Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates

Interesting study by Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates,

One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. The infant United States had therefore to decide not just upon a question of national honor but upon whether it would stand or fall by free navigation of the seas.

Hitchens also reinforces Wills' contention that,

There is of course another connection between 1805 and 1812. Renewed hostilities with Britain on the high seas and on the American mainland, which did not terminate until the Battle of New Orleans, might have ended less conclusively had the United States not developed a battle-hardened naval force in the long attrition on the North African coast.

This is the book Hitchens was researching,

Thomas Jefferson: Author of America


  1. This is one of the three bios I have in that mini collection of mini biographies. Hitchen is an interesting thinker/writer, even though he's sort of gone over the top now.

  2. Yea, I think 9-11 proved to be a strange tipping point for him. He hasn't satisfactorily explained why he tacked so far to the right after than incident, IMO. City Journal appears to be a neocon outlet, judging by the endorsements in its bannerhead.

  3. I won't get too far ahead of the game in regard to Madison, but Wills noted that The Tripolitan War (1801-1805) gave the American Navy invaluable experience which was later served in the War of 1812 when the British seriously misjudged the strength of the American Navy. The funny part is that neither Jefferson nor Madison were too excited about the Navy and wanted to put it into mothballs.

  4. I'll switch gears if Trippler's ready. I read Wills once, so shouldn't take long to remember it all.