Monday, April 10, 2017

Debunking Jefferson's War Against Islam And The Barbary Pirates

Yet another Facebook rant is making its way across my newsfeed. This one offers a distorted account of President Jefferson and the Barbary Wars turning Jefferson's breaking of a high seas protection racket into a post Colonial-era crusade against Muslims. There are various different versions of the text, but here's the one I've seen most often:

A 232 Year History of our fight against Islam & why it is no longer taught in our public schools... 

When Thomas Jefferson saw there was no negotiating with Muslims, he formed what is now the Marines (sea going soldiers). These Marines were attached to U. S. Merchant vessels. When the Muslims attacked U.S. merchant vessels they were repulsed by armed soldiers, but there is more.

The Marines followed the Muslims back to their villages and killed every man, woman, and child in the village. It didn't take long for the Muslims to leave U.S. Merchant vessels alone. English and French merchant vessels started running up our flag when entering the Mediterranean to secure safe travel.

Why the Marine Hymn contains the verse, "To the Shores of Tripoli ".

This is very interesting and a must read piece of our history. It points out where we may be heading.

Most Americans are unaware of the fact that over two hundred years ago the United States had declared war on Islam, and Thomas Jefferson led the charge!
At the height of the 18th century, Muslim pirates (the "Barbary Pirates") were the terror of the Mediterranean and a large area of the North Atlantic. They attacked every ship in sight, and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. Those taken hostage were subjected to barbaric treatment and wrote heart-breaking letters home, begging their governments and families to pay whatever their Mohammedan captors demanded. These extortionists of the high seas represented the North African Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis , Morocco , and Algiers - collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast - and presented a dangerous and unprovoked threat to the new American Republic .

Before the Revolutionary War, U.S. merchant ships had been under the protection of Great Britain . When the U.S. declared its independence and entered into war, the ships of the United States were protected by France. However, once the war was won, America had to protect its own fleets. Thus, the birth of the U.S. Navy. Beginning in 1784, 17 years before he would become president, Thomas Jefferson became America's Minister to France. That same year, the U.S. Congress sought to appease its Muslim adversaries by following in the footsteps of European nations who paid bribes to the Barbary States rather than engaging them in war.

In July of 1785, Algerian pirates captured American ships, and the Dye of Algiers demanded an unheard-of ransom of $60,000. It was a plain and simple case of extortion, and Thomas Jefferson was vehemently opposed to any further payments. Instead, he proposed to Congress the formation of a coalition of allied nations who together could force the Islamic states into peace. A disinterested Congress decided to pay the ransom.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli's ambassador to Great Britain to ask by what right his nation attacked American ships and enslaved American citizens, and why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts. The two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam "was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran that all nations who would not acknowledge their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise." Despite this stunning admission of premeditated violence on non-Muslim nations, as well as the objections of many notable American leaders, including George Washington, who warned that caving in was both wrong and would only further embolden the enemy, for the following fifteen years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages.

The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to over 20 percent of the United States government annual revenues in 1800. Jefferson was disgusted. Shortly after his being sworn in as the third President of the United States in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli sent him a note demanding the immediate payment of $225,000 plus $25,000 a year for every year forthcoming. That changed everything.

Jefferson let the Pasha know, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his demand. The Pasha responded by cutting down the flagpole at the American consulate and declared war on the United States. Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers immediately followed suit. Jefferson, until now, had been against America raising a naval force for anything beyond coastal defense, but, having watched his nation be cowed by Islamic thuggery for long enough, decided that it was finally time to meet force with force.
He dispatched a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean and taught the Muslim nations of the Barbary Coast a lesson he hoped they would never forget. Congress authorized Jefferson to empower U.S. ships to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli and to "cause to be done all other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war would justify".

When Algiers and Tunis, who were both accustomed to American cowardice and acquiescence, saw the newly independent United States had both the will and the right to strike back, they quickly abandoned their allegiance to Tripoli. The war with Tripoli lasted for four more years, and raged up again in 1815. The bravery of the U.S. Marine Corps in these wars led to the line "to the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Hymn, and they would forever be known as "leathernecks" for the leather collars of their uniforms, designed to prevent their heads from being cut off by the Muslim scimitars when boarding enemy ships.

Islam, and what its Barbary followers justified doing in the name of their prophet and their god, disturbed Jefferson quite deeply. America had a tradition of religious tolerance. In fact Jefferson, himself, had co-authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, but fundamentalist Islam was like no other religion the world had ever seen. A religion based on supremacy, whose holy book not only condoned but mandated violence against unbelievers, was unacceptable to him.

His greatest fear was that someday this brand of Islam would return and pose an even greater threat to the United States .

This should concern every American. That Muslims have brought about women-only classes and swimming times in America at taxpayer-funded universities and public pools; that Christians, Jews, and Hindus have been banned from serving on juries where Muslim defendants are being judged; Piggy banks and Porky Pig tissue dispensers have been banned from workplaces because they offend Islamist sensibilities; ice cream has been discontinued at certain Burger King locations because the picture on the wrapper looks similar to the Arabic script for Allah; public schools are pulling pork from their menus; on and on and on and on..

It's death by a thousand cuts, or inch-by-inch as some refer to it, and most Americans have no idea that this battle is being waged every day across America. By not fighting back, by allowing groups to obfuscate what is really happening, and not insisting that the Islamists adapt to our culture, the United States is cutting its own throat with a politically correct knife, and helping to further the Islamists' agenda.

Sadly, it appears that today America's leaders would rather be politically correct than victorious!


The amount of historical inaccuracies and flat-out lies contained within this missive is appalling. Right out of the gate, the author tosses out a falsehood:  The Marines were not founded by Thomas Jefferson. The Marines were founded on November 10, 1775 by Captain Samuel Nicholas under the Second Continental Congress. They were disbanded after the Revolutionary War. They were then re-formed in 1798 in response to the Quasi-War with France. The French were outraged that the United States refused to continue paying its war debts owed to the country after the Revolutionary War. The United States argued that those debts were owed to a previous French government which no longer existed after the French Revolution. The French responded by attacking American shipping. The United States could do little to oppose France, as the Navy had been disbanded after the Revolutionary War. The French could not be negotiated with, so Congress authorized the re-formation of both the Navy and the Marine Corps. This was under President John Adams.

The "Barbary Pirates" refers to corsairs and privateers from the North African countries of Tripoli, Algiers and and Tunis (which were provinces of the Ottoman Empire) along with the independent Sultanate of Morocco. The four countries controlled a large portion of the Mediterranean and had been attacking merchant vessels as a sort-of "protection racket" since the 16th Century.  Indeed, as the rant says, American shipping was protected in the pre-Revolutionary War years due to the fact that American ships were effectively British ships. During the Revolutionary War, American shipping was protected by France via the Treaty of Alliance. The protections offered in that treaty expired in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris and the recognition of the United States as its own country.

No longer under protection from any larger European power,  American vessels were ripe for the plundering from Barbary Pirates. In fact, both England and France encouraged the Barbary States to attack American shipping, as it was cutting into both British and French trade. After Moroccan pirates seized an American brigantine vessel named Betsey in 1784,  the Spanish government stepped in to help negotiate the freedom of the captured ship and crew. Spain then advised the United States to offer tribute in order to prevent further attacks against merchant ships. To that end, Thomas Jefferson, then serving as the U.S. Minister to France, sent diplomatic envoys to Morocco and Algeria to try to purchase treaties and the freedom of the captured sailors held by Algeria. Morocco signed a treaty with the U.S., on 23 June 1786 formally ending all Moroccan piracy against American shipping interests. This debunks the rant's assertion that Jefferson saw that there was "no negotiating with Muslims".

Indeed, negotiations with the three remaining Barbary states did not go as smoothly. The nations wanted more money than U.S. envoys were authorized to spend. No agreement was reached, and American ships were at risk. In 1795, an agreement was reached with Algeris to release the 115 American sailors they had held for a decade for $1 million, which was 20% of the U.S. budget at the time. And they wanted a yearly tribute to be paid to them in order to ensure "protection" within their waters. Negotiations in London between Jefferson and Adams and Tripoli's envoy in 1786 did indeed produce the quote about Islam authorizing its followers to attack non-Muslims because they were regarded as sinners. It was regarded more as a justification than an overall reasoning. Again, the reason for the Barbary attacks was to squeeze "protection" money out of countries too weak to challenge them.

Adams and Jefferson agreed that, since the United States had no navy with which to challenge the Barbary Pirates, tribute would have to be paid. This eventually led to the Treaty of Tripoli being signed in 1796 (again debunking the "no negotiations with Muslims" claim). Although Jefferson bristled at having to pay tribute, the argument between the political factions in the United States centered more on whether or not the U. S. should be operating in the Eastern Atlantic to begin with. Many argued that the country should be concentrating on westward expansion rather than international trade. It was Jefferson rather than Washington who was the one who warned that paying tribute would set a bad precedent and would only embolden the Barbary Pirates. Washington had sought a diplomatic end to the Barbary issues while President and had often advocated for keeping the United States out of the affairs of the "Old World" to begin with.

Tensions were rising again with the Barbary States in 1800 and just before Jefferson assumed the office of President, Congress passed a naval registration act, purchasing new ships and allowing for attacks against pirates in Mediterranean in the event of a declaration of war from the Barbary States. When Jefferson took office in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli demanded a payment of $225,000. Jefferson refused and Tripoli declared war on the United States. None of the other Barbary States followed suit. While at war with Tripoli, the United States along with Sweden imposed a blockade of Tripoli. Hostilities raged on for four years, culminating in the Battle of Derna in which Lieutenant Eaton led a force of Marines along with Greek and Arab mercenaries to capture Derna. And, while American forces did march 600 miles through the desert, they did not go from village to village killing all the men, women and children. It should also be noted that the 200-300 Arab mercenaries in Eaton's force were Muslim, which would again debunk the rant's claim that the Barbary Wars were some kind of crusade against Islam. Also worth noting here is that, at no time did English or French vessels run up American colors on their ships. They didn't have to. Turkey, the seat of the Ottoman Empire, was allied with England and the Barbary States relied on free trade with France for supplies.

The capture of Derna gave the United States enough leverage to negotiate an end to the conflict. The resulting treaty still required that the United States pay Tripoli $60,000 for the release of American prisoners, though it was called a "ransom" rather than a "tribute". Jefferson's fear wasn't that Islam as a religion would pose a future threat, rather, he was concerned that rolling over and paying tribute to any country would weaken the United States as a player on the world stage. This is why the United States fought the Quasi-War against France and the First Barbary War against Tripoli.

The rant then goes off into a crazed railing against Muslim encroachment into American culture by citing a number of incidents that may or may not be true.  And even if they are, connecting them to the First Barbary war is impossible to do without an Olympic season's worth of mental gymnastics. The one thing the rant does get right is the saying that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. But, it follows that, in order to remember history, one must study it properly in the first place, something that the knuckle-dragging author of the rant clearly failed to do.

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