Book Review Thursday: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History


Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager team together again to write a compelling narrative about a key piece of early American history.  The Revolutionary War had ended, George Washington had resigned as commander-in-chief and bade farewell to his troops by the end of 1783.

The Constitutional Convention wouldn’t convene in Philadelphia until 1787 and Washington wouldn’t be overwhelmingly elected the country’s first President until 1789.  America, deep in debt, was anxious to quickly grow its economy by exporting products across the Atlantic and beyond.  The first serious encounter with Barbary pirates occurred in 1785 when a U.S. ship was captured, its commander and crew imprisoned for several years.

The pirates had been operating for years, but now that America was on its own after winning their independence she no longer had the protection of the British Empire.  Their mighty naval force notwithstanding, England had instead chosen to buy the pirates off rather than fight them.

America’s leaders were divided, however — John Adams favored meeting the pirates’ demands, whereas Thomas Jefferson wanted more.  In 1795 the United States finally settled with the Algerians, but by the time Jefferson became President in 1801, the problem had only worsened despite the United States having finally agreed to pay tribute.  At this time America didn’t have much of a navy. but when the situation escalated Jefferson decided to take on the pirates instead of cow-towing.

This book chronicles both the victories and missteps during the early years of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.  The opening lines of the Marine Hymn contain the phrase “to the shores of Tripoli” – that line was inspired by the first Marine Corps battles in Tripoli.

In a way this story is reflective of the current state of world affairs.  The Tripolitans were Muslim bullies who believed they were justified in the capture and plunder of non-Muslims (infidels).  If that sounds familiar, remember that history does indeed tend to repeat itself.  However, if the fledgling young nation could defeat the thugs of their day, and with nothing approaching the technology we possess today, then surely we can beat them back now.  The stakes, of course, are much higher today with ISIS.

I found the book inspiring and informative – I learned about a part of history I hadn’t previously studied.  The book tells the story of not only military actions but the sometimes successful and often unsuccessful diplomatic efforts.  In a sense, winning the Barbary War prepared the United States for what some call the second Revolutionary War, the War of 1812.  After successfully taking the fight to the enemy’s turf, America was better prepared with a Navy and Marine Corps capable of defending America’s interests on land and sea.

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

 SupportDH_sm2© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

1 Comment

  1. I’m reading now!
    Liking it!


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