Question: Why did the US pay money to the losers, at the end of both Barbary wars?
The United States did not win the First Barbary War. After some amazing and unexpected success in a ground invasion, which involved minimal US support, Tobias Lear and Commodore James Barron grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory. Commodore Barron refused to support the continuation of the ground invasion, and Tobias Lear signed a peace treaty with the Tripoli Bey which increased annual payment to the pirate nation. The United States was also paying off the Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian pirates who all demanded individual treaties and tribute. America's Barbary Pirate problems wouldn't be resolved until the second Barbary Pirate War conducted a decade after the first in 1815.
Treaty of Tripoli
With the disbanding of the former Continental Navy and the selling of its last warship by the Confederation Congress in 1785, now without a standing navy, much less a navy capable of projecting force across an ocean, the U.S. was forced to pay tribute monies and goods to the Barbary nations for the security of its ships and the freedom of its captured citizens. As Lieutenant and consul William Eaton informed newly appointed Secretary of State John Marshall in 1800, "It is a maxim of the Barbary States, that 'The Christians who would be on good terms with them must fight well or pay well.'
Soon after the formation of the United States, privateering in the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean from the nations of the Barbary Coast prompted the U.S. to initiate a series of so-called peace treaties, collectively known as the Barbary Treaties. Individual treaties were negotiated with Morocco (1786), Algiers (1795), Tripoli (1797) and Tunis (1797), all of them more than once.
- 25 July 1785, Algeria began piracy against the U.S. with the capture of the schooner Maria, and Dauphin a week later. All four Barbary Coast states demanded $660,000 each tribute from the US. However, the US envoys were given only an allocated budget of $40,000 to achieve peace.
- July 15, 1786, The United States entrees into it's first agreement with a Barbary Pirate state where it agrees to tribute in exchange for safe passage the Treaty with Morocco,
- June 21, 1788. The United States Constitution is ratified.
- 1795 the United States agreed to pay $800,000 to the Bey of Tunisia in exchange for 100 American captives, plus annual tribute that amounted to about 20 percent of the yearly federal budget.
- 1796: United States signs a treaty with Tripoli President Adams agrees to annual tribute.
- 1799: United States agrees to pay Tripoli $18,000 per year to secure safety for American trade ships in the Mediterranean; similar agreements with the other Barbary powers are also settled
- February 17, 1801: Thomas Jefferson becomes President of the United States. Jefferson who is philosophically against paying for a standing navy, doesn't object to paying off the Pirates.
- March 1801: Tripoli declares war on the United States and seizes numerous American merchant ships
Tripoli declares war because while the United States has agreed to pay them, the United States is not paying them in a timely manner. So the Pirates start causing trouble.
Thomas Jefferson uses a three pronged approach to deal with the declaration of war from the Bey of Tripoli.
A).. He dispatches a squadron of ships to the Mediterranean to confront the pirates and blockade Tripoli's main port.
B). The former envoy to the Tripoli pirates is dispatched from the United States back to Tripoli with a wild scheme to cause insurrection against the Bey. The envoy was William Eaton, one of the great American hero's lost to history. Eaton had been serving as a kind of Foreign Service Officer to the Barbary Coast Pirates under the Adams Administration so he was familiar with the part of the world and the pirates. Eaton had recently been recalled when Commodore Richard Morris, had shown up in Tripoli and had been "arrested", until he agreed to pay off Eaton's $26,000 debt. Commodore Morris's brother had recently cast the tie breaking vote in the US senate which selected Thomas Jefferson as our third President over Aron Burr. There is some question as to how much of that debt was actually owed. They Bey bascally saw the opportunity for a pay day and sticking it to the United States who wasn't paying tribute in a timely manner. Morrison's squadron paid the sum, and Eaton was returned to the US in disgrace with an angry Commodore Morris blaming him for the embarrassing episode.
Anyway Eaton makes it back to Washington City just ahead of the notice that the Tripoli had declared war on the US. Jefferson initially tells Eaton that the US government isn't going to honor / pay for his debt which Eaton claims was insured on behalf of the United States. If Jefferson did not agree to cover the debt it would bankrupt Eaton's family. The two men strike an agreement which see's the settlement of the debt deferred, and William Eaton boards a ship back to Tunisia with a wild plan to de-throne the Bey. Eaton with no money, and just a handful of marines (8) is tasked with starting a revolution in Tripoli unseat the Bey and place his older brother on the throne. Jefferson doesn't give William Eaton operational command over any ships, nor weapons, nor money to see this plot through. William Eaton basically gets passage back to North Africa, an honorary rank in the US Navy and a hand shake agreement with Jefferson.
C). Meanwhile.. Jefferson dispatches Tobias Lear, an infamous and also forgotten name in US history. Lear was George Washington's aid /book keeper/right hand man after Washington Left the White House. Lear is infamous for:
(1)Attempting to embezzle money from the aging Washington.
(2)Sending out letters to the founding fathers after Washington's death; offering to destroy Washington's personal correspondences and diary entries which could be embarrassing if entered into the historical record. Lear would provide this service for a price. Anyway Jefferson and Lear had done business and this leads to a series of lucrative postings for Lear under the Jefferson Administration. His latest was as diplomat seeking to settle/payoff the Bey of Tripoli.
The First part of Jefferson's plan is an utter failure. In Oct 1803 The USS Philadelphia under Captain Bainbridge is trying to blockade Tripoli. 1 Ship blockade. That's what you do when you have fewer than 10 ships in the entire US navy. The USS Philadelphia runs aground. Captain BainBridge immediately gives orders to dump the guns and gunpowder overboard and surrenders. The USS Philadelphia unbeaches itself a few hours latter when high tide comes up, but by that time the 307 US servicemen have already surrendered and become slaves of the Bey of Tripoli. So much for the US Navy. The US Navy's greatest exercise in Tripolian coastal waters in the first Barbary War is a raid in which they burn the captured USS Philadelphia thus keeping it from becoming the Bey of Tripoli's pirate fleets flag ship.
Meanwhile Jefferson's underfunded second plan to pressure the Bey of Tripoli shows some results. William Eaton and 8 marines(lead by 1st Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon) start recruiting mercenaries along with the Bey's older Brother(Hamet Karamanli) who is living in exile in Egypt. They promise US Navy Support, which they don't have, and elude to a chest of gold. The chest however doesn't contain gold, as Jefferson gave them no gold. Ultimately they are able to convince 500 European Mercenaries and Arabs to join them on their quest. This "army" with almost no support, and with just scant provisions crosses 500 miles into Tripoli. There with US Navy coordination, they successfully attack and capture the second largest city in Tripoli(Battle of Derna (April–May 1805).
After they capture Derna, they send word back to Malta the base of operations for the US navy squadron. Eaton calls for more Marines in preparation for an assault on the Capital Tripoli to unseat the Bey. Only Commodore James Barron refuses to support him. Commodore Barron tells Eaton their is no money in the Navy's budget for this war. He says his ships can't take another winter in the Mediterranean and need to be going back to home waters. Commodore Barron pulls the plug on William Eaton's amazing, but never really supported successful component of the First Barbary war. Eaton and O'Bannon are forced to abandon their "army" in the field as they slip aboard a US ship and flee back to the United States.
The now properly motivated the Bey of Tunisa and Tobias Lear reach an agreement where the US agrees to continue to pay tribute to the Tripoli pirates, to go along with the tribute we are paying to the Morrocco Pirates, and the Algerian Pirates and the Tunisian Pirates... and Jefferson declares victory.... but make no mistake, the United States Lost the first Barbary war. The enemy was left in the field, payments continued, and the Second Barbary war would be fought a decade latter over basically the same terms.
Notable Statements from William Eaton....
Congress should have dispatched a squadron of quaker meeting houses, as they would have performed identically to the US Navy.
Congress should change the sigil of the United States. Instead of an Eagle clutching arrows, they should change it to an Eagle clutching a Cigar, or a Fiddle Bow.