Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No Blood For Trade

The Fred Thompson report has this bit on American and Marine Corps history. An excerpt:

After the Revolution, U.S. ships were sailing the world in search of trade without British protection. With no real navy to protect our merchants and travelers, American vessels and citizens were being targeted for looting, enslavement and ransom. The enemy was the so-called Barbary pirates -- agents of the North African provinces of the Ottoman Caliphate.

Ransom and protection money were demanded and paid. Stories of terrible treatment of American men and women in the dungeons of North Africa were well known. Behind it all, the country was having a pro- and anti-war debate.

On the one hand were those who took the "no blood for trade" approach. They had legitimate concerns about the cost and political impact of maintaining a standing military. They favored negotiations and payments rather than fighting. For a long time, their side was winning the argument. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams even went to London to negotiate directly with the envoy from Tripoli.

Several historians and writers have reminded us recently of the ambassador’s nearly forgotten answer. Fortunately, Jefferson prepared a written report for the government and left other records of the incident. Here’s a description from The Atlantic Monthly in 1872:

“Disguising their feelings as best they could, they ‘took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury.’ The ambassador replied that it was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave.” He claimed every one of their guys who was “slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise."

This answer may have helped sway the debate to the side of those who favored military response over further attempts at diplomacy. Some believe it had a personal impact on Jefferson himself, though higher and higher ransoms probably helped too. Congress finally acted, creating the US Navy in 1794. This included approval for the construction and manning of six frigate warships, including the USS Constitution -- which is afloat and commissioned to this day.
There is more. It is pretty good stuff.

H/T Reliapundit at The Astute Bloggers.

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