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Wars of the Barbary Pirates

Remembered especially for the daring raid 'to the shores of Tripoli'


The Wars of the Barbary pirates were not just about the US trying to save its shipping from corsairs and slavery. They led to the development of a US naval force long before the country could be considered a world power. And it wasn't only the Americans. Europe had to pursue its own agenda against the Barbary States, since America tended only to care for its own people and not about the thousands of Europeans than had also been taken into slavery...

Developed from a series of articles first published online on 20 September 2001.

Tripolitan War of 1801-05 -- Declaration of War

Burning Of The USS Philadelphia © Getty Images
© Getty Images
America ended the war of Independence with the UK with an under-equipped navy. It was unable to protect the nation's shipping and consequently entered into treaties with the Barbary States which promised them tribute. The US failed to meet its commitments, and in anger the Pasha of Tripolitania, Yusuf Karamanli, ordered the Stars and Striped cut down from in front of the US consulate. The US government took this as a, somewhat fortuitous, declaration of war.

Tripolitan War of 1801-05 -- Attack on Derna

William Eaton © Hulton Archive / Getty Images
© Hulton Archive / Getty Images
The blockade of Tripoli harbor left the crew of the USS Philadelphia in chains in Tripoli. The American Consul to Tunis, William Eaton, however, had a plan. A daring 500 mile overland attack on Derna from Alexandria with 400 odd US marines and African mercenaries.

Tripolitan War of 1801-05 -- Bringing the War to a Close

Stephen Decatur © Getty Images
© Getty Images
Despite Eaton's successful attack on Derna, Colonel Tobias Lear, Consul General to the Regency of Algiers, responded to the "overtures of peace" being made by the Yusuf Karamanli Pasha. The resultant treaty, which required Eaton's immediate evacuation (of American personnel only, plus the Pasha's elder brother), gained the US a respite, but further action by the US and European powers was needed before the Barbary pirates were defeated.

The Treaty of Tripoli, 1797

This treaty between the US and the Bey of Tripoli was ratified by the US Senate on 26 May 1797. It is remembered more now for the controversial Article 11, which sets out a separation of church and state in the USA: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".

The Life of Yusuf Karamanli

Yusuf Karamanli Pasha, hereditary ruler of Tripoli was in command of a fleet of pirates which were the plague of the Mediterranean. But one state was preparing to stand against him -- the USA. It would take an overland invasion from Egypt to convince him to stop...

Biography of Yusuf Karamanli

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