Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Mustafa Baba, Dey of Algiers, 14 October 1803

From Mustafa Baba, Dey of Algiers

If you are my friends and wish to remain so and wish to preserve your treaty with me you will send to me 10 Guns Brass 24 pounders with Cariages &c. and allso 5 Brass Guns 18 pounders with Cariages &c. Guns long for Batteries. I request you will not forget our friendship. I have spoken to your Consul on the subject and he is not inclineable to write although I consider him as Equal to one of your divan—and therefore request for our friendship and our treaty That you will not write me Evasive to my demand, as any favour demanded on your part I shall comply therewith whether your demand is great or small—

this letter by order of Mustapha Pascha dey of Algiers & with his great seal The 26th. of The moon of Giumad Alahar 1218—Corresponding with The 14th. of October 1803—

NB The dey further requires 60 Thsd. Bricks for furnaces

Tr (DNA: RG 59, CD, Algiers); in hand of Richard O’Brien; at head of text: “Copy by Translation—This letter of Mustapha Pascha dey of Algiers to The Great of The Govt. of The divan of America”; at foot of text: “Certified to be The substance or translation of The deys letter wrote in Moorish—OBrien”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Feb. 1804 and so recorded in SJL. Tr (same); in O’Brien’s hand; endorsed and notations by Jacob Wagner. Tr (same); in O’Brien’s hand. Tr (DLC: Edward Preble Papers); in O’Brien’s hand. RC (DNA: RG 59, CD, Algiers); in Arabic; with Mustafa’s seal at head of text; editors’ translation: “This letter is by order of our master Mustafa Pasha, God grant him victory, to the senior official of America and their head of the chancellery. If you are friends with us and faithful to the ancient pact that exists between us, send us ten brass cannons, 25-pounders, and the carriages with them. Send also five brass cannons with their carriages, 18-pounders. It is imperative that you fill this need of ours. I have spoken with all the (foreign) representatives who are present among us in Algiers, and they have duly supplied us with cannons. You are one of them, and it is unacceptable that you should refuse us a response. You say you have nothing to give, but this is impossible. It is imperative that you fill our need. We are friends, and if you require anything from us, we shall supply it. Written with the permission of our venerated master, Mustafa Pasha, God grant him victory”; added obliquely in margin (ink smeared): “And also send us baked bricks in the amount of [sixty] thousand that we may use as beds for the cannons. In Arabic these bear the name ajur”; endorsed by Wagner: “The Dey of Algiers to the President. 14 Octr. 1803 request to be supplied with Battery guns.” Enclosed in O’Brien to Madison, undated but probably 15 Oct. (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:531-2).

i have spoken to your consul: on 13 Oct., Mustafa sent word to O’Brien that he wanted 40 guns, half of them 24-pounders and half of them 18-pounders. The consul pointed out that the United States government had responded to a similar request five years earlier by stating that it possessed no brass cannons and did not manufacture them. In an audience at the palace on 14 Oct., however, Mustafa insisted that O’Brien write to his government. O’Brien reported the conversation in a dispatch to Madison. “I will,” the dey told him, “have none of yr. excuses. You must acquise.” O’Brien advised the dey to request iron artillery pieces instead of brass ones, but Mustafa declined, saying “I have plenty of Iron guns.” Mustafa finally declared that he would write to the U.S. government himself “and make the demand of yr. Govt. and let me see if They refuse me.” O’Brien informed Madison that the dey had requested cannons from several other foreign consuls also (same, 5:517-19).

evasive to my demand: in his exchanges with the consul, Mustafa more than once reduced the number of guns in his request, and according to O’Brien, the ruler offered to pay the costs of obtaining them. The consul suggested to the secretary of state that the United States might be able to order the cannons and bricks from England and send them to Algiers in place of one year’s annuity. However, O’Brien also “presumed to Sketch” a reply that the president might make to the dey’s letter. That draft response took the form of a proposed reply from TJ to “The Meditteranian Don Quixotte.” It opened by informing Mustafa that the United States had no guns to send him, then went on to detail instances in which he had made demands beyond what was due to him under the treaty. O’Brien’s suggested reply to the dey also noted actions by Mustafa in support of Tripoli and complained of his haggling over the value of stores and money used for the annuity. The United States wished to maintain the treaty on “terms of equity & Justice,” the consul’s draft concluded, “but we have too great a Regard to our Honor & dignity Then to Condescend and acquise to all The unjust and Extra demands of your Highness.” O’Brien acknowledged that such an answer could provoke Mustafa to war. The consul suggested to Madison that the U.S. government prepare three different answers to the dey’s letter and let the consul in Algiers decide which one to give Mustafa based on the circumstances at hand when the documents arrived. He also urged the construction of more warships. “We shall have it to do at last if Some great Event of Europe does not Curb The pride avarice & System of Barbary,” he wrote (same, 518, 531-2; proposed “Ansr. to the deys letter” by O’Brien in DNA: RG 59, CD, Algiers; NDBW description begins Dudley W. Knox, ed., Naval Documents Related to the United States Wars with the Barbary Powers, Washington, D.C., 1939-44, 6 vols. and Register of Officer Personnel and Ships’ Data, 1801-1807, Washington, D.C., 1945 description ends , 3:135-6).

O’Brien reported that after he and the dey discussed the request for artillery pieces on 14 Oct., they “Parted Cooly.” Mustafa summoned him back to the audience chamber, however, to talk about the bricks, which he apparently wanted for a cannon foundry. “I answered I shall write,” O’Brien indicated to Madison, “and Cannot Say if Bricks used in an iron furnace would resist the heat of a Brass furnace.” To that Mustafa replied, O’Brien reported: “Bring them sayes he and I shall write on the business of The Guns” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 5:518).

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