James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 25 May 1801

From William Eaton

Tunis May 25th. 1801.


On the eleventh instant War was declared in form by the Bashaw of Tripoli against the United States of America. A few days before this event took place the Commodore’s Ship was dressed with the flags of all Nations: that of the United States was hoisted forward; in the place of prize flags, under the Neapolitan. This Commodore who (is) a British Renegade—Morad Rais, Alias, Peter Lisle. We must get possession of him. For this purpose let our Ships of war approach all Ba[rba]ry corsaires under English colours till they are distinguishable. They all wear the same flag. Lisle once secured a stratagem may be used to decoy the Bashaw into an American Frigate and thus end the war. Mr. Cathcart is expected here in a few days. Persuaded that I could be more serviceable to the squadron than here at this crisis—I take liberty to propose leaving Mr. Cathcart charged with our affairs at Tunis & my going myself on Board our Commodore. I can distinguish between the corsaires of the different Regencies. My aim is only to assist measures to chastise the temerity of Tripoli. And it is matter of total indifference to me in what capacity Government may direct my Services to this view. Should our squadron have occasion to (speak) at Tunis Let them send in a small vessel; but not discover themselves, at least till after the expedition. I have the honor to be, with great respect, Sir, Your Mo. Obedt.

William Eaton

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