Portrait of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson was President during the First Barbary War.

First Barbary War External Links


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The First Barbary War

Before the American Revolution, Britain's navy protected its sea-going colonist tradesmen from the Americas. By the 1770s one-fifth of the trade of its Atlantic coast colonies exports went to the Mediterranean, in the holds of around 100 American-owned ships. One seaman from the British Isles complained that there was hardly a"petty harbor" without a Yankee bargaining with the natives.

The First Barbary War

The background for the war was the continued attacks from Barbary pirates on US vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and disagreements as to the level of tribute to be paid to the pirates. The pasha of Tripoli had demanded greater tribute paid, which was refused by the USA.

First Barbary War Facts

The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Barbary Coast War or the Tripolitan War, was the first of two wars fought between the United States of America (briefly joined by a small Swedish fleet) and the North African states known collectively as the Barbary States.

The First Barbary War

The First Barbary War (1801–1805,also known as the Barbary Coast War or the Tripolitan War) was one of two wars fought between the United States of America and the North African empire of Morocco and city-states of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, known collectively as the Barbary States.

Terrorism In Early America

Almost 180 years ago our infant country attacked Tripoli under circumstances that are eerily similar to contemporary times. That conflict, immortalized in the Marine Corps Hymn, "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli" called the Tripolitan War or the Barbary Pirate War, came shortly after we gained our independence from England.The United States chose to fight the pirates of Barbary, rather than pay tribute, as did all the other nations who traded in the Mediterranean Sea. The decision was bold, but the eventual victory by the tiny United States Navybroke a pattern of international blackmail and terrorism dating back more than one hundred and fifty years.

The United States' War with Tripoli (1801-05) and the War on Terrorism (2001-)

Two hundred years ago, the countries of the Barbary Coast, the northwest coast of Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, demanded tribute from other nations in return for safe use of the sea by their ships. The Barbary Powers, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, declared war on nations that refused to sign treaties meeting their tribute demands. The Barbary Powers sent out ships to capture the seagoing commerce of their enemies and held their crews for ransom or enslaved them. The Barbary corsairs, the sailors that the Barbary Powers dispatched to prey on enemy commerce, were neither terrorists nor pirates. They were commissioned privateers. Even the United States Constitution recognizes the legitimate use of privateering in warfare, providing Congress the authority to issue letters of marque and reprisal.

Documents, Official and Unofficial, Relating to the Case of the Capture and Destruction of the Frigate Philadelphia, at Tripoli on the 16th February 1804

Documents related to the the capture and destruction of the frigate, Philadelphia, during the First Barbary War.

Treaties with the Barbary Powers

Original text of treaties with the Barbary powers.

The Navy's Barbary War Crucible

The Philadelphia 's capture set the stage for one of the most famous exploits in U.S. naval history: Lieutenant Stephen Decatur Jr.'s daring raid that resulted in the frigate's destruction. What is often missed is that while Decatur's raid set the Philadelphia in flames it did nothing to hasten the release of Bainbridge and his men. That would come nearly two years later via diplomatic negotiations and the payment of ransom. Nor, aside from embarrassment, did the Philadelphia's loss do much harm to the Tripolitans.

America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe

Ruthless, unconventional foes are not new to the United States of America. More than two hundred years ago the newly established United States made its first attempt to fight an overseas battle to protect its private citizens by building an international coalition against an unconventional enemy. Then the enemies were pirates and piracy. The focus of the United States and a proposed international coalition was the Barbary Pirates of North Africa.

Jefferson on War with the Barbary Pirates

Original commentary,transcript, and image of original letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Congressman Joseph Nicholson regarding America's naval forces in the Mediterranean.

Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates

Understanding the theories of the Founding Fathers is one attempt to reveal their intentions on the war-making power of the President. Another possibly even more revealing method is to examine the actions of the Framers, or at least the actions of their contemporaries. Jefferson used his powers as commander-in-chief to deploy forces in a precarious position and eventually into war without first consulting Congress. This episode, of course, occurred with the Barbary Pirates, a situation which we will examine more closely now.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title First Barbary War External Links
  • Coverage 1801–1805
  • Author
  • Keywords first barbary war, barbary coast war, tripolitan war, jefferson overseas war, barbary pirates
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 11, 2021
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