Soon after the establishment of the new general government a stronger Barbary policy was forecast. On December 30, 1790, President Washington laid before Congress a report on the American captives in Algiers, and at the same time urged that provision be made for their relief.1 A committee to which this matter was referred soon expressed an opinion that American interests in the Mediterranean could be protected only by a naval force and that this should be provided "as soon as the state of the public finances will admit."2 Since the process of stabilization required time for its completion, Congress did not immediately take steps to carry out this recommendation. With the exception of a half-hearted attempt to secure Dutch coöperation, in 1791,3 the new government temporarily pursued a Mediterranean policy somewhat similar to that of the Confederation Congress.
Reports from Algiers and France in 1790 and 1791 represented the time as propitious for treating with the Dey. Richard O'Brien wrote that the affairs of America's p55 "three powerful enemies in Algiers, viz.: French and Spaniards, and the most inveterate . . . the English," were very unsettled in that regency, and that their influence there had been materially decreased.4 Furthermore, the death of Mohamet Pasha in 1791 and the succession of a former minister, Hasan Pasha, who seemed more liberally disposed toward the United States, gave additional hope for success.5 O'Brien estimated, however, that the United States would be required to pay $34,450 for ransom of prisoners, and fifty or sixty thousand pounds sterling for peace.6
On May 8, 1792, the President asked the Senate whether it would approve the following agreements: (1) a treaty or convention with Algiers for the ransom of thirteen Americans at an expense of forty thousand dollars, and (2) a treaty or convention with that government for a peace costing not more than twenty-five thousand dollars at the time of ratification and the same sum annually thereafter.7 The Senate answered in the affirmative, and even indicated a willingness to approve the payment of p56 forty thousand dollars for peace, with annual payments thereafter not in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars.8
On the day the Senate passed this resolution Congress appropriated fifty thousand dollars to defray the expenses of an envoy to Algiers. John Paul Jones was then appointed to negotiate with the Dey and to serve as consul in Algiers. On June 1 Jefferson sent Jones his commission.9 The prospective envoy was instructed to form an agreement relative to ransom without obtaining a treaty of peace. For the latter he should not agree to the providing of any maritime stores because these would make the Algerines more formidable opponents in the event of war. The question then was, what sum of money should be paid annually for a treaty of peace? "We should be pleased," wrote Jefferson, "with 10,000 dollars, contented with 15,000, think 20,000 a very hard bargain, yet go as far as 25,000."10 For the ransom of all American captives in Algiers Jones was authorized to pay twenty-seven thousand dollars as the "ultimate limit."11
Jefferson placed this commission in the hands of Thomas Pinckney,12 with instructions that he transfer it to Thomas Barclay in case the services of Jones were not available. Arriving at London, Pinckney learned that Jones had recently died. Then followed a considerable delay in transmitting the commission to Barclay, who upon receipt of it prepared to go to Algiers. While engaged in these preparations, he, too, became ill and died.13
These unfortunate events necessitated the selection of another agent. Late in March, therefore, a commission was given to David Humphreys, the United States minister to Portugal, to perform the task previously assigned to Jones and Barclay. Captain Nathanael Cutting was p57 about the same time appointed to serve as Humphreys' secretary. The instructions given the latter were essentially the same as those sent to Jones and Barclay. One change was made relative to payments in naval stores. Humphreys was informed that if the Algerine government refused to make peace or to release the prisoners on any conditions other than the delivery of such stores, he might agree to an initial payment in that form and reserve "the right to make the subsequent annual payments in money."14 Due to the inability of Cutting to obtain early transportation from London to Portugal, Humphreys did not receive his commission until September.15
Soon after Cutting reached Lisbon, Humphreys was ready to depart for Algiers. On September 13 he wrote to the Secretary of State that he had chartered a Swedish vessel to convey him to Gibraltar, and that his eagerness to start would not permit him to be detained one moment longer than was absolutely necessary.16 A few days later he and Cutting reached Gibraltar. Here they were engaged in unpacking and selecting presents, which Barclay had bought, when they learned that a Portuguese-Algerine truce had been formed.17
As early as November 12, 1792, Richard O'Brien had predicted the formation of such a truce. In a letter bearing that date he had informed Humphreys that the Spanish consul had recently urged the Dey to make peace with Portugal, and had given assurance that "money on the part of Portugal should not be wanting." The Dey had, according to O'Brien, been favorably impressed and had promised to see what could be done to effect an agreement as soon as the corsairs returned from their latest cruise.18 The letter ended with an appeal for the United States to p58 take every precaution against Algerine depredations in case the Portuguese squadron permitted the corsairs to pass the Straits. This communication caused Humphreys to interview the Portuguese Secretary of State, who stated that he had heard nothing about a proposed peace with Algiers, and that the report might therefore be dismissed as being without foundation.19 In spite of this comforting assurance, however, the dreaded truce was formed, through the agency of William Logie, the English consul of Algiers.20 When called upon to explain his action, Logie's answer was that the Portuguese Court had "earnestly" requested him to form the truce.21 An investigation made by Thomas Pinckney in London elicited from Lord Grenville the statement that the Court of Portugal had applied to the English government to procure for Portugal a peace with the Algerines, "and that Mr. Logie had been instructed to use his endeavors to effect this purpose." Logie, unable to establish a peace, had concluded a truce which was, according to Grenville, "particularly advantageous" for England, inasmuch as it would enable the Portuguese fleet to coöperate with that of England "against their common enemy." By rendering what was conceived to be this service to a good ally, the minister p59 continued, no intention was harbored of injuring the United States.22 Certain other reports, however, did not coincide with the statement issued by Grenville. The Portuguese envoy in London assured Pinckney that Logie had concluded the truce without the knowledge of the Portuguese Court.23 On October 12, Edward Church, United States consul at Lisbon, had a conference with the Portuguese Secretary of State, Luiz Pinto de Souza, who announced that a truce had not been expected by the government of Portugal and was not agreeable to it. He said that about six months previously his court had expressed to those of England and Spain the desirability of coöperation in establishing peace between Portugal and Algiers "but having appointed no person directly or indirectly to negotiate in behalf of her Majesty, they considered the business as only in embryo."24 The Portuguese minister of marine declared that he "would suffer his head to be cut off before he would consent to give any money to obtain a peace from the Regency of Algiers";25 and the court informed the English envoy at Lisbon that it was "the determination of her Most Faithful Majesty not to pay one farthing."26 A most damaging charge against Logie was p60 made by a Mr. Sloan, who was in Algiers at the time the truce was being negotiated. He said that he was present at some of the meetings between Logie and the Dey, and that he had seen the former giving instructions to the Algerine captains as to where they should cruise in order to capture American vessels. Logie, according to Sloan, guaranteed that the Algerines could "catch a dozen" of these within a month "provided they would follow his direction."27
In spite of a warning28 issued by Humphreys to Americans engaged in shipping, and despite the steps taken to secure convoys for vessels in European ports,29 the truce proved most disastrous. Insurance rates on American shipping immediately leaped from ten to thirty per cent.30 Furthermore, the Algerine cruise beyond the Straits netted the corsairs at least eleven American vessels during the months of October and November and increased the number of American prisoners to one hundred and nineteen.31
To these misfortunes was added another relative to the opening of negotiations with the Dey. Humphreys, upon learning about the truce, had hastened to Alicante, whence he despatched his credentials to Algiers in care of the Swedish consul, M. Skjöldebrand.32 Fearing political complications p61 which might arise if he himself engaged in the business, the consul authorized his brother to serve as mediator between Humphreys and the Dey.33 The credentials were presented but the Dey flatly refused to receive an American envoy. The Swedish consul's brother reported him as saying that if the United States were to pay him millions he would not negotiate with them. The prospect of peace with the Dutch and Portuguese, he observed, made it necessary to provide employment for his corsairs and soldiers; if these could not seek prizes, they would take off the head of the Dey.34 O'Brien reported Logie as informing him that the Dey had said he had no confidence in the Americans, and if they desired an evolution to be received in Algiers, he must first secure a letter "from the King of England."35
The situation was such that Humphreys abandoned hope of proceeding in the near future to Algiers. It was his expectation, in fact, that within another year the corsairs would "infest the channels of England and even the coasts of America."36 He therefore returned to Portugal after sending condolences to the captives and authorizing Robert Montgomery to expend a limited sum in lessening their hardships.37 Those unfortunates, when not confined in two slave prisons along with hundreds of prisoners of other p62 countries, were being compelled to perform the most laborious tasks. More terrible still, was the menace of the approaching plague.38
In the meantime despatches regarding the truce and the disaster which had followed were creating a sensation in America. In Congress responsibility and motives were freely discussed, and methods of dealing with the situation were hotly debated. Hardly a member of the House of Representatives expressed a conviction that the British government had been guiltless of exciting the Algerines against the United States, and many openly charged it with guilt. One member asserted that the English minister at Lisbon, far from being satisfied with the formation of a truce whereby the Algerines might attack American commerce, had sought to prevent American vessels from obtaining a Portuguese convoy.39 Another member stated that he would as soon question the existence of a set of resolutions then before the House as to question English guilt relative to an instigation of the Algerines against American commerce.40 A third member saw in the truce another manifestation of "the usual systematic enmity of Great Britain to the rising commerce of the United States."41 Motives suggested by certain other representatives were a desire to prevent the shipping of supplies to France; the need to equalize English and American insurance rates; and the desirability of checking the desertion of seamen from the British to the American merchant marine.42
In sharp contrast to the members' attitude towards England was that towards Portugal. Only one representative appears to have expressed a belief that the truce had been p63 formed with the knowledge and consent of the Portuguese government.43 A number of them, however, placed such confidence in Portugal's good faith that they sought to have an appropriation made for the purpose of subsidizing the Portuguese in their contest with the Algerines.44 Madison offered a resolution to that effect, but at the end of a long debate it was defeated, apparently for the following reasons: (1) It was thought that British influence would prevent Portugal from giving the desired assistance. (2) It was regarded as humiliating to grant a subsidy to Portugal and thereby "tell her that Americans could not protect themselves." (3) There was a growing conviction that the United States should have a navy of its own.45
While Congress was engaged in wrestling with the Algerine problem the newspapers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia devoted many columns to the crisis which the truce had precipitated. Of editorial comment there seems to have been practically none but there appeared in print many letters from Portugal, Algiers, and various parts of the United States; also resolutions and accounts of the activities of certain patriotic or political organizations. In large measure this material dealt with the part which England had played in connection with the truce. One communication, from Representative Bailey of New York, referred to the Algerines as "British bulldogs,"46 and another from a man in Lisbon asserted that the sole aim of England in forming the truce had been "to let loose those hell-hounds upon us."47 A third contributor saw in the truce "an iniquitous and diabolical plan of the British government . . . to destroy the Liberties of America."48 p64 Still another writer, who referred to himself as the "Ghost of Montgomery," represented British policy as one "of ransacking . . . the barbarous shores of Africa, to let loose the outcast of mankind to cut our throats."49 A letter "from an American abroad" contained a similar indictment, and ended with these words: "If still the English and their cursed corrupt government find advocates in America, heaven keep me forever far from my native country."50 The numerous critics of Great Britain were divided in opinion as to the course which should be pursued. Some saw no alternative to war with England; others favored the formation of non‑importation agreements, or urged the creation of a naval armament to be employed against the Algerines.51
During the early part of 1794 Congress decided to supplement amicable Barbary negotiations with force. A resolution looking towards the creation of a naval armament for protection against the Algerines was introduced on January 2, 1794. It was passed, although by a majority of only two votes.52 In the ensuing debates over a bill based on this resolution the opponents and advocates of a navy employed a great variety of arguments. Those who were opposed to the bill argued that the expense incurred in providing an adequate naval force would be too great; that the time required for constructing vessels would be too long; that no friendly ports for an American naval squadron could be found in Europe; that Great Britain would subsidize the Algerines; that wars p65 with maritime powers other than Algiers would result; that it would be preferable to pay Portugal to secure protection for American commerce; that seamen would be removed from productive employment if a navy were formed; and that the Algerines would deal more harshly with captured Americans if the United States showed a disposition to fight.53 The advocates of the bill, on the other hand, contended that the contemplated armament was large enough, or could be made so without great difficulty. Reports from Algiers, it was said, had shown that the number of Algerine vessels was not large, and that they did not sail in fleets. Nor should it be anticipated that other countries would interfere and attempt to thwart the efforts of the Americans. The idea that friendly ports could not be found in Europe was represented as absurd, and emphasis was placed on the aid that Portugal had given in providing convoys for American vessels since the formation of the Portuguese-Algerine truce. The ability of the United States to purchase a satisfactory peace from Algiers was questioned, as was the expediency of such a course. It was furthermore contended that paying the Portuguese to fight the battles of the United States was not compatible with national dignity, and that all sentiments of humanity called for Americans to secure the release of their compatriots imprisoned at Algiers.54
On March 10 the bill passed in the House of Representatives by a majority of eleven,55 was soon approved by the p66 Senate,56 and on March 27 became law.57 Section I authorized the President to provide an armament consisting of four ships carrying forty-four guns each and two carrying thirty‑six each. Section V empowered him to provide in lieu of the six vessels a naval force which in the whole would not exceed that indicated in Section I; but no ship should be equipped with less than thirty‑two guns. Section IX contained a proviso to the effect that if the United States should conclude a peace with Algiers, the creation of a naval armament under this act should be stopped.58
President Washington immediately took steps to have six vessels built at various American ports.59 Plans submitted by Joshua Humphreys, a famous shipbuilder of Philadelphia, were accepted, and the construction was soon under way.60
To recapitulate, a number of significant developments occurred in the relations just described. (1) The United States government had, between 1790‑1794, taken the following stand regarding the protection of American interests in the Mediterranean: (a) admitting that American p67 commerce in that sea would never be secure without the use of a naval force, it had postponed the beginning of such an armament until the country's finances were improved; (b) while awaiting this improvement it proposed to negotiate with the Barbary powers, purchasing a peace at the expense, if necessary, of an annual tribute. The administration had, accordingly, instructed its agents to negotiate a treaty with Algiers, and in the early autumn of 1793 Humphreys had started on a mission to that regency. (2) While these preparations were being made Consul Logie had formed the Portuguese-Algerine truce. The evidence submitted above indicates that although the Portuguese government had desired the coöperation of England in making peace with Algiers, the project had been "in embryo" at the time the truce was established; no agent had been appointed as mediator and no understanding had been arrived at between the English and Portuguese governments relative to peace or an armistice. The English government had, however, used the expression of desire on the part of the Portuguese government to make peace with Algiers as one of the bases for its instructions to Consul Logie. That official had thereupon formed a truce which was guaranteed by England and which would have imposed upon Portugal a large financial obligation in the event of peace. Immediately following the formation of the truce the corsairs had used a copy of it as a passport into the Atlantic and had captured over one hundred Americans. Although Logie and his superior officer, Lord Grenville, had disclaimed any intention on the part of English officials to injure Americans by the truce, there was the testimony of one individual to the effect that he had heard Logie plotting with the Algerines against the United States. If it be granted, however, that there is not sufficient evidence to prove a conscious attempt on the part of any Englishmen to bring about these specific piracies, there remains the very substantial charge of criminal p68 negligence in failing to issue a warning in order to reduce them to a minimum. (3) The United States had, after the formation of the disastrous truce, encountered another obstacle in the Dey's refusal to negotiate. The reasons which he had given for such a course were American untrustworthiness and the necessity of providing constant employment for his corsairs. (4) Early in 1794 the United States government had become sufficiently aroused by the Algerine situation to authorize the construction of a small naval armament. The measure was not, however, overwhelmingly supported in Congress. New England representatives were, on the whole, its staunchest friends; southern members were, with few exceptions, its enemies. It was passed in the House by a majority of only eleven votes, and with the proviso that in the event of peace with Algiers its operation should immediately be suspended.
2 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 108. In Wm. Maclay's Journal, pp378, 383, there appear the following statements which indicate the nature of the opposition to an army and navy in 1790‑1791: "The trifling affair of our having eleven captives at Algiers (who ought long ago to have been ransomed) is made the press for going to war with them and fitting out a fleet." Elsewhere, p383, he writes: "It is the design of the court party to have a fleet and an army. This is but the entering wedge of a new monarchy in America."
3 Buell, Paul Jones, II, 285‑87. In July, 1791, Jefferson wrote to John Paul Jones to seek the aid of Holland in bringing the Algerines to terms by means of a combined Dutch and American naval squadron. Jones received little encouragement; therefore the matter was dropped.
4 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 117. O'Brien in this letter to William Carmichael wrote that France had recently almost lost its treaty with Algiers, that British affairs were "very unsettled," and that Spain would have great difficulty in maintaining the treaty of 1785.
5 Ibid. Five years later, 1796, Joel Barlow characterized Hasan Pasha in the following words: "The Dey is a man of a most ungovernable temper, passionate, changeable, and unjust to such a degree that there is no calculating his policy from one moment to the next. During the reign of the late Dey, who died in 1791, this man held some of the first offices of State, and made himself vastly rich, particularly by the Spanish peace, which was the richest treaty they ever made. . . . By a proper distribution of money among the chiefs of the Turks, this man procured his nomination . . . to the Deylik the moment his predecessor expired. He then caused to be arrested and banished or put to death the principal officers of state who had served under the old Dey, and created a new set of favorites, men who are mere ciphers in his council. . . ." Todd, Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, p123.
6 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 129, 130.
7 Ibid., I, 290.
9 Ibid., I, 136.
10 Ibid., I, 291.
11 Ibid., I, 292.
12 Then preparing to sail to England.
13 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 293.
14 Ibid., I, 293.
16 Despatches, Portugal, III, Humphreys to Sec. of State, Sept. 13, 1793.
17 Ibid., III, Humphreys to Sec. of State, Oct. 6, 1793.
18 Ibid., III, O'Brien to Humphreys, Nov. 12, 1792.
19 Ibid., Humphreys to Sec. of State, Jan. 17, 1793.
20 Sept. 12, 1793. See Despatches, Gibraltar, I, Simpson to Jefferson, Oct. 8, 1793. The truce was to last twelve months and obligated Portugal to give the Dey one‑third the amount paid annually by Spain. See also, Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 296. Edw. Church to Sec. of State, Oct. 12, 1793. The Dey required that this obligation of Portugal be guaranteed by the English government.
21 Despatches, Algiers, I, Cutting to Sec. of State, April 15, 1794. A portion of Cutting's report from Lisbon ran as follows: "The known and immediate agent in this infernal conspiracy against our peace and prosperity is at this instant walking in the garden beneath my window with all the apparent composure and self-complacency that can be inspired by successful villainy. Mr. Logie, late the British Consul at Algiers, who, unsolicited by the Court of Portugal, negotiated the fatal truce. . . . He asserts that this court earnestly put him to it; — but I do not believe him."
22 Despatches, England, III, Pinckney to Sec. of State, Nov. 25, 1793.
23 Ibid., III, Pinckney to Sec. of State, Dec. 17, 1793. This communication ran in part as follows: "He [the Portuguese envoy] told me expressly that the truce had been made by the British consul without the knowledge of his [the Portuguese] court, and that the first information they received of it was from the Algerine cruisers themselves when they met the Portuguese fleet, which was preparing to attack them, when they produced the truce expedited by Mr. Logie."
24 Despatches, Lisbon, I, Church to Sec. of State, Oct. 12, 1793. The Portuguese minister stated, wrote Church, that the English government had "very officiously authorized Charles Logie . . . not only to treat, but to conclude, for and in behalf of this Court, not only without any authority, but even without consulting it."
25 Despatches, Portugal, IV, Humphreys to O'Brien, Nov. 24, 1793.
26 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 296, Edw. Church to Sec. of State, Oct. 12, 1793.
27 Todd, Life and Letters of Joel Barlow, pp120, 121, Barlow to Monroe, early in 1796. Sloan, an American, was for a time a prisoner in Algiers. He was Barlow's secretary after having served as interpreter for Donaldson.
28 Despatches, Lisbon, I, Proclamation issued by Humphreys, Oct. 8, 1793. This was addressed "to all governers,º magistrates, officers civil, military and others concerned in the United States of America."
29 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, Church to Luiz Pinto de Souza, Oct. 21, 1793.
30 Despatches, Algiers, I, Nathanael Skinner to Sec. of State, Oct. 15, 1793.
31 For names of these vessels, their captains, nature of cargoes, etc., see Despatches, Gibraltar, I, statement issued by James Simpson in 1793.
32 Despatches, Portugal, III, Humphreys, to M. Skjöldebrand, Nov. 5, 1793.
33 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 414, M. Skjöldebrand to Humphreys, Nov. 13, 1793. The consul's brother, P. E. Skjöldebrand, was not a government official.
34 Ibid., I, 414, P. E. Skjöldebrand to Humphreys, Nov. 13, 1793.
35 Despatches, Portugal, IV, O'Brien here reported Logie as having stated that the Dey had asked him to inform Humphreys about this prerequisite, but that he declined the request on the ground that Humphreys corresponded with the Swedish consul at Algiers.
36 Despatches, Portugal, IV, Humphreys to Sec. of State, Nov. 23, 1793.
37 Ibid., IV, Humphreys to Montgomery, Dec. 10, 1793. Humphreys transferred forty thousand dollars to Montgomery, and instructed him to use it as follows: to provide each prisoner with a complete suit of clothes; to transmit regularly each month, eight dollars to the captains, six to each mate, and at the rate of twelve cents per day to each seaman; also to repay the amounts expended by the Skjöldebrands for relief of the prisoners.
38 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 421, 422, Petition of the Captives to the U. S. House of Representatives, Dec. 29, 1793.
39 Debates and Proceedings in Congress, Dec. 2, 1793–Mar. 3, 1795, p439.
40 Ibid., p445.
42 Ibid., p446.
43 Ibid., Statement made by Mr. Wm. Smith (S. C.), Feb. 10, 1794.
44 Ibid., pp433, 439, 445, 446.
45 Ibid., pp436, 445.
46 American Minerva, Feb. 12, 1794.
47 Gazette of the U. S. and Daily Advertiser, Jan. 4, 1794.
48 General Advertiser, Jan. 7, 1794.
49 Boston Gazette, March 26, 1794, reprinting an appeal from the Albany Gazette.
50 American Minerva, Jan. 1, 1794.
51 General Advertiser, Jan. 6 and 7, 1794; Gazette of the U. S. and Daily Advertiser, Jan. 4, 1794; Mass. Spy, Nov. 19, 1794. For activities of various societies see New York Journal and Patriotic Register, May 21, 1794; Gazette of the U. S. and Daily Advertiser, July 24, 1794; Boston Gazette, Feb. 3, 1794.
52 Debates and Proceedings in Congress, 3 Cong., 1‑2 Sess., 1793‑1795, Jan. 2, 1794.
53 Ibid., 3 Cong., 1‑2 Sess., 1793‑, Feb. 6–March 10, 1794; Benton, Abridgment of the Debates in Congress (T. H. Benton, ed.) I, 475‑82.
54 Debates and Proceedings in Congress, 3 Cong., 1‑2 Sess., 1793‑1795, Feb. 6–March 10, 1794. Abridgment of Debates in Congress, I, 475‑82; Goldsborough, U. S. Naval Chronicle, p56; Maclay, Hist. of U. S. Navy, I, 157 ff.
55 Abridgment of Debates in Congress, I, 441, 482. The vote was as follows:
56 March 19, 1794, Debates and Proceedings in Congress, 3 Cong., 1‑2 Sess., 1793‑1795, March 19, 1794. The division in the Senate is not indicated.
57 U. S. Statutes at Large, I, 350.
|Portsmouth, N. H.||one||36|
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
U. S. Relations
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 18 Oct 15