capture, for this appears to have been a prerogative of the crew by which a seizure was made, they were then cast into prison to await whatever disposition might be made of them. The majority were set to performing the most difficult manual tasks, particularly those connected  p10 with construction of breakwaters, repairing of vessels, and transporting of cargoes from place to place. They were loaded with chains (unless there appeared no likelihood of escape); were provided with a meagre quantity of inferior food; and were housed in prisons infested with vermin and disease. Under circumstances such as these it was not strange that Americans, in 1793, observed dejection in the countenances of six hundred Christian slaves imprisoned in Algiers.33 It is true that some of the captives were allowed a considerable freedom of movement, and at least one man became an influential official in Algiers during the period of his detention. The person to whom this reference is made was James Leander Cathcart, an American. After being captured in 1785, he was retained by the Dey to work about the palace, but before he was released in 1796, had become the Dey's chief Christian clerk. As such, nevertheless, he was constantly subjected to insults, and at times barely escaped execution.34

 p11  The release of prisoners was usually obtained by money rather than by force.35 Redemption was such an important item that for centuries there was maintained an "Order of the Holy Trinity and Redemption of Captives" with headquarters in Paris and agents throughout Barbary. The members of this organization were known as Mathurins, from the Church of St. Mathurin, and devoted their energies to securing funds for the redemption of captives. Release was also obtained by payments made by governments whose citizens or subjects had fallen into the clutches of the corsairs. Individuals, too, sometimes made great financial sacrifices in securing the release of a friend or relative.36

In addition to revenues obtained from plunder and from the redemption of captives, the Barbary governments exacted huge sums from European states for immunity from future attacks. The price of treaties and of truces was high, particularly for the weaker nations, and consisted of payments of money and supplies, the latter chiefly in military and naval stores. Tribute was paid annually or, preferably, at less frequent intervals. Each new consul was expected to bring presents from the government whose agent he was; and the Barbary rulers seem to have insisted upon a frequent change of consuls.37

 p12  The precise nature of these various contributions may be shown more clearly by a few illustrations drawn from eighteenth and early nineteenth century history.38 In 1786 an American captive in Algiers wrote to Jefferson as follows: "The English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes, and I may say all nations are tributary to them [the Algerines]."39 At almost the same time an American in Algiers stated that although England boasted of having a better treaty with the Algerines than any other country, she had nevertheless paid to Algiers presents to the value of twenty-eight thousand pounds since 1759.40 In 1783 John Adams wrote that the Grand Pensionary of Holland had told him "that the Republic paid annually to Algiers a hundred thousand dollars."41 The large sum proposed by Spain to Algiers for peace in 1785 left Jefferson and Adams "with little hope" of meeting Algerine demands.42 In 1790 it was estimated that Spain maintained her peace with Algiers between 1785 and 1790 at an expense of four and one‑half millions of dollars. In 1802 the Algerines reduced the Spaniards to the following terms: to pay sixty thousand dollars directly to the Dey; to send each new consul with presents worth forty‑two thousand dollars; to renounce claims to three Spanish vessels and cargoes; and to give the Dey's ministry and directory thirty thousand dollars.43 The Venetians on one occasion agreed to pay fifty thousand ducats down and five thousand each  p13 succeeding year for the privilege of having fifteen vessels trade throughout the Mediterranean.44

Although Morocco was only the second in rank among the Barbary States, she occasionally received as presents from England and France as much as fifteen thousand guineas.45 The Spanish government also contributed lavishly to this power;46 likewise the Dutch;47 and an English official in Morocco in 1788 wrote that "we are all tributary to the Emperor of Morocco."48

To Tunis and Tripoli European governments also paid large sums. Austria agreed, in 1785, to render to the Bey an annual tribute.49 Venice, at the close of a war lasting from 1784 to 1792, gave him forty thousand sequins and costly presents.50 During the same period Spain contributed a large sum to Tunis as the price of peace.51 Holland, Sweden, and Denmark were other powers which were tributary to the Bey.52 In 1800 Tripoli, the least powerful of the Barbary States, obtained from Sweden a promise of two hundred and forty thousand dollars for peace and the ransom of one hundred and thirty‑one captives; also an annual payment of twenty thousand dollars to the Pasha.53 Venice paid annually three thousand five hundred sequins to Tripoli; a fact which caused John Adams to remark, "From a comparison of the strength of this with that of the other piratical states, some grounds are furnished for conjecturing what is paid by them to the others, when in peace with them."54

 p14  The Barbary States heaped still other indignities upon the countries of Europe. European consuls in Tunis were required to go under a wooden bar when entering the presence of the Bey.55 Reluctance to kiss the hand of that potentate on one occasion almost cost a French consul his life. In 1762 when the Bey demanded of an English Ambassador this expression of humility, it was refused but a compromise was effected whereby a subordinate kissed the ruler's hand.56 English officials were sometimes driven out of the Moroccan Court "in the most rude and violent manner" by the capricious Emperor.57 In 1767 A. C. Fraser, the English Consul at Algiers, refused to remove his shoes and sword and kiss the hand of the Dey; consequently the latter sent the stubborn Englishman home because of "insolent" behavior. Fraser was sent back with a demand for reinstatement, but the Dey would not receive him. The Admiral of the squadron sailed away, and the next year the King appointed a new consul who was charged to "conduct himself in a manner agreeable to" the Dey. Fraser received thereafter six hundred pounds per year, from the English government.58 Officials and their countrymen were sometimes summarily thrust into prison because of the failure of their government to fulfill some real or fancied obligation; consequently Europeans who resided in Barbary possessed a very precarious status.59

 p15  It might reasonably be supposed that the systematized plundering of vessels, the suffering of thousands of captives in Barbary, the heavy exactions of money or its equivalent, and the insults to government officials would have caused European nations to drive these marauders from the seas. A truly serious and concerted effort on the part of the leading powers of Europe could hardly have failed to achieve this end. But the supposedly enlightened European governments showed little disposition to strike, individually or in concentrator, at piracy in general. They preferred rather to tolerate and, at least indirectly, to encourage and perpetuate it.60 Why was such a policy pursued? Why

O Ye great powers, who passports basely crave,

From Afric's lords to sail the midland wave —

Great fall'n powers, whose gems and golden bribes

Buy paltry passports from these savage tribes —

Ye, whose fine purples, silks, and stuffs of gold

(An annual tribute) their dark limbs enfold —

Ye, whose mean policy for them equips,

To plague mankind, the predatory ships —

Why will you buy your infamy so dear?61

In order to explain such a curious subserviency numerous reasons have been advanced. John Adams attributed it to the enslavement of captives.62 Preoccupation of European nations in the Far East, in America, and in the wars at home has been held responsible. There has, moreover, been preferred the charge of cowardice, a fear arising from the belief that the powers of Northern Africa possessed  p16 tremendous resources and "inconquerable courage."63 But chief among the reasons which have been given is that of desire on the part of individual governments to secure advantages over political and commercial rivals.64 The Barbary policy of remaining at peace with only a small portion of Christendom and of using foreign carriers almost exclusively, placed, even in time of general European peace, a vast amount of Mediterranean trade in the hands of a few neutrals.65 When England, France, and other commercial nations were at war among themselves, the volume and price of freights borne by neutrals were greatly increased. It was estimated that when there was little or no warfare in Europe the Swedes obtained for Mediterranean freights twelve hundred thousand dollars annually, and the Danes considerably more. During the great struggle near the close of the eighteenth century these proceeds were supposed to have doubled.66 J. L. Cathcart, United States Consul to Tripoli, and for years previously a captive in Algiers, maintained that "the only motive" which induced a submission to the Barbary impositions was "the extension of commerce." "Bribery and corruption," he  p17 said, "answers their purpose better, and is attended with less expense, than a noble retaliation."67 "It is well known," wrote Richard O'Brien, United States Consul-General at Algiers, "that those nations that are at peace with the Barbary States do not wish that any other nation should obtain a peace, that they should not reap part of those advantageous branches of commerce in the Mediterranean."68 Lord Sheffield was certain that because of trade considerations the leading maritime countries would not aid the United States in making peace with Barbary;69 and it was said to be a maxim among the English merchants that "if there were no Algiers, it would be worth England's while to build one."70

Throughout the colonial period the policies outlined above greatly influenced American commerce in the Mediterranean area. Here English shipping was at times harassed but on the whole enjoyed as great an amount of freedom from vexation as that of any European country. This situation was to the advantage of the English colonies in North America, for in the comparative commercial freedom thus provided they were permitted to share.71 Before the outbreak of the American Revolution  p18 they had, consequently, developed a substantial Mediterranean trade. Jefferson estimated that twelve hundred American seamen, navigating between eighty and one hundred ships of twenty thousand tons, engaged annually in this trade. A market was found in Mediterranean ports for about one‑sixth of the wheat and flour, and for one‑fourth of the dried and pickled fish shipped from the Colonies.72 Other commodities exported in considerable quantities to Southern Europe and Africa were rum, rice, pine, oak, and cedar lumber, beeswax, and onions. The total value of articles shipped to these regions as American produce was officially evaluated for the year 1770 at about £707,000. For the same year the value of foreign merchandise carried, chiefly from the West Indies, to Southern Europe and Africa was estimated at £6,287. For the preceding year the value of the colonial exports to the two latter regions was somewhat less. Colonial imports from Southern Europe and from Africa were officially evaluated for 1769 at £228,682 and consisted largely of wines, salt, oil, and Morocco leather.73

By means of presents, treaties, and an occasional use of force, England protected her commerce from the Barbary corsairs. The colonial vessels equipped with admiralty passes, or with the major portion of their crews Englishmen,  p19 were promised immunity from molestation under provisions of treaties formed between England and the Barbary States. But in order to see that the agreements were enforced, it was necessary for the English government to keep armed vessels almost continuously in the Mediterranean.74

England's Mediterranean policy, although properly subject to censure, was highly advantageous to her colonies. It provided them with a political basis for a fairly lucrative trade; it allowed them freedom from tribute; and it secured for them immunities enjoyed only by the most favored European nations. Herein was to be found at least a partial compensation for certain restraints imposed by the English colonial system.75


The Author's Notes:

1 Barca, situated to the extreme eastward, is generally considered as a province of Tripoli.

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2 G. W. Allen, Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, p1; C. O. Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, p43; R. V. Morris, A Defence of the Conduct of Commodore Morris, pp5, 6.

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3 G. A. Jackson, Algiers, pp1, 2.

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4 C. B. Todd, Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, p121; M. Russell, History and Present Condition of the Barbary States, pp253‑55; R. Greenhow, History and Present Condition of Tripoli, pp9, 10; C. Prentiss, Life of the Late General William Eaton, p89.

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5 Ibid., p90; Despatches, Algiers, VI, R. O'Brien to Wm. Smith, Jan. 10, 1801; Despatches, Tripoli, II, Cathcart to Sec. of State, Aug. 7, 1801; Despatches, Algiers, VII, G. Davis to T. Lear, Jan. 28, 1804.

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6 Todd, Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, p121; Despatches, AlgiersI, Barlow to Sec. of State, March 18, 1796; Letters from Barbary, pp96, 97; Written by "an English Officer," 1788; Allen, op. cit., p2.

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7 The Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, III, John Lamb to Jefferson, May 20, 1786. (Hereafter referred to as U. S. Dipl. Corr.) In Barbary Lamb found that "little subordination is paid to the Ottoman Porte; they [the Algerines], however, acknowledge the Grand Seignior to be the spiritual head of their religion and that is Mohametanism. By the same specie of fanaticism the Christian religion they hold in the utmost contempt."

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8 Greenhow, op. cit., pp8, 9; Todd, op. cit., pp121, 122; Wm. Shaler, Sketches of Algiers, p15.

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9 Todd, op. cit., p122.

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10 Shaler, op. cit., p17; Despatches, Algiers, I, Barlow to Sec. of State, March 18, 1796.

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11 Without reference to the Porte. For treaties which Tripoli and other Barbary states formed with Great Britain see Hertslet, Collection of Treaties and Conventions, I, 58‑178.

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12 Greenhow, op. cit., p11.

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13 Russell, op. cit., pp253‑55; Greenhow, op. cit., pp9‑11.

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14 Prentiss, op. cit., pp6796; Jackson, Algiers, pp272, 273; Russell, op. cit., pp278, 279.

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15 Jackson, Algiers, p227.

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16 Ibid., 227‑32.

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17 U. S. Dipl. Corr., V, 394, W. S. Smith to John Jay, 1785.

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18 Letters from Barbary, pp66, 67.

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19 The word "tribute" is here used as comprehending ransom, required "presents," and annuities.

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20 U. S. Dipl. Corr., III, 87, Lamb to Jefferson, May 20, 1786.

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21 Letters from Barbary, p98.

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22 Ibid., With what was perhaps an unconscious touch of humor the writer continued: "And the efforts to be a naval and commercial power, might help to improve his country — if anything could; and the improvement of this part of the world is certainly for your good."

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23 Prentiss, op. cit., p98.

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24 Greenhow, op. cit., p13.

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25 Ibid., p10; U. S. Dipl. Corr., III, 86 ff., Lamb to Jefferson, May 20, 1786; Russell, op. cit., pp404‑18.

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26 Morris, op. cit., p89.

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27 Letters from Barbary, p153.

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28 S. Lane-Poole, Story of the Barbary Corsairs, p270.

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29 American State Papers, Class I: Foreign Relations, I, 414, 415, P. E. Skjöldebrand to D. Humphreys, Nov. 13, 1793. (Hereafter referred to as Am. State Pap., For. Rel.)

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30 J. L. Cathcart, The Captives, p164. Cathcart for years a prisoner at Algiers stated that "it seldom happens that peace is made with one nation without the consul of another being sent away as the prelude of war."

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31 It was customary for the Algerines to make about three cruises each year, between April and November. See Despatches, Algiers, III, R. O'Brien to Jefferson, June 8, 1786.

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32 Allen, op. cit., p6. In 1798 the Tunisians by a single raid made upon an island off Sardinia captured almost one thousand people.

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33 J. W. Stephens, Historical and Geographical Account of Algiers, pp71‑77; John Foss, Journal of the Captivity and Sufferings of John Foss, pp28 ff.; J. Barlow, The Columbiad (London, 1809) pp259, 260. In the last named work appear the following lines portraying this captivity:

"By night close bolted in the bagnio's gloom,

Think how they ponder on their dreadful doom,

Recall the tender sire, the weeping bride,

The home, far sunder'd by a waste of tide,

Brood all the ties that once endear'd them there,

But now, strung stronger, edge their keen despair,

Till here a fouler fiend arrests their pace:

Plague, with his burning breath and bloated face,

With saffron eyes that through the dungeon shine,

And the black tumors bursting from the groin,

Stalks o'er the slave; who, cowering on the sod,

Shrinks from the demon and invokes his God,

Sucks hot contagion with his quivering breath,

And, rack'd with rending torture sinks in death."

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34 Cathcart, op. cit., pp8‑18.

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35 Lane-Poole, op. cit., pp283 ff. The English, French, and Dutch redeemed many captives by force during the seventeenth century, but from that time until 1775 few serious naval operations were carried on against the pirates. In 1775 a pretentious but poorly managed Spanish attack upon Algiers was unsuccessful. Spain, Portugal, Naples, and Malta combined forces against Algiers in 1784 but poor equipment and bad management resulted, within two weeks, in an abandonment of the enterprise.

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36 Allen, op. cit., pp 2 8.

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37 Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, p44; Todd, op. cit., pp121, 122; Despatches, Gibraltar, I, James Simpson to Sec. of State, Oct. 31, 1795. "Custom has long established, and now rendered unavoidable the practice of giving presents in those [Barbary] countries, not only to the chiefs of their governments but to an infinity of subordinate persons."

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38 The following illustrations have been selected somewhat at random and do not purport to constitute a comprehensive treatment of the system of levying tribute as maintained by the Barbary States.

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39 Despatches, Algiers, III, R. O'Brien to Jefferson, June 8, 1796.

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40 Jefferson Papers, XIX, Randall to Jefferson, April 2, 1786.

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41 U. S. Dipl. Corr., II, 282.

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42 Jefferson Papers, XIV, Jefferson to Wm. Carmichael, Aug. 18, 1785.

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43 Despatches, Algiers, VI, O'Brien to Messrs. Sommeril and Brown, July 1, 1802.

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44 D. Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, III, 370, 371. Date, 1763.

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45 U. S. Dipl. Corr., II, 289 f. Fifth report of U. S. Treaty Commissioners to Congress, April 13, 1785.

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46 Ibid., II, 383, 384. List for 1784, sent Wm. Carmichael by Florida Blanca.

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47 Letters from Barbary, p68.

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48 Ibid.

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49 Lane-Poole, op. cit., p257.

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50 Ibid., p258.

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51 Ibid.

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52 Ibid.

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53 J. L. Cathcart, Tripoli, First War with the U. S., p227.

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54 U. S. Dipl. Corr., II, 282, Report of U. S. Treaty Commissioners to John Jay, March 18, 1785.

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55 Lane-Poole, op. cit., p257.

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56 Ibid., p258.

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57 Letters from Barbary, p8.

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58 Sir Robert L. Playfair, Scourge of Christendom, pp206‑12.

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59 A. M. Broadley, Tunis, Past and Present, p82. In 1802 the Bey "disgraced" the Danish consul because the latter offered the former "some arms mounted in copper instead of gold." About the same time thirty leading Spanish subjects were in prison because two gunboats presented to the Bey did not contain as many guns as desired. In 1795 when it was reported that the British had sunk an Algerine vessel, the Dey called the British consul before him and threatened to "shorten him a head."

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60 Greenhow, op. cit., p10. "Great Britain and France, each keeping a large naval force in the Mediterranean, which could immediately chastise any offence against its own commerce, not only had no objection to the practice of piracy, but even secretly encouraged it."

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61 Extract from a "Poem on the Happiness of America," by David Humphreys. Quoted in a Short History of Algiers (3d. ed., N. Y., 1805), p99.

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62 U. S. Dipl. Corr., II, 166, Adams to Jay, April 13, 1785.

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63 Lane-Poole, op. cit., p256; Letters from Barbary, p103.

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64 F. Wharton (ed.), Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the U. S., VI, Salva to Franklin (Algiers) April 1, 1783: "The politics of certain European powers do not restrain them from paying tribute to enjoy peace, they make use of these human harpies as a terror to the belligerent nations, whose commerce they chain to the car of Algerine piracy." (Hereafter referred to as Rev. Dipl. Corr. U. S.)

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65 Despatches, Algiers, I, J. Barlow to Sec. of State, April 18, 1796. Barlow wrote that "Portugal, Prussia, Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen are habitually excluded; Naples, Sardinia, Tuscany, Genoa, Malta and the Pope, being always at war with Barbary can do nothing in commercial navigation. Besides this, among the nations accustomed to peace with Barbary, we may generally reckon about one at a time in a state of temporary hostility, and its navigation here suspended."

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66 Ibid. Barlow states that he has cited only the commerce of the Swedes and Danes "because their distance [from the Mediterranean] is about equal to ours, and they may afford to navigate at nearly the same price."

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67 Cathcart, Tripoli, First War with U. S., p137.

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68 Despatches, Algiers, III, O'Brien to ?, April 28, 1787.

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69 B. H. Sheffield (First Earl of), Observations on the Commerce of the American States, p115.

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70 J. Sparks, Dipl. Corr., Rev., IV, 149, Franklin to R. R. Livingston, July 25, 1783.

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71 During the latter portion of the seventeenth century a considerable number of Americans were captured by the Barbary pirates. In 1679 a petition from relatives stated that members of their families had been "taken in thirteen Virginia ships, even at the mouth of the Channel." In 1680 the governor of Massachusetts stated, in connection with the sending of colonial representatives to England that "the great hazard of the seas creates a backwardness in persons most suitable to be employed as agents, for we have already lost five or six of our vessels by Turkish pirates, and many of our inhabitants continue in miserable captivity among them." — G. L. Beer, Old Colonial System, I, 123, quoting House of Lords MSS, 1678‑88, p137. See also Despatches, Algiers, III, R. O'Brien to ?, April 28, 1787. In this communication O'Brien remarked that "before the war the Americans used to employ 200 sail of merchantmen in the Streights trade, and used to reap great advantage by it."

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72 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 104. In a report to the House of Representatives, Dec. 28, 1790, Jefferson stated that there had been a loss of customs house records "in several of the States" and a consequent scarcity of official records regarding Colonial trade. From "other sources meriting respect" Jefferson attempts to indicate in some measure the importance of the Colonial Mediterranean trade.

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73 Macpherson, op. cit., III, 572, 573, 458. The statistics given by Macpherson were obtained from official records in England. "The prices," he states, "are rated by the official valuation, and consequently are considerably under the real amount."

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74 Beer, op. cit., I, 123‑26; also R. G. Marsden, Law and Custom of the Sea, II, 347, 348. In the latter work appears the following example of a Mediterranean pass (1750):

"By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain and Ireland &c. and of his Majesty's Plantations &c.

Suffer the Ship ––––– to pass with her company, passengers, goods, and merchandise, without let, hindrance, seizure or molestation; the said ship appearing unto us by good testimony to belong to the subjects of his Majesty, and to no foreigner. Given under our hands and the seal of the Office of Admiralty the ––– day of –––– hundred and ––––. To all persons whom this may concern.

By command of their Lordships."

For passes issued at an earlier date, see Hertslet, Collection of Treaties and Conventions, I, 65, 66. For irregular use of passes, see Lane-Poole, op. cit., p271.

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75 Beer, op. cit., I, 127.


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