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The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers
Ray W. Irwin

A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of
Philosophy at New York University

The book transcribed in these pages chronicles the first interaction of the United States with the Moslem world; and since rather little has changed, it is inevitably of topical interest in the twenty-first century.

To be sure, significant details differ. American commerce now reaches the four corners of the earth, so that the interaction is no longer confined to the southern shore of the Mediterranean, but extends into every region of the globe. Equally important are the great leaps in Western technology (the internal combustion engine, aviation, weaponry, computers and the Internet) which have been appropriated by the Moslem world, in the context of its dealings with the West, mostly for destructive purposes: whereas the 19c Barbary pirates could only range a portion of the seas, their descendants can cause grief, and temporary chaos, in distant cities.

The main lines, however, have remained the same: today's reader will recognize the unproductive, failed and essentially lawless states and the corrupt, autocratic rulers cowering in fear of their own subjects, who find it to their advantage to encourage the hostage-taking, the piracy, the invidious attacks on nations who have done them no wrong. Today's reader will also recognize the limited range of solutions available to civilized countries: various forms of appeasement, sometimes coated in the language of esteem and even amity, and usually involving the payment of tribute (often in military supplies, and often disguised as loans or goodwill gifts), which merely excite the contempt and embolden the perpetrators of these crimes — or the salutary application of measured military force, which puts an end to the problem. The lessons for our time are obvious.

(p. vii) Preface

The following narrative, it is hoped, will furnish a more comprehensive survey of the diplomatic relations of the United States with Barbary between the years 1776 and 1816 than any previous monograph has provided. In this connection an opinion is ventured that former studies have either failed to cover the entire period indicated above, or they have covered it in such a manner that prime emphasis has been placed upon naval operations, or they have treated American naval activities against and diplomatic negotiations with the Barbary States somewhat incidentally in sketching the entire course of North African history. In this study, however, an attempt has been made to give a detailed account of diplomatic relations extending over the entire period 1776‑1816; to place sufficient emphasis upon the commercial, naval, and military aspects to explain significant diplomatic phenomena; and, finally, to assemble data which may perhaps throw additional light upon European attitudes towards American relations with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.

The author wishes to thank all of the many persons who have so kindly aided him in the preparation of this book. He is especially indebted to Professor John Musser and Mr. James Wettereau of New York University; to Mrs. Maddin Summers and her associates in the Archives Division of the Department of State; and to officials of the New York Public Library, the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Library of Congress.

New York University

January, 1931

Ray W. Irwin

(p. ix) Contents


Sovereigns of the Mediterranean


Formation of a Policy and the First Treaty with Barbary


The Algerine and Tripolitan Problems


New Disasters and the Beginnings of a Navy


Peace with Algiers


Treaties with Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis


An Uncertain Peace


First Years of the War with Tripoli


Last Years of the War with Tripoli


The Treaty of Peace


Difficulties with Tunis and Algiers


(p. x) Illustrations

General William Eaton. From an engraving by Hamlin.


David Humphreys. From an engraving by G. Parker after a painting by Herring from the original portrait by Stuart.


Joel Barlow. From an engraving by A. B. Durand after a painting by Robert Fulton.


Tobias Lear. From an etching by H. B. Hall.


Technical Details

Edition Used, Copyright

This is a transcription of the original edition, © The University of North Carolina Press, 1931. The copyright was not renewed in 1958 or 1959, as then required by law in order to be maintained. The work is thus in the public domain; details here on the copyright law involved.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was very well proofread: only five typographical errors that I could find. I marked my corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

Thruout the book, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A heraldic but somewhat naturalistic eagle, bearing the shield of the United States on its breast, hovering over a schematic map of the North African coast. It serves on this site as the icon for Ray W. Irwin's book 'The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers'.]

Lacking any suitably general illustration in the book itself, the icon I use to indicate this subsite is a design of my own: an American eagle of the period — from a presentation flag "reportedly given to the Six Nations Iroquois by the United States government around 1813" — hovering over a schematic map of the North African coast.

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Site updated: 18 Oct 15