Home' Afloat : AFLOAT January 2017 Contents Take monthly with water January 2017 67
*John Quirk has been writing about and illustrating the joys of
messing about in boats for over half a century. He is the author /
illustrator of Foul Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles and available
from Boat Books in Crows Nest and from Amazon.
why “The Barbary States make war upon nations who had done
them no injury? ”
“It is in our holy book. Any nations that do not acknowledge
their authority are sinners and it is our rightful duty to plunder
and enslave them.”
“ So it’s for religious reasons? ”
“ Yes. Plus I get a commission on the protection money.”
Seriously! He bragged to them what his cut would be.
It took 15 years for Congress to do the sums and work out
that for the price of paying annual protection, they could have
their own navy. They allocated a niggardly precise $688,888.82
to build four 44-gun frigates and two 36-gun ones.
Oh, unless of course, satisfactory terms could be agreed with the Barbary
Congress agreed to the spending on the ships; it was the cost
of administration of forming a Navy Department of civil servants
that concerned them. Halfway through the building program in
1796 The Peace Treaty of Tripoli was signed.
All work on the ships stopped.
So what do you do with six half-finished war ships? It’s
obvious, Minister, you stick an ad in Afloat and sell the building
materials for scrap.
Fortunately, Tom Jefferson realized the secondhand value
was zilch and persuaded the bean counters to let four of the
ships be completed. The others were dismembered for scrap.
But funds were then refused to actually man the four ships and
actually allow them to put to sea ... (Far too expensive, Minister.)
However, they were finally at sea when the Pasha of Tripoli
demanded $225,000 protection money in 1801. Jefferson refused.
The Pasha declared war on the US. To show he was serious, he
chopped down the flagpole in the US Consul’s garden. Jefferson
sent his new fleet to North Africa. They defeated the Tripolitan
polacca Tripoli and blockaded their ports.
Meanwhile, the US Consul, outraged at the invasion of his
garden, desecration of his flagpole and the stomping on his wife’s
petunia beds raised an assorted rabble of 500 mercenaries. Lead
by just eight marines, they captured the garrison town of Derna.
This not only demoralized the locals as Tripoli immediately
surrendered, it also added a stirring line in the US Marine Corps’
Battle Hymn (From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of
But these Barbary blokes still had not learned that you don’t
mess with the new America. In 1815, the ruler of Algeria repudiated
previous peace treaties and threatened all Christians in Algeria.
(There were allegedly more white Christian slaves in North Africa
than any other group.) He had one brig and one frigate. The US
then had 10 ships just round the corner ... These less than 200ft
wooden ships which had sailed the Atlantic, bringing their own
munitions and sandwiches with them reduced Algiers to rubble in
less time than Putin’s jets have taken to level Aleppo’s hospitals.
After 1815 peace broke out in Europe. England and France, with
no enemies on which to practise their
gunnery, cruised their fleets in the
Mediterranean sunshine off North
Africa, just hoping for one of these
local ships to try their luck against
a merchantman. Any merchantman.
Hey, the British would even defend
a French ship now.
The Barbarian business model
suffered further decline when
France colonized Algeria in 1830
and Tunisia in 1881. The
locals then fell under
dubious oxymoron of
but the bread and coffee
improved and they
developed a wine industry
which still produces reds
used by airlines that most
of us avoid.
In 1904 a Greek
American and his son
were kidnapped for
a $70,000 ransom in
Tangier. He had actually
renounced his American
citizenship 40 years before
to avoid US taxes but
his kidnappers didn’t know this. Neither did President Teddy
Roosevelt. Otherwise he probably would not have sent seven
warships and a massive batch of marines. No talk about ‘Crossing
a line’ then and doing nothing. The prisoners were released
immediately. It was Teddy who used the phrase “Speak softly
but carry a big stick”. The American navy has been carrying a
really big one ever since. With the new POTUS it could get even
Thats what the frigate Alliance fetched
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