The conflict between the United States and the Barbary States
is today largely forgotten, but in the 19th century it was the stuff of legend.
Mordecai, Noah: "Travels in England, France, Spain and the Barbary States
in the Years 1813-1814 and 1815", (New York: Kirk and Mercein, 1819).
As a method of countering the pirates, commerce raiding would not prove effective because the Barbary states
did not have large merchant marines.
In 1795, the United States paid more than $ 1 million for the release of 115 sailors and the same amount, demanded by the Barbary States
, as tribute to prevent further attacks.
ships, Jefferson sent the Navy to bombard Tripoli (now Libya's capital), starting a war that lasted four years, defeated the Barbary states
, and ended piracy in the region.
In detail, Wheelan describes the excruciating and frustrating efforts to which our second President, John Adams, went to foster diplomacy, peace, and relationship with the pirating corsairs of the Barbary States
in support of the fledgling United States' growing overseas Mediterranean trade.
As recently as the 1820s, pirates from the Islamic North African Barbary States
were capturing Christians from trading vessels in the Mediterranean and Atlantic and enslaving them.
The popular shorthand for the depredations of the Barbary corsairs at the time was "the Terror"; Wheelan makes the point clearer by calling it "state-sponsored terrorism," and the payment of ransom in the form of tribute to the Barbary states
The author carefully integrates his readings of the drama with his discussion of international alliances and military actions involving England, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Low Countries, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Russia, Morocco and the Barbary States
, the Ottoman Empire, and Safavid Persia.
Strategically located along vital shipping routes between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, the Barbary states
of Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, and Tripolitania (today's Libya) had all built their economies around the piracy of foreign merchant ships at sea and the selling of their crews into slavery.
Thomas Jefferson called the Barbary States
'petty powers' and declared they were no match for the new America, but the pirates commissioned by these North African states managed to stop American shipping and commerce cold.
In the War of 1812, he captured the British frigate, HMS Macedonia; and in 1816 forced the capitulation of the Barbary States