In 1801 the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States. President Jefferson, who was an avid defender of the proclamation to use the United States Navy for defending American shores only, dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. What could have provoked such a decision you ask.
Piracy! Barbary Coast Pirates, Pirates sanctioned by Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli and, President Jefferson’s refusal to bend to the demands of them.
The Barbary Pirates would attack merchant ships take the cargo, crew and occasionally the ship. The crew they would hold for ransom. When paid the crew would be returned. Most countries along the Mediterranean would pay an annual tribute and be left unmolested.
While Jefferson was still the United States minister in France he attempted several times to create a coalition of Mediterranean States against the act of Piracy. All of his attempts failed. In 1795 the United States was forced to pay a little over a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to negotiate the release of 115 sailors from the Dey of Algiers.
Against all opposition Jefferson held firm to his belief and as he addressed congress in 1801 he said, "To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . ." The show of determined force by America awed the mighty powers of Algiers and Tunis and they broke off all alliances with Tripoli. The war on Piracy raged on for four years Algiers and Morocco refusing to cease the war on America. Strategic bombing of Tripoli finally forced Morocco out of the war while a more aggressive threat against the Pasha by replacing him with his brother settled that area. Algiers still demanded payment of $60,000 for the release of each of the 115 captured sailors in the proposed treaty. In 1806 with Senatorial consent the ransom was paid. But that was not the end of the Piracy.
In 1815 Algiers again declared war on the United States and again the United States Navy was dispatched. Peace was restored between America and the Barbary Pirates. The other countries along the Barbary Coast who continued their tribute payments were still subjected to Pirates.
In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19 the Artz Council presents Barbary Artz Pirates.