What Thomas Jefferson learned from the Muslim book of jihad

Ted Sampley at the U.S. Veteran Dispatch recounts a key event in early American history which is filled with vital lessons for us Americans today, but of which we are, sadly, stone-cold ignorant. Yes, we all know the stirring line, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli,” but when it comes to any substantive meaning that the shores of Tripoli might have for us, they might as well be the mountains of the moon. I have previously posted items on the war on the Barbary Pirates (here and here), but Sampley tells the story well and concisely.

- end of initial entry -

A reader points out:

The Sampley article seems to give Jefferson more respect than is warranted.

According to this , it was Congressman Robert Goodloe Harper who, in 1798, uttered the famous “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

And according to two pages of a book by Pat Buchanan, and this Wikipedia entry, the context had nothing to do with the Barbary wars.

Further, although Jefferson had a stiff spine regarding tribute in the 1880s, he apparently lost some of that resolve in winding down the first Barbary War in 1805, so the second war became necessary.

LA replies:

Jefferson was once famous for his scandalous weakness on national defense. He virtually shut down the U.S. Navy, leaving the country helpless against the British a few years later. His deepest belief about foreign relations was that an appeal to enlightened self-interest made military preparedness and military measures unnecessary. This belief was the basis of his disastrous Embargo Act, the centerpiece of his presidency, which, to his utter humiliation, he was forced to sign the repeal of a few days before he left office. He reputation then went into an eclipse for a generation.

Still, he did have some good insights into Islam. An unprincipled exception to his overall liberalism, perhaps.

LA writes:

For a summary account of America’s first war with Muslims, which was also America’s first war, see Andrew Bostom’s article at FrontPage Magazine, especially the second half of the article, which quotes at length from Joshua London’s book, Victory in Tripoli. The account focuses on the adventures of William Eaton, who led a successful attack on the Barbary leader in 1805, but then was undercut by diplomacy:

Appointed Naval Agent for the Barbary Regencies in 1804, Eaton then organized and led an expedition to unseat the predatory Barbary ruler Yusuf Qaramanli. Eaton’s army arrived outside Derna. on April 25, 1805. When the bey of Derna refused his generous ultimatum, at 2 p.m. April 28, Eaton led a successful attack on the city, supported by U.S. naval gunfire. During the fighting Eaton—who had led his outnumbered force in a gallant bayonet charge—was wounded in the left wrist. As London recounts:

He simply wrapped his arm in a makeshift bandage and sling, grabbed a pistol with his right hand, and continued to charge ahead. With the American Marines in the lead, Eaton’s forces stormed the ramparts and advanced straight to the harbor.

Subsequent diplomatic efforts stalled the expedition. Tobias Lear, the Consul General, reached an accomodation with Yusuf Qaramanli, which included ransom money for all American prisoners, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Derna, and the betrayal of Eaton’s key Arab ally, Ahmad Qaramanli. Eaton commented upon this treaty with predictable bitterness in a letter to Commodore John Rodgers:

Could I have apprehended this result of my exertions, certainly no consideration would have prevailed on me to have taken an agency in a tragedy so manifestly fraught with intrigue, so wounding to human feelings, and, as I must view it, so degrading to our national honor.

But ten years later, President Madison ordered a campaign against the Barbary pirates that was carried out to a successful conclusion.

London’s and Bostom’s take is that President Jefferson was something of an appeaser.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 07, 2007 03:52 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):