Our commerce in the Mediterranean was placed under early alarm by the capture of two of our vessels and crews by the Barbary cruisers. I was very unwilling that we should acquiesce in the European humiliation of paying a tribute to those lawless pirates, and endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredations from them. I accordingly prepared and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation in the following form.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
It is very hard to herd cats.
For centuries, pirate ships from the North Africa ports of Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers (the Barbary Coast) had preyed on other nations’ ships in the Mediterranean. The pirates demanded annual tribute from those nations, or they would seize their ships and hold their sailors for ransom. Most nations paid the bribes. Jefferson led by proposing a united front of 10 or more nation-states against the terrorists, in a way that maximized effectiveness and minimized potential for conflict :
- A union of two more nations acting together, beginning against Algeria.
- The union would remain open for other nations to join their effort.
- The object was a guaranteed “perpetual peace,” with no bribes.
- A continuous naval patrol of six mid-range ships and six smaller ones
- The effort or cost proportioned equitably among the nations
- Nation’s shares to be contributed in cash for outfitting the brigade
- Each nation’s ambassador to France a member of the governing council
- The council was to have no officers and pay no salaries.
- War between council members shall not interrupt its work.
- When Algiers was subdued, the effort would turn toward another city.
- Existing treaties with Barbary States took precedence over this agreement.