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  • Barbary Pirates

  • Shore Tripoli

  •  From the mount of Montezuma To the Shores of Tripoli

  • Jefferson got angrier and angrier as the 1790s wore on – in 1795 alone, the US paid more than

  • $1 million for the return of 115 men, vast naval stores, and a frigate – and by the time he was President himself, he was ready to tell the pirates to get bent. This he did when Tripoli demanded nearly a quarter-million dollars in protection money in 1801 (and declared war on the US when TJ wouldn't pay), by dispatching a small squadron of frigates and support ships to the Mediterranean. Concerned for their own welfare, Algiers and Morocco broke off their alliances with Tripoli, and the final dissolution of the Barbary States began in earnest.


  • Jefferson pursued the unpopular, undeclared war for four more years, but most of the action was in 1803 and 1804. While most of America's attention was focused on the manifest destiny of the Louisiana Purchase, the crew of the USS Philadelphia found themselves prisoners of the pasha of Triopoli, and Jefferson dispatched an agent named William Eaton and a handful of Marines to Egypt in order to organize a land attack. Meanwhile, a fleet under Commodore Edward Preble compelled Morocco to withdraw from the hostilities, and another task force took its sweet time in coordinating support for Eaton's T.E. Lawrence-anticipating performance.


  • Eaton hired about 500 men (around 400 Arabs and 100 European and American "contractors") to complement his 8 U.S. Marines in Cairo, and set out toward the Cyrenaican seaport of Derna through the Egyptian desert. The ostensible reason for the expedition was the return to the pasha's throne in Tripoli a guy named Hamet, who'd been run out of town by his younger, meaner brother. Hamet and Eaton held the occasionally-mutinous army together through an incredible trans-Saharan march, and descended upon Derna on April 27, 1805. They were supported in this action by naval gunfire from the U.S. Navy ships Hornet and Argus, and the rousing success of their storming of the fortifications led to the first raising of the American flag over an enemy fortification on the other side of the Atlantic.


  • An army dispatched from Tripoli (ie., Hamet's brother) approached Derna, and there was skirmishing for a couple of weeks. Eaton and Hamet (really, Eaton more than Hamet) favored fighting their way through the ragtag force and marching on Tripoli straightaway, but news arrived that a deal had been reached with the pasha regarding the release of the Philadelphia hostages – and that since U.S. interests were now met, there would be no need to support Hamet's bid for the throne. America paid $60,000 for each hostage; Eaton termed the American negotiator, Colonel Tobias Lear, a traitor; Hamet went into exile in Syracuse, his wife still a part of his brother's harem; and William Eaton returned to a hero's welcome. The King of Denmark presented him with a gold box, and Massachusetts, "desirous to perpetuate a remembrance of heroic enterprise," hooked him up with 10,000 acres of free land. Lawrence of Arabia-like to the bitter end, he never did really forgive himself for his country's screwing over of Hamet.


Jefferson reported both the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition and the calming of hostilities with the Barbary States in his 1806 address to Congress, but America went right on paying tribute for nearly another decade before stamping out the tribute payments once and for all. In 1815, Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led attacks on Algiers that brought the last of the shakedown artists to heel, and though European countries continued to pay protection money into the 1830s the era of the Barbary Pirates was rapidly coming to an end.

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