Patterico's Pontifications


Two Hundred Years After America’s First Foreign War

Filed under: International,Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 11:32 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

America’s first foreign war, as well as its first unconventional war as a nation, was initiated in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson because he refused to accede to decades of demands for tribute by the Muslim pirates of North Africa’s Barbary Coast:

“In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty on Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli.

When Jefferson became president in 1801 he refused to accede to Tripoli’s demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. The pasha of Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. As he declared in his first annual message to Congress: “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. . . .”

This week’s hijacking of the French luxury yacht small cruise ship Le Ponant is the most recent evidence that pirates remain a threat off the coast of Africa. In fact, more than two hundred years after seeing action on the shores of Tripoli, the U.S. Navy is still fighting pirates in the region:

“Pirates seized more than two dozen ships off the Somali coast last year.

The U.S. Navy has led international patrols to try to combat piracy in the region. Last year, the guided missile destroyer USS Porter opened fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese tanker.

Wracked by more than a decade of violence and anarchy, Somalia does not have its own navy, and a transitional government formed in 2004 with U.N. help has struggled to assert control.”

The world is not always a civilized place and the people of the world sometimes fail to respond to the soft words and well-intentioned rhetoric of diplomacy. It’s a good policy to offer diplomacy but America must also be ready to act militarily. In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”


11 Responses to “Two Hundred Years After America’s First Foreign War”

  1. Technically, Le Ponant is a small cruise ship, not a yacht. The brochure I have lists a week and half cruise tour last summer centering on the west coast of Italy as costing $6390 ppdo plus airfare.
    Cruise lines have been staying away from the Horn of Africa as much as possible because of the piracy problem. That’s probably why she was travelling without passengers. A few years ago, the voyage would been marketed as a shoulder season cruise between Southeast Asia or India where it spent the winter and the Med where it’s scheduled to spend the summer.

    And SE Asia is not without its problems. The area near Singapore is also experiencing a problem with pirates attacking ships transiting the Strait of Malacca (between Sumatra and Malaysia).

    kishnevi (a117ab)

  2. I saw it described both ways, Kishnevi, and I agree it’s more cruise ship than yacht since it has multiple decks, restaurants, etc. But it’s not one of the mega-ships people today think of as cruise ships and I didn’t want people to think it is. Would it be fair to say “small cruise ship”?

    By the way, don’t you love cruising? It’s my favorite way to holiday.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. So, is Obama’s solution to piracy to send in the diplomats?

    LarryD (feb78b)

  4. Of course I love to cruise. Unfortunately, with my mother and all, I’m not able to go anyplace except a quick overnight for the foreseeable future.

    Also as a single, the extra fares mount up pretty quickly. I think the single occupancy rate for that Italy cruise tour was about $10,000.

    So I just collect brochures…

    Maybe we should organize a cruise?

    kishnevi (2b3e28)

  5. Ditto, Kishnevi, because we stay home now with our disabled son. But I have fond memories of many wonderful cruises BK (before kids) and I send our kids and extended family on cruises whenever possible.

    For now, the best I can suggest is a virtual cruise with the Princess web cams.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  6. There’s a lot we can learn from our first war.

    “In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then the ambassador to France, and John Adams, then the ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador to Britain from Tripoli. The Americans asked Adja why his government was hostile to American ships, even though there had been no provocation. The ambassador’s response was reported to the Continental Congress:”

    It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.


    Nessuno (101a14)

  7. A hundred or so years later; Teddy Roosevelt encountered a similar problem with a Moroccan
    warlord; the Raisuli, and his kidnapping of
    several American nationals including Ion Perdicaris.

    narciso (d671ab)

  8. I note most articles daintily avoided naming the tribe/religion of the pirates.

    Those dang Presbyterians again?

    Patricia (f56a97)

  9. A generation later the French conquered and annexed them all. As any real empire would.

    Amphipolis (e6b868)

  10. What about our Quasi-War with France just a few years before?

    Alan Kellogg (4822a4)

  11. Back some 200 years ago we went into tripoli and kicked their sorry butts and those pirates should face the old method for pirates A NOOSE AROUND THEIR NECKS

    krazy kagu (5e1710)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2206 secs.