Millions for defense but not one penny for tribute… Robert Goodloe Harper


A perspective View of the loss of the U.S. Frigate Philadelphia in which is represented her relative position to the Tripolitan Gun-boats when during their furious attack upon her she was unable to get a single gun to bear upon them. Contemporary engraving after a drawing by Charles Denoon.

A perspective View of the loss of the U.S. Frigate Philadelphia in which is represented her relative position to the Tripolitan Gun-boats when during their furious attack upon her she was unable to get a single gun to bear upon them. Contemporary engraving after a drawing by Charles Denoon.

Muslim pirates had prowled Mediterranean since the 9th century but it was not until the expansion of the Ottoman Empire and the arrival of the pirate Kemal Reis in 1487 that the Barbary corsairs became a true menace to Christian shipping. For the next four centuries Barbary pirates looted the cargo of ships they captured but their primary goal was to capture and enslave people – white gold.  Between 1530 and 1780 more than a million Europeans were captured and taken as slaves to Muslim principalities.

Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat during the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804

Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat during the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804

It finally took the nascent United States and the young Commodore Stephen Decatur to dictate terms to the ruler of Algiers, “dictated at the mouths of our cannons”, to put an end to this early form of hijacking. It is worthwhile noting that in the absence of Western booty the Barbary states withered to an insignificance that only Tripoli would be rescued from by oil – the rest are just so much sand with arabs sitting under trees eating their dates. Maybe if we had another James Madison as president the current scourge of attempted muslim domination could be lifted?

Stephen Decatur's Conflict with the Algerine at Tripoli during the boarding of a Tripolitan gunboat on 3 August 1804.

Stephen Decatur’s Conflict with the Algerine at Tripoli during the boarding of a Tripolitan gunboat on 3 August 1804.

Pirates of Barbary: corsairs, conquests, and captivity in the seventeenth-century Mediterranean New York: Riverhead Books, 2010 Adrian Tinniswood Pirates Mediterranean Region History 17th century Hardcover. 1st American ed. and printing. xx, 343 p.: ill., map; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [325]-333) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)

Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)

It’s easy to think of piracy as a romantic way of life long gone – if not for today’s frightening headlines of robbery and kidnapping on the high seas. Pirates have existed since the invention of commerce itself, but they reached the zenith of their power during the 1600s, when the Mediterranean was the crossroads of the world and pirates were the scourge of Europe and the glory of Islam. They attacked ships, enslaved crews, plundered cargoes, enraged governments, and swayed empires, wreaking havoc from Gibraltar to the Holy Land and beyond.

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833)

Commodore William Bainbridge, USN (1774-1833)

Historian and author Adrian Tinniswood brings alive this dynamic chapter in history, where clashes between pirates of the East – Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli – and governments of the West – England, France, Spain, and Venice -grew increasingly intense and dangerous. In vivid detail, Tinniswood recounts the brutal struggles, inglorious triumphs, and enduring personalities of the pirates of the Barbary Coast, and how their maneuverings between the Muslim empires and Christian Europe shed light on the religious and moral battles that still rage today.

Campaign against the Barbary Powers, 1815  Engraving depicting Commodore William Bainbridge's squadron sailing from Gibraltar on 6 October 1815.

Campaign against the Barbary Powers, 1815 Engraving depicting Commodore William Bainbridge’s squadron sailing from Gibraltar on 6 October 1815.

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