United States Treaties with the Barbary States (conclusion)
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 06, 2007 at 09:06:54 PM EST
This is the third and final installment of the serialization of the chapter of my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, on our early government's dealings with the Barbary States. (The first installment can be found here, and the second here.)

As demonstrated by Chuck Norris's two recent WorldNetDaily articles, "A 200-year-old lesson on 9/11" and "Is America a Christian nation?," the revisionists are now equating the Barbary Wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the current "War on Terror" -- "Once a religious war, always a religious war," according to Norris.

Most of the lies used by Norris pre-date the current war, and were originally created by revisionists like David Barton to support their assertion that the Barbary Wars are proof that the United States was a Christian nation, simply because the enemies were Muslims. Now, of course, there is a new use for these lies -- justifying the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But, as you will see below in Thomas Jefferson's account of "General" Eaton's unauthorized military operation, Jefferson, along with his Secretary of State, James Madison, "considered that concerted operations by those who have a common enemy, were entirely justifiable, and might produce effects favorable to both, without binding either to guarantee the objects of the other," but said of Eaton's promise of United States help to affect a regime change in Tripoli that a "stipulation so entirely unauthorized, so far beyond our views, and so onerous, could not be sanctioned by our Government." Once a treaty was negotiated with the reigning ruler of Tripoli, and the United States' problem was solved, the involvement of United States was over. The fact that Tripoli still had a tyrannical ruler who had stolen the throne from the legitimate heir just wasn't our problem. So, there is a lesson to be learned from history here, it just isn't the one that Chuck Norris wants it to be.

This final installment of "Treaties with the Barbary States" finishes up the "General" Eaton story, and then addresses the final revisionist argument against the 1797 treaty with Tripoli -- that the absence of the "not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" phrase in a later treaty with Tripoli, made in 1805, is evidence that the presence and approval of these words in the earlier treaty was some sort of mistake that the later treaty corrected.

Chapter Seven

Treaties with the Barbary States (conclusion)

When Eaton and Barron arrived in the Mediterranean in September 1804, all they knew of Hamet Caramanli's whereabouts was that he had gone into hiding somewhere in Egypt. A few weeks after their arrival, Barron consented to a plan to let Eaton sail to Egypt with Captain Isaac Hull, find Hamet, and bring him and whatever military force he had back on Hull's ship, the Argus. Getting Hamet from Egypt to Derne, Tripoli's second largest city, and supporting Hamet's land operations from the sea, was all that Commodore Barron had in mind. When Hamet was first driven from the throne by his brother, he had been made governor of Derne. If Hamet, in a city he used to govern, couldn't muster the resources he needed to continue on to Tripoli on his own, Barron had no intention of helping him further. It would make no sense for the United States to spend any more money trying to restore Hamet to power if he wasn't going to have enough support among his people to remain in power.

Once he got to Egypt, Eaton, accompanied by marine lieutenant Presley O'Bannon, one navy lieutenant, and two midshipmen, posed as naval officers on a pleasure trip and headed for Cairo. After several setbacks, including being captured by a detachment of Turkish cavalry who mistook them for British spies, they managed to locate Hamet and his army of about seventy. Eaton was also able to obtain a letter of amnesty from the Viceroy, which would allow Hamet to move through Egypt without any trouble from the Turks. The Turkish governor of Alexandria, however, refused to permit Hamet's small army of Arabs to depart from his port, where Captain Hull and the Argus were waiting. This problem could have been taken care of by the Viceroy, but, by this time, Hamet was afraid to enter Alexandria.

The only alternative Eaton had was to march Hamet and his men five hundred miles across the desert. The following was Captain Hull's opinion of this plan.

The plan you have formed of taking Derne, I think rather a Hazardous one, unless the Bashaw can bring into the field from Eight hundred to one Thousand Men, particularly as we are destitute of every article necessary for an expedition of the kind.15

Eaton's request for a detachment of a hundred marines was turned down. All Commodore Barron had only been authorized to do was provide Hamet's army with a small amount of arms, ammunition, and money, and to support Hamet's land operations from the sea. He had not been authorized to provide American troops for any land operation. All Eaton could get from Captain Hull were nine men &endash; Lieutenant O'Bannon, one marine sergeant, six marine privates, and one navy midshipman &endash; and $1,000. Hull left Alexandria with plans to sail to Syracuse, pick up provisions and try to get more money, and then meet up with Eaton and Hamet when they reached the Bay of Bomba, at which point they would be about sixty miles from Derne.

On February 23, 1805, two weeks before setting out on their march, Eaton and Hamet drew up and signed a convention, Eaton as agent of the United States, and Hamet as the legitimate Bashaw of Tripoli. The convention listed what the United States would provide to help Hamet regain his throne, and what Hamet would do for the United States once he was back in power. Everything promised by Hamet, of course, such as turning over future tribute payments from Denmark and Sweden to reimburse the United States for the help promised by Eaton, depended on their mission being successful, and, the help promised by Eaton depended on Commodore Barron agreeing to provide it. This convention also made Eaton commander-in-chief of Hamet's army, and any other troops they might recruit, which is how this man with no actual military authority became "General" Eaton.

By the time the march into the desert began on March 6, 1805, Eaton had assembled a strange little army of about four hundred men, consisting of three hundred Arabs, including Hamet's seventy; forty Greek mercenaries recruited in Alexandria; twenty-five Levanter cannoneers; a handful of other mercenaries and adventurers of various nationalities; and, of course, ten Americans, including himself.

During the two month, five hundred mile march to Derne, the army was usually starving, often couldn't find water, and had doubts from the start that Eaton would be able to pay them what he had promised. There were a number of disputes, usually over money, that led to parts of the army, and a few times even Hamet himself, threatening to mutiny. Most of these disputes were instigated by one particular Arab chief, El Tahib, who was constantly telling the Arab mercenaries, who were used to being paid up front, that they couldn't trust Eaton to pay them because he was a Christian. At one point early in the march, the only way to prevent a mutiny was for the marines to collect whatever money they had in their pockets and give it to the Arab chiefs. There were also disputes over food, one of which occurred on April 8, the date that Eaton wrote the journal entry quoted by David Barton.

On the morning of April 8, the army came upon a source of drinkable water and made what Eaton assumed would be a brief stop. At this point, they were only about ninety miles from the Bay of Bomba, so Eaton rode ahead to check out the route along the coast. When he returned, he found that, although it was still early in the day, Hamet had ordered the army to set up camp. Hamet had decided that he wouldn't go any further until a scout was sent to Bomba to make sure that Captain Hull had arrived with the promised provisions. With their only remaining food being a six day supply of rice rations, Eaton thought this was crazy.

Eaton ordered the rations cut off, but this didn't get the army to move. It just angered Hamet, who threatened to take his men and return to Egypt. It also made the Arab chiefs hatch a plan to seize the food supply. When Eaton got wind of this plan, he ordered the marines, the Greeks, and the Levanters form a line in front of the supply tent, where they stood for an hour facing two hundred mounted Arabs. Hamet, who had decided by this point not to leave, eventually got the Arabs to begin falling back. Just as things were calming down, however, Eaton made a big mistake. To show the Arabs how disciplined his little group of marines was, he ordered them to go through their manual of arms. The Arabs misunderstood this, and thought Eaton had ordered the marines to prepare to fire, so they remounted and charged. Someone did yell "fire," but apparently nobody wanted to fire the first shot, so nobody did. Hamet's officers and the more moderate Arab chiefs somehow managed to stop the Arabs before any blood was shed, after which Eaton agreed to issue one rice ration, and Hamet agreed that they would resume the march to Bomba the next morning.

When the army reached the Bay of Bomba on April 15, Captain Hull and the Argus were nowhere to be found. This caused another near revolt among the Arab mercenaries, who were then completely convinced that Eaton's promise that food and money would be waiting here had been a lie. But, the Argus and one of the navy's new ships, the Hornet, actually were nearby, and Captain Hull had seen the smoke from the army's fires. As soon as the sails of the approaching Argus were spotted, order was once again restored. The army camped at Bomba until April 23, then continued on to Derne, reaching a hilltop overlooking the city on April 25.

While camping outside of the city, Eaton and Hamet received information that two thirds of the inhabitants of Derne would support Hamet, but the governor, Hussein Bey, had eight hundred troops prepared to defend the city, and another fifteen hundred, sent from Tripoli by Jusuf, were only three days away. Commodore Barron had sent plenty of food, along with seven thousand Spanish dollars, but still refused to send any American troops. In fact, he wanted the officers who were with Eaton to return to their ships.

On the morning of April 27, the Argus, the Hornet, and the Nautilus bombarded Derne as Eaton and Hamet attacked by land. After a two and a half hour battle, they had complete possession of the city. Among the casualties were three of the marines, one killed in the battle, and two wounded, one of whom later died. Eaton was shot in the wrist.

When the fifteen hundred troops sent by Jusuf arrived, Hussein Bey, who had managed to escape, took command of them. On May 13, after several unsuccessful attempts by the Bey to buy over Hamet's mercenaries, Jusuf's army attacked, but was eventually driven back into the hills by Hamet's cavalry. After this, some of Jusuf's troops began to come over to Hamet's side.

Eaton was now ready to continue towards his ultimate goal -- marching into Tripoli, still five hundred miles away, and restoring Hamet to the throne. Eaton wrote to Commodore Barron asking for more money and provisions, and again for a detachment of marines. Eaton was not happy with Barron's reply. Jusuf was willing to negotiate a peace treaty, so any further plans with Hamet were off. At the same time, Eaton received a letter from Consul General Lear, ordering him to leave Derne. Eaton disobeyed this order and remained in Derne until June 11, when the Constellation arrived with the news that the treaty with Jusuf had been concluded.

The new treaty cost the United States $60,000, but included no tribute. The payment was for the ransom of the crew of the Philadelphia, captured by Tripoli in 1803. Jusuf had agreed to a prisoner exchange, but he was holding three hundred prisoners, and the United States only had one hundred, so he demanded ransom for the other two hundred.

Eaton and the marines had to sneak on board the Constellation to get away from Derne. Hamet, who feared he would be killed if left behind, was also evacuated, along with the forty of his followers that Eaton called his "suite." The treaty negotiated by Lear included a provision that Jusuf release Hamet's family, who were being held captive, but a secret article gave Jusuf four years to do this. Hamet was taken to Syracuse and given an allowance of $200 a month, authorized by Commodore John Rodgers as a temporary arrangement until Congress decided what, if any, compensation he was entitled to.

When Madison wrote to Eaton in August 1802, he had said that if a plan to restore Hamet was begun, but abandoned by the United States because of a treaty with Jusuf, it might be fair to restore Hamet to a situation comparable to that which he was removed from. No guarantee of this was ever made, however, and Eaton had no authority to promise it. As things ended up, Hamet's situation in Syracuse was not comparable to the situation he had left in Egypt. Eaton thought Hamet deserved $30,000 to $40,000 in compensation. He ended up with only $6,800 -- $4,400 from the monthly payments authorized by Rodgers, and an additional $2,400 appropriated by Congress. This amount was decided on after Jefferson, in response to an appeal from Hamet, laid the following message before Congress, explaining what his understanding of Eaton's plan had been, and what he had actually authorized.

I lay before Congress the application of Hamet Caramalli [sic], elder brother of the reigning Bashaw of Tripoli, soliciting from the United States attention to his services and sufferings in the late war against that State; and, in order to possess them of the ground on which that application stands, the facts shall be stated according to the views and information of the Executive.

During the war with Tripoli, it was suggested that Hamet Caramalli, elder brother of the reigning Bashaw, and driven by him from his throne, meditated the recovery of his inheritance, and that a concert in action with us was desirable to him. We considered that concerted operations by those who have a common enemy, were entirely justifiable, and might produce effects favorable to both, without binding either to guarantee the objects of the other. But the distance of the scene, the difficulties of communication, and the uncertainty of information inducing the less confidence in the measure, it was committed to our agents as one which might be resorted to if it promised to promote our success.

Mr. Eaton, however, our late Consul, on his return from the Mediterranean, possessing personal knowledge of the scene, and having confidence in the effect of a joint operation, we authorized Commodore Barron, then proceeding with his squadron, to enter into an understanding with Hamet, if he should deem it useful; and as it was represented that he would need some aids of arms and ammunition, and even of money, he was authorized to furnish them to a moderate extent, according to the prospect of utility to be expected from it. In order to avail him of the advantages of Mr. Eaton's knowledge of circumstances, an occasional employment was provided for the latter as an agent for the Navy in that sea. Our expectation was, that an intercourse should be kept up between the ex-Bashaw, and the Commodore; that while the former moved on by land, our squadron should proceed with equal pace, so as to arrive at their destination together, and to attack the common enemy by land and sea at the same time. The instructions of June sixth, to Commodore Barron, show that a co-operation only was intended, and by no means an union of our object with the fortune of the ex-Bashaw; and the Commodore's letters of March twenty-second and May nineteenth, prove that he had the most correct idea of our intentions. His verbal instructions, indeed, to Mr. Eaton and Captain Hull, if the expressions are accurately committed to writing by those gentlemen, do not limit the extent of his co-operation as rigorously as he probably intended; but it is certain, from the ex-Bashaw's letter of January third, written when he was proceeding to join Mr. Eaton, and in which he says, "your operations should be carried on by sea, mine by land," that he left the position in which he was, with a proper idea of the nature of the co-operation. If Mr. Eaton's subsequent convention should appear to bring forward other objects, his letter of April twenty-ninth, and May first, views this convention but as provisional, the second article, as he expressly states, guarding it against any ill effect, and his letter of June thirtieth confirms this construction.

In the event it was found, that, after placing the ex-Bashaw in possession of Derne, one of the most important cities and provinces of the country, where he had resided himself as Governor, he was totally unable to command any resources, or to bear any part in co-operation with us. This hope was then at an end; and we certainly had never contemplated, nor were we prepared to land an army of our own, or to raise, pay, or subsist an army of Arabs, to march from Derne to Tripoli, and to carry on a land war at such a distance from our resources. Our means and our authority were merely naval; and that such were the expectations of Hamet, his letter of June twenty-ninth, is an unequivocal acknowledgment. While, therefore, an impression from the capture of Derne might still operate at Tripoli, and an attack on that place from our squadron was daily expected, Colonel Lear thought it the best moment to listen to overtures of peace then made by the Bashaw. He did so, and, while urging provisions for the United States, he paid attention also to the interests of Hamet; but was able to effect nothing more than to engage the restitution of his family, and even the persevering in this demand suspended for some time the conclusion of the treaty.

In operations at such a distance, it becomes necessary to leave much to the discretion of the agents employed: but events may still turn up beyond the limits of that discretion. Unable in such a case to consult his Government, a zealous citizen will act as he believes that would direct him were it apprised of the circumstances, and will take on himself the responsibility. In all these cases, the purity and patriotism of the motives should shield the agent from blame, and even secure a sanction where the error is not too injurious. Should it be thought by any that the verbal instructions said to have been given by Commodore Barron to Mr. Eaton, amount to a stipulation that the United States should place Hamet Caramalli on the throne of Tripoli; a stipulation so entirely unauthorized, so far beyond our views, and so onerous, could not be sanctioned by our Government; or should Hamet Caramalli, contrary to the evidence of his letters of January third, and June twenty-ninth, be thought to have left the position which he now seems to regret, under a mistaken expectation that we were, at all events, to place him on his throne, on an appeal to the liberality of the nation, something equivalent to the replacing him in his former situation, might be worthy its consideration.

A nation, by establishing a character of liberality and magnanimity, gains, in the friendship and respect of others, more than the worth of mere money. This appeal is now made by Hamet Caramalli to the United States. The ground he has taken being different, not only from our views, but from those expressed by himself on former occasions, Mr. Eaton was desired to state whether any verbal communications passed from him to Hamet which had varied what he saw in writing. His answer of December fifth is herewith transmitted, and has rendered it still more necessary that, in presenting to the Legislature the application of Hamet, I should present them, at the same time, an exact statement of the views and proceedings of the Executive, through this whole business, that they may clearly understand the ground on which we are placed. It is accompanied by all the papers which bear any relation to the principles of the co-operation, and which can inform their judgment in deciding on the application of Hamet Caramalli.16

David Barton wraps up his story about William Eaton with the following:

Shortly after the military excursion against Tripoli was successfully terminated, its account was written and published. Even the title of the book bears witness to the nature of the conflict:
The Life of the Late Gen. William Eaton... commander of the Christian and Other Forces...which Led to the Treaty of Peace Between The United States and The Regency of Tripoli

The numerous documents surrounding the Barbary Powers Conflict confirm that historically it was always viewed as a conflict between Christian America and Muslim nations....

The numerous documents surrounding the Barbary Powers Conflict, including both the writings of William Eaton and the Barbary treaties, actually confirm something a bit different -- that there were always alliances and agreements between Americans and Muslims, whether their common, or individual, enemies were Christian or Muslim. During the time of the Barbary wars, the United States was just as likely to be at war with a Christian power as a Muslim power. Because of this, almost every Barbary treaty contained an article providing that, within gunshot of their respective ports, the Muslims would defend American ships that were under attack by Christian enemies, and the Americans would defend Muslim ships that were under attack by Christian enemies. The following articles appeared in both the 1786 treaty with Morocco, the first of the Barbary treaties, and the 1836 treaty with Morocco, the last. These are among the articles, which, because they contain the word "Christian," are listed by Barton in the footnote for his claim that the 1797 treaty with Tripoli was "one of the many treaties in which each country officially recognized the religion of the other"

Article 10. If any Vessel of either of the parties shall have an engagement with a Vessel belonging to any of the Christian powers within gun shot of the forts of the other, the Vessel so engaged shall be defended and protected as much as possible until she is in safety; and if any American Vessel shall be cast on shore on the coast of Wadnoon or any Coast thereabout, the people belonging to her shall be protected and assisted until by the help of God they shall be sent to their Country.17

Article 11. If we shall be at war with any christian power, and any of our Vessels sail from the ports of the United States, no Vessel belonging to the enemy shall follow, until twenty four hours after the departure of our Vessels, and the same regulation shall be observed towards the American Vessels sailing from our ports; -- be their enemies Moors or Christians.18

The last argument used to dismiss the 1797 treaty with Tripoli actually has nothing to do with that treaty. This argument is based on the fact that the not founded on the Christian religion phrase does not appear in the later 1805 treaty with Tripoli.

According to Gary DeMar:

If the critics of a Christian America are going to be honest, then they must give an adequate reason why the 1805 treaty does not contain the words that seem to denounce the Christian religion in the 1797 treaty. They must also answer why the revised Treaty occurred during Thomas Jefferson's term as president, since Jefferson, when compared to Washington and Adams, was the most hostile to organized Christianity!

The "adequate reason" for the 1805 treaty not containing the same article regarding religion as the 1797 treaty is that the events that occurred between 1797 and 1805 made it necessary to rewrite it. The 1797 treaty had twelve articles. Only seven of these could be copied into the twenty article 1805 treaty without significant changes. Article 11 was not one of these seven. As of 1797, the United States had never "entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mohametan nation," as was stated in Article 11. As of 1805, of course, this was no longer true, so it needed to be added that the only exception to this had been to defend the right to navigate the high seas. In rewriting the sentence, Tobias Lear left out the phrase "is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." There is nothing significant about this. He probably left it out because it was unnecessary, and, with what was being added, made the sentence too long. By calling the new treaty a "revised" treaty, DeMar makes it sound as if Jefferson deliberately had the old treaty changed to remove the not founded on the Christian religion phrase. If Lear gave any thought at all to the new treaty reflecting the views of Thomas Jefferson, it was in what he added, not what he removed. The 1797 treaty only guaranteed that there would be no hostility between the two governments because of religious opinions. The new article also guaranteed the right of the individuals of both countries to practice their religions in either. The following is the sentence that appeared in Article 14 of the 1805 treaty.

As the Government of the United States of America, has in itself no character of enmity against the Laws, Religion or Tranquility of Musselmen, and as the said States never have entered into any voluntary war or act of hostility against any Mahometan Nation, except in the defence of their just rights to freely navigate the High Seas: It is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from Religious Opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the Harmony existing between the two Nations; And the Consuls and Agents of both Nations respectively, shall have liberty to exercise his Religion in his own house; all slaves of the same Religion shall not be Impeded in going to said Consuls house at hours of Prayer.19

William Federer, in his book America's God and Country, and Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell, in their book America's Providential History, not only point out that the phrase from the 1797 treaty doesn't appear in the 1805 treaty, but give Congress the power to negotiate and revise treaties.

According to William Federer:

Congress deleted from the previous June 7, 1797 treaty, an unauthorized phrase that the United States "is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion...".

According to Mark Beliles and Stephen McDowell:

Congress renegotiated and ratified the "Treaty of Tripoli" in 1805 after repudiating and deleting the phrase: "The United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Thanks to the fact that Beliles's and McDowell's book is highly recommended as a history text among the Christian homeschooling community, countless homeschooled students are now being taught a version of the separation of powers in which Congress has the power to repudiate and delete a phrase from, renegotiate, and ratify a treaty.


15. Glenn Tucker, Dawn Like Thunder, The Barbary Wars and the Birth of the U.S. Navy, (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), 363.
16. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, vol. 15, 9th Cong., 1st Sess., (Washington D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1852), 48-50.
17. Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 8, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1867), 102.
18. ibid, 485.
19. Peters, Public Statutes at Large, vol. 8, 216.




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