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Chapter 9

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 11
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p149  Chapter X

The Treaty of Peace
1805

A variety of circumstances led to the formation of the treaty which ended the dramatic campaign of the doughty Eaton. Perhaps the first which should be mentioned was a change in Barron's attitude towards Eaton and Hamet Karamanli. Of the formal convention into which Eaton and Hamet had entered the Commodore did not approve. He found it inconsistent with his instructions which stated in effect that the United States would not guarantee a restoration of the exiled prince, but would, when any favorable opportunity presented itself, make peace with Yusuf. In such an event American support of Hamet's cause must cease; it had never been the intention of the United States government to favor that cause except as a means to be employed in obtaining an honorable peace.1 Barron not only concluded that Eaton's plans were too far‑reaching; about the same time he became convinced that Hamet was a weakling. Before the land campaign was launched those who sponsored it assumed that the exile might display such qualities of leadership that after an initial impetus had been given to his movements, he would be able to proceed without further aid except that which the naval squadron would render in attacking Tripoli by sea. The Commodore shared this expectation for a time but gradually became convinced that little hope was to be entertained of Hamet's securing a powerful following. On April 6 he wrote to the Secretary of the Navy that his opinion of the exile's courage, energy, and talents had been lowered by reports from persons who  p150 appeared to know him well.2 About six weeks later he wrote to Lear as follows: "His [Hamet's] want of energy and military talents, his total deprivation of means and resources, the great expense already incurred, and the large sum which would be required, according to Mr. Eaton's statement, for pursuing the object, a sum far exceeding both the resources placed at my disposal, and the powers vested in me by my instructions, compel me to relinquish the plan."3 The communication ended with an expression of conviction that if Hamet did not possess the ability to proceed to Tripoli while his efforts were being seconded by sea, "he must be considered no longer a fit subject for our support or coöperation."4

While Barron became more and more dissatisfied regarding the conduct of Eaton and Hamet, reports from Tripoli indicated that the Pasha desired an early peace. In December, 1804, the Spanish consul at Tripoli wrote to Lear that the United States could probably form a favorable treaty in the immediate future. The consul stated that he had recently had an interview with the Pasha who had on that occasion shown some concern about a prolongation of the war. Lear suspected that the consul was acting as an agent of the Pasha; consequently, he determined to be in no haste to reply.5 A letter from Nissen in March, however, seemed to confirm the earlier report;6 whereupon Lear informed the Spanish consul that the United States would make peace if it could be accomplished on fair and honorable conditions. This letter elicited a  p151 statement of the Pasha's terms, which were that the United States must pay $200,000 for peace and the ransom of prisoners, release all Tripolitans who had been captured, and make full restitution to the latter for property taken from them. The Spanish consul, who communicated these proposals to Lear, appeared confident that they could be lowered during the course of negotiations,7 and Bainbridge wrote that in his opinion a full settlement could be obtained for $120,000.8

Two additional circumstances should be noted as having a bearing upon the reopening of the negotiations with the Pasha. The first of these was the situation of the American prisoners. The Pasha told Dr. Cowdery that if the American forces pressed him too hard, he would put Bainbridge and all the other prisoners to death. Whether or not he would have carried out the threat, nobody will ever know. Consul Nissen thought that Yusuf would have, and in this opinion many of the officers who were prisoners have concurred. Rodgers, on the other hand, expressed a conviction that the Pasha would not have put his threat into execution; and many other members of the squadron agreed with him.9 Barron, however, was very apprehensive about the matter, and on May 18th, wrote to Lear that "the liberty, and perhaps the lives of so many valuable and estimable Americans ought not to be sacrificed to points of honor taken in the abstract."10 In the same communication he suggested to Lear that the time was auspicious for negotiating with the Pasha whose pretensions, he presumed, had been diminished somewhat by the capture of Derne.11 Four days later, on account of illness, he relinquished  p152 his command to Rodgers, and on that occasion urged his successor to "support the negotiations with all . . . zeal and activity."12 The state of the Commodore's health was such that it probably quickened his desire to conclude a treaty and to leave the Mediterranean.

Acting upon the suggestion which Barron made in his letter of May 18, Lear proceeded to Tripoli. He reached his destination on the 26th, and through the Spanish consul informed the Pasha that he was ready to negotiate if Yusuf would abandon the terms which he had previously proposed. The latter replied that he would accept $130,000 for ransom and would charge nothing for a treaty of peace; but that all Tripolitan prisoners must be released gratis. Lear countered with an offer to exchange prisoners, man for man, and, inasmuch as the Pasha had the greater number, promised to pay sixty thousand dollars in cash. The Pasha acquiesced with a proviso that the Tripolitan and American prisoners be exchanged simultaneously. An accommodation was effected regarding that point; whereupon the negotiators turned to a consideration of the proposed treaty. Lear had in the meantime become quite suspicious of the Spanish consul's interests and purposes; consequently, he dismissed him and secured the services of Nissen. To the draught of a treaty which Lear had prepared the Pasha took little exception. All he desired was that there be inserted an article to the effect that American troops be withdrawn from Derne and that pressure be brought to bear upon Hamet in order to secure his departure from that town and province. Lear was willing to see the American troops removed but considered that if Hamet left Derne, he should have his family restored  p153 to him.13 Yusuf was reluctant to make this concession and yielded only to the extent of promising that he would release the family within four years. The "four years" clause was secret and in modification of a relevant portion of Article III which stated that Hamet's family would be restored to him.14

These matters having been arranged, Lear went ashore on June 3. Upon landing he was greeted by the officers of the "Philadelphia" and a great throng of people who "crowded the shore and filled the streets, all signifying their pleasure at the signing of peace."15 On the following day the American flag was raised and the prisoners were liberated. Lear had an interview with the Pasha, who impressed him very favorably. "He is," wrote Lear to the Secretary of State, "a man of very good presence, manly and dignified, and has not, in his appearance, so much of the tyrant as he had been represented to be."16 On the 6th the "Constitution" sailed for Malta to bring the Tripolitan prisoners and the money that Lear had promised; while the "Constellation" set sail for Derne to remove the Americans who were stationed there.17 On the same day Lear appointed Dr. John Ridgely, who had formerly been a physician on board the "Philadelphia," to serve as agent for the United States at Tripoli.18

The formal ratification of the treaty by the Pasha and his Divan occurred on June 10 with Lear in attendance as guest of honor. The ceremony is described by him as follows:

I . . . was placed on the same seat with the Bashaw, on his right hand. — Great order and solemnity were observed. —  p154 I presented the treaty to the Bashaw, who delivered it to his first Secretary to read, article by article. — Some observations, and short debates took place on several of the articles, but the Bashaw appeared to explain them satisfactorily. — After the whole was read, the form of its presentation and acceptance was written by the Secretary, and the seals of the Bashaw and members of his Divan affixed to the two copies; one of which the Bashaw delivered to me in a solemn manner, and with many expressions of friendship.19

In addition to the stipulations already noted the treaty provided for peace on the most favored nation basis and for the treatment of Americans or Tripolitans who might be captured in any future conflict between the contracting powers as prisoners of war and not as slaves. Other articles related to passports, prizes, salutes, debts, religious differences, consular jurisdiction, and various other subjects.20 No annuities or other payments beyond the sixty thousand dollars for ransom were stipulated. It was understood, however, that the custom of giving a present upon the appearance of a new consul would be observed.21 No attempt was made to have the Dey of Algiers guarantee an observance of the treaty or to act as arbiter in the settlement of disputes which might arise between the United States and Tripoli. The Senate ratified the treaty on April 12, 1806, by a vote of twenty‑one to eight.22

Many conflicting opinions regarding the merits of the treaty had in the meantime been expressed. The payment of ransom, the action taken with respect to Hamet and his family, the failure of Barron and Lear to give Eaton an opportunity to make an assault upon the city of Tripoli — all had become subjects of a debate which was replete with partisanship. The National Intelligencer pointed the finger of scorn at "the grave logician, the mincing poet, and the  p155 pert witling" who had combined to heap calumny upon the administration for the wretched manner in which it had conducted the war and had concluded peace.23 To this organ the treaty was entirely satisfactory, as indicated by the statement that "Our captive countrymen have been restored to the bosom of their country, peace has been made on honorable terms . . . We have got all we wanted."24 The Aurora expressed unqualified approval of the treaty in the following words: "Our conceptions have been realized — events speak for themselves — the government has performed its duty, regardless of the rhapsodies of its causeless enemies, or the perfidy of its pretended friends."25 On the other hand, certain New England newspapers seem to have found little to be commended in the treaty. The Boston Gazette was unstinted in its denunciation of the Intelligencer's "whitewashing comments [which] when carefully filtrated, and purged of their meretricious colouring, turn out to be downright insults to the common understanding of man."26 The Boston Repertory held up to ridicule an article which had recently appeared in the Richmond Enquirer; and the Salem Register in commenting on the treaty, indulged in strictures which were concluded with the remark: "We only throw out these hints for the knowing federal editors to comment upon if they please."27

The three features of the treaty mentioned in the preceding paragraph as producing controversy, require further examination. Was it, we may inquire, advisable to pay the Pasha sixty thousand dollars in order to secure the liberation of the prisoners and a treaty of peace? Bainbridge, Barron, Lear and Rodgers thought so. They  p156 all apparently regarded such an arrangement as in nowise dishonorable or impolitic. Bainbridge had urged the opening of negotiations when he thought that a settlement might be effected for $120,000. Barron had advised Lear to make overtures at a time prior to which the Pasha had apparently made no statement that he would accept the sum which Bainbridge had indicated; therefore, it may be inferred that Barron expected and would approve of the payment of a considerable sum. Lear, in the first instance, had proposed the sixty thousand dollars to the Pasha; therefore, he evidently regarded the payment as advisable. Rodgers stated that the Pasha's proposals "left us no interest, or motive in not acceding to them, as he acknowledged that . . . our efforts would be sufficient to reduce his town and oblige him to retire to the mountains."28 Preble, too, seems to have approved the payment, for he praised the peace as having "been established on more honorable terms than any other nation has been able to command."29 The National Intelligencer referred to the ransom as "paltry" and observed that inasmuch as "the United States were contending against Barbarians, who seldom acquiesce in any law but force, and who made a practice of vending prisoners, the price demanded for our countrymen is very small — it amounts to about 233 dolls, for each individual: This is not the value of a stout healthy negro."30 The Aurora considered "a few thousand dollars more or less" of little importance as compared to the liberation of so many Americans and severely  p157 criticized certain New England editors who had found fault with the item of "expense."31

In spite of this widespread approval of the payment of ransom, it seems that the measure was unwise. At the time the negotiations were in progress Eaton was in possession of Derne, and the American fleet was more powerful than it had been during any preceding year. Commodore Rodgers had under his command at the time the treaty was formed, fourteen warships, six of which were frigates. Moreover, there were eighteen additional vessels to be placed at his disposal within a few weeks. One gunboat of the latter group was lost in crossing the Atlantic, but before August 1 Rodgers could have stationed off Tripoli a fleet of thirty‑one vessels: six frigates, four brigs, two schooners, one sloop, two bomb-vessels, and sixteen gunboats.32 In a test of strength this force would almost certainly have prevailed. It is not unreasonable to assume, however, that the mere experience of surveying this squadron arrayed within gunshot of his ships and castle would have caused the Pasha to release the prisoners in all haste. He actually did reduce his demands from three million dollars to sixty thousand although during the period involved his vessels and fortifications had undergone only two or three attacks which might be regarded as severe. Moreover, Lear appears to have encountered little difficulty in ransoming the prisoners for sixty thousand dollars, although at that time the squadron was not concentrated before Tripoli. To the contention that Yusuf would have executed the prisoners in case he became hard pressed, the reply may be given that evidence relative to that point seems just as strong in support of the opposite conclusion. If it be granted for argument's sake that the threat would have been carried out, one may still be permitted  p158 to wonder whether Bainbridge and his fellows could have died in a nobler cause.

The case of Hamet Karamanli created such a furor that the administration saw fit to present to the public the official correspondence relating to the exile. Sufficient reference has already been made to the earlier official statements to indicate clearly that the executive proposed to have coöperation effected with Hamet only to the point at which a favorable peace could be made. If that point were reached before Hamet attained his goal, the United States would give him no additional military or naval support. It proposed, however, in the words of Madison "to treat his misfortunes with the utmost tenderness, and to restore him as nearly as may be to the situation from which he was drawn, unless some other proper arrangement should be more acceptable to him."33

The correspondence of Eaton and Hamet at the close of the war indicates that they apparently did not place a sufficiently strict construction upon the official utterances respecting coöperation with the former. Eaton stated that he had supposed "an engagement to co‑operate with Hamet Bashaw excluded the idea of using him as an instrument," and that in consequence of that supposition had promised Hamet that he would "perish with him before the walls of Tripoli, or . . . triumph with him within those walls."34 Hamet wrote "to the People of the United States" that the convention which he had formed with Eaton "stipulates the recovery of the throne for me."35 Article II of the convention to which Hamet referred, however, had placed certain vaguely-worded reservations upon American coöperation, and to this article President Jefferson made reference in stating the case as viewed by the administration. The reservations, he pointed out, Eaton had by his own statement recognized as guarding the United  p159 States against any "ill effects" which might arise from the engagement.36 It is to be presumed that if Hamet had read the article carefully, he would have seen that it did imply the possibility of the withdrawal of American support, but with Eaton promising to "perish with him before the walls of Tripoli . . ." the possibility would naturally appear remote.

Lear's agency in the muddled affair could by no stretch of the imagination be commended, although Timothy Pickering's statement that the Colonel's conduct could "be resolved into nothing but the basest treachery on the basest principles"37 is a bit severe. It was not until after George Davis became consul at Tripoli in 1807 that the fact was revealed that Lear had granted the Pasha four years in which to return Hamet's family. Neither the President nor Congress had, prior to that time, been informed of the agreement, a report of which had not been sent to the Department of State. Before the end of the year, however, Davis succeeded in bringing about a reunion of Hamet and his family, and the House of Representatives took steps to secure for the exile some financial aid.38

That it would have been expedient to have permitted Eaton to attempt an attack upon Tripoli by marching with a force from Derne is by no means clear. The distance was great, native troops were unreliable, increasing resistance might be expected if the Pasha did not in the meantime sue for peace, and, in the absence of Eaton, Derne might be lost. It would seem, therefore, that a better course to pursue would have been that of strengthening Eaton's position in the region already occupied, and, at the same time, relying upon the fleet to bring the Pasha to terms.39

 p160  It is reported that when Eaton was conversing with Lear and Rodgers after the evacuation of Derne, he made the following remark: "It is your turn now; but it will be mine when I arrive in the United States."40 If by any chance he had in mind the greater glory which would be his, he was not to be disappointed, for he was greeted in America with the greatest acclaim. He was hailed as "the IV or Modern Africanus" who "knew the use of valor and the art of war." He was represented as having subdued the powers of Africa "upon those fields where the Scipios and the Roman legions, against Hannibal and the Carthaginian bands, contended for the empire of the world."41 In his honor many receptions were held, on which occasions speakers did not permit him to suffer by comparison with Alexander, Cambyses, and other conquerors of renown.42 Moreover tangible, and very sorely needed by the hero, was a tribute bestowed by Massachusetts: ten thousand acres of land. No evidences, however, of his countrymen's esteem could cause him to forget his disappointment resulting from Lear's precipitate treaty, and in 1811 he died from what is supposed to have been the effects of liquor and a broken heart.43


The Author's Notes:

1 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 707, 708, Barron to Eaton, Mar. 22, 1805.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Ibid., II, 708, 709, Barron to Sec. of Navy, April 6, 1805. Although Eaton admitted that Hamet was not an able soldier, he maintained that the prince possessed military ability equal to that of Yusuf.

[decorative delimiter]

3 Ibid., II, 710, Barron to Lear, May 18, 1805.

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4 Ibid.

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5 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Lear to Madison, July 5, 1805.

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6 Ibid., Nissen to Barron, March 18, 1805. Nissen wrote that the Pasha's chief minister was favorably disposed towards peace and wished to see an agent sent ashore with powers to negotiate.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Ibid., Lear to Madison, July 5, 1805.

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8 Ibid., Bainbridge to Lear, April 24, 1805.

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9 Allen, Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, pp256, 257, quoting Cowdery, Nissen, Rodgers, Sec. of Navy, and others.

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10 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 711, Barron to Lear, May 18, 1805.

[decorative delimiter]

11 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Barron to Lear, May 18, 1805. Lear refused at this time to concur in Barron's opinion that Eaton's exploit would lessen Yusuf's demands; nevertheless he expressed an opinion that negotiations should be started.

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12 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 712, 713, Barron to Lear and Rodgers, May 22, 1805.

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13 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Lear to Madison, July 5, 1805.

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14 State Papers and Publick Documents, X, 500.

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15 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 717, Lear to Sec. of State, July 5, 1805.

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16 Ibid.

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17 Ibid.

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18 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Lear to Ridgely, June 6, 1805.

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19 Ibid., Lear to Sec. of State, July 5, 1805.

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20 Treaties and Conventions (comp. Malloy), II, 1788‑93.

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21 Allen, op. cit., p251.

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22 U. S. Gazette, April 21, 1806.

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23 National Intelligencer, Oct. 25, 1805.

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24 Ibid., Nov. 6, 1805.

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25 Aurora and General Advertiser, Oct. 4, 1805. For other expressions of approval see comments of Richmond Enquirer quoted in the Boston Repertory, Oct. 1, 1805.

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26 Boston Gazette, Oct. 17, 1805.

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27 Salem Register, Oct. 6, 1805.

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28 Boston Gazette, Sept. 19, 1805, Rodgers to Sec. of Navy, June 8, 1805. "This acknowledgment," continued Rodgers, "at once precluded the possibility of acquiring any honor by our arms; but indeed the reverse — as it would have been persecuting an enemy, who in anticipation of our vengeance, by his own acknowledgment, felt himself more than half vanquished."

[decorative delimiter]

29 Allen, op. cit., p253, quoting Preble.

[decorative delimiter]

30 National Intelligencer, Oct. 25 and Nov. 6, 1805.

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31 Aurora and General Advertiser, Oct. 4, 1805.

[decorative delimiter]

32 Allen, op. cit., pp223‑26.

[decorative delimiter]

33 Quotation cited above, p144.

[decorative delimiter]

34 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 719, Eaton to Sec. of State.

[decorative delimiter]

35 Ibid., Hamet to "the People of the United States of America."

[decorative delimiter]

36 State Papers and Publick Documents, V, 159.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Timothy Pickering Papers, XXXVIII, 105. Letter dated March 21, 1806.

[decorative delimiter]

38 Allen, op. cit., pp264, 265.

[decorative delimiter]

39 The capture of Derne, according to Lear, had made "a deep impression" upon the Pasha. Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 715, Lear to Eaton, June 6, 1805.

[decorative delimiter]

40 Boston Repertory, Oct. 18, 1805. Statement by a Mr. Rowe who aided Eaton at Derne and who reported that he heard Eaton make the above-quoted remark.

[decorative delimiter]

41 Boston Gazette, Oct. 3, 1805.

[decorative delimiter]

42 National Intelligencer, Sept. 25, 1805; American Citizen (N. Y.).

[decorative delimiter]

43 Prentiss, Life of Wm. Eaton, pp243‑56.


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