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Chapter 8

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 10
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p124  Chapter IX

Last Years of the War with Tripoli,
1803‑1805

In February, 1803, Commander Morris sailed from Malta with the intention of attacking Tripoli. He did not reach his destination, however, for heavy winds threatened to wreck his vessels and prevented an approach to the mainland. On February 10 he returned to Malta where he remained nine days; then a need of supplies caused him to proceed to Gibraltar by way of Tunis and Algiers.1

The squadron reached Tunis Bay on February 22. Eaton soon came on board and reported to Morris that the capture of a Tripolitan vessel, the "Paulina," by the "Enterprise" in January, had precipitated a crisis. A portion of the "Paulina's" cargo belonged to a Tunisian subject, and the Bey demanded immediate restitution. In order to settle the dispute Morris, accompanied by Rodgers and Cathcart, went on shore. The Commodore wished to have the case tried at Gibraltar but finally agreed to pay the amount demanded in order to avert a declaration of war.2 This concession did not end difficulties; on the contrary, it paved the way for two additional demands. Eaton had borrowed from the Bey's commercial agent, Hadgi Unis Ben Unis, twenty‑two thousand dollars to be employed in restoring Hamet Karamanli. The agent now represented Eaton as having promised that Morris would repay this sum, a statement which Eaton denied. The Commodore was nevertheless arrested and was refused permission to return to his squadron until he  p125 promised to repay the loan.3 Finding the Commodore in a yielding mood, the Bey next ordered Eaton out of his dominions. Morris took the consul on board; then appointed Doctor George Davis of the United States Navy chargé d'affaires at Tunis; and before sailing wrote the Bey which abounded in such expressions as "good understanding," "high respect," and "personal esteem."4

At Algiers additional indignities were in store. When the squadron arrived at this port, O'Brien came aboard and confirmed the report that Cathcart would not be received.5 He also announced that the Dey would not accept cash in lieu of the annual stores. But what was more humiliating was the fact that the Dey refused to permit thirty thousand dollars, which had been placed in O'Brien's hands for the proposed commutation, to be removed from Algiers. The Commodore, after concluding he could do nothing to improve the situation, took O'Brien on board and sailed away.6

Soon after reaching Gibraltar Morris released the Tripolitan vessel, the "Meshuda," which had been blockaded there since the beginning of the war. The Emperor had claimed it as his own, and in August, 1802, Madison had written to Simpson that it was to be given up if proof were provided that it really belonged to the Emperor.7 The release was ill‑advised, for soon after the "Meshuda" was liberated it was taken to Tripoli. Fortunately, however, the Americans intercepted it before it was delivered to the Pasha, and conveyed it to Malta.  p126 Upon learning about this later development, Simpson wrote as follows: "It now appears too clearly the Emperor did wish to send this ship to the Tripolines . . . We have seen . . . [him] since the commencement of the war with Tripoli, do what he could to favor them; all nations experience the like conduct from every State in Barbary, when they have war with any of the others."8

More valuable time was lost before American vessels were placed in front of Tripoli, and not until late in May did the main squadron9 blockade that port. Morris, soon after his arrival, launched an attack against a number of Tripolitan gunboats and drove them under shelter of the shore batteries but the assault appears to have inflicted little real damage.10 A few days later the Commodore began negotiations with the Pasha. He had been authorized, as already noted, to treat in concert with Cathcart in case he so desired, but he now saw fit to dispense with the latter's services. Standing in need of a mediator, however, he secured the assistance of the Danish consul, N. C. Nissen.11 The Commodore went ashore and interviewed the Pasha's minister, Mohammed Dghies, who alleged that Cathcart had at one time offered forty thousand for a truce that would last ten months, and annual tribute to the amount of twenty thousand dollars, "which," said the minister, "he could not have done without being duly authorized."12 Dghies then proposed to Morris that the United States pay Tripoli two hundred thousand dollars in addition to the expense of the war. The Commodore countered with an offer of five thousand dollars as a consular present and  p127 a second gift of ten thousand dollars, the latter to be paid at the end of five years in the event that there was in the meantime no violation of the treaty. The proposal was rejected, and on June 8 the negotiations were brought to a close.13

On June 26, Morris raised the blockade of Tripoli. For taking this action he gave the following reasons: (1) The chief Tripolitan vessels had been captured or dispersed and those which remained could not easily be reached by the larger American vessels. (2) The attitude of Algiers and Tunis appeared menacing, as shown by the fact that the largest vessels of those states were cruising about together. Furthermore, the Dey was angry because stores which the United States had promised him had failed to arrive; while at Tunis a prize for war might be found in the destruction of a number of blockade runners which, although clearly not Tunisian, had been so represented. (3) The action of the Emperor of Morocco in sending a Tripolitan vessel to Tripoli under his own flag was far from reassuring with respect to the Emperor's peaceable intentions. (4) Finally, Morris was hopeful of borrowing a number of gunboats from the King of the Two Sicilies.14

The entire squadron proceeded in a circuitous manner to Messina, whitherº it arrived July 14. The Commodore requested the governor of that place to loan the United States some of the King's gunboats but the official refused on the ground that he lacked authority. The matter was then referred to the King's chief minister at Naples, Sir John Acton, who stated that the request could not at that time be complied with because "of the uncertain state in which the King of the Two Sicilies stood between France and England."15 Fortunately the United States was already making preparations to supply in another way the  p128 need for smaller craft. In February, 1803, Congress set aside ninety‑six thousand dollars for the construction of four vessels similar to the "Enterprise."16

So low were American fortunes in the Mediterranean during the latter portion of Morris's command that although a new squadron was being fitted out, the executive proposed to make most humiliating concessions to Tripoli and Tunis. On April 9, 1803, Madison wrote Cathcart a letter in which he deplored the passing of a Tripolitan crisis which had appeared so favorable to the United States. He then stated that Cathcart would not "be tied down to a refusal of presents" but should consider himself authorized to offer to pay the Pasha twenty thousand dollars down "and at the rate afterwards of eight or ten thousand dollars a year." The periodical payments were to be made every two years rather than yearly, and the agreement relative to them should not, if it could possibly be avoided, form a part of the public treaty.17 This communication also contained instructions with respect to Tunis. Cathcart, it should be remarked, having been rejected at Algiers was hereby directed to serve as consul at Tunis. Madison authorized him to inform the Bey that the United States was prepared to make periodical payments "payable in cash and not to exceeded the rate of 10,000 per annum, to be paid biennially" if possible. The consular present, contradict the Secretary, should not exceed "about 4,000 dollars."18

Fortunately for the United States the arrangement proposed in these instructions was never to be effected. In August Morris sent the "Adams" with Cathcart on board to Tunis.19 Early in September the newly appointed consul had a number of audiences with the Bey and offered  p129 him an annuity in cash but refused to promise the long-sought frigate. In the end the Bey not only rejected the annuity, but would not receive Cathcart as consul. The reason which he gave for the latter action was that Cathcart was a malcontent who had brought on war between the United States and Tripoli.20 No accommodation could be effected during Cathcart's brief sojourn at Tunis.

Commodore Morris had in the meantime been suspended.21 A letter, dated June 21, 1803, from the Secretary of the Navy ordered him to relinquish his command and instructions to Captain John Rodgers and thereupon to return immediately to the United States.22 A court of inquiry was subsequently convened by order of the Secretary of the Navy to investigate the cause for "disobedience and neglect" displayed in the operations against Tripoli. The court reported that in its opinion Morris had not displayed "the diligence or activity necessary to execute the important duties of his station" and was therefore properly subject to censure. The Secretary of the Navy soon thereafter informed Morris that the report had caused the President to revoke his commission.23

Commodore Morris had rendered his most important Mediterranean services during May and June, 1803, while his squadron was at Tripoli. The Americans at that time drove the Tripolitan gunboats before them in an irresistible manner and succeeded in completely destroying one large cruiser. Moreover, during this period there was maintained a strict blockade which resulted in the capture of the "Meshuda" and a number of lesser vessels.24 These activities constituted Morris's most essential services because  p130 they represented the only policy which could secure from Tripoli and the other Barbary States any permanent and honorable peace. Only force employed to the utmost, and if necessary attended with great sacrifice, could end the ever increasing demands of the piratical chieftains. To establish merely a "paper blockade" of Tripoli was to increase rather than to diminish the pretensions not only of the Pasha but of the Dey, Bey, and Emperor. The convoying of American traders (who should have been told that if they entered the Mediterranean, the United States would assume no responsibility for unfortunate consequences) was an unwise choice when what was really fundamental could be accomplished only in the immediate vicinity of Tripoli. William Eaton understood fully whereof he wrote when he informed Madison that it was "absolutely necessary that the United States should once, and at once, show themselves on the Barbary, and not European coast; and in a manner to make themselves known."25


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After Commodore Morris was recalled, Captain Rodgers remained in command of the Mediterranean forces for only a short time. In fact the letter which informed him that he should command the vessels remaining after the departure of Morris also stated that as soon as a relief squadron under Commodore Preble reached the Mediterranean, Rodgers should return to the United States.26 Six of the seven vessels of which the new squadron was composed sailed from the United States in the following order: the "Nautilus," twelve guns, Lieutenant Richard Somers, June 30; the "Philadelphia," thirty‑six guns, Captain William Bainbridge, July 18; the "Vixen," twelve guns, Lieutenant John Smith, August 3; the "Constitution," forty-four guns, Lieutenant Thomas Robinson, Jr., August 14; the "Siren," sixteen guns, Lieutenant Charles  p131 Stewart, August 27; the "Argus," sixteen guns, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, September 8; the "Enterprise," twelve guns, Lieutenant Isaac Hull, had been a member of the squadron under the command of Commodore Morris, and was to remain in the Mediterranean.27 Accompanying Preble on board the "Constitution" was Colonel Tobias Lear who had been appointed Consul-General at Algiers with authority to superintend United States consular activities throughout Barbary and to take over Cathcart's duties in negotiating with the Pasha.28


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While the events just described were occurring, Morocco had made an attack upon American shipping. Two Moroccan frigates, the "Mirboka" and the "Miamona" sailed in July under sealed orders, the contents of which Consul Simpson thought only the Emperor and his chief ministers knew.29 That the cruise was made for the purpose of taking American prizes Captain Bainbridge discovered soon after he reached Gibraltar. While in search of Tripolitan cruisers he fell in with the "Mirboka" which had captured an American brig, "Celia," of Boston. A search revealed the brig's crew consisting of the captain and seven men. Upon making this discovery, and upon learning that the captain of the "Mirboka" had been instructed to capture Americans, Bainbridge treated the Moroccans as prisoners of war and conveyed them and their vessel to Gibraltar.30 He then went in search of the other frigate (for the Emperor appears to have had only two) but being unable to find it, returned to Gibraltar, September 11. The following day Commodore Preble arrived after having encountered and boarded the  p132 "Miamona." The Moroccan commander had presented a passport signed by Consul Simpson, and, inasmuch as Preble was unaware that the "Celia" had been captured, the vessel was permitted to proceed.31

Before leaving the Mediterranean, Rodgers assisted Preble in negotiating with the Emperor. Receiving an alarming report from Consul Simpson on September 15, they determined to proceed immediately with the "Constitution" and "John Adams" to Tangier Bay. Two days later the plan was carried out. On board the "Constitution" were placed the captain and six other officers of the "Mirboka"; on the "John Adams," the officers of the "Meshuda." These Moroccans and Tripolitans, it was hoped, would be able by their testimony to aid considerably in the negotiations. When the frigates reached Tangier Bay, Preble and Rodgers were informed that Simpson was under guard and that the Emperor had not arrived. Simpson wrote that the latter would be at Tangier within a few days, however, and asked that the Americans return at that time.32 In the meantime the Emperor seems to have become somewhat alarmed, for he was reported to have denied issuing the orders for the capture of American vessels or for any other act of hostility against the United States.33

On October 5, the Emperor reached Tangier, and upon his arrival received from the Americans a salute of twenty‑one guns. He appeared pleased by this compliment and soon sent a present, to the frigates, of ten bullocks and twenty sheep. On the 10th Preble and Lear went ashore and interviewed him. He had apparently concluded that the time was unfavorable for war; therefore, he promised to recognize the blockade of Tripoli; to ratify the treaty  p133 of 1786; to release an American brig34 which was being detained at Mogadore; and to remove the Governor of Tangier upon whom he placed responsibility for the Moroccan hostilities. Finally, he ordered the American war vessels to be bountifully supplied with provisions.35 He received from Preble, upon Simpson's recommendation, the "Meshuda" and "Mirboka" together with their crews. Lear was of the opinion that the latter transaction was expedient if for no other reason than that "the ships were scarcely worth taking to the United States and his [the Emperor's] subjects were an expense and burthen."36

The reaction of the administration to the Moroccan situation is not without interest. Soon after a report of the capture of the "Celia" had reached the United States, Madison wrote to Lear that a portion of the gun carriages had been forwarded and that the remainder would soon follow in spite of the Emperor's perfidy in connection with the "Celia."37 President Jefferson on November 4 reported the seizure to Congress, and requested that body to take steps "to restrain the depredations of this power [Morocco] should they be continued."38 Within a few weeks, however, he was able to report that all points in dispute between the United States and Morocco had been amicably and satisfactorily settled. He specifically commended Simpson, Preble, Rodgers, Campbell, and Bainbridge, and recommended indemnification to the captors of the "Meshuda" and "Mirboka." Congress responded to this  p134 recommendation by appropriating an amount equivalent to half the value of the vessels in question.39

In the meantime, on October 7, the "Philadelphia" and "Vixen" had been stationed before Tripoli. Here they remained for about two weeks, at the end of which time Bainbridge sent the "Vixen" to search for Tripolitan vessels reported off Cape Bon; whereupon the "Philadelphia" alone continued the blockade. On October 31, while thus engaged, she was brought too near the shore in the pursuit of a Tripolitan craft, and ran aground. Heroic efforts to release her were unavailing, and in the end she and her crew of three hundred and seven men were captured.40 The absence of the "Vixen" was in a large measure responsible for the capture, for if the smaller vessel had been with the "Philadelphia" at Tripoli, she could have protected the frigate. It is, of course, improbable that if the "Vixen" had been present, the "Philadelphia" would have been brought so near the shore.41

The treatment which the frigate's crew received at Tripoli is described as follows by Dr. Jonathan Cowdery, physician on board the "Philadelphia": "We were taken on the 31st of October, 1803, and entirely robbed of property, even the greatest part of the clothes on our backs were taken from us. Our seamen were immediately put to hard labor, without mercy; and they have suffered much for the necessaries of life. Five have paid their last debt to nature [Nov. 7, 1804], and five have turned Turks. Myself and fellow officers were permitted to occupy the house where our Consul, Mr. Cathcart, resided while in Barbary."42 The services which Consul Nissen rendered  p135 the prisoners were invaluable. He sent communications for them; bought from the Tripolitans the officers' books, which had been seized and later "offered for sale at a moderate price"; aided in securing supplies; and in many other ways exhibited a generosity which was superb.43 The prisoners "pronounced him the best fellow they had ever met with, and swore he must have been a sailor."44

The capture of the "Philadelphia" made negotiations with and operations against the Pasha far more difficult than they would otherwise have been. Less than three months before the disaster occurred it was reported that his demands included a payment of $500,000 and an annuity of twenty thousand;45 but by January, 1804, Preble wrote that Yusuf's "asking price" for peace and ransom was three million dollars.46 That he would reduce this demand under pressure soon became clear; nevertheless the capture figured prominently in the negotiations until peace had been made. It is quite probable that if the frigate had remained in American hands the war would have been ended in 1804, and that the United States would not have paid the Pasha a cent for ransom.

Early in the year Preble carried on an extensive correspondence relative to peace and ransom. In January he wrote, from Malta, to Mohammed Dghies regarding an exchange of prisoners on equal terms. The letter was not received, however, until Stephen Decatur and a small band of followers performed the brilliant exploit of destroying the "Philadelphia" under the batteries of Tripoli.47 This stroke, which Lord Nelson characterized as "the most bold and daring act of the age," so angered the Pasha that Dghies refused to consider Preble's proposal.48 The Commodore  p136 also sought to secure the mediation of Bryan McDonough, who was still at Tripoli, but he refused to serve until the Pasha's indignation should subside. Nor were the services of Nissen longer available on account of a new treaty between Denmark and Tripoli which required that the Danish consul confine his activities solely to the affairs of his own government.49 Preble, prior to the destruction of the "Philadelphia," also wrote to Lear regarding the prospect of peace with Tripoli, and received from him50 authorization to pay a ransom of six hundred dollars per man, exclusive of what might be exchanged, upon the formation of a treaty which would involve no tribute.51 Lear's letter also stated that, in accordance with a wish which Preble had expressed, O'Brien would proceed from Algiers and join the Commodore before Tripoli to aid in negotiations.52

In the meantime Robert R. Livingston, United States minister to France, had sought the coöperation of the First Consul. From Talleyrand Livingston received a flattering letter which abounded in assurance of goodwill and which stated that the Commissary General of the Republic at Tripoli, Beaussier, would be instructed to aid the American prisoners and if possible to secure their liberation. During the latter part of March Preble got in touch with Beaussier, who soon reported the Pasha's demands as being greater than the Tripolitan agent at Malta had represented them. Preble therefore viewed Beaussier's mediation with suspicion and determined in the future to employ O'Brien as negotiator.53

 p137  In June the Commodore returned to Tripoli with O'Brien, whom he authorized to offer the following terms: forty thousand dollars for the ransom of Captain Bainbridge and crew; ten thousand dollars to the Chief Minister and other public officials at Tripoli; and a consular present valued at ten thousand dollars. After the acceptance of the first consul, however, no additional present was to be required during the next ten years.54 O'Brien and Bainbridge sought to have these terms accepted but without avail. The Pasha viewed the offer as absurd in view of the fact that Holland and Denmark had recently paid eighty thousand and forty thousand dollars respectively for a treaty with Tripoli although neither had had any prisoners to ransom.55 Moreover he would not recognize Bainbridge, a prisoner, as being qualified to negotiate. O'Brien received no assistance from Beaussier, which fact deepened Preble's suspicions regarding the Frenchman.56 The Commodore wrote to Livingston on June 27 as follows: "Mr. Beaussier had deceived me; he has not, I believe ever seen Captain Bainbridge or his officers or rendered them any assistance — Indeed I believe he is an enemy and urges the Bashaw to keep up the war; that he and his brother, who is a speculating merchant of Tripoli, may benefit by it. . . . I did not suppose that when France was to act as mediator that we were to pay a half million of dollars for the ransom for prisoners and a peace, for if we should be inclined to accede to the Bashaw's demands we may have peace whenever we choose without the assistance of any other agent than our dollars. "57

 p138  Preble also reported that "there are now in Tripoli 14 Spanish ship carpenters sent from the King's yards to build gun boats for the Bashaw; they wear the Spanish cockade and I am well informed are regularly paid once a week by the Spanish consul."58 Other letters which indicate that little French or Spanish assistance was to be depended upon might be cited. In July Lear wrote from Algiers that the French consul there had recently told him that instructions from the French government stated that "if anything could be done for Captain Bainbridge he would do for a friend or brother, it should be done, but that national policy would prevent them from taking measures for the ransom of all our citizens or to effect a peace."59 About the same time Madison stated in his instructions to John Armstrong, recently appointed minister to France, that it was "certainly better in all cases that our own objects be effected by our own means, than that resort should be had to the favor of other powers, and happily there is reason to expect that the means now provided for the existing case will be sufficient."60

In July Preble assembled his entire squadron at Tripoli. On the 20th the "Constitution," "Nautilus," and "Enterprise," six gunboats and two mortar-boats (the eight latter vessels having been obtained from the King of the Two Sicilies)61 were stationed before the Pasha's stronghold. At the time of their arrival the "Siren," "Argus," "Vixen," and a fourth vessel named the "Scourge" were maintaining the blockade.62 The enemy's fleet at this time consisted of a "ten‑gun brig, two eight‑gun schooners, two large galleys, and nineteen gunboats. "63 They depended in large  p139 measure for protection upon the shore batteries and upon a long line of reefs which made the approach of the larger American vessels quite hazardous.64 On August 3 there occurred a spirited encounter between the opposing forces which resulted in the capture of three Tripolitan gunboats by boarding, a method of fighting in which the barbarians were reputed to excel. The prizes were immediately fitted out by the Americans and were called "No. 7, No. 8, and No. 9." A second engagement occurred on the 7th but resulted in no additional captures; nevertheless a great amount of damage appears to have been wrought by the bombardment to which the city was subjected.65

Immediately after the first of these two encounters Preble informed the Pasha that the terms which he had previously offered had not been withdrawn. Yusuf, however, rejected this overture in a statement to the effect that although he wished to be at peace with the United States he would never accept such "dishonorable conditions." Beaussier, who curiously enough acted as intermediary in this exchange of messages, urged Preble to increase his offer. This the Commodore did after the second naval engagement although precisely why he did so is not clear. Perhaps the stubborn opposition which he encountered, coupled with a desire to conclude peace before the arrival of a squadron under the command of Commodore Samuel Barron provides the correct explanation. At any rate, the Commodore gradually increased his offer to $120,000 including all presents, and the Pasha reduced his demands to $150,000. Beyond this point neither negotiator would make concessions.66

Meanwhile some interesting developments were taking place at Tunis. Until about September, 1804, the Bey continued to maintain the menacing attitude which he had assumed towards the United States from the outset of the  p140 Tripolitan war. The confiscation of some Tunisian goods while the American squadron was blockading Tripoli during the autumn of 1803 intensified his hostility, and although George Davis, United States consular agent at Tunis, sought to pay a reasonable indemnity, Hamuda refused to accept his offer.67 The capture of the "Philadelphia" increased the boldness of the Bey, who delivered to Davis an ultimatum regarding indemnification for the confiscated Tunisian property, and the Sapitapa informed Davis that Hamuda must instantly be told whether to expect peace or war. The minister then referred to the capture of the "Philadelphia," and concluded his remarks with the statement that "the Americans are now like the ground."68

Throughout the winter and following spring, the Bey made preparations for an attack upon American commerce — a measure which caused Preble to write home for reinforcements; also, to visit Tunis at the first opportunity.69 On April 3 he anchored in the harbor of the Tunisian capital but remained on board the "Constitution" lest he suffer indignities such as had been heaped upon Commodore Morris. Two days later he wrote the Bey a letter in which he gave every assurance within his power that satisfaction would be granted with respect to the goods in dispute.70 The Bey for a time refused to read this letter and threatened to declare war if the Commodore did not disembark for the purpose of effecting an immediate settlement. But in the end, he yielded to his curiosity; read the letter; and agreed to extend the period of grace to  p141 six weeks.71 At the same time, he expressed deep resentment that Preble had not disembarked at Tunis, and asserted that such lack of respect would not be tolerated in the future.72

Near the end of April the dispute over the Tunisian property was finally ended. On April 24, Richard O'Brien arrived at Tunis with instructions to bring about a settlement, and three days later he had the first of a series of interviews with the Bey.73 Hamuda and the Sapitapa sought promises of a frigate, of naval stores, of consular presents, and of numerous other gifts, in addition to indemnification for the goods which had been seized and sold. O'Brien refused to negotiate regarding a frigate, but agreed to the payment of between four and five thousand dollars for the confiscated property. He also arrived at an understanding with the Tunisian government relative to consular presents; and, before his departure, had elicited from the Bey the words, "we are friends."74

This happy state of affairs was not long undisturbed, for in May, 1804, reports which had been circulated in Tunis to the effect that some small Tunisian vessels had been captured by the Americans, caused the Bey to fly into a rage and to order Davis out of his dominions. The command was not carried out, for while Davis was preparing to depart, Hamuda relented, and permitted him to remain until a letter could be received from the Commodore. The Bey in the meantime instructed Davis to inform Preble that unless ample indemnity were paid for all injuries sustained in consequence of the reported captures, war would be the result.75 But the Commodore greatly discounted this threat, on the ground that the  p142 presence of the then substantial naval force in the Mediterranean would effectually deter the Bey from opening hostilities against the United States.76 Davis, too, was inclined to doubt that Hamuda had any real intention of declaring war, but was of the opinion that only an ultimatum, supported by the naval squadron, would cause him to cease making unwarranted demands.77 Madison, also, anticipated such a necessity, and instructed Lear as follows:

You will concert with the Commodore the exhibition of his the Bey's injustice and the naval facilities of the U. Sates as may repress or very much reduce his hopes of obtaining sacrifices from us for it was not only to overawe Tripoli, that the expense of equipping this squadron was incurred, but upon of a calculation of its salutary effect upon the other Regencies and especially Tunis, whose unfriendly conduct might require its presence.78

Whatever might have been the intention of the Bey during the spring and early su1804, the scarcity of grain in Tunis during the latter portion of the year caused the ruler to refrain from becoming involved in a war with the United States. "His Excellency, the Bey," wrote Davis in September, "is wholly occupied with devising every possible means to ward off the evils which might have resulted from the scarcity of grain. Extreme misery prevails throughout the interior of the country, the people subsisting on roots, a little herbage, and those who can procure it, oats."79

 p143  While the situation remained thus at Tunis, the frigates "President" and "Constellation," under the command of Commodore Barron, arrived at Tripoli. Preble thereupon relinquished his command. That his services had been great during his sojourn in the Mediterranean is indicated by expressions of commendation which came from all sides. His subordinates, who had at first viewed him somewhat askance because of his fiery temper and insistence upon strict discipline, had before his return to the United States become devoted to him. The Pope paid him the tribute of having "done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages." The President commended "the energy and judgment of this excellent officer"; and Congress voted the Commodore a gold medal.80 He had encountered a multitude of obstacles, such as inferior equipment, crews composed in large part of foreigners, desertions, and unusually bad weather. He had nevertheless inflicted great damage upon the enemy and had perceptibly reduced the Pasha's demands. He had, moreover, rejected proposals to pay annuities to the Pasha, and in his attempts to liberate the prisoners at Tripoli had refused to offer as large a sum as Lear had authorized him to expend.81

During the remainder of the year the squadron appears to have been able to accomplish little beyond continuing the blockade of Tripoli. Commodore Barron soon became quite ill, and thereafter the naval operations were placed largely under the direction of Rodgers.82

In the meantime steps were being taken to carry on the struggle against Tripoli by land as well as by sea. William Eaton upon making a trip to the United States in 1803 had secured the consent of the President to make use of Hamet Karamanli in the event the commander of the squadron should judge such a measure expedient.  p144 Eaton had therefore returned to the Mediterranean on board the "President" in company with Commodore Barron.83

From the time the plan to revolutionize Tripoli had first been promulgated by Cathcart and Eaton, the administration had coquetted with it but had refused to become bound by any very definite agreement. On August 22, 1802, the Secretary of State wrote to Cathcart as follows: ". . . it cannot be unfair, in the prosecution of a just war or the accomplishment of a reasonable peace, to turn to . . . advantage the enmity and pretensions of others against a common foe. How far success in the plan ought to be relied on, cannot be decided at this distance and with so imperfect a knowledge of many circumstances. The event, it is hoped, will correspond with your zeal and with your calculations. Should the rival brother be disappointed in his object, it will be due to the honor of the United States to treat his misfortunes with the utmost tenderness, and to restore him as nearly as may be to the situation from which he was drawn, unless some other proper arrangements should be more acceptable to him."84 Somewhat later the Secretary of the Navy instructed Morris as follows: "In adjusting the terms of peace with the Dey of Tripoli, whatever regard may be had to the situation of his brother, it is not to be considered by you, of sufficient magnitude to prevent, or even to retard a final settlement with the Dey. "85 Another letter, dated June 6, 1804, from the Secretary of the Navy to Barron suggested that the Commodore might find Eaton "extremely useful," but should use his own judgment about coöperating with the  p145 Pasha's brother.86 Barron was further instructed that if he considered coöperation with Hamet expedient, he might "grant him pecuniary or other subsidies not exceeding twenty thousand dollars."87 To Lear, who was authorized to treat with Tripoli in accordance with instructions sent Cathcart on April 9, 1803 ("with such modifications as . . . convenient"), Madison wrote that less reliance was to be placed upon any services which Hamet might render than upon those of the navy. The Secretary at that time considered the naval force "sufficient for any exercise of coercion which the obstinacy of the Bashaw may demand."88

Eaton appears to have communicated a considerable amount of his enthusiasm to Commodore Barron, who, on November 13, wrote to Lear that he had sent Captain Hull with the "Argus" to enquire for Hamet and bring him to Tripoli. Such a measure, the Commodore was convinced, would have a most beneficial effect upon the Pasha. "Should we succeed in getting him here," he continued, "I shall take no ultimate measure without informing you of them."89 Lear, it should be observed, was greatly opposed to coöperation with Hamet, whom he regarded as a man of little force or influence.90 There is, indeed, much to support that opinion. Hamet had been driven out of Tripoli and while in exile had displayed great indecision as to what course of action he would next pursue. Moreover, after making an agreement with Eaton to depose Yusuf, he had nevertheless accepted the governorship of Derne. He had then become alarmed regarding his safety while occupying  p146 that position, and had fled to Egypt, whither Eaton went in search of him.91

On November 27 the "Argus" arrived at Alexandria. Eaton disembarked and after making some arrangements with government officials along the coast, proceeded to Cairo. Here he learned that Hamet was up the Nile about one hundred and fifty miles, engaged in fighting with the Mamelukes who were then in rebellion. Eaton secured from the viceroy at Cairo permission for Hamet to pass through the Turkish lines and join him on the coast where the combined forces would embark. Due to difficulties which eventually arose, however, arrangements were made for an overland march across the desert to the Bay of Bomba. Here, it was agreed, Captain Hull would effect a junction with the land forces of Eaton and Hamet.92 By the "Argus" Eaton sent a letter to Commodore Barron requesting that one hundred marines and certain specified munitions be sent to Bomba. He also informed the Commodore that Hamet had promised to indemnify the United States, for means supplied in his behalf, by pledging the tribute of Denmark, Sweden, and the Batavian Republic. He furthermore stated that Hamet would release all American prisoners in Tripoli and would form a permanent treaty involving no tribute on the part of the United States.93

On February 23 Eaton and Hamet made these stipulations the subject of a written convention, the text of which was inscribed in English, Arabic, and Italian. A copy was thereupon deposited for safe keeping in the British consular office at Alexandria. The document contained fourteen articles, the last one being secret and providing that every effort should be employed to have Yusuf and his  p147 family held as hostages in the event of their capture. Another article provided that Eaton should have command of the land forces to be employed in the pending campaign.94

The allied army of which General Eaton assumed command was a curious array. It was composed of ten Americans, about three hundred Arabs, thirty-eight Greeks, and enough representatives of other nationalities to swell the total number to approximately four hundred souls. With this motley, and often mutinous, aggregation, Eaton marched almost five hundred miles across the Libyan desert. Soon after the expedition got under way there were threats of desertion and mutiny. The Arabs harassed the Americans with demands for money and were sometimes at loggerheads with the Christians who had been recruited at Alexandria. Hamet became discouraged and decided to return to Egypt but after Eaton proceeded some distance without him, he reconsidered and reversed his decision. Provisions and water were at all times scarce. "We were," wrote one of Eaton's men, "frequently 24 hours without water, and once 47 hours without a drop — Our horses were sometimes three days without, and for the last twenty days had nothing to eat except what they picked out of the sand — The country was a melancholy desert throughout, and for the space of 450 miles we saw neither house nor tree, nor hardly anything green, except in one place, not a trace of a human being."95

With his small and exceedingly unreliable force Eaton, on April 27, attacked the town of Derne. Fortunately the strongest fortifications were along the water front and were consequently exposed to the fire of three American vessels which aided in the attack. While the "Nautilus,"  p148 "Argus," and "Hornet" bombarded one side of the town Eaton made an assault in another quarter, and within a short time the victory was complete. There were, however, attacks to be beaten off from reinforcements which the Pasha had sent to Derne, and the allied forces with great difficulty held the town, although Eaton was convinced that if he had possessed a considerable amount of cash, he could have broken up the enemy's camp "without firing another shot."96

In the meantime Lear and Yusuf had concluded a treaty of peace, one article of which called for the withdrawal of American troops from Derne. Receipt of this news left the Americans no choice with respect to Derne. Strategy now had to be resorted to, however, in order to effect the evacuation of a limited number of the town's defenders. Eaton was the last to withdraw, after being preceded to the warships by the Greeks, Hamet and his suite, the sailors, and the marines. By the time Eaton's boat had left the shore, those who were being abandoned learned what was happening. Then, in the words of Eaton, "the shore, our camp and the battery were crowded with the distracted soldiery and populace, some calling on the Pasha, some on me, some uttering shrieks, some execrations. Finding we were out of reach, they fell upon our tents and horses, which were left standing, carried them off and prepared themselves for flight."97


The Author's Notes:

1 Morris, Defence of Commodore Morris, p31. Goldsborough, U. S. Naval Chronicle, pp202, 203.

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2 Allen, Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, p121; Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, pp65, 66.

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3 Allen, op. cit., p122.

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4 Despatches, TripoliII, Morris to the Bey of Tunis, March 7, 1803; Ibid., March 9, 1803, a statement signed by Eaton, assigning his property to the United States in order "to hold said Richard Morris and James L. Cathcart . . . harmless."

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5 Despatches, TripoliII, Cathcart to Madison, March 30, 1803.

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6 Allen, op. cit., p122.

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7 Despatches, to Consuls, Instructions, I, 255, 257; Goldsborough, op. cit., p207.

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8 Despatches, TangierII, Simpson to Sec. of State, July 9, 1803.

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9 Consisting of the "New York," "John Adams," and "Enterprise."

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10 Allen, op. cit., p128.

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11 Despatches, TripoliII, Morris to Cathcart, April 5, 1803. Morris wrote that "should the Bey of Tripoli be disposed to treat with the United States, and your aid become necessary, I shall take immediate steps to inform you of it." Cathcart resented this action. See, Ibid., Cathcart to Madison, May 5, 1803.

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12 Morris, op. cit., p93.

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13 Ibid.

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14 Ibid., pp94, 95.

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15 Ibid., pp95, 96.

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16 Allen, op. cit., pp136, 137. These were the "Siren" and "Argus," brigs; the "Nautilus" and "Vixen," schooners.

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17 Despatches, to Consuls, Instructions, I, 158, 159, Madison to Cathcart, April 9, 1803.

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18 Ibid.

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19 Goldsborough, op. cit., p204.

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20 Despatches, TripoliII, Cathcart to Madison, Sept. 9, 1803.

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21 Goldsborough, op. cit., p204. Morris received the letter of recall when he reached Malaga en route to Gibraltar during the latter part of August.

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22 Morris, op. cit., pp97, 98, R. Smith to Morris, June 21, 1803.

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23 Ibid., pp9‑13; Goldsborough, op. cit. pp205‑207.

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24 Allen, op. cit., pp125‑31.

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25 Despatches, TunisI, Eaton to Madison, Feb. 1, 1803.

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26 Goldsborough, op. cit., p212.

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27 Allen, op. cit., p139.

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28 Despatches to Consuls, Instructions, I, 169‑75, Madison to Lear, July 14, 1803.

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29 Despatches, TangierII, Simpson to Sec. of State, July 28, 1803.

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30 Am. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 591, 592, Bainbridge to Simpson, Aug. 29, 1803.

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31 Allen, op. cit., pp142, 143.

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32 Despatches, AlgiersIVV, Lear to Madison, Sept. 13‑26, 1803.

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33 Ibid., Lear to Madison, Oct. 18, 1803.

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34 The "Hannah," Salem.

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35 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Lear to Madison, Oct. 18, 1803. Apropos of the last-named item, Lear wrote that "the Emperor ordered that the U. S. Ships of war should be furnished with 20 bullocks — 50 sheep & 100 doz of fowls, which was a very extraordinary supply."

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36 Ibid.; See also Despatches, TangierII, Simpson to Sec. of State, Oct. 15, 1803.

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37 Despatches to Consuls, Instructions, I, 192.

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38 Am. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 591, Message of President Jefferson to the Senate and House of Representatives, Nov. 4, 1803.

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39 Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, I, 365, 366, Message of President Jefferson to the Senate and House of Representatives, Dec. 5, 1803; Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, p70.

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40 Allen, op. cit., pp145‑50.

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41 Ibid., p150.

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42 Boston Gazette, Aug. 29, 1805, J. Cowdery to his father, Nov. 7, 1804.

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43 Allen, op. cit., pp153‑56.

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44 Wm. Ray, Horrors of Slavery; or the American Tars in Tripoli, p151.

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45 Despatches, TripoliII, Cathcart to Morris, Aug. 15, 1803.

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46 Ibid., Preble to Cathcart, Jan. 4, 1804.

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47 Feb. 16, 1804.

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48 Allen, op. cit., p173, quoting statement made by Lord Nelson.

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49 Paullin, op. cit., p75.

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50 Lear was then at Algiers.

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51 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Preble to Lear, March 15, 1804; Lear to Preble, March 23, 1804.

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52 Ibid., O'Brien had returned to Algiers after the rejecting of Cathcart.

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53 Paullin, op. cit., pp76, 77.

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54 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Preble to O'Brien, June 13, 1804.

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55 Paullin, Diplomatic Negotiations of American Naval Officers, pp78, 79.

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56 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Preble to Lear, June 13, 1804.

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57 Despatches, TripoliII, Preble to R. R. Livingston, June 27, 1804; Beaussier to Preble, June 27, 1804.

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58 Ibid., Preble to R. R. Livingston, June 27, 1804.

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59 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Lear to Sec. of State, July 16, 1804.

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60 U. S. Ministers, Instructions, VI, 246, 247, Madison to John Armstrong, July 15, 1804.

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61 Then at war with Tripoli. The King also loaned a considerable number of his subjects to engage in operations against the Pasha.

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62 Allen, op. cit., pp181‑84.

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63 Ibid., p186.

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64 Ibid.

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65 Ibid., pp187‑97.

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66 Paullin, op. cit., pp80‑82.

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67 Despatches, TunisIII, G. Davis to Sec. of State, Sept. 3, 1803.

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68 Ibid., III, Davis to Sec. of State, Dec. 28, 1803.

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69 Despatches, TripoliII, Preble to Jno. Mathieu, March 19, 1804. Preble concluded his letter with this statement: "These people must not be humor'd but beaten. I was at Malta not long since and was then told by good authority that we might expect war with Tunis very soon."

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70 Despatches, TunisIII, Preble to the Bey of Tunis, April 5, 1804.

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71 Ibid., Preble to Davis, April 6, 1804.

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72 Ibid., Davis to Sec. of State, April 8, 1804.

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73 Despatches, AlgiersVII, O'Brien to Lear, April 29, 1804.

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74 Despatches, TunisIII, Statement by O'Brien and Davis, April 29, 1804.

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75 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Davis to Lear, June 1, 1804.

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76 Despatches, TripoliII, Preble to R. R. Livingston, June 27, 1804.

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77 Despatches, TunisIII, Davis to Lear, Aug. 2, 1804. "A formidable squadron is at this moment in these seas," wrote Davis. "What time so propitious as the present to fix an ultimatum to the demands of this Regency."

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78 Despatches to Consuls: InstructionsI, Madison to Lear, June 6, 1804.

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79 Despatches, TunisIII, Davis to Sec. of State, Sept. 6, 1804.

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80 Allen, op. cit., pp138‑39; 213‑15.

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81 Ibid., pp215‑17.

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82 Paullin, op. cit., pp82, 83.

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83 Am. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 702, Sec. of Navy to Eaton, May 30, 1804.

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84 Morris, op. cit., p46, Sec. of State to Cathcart, August 22, 1802. Madison wrote an almost identical letter to Eaton on the same day, pp47, 48.

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85 Ibid., p45, Sec. of Navy to Morris, Aug. 28, 1802.

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86 Am. State Pap., For. Rel., II, 702.

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87 Despatches to Consuls, Instructions, I, 211, Madison to Lear, June 6, 1804.

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88 Ibid.

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89 Despatches, AlgiersVII, Barron to Lear, Nov. 13, 1804.

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90 Ibid., Lear to Geo. Davis, Nov. 3, 1804.

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91 Despatches, TripoliII, Cathcart to Madison, Nov. 25, 1802 and N. C. Nissen to Cathcart, September 19 and Nov. 17, 1803; Am. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 703, Barron to Capt. Hull, Sept. 13 and 15, 1804.

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92 Allen, Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, pp229‑32.

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93 Am. State Pap., For. Rel. II, 704, Eaton to Barron, Feb. 14, 1804.

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94 Despatches, TripoliII, Text of Convention, Feb. 23, 1805.

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95 U. S. Gazette (Phila.) Oct. 11, 1805. Letter from Mr. Paschal Paoli Peck, an officer on board the "Argus" and a member of Eaton's company on the march across the desert. Letter dated, July 4, 1805.

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96 Prentiss, Life of Wm. Eaton, pp336‑60.

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97 Ibid., p362.


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