George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Salamon Coen Bacri, 6 August 1792

From Salamon Coen Bacri

Livorno [Tuscany], 6 Aug. 1792. Suggests that his family, because of its influence over and ties to the court of the Dey of Algiers, could assist in restoring peace between the United States and the Dey and in effecting the release of the American mariners held captive at Algiers. Bacri offers to advise the American plenipotentiary about how best to conduct his negotiations with the Dey so as to bring their discussions to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Despatches from Consular Officers, Algiers. The Italian text of the original receiver’s copy appears in CD-ROM:GW. The docket on the back of this letter, which is in Tobias Lear’s hand, reads: “An Italian letter relative to redeemg The American Captives at Algiers &c.—Translated by the Secry of State—Octr 26. 1792.”

Tobias Lear apparently transmitted Bacri’s letter to Thomas Jefferson on 31 Oct., requesting that a translation be made and informing the secretary of state that “It was put into the President’s hands by Mr [John] Swan[w]ick, who informs him that a vessel will sail for Italy tomorrow or next day, and if the enclosed letter is of a nature to require an immediate answer—this vessel presents an opportunity” (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Neither Jefferson’s translation nor any written reply to Bacri from GW or Jefferson has been found, however. Bacri seems to have written GW again in early 1793 to offer “his services to redeem our Captives at Algiers & make a peace with that Regency for us” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 126). By the middle of the 1790s, Salamon Coen Bacri and his cousin Micaiah Coen Bacri, both of whom were members of a prominent Jewish mercantile house with branches in Italy and Algiers, were representing American interests with the Dey and supporting, through the provision of shipping and banking services, the United States’s efforts to effect the release of the American captives (Barnby, Prisoners of Algiers, description begins H. G. Barnby. The Prisoners of Algiers: An Account of the Forgotten American-Algerian War, 1785–1797. New York, 1966. description ends 243, 281–83).

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