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Chapter 5

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,
please let me know!

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Chapter 7
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p82  Chapter VI

Treaties with
Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis,
1791‑1799


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Before Barlow ended his labors in Algiers some important negotiations were concluded between the United States and Morocco. The death of the Emperor, Sidi Mohamet, necessitated a renewal of the treaty of 1787; consequently in 1791 Congress appropriated $20,000 for that purpose. On May 13 of the same year Thomas Barclay was commissioned consul to Morocco and was instructed to renew the treaty.1 After collecting presents, so essential to the success of negotiations in Barbary, he started on his mission. While en route, however, he learned that the newly elevated Emperor had been killed in civil strife. Barclay, therefore, decided that conditions were too unsettled in Morocco to justify his going thither.2 While waiting in Europe for the end of hostilities, he became ill and died.3

Muley Soliman, one of the claimants to the succession, gradually overcame his rivals;4 then, in 1795, he threatened to seize vessels belonging to countries which did not send envoys to treat with him.5 This gesture resulted in  p83 the mission of James Simpson, United States consul to Gibraltar, to renew the treaty.6

Simpson had his first conference with the Emperor in July and on that occasion gave him presents, consisting chiefly of field pieces, small arms, and gunpowder.7 This done, he brought up the question of renewing the treaty, only to discover that no arabicº copy could be found. He therefore had made a translation of his English version and presented it to the Emperor.8

The only obstacle to a renewal of the treaty was Muley Soliman's demand for tribute. "What sum," he inquired after reading the treaty, "would be agreeable to the United States to pay annually?"9 Simpson replied that he was positive his government would pay no tribute. Whereupon the Emperor said that "as the American will not agree to pay anything yearly, he must get ready to return from whence he came."10 Simpson strove for additional time and finally secured permission to remain in Morocco until he could receive an opinion from Humphreys regarding tribute.11

Fortunately for the United States, the Emperor soon found it necessary to go to another part of his dominions to quell an insurrection. Before his departure he called Simpson before him and announced that he was ready to  p84 renew the treaty. "The Americans," he said, "I find, are the Christian nation my father most esteemed. I am the same with them as my father was, and I trust they will be so with me."12

Obtaining a treaty from Tripoli was a more difficult and expensive task. The young Pasha, Yusuf Karamanli, was extremely militant, and apparently hoped to rival the Dey of Algiers in power.13 In September, 1796, his corsairs brought to Tripoli two American vessels. Happily, the brig "Sophia," one of the vessels captured, with O'Brien on board sailed under the protection of an Algerine passport, and the Pasha ordered her released.14 The incident resulted in the Dey's sending a very sharp letter to the Pasha, demanding that he make peace with the United States for $40,000.15

In October, 1796, O'Brien was commissioned to form a treaty, and on November 1 arrived in the "Sophia" at Tripoli.16 He immediately called upon a Jew named Farfara, and upon the French, Swedish, Danish, and Spanish consuls. This ceremony concluded, he obtained an audience with the Pasha.17

The first conference provided ample proof of Yusuf's jealousy and avarice. He remarked that the Dey and the Americans had become "great friends," and said he had  p85 heard that the United States would give Tunis more than $60,000 in addition to maritime and military stores.18 O'Brien assured him that the sum offered Tunis was far less than this, and that since the Dey was responsible to Tunis for it, nobody could foretell when, "if ever," the Bey would receive it. The situation respecting the $40,000 which the United States had decided to pay the Pasha was very different; the money was on board the "Sophia" and could be delivered immediately.19 The Spanish consul, who was present at the conference, joined O'Brien in urging an acceptance of the offer. The Pasha refused on the ground that compliance would prevent his capturing "several American vessels."20

Subsequent interviews, which were attended with a great amount of bargaining, ended on November 4 with the formation of a treaty. The Pasha had insisted upon a regalia of maritime and military stores and an annual tribute in addition to the $40,000. A compromise was at length effected when he accepted O'Brien's offer of $12,000 "in lieu of all demands as to maritime and military stores, all peace and consular presents."21 Somewhat later a sum of one thousand dollars was set aside for the chief officer of the Tripolitan marine. O'Brien's estimate of the total cost of the treaty was $56,486.22 It contained twelve articles, most of which were similar to those of the treaties with Algiers and Morocco.23 Articles I and XII provided that the Dey of Algiers should guarantee a preservation of the treaty and should aid in the adjustments of disputes which might arise between the contracting powers.24 O'Brien temporarily entrusted the management  p86 of American affairs in Tripoli to Captain Joseph Ingraham and then conveyed the treaty to Algiers.25 There it received the signature of Barlow and of the Dey. On February 10, 1797, Humphreys approved it, and on June 10, it was ratified by the Senate.26

In the meantime Barlow was negotiating with the Bey of Tunis.27 He engaged Joseph Famin, a French merchant and a resident of Tunis, to assist him in concluding a treaty. Famin secured a six months' truce,28 but about the time it went into effect the Tunisians captured the American schooner "Eliza."29 The Bey then demanded a $10,000 ransom for the vessel and crew. These circumstances caused Barlow to appeal to the Dey of Algiers.

With an American vessel and her crew of nine men30 in his possession the Bey was in an advantageous position. Letters from Barlow and the Dey urging him to accept $50,000 for peace and ransom produced no response.31 When O'Brien arrived at Tunis in October, 17965, the Bey announced his price as $140,000 in money and presents. O'Brien suggested that the United States might possibly pay $101,350; whereupon the Bey reduced his demands to $107,000. This sum, he said, was "trifling" by comparison with what the United States had agreed to pay Algiers. Finding it impossible to secure a further reduction, O'Brien proceeded to Tripoli.32

The Dey of Algiers now threatened to compel Tunis to make peace with the United States. He promised to give  p87 passports to all American vessels and to exact "fourfold the value" of any damage the Bey might do to American shipping.33 He threatened, also, to secure an order from the Grand Seignior requiring the Bey to form a treaty without any compensation and proposed to enforce the order himself.34 That Barlow did not accept these statements at their face value is indicated by his willingness to offer "as much as $80,000 to settle the business."35 O'Brien returned to Tunis early in December only to meet with a rejection of Barlow's offer.36

The Dey at this juncture made war on Tunis, and in December Barlow wrote exultantly that "fifty thousand ambassadors" had been sent from Algiers to settle American affairs in Tunis.37 Although the Dey asserted that his attack was for the sole purpose of securing a treaty for the United States, it may reasonably be supposed that the plundering of a shipwrecked Algerine vessel by Tunisians was an important contributing factor.38 Within a very short time these warlike measures were abandoned. The Bey made presents and "other concessions";39 whereupon the Dey withdrew his troops, assuring Barlow at the time that the contest was only adjourned.40 "Thus," wrote Barlow in August, "ended the conquest of Tunis. I have heard not a word of it since."41

About this time that Barlow despaired of receiving further aid from Algiers, Joseph Famin concluded a treaty with the Bey.42 The expense was estimated at $107,000,  p88 the sum for which the Bey had long contended.43 Humphreys approved the treaty in November and forwarded it to the State Department.44 The Senate advised ratification, with certain reservations, on March 6, 1798.45

The articles most seriously objected to were XI, XII, and XIV. Article XI required the United States to pay Tunis one barrel of gunpowder for every gun fired in saluting an American warship. Article XII permitted the Bey to use American vessels at his option and upon payment of whatever sum he wished. Article XIV imposed a ten per cent duty upon American goods taken to Tunis, and a maximum of three per cent on Tunisian goods brought into the United States. On March 3, 1798, the Secretary of State wrote to Humphreys that the portion of Article XII relative to impressment of American vessels would be the means for "the most injurious and galling oppression."46 He also stressed the lack of reciprocity in duties provided for by Article XIV.47 This was the only article which the Senate absolutely refused to ratify.48 Famin was suspected of having inserted it for his personal gain. He was reputed to be interested in trade with the Levant and India and might profit greatly by shipping goods to America upon payment of only a three per cent  p89 duty.49 Barlow wrote that the obnoxious clauses in Articles XI and XIV had not appeared in the plan of a treaty which Famin had sent him in April, 1797.50

On December 18, 1798, O'Brien, Cathcart, and William Eaton were commissioned to secure alterations of the treaty.51 O'Brien was then Consul-General of the United States for the Barbary coast; Cathcart and Eaton had been appointed consuls to Tripoli and Tunis respectively.52 Of the three men Eaton alone lacked first‑hand experience in Barbary affairs. Through his activities in other fields, however, he had acquired a reputation for courage, capacity, and integrity.53 After leaving America on board the "Sophia," December 22, Cathcart and Eaton went to Algiers. Here they remained for several weeks with O'Brien; then, on March 2, they sailed to Tunis.54 Two weeks later they had their first interview with the Bey.

Hamuda Pasha was on this occasion in no amiable mood. One reason for his dissatisfaction was that the Americans had appeared in Tunis so unexpectedly that no opportunity was provided of giving them an artillery salute. He was also displeased because certain military and naval stores which had been promised him when the treaty was formed had not arrived. The Americans assured him that they had required no salute because they were ignorant of Tunisian customs.55 With respect to the "regalia" of stores, they stated that pestilence, war, cold weather, and  p90 certain unsatisfactory articles of the treaty were responsible for the delay.56 They then indicated the articles in question and proposed amendments to them. If the Bey approved this change, they said, the United States would pay him a cash equivalent in lieu of stores. Hamuda retorted that he had an abundance of cash but that he needed military and naval equipment. "You have no difficulty," he said, "in fulfilling your engagements with Algiers and Tripoli; and to the former have very liberally made presents of frigates and other armed vessels."57 When the Americans protested that the Dey had agreed to pay for these, the Bey replied that he was "at liberty to believe otherwise."58

In the course of later interviews Eaton and Cathcart secured alteration of the objectionable articles. The twelfth was modified in such a manner that while it permitted the government of Tunis to impress an American merchantman into service of that country, it required the payment of a "suitable freight." Furthermore, vessels belonging to the United States government were to be exempt from such impressment.59 The alteration of Article XI required a longer negotiation. The Bey would permit an amendment only on condition that the United States make him an annual present of fifty barrels of powder. To this the envoys would not agree because it would make their nation tributary to Tunis. After quite a bit of haggling the Bey agreed that the article should be made reciprocal, or completely expunged.60 As finally amended it provided that unless a salute was demanded none should be given.61 Eaton and Cathcart next sought to have Article  p91 XIV amended in such a way that trade between the United States and Tunis would be on the most favored nation basis. The Bey objected on the ground that he did not know what duties were paid in the United States.62 He finally proposed that the duties paid by Americans trading in Tunis would "countervail" those paid by Tunisian merchants in the United States.63 These alterations proved acceptable to the Senate, and on January 10, 1800, the treaty was ratified.64

There were at least four outstanding results of the foregoing negotiations with Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis: (1) They culminated in treaties with each of these states, thereby obligating them to refrain from attacking American commerce. Although treaty obligations rested lightly upon the rulers of Barbary, they nevertheless increased the margin of safety for the commerce of the nation which succeeded in imposing them. (2) In these negotiations the United States escaped the payment of annual tributes although Emperor, Bey, and Pasha each strove for an annuity. To Tripoli and Tunis, however, the American agents made concessions in the form of costly presents. The exactions of the Dey of Algiers to secure treaties from Tripoli and Tunis were not fulfilled. It is by no means clear that his letters to the Pasha had any effect in decreasing the latter's demands. Certainly the Dey's invasion of Tunis was a complete failure so far as it related to American interests. (4) Finally, the part played by Famin constituted a warning against the appointment of anyone other than an American citizen to serve as peace commissioner in Barbary.


The Author's Notes:

1 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 288.

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2 Despatches, PortugalIII, Humphreys to Sec. of State, March 25, 1792. Humphreys wrote that "Barclay . . . applauds his good fortune in not having lost his presents by arriving before the change of masters in that country."

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3 January 19, 1793. Am. State Pap., For. Rel., I, 293.

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4 Despatches, LisbonI, Edw. Church to Sec. of State, Nov. 15, 1793.

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5 Despatches, GibraltarI, Danish Consul to James Simpson, Tangier, Oct. 16, 1794; Despatches, LisbonI, Simpson to Church, Feb. 19, 1795.

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6 Corr. of J. L. Cathcart, Robert J. Montgomery to Cathcart, July 17, 1795; Despatches, GibraltarI, Simpson to Muley Talib (Muley Soliman's brother), Oct. 20, 1795. Simpson left Gibraltar Nov. 29, 1795. His negotiations with Muley Soliman were carried on during July and August.

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7 Despatches, GibraltarI, Simpson to Sec. of State, July 15, 1795.

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8 Ibid.

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9 Ibid.I, Simpson to Sec. of State, July 25, 1795.

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10 Ibid. Simpson wrote that the idea of obtaining tribute from the United States came from John Lamb, who, in May, 1795, told one of the Emperor's officials that Morocco could secure $20,000 annually from the United States. Lamb, said Simpson, was interested in shipping horses from Morocco.

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11 Ibid.

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12 Ibid.I, Simpson to Sec. of State, Aug. 18, 1795.

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13 Despatches, AlgiersII, Barlow to Sec. of State, July (?), 1796; Cathcart, Tripoli, p111. Cathcart here describes Yusuf as desirous of becoming as powerful as the Dey of Algiers and the Bey of Tunis, and as assuming "a great deal of grandeur and ostentation at his court."

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14 Cathcart, The Captives, pp209, 210.

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15 Despatches, AlgiersII, Barlow to Sec. of State, July (?), 1796.

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16 For commissions to treat with Tripoli, see Despatches, AlgiersIII. March 3, 1795, President Washington commissioned Humphreys to negotiate a treaty. Feb. 10, 1796, Humphreys delegated power to Donaldson and Barlow or to either of them to form a treaty.

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17 Despatches, AlgiersIII, Journal of O'Brien's negotiations, Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, 1796. Farfara was recommended to O'Brien by the Dey.

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18 Ibid.

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19 Ibid.

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20 Ibid. O'Brien reported that in his work at Tripoli he had been "Very much assisted by the important services of the Spanish consul" resident at that place.

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21 Ibid.

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22 Ibid.

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23 Provisions relating to passports, molestations, civil rights, provisions, etc., Treaties and Conventions (comp. Malloy) I, 1‑6; 1206‑12.

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24 Ibid.

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25 The Dey signed it Jan. 3, 1797, and Barlow added his signature the following day.

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26 Treaties and Conventions, II, 1785‑88.

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27 Despatches, AlgiersII, Humphreys to Thos. Pinckney, April 1, 1796.

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28 Beginning June 15, 1796.

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29 Despatches, AlgiersII, Letter from one of the Captives, June 20, 1796. Reports the capture as having occurred on June 14 or 16.

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30 Ibid.III, Barlow to O'Brien, Oct. 10, 1796.

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31 Despatches, AlgiersIII, Barlow to O'Brien, Oct. 10, 1796.

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32 Ibid.III, O'Brien to Barlow, Oct. 20, 1796.

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33 Ibid., Barlow to O'Brien, Nov. 10, 1796.

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34 Ibid.

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35 Ibid.

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36 Ibid., O'Brien to Barlow, Dec. 6, 1796. The Bey at this time predicted that the Americans would "repent rejecting such favorable terms" as he had offered. Famin told O'Brien that the interference of the Dey of Algiers was only serving to arouse a spirit of independence in Tunis.

[decorative delimiter]

37 Todd, op. cit., p144, quoting letter from Barlow, dated Dec. 30, 1796.

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38 Despatches, AlgiersIII, O'Brien to Barlow, Oct. 20, 1796.

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39 Barlow does not state the precise nature of the "other concessions."

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40 Ibid.II, Barlow to Sec. of State, Aug. 1, 1797.

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41 Ibid., Barlow to Sec. of State, Aug. 17, 1797.

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42 August 1, 1797.

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43 See above, p86. About $60,000 to be paid in cash by September 15, 1797. See, also, Timothy Pickering Papers, VII, 217, Pickering to O. Wolcott, Sept. 23, 1797.

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44 Allen, op. cit., p60.

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45 Treaties and Conventions (comp. Malloy), II, 1794‑1800.

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46 Timothy Pickering Papers, VIII, 179, 180. Pickering to Humphreys, March 3, 1798.

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47 Ibid. "Citizens of the United States," wrote Pickering apropos of this, "may in our own vessels, carry the merchandise of our own country to Tunis and pay a duty of only three per cent. But if our citizens transport their goods to Tunis under a foreign flag, or if foreigners transport merchandise in our vessels . . . (even from the U. S.) a duty of ten per cent must be paid. Whereas a Tunisian merchant may send the merchandise of his country, under any flag into the U. S. and pay no more than three per cent duty."

[decorative delimiter]

48 Ibid., X, 101. Pickering to Cathcart, Dec. 20, 1798.

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49 Despatches, AlgiersII, Barlow to Sec. of State, Aug. 17, 1797.

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50 Ibid.

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51 Despatches, Tunis, Text of commission, dated Dec. 18, 1798. All or any two of them were given authority to secure alterations of the articles objected to.

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52 Prentiss, Life of Wm. Eaton, p59. Eaton was appointed consul in 1797 but did not leave America until Dec. 22, 1798.

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53 Greenhow, History and Present Condition of Tripoli, pp14, 15.

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54 Prentiss, op. cit., p59.

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55 Despatches, TunisI, Eaton to Sec. of State, April 15, 1799. "True cause," wrote Eaton, "we did not choose to demand a salute which would cost the United States eight hundred dollars." This despatch contains a day by day account of Eaton's and Cathcart's negotiations in Tunis.

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56 Ibid.

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57 Ibid.

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58 Ibid.

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59 Tunis, I. Eaton to Sec. of State, April 15, 1799.

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60 Ibid., "I'll agree," said the Bey, "that you shall not be saluted except you demand it; and of course you will not be obligated to pay for a salute; it is no object with me to be firing away my ammunition to salute strangers; but if you demand it, you must pay for it."

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61 Treaties and Conventions (comp. Malloy), II, 1796.

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62 Despatches, TunisI, Eaton to Sec. of State, April 15, 1799.

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63 Ibid. "Send this," said the Bey, "to your government; if they do not like it, they may send it back."

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64 Timothy Pickering Papers, XIII, 49. Pickering to Eaton, Jan. 11, 1800.


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