Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Mawlay Sulayman, Sultan of Morocco, 21 August 1802

To Mawlay Sulayman, Sultan of Morocco

Aug. 21. 1802.

Great and good friend

A war, as unjust as it was unprovoked,1 having been declared against us by the Bey of2 Tripoli, we sent some armed vessels into the Mediterranean for the protection of our commerce in that sea. We gave it in particular charge to our officers to respect your majesty’s flag and subjects, and to omit no opportunity of cultivating a good understanding with you: and we trusted3 that should circumstances render it necessary for our vessels to enter your majesty’s harbors, or to have communications with them, they would4 experience that hospitality and friendly assistance which we would practise towards your5 vessels and subjects in our own ports or elsewhere whenever we could be useful to them.

We learnt then with great concern6 that your M’s sensibility excited by the sufferings of Tripoli of a nature indeed to make us forget the wrongs which had produced them, had induced you to propose a relief not admitted by the ordinary rules of war:7 and that a refusal which was regular on the part of our officers, had drawn on our Consul marks8 of YM’s displeasure.

If the views of Y.M. were confined to the single instance of relief which was the subject of that application, certainly our great esteem & respect for you would have led us to give as we9 now give that proof of the value we set on your friendship; & we do it under a full confidence that your justice could not have contemplated a permanent relinquishmt on our part of the rights which nature has given us, of reducing an unjust enemy to reason by an infliction of all those evils which a state of war authorises.10

As an additional11 proof of the confidence we repose in Y.M.’s justice, we also declare that if in the further exercise of your benevlce & frndshp towards Tripoli, you should think proper to interpose your powerful influence with that Bey to induce him to return again to the paths of justice towds us, we require no other price for the restoration12 of peace, considering as we do13 the just pursuits of industry as more beneficial to a nation than the most successful war.

We had been given to understand14 some time since15 that it would be agreeable to you that the US. should at your expence16 procure to be made for you one hundred gun carriages. we have lost no time17 in preparing and sending them to you by a ship of our own; and we feel it more conformable with our dispositions towards your majesty to ask your acceptance of them as a mark of the esteem and respect we bear you, and of the desire we entertain of cultivating that peace and friendly intercourse, which, while it is acceptable to us with all nations, is particularly desired with your majesty.

I pray god18 to have you, very great & good friend in his holy keeping. Done in the US. of America this    day of August 1802.

Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 125:21646–7); entirely in TJ’s hand; dateline at foot of text on fol. 21647; text consists of two components, the first one (fol. 21646) being the FC of TJ to Sulayman, [5 Aug.], with emendations, to form the first, fifth, and sixth paragraphs of the letter printed above according to notations “§. 1,” “§. 3,” and “§. 4” (see notes 1, 14, and 18 below); the second component (fol. 21647) comprising additional text, heavily emended, to form the second, third, and fourth paragraphs of the letter with notation “§. 2” for sequence (see note 6 below), written on a clipped address sheet, probably from Samuel Smith to TJ, 9 Aug., containing a partial address to TJ at Monticello and a Baltimore postmark of 10 Aug. Not recorded in SJL.

EXCITED BY THE SUFFERINGS OF TRIPOLI: “Frequent representations on the distress of the people in Tripoly for Grain, I know have been made to Muley Soliman,” James Simpson wrote to Madison on 13 May; “whether his well known Charitable disposition towards all Mussulmen in want, may have induced him to endeavour at sending these supplys of Wheat (for he gives it gratis) or if it be done as an aid in their present Contest, it is impossible for me to say” (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:222).

THIS    DAY OF AUGUST: according to Madison to TJ, 25 Aug., TJ left this letter at Montpelier when he visited on 20–21 Aug. (see TJ to Dearborn, 20 Aug.). The version that he left with Madison has not been found. Madison wrote on 25 Aug. that he erased a paragraph before forwarding the letter to Washington, and that deletion does not appear on the draft printed above. On 21 Aug., TJ and Madison were unaware that news had arrived in Washington of a declaration of war by Mawlay Sulayman. After receiving that information on the evening of 22 Aug., TJ informed Madison that “of course” the letter to the sultan could not go forward. Robert Smith and Albert Gallatin anticipated that decision and instructed Daniel Brent not to send the letter (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 33 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , 3:508, 517; Enclosure No. 1 described at Robert Smith to TJ, 20 Aug.; TJ to Madison, 23 Aug.; TJ to Smith, 23 Aug.).

1In margin: “§. 1.” This paragraph is from the FC of the 5 Aug. letter (fol. 21646). TJ interlined the salutation above this paragraph.

2Preceding three words interlined.

3Final two letters of word inserted.

4Word interlined in place of “will.”

5TJ here canceled “majesty’s.”

6TJ first wrote “It is with great concern we have learnt” before altering the passage to read as above. This paragraph and the two paragraphs that follow it are from TJ’s Dft of new text for this version of the letter (fol. 21647). In margin: “§. 2.”

7The preceding passage replaced a heavily reworked passage that included the clause “of the injustice of which they are the consequence” replaced by “produced by the necessary consequences of their own injustice” followed by “had desired to extend to them a relief which the laws of war would not regularly admit.”

8Word interlined in place of “proofs.”

9Preceding six words interlined in place of “yielded to the.” TJ also here canceled “given you & would.”

10TJ first wrote “set on your friendship; & we regret it was not done, convinced that Y.M. knows too well the rights of an injured nation to reduce their enemy to reason by—Y.M’s justice had not contemplated a permanent dispensation on our part with the rights which the laws of war give us, of reducing an unjust enemy <by distress to> to reason by inflicting on him all those evils which a state of war authorises” before altering the passage to read as above. TJ continued, but canceled: “and [. . .] [neutral] friend.”

11Preceding three words interlined in place of “And in further.”

12Word interlined in place of “reestablmt.”

13TJ first wrote “preferring as we <always> ever do that” before altering the passage to read as above.

14Preceding three words interlined in place of “notified.” At beginning of paragraph: “§. 3.” This paragraph was the opening paragraph of the 5 Aug. letter. TJ canceled the salutation of the earlier letter.

15Preceding nine words interlined in place of “It became known to us not long since.”

16Three words interlined here and canceled at end of sentence (see 5 Aug. letter).

17TJ here canceled “since this intimation.”

18Before “I,” TJ made a bracket to mark the new paragraph break (see 5 Aug. letter), and he interlined “§. 4.”

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