James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Eaton, 5 September 1801

From William Eaton, 5 September 1801

On Board the Grand Turk, Road of Tunis Sep. 5. 1801


The inclosures which I have the honor herewith to forward will inform Government, as accurately as I have the means, of our actual position and future prospects in regard to Tripoli one circumstance only omitted, which is a project in concert between the rightful Bashaw of Tripoli, now in exile in Tunis, and myself to attack the usurper by land while our operations are going on by sea. These two men are brothers; the younger is on the throne having expelled the elder about eight or nine years ago. The subjects in general of the reigning bashaw are very discontented and ripe for revolt; they want nothing but confidence in the prospect of success: this confidence may be inspired by assurances of our determination to chastise this Bashaw for his outrage against the U.S. The Bey of Tunis, though prudence will keep him behind the curtain, I have strong reasons to believe, will cheerfully prompt the scene: He is in favor of the elder brother. The idea of dethroning our enemy and placing a rightful sovereign in his seat makes a deeper impression on account of the lasting peace it will produce with that regency, and the lesson of caution it will teach the other Barbary States. There are objects which, to me, seem so clearly within our power that they ought to command exertions. Having begun to coerce Tripoli it would operate an injury of perpetual duration to relax in these measures. It is a misfortune that we have not more small war craft here. The document which must have already reached the department of State, together with this, will show how frequently we have occasion for dispatch vessels. I dare not any longer confide in foreigners. It is very dangerous employing my own vessels in this service without regular papers. It is hoped these embarrassments will be removed. If we do not succeed in arresting the English renegade, I apprehend two or three bomb ketches will be absolutely necessary before Tripoli. This however is a little out of my sphere of action. Full support to our Commodore and dispatch in furnishing that support are so obviously necessary that it seems superfluous to speak of it.

I am destitute of funds. In the actual situation of our affairs it is presumed this intimation is enough. Happen what will I shall have no resort to Jews. I have no credit in Europe. I have the honor to remain Sir, with the most perfect respect your very Obed. Servt.

William Eaton

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