This book majorly focuses on the war President Thomas Jefferson had against the pirates from North Africa, who when he took over the office, were continually attacking merchant ships from the United States and continuously keeping their sailors to acquire ransoms. Congress was forced to build the United States Navy and corps of the marine in response to these attacks.
After the attempts of diplomacy with the Muslim countries namely; Morocco, Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers had failed, the president then made up his mind to resist intimidation by sending his marine and navy teams across Atlantic to conduct an organized sea and land attack. It was for the first time the American flag got raised in a foreign land.
The main characters in this book include Andrew Sterett who battled ferociously on the highest seas anti the disloyal Tripoli pirate ship. The second character is Stephen Decatur who had a heroic night raid of a rival harbor with the intention of ruining a ship from America that had cascaded into the lands of the pirate. William Eaton is the third character who went through African's 500-mile desert, to seize a city and raise the flag of America in a foreign soil for the very first time (Reuben and Robert, p.12).
The story starts in the 1780s when the United States realizes that its commerce is facing threats from Mediterranean pirates. This book begins with the United States that has just received independence but is undergoing some problems from minute states working from the Mediterranean. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates is all about the war between the United States and Tripoli between the years 1801-1805 which occurred during the presidency of Jefferson. After gaining its independence, the United States no longer had British protection. Many of their crews and ships had been taken in the 1780s and 1790s by these African states, and this is what the first four chapters of the book are about. When he became the president, the issue was a big deal already, and therefore he had to send the United States navy team to face Tripoli which had declared war with them after 1801 treaty dispute. In the past fifteen years, Jefferson had made attempts to work with the African states, but it was a dead end. He found it very hard to work with people who justified enslaving non-Muslims with their religion (Gale, p. 238).
Chapter six to sixteen is all about the war that took four years between Tripoli's Ottoman Regency and the United States. It includes the US naval and the efforts of diplomatic, political negotiations that took place in Washington and lastly the efforts of marine to take over from Tripoli ruler and have his brother as the replacement. The book introduces a Scotsman, Murat Rais who after changing his religion to Islamic betrayed America. It further elaborates how there is the repetition of history and most of the ongoing things in America are not new. In the book, there is an indication that more established and very wealthy Europeans used what they had to buy peace for their ships, unlike Americans who had no money or large navies to adhere to the demands of the captives who enslaved their crews.
Americans tried to make peace with the African countries, but it did not work as Jefferson found it hard to reason with their beliefs which they used to defend their actions. It also indicated in the book that history is repeating itself, and most of the things that are happening in America were just but a repetition of the past. Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates bring back the war that had got forgotten as much as it played a significant role in changing the history of America with a lot of bravery and high sea battles.
Caitlin Gale. Book Review- Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The book forgot the war that changed American History. Posted May 26th, 2016 p. 238.
Huntington and Samuel P. National policy and the transoceanic navy. United States Naval Institute Proceedings. Vol 50, Number 5. May 2014 p. 491
Rubel and Robert C. National policy and the post systematic Navy. Naval war college Review vol. 66, No. 4 Autumn 2013, p.12.
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