James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 19 October 1801 (Abstract)

§ From William Eaton

19 October 1801, Tunis. Announces that Tunis has broken its truce with Portugal and on 16 Oct. sent six corsairs and sixteen hundred men there, a measure further proving that “these regencies are in dispair of some game.” Maintains that the U.S. will have to defend itself against Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli unless it leaves Tripoli “an awful monument of the danger of provoking our vengeance.… Gold and silver [are] only a sort of palliative” against this “piracy fever.” Transmits for delivery an unsealed letter to Samuel Lyman expressing these fears. Recommends maintaining present naval forces in place; their experience will bring a quick end to the war, which is essential. Encloses a copy of a letter from the Swedish consulate. Also sends an extract of a letter he wrote to O’Brien that shows their differences over war strategy. Claims O’Brien is motivated by ignorance or self-interest and suspects that his arguments are governed by the fear that military operations would obstruct “his commerce with the Jew house.” Further declares that O’Brien should be replaced by “an American.” O’Brien’s belief that the Algerine Jews control Tunis is “erroneous and absurd”; the regencies are as independent as European states.

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