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To George Washington from Timothy Pickering, 6 January 1797

Department of State January 6. 1797

To the President of the United States, The Secretary of State respectfully makes the following brief representation of the affairs of the United States in relation to Algiers.

When Colonel Humphreys left America in April 1795, he was accompanied by Joseph Donaldson Esqr. who had been appointed Consul for Tunis and Tripoli; and him Colo. Humphreys was authorized to employ in negociating a treaty with Algiers; while he should proceed himself to France, for the purpose of obtaining the cooperation of that government in this negociation.

They arrived at Gibralter the 17th of May. Colo. Humphreys concluded, that it was expedient for Mr Donaldson to go first to Alicante, rather than Algiers, in order to be near at hand to ascertain facts and profit of occasions. He gave him instructions accordingly; and having also instructed Mr Simpson, our Consul at Gibralter, to renew our peace with the Emperor of Morocco; Colo. Humphreys sailed from Gibralter the 24th of May and arrived at Havre de Grace the 26th of June, from whence he set off immediately for Paris. The object of his mission was communicated by our Minister, Colo. Monroe, to the Committee of Public Safety. On the 21st of July he had received only a verbal answer, that the French Government was disposed to interest itself and to do every thing in its power, to promote the accomplishment of our wishes on the subject in question. On the 28th assurances were received, that immediate measures should be taken for giving particular instructions to the Agents of the Republic to use its influence in cooperation with us. The multiplicity of affairs with which the officers of the government were occupied, and the getting from London a sum of money necessary to purchase the usual peace presents, prevented a conclusion of the arrangements at Paris until September. It had been judged expedient by Colo. Humphreys and Colo. Monroe, that Joel Barlow Esqr. should be employed in the negociations with the Barbary States; and his consent had been obtained. By the 11th of September all the writings on the part of Colo. Humphreys were prepared for Mr Barlow, to proceed with the instructions and powers from the Government of the French Republic to its agents in Barbary, in favor of our negociations.

Colo. Humphreys left Paris the 12th of September and reached Havre the 14th, where he found the master and mate of the United States’ Brig Sophia, both sick with fevers. While waiting there impatiently for their recovery, he received intelligence from our Consul at Marseilles that Mr Donaldson had concluded a Treaty of peace with the Dey of Algiers. Nevertheless Colo. Humphreys thought it expedient, that Mr Barlow should proceed with the presents prepared and preparing at Paris; for if not needed at Algiers, they would be wanted in the negociations with Tunis and Tripoli.

About the 5th of October Colo. Humphreys sailed from Havre, and after a stormy passage of more than forty days, arrived at Lisbon the 17th of November. There he found Capt. OBrien, who had arrived about the 1st of October with the treaty with Algiers.

On the 3rd of September Mr Donaldson arrived at Algiers, and on the 5th the treaty was concluded, and the peace present immediately given, by a loan from M. Bacri, the Dey’s broker. Mr Donaldson, knowing that funds had been lodged in London to answer his stipulations, engaged to make the payments in three or four months.

Colo. Humphreys had received advice, under date of the 30th of July, from the Messrs Barings in London, to whom the funds had been remitted, that having made progress in the sales of the United States’ stock, they should hold at his disposal the whole of the value of 800,000 dollars, meaning to furnish by anticipation the value of that part, which remained unsold, if the service of the United States required it. Colo. Humphreys counting on the money as always ready after this period, sent Capt. OBrien from Lisbon to London in the Brig Sophia to receive it. Owing to contrary winds, she did not leave Lisbon till the 24th of December. The other details relative to the pecuniary transactions appear in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury.

The disappointments in the pecuniary negociations put the treaty in jeopardy. The Dey became impatient, and threatened to abandon it; and it was with extreme difficulty, that it was prevented. Mr Barlow did not arrive at Alicante until February 1796, where he proposed to wait the arrival of the funds: but after a little time his intelligence from Algiers showing, that our affairs were in a most critical situation, he determined to go thither immediately, with the hope of soothing the Dey. He arrived there the 5th of March. They had before prolonged the time to the 8th of April for the payment of the stipulated sums. On the 3rd of that month the Dey declared what should be his final determination, that in eight days Mr Barlow and Mr Donaldson should leave Algiers; and if in 30 days after the money was not paid, the treaty should be at an end, and his cruizers should bring in American vessels. Under these circumstances, and as the last hope of saving the treaty, they were induced to offer the present of a frigate. This fortunately succeeded. For the particulars of this transaction, the Secretary begs leave to refer the President to the enclosed letter from Messrs Barlow and Donaldson.

Colo. Humphreys not deeming himself authorized to confirm this promise of a frigate, refered the matter to the Executive of the United States: and for this end dispatched Captain OBrien in the brig Sophia to America. There was evidently no alternative; and the promise was confirmed. The frigate is now building in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and is expected to be finished in the spring. Capt. OBrien returned to Lisbon, where he arrived on the [          ] of July. Colo. Humphreys had advantageously negociated bills on London for 225,000 dollars. This sum was embarked on board the Sophia, and on the 4th of August Capt. OBrien set sail for Algiers. He has not since been heard of: and there is room to fear, that some misfortune has befallen him. The money was insured at a small premium against the dangers of the seas. Again[st] all risks they demanded so high a premium as Colo. Humphreys judged it inexpedient to give, seeing the Sophia was a vessel of the United States, having a special passport from the President, as well as a passport in the turkish language under the seal of the Dey of Algiers.

Such arrangements have been made by Mr Barlow and Mr Donaldson with the house of the Messrs Bacri at Algiers and Leghorn, as will doubtless ensure the payment of the 400,000 dollars, orginally expected from the latter place, and the same house have become engaged to the Dey and regency for the residue of the money, due as the price of peace, without which he would not agree to the redemption of the captives. The Secretary of the Treasury estimates these further sums to be provided, to fulfil the terms of the treaty——

  255,759 dollars
 For two years annuities to the Dey 96,246
 To which are to be added the 10,000 sequins promised by Mr Barlow and Mr Donaldson to Mr Bacri mentioned in their letter } 18,000
 And the expenses of the captives performing quarantine at Marseilles and transporting them to America, estimated by the Consul at Marseilles at about } 6,500
Dollars 376,505

On the 31st [          ]ult. I received a letter from Mr Barlow, dated the 12th of July, informing that the agent Mr Famin, at Tunis, who had been recommended to him by the French Consul Heculais, had concluded with the Dey of that Regency a truce for six months from 15th day of June last, and this without any presents.

Timothy Pickering,

Secy of State

DNA: RG 46—Records of the U.S. Senate.


Algiers 5. April 1796


After finishing our dispatches on the 3d instt to send by the Courier to Tangier we found that the port was to be opened immediately. We therefore gave up that mode of conveyance for a more direct and speedy one by way of Alicant. We have now what we hope will be more agreeable news to announce to you. For two days past we have been witnesses to a scene of as complete and poignant distress as can be imagined, arising from the State of total dispair in which our Captives found themselves involved, and we without the power of administering the least comfort or hope. The threat which we mentioned to you in our last, of sending us away, had been reiterated with every mark of a fixed and final decision. And the Dey went so far as to declare that after the thirty days, if the money did not come, he never would be at peace with the Americans.

Baccry the Jew, who has as much art in this sort of management as any man we ever knew, who has more influence with the Dey than all the Regency put together, and who alone has been able to soothe his impatience on this subject for three months past, now seemed unable to make the least impression. And the Dey finally forbade him, under pain of his highest displeasure, to speak to him any more about the Americans. His cruisers are now out, and for some days past he has been occupied with his new war against the Danes. Three days ago the Danish prizes began to come in, and it was thought that this circumstance might put him in good humour, so that the Jew might find a chance of renewing our subject in some shape or other. And we instructed the Jew, that if he could engage him in conversation on his cruisers and prizes; he might offer him a new Amercan built ship of 20 guns which should sail very fast, to be presented to his daughter, on condition that he would wait six months longer for our money. The Jew observed that we had better say a Ship of 24 guns, to which we agreed. After seeing him three or four times yesterday under pretences of other business, without being able to touch upon this, he went this morning and succeeded. The novelty of the proposition gained the Dey’s attention for a moment, and he consented to see us on the subject. But he told the Jew to tell us that it must be a ship of 36 guns, or he would not listen to the proposition. We were convinced that we ought not to hesitate a moment. We accordingly went and consented to his demand, and he has agreed to let every thing remain as it is for the term of three months from this day. But desired us to remember that not a single day beyond that will be allowed on any account.

We consider the business as now settled on this footing, and it is the best ground we could possibly place it upon. You still have it in your power to say peace or no peace, you have an alternative, in the other case you had none, but war was inevitable, and there would have been no hope of peace during the reign of this Dey.

The guns are to be 8 pounders (English nines) 24 on the main deck, 8 on the Quarter deck, and four on the Forecastle. The 12 last may be smaller. She ought to be built long in proportion, and formed for sailing fast, a circumstance particularly pleasing here. We think such a vessel fitted for sea may be delivered in America for 45,000 dollars. Then, as by the terms of the treaty we have to deliver a quantity of long spars and other timber, this vessel will be a proper one to transport a cargo of them to this place. And in this way a saving may be made of about 10,000 dollars in freight.

In order to save the treaty thus far, which has been a subject of infinite anxiety and vexation, we found it necessary some time ago to make an offer to the Jew of ten thousand sequins (18,000 dollars) to be paid eventually if he succeeded, and to be distributed by him at his discretion among such great officers of State as he thought necessary and as much of it to be kept for himself as he could keep consistent with success. The whole of this new arrangement will cost the United States about 53,000 dollars. We expect to incur blame, because it is impossible to give you a complete view of the circumstances, but we are perfectly confident of having acted right.

With regard to the transfer of the funds to this place, we believe it can be done with the least difficulty through Leghorn. That is, to draw from that place on London, Madrid, or Lisbon, as shall be most advantageous, perhaps on all Unless you can ship a part in specie from Lisbon, which we believe would be the preferable mode for such a sum as you can ship.

Mr Donaldson sails tomorrow for Leghorn, there to wait your orders on this head. There is no time to be lost. you will be pleased to instruct him as soon as possible; and let our measures from this time forward be effectual. we are obliged to incur a considerable expense to get this letter to Allicante, we hope it will reach you soon. we remain Sir, with great respect Your obt and very hume Servts

Joel Barlow

Joseph Donaldson Junr

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