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Chapter 11

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 13
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p176  Chapter XII

The Final Accounting
1815‑1816

The formation of peace with Great Britain afforded the United States an excellent opportunity to punish Algerine avarice and treachery. Moreover, the fact that Algiers, possessing only a small navy,1 was at war with the maritime states of Italy, Spain, Holland, Prussia, Denmark, and Russia, made the time propitious for a final accounting with the Dey.2 On February 23, 1815, President Madison, therefore, recommended to Congress a declaration of war, and on March 2, that body authorized the equipping and use of such vessels of the navy as the President might think necessary to wage effective hostilities against Algiers.3

Two squadrons were formed in accordance with this authorization: one, under the command of Commodore William Bainbridge, was fitted out at Boston, and the other, under Commodore Stephen Decatur, at New York. Decatur's squadron consisted of ten vessels: three frigates, two sloops-of‑war, three brigs, and two schooners. It departed for the Mediterranean on May 20, William Shaler, Consul-General for the Barbary States and peace commissioner to Algiers, being a passenger on board the flagship "Guerriere".4 Before the squadron sailed, the Secretary of State had instructed Shaler and his associates, Commodores Decatur and Bainbridge, to obtain if possible, an early peace; to secure the release of the American  p177 prisoners; to pay no tribute; and to promise no biennial presents. As a preliminary procedure in obtaining these terms, Decatur's forces were to proceed to Gibraltar, where inquiry was to be made regarding the whereabouts of Algerine cruisers. If any had passed the Straits into the Atlantic, Decatur was to endeavor to capture or destroy them. He was also instructed to declare the city of Algiers blockaded, and after reaching the Algerine capital, was to open negotiations with the Dey. A final admonition was that "at whatever time the negotiation is opened, whether it be before, or after proceeding to extremities, the conditions must be such as are honorable to the United States."5

Decatur's squadron arrived at Gibraltar on June 15, the Commodore having learned in the meantime that some Algerine cruisers under the command of Reis Hammida had recently been in the Atlantic but had returned to the Mediterranean.6 Hoping to take them by surprise, Decatur hastened onward to the locality in which it appeared most likely that he would encounter Hammida.7 On June 17, the "Constellation" sighted a frigate in the vicinity of Cape de Gat. It was the Algerine Admiral's flagship, the "Mashuda," which immediately headed for Algiers. Being rapidly overtaken, however, it turned towards the Spanish coast, only to be intercepted by the Americans and eventually forced to surrender. Hammida and about thirty of his men were killed in the engagement, while over four hundred Algerines were taken prisoner. Four Americans lost their lives in the encounter, three being killed by the bursting of a gun on board the "Guerriere."8 Two days later, the American squadron discovered an Algerine brig, the  p178 "Estedio," off Cape Palos. After a brief chase and a sharp engagement, she, too, was captured. Decatur sent both the "Mashuda" and the "Estedio" to Cartagena; then he proceeded to Algiers to intercept any other cruisers which might attempt to enter that port.9

The ruling Dey at the time of Decatur's arrival at Algiers was a man named Omar, who possessed great courage and determination. He had become Dey early in 1815 in consequence of a revolution during which the Turkish soldiers had murdered Hadji Ali. About this time Decatur's forces reached Algiers, Omar's navy consisted of four frigates, five corvettes, one brig, a galley, and a number of gunboats. The vessels were, on the whole, however, poorly equipped and manned.10 Moreover, the Algerine fortifications were in a bad state of repair, and deficient with respect to the mounting and manning of guns.11

On June 29, Decatur displayed from the "Guerriere" a flag of truce and the Swedish flag, thereby indicating that he wished to carry on negotiations through the Swedish Consul. The latter, accompanied by the Algerine Captain of Marine, soon came aboard the "Guerriere," where they were informed about the capture of the Algerine frigate and brig, and the death of Hammida. The Captain of Marine seemed deeply impressed; wished to learn on what terms the Americans proposed to treat; and expressed a desire that hostilities should cease. Decatur and Shaler thereupon gave him a letter which President Madison had written to the Dey. The official and Mr. Norderling went ashore to deliver this message and to receive instructions. The following day they returned to the "Guerriere" with authorization to negotiate. Decatur and Shaler then presented to them a draft of a proposed treaty. This provided for the abolition of tribute, the release of American  p179 prisoners at Algiers, the payment of ten thousand dollars as indemnification for the seizure of the "Edwin," the restoration of other American property then in the possession of the Dey, and the treatment of captives, in event in the future hostilities, as prisoners of war rather than as slaves. The Captain of Marine argued that some of these conditions were unprecedented and expressed serious doubts regarding their ratification by the Dey. He also sought to have the captured Algerine vessels returned to his master, and, after some deliberation, the American commissioners decided to grant his request. The vessels, they concluded, would be of little value to the United States; while their relinquishment would probably cause the Dey to yield more readily to the demands incorporated in the draft of the proposed treaty. Then came a request for a truce, to allow time for deliberation regarding the treaty. "The reply, the Commissioners subsequently reported, was 'Not a minute; if your squadron appears in sight before the treaty is actually signed by the Dey, and the prisoners sent off, ours will capture them.' " It was finally agreed, by way of compromise, that hostilities would be suspended as soon as the boat, displaying a white flag, should leave the mainland. The Swedish Consul promised that the flag should not be displayed unless the treaty were signed and the prisoners in the boat. Within three hours after leaving the "Guerriere" the boat was back with the prisoners and a copy of the signed treaty on board. It was fortunate that the trip had been completed so soon; otherwise, an Algerine corvette which had hove in sight would undoubtedly have been captured.12

On the day the treaty was signed, Shaler went ashore. He was well-received by the Algerine officials and was soon in a position to make the following report to the Secretary of State:

 p180  The Regency has been very prompt in executing the conditions of the treaty as far as has yet depended on them. They sent me one hundred and twenty-seven bales of cotton, and the ten thousand dollars stipulated for in the 4th article, which I regarded as a full compliance with that stipulation.13

Decatur and Shaler decided to use the money in providing the customary consular present, and to hold the cotton until orders came from Washington respecting it.14

The treaty was immediately sent to the United States on board the sloop-of‑war "Epervier." On July 12, the vessel passed Gibraltar, never to be heard from again. She is supposed to have gone down in a gale which swept the Atlantic, along the American coast.15

Having concluded peace with Algiers, and having despatched two vessels from the squadron to convoy the Algerine frigate and brig from Cartagena, Decatur decided to visit Tunis and Tripoli. The United States had been having some difficulty with these regencies since early in 1815 because the Bey and the Pasha had permitted British warships to retake prizes which the American privateer "Abaellino" had brought into Tunisian and Tripolitan ports. Consul Noah at Tunis, and Consul Richard B. Jones at Tripoli had protested to the utmost against this violation of existing treaties, but to no avail; the former's remonstrances had been ridiculed, and the latter's disregarded.16

Acting upon his own responsibility, Decatur left Algiers on July 8, and on the 28th anchored before the city of Tunis. He conferred with Consul Noah and, immediately thereafter, demanded of Mahmud, the Bey who had succeeded Hamuda Pasha, the payment of forty‑six thousand dollars. The ruler at first sought to induce Decatur to  p181 come ashore; then, upon meeting with a refusal, attempted to have the payment postponed for a year. The Commodore rejected this proposal, also, and in the end Mahmud agreed to pay the required indemnity.17

Decatur left Tunis on August 2, and three days later anchored before the city of Tripoli. Again the Commodore resorted to tactics which he had employed so successfully at Algiers and Tunis. He demanded of Yusuf, who was still Pasha, instant payment of thirty thousand dollars as indemnity for the loss of prizes which had been taken from the "Abaellino." During the ensuing negotiations, which took place on board the "Guerriere", the Commodore agreed to reduce the sum to twenty-five thousand dollars, but only on condition that Yusuf release ten Christian prisoners. The Pasha yielded to these terms, and, on August 9, the squadron sailed away.18

Commodore Bainbridge, in the meantime, had proceeded to the Mediterranean, and, on August 5, had arrived at Cartagena. From this port he sailed to Tunis and Tripoli, stopping en route to display the squadron at Algiers. According to the testimony of a number of consuls, this visit to the capitals of the various Barbary States had a very salutary effect.19 The Commodore completed his tour of inspection about the middle of September, and thereupon returned to Gibraltar. Here he was joined by the vessels of Decatur's squadron, with the exception of the "Guerriere". Before returning to the United States, Bainbridge detailed two frigates and two sloops of war, under command of Captain John Shaw, to guard American interests in the Mediterranean. He left Gibraltar, on October 6, with all the remaining vessels of both squadrons, except the "Guerriere", which sailed the following day. Decatur arrived at New York on November 12, and Bainbridge  p182 at Newport, on November 15. Both officers were most enthusiastically received by their countrymen.20

Ratification of the treaty which Decatur and Shaler had dictated to the Dey was advised by the Senate, December 21, 1815, and five days later it was proclaimed by the President. On January 22 following, the frigate "Java", commanded by Captain Oliver H. Perry, sailed from the United States with the ratified document and with despatches for Consul-General Shaler. Perry reached Gibraltar on February 13 and about three weeks later joined Commodore Shaw, who thereupon proceeded with his squadron to Algiers. Between April 1 and April 4, six United States warships anchored before the Algerine capital, which, at the time, was being visited by a British squadron under the command of Admiral Lord Exmouth.21 The latter concluded negotiations with the Dey soon after Shaw's arrival, and sailed away.22

The Dey and his subjects had in the meantime found the peace with the United States quite irksome. "The Algerines," wrote Captain Perry, "are extremely restive under the treaty made with Decatur, considering it disgraceful to the Faithful to humble themselves before Christian dogs." These feelings, thought Perry, had been greatly stimulated by the consuls of other powers, who were envious of the fine treaty which the United States had obtained.23 Another factor conducive to dissatisfaction at Algiers was the failure of the United States to restore to the Dey the brig which Decatur had sent to Cartagena. The captured frigate had been returned to Algiers in July, 1815, but the brig had been detained by Spanish officials on the ground that it had been captured while  p183 fighting in Spanish waters.24 Again and again the Dey had demanded that the vessel be returned to him and in November, 1815, he had solemnly promised Shaler that if it were not soon restored, the treaty would be regarded as broken.25

Thus the situation remained until March, 1816, when a Spanish squadron appeared at Algiers and restored the missing brig.26 The Dey, however, appeared to be determined not to recognize the treaty; and for a time after Commodore Shaw's arrival, it seemed that war must inevitably result. Consul-General Shaler hauled down his flag at the Consular House, left Algiers, and went aboard the Commodore's flagships.27 The officers of the squadron soon thereafter planned a night attack upon the city, but a French frigate reported the preparations to the Dey, thereby causing the project to be abandoned.28 This warlike activity caused the Dey to modify his tone to some extent, but he persisted in his refusal to exchange ratifications. On April 11, he received Captain Perry with courtesy but refused to recognize the treaty as binding. The bad faith of the United States in failing to restore the brig, he contended, had rendered his agreement with Decatur void. Mr. Norderling, who was present at this time, thereupon observed that the brig had been returned, but to this remark the ruler replied that in order to obtain the vessel from Spain, he had been compelled to pay a full equivalent.29 Despite that fact, however, he continued, he would regard as binding one article which allowed the term of three months, for a settlement of differences, before the commencement of hostilities.30 The American negotiators decided to wait, and Shaler resumed  p184 his residence in Algiers. The Dey soon wrote to the President regarding the existing difficulties and proposed that the treaty of 1795 be renewed.31

Commodore Shaw immediately sent the "John Adams" to the United States with the Dey's letter, and by October the President's reply, dated August 21, 1816, reached the Mediterranean. It contained a statement regarding the belated return of the brig; also a protest against the attributing of bad faith to the United States; and a notification concerning the appointment of Consul-General Shaler and Commodore Isaac Chauncey as commissioners to settle the dispute with Algiers.32 In a letter to Monroe, June 25, President Madison wrote that "the Dey must distinctly understand that tho' we prefer peace we are prepared for war, and will make no change in the late treaty, nor concessions of any sort to avoid it."33

An event which occurred in August at Algiers proved advantageous to the United States. A large fleet, consisting of British and Dutch warships under the command of Lord Exmouth, appeared before the Algerine capital. During the course of a terrific bombardment which ensued, the Algerine fleet was virtually destroyed; the marine section of the city was cut to pieces; and great havoc was wrought elsewhere.34 Concerning the damage inflicted by the bombardment, Shaler made this entry in his Journal:

Wednesday 28. Daylight exhibits the condition of the Consular House. One room is completely destroyed by a shell, two others are in ruins, and a 3d and 4th very much damaged. My cabinet alone has escaped. Every part of the town appears to have suffered from shot and shells. The marine batteries are  p185 in ruins, and may be occupied without any effort. Lord Exmouth holds the fate of Algiers in his hands.35

The Dey was forced to agree to all of Exmouth's demands, one of which was the release of about eleven hundred captives, and another, the complete abolition of Christian slavery at Algiers.36

While the Algerines were still in considerable confusion as a result of Exmouth's attack, a large American squadron under the command of Commodore Chauncey appeared on the scene. Many Algerines fled to the country, while bolder residents made preparations to resist an anticipated attack. After assuring the Dey that Chauncey's visit was a friendly one, Shaler had a conference with the Commodore, and each agreed that it would be advisable to regard the treaty of May, 1815, as having been annulled by the Dey. They had not yet, however, received instructions necessary to the carrying on of further negotiations; consequently they decided to go to Gibraltar to await instructions and the President's letter to the Dey.37

Upon receipt of these messages, the two commissioners returned to Algiers, arriving there December 8, 1816. Because of stormy weather it did not seem expedient for Commodore Chauncey to go ashore; consequently Shaler alone represented the United States in the negotiations with the Dey. On December 9, the Dey was sent a letter which constituted the commissioners' ultimatum. It defended the conduct of the United States with respects to the restored frigate and brig; denied the Dey's right to reject the treaty; refused recognition of a provision in the Algerine copy of the treaty, obligating the United States to make consular presents; and proposed a modification of Article XVIII in order to give the United States  p186 no advantage over the most favored nations regarding prizes which might be brought to Algiers. Shaler began negotiations on this basis, December 17, and although the Dey sought by every artifice to avoid complying with the terms of the ultimatum, he eventually found it necessary to yield. The only concession he could obtain, was a certificate stating that he had signed the treaty under compulsion. Shaler concluded the negotiations on December 22 and 23, and in January the renewed treaty was sent to the United States. Due to an oversight, however, final action was not taken until 1822. Ratification was advised by the Senate, February 1, 1822, and ten days later the treaty was proclaimed.38

The United States had no further disputes of consequence with any of the Barbary Powers. The former continued to expend considerable sums for "intercourse" with the latter, but unlike a number of European countries, did not again pay annual tribute.39


The Author's Notes:

1 Despatches, TunisIV, R. Keene to M. M. Noah, May 22, 1814. "The Algerine squadron," wrote Keene, "is composed of four frigates, four corvettes, three sloops of war, a Greek prize ship and some paltry force in gunboats."

[decorative delimiter]

2 Monroe Papers, XIV, W. H. Crawford to Monroe, Feb. 21, 1815.

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3 A. S. Mackenzie, Life of Decatur, p242.

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4 Ibid., pp242‑43.

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5 Monroe Papers, V, Monroe's instructions to Shaler, Decatur, and Bainbridge, April 10, 1815; Madison Papers, LV, Copy of Decatur's commission to operate against the Algerines, April 15, 1815.

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6 Mackenzie, op. cit., p245.

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7 Allen, Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, pp282‑83.

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8 Ibid., p284.

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9 Ibid., p285.

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10 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, Aug. 30 to Nov. 4, 1815.

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11 Despatches, TunisIV, R. Keene to M. M. Noah, May 22, 1814.

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12 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., IV, 4‑7, Account of negotiations outlined by Decatur and Shaler to Monroe; also a copy of the treaty.

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13 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, July 5, 1815.

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14 Ibid.

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15 Allen, op. cit., p289; Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, Nov. 6, 1815.

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16 Allen, op. cit., p290.

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17 Ibid.

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18 Ibid.

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19 Thos. Harris, Life and Services of Commodore William Bainbridge, pp199‑202.

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20 Allen, op. cit., pp292‑94; U. S. Ministers, InstructionsVII, Monroe to Bainbridge and Decatur, Dec. 5, 1815.

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21 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler's Journal, March 31 ff., 1816.

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22 Allen, op. cit., p295; Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, May 14‑30, 1816.

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23 A. S. Mackenzie, Life of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, II, 115.

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24 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, July 28, 1815.

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25 Ibid., Shaler to Monroe, Sept. 22 and Nov. 4, 1815.

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26 Ibid., Shaler to Monroe, April 8, 1816.

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27 Ibid., Shaler to Monroe, April 15, 1816.

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28 Allen, op. cit., p296.

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29 Monroe Papers, XV, Chevalier de Onis to Monroe, July 5, 1816.

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30 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler to Monroe, June 29, 1816.

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31 Ibid., Commodore Shaw to the Dey of Algiers, April 12, 1816; John Norderling to Shaw, April 12, 1816.

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32 Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, p118; Madison Papers, VII, Madison to Dey of Algiers, August 21, 1816.

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33 Monroe Papers, XV, Madison to Monroe, June 25, 1816.

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34 Despatches, AlgiersIX, Shaler's Journal, July 22‑28, 1816.

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35 Ibid., Entry in Shaler's Journal, Aug. 28, 1816.

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36 Ibid., Shaler to Monroe, Sept. 3, 1816.

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37 Ibid., Shaler to Monroe, Oct. 20, 1816.

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38 Shaler, Sketches of Algiers, pp149‑53, 276‑78, 295‑300; Treaties and Conventions (comp. Malloy), I, 11; Allen, op. cit., pp299‑300.

[decorative delimiter]

39 Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, pp300‑1, with numerous references; Allen, op. cit., p301. A portion of the funds set aside for "intercourse" was employed in the purchase of presents. Naples, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark continued to pay a definite tribute.


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