Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ALGERINE WAR (IN U. S. HISTORY.) From the time when Mohammedanism first gained a foothold in northern Africa, the Barbary powers carried on a naval warfare, at first for religion and afterward for profit, against every nation which refused to buy a peace from them. Before the American revolution, the American trade in the Mediterranean, amounting to about 20,000 tons of shipping, was protected by passes from the imperial government at London. In July, 1785, the Algerines began capturing American vessels, and continued to do so until 1793, except when their vessels were blockaded by a Portuguese fleet. In 1786-7 a treaty was concluded with Morocco; one with Algiers, Sept. 5, 1795; one with Tripoli, Nov. 4, 1796; and one with Tunis, Aug. 26, 1799. By these treaties the United States purchased peace either by a gross sum or by a yearly tribute; but the notorious doubt and difficulty of making the treaties, had at least compelled the formation of a small American navy, against the opposition of the republicans. (See DEMOCRATIC PARTY, II.) The payment of the tribute did not diminish the insolence of the recipients, and, in 1800, Bainbridge, who commanded the frigate George Washington, wrote to the navy department, "I hope I shall never again be sent to Algiers with tribute, unless I am authorized to deliver it from the mouths of our cannon."


—In 1801, Tripoli, dissatisfied with inequalities in the tribute, declared war, and the other Barbary powers began to be clamorous for fresh presents. In 1802, congress having recognized the existence of war with Tripoli, Commodore Morris was sent to the Mediterranean with six vessels, and four other vessels were rapidly equipped to follow him. The grounding of the frigate Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli, Oct. 31, 1803, her capture, and her subsequent destruction by Decatur, and the bombardment of Tripoli, were the principal events of this war until a land expedition by Eaton, American consul at Tunis, compelled Tripoli to make peace, June 4, 1805. The restrictive policy, which soon after was begun by the republican party, (see EMBARGO,) by checking American commerce, diminished the temptations to attack it; but the abandonment of this policy in 1810, renewed the temptation which the Barbary powers always found in an unprotected flag. In 1812 the dey of Algiers declared war against the United States, and from that time until 1815 British cruisers were allowed to capture American vessels in the Barbary ports. In May, 1815, Decatur was sent to the Mediterranean with ten vessels. He sailed directly to Algiers, capturing on his way the largest frigate in the Algerine navy, and compelled the terrified dey to appear in person on the quarter deck of the American flagship and there sign a treaty, June 30, 1815, which formally abandoned any claim to tribute in future. He then compelled Tunis and Tripoli to pay indemnity for British captures. The payment of tribute was thus terminated.


—The political importance of the Algerine wars lay only in the fact that they compelled the republican administration, in spite of its dislike to a navy, (see DEMOCRATIC PARTY, II., III., GUNBOAT SYSTEM,) to retain a nucleus of it and thus to insure the principal successes of the war of 1812. But the administration was embarrassed by the effort to combine its two opposite lines of policy, a sea-going fleet against the Barbary powers and gunboats against Great Britain and France; and many of its naval budgets were passed by its supporters in congress in secret sessions. The Algerine wars also led to an increase in the tariff. By the act of March 26, 1804, renewed at intervals until 1815, 2 1/2 per cent. additional ad valorem duties were imposed on all importations in American vessels, and 10 per cent. on foreign vessels, to form a fund for protecting American vessels against the Barbary powers (commonly called the Mediterranean Fund).


—See 1 Lyman's Diplomacy of the United States, 370; 2, 3, Hildreth's United States; 1 Cooper's Naval History; 4 Jefferson's Works (ed. 1829), 21; 1 Statesman's Manual (Jefferson's Messages, 1804-7); 3 Benton's Debates of Congress, 158 foll. The act of March 26, 1804, is in 2 Stat, at Large, 291; the treaties of 1786-7, of Sept. 5, 1795, of Nov. 4, 1796, of Aug. 26, 1799, of June 4, 1805, and of June 30. 1815, are in 8 Stat. at Large, 100, 133, 154, 157, 214, 224.


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