James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Richard O’Brien, 26 September 1801

From Richard O’Brien, 26 September 1801

Algiers The 26th. of September 1801.

Esteemed Sir

Yesterday The dey and Prime minister sent to me four different times desireing I would give a passport and make gaurentee for upwards of 250. of the Crews of the two Tripoline Corsairs which were Blocked up at Gibralter by an American frigate and Those Crews to prevent being Captured and starved. Crossed Over to Morrocco and is arrived by land at Oran in rhis Regency. The dey intends to send them in a vessel from Oran to Tripoli which port is declared by the american Commodore to be in a state of Blockade. I have answered That The Bashaw of Tripoli declared war, notwithstanding the deys gaurentee against The united States, ordered The american Consul to depart, had sent his Corsairs to sea in Quest of americans. That Those people was and is The Enemies of My Country. The dey insists I must acquise and I am determined not, even that war should be The result. For sometime it is known here That the american frigates has blockaded the two Tripoline corsairs at Gibralter, and declared Tripoli in a state of Blockade, that allso on the 12th. of August, The US. schooner had given a severe drubing to a Tripoline Corsaire and Captured Said Vessel, haveing killed many of the tripolines and afterwards let Said Corsair & Crew go for Tripoli.

That for some days past That Several of the Crews of The tripoline Corsairs which were blocked up at Gibralter & had Crossed to Morrocco had arrived by land in This City, and that The Chiefs of the Tripoline Crews were on their rout from Morrocco for Algiers, &c.

When on the 24th. inst. The dey and Ministry had letters from Tunis in 9 days, and for Certain allso letters from Tripoli, which stated That an american Corsair had Captured a tripoline and after Very much disableing her let her go—that The american Corsairs had admitted Some Vessels to Enter The port of Tripoli and Some were not admitted, That the Pascha, of Tripoli had much Wanted grain—That he had offered to Make a truce with The american Commodore—but that he rejected it—That Tripoli depended much on their friend The dey, to Succour and Clear from Gibralter The two Corsairs of Tripoli.

The Said letter reminds The dey of The Services and favour rendered by Tripoli in getting The deys Corsair & Crew from The Portugeese, and therefore hopes The dey would do as he would & was done by.

That from Tunis There is reports that, The american frigates is intended to act against this Regency—That further Tunis and Tripoli is inviteing The dey as their bully not to admit of The Custom of Blockade that if it is acquised to by Algiers and Tunis, That it will become a Custom and will on like Occasions be very prejudicial to Algiers and Tunis. Therefore I Consider The deys request as a Confederatione of the Regencies of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli—to do away the Custom of Blockading ports of Barbary. On this subject of informations I have it from a shure Channel— the deys moorish secretary .

On the 22d. inst. The US schooner Enterprize Called off This Port I went on board. Captain Starret informed me that he was 15 days from Malta That the Commodore was Then adjacent to This place, and That he wanted water &c. provisions and had 250 men Sick on board. Thus was Obliged to evacuate the Coast of Tripoli—and leave That Govt. at liberty to procure Supplies &c. Send out their Corsairs.

There was a necesity of leaving The Philadelphia to Blockade those at Gibralter and to give the Commerce of The US. Security in The western Ocean, and to protect and inform Those that were going in and Comeing out of this Sea. Next it was riquisite That The Essex Should Convoy out of this Sea, The american Vessels so long detained on acct. of the Threatenings of Tripoli and The Snarling of Algiers, & murmurs of Tunis.

And next it was requisite for The Commodore to proceed with The President &c. Enterprize off Tripoli to Blockade That port and prevent Supplies, Entering and The Corsairs of Tripoli from going in and Comeing out, if The had not water and provisions & That They had The misfortune to have Sickness on board. It Could not be helpt. I Must repeat we want More frigates in This Sea, and our system with Those states at war with The U. States Should be Severity. Any act of Lenity is Considered by Them as, an act of Timidity.

The Commodore wrote me That Capt. Starret would wait my dispatches as he intended to forward The Schooner for the united States. As Capt. Starret had information of a greek Vessel from Tripoli with provisions for the 2 tripoline Corsairs at Gibralter I did not wish to detain him as the wind was Easterly, fearing he would miss the opportunity of falling in with Greek. Further, I thought the Schooner would not be Safe to Anchor adjacent to the power of the whims of the dey, and haveing wrote so fully by the Conveyances for Spain I doubted not but that, under these Considerations it was better for me to lett the Schooner proceed for Gib with a few lines wrote on board by me to the Commodore Just Stateing our affairs. Had The Washington with the Stores arrived, and The same time The 30 fathoms or that I had Said fathoms with me I doubted not but that I could, prevail on the Regency to accept of Said in Lieu of The Stores or as part payment for our debts or the annuities, for whilst the would be Eating The Shiep The might be prevailed on to Eat Some of the fowl, but you will Observe Sir That This prospect is Changed at present. It looks Squally, more so Then like unto Setled weather.

We have a paralel Case relative to Barbary as The British had with the powers of The north. If we attack Dean Tripoli we Shall Secure our affairs with Swede Tunis and Rusia Algiers. We have This in our power, Thus to act, but if we do not we are inviting Those 2 Regencies to do by us as Tripoli intended to do. If we now Settle this business with Tripoli even with a little money, we are giveing a bounty to Algiers and Tunis to make extra demands in proportion as They are great & Think Themselves So above Tripoli.

“On the 18th. Inst. at mid day, when the dey and ministry and gaurds, was at prayers, in The Mosketta 25 feet distant from the pallace door, 10 Turks Entered The Pallace door Secured the Same hauled down the deys flag, and hoisted the one which announced a new dey, and This party proclaimed Theire Chiefe as Dey. Those desporados, reigned 2 hours and 10 Minuits, when the pallace was Stormed on all Quarters, and the 10 desperados Cut to pieces. The usual Dey and Ministry got to their Station and all is Quiet again. The 2d. party intended to have Entered The Church and made way with the dey and ministry, but the too Suden Alarm of The 10. gave time to the dey &c. to Secure the doors of The holy Sanctuary, and The 2d. party was Obliged to disperse and Save Themselves, as well as They Could. They intended to be have made a great reform by destroying the dey & Ministry & Jew directory—Whose influence these 10 years has been Very great in most all public and private affairs of This Regency.

Lord Keith has been threatening this Regency nearly two years, and to no great Effect. The Same time, Gibralter Mahon & Malta has been chiefly Supplied from this Coast. The 350 Slaves was given up by The influence of The Grand Signior &c. Some fear of The British. Both Captains Keith & Bashaw, has demanded of the dey to destroy and turn away The Jews Bacris & Busnachs &c. but The Regency Considers Them as their Eyes and Ears and has not granted the Request, and as yet the affairs of The Regency is not Setled with the Grand Signior whom demands, payment for The Robberies of Algiers on the Greek & Imperials. But Algiers knows well that they Can allways ⟨Busy⟩ the Captain Pascha.

As there is upwards of 70 Thd. french troops in Spain The idea of Theire intended to invade that Country Should be pushed on as much as American influence will admit of with The Chiefe Consul. It would be Rendering an Essential Service to many particularly to the U States. The Regency seems to be Very discontent at present and is Continually growling on acct. of The Regalia or Stores or the annuities not arriveing. They are nearly of Opinion that I have been feeding Them with a String of lies. At all Events we should have a fleet of reserve between Gibralter &c. Algiers, with orders & ready to act on any Sudden Emergencies Allso requisite to have Consular funds and a shure Credit in Europe. Sir I am Very respectfully Your Most Obt. Servt.

Richard OBrien

I inclose to you a statement of The accounts Debts & Cr. of The united States with the Bacris of Algiers allso, with the dey &c. I am liveing in sad hopes of Reliefe on all tacks like unto a Mariner on a wreck, and shall Consider it a happy Event when I have the Honour of personally Communicating to you Very essential information relative to This Regency & & c

On the morning of The 25th. the dey sent a letter to The minister of Portugal by a dean Vessel destined for Spain. I have my fears that it might be on the business of Truce peace or Ransom. What might facilitate, This Event might be an intent of This Government to Occasion a war with The U States. It is allways in the power of The Regency to lower theire terms, and secure The friendship of Portugal. What will give us Security against Such events will be more frigates in this Sea.

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