U.S. Timeline - The 1800s
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1801 DetailMay 10, 1801 - Tripoli declares war against the United States. The United States had refused to pay additional tribute to commerce raiding corsairs from Arabia.
It was a war against pirates. It was a war against Tripoli. It was a war against Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first war of the United States against an African nation. To think of the United States in the years between the American Revolution and the War of 1812, we tend to forget that relationships with other nations, or subsets within nations, were ongoing beyond the tensions with Great Britain. There had been government sanctioned piracy in the sea for three centuries by the nations of Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco. Captives were often made into slaves, if a reward for their release was not given. Individual treaties were signed with Tunis, Algiers, and Morroco. In 1797, the United States made a treaty with Tripoli and their leader, Joseph Karamali. It read ...
Annals of Congress, 5th CongressBut there was a problem. Karamanli, the bashar of Tripoli, now the nation of Libya, didn't like it, primarily because it did not include a yearly stipend. So on May 10, 1801, he chopped down the American flagpole outside his castle, annulled it, and declared war. He demanded President Thomas Jefferson send a gift; $225,000 now and $25,000 per year. Jefferson disagreed, sending a squadron of three frigates and one schooner.
Article 1. There is a firm and perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, made by the free consent of both parties, and guarantied by the most potent Dey and Regency of Algiers.
Art. 2. If any goods belonging to any nation with which either of the parties is at war, shall be loaded on board of vessels belonging to the other party, they shall pass free, and no attempt shall be made to take or detain them.
Art. 3. If any citizens, subjects, or effects, belonging to either party, shall be found on board a prize vessel taken from an enemy by the other party, such citizens or subjects shall be set at liberty, and the effects restored to the owners.
Art. 4. Proper passports are to be given to all vessels of both parties, by which they are to be known. And considering the distance between the two countries, eighteen months from the date of this treaty, shall be allowed for procuring such passports. During this interval the other papers, belonging to such vessels, shall be sufficient for their protection.
Art. 5. A citizen or subject of either party having bought a prize vessel, condemned by the other party, or by any other nation, the certificates of condemnation and bill of sale shall be a sufficient passport for such vessel for one year; this being a reasonable time for her to procure a proper passport.
Art. 6. Vessels of either party, putting into the ports of the other, and having need of provisions or other supplies, they shall be furnished at the market price. And if any such vessel shall so put in, from a disaster at sea, and have occasion to repair, she shall be at liberty to land and re-embark her cargo without paying any duties. But in case shall she be compelled to the land her cargo.
Art. 7. Should a vessel of either party be cast on the shore of the other, all proper assistance shall be given to her and her people; no pillage shall be allowed; the property shall remain at the disposition of the owners; and the crew protected and succored till they can be sent to their country.
Art. 8. If a vessel of either party should be attacked by an enemy, within gun-shot of the forts of the other, she shall be defended as much as possible. If she be in port she shall not be seized on or attacked, when it is in the power of the other party to protect her. And when she proceeds to sea, no enemy shall be allowed to pursue her from the same port, within twenty-four hours after her departure.
Art. 9. The commerce between the United States and Tripoli; the protection to be given to merchants, masters of vessels, and seamen; the reciprocal right of the establishing Consuls in each country; and the privileges, immunities, and jurisdiction, to be on the same footing with those of the most favored nations respectively.
Art. 10. The money and presents demanded by the Bey of Tripoli, as a full and satisfactory consideration on his part, and on the part of his subjects, for this treaty of perpetual peace and friendship, are acknowledged to have been received by him previous to his signing the same, according to a receipt which is hereto annexed, except such as part as is promised, on the part of the United States, to be delivered and paid by them on the arrival of their Consul in Tripoli; of which part a note is likewise hereto annexed. And no pretense of any periodical tribute of further payments is ever to be made by either party.
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Art. 12. In case of any dispute, arising from a violation of any of the articles of this treaty, no appeal shall be made to arms; nor shall war be declared on any pretext whatever. But if the Consul, residing at the place where the dispute shall happen, shall not be able to settle the same, an amicable referrence shall be made to the mutual friend of the parties, the Dey of Algiers; the parties hereby engaging to abide by his decision. And he, by virtue of his signature to this treaty, engages for himself and successors to declare the justice of the case, according to the true interpretation of the treaty, and to use all the means in his power to enforce the observance of the same.
The war would be the first of two Barbary wars, the Tripolitan War, lasting four years. Sweden had been at war with Tripoli since 1800 and joined in the fight on the United States side. Morocco sided with Tripoli. Eventually the best ships of the United States Navy would be used in the fight; Argus, Chesapeake, Constellation, Constitution, Enterprise, Intrepid, Philadelphia and Syren. The U.S. would win the war by June 10, 1805 and another treaty was signed. But that would not last either. Two years later the practice of piracy began again; another war, the Second Barbary War, would begin in 1815 after the War of 1812.
Photo above: An 1846 lithograph painting by Currier and Ives of the bombardment of Tripoli. Photo source: Library of Congress.
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