The Barbary Pirates: America's first war with Islam

British Sailors boarding an Algerian Pirate ship
British Sailors boarding an Algerian Pirate ship | Source

This war on terror isn't America's first war on Islam. In fact, our battles with the Muslims goes back to the early days of our great Republic. The American Colonies had just broken away from the protections of the powerful British empire. The British navy offered protection to the merchant vessels of her colonies, which kept the thieving pirates of north Africa from seizing American ships,plundering their cargo, and enslaving their men. When America was under the control of the British empire, her ships were issued British passes that were backed by treaties between Britain and the North African nations. These passes gave American shipping free reign throughout the Mediterranean Sea. America was no longer afforded these protections, and the young nation had to find the means to protect herself against these pirate scoundrels.

*NOTE: YOU CAN CLICK ON SOME OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS FOR LARGER IMAGES


Betsey surrounded by 7 french corsairs
Betsey surrounded by 7 french corsairs | Source

Morocco Captures the Betsey

The first American ship to be captured by Muslim pirates was the Betsey. Moroccan pirates seized the ship off of the coast of Spain in 1784. Shortly after Great Britain recognized the independence of the colonies in 1783 through the Treaty of Paris. Spain intervened on behalf of America to secure the release of the Betsey's captain, crew and cargo. This goodwill gesture by Spain was designed to gain a valuable ally against Great Britain in the New World. Morocco agreed upon the release of the captain and crew, and paid restitution for the ship and any cargo that was lost. They also requested that America send a peace negotiator in order to draw up a formal treaty between the two countries

Christian slaves captured on the high seas by Algerian pirates
Christian slaves captured on the high seas by Algerian pirates | Source

Algerian pirates capture the Dauphin and the Maria

Three months after the release of the Betsey, Algerian Pirates seized two more American ships. One ship, the Maria, was taken off of the coast of Portugal. The other ship, the Dauphin, was taken off the coast the Spain. The combined crews of the two ships numbered 21 men, which were taken captive and put into slavery by the Muslim nation. It is reported that the men were chained and paraded before jeering crowds on there way to the Algerian leader. The leader then spit on them and is quoted as saying:

"Now I have got you, you Christian dogs,you shall eat stones"

When in London, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the resident ambassador for Algeria. They asked the ambassador why the Barbary nations were so hostile to the new republic. This is the answer that they were given which they reported back to the Continental Congress:


The teachings of the Koran lead to America's first war against Islam

"that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once."

 A beautiful example of Rigobert Bonne's decorative map of the Maghreb or Barbary Coast. Covers northwestern Africa and the western Mediterranean 1771
A beautiful example of Rigobert Bonne's decorative map of the Maghreb or Barbary Coast. Covers northwestern Africa and the western Mediterranean 1771 | Source
One founding father is missing from the Philadelphia convention.  The Dey of Algiers
One founding father is missing from the Philadelphia convention. The Dey of Algiers | Source

The Dey of Algiers, a founding father of the Constitution

This barbarianism is what led to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. It was the First war on Islam that caused the colonies to surrender their independence to a centralized government in America. This Government was developed to provide for the common defense of the colonies. "In an indirect sense," wrote the historian Thomas Bailey, "the brutal Dey of Algiers was a Founding Father of the Constitution."

After several years of ransom payments, finally the United States decided to refuse payments to the pirates of Algiers. The United States built 6 naval warships by this time, and President Thomas Jefferson was ready to provoke a war with the Barbary nations. The Dey of Algiers obliged and declared war on the United States in 1801. Jefferson sent War ships to the middle east immediately without a declaration of war from congress. One year later Congress did issue the Act for Protection of Commerce and Seamen of the United States Against Tripolitan Corsairs, which served as an act of war.

Burning of the U.S.S. Philadelphia
Burning of the U.S.S. Philadelphia | Source

The Philadelphia captured and destroyed

The War on Islam did not start out smoothly. The great American warship Philadelphia was captured by Tripoli along with it's 300 crew on board when it ran aground while blockading the Muslim port during October 1803. It's capture presented a great threat for all other merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as opposing war ships.

Knowing this threat the United States sent out a daring raid that set the Philadelphia ablaze while it was anchored in harbor. Britain's Lord Nelson calls the raid "the most bold and daring act of the age" while Pope Pius VII credits the U.S. Navy for doing "more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages."


Attack on Derna
Attack on Derna | Source

William Eaton leads the Marines to the shores of Tripoli

In a daring raid William Eaton along with 10 US marines, 200 Christian mercenaries, and 200 to 300 Muslim mercenaries sacked Darna, the second largest port city after Tripoli. Eaton led a mercenary army composed of Muslims and Christians from Alexandria, Egypt some 500 miles to Darna. Eatons army had the support of warships USS Argus, USS Hornet, and USS Nautilus under the command of Master Commandant Isaac Hull. The fighting force battled sand storms, extreme heat and hunger on their journey across the deserts of north Africa, as well as near mutinies caused from rifts between the Muslim and Christian soldiers. When the force finally arrived, Darna refused surrender and put up heavy resistance. Eaton finally took the city thanks to his naval support, but an army of 4000 reinforcements led by Hassan Bey counter attacked from Tripoli. Eaton was able to use Darma's fortifications and his fleets cannon fire to repel the attack and force the retreat of the army of Hassan Bey. The military victory secured a peace between the U.S. and the Barbary nation, but America would not be done with it's first war against Islam.

The Victory by the Marines in Tripoli was historic for several reasons. First, it was the first time that the America flag was raised in victory on a foreign battlefield. Second, it brought about the adoption of the Mamaluke sword by the marine corps. And finally, it is commemorated in the marine hymn by the verse "and the shores of Tripoli"

Decatur's fleet convinces the Dey of Algiers that peace is in his best interest
Decatur's fleet convinces the Dey of Algiers that peace is in his best interest | Source

Peace or serious disaster

The war quieted down until Algiers decided to take advantage to the growing tentions between the U.S. and Great Britain. The U.S. had to bring home some of its ships from the region to support her war against Britain and Algiers resumed attacking American merchant vessels. It wasn't until after the war of 1812 with Great Britain that America was able to finally bring the battle with the Barbary pirates to a conclusion. James Madison received a formal declaration of war from congress in April 1815. Then quickly sent out Stephen Decatur with a fleet of 10 war ships into the Mediterranean. After capturing two Barbary ships, the fleet sent word to the Dey of Algiers to declare a lasting peace or suffer a serious disaster. The Dey sided with peace and America won the first war against Islam. Before it's conclusion the war with the Barbary Pirates costed America some 700 men to captivity, 35 ships, and millions in ransom payments.


We are still at war with Islam - My view on the Current war on Terror

2012 Copyright Michiganman567

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Comments 48 comments

qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

I wrote a Hub, not as focused as this one on the Islamic aspect. Spreading Islam by jihad is a pillar of the religion. Islam is at war with everyone else. It destroyed kingdoms in Africa, and will continue in the same pattern.

Enslavement of captives was the standard; demanding ransom was standard.

This practice continued until Napoleon invaded and captured Algeria.

Very good hub.


Civil War Bob profile image

Civil War Bob 4 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

Interesting and well don hub, MM567! Do you have any more information on the '200 Christian mercenaries' you mentioned? Were these guys in it for the religion or the money or both? I liked your use of Wiki photos...I do that, too. Enjoy the day.


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 4 years ago from Port St. Lucie

That "jizya" to sail the high Seas was millions of dollars. Pres. Jefferson knew Arabic and gad his iwn copy of the Koran, nit becayse ge esreemed it as a holy book, but becayse he kbew the Koean taught jihad.

When Jefferson and Ben Franklun were in Paris, as ambassadors, they aprriaches a Muslim dignitary to explain the pirating. The Muslim said it was rhe teaching of the Koran to annihilate non-muslims.

And it still is.


gregas profile image

gregas 4 years ago from Corona, California.

A very interesting and informative hub. This, to me is what the hubs are all about learning and sharing. If I could make money, that would be good too, but sharing and learning are pay in themselves. Very good, well done. Greg


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@Qeyler Thanks for the comment. I will have to check your article out on Muslim expansion through war. These Jihads keep on coming


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@CivilWarBob No I don't have a lot of information on the 2oo Christians. I would guess that they were in it for the money, but I would have to look into it further to be certain.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@vrajavala We pay our Jizya today to the Muslim Brotherhood to try to keep them from attacking Israel and the West. We call it "foreign aid". Take it away and see what happens


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@gregas Thanks for the comment. I'm glad that you enjoyed this hub. It probably isn't the best write up ever done on the subject, but I had fun doing it.


gregas profile image

gregas 4 years ago from Corona, California.

It's the first I've heard about it, so it has increased my knowledge, which probably isn't saying much. Thank you. Greg


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

This period is very significant; firstly, the control of the 'Corsairs' (N.African Pirates) of the Meditteran. Sea, the enslavement of Europeans by African, (hidden bit of history there) and the fact that European powers had to pay Tribute to the Vizier. Originally British tribute covered it's colony, America. When America was on it's own it had to pay its own way.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@Gregas, that makes it worthwhile then. I am glad that I was able to share something new with you.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

@Qeyler, I thought that Jefferson sending ships to the Mediterranean without congressional approval was interesting as well. A lot of Ron Paul nonsense came to mind when I was writing it. Like war without a formal declaration, and they attack us due to blow back.


Nils Visser profile image

Nils Visser 4 years ago from The Low Countries

Glad to see the US taking such a principled stand against slavery in the early 19th century.....erm....


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Yes, we kind of put an end to the practice during the 19th century


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

You covered this very well. I was aware that Jefferson cracked down on the pirates but I didn't know much of the details


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for stopping by Dahoglund. I'm glad that you liked it.


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

it was the tripolitan war that no one remembers...except the Marine Hymn. btw; the Barbary Pirates abduction of Catholics would always lead to ransoms being paid..(that was the use of the poor box). Protestants didn't redeem, nor did poor countries; Iceland lost 400 people. They were sold into slavery in North Africa. (Many of the slaves in Mauritania are white). Later the various Protestant denominations collected money.

In Jamaica the Lady Musgrave Fund was set up to redeem women captives and teach them skills, (no one would marry them, obviously). Other funds were used; after the end of Piracy to open teacher colleges ... in Jamaica and in Barbados the Teacher's colleges were created with the money that was no longer needed to redeem captives.


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 4 years ago from Port St. Lucie

It's a disgrace that barbarism is cloaked in this si-called religion of hate


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

This hub has interesting comments. Vrajavla doesn't the Koran also have parts in it were it tell's the people who read it not to kill? Such as

life is sacrosant. The Koran states 5:32 Killing a person unjustly, is the same as killing all of humanity, and saving a person, is the same as saving all of humanity. It is true that Christians and Muslims have both used their Holy Books to kill, but that is wrong. We should stop, because Allah and God are the same. In the Koran as you know you are not supposed to kill the innocent. There are parts in the Koran which do talk about people who commit suicide, perhaps like the suicide bombers, that they will go to hell, not be blessed with virgins.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for the added information Qeyler. That is news to me. It sounds like a good topic for a hub, you should write it!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

No we do not worship the same God, Michele. Muslims and Christians will both tell you that. Most of the people that were killed were not killed due to Christianity, they were killed by the Pope and his religious system, Catholicism. Also by Calvinists and their religious system. The Christian Bible never tells us to kill anyone. People may claim that they kill for the Bible, but they can not cite anything from the Bible to back up their claims.

Here is an explanation on why the Quran contradicts itself, and why these peaceful verses are no longer valid.

The Quran includes many abrogated verses, called mansukh, and abrogating verses called nasikh; the latter cancel the former, rendering them invalid, though they nevertheless remain in the Quran.

Of the Quran's 114 surahs, only 43 are without abrogated or abrogating verses. Many westerners are unaware that many portions of the Quran are theologically annulled.

How does one know if verses have been abrogated? Later texts often abrogate earlier texts whenever there are inconsistencies between them. Many of the Quranic verses that teach tolerance and peace, in particular those that prohibit compulsion in religion, are found in Surah 2, one of the oldest surahs, and thus liable for abrogation.

Surah 2:256, often quoted by Muslim apologists, states:

"Let there be no compulsion in relgion; truth stands out clearly from error."

Of course, Mohammed received this revelation when he was surrounded by many non-Muslim enemies. It would have been foolhardy on the part of his followers to attempt to "compel" the non-Muslim majority to Islam.

However, after Mohammed became the established ruler in Mecca, and while he was preparing his followers for holy jihad to spread Islam, Allah changed his tune:

Surah 48:29: "Mohammed is Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to unbelievers but merciful to one another.

Surah 8:37: "In order that Allah may separate the pure from the impure, put all the impure ones (non-Muslims) one on top of another in a heap, and cast them into hell. They will have been the ones to have lost."

Surah 8:12-13L "Allah revealed His will to the angels, saying, I shall be with you. Give courage to the believers. I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels (non-Muslims). Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. That was because they defied Allah and His apostle. He that defies Allah and his apostle shall be sternly punished by Allah."

And many more could be cited.

When Islam wishes to appear peaceful, surah 2 is often quoted.......without mentioning the abrogating verses.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Michiganman that was an amazing comment. Perhaps you should write the hub, not me. You know a lot more then me. Wish I could give you 2 thumbs up.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Well in full disclosure, I did kind of copy and paste the bulk of it. Now you can write that hub. "abrogated verses of the Koran"


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Nils do not come and comment on my hubs anymore. This is not a religious discussion. And I do not waste my time with trolls. I tolerated your first snide little comment, but I am not going to allow anymore. Go find someone else to annoy.


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

One of the things I find with some history is that it is suppressed. The enslavement of Europeans by the Corsairs, (as they have been called...the same folks you're writing about) is kind of an embarrassment. Some people claim that there were over 4 Million European slaves in N. Africa. These people were captured from the ships and not redeemed, or there were raids on Coastal areas, (which is why many cities are in land)


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

History seems to suppress a lot of information. It is pretty sad. Thanks for the information. I didn't know the numbers were that high


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

Corsairs reached as far as Iceland, and captured 400 people in one raid. They decimated certain cities in Ireland and Italy. They were very powerful.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 4 years ago from upstate, NY

You hear many whine today, "no blood for oil" but was this much different then what early America did? Back then you could have said, "no blood for money", because after all we didn't absolutely need to trade in the mediterranean. We not only protected our ships but invaded their country, something the Europeans wouldn't even do. Today many in this nation would say the would charge that it is imperialistic and unamerican, Baloney!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for the comment wba108. People that chant "no blood for oil" are usually anti-American to begin with. They are the ones that are quick to blame America first. Those people would still be paying tribute to our enemies.


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

It must be remembered that the Corsairs captured and enslaved whomever fell into their hands. This isn't much different from the Somali Pirates.


feenix profile image

feenix 4 years ago

Hey, Mich,

This is a useful, awesome, interesting and very informative hub.

As soon as I saw the title, I burst out singing, "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli ..."


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for the read, comment, and compliments Feenix.


Nero 4 years ago

What do you think about Ron Paul


Nero 4 years ago

I am muslim and I really can not understand your government and their acts


Nero 4 years ago

you can contact me over my e-mail nermin_83@yahoo.com ,you should give your comment about english


Nero 4 years ago

you should watch Farenhajt 9/11 by Michael Moore

, sorry if my english is not to good ...


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for your comments Nero. Interesting choice of names.

1. Ron Paul is crazy

2. Our Government was attacked first. We are now fighting a war on "terror"

4. Michael Moore is a anti-American communist propaganda artist. 9/11 was not an "inside job" it was done by Muslim terrorists. Are you defending them?


debugs profile image

debugs 4 years ago from Odessey777, Umbris

I agree, we do not worship the same G-d. There is NOTHING the Torah or the Christian Bible has in common with the Koran. I worship the L-rd G-d of Israel, the Koran says we are all infidels. Oh and I have not read lately of a Jewish, Buddhist,Pastafarian dad who teaches his 3 year old kids that all Jews are pigs and that they should grow up to die blowing up buildings and embassies. Great hub!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you for the comment Debugs. At least I am not the only one that doesn't buy that Allah is the God of the Bible.


debugs profile image

debugs 4 years ago from Odessey777, Umbris

Heck no! After all the killing of kids they just did today in France? NOTHING can convince me "allah" is that same G-d of love in the Bible! NOTHING!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

It is pretty sick when they start targeting kids. But when they strap bombs on their own kids what do you expect?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for publishing this outstanding article. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Thank you James. I always value your opinion and comments.


Kihal 4 years ago

Excuse me for my bad English

Since Iam Muslim, Iadvise my friend who wrote about the majority of Quran is abrogated to read more and more about this topic . Also, to be convinced that there is no contradiction between quranic verses, so a deep reading is required .


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

Since a Muslim can lie in order to promote the expansion of Islam, I can not believe what Muslims say about their religion. All that I can do is look at the actions of Muslims. This is a historic account, and there is no denying the viewpoints of both sides.


qeyler profile image

qeyler 4 years ago

Moving off the Hub to Commenting on Comments; it is quite extraordinary that Muslim will use children; their own even as 'shields' or 'collateral damage' etc.

It is so remarkable to learn that Israel's defense respond by automatically shooting at where a rocket was fired from. Hence, these great 'liberators' climb up to the roof of a nursery or school, fire a rocket, then run like hell and claim that the Israeli's 'targetting' the nursery or the School.


Boug 4 years ago

'The Betsey' involved discussions With Morocco whig has been the first country to recognize US as an independent country...


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 4 years ago from Michigan Author

True, thanks for the comment Boug. Where was France?

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