“The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco,” stated President Obama in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009.
Morocco began recognizing American colonists in 1625. Governor William Bradford described the incident in the “History of the Plymouth Settlement.” Two Pilgrim ships had been sent back to England carrying dried fish and 800 lbs of beaver skins to trade for supplies: “They … were well within the England channel, almost in sight of Plymouth. But … there she was unhapply taken by a Turkish man-of-war and carried off to Morocco where the captain and crew were made slaves. … Now by the ship taken by the Turks … all trade was dead.”
Muslim pirates of Morocco raided European coasts and carried away over a million to the North African slave markets, where also tens of millions of Africans were sold into slavery.
In 1627, Algerian Muslim pirates, led by Murat Reis the Younger, raided Iceland, and carried 400 into slavery. One captured girl, who had been made a slave concubine in Algeria, was rescued back by King Christian IV of Denmark. On June 20, 1631, the entire village of Baltimore, Ireland, “The Stolen Village,” was captured by Muslim pirates. Only two ever returned.
Thomas Osborne Davis wrote in his poem, “The Sack of Baltimore” (1895):
The yell of ‘Allah!’ breaks above the shriek and roar;
O’blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore.
Des Ekin wrote in “The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates” (2008): “Here was not a single Christian who was not weeping and who was not full of sadness at the sight of so many honest maidens and so many good women abandoned to the brutality of these barbarians.”
Kidnapped Englishman Francis Knight wrote: “I arrived in Algiers, that city fatal to all Christians and the butchery of mankind.”
Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail had 500 wives, mostly captured from Europe, and forced 25,000 white slaves to build his enormous palace at Meknes. He was witnessed killing an African slave just to try out a new hatchet he was given. The Catholic order “Trinitarians” or “Mathurins,” collected alms to ransom slaves.
Morocco recognized the new country of the United States in 1785 by capturing two American ships and holding them for ransom.
Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Jay, 1787: “There is an order of priests called the Mathurins, the object of whose institution is to beg alms for the redemption of captives. They keep members always in Barbary, searching out the captives of their country, and redeem, I believe, on better terms than any other body, public or private. It occurred to me, that their agency might be obtained for the redemption of our prisoners at Algiers.”
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to William Carmichael regarding Tripoli’s demand for an extortion tribute payment, 1786: “Mr. Adams and I had conferences with a Tripoline ambassador, named Abdrahaman. He asked us thirty thousand guineas for a peace with his court.”
When Jefferson asked the Muslim ambassador what the new country of America had done to offend them, he reported to John Jay, March 28, 1786: “The Ambassador answered us that it was … written in their Qur’an, that all nations who should not have acknowledged Islam’s authority were sinners, that it was their … duty to make war upon them … and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.”
Jefferson purchased a Qur’an to understand the enemy.
Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. federal budget was used to make extortion tribute payments to the Muslim pirates, yet they still continued their piracy. When Jefferson became president, he finally sent in the U.S. Navy and Marines to stop Morocco’s Barbary pirates.
In his first annual message, Dec. 8, 1801, Thomas Jefferson stated: “Tripoli … of the Barbary states, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to (announce) war on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean, with assurances to that power of our sincere desire to remain in peace, but with orders to protect our commerce against the threatened attack. ”
On Dec. 29, 1803, the new 36-gun USS Philadelphia ran aground on Morocco’s shallow coast. Muslim pirates surrounded and captured it, imprisoning Captain William Bainbridge and his 307 man crew for 18 months.
To prevent the ship from being used by the Muslim Barbary pirates, Lieut. Stephen Decatur, on Feb. 16, 1804, sailed his ship Intrepid into Tripoli’s pirate harbor. Decatur set fire to the captured U.S. frigate “Philadelphia” and escaped amidst fierce enemy fire. British Admiral Horatio Nelson called it the “most bold and daring act of the age.” The Navy and Marines later captured Tripoli and forced the Pasha to make peace on U.S. terms.
Frederick Leiner wrote in “The End of the Barbary Terror – America’s 1815 War Against the Pirates of North Africa (Oxford University Press): “Commodore Stephen Decatur and diplomat William Shaler withdrew to consult in private. … The Algerians were believed to be masters of duplicity, willing to make agreements and break them as they found convenient.”
The annotated “John Quincy Adams – A Bibliography,” compiled by Lynn H. Parsons (Westport, CT, 1993, p. 41, entry #194), contains “Unsigned essays dealing with the Russo-Turkish War and on Greece,” published in the American Annual Register for 1827-28-29 (NY: 1830): “Our gallant Commodore Stephen Decatur had chastised the pirate of Algiers. … The Dey (Omar Bashaw) … disdained to conceal his intentions; ‘My power,’ said he, ‘has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper.'”
The First Barbary War, 1801-1805, was America’s first war after the Revolution. The Second Barbary War, 1815, gave rise to the Marine anthem: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
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