Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Hammuda Pasha, Bey of Tunis, 15 April 1801

From Hammuda Pasha, Bey of Tunis

At Bardo of Tunis the 2d. of the moon Haggia, of the year Egira 1215, and the 15 April 1801

Mr. President

Altho’ I have charged the worthy and zealous Consul of your nation, the Sieur William Eaton, to acquaint you with a proposition, which I have found myself under the absolute necessity of making to him, I have nevertheless determined to apply directly to you about it by these presents, in order that I might at the same time procure for myself the pleasure of reiterating to you1 the assurance of the continuance of my esteem and my friendship.

After the request I formerly made for forty cannon of different calibres, the present circumstances in which I find myself require that I should procure 24 pounders, of which I have the most pressing need. I should therefore wish that you would cause them to be sent to me as soon as possible, in case you should not, on the receipt of the present, have sent the first to me. If finally they should have been already sent away, I expect, Mr. President, as a real proof of your friendship, for which I shall be infinitely obliged to you, that you will furnish and convey to me forty other pieces, all of the calibre above mentioned.

This request will not appear in the least extraordinary to you, when you consider the very moderate and very friendly manner in which, differently from others, I have conducted myself towards the United States and their flag, not withstanding that the douceurs and presents, stipulated four years ago for my making peace with the United States have not all arrived, and that not the smallest part of those which were intended for me individually have been sent. I make no doubt on this subject, that your Consul will have forwarded the letter I addressed to you about two years past relative to it, and that you will thereby have seen, that I consented to wait the space of a year, in consequence of the representation which the same Consul made to me, that several of the articles composing the present, due to me, and which I constantly expect, could neither be had or manufactured in the United States, and that they were to be procured from foreign countries.

Wishing on my part to return you a reciprocity (whenever an occasion of urgency in your nation happens) in my country, and hoping to see that good harmony which happily subsists between us continued and remain undisturbed, I pray Almighty God to preserve you, and I assure you, Mr. President, of all the extent of my esteem and my most distinguished consideration

(signature & seal of Hamouda
Pacha Bey of Tunis)

Tr (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 7th Cong.); in Jacob Wagner’s hand; at head of text: “The Bashaw Bey of Tunis To Mr. John Adams, President of the United States of America”; also at head of text: “Translation” (possibly translated from French, judging from the bey’s communication of 8 Sep. 1802); transmitted to Congress among the papers supplementing TJ’s 8 Dec. 1801 message (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. Bear, Family Letters Edwin M. Betts and James A. Bear, Jr., eds., Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Mo., 1966 description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:358; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1826, 9 vols. description ends , 4:24). RC, not found, enclosed in William Eaton to secretary of state, 10 Apr. 1801, which Eaton held open for the bey’s letter (DNA: RG 59, CD). Recorded in SJL as received 27 Aug. 1801.

Hammuda (1759–1814) became bey of Tunis, and received the title of pasha, on his father’s retirement in 1777. He was educated for the role and trained as his father’s deputy before assuming power with the sanction of the Ottoman Empire. The Bardo was the royal palace in Tunis (Asma Moalla, The Regency of Tunis and the Ottoman Porte, 1777–1814: Army and Government of a North-African Ottoman Eyalet at the End of the Eighteenth Century [London, 2004], 44–6, 67, 70–76, 141; Kenneth J. Perkins, Historical Dictionary of Tunisia, 2d ed. [Lanham, Md., 1997], 30, 77).

The bey had attempted to convey his desire for 24-pounder cannons, which he wanted for shore batteries, through William Eaton, the U.S. consul at Tunis. Eaton refused to transmit the request, believing that Hammuda might treat his acceptance of the application as a guarantee of its fulfillment. Eaton suggested that the United States might be willing to substitute 24-pounders for other cannons it had already agreed to send (see below). Once Hammuda decided to write directly to the president, Eaton advised the secretary of state that a failure by the president to answer the bey might give offense and create a pretext for hostile action by the Tunisians (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Series, 1:79–82).

Forty cannon: in 1797 Hammuda’s terms for negotiating with the U.S. had included 26 12-pounder naval guns and 14 8-pounders. Those cannons, along with ammunition and quantities of shipbuilding supplies, formed a category of goods called the “regalia,” which was in addition to other payments and gifts to Tunis. Hammuda agreed to a treaty of peace with the United States in August of that year. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty in March 1798 but withheld consent from one article that concerned customs duties and most favored nation status. The Adams administration initiated a renegotiation of that article and requested alterations in two other sections. As a result, in 1799 new wording was substituted for three articles of the treaty. The Senate approved those changes, which did not affect the regalia or other principal gifts. In his previous letter to the president of the United States, dated 30 Apr. 1799, Hammuda threatened to void the pact if he did not receive the weapons he had demanded for negotiating the treaty. John Adams replied to that letter from the bey in January 1800 when he sent notice of the treaty’s ratification (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. Bear, Family Letters Edwin M. Betts and James A. Bear, Jr., eds., Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Mo., 1966 description ends , Foreign Relations, 2:125–6, 281–2; Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:386–426).

1Preceding two words interlined, possibly by TJ.

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