Today in the Americas, the First Barbary War

US first barbary war

With pirates in the news, it’s important to remember that today in 1805 (204 years ago) Yussif Karamanli, Pasha of Tripolitania (present day Libya), signed a peace deal with the United States after becoming the first world leader to declare war in 1801 on the new nation.

In the early nineteenth century, it was the Barbary Coast (present day Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) who were involved in piracy. Europe, with its empire to maintain, and the US, an empire to build, went out of their way to pay bribes and tributes to the major centers of piracy in Tripolitania and other Barbary nations, up to $1 million a year, an astronomical sum in 1800. Of course, back then, the major power centers focused on the Mediterranean Sea and its access to the Atlantic Ocean (unlike today, piracy is focused off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden).

As Thomas Jefferson took office, the money ran out as he refused to pay Karamanli, who declared war on the US. Jefferson sent the USS Enterprise to the Mediterranean Sea, where it defeated the ship Tripoli. Because of the westward expansion and US government’s increased power of taxation, Jefferson sent tons of newly commissioned war ships toward the northern coast of Africa and crippled the region’s only real source of income. After some battles, Karamanli finally relented and signed a cession of hostility agreement in 1805.

The Barbary Wars (another one broke out in 1815, which ended quickly) serve as the first true test of American strength in the world, as it was the first instance of soldiers working together, as “Americans” for a common goal. The implications of this are obvious to our situation in the world today. The Barbary Wars saw the institutionalization of the Navy and the Marines as tools of the US government. One need no sympathy for pirates to understand the enormous implications of American dominance during this skirmish, for it would have implications for years to come.


~ by Daniel on June 10, 2009.

One Response to “Today in the Americas, the First Barbary War”

  1. first!

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