While Lear and Rodgers were engaged in making peace with Tripoli, a serious situation had developed at Tunis. On April 24, 1805, the frigate "Constitution" had captured a Tunisian xebec and her two prizes while they were attempting to run the blockade then being maintained at Tripoli. The Bey of Tunis had reclaimed the captured vessels; then, when informed that they would not be released, had threatened to declare war. Before beginning hostilities, however, he had written to the Commodore, promising to punish members of the crews of the captured vessels for any improper conduct of which they might have been guilty.1 Replying to this communication, Commodore Rodgers had refused to release the vessels in question, and had given as his motive for this course of action a determination to convince the Bey that Tunisians should no longer infringe American rights with impunity.2
Upon the conclusion of peace with the Pasha, Commodore Rodgers determined to go to Tunis in order to settle all differences with that regency. Lear was to accompany him, and to aid in negotiations, despite the fact that the Bey had repeatedly expressed an unwillingness to transact any business with the Consul-General.3 On July 13, the main squadron, which had been preceded by the "Congress" and "Vixen," left Syracuse, and, after a brief sojourn at Malta, sailed directly for Tunis. Unsatisfactory weather made navigation difficult, but on August 1, the "Constitution," p162 "Constellation," "Essex," "John Adams," "Siren," "Nautilus," "Enterprise," "Hornet," and a number of gunboats anchored in Tunis harbor.4
In the meantime the Bey had become greatly agitated. Before the main squadron had arrived at Tunis, he had solemnly sworn that if war with the United States proved to be the result of the squadron's visit, there would be no peace while a Tunisian soldier remained to fire a gun. "Europe," he had declared, "shall never say that half a dozen frigates have overawed a prince who has kept in subjection such superior powers."5 On that occasion, Davis, who was present, had hardly known what conclusion to draw with respect to the Bey's probable course of action. Hamuda was a proud ruler, and to what extremities his pride might lead him in a time of crisis, it was impossible to foretell. On the other hand, famine and civil commotions had racked his dominions, and the prospects for waging a successful war were most discouraging.6
On August 2, Rodgers wrote the Bey a letter in which he demanded, within thirty‑six hours, a statement of the latter's intentions with respect to peace or war; but, after learning from Davis that an answer could not practicably be obtained so soon, decided to grant the Bey more time. On the 4th, Davis delivered a verbal reply from Hamuda to the effect that if the Americans should stop any Tunisian vessels, or commit any other hostile act, he would reciprocate in kind.7 The Commodore thereupon consulted with his officers, and after securing their opinions regarding the course most proper to pursue, determined to exact from the Bey a written promise to abide by the treaty. In case the latter should refuse to comply with this demand, Rodgers proposed to blockade Tunis. On August 5, in consequence p163 of this decision, he despatched a form for this declaration to the Bey by Captain Decatur, who also conveyed a letter from Lear relative to the Bey's refusal to negotiate with him. Hamuda refused to receive Decatur, but soon regretting this hasty action, sent Rodgers and Lear a conciliatory letter which was delivered before Decatur's return. In this message the Bey proposed that the Commodore and Lear come ashore for a friendly conference, but, at the same time, protested against the presence of the American squadron at Tunis.8 Rodgers rejected the proposal relative to a conference, and insisted that the Bey sign the declaration which Decatur had previously taken ashore. Again the Bey withheld compliance, and, to test the earnestness of the Commodore's statements regarding a blockade, started a merchant vessel out of the harbor. Two shots caused it to return to safety, and soon thereafter the Bey wrote Lear another letter, urging him to come ashore, disavowing all threats against the United States, giving assurances of the Bey's determination to keep the peace, and promising to send an ambassador to the United States to settle all difficulties that had arisen between the two nations.9
A series of interviews which soon followed between Lear and the Bey brought about a fairly definite settlement of some questions in dispute. Hamuda reiterated the substance of his last letter, and declared that he had no demands to make upon the United States for presents or payments in any form. "He acknowledged," wrote Lear to the Secretary of State, "that he had asked for a Frigate; but he had only made the request, as from one friend to another, which, if not convenient or agreeable to grant, should never produce any difference . . . We had made him an offer of 8 or 10,000 dollars annually in cash; but he had not thought proper to accept it, which ought not to p164 be a subject of difference between our nations." The Bey also promised to revise the existing treaty in such a manner that the United States would be placed on a most favored nation basis with respect to duties; and, inasmuch as ill‑feeling had developed between the Bey and Davis, resulting in the latter's refusal to return to Tunis, that his place be taken by Dr. James Dodge, surgeon on board the "Constitution." The vexatious problem presented by the captured Tunisian vessels was disposed of by an agreement to have an ambassador sent from Tunis to the United States to settle the issue once and for all. Lear had his last interview with the Bey on August 30 and on that occasion gave presents to Hamuda and the principal Tunisian officials. On September 1, he returned to the "Constitution," accompanied by Sidi Soliman Mellimelni, newly-appointed ambassador to the United States.10 The latter soon transferred to the "Congress," and on November 4 arrived at Hampton Roads.11 As soon as he and his ten attendants were established in a house provided for them at Washington, he presented his claims respecting the captured Tunisian vessels.12
Mellimelni proved to be a most difficult individual with whom to deal. He admitted at the outset of the negotiations that the three vessels were worth no more than four thousand dollars,13 but when offered that amount as indemnity for their capture and subsequent sale, he made the following reply to the Secretary of State:
If the vessels in question are at the disposal of the United States in the Mediterranean, it is expected that they will be returned in the same state that they were in when captured; if they are sold or otherwise disposed of, that the Government of the United States will substitute another cruiser in lieu thereof, and give positive orders to the commanding officer p165 of the American squadron to deliver her to Hamouda Bashaw, as a substitute in cash cannot be admitted in a case that involves the honor of the Tunisian flag.14
The ambassador stated, further, that if the above terms were not complied with, he would return to Tunis; then, if one year after his arrival there the differences in question were not settled, the Bey would declare war against the United States.
During the ensuing months, Madison and the Tunisian ambassador carried on an extended correspondence relative to the latter's demands. Mellimelni agreed to accept a small armed vessel, loaded with naval stores and other articles, as indemnity for loss of the Tunisian vessels.15 Under the guidance of James L. Cathcart he then began a tour northward, to visit Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. At the last-named city he proposed to embark on the vessel intended for the Bey.16 Cathcart found Mellimelni to be a troublesome traveling companion, and had no end of difficulty with members of the ambassador's suite, three of whom refused to proceed beyond New York. Leaving these unruly attendants behind, Cathcart and Mellimelni continued their journey, and, on July 2, reached Boston.17 Here Cathcart discovered new versions in store. The ambassador refused to accept the brig "Franklin" which had been sent thither with presents for the Bey, and articles which Mellimelni had purchased for his own use. His reason for this refusal was that the brig had previously belonged to Hamuda, who, in 1803, had purchased it from the Tripolitans, but later had sold it. Although the "Franklin" could not be received as a substitute p166 for the cruisers which had been captured off Tripoli, it would, Mellimelni suggested, be a most suitable present for the Bey.18
In order to get the ambassador out of the country as speedily and as amicably as possible, Madison instructed Cathcart to charter another vessel of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons, to be sent to sea as soon as the property on board the "Franklin" could be transshipped to it. Cathcart thereupon chartered a merchant vessel, the "Two Brothers," and, after a series of new and exasperating delays, finally persuaded the ambassador to embark.19 The three strays, however, remained in New York, all efforts on the part of Cathcart, Mellimelni, Mayor Clinton, Madison, and even President Jefferson failing to convince them that they should leave the United States.20
Despite the mission of Mellimelni, it was not until the latter part of January, 1807, that peace with Tunis was placed on a fairly firm foundation. During that month Consul-General Lear visited Tunis, had a number of interviews with the Bey; and, after a considerable amount of bargaining, persuaded him to accept ten thousand dollars in cash as indemnification for losses which the Bey asserted that he had sustained by the confiscation of his vessels.21 But for the fact that Tunis was at that time engaged in a war with Algiers; also, that Mellimelni had observed the resources of the United States; and, finally, that a strong American squadron had only recently appeared p167 at Tunis, it is probable that the Bey would have attempted to drive a harder bargain.22
After Lear concluded a settlement of differences with Tunis, the naval forces of the United States were gradually withdrawn from the Mediterranean. Moreover, as relations between the United States and England grew increasingly tense, it became the settled policy of the former to keep the navy at home except for brief and infrequent cruises in European waters. The result was that during the period 1807‑1815, American interests in the Mediterranean remained, on the whole, in a virtually defenseless condition.23 But the relations between the United States and Tunis remained in a fairly satisfactory state. In December, 1807, some difficulty arose regarding the payment of certain freights which a Tunisian merchant had promised the captain of an American brig for conveying a cargo from Marseilles to Tunis; but in the end the dispute was amicably settled.24 Another incident, which for a time assumed a serious aspect, pertained to the detention of a Tunisian vessel at Malta. The ship in question was the "Liberty," formerly of Philadelphia, at one time captured by a French privateer, and later sold to a Tunisian subject. During the summer of 1810, the "Liberty" was sent to Malta under Tunisian colors, but was there detained by order of the United States Consul, Joseph Pulis. When the Bey learned about this detention, he immediately gave orders to have all Americans in Tunis arrested and their property sequestered until the United States should render full satisfaction for the action of the consul at Malta. In order to avert war, C. D. Coxe, United States Consul at Tunis, secured permission to go to Malta, where p168 he succeeded in having the "Liberty" restored to the Tunisian owner.25 Other minor difficulties arose during the years immediately preceding the War of 1812, when a considerable number of American merchant vessels were seized by French privateers, and brought to Tunis for sale. In some cases they were sold at auction, but until the outbreak of war between the United States and Great Britain, the Bey appears to have endeavored to prevent the more flagrant injustices arising from these activities.26
In the meantime, a number of serious situations had developed at Algiers. The Dey, Achmet Pasha, who had succeeded Mustapha in 1805, became hostile as soon as the last United States warship was withdrawn. In October, 1807, he demanded immediate receipt of stipulated maritime supplies which were at that time two years overdue.27 Consul-General Lear was unable to comply; whereupon the Dey ordered a cruise to be made for the purpose of capturing American merchantmen. The result was the seizure of three vessels, two of which were detained until Lear succeeded in ending the dispute by making a cash payment in lieu of the stipulated supplies.28 The third vessel, the schooner "Mary Ann" of Boston, was recaptured by her captain and crew, and was never brought to Algiers. During the course of the second conflict, a number of Algerines, who had been left on board to convey the schooner to Algiers, were thrown overboard, while four others were placed in an open boat and set adrift. The "Mary Ann" then proceeded to Naples. Soon after settling the question p169 of annuities, Lear learned about this incident from the Dey, who nevertheless assured the Consul-General that the affair would not disturb the good relationship which had so recently been established.29 Here the matter temporarily rested, but on March 16, 1808, the Dey peremptorily ordered Lear to pay him eighteen thousand dollars for eight Algerine subjects who had lost their lives as a result of the recapture of the "Mary Ann". Lear refused to make the payment, and, despite threats of personal enslavement, remained fixed in this determination until he was informed that Algerine vessels had been ordered to make an attack upon American commerce. Fearing that the cruise would successful, he at length agreed to pay the amount in question, but only on condition that the cruising orders be recalled, and not repeated in the future.30
During the ensuing months Lear constantly anticipated new demands. In this connection he wrote to Madison as follows:
As soon as our vessels are free to navigate the sea, an annuity in stores will be expected from the United States by this Regency; for altho our payments are well up; yet the cash alone will never satisfy them. Notwithstanding it is received as an absolute payment, and a receipt given accordingly; yet they still view it in some measure but as a collateral security for the continuance of our payments . . . So long as we have the reports which come here frequently, of the capture of American vessels by the French and English, these people will not believe that our ports are shut or that any uncommon circumstances interrupt our vessels; and they cannot believe that any Belligerent would venture to stop a vessel bringing stores for this Regency.31
Within three months after Lear wrote thus, the Dey was clamoring for naval supplies. He declared, in July, p170 1808, that he would expect them to arrive within a short time because he had learned that all differences between the United States and England had at last been settled. When Lear assured him that the embargo had not been lifted, he promptly proposed that the United States send to Algiers a vessel, for which he would obtain safe passage. To Lear's rejoinder that his government would probably not see fit to make this exception to the sailing of vessels, the Dey replied by asking him to write home for permission to purchase them in Europe. Naval stores must be provided, said the Dey, and if the United States would purchase them in Europe, he would see that they were safely shipped to Algiers.32 Greatly to the relief of the Consul-General, the storeship "Leonidas", of New York, soon arrived from Washington with a cargo of military and naval supplies. "The arrival of the vessel at this juncture," wrote Lear in August, "has placed us on high ground here."33
During the remainder of the period 1808 to 1812, there were comparatively few alarming situations with which Lear had to deal. In November, of the former year, Achmet Pasha was murdered by the Algerine soldiery, and a successor, Ali Cogia, was chosen.34 The new Dey showed himself well-disposed towards the United States; consequently, during his brief reign no serious friction developed between the two nations. But Ali displayed too little activity to be popular with the soldiers, who, in characteristic fashion, strangled him, and elevated a certain Hadji Ali, a popular Algerine official, to the Deyship.35 The latter, for a number of years after his accession, conducted himself in a friendly manner towards the United States. Indeed, he had no cause for dissatisfaction inasmuch as he received the p171 stipulated annuities with promptness, and, in 1809, when he sought the use of a United States vessel to convey an ambassador to Constantinople, Lear and the captain of the ship in question immediately complied with his request.36
In July, 1812, friendly relations between the United States and Algiers were brought to an end. The Dey had, for some time previously, expressed dissatisfaction because certain supplies had been slow in arriving from America.37 Furthermore, it is supposed that the following letter, which had been conveyed to Algiers by a British envoy, had a decided bearing upon the rupture:
The Prince Regent in the name of his father George III . . . expresses the strongest friendship for the Dey; . . . assures the Dey that he will protect his capital with his fleets so long as the present friendship shall subsist between the two nations; declares that the British fleets are masters of every sea and are the terror of all maritime states and that whoever attempts to oppose them will be subdued; . . . begs the Dey not to permit those who are enemies of Great Britain to lessen the harmony now subsisting between the two nations and that he will not hearken to their evil sayings.38
A climax was reached after a vessel, the "Allegheny", arrived at Algiers with tribute from the United States. On July 20, the Dey announced that because an insufficient quantity of gunpowder and cables had been sent, he would not permit the cargo of the "Allegheny" to be unloaded; nor would he allow Lear to remain longer at Algiers. After futile remonstrances, the Consul-General made preparations to depart.
While Lear was engaged in settling his accounts, a curious situation arose with respect to arrears in tribute. p172 The Dey asserted that the United States owed Algiers twenty-seven thousand dollars, an amount considerably greater than Lear had estimated. According to the Mohammedan calendar, the Dey contended, seventeen and one‑half, instead of seventeen, years had elapsed since the United States had begun paying tribute to Algiers. Lear's insistence upon a year consisting of 365, instead of 354, days was of no avail. He was informed that if he did not immediately pay in cash the amount demanded, and depart the following day, he would be imprisoned, the "Alleghany" would be confiscated, and all Americans at Algiers, thrown into slavery. Lear, in his dilemma, appealed to the Jewish firm of Bacri to advance the required sum, and thereby obviate the threatened disaster. The transaction was at length completed, Bacri agreeing to pay the Dey twenty-seven thousand dollars, and, and return, to receive thirty-three thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars from Gibraltar. Lear next requested the Swedish Consul, Mr. John Norderling, to serve as his agent at Algiers; then, in company with a number of Americans who had been ordered away, he departed for Gibraltar.39
The voyage of the "Alleghany" was uneventful, and on August 4 the vessel reached its destination. Four days later, however, it was seized by British authorities as a result of information that the United States had declared war against Great Britain. The captain of the "Alleghany" was paroled, but the crew were sent to England. Lear remained at Gibraltar until December; eventually secured passage to Cadiz; and, during the following April returned to the United States.40
The Dey had, in the meantime, ordered his cruisers to prey upon American commerce. They were in large measure forestalled by the British, who, by August 17, had in their p173 possession at Gibraltar no less than ten American vessels.41 But on August 25, the Algerines captured the brig "Edwin," of Salem, and conveyed it to Algiers. The Captain, George C. Smith, and crew of ten, after being stripped of their belongings, were set to hard labor on the mole.42 Their condition remained thus until eventually improved through funds provided by Lear, certain American merchants at Cadiz, and Mr. Norderling at Algiers.43 The Swedish Consul wrote, in April, 1813, that the captives were more comfortably situated, a number of them having been granted permission to reside with officials of other countries. The condition of the remainder he described as follows:
The sailors have in the Bagnio, a chamber to themselves, free from vermin, filth and corruption. They are regularly messed with one of the tavern-keepers in the Bagnio, for these two months past, with whom they have declared themselves to be contented. They are, in fact, better off than the generality of slaves here, who, for the most part, are abandoned by their Governments to what little the Regency gives them.44
The situation of the prisoners remained essentially unchanged during the remainder of the year, and only one more American was added to the list of captives: a Mr. Pollard, who had been on board a Spanish vessel at the time of her capture by the Algerines. With the continuation of the war between the United States and Great Britain, it became increasingly evident that the Dey had selected an inopportune time to begin hostilities.45
While at Cadiz he wrote to Monroe that Americans in that city were greatly interested in the welfare of the captives, and had, in fact, raised a large sum of money to be used in their behalf.47 In October, Noah requested Richard S. Hackley, United States Consul at Cadiz, to recommend a suitable agent to send to Algiers.48 Hackley recommended Richard R. Keene, an American residing in Cadiz,49 and within a short time Noah engaged the latter's services. Keene received one thousand dollars in advance for all personal expenses in the negotiations, and agreed to expect nothing further if he could not ransom the captives without offering more than three thousand dollars per man. In the event of success, his remuneration was to be increased.50 An interesting portion of his instructions dealt with a representation of his identity at Algiers:
You will carefully abstain from letting it appear that the United States are acquainted with your object or authorize your proceedings, on the contrary let it be distinctly understood that the relief proposed, proceeds direct from the friends of the parties.51
Keene reached Algiers in February, 1814, and there represented himself as spokesman for a group of United States merchants who had raised a fund to ransom the captives, and who had made an appeal to the Spanish government for its coöperation in the matter. The Dey, however, would not release the Americans, nor would he entertain p175 any question regarding their ransom except with a commissioner of the United States, and then only in connection with a treaty of peace. "Tell the agent and the American merchants at Cadiz," the Dey was reported to have said, "that my policy and my views are to increase, not to diminish, the number of my American slaves; that not for a million dollars would I release them."52 The Swedish, Spanish, and English Consuls appear to have coöperated with Keene to the utmost of their abilities, and ultimately the efforts of the English Consul, Mr. McDonell, resulted in the release of a number of Americans. An opportunity presented itself for McDonell's bringing pressure to bear upon the Dey when an American, by the name of Walker, deserted from the British navy, sought refuge in Algiers, and became a Mohammedan. The Dey refused to return his new subject to the British Consul; whereupon the latter threatened to make reprisals by having two Algerines impressed. A compromise was finally agreed upon, whereby the Dey released two members of the "Edwin's" crew upon receipt of four thousand dollars and a promise that Walker would remain unmolested. Four other Americans, who had been impressed by the British, were also turned over to Keene upon payment of six thousand dollars to McDonell. Finding himself unable to make further progress at Algiers, Keene returned to Gibraltar, leaving the ten remaining Americans in captivity.53
3 Amer. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 718, Lear to Sec. of State, July 5, 1805.
5 Despatches, Tunis, III, Davis to Sec. of State, July 18, 1805.
7 Ibid., Lear to Sec. of State, Sept. 2, 1805.
11 American Citizen (N. Y.), Nov. 14, 1805.
12 Ibid., Dec. 6, 1805.
13 Despatches, Tunis, III, Mellimelni to Madison, Feb. 10, 1806.
14 Ibid. Mellimelni to Madison, March 11, 1806.
15 Despatches to Consuls, Instructions, I, Sec. of State to Lear, May 15, 1806.
16 Domestic Letters, XV, Madison to Cathcart, June 2, 1806; Philadelphia Aurora and General Advertiser, June 7, 1806.
17 Boston Repertory, July 2, 1806.
18 Despatches, Tunis, III, Mellimelni to President of U. S., July 26, 1806.
19 Ibid., Cathcart to Madison, Aug. 9, 13, 20, 1806; John Stricker to Robert Smith, Aug. 13, 1806; Robert Smith to Cathcart, Aug. 13, 1806; Mellimelni to Madison, Sept. 23, 1806.
20 Ibid., Cathcart to Madison, Aug. 9, 13, 1806; Cathcart to Jacob Wagner, Aug. 19, Sept. 3, 1806; Mellimelni to Madison, Sept. 23, 1806; Madison Papers, XXIX, Jefferson to Madison, Sept. 16, 1806.
21 Despatches, Algiers, VII, Lear to Sec. of State, Jan. 25, 1807.
24 Despatches, Algiers, VIII, C. D. Coxe to Lear, Sept. 10, 1808.
25 Despatches, Tunis, IV, Circular letter by C. D. Coxe, Aug. 26, 1810.
26 Ibid., C. D. Coxe to Robert Smith, Aug. 9, Oct. 16, 1809; Jan. 14, Dec. 30, 1810; June 2, 1811.
27 Despatches, Algiers, VII, Lear to Madison, Jan. 5, 1806.
28 Despatches, Tunis, IV, C. D. Coxe to Sec. of State, Nov. 5, 1807. See also Despatches, Algiers, VII, Lear to Sec. of State, Dec. 13, 1807. Lear obtained a loan from David Bacri, a prominent Jewish merchant at Algiers.
29 Despatches, Algiers, VIII, Lear to Sec. of State, Dec. 17, 1807.
30 Ibid., Lear to Sec. of State, March 28, 31, and May 26, 1808.
31 Ibid. Lear to Madison, April 12, 1808.
32 Ibid. Lear to Madison, July 16, 1808.
33 Ibid. Lear to Gen. Armstrong, Aug. 1, 1808.
34 Ibid. Lear to Madison, Nov. 16, 1808.
35 Ibid. Lear to Madison, March 12, 1809.
36 Ibid. Lear to Madison, July 31, 1809.
37 Ibid. Lear to Monroe, Oct. 11, Dec. 18, 1811; May 29, 1812.
39 Am. State Pap. and Pub. Docs. (3d ed.) IX, 127‑144, Lear to Sec. of State, July 29, 1812.
40 Despatches, Algiers, VIII, Lear to Sec. of State, April 9, 1813.
41 Ibid. Lear to Monroe, Aug. 17, and 30, 1812.
42 Ibid. Geo. C. Smith to J. Gavino, Aug. 30, 1812.
43 Ibid. Lear to Monroe, Nov. 3, and Dec. 16, 1812.
44 Ibid. John Norderling to Richard Hackley, April 19, 1813.
47 Despatches, Tunis, IV, Noah to Monroe, Oct. 7, 1813.
48 Ibid., Noah to R. Hackley, Oct. 2, 1813.
49 Ibid., R. Hackley to Noah, Oct. 3, 1813.
50 Ibid., Copy of agreement, dated Nov. 13, 1813. In the latter event, Keene was to receive three thousand dollars and other valuable considerations.
51 Ibid., Noah to Keene, Jan. 20, 1814.
52 Ibid., Keene to Noah, May 22, 1814.
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