… being convinced it is money thrown away, that there is no end to the demands of these powers, nor any security in their promises. the real alternative before us is whether to abandon the Mediterranean, or to keep up a cruize in it, perhaps in rotation with other powers who would join us as soon as there is peace. but this, Congress must decide.
To Wilson Cary Nicholas, June 11, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise executives understand some decisions must be made by others.
Jefferson reported on the conflict with the Barbary states of north Africa. For decades they demanded tribute from nations shipping through the Mediterranean. Otherwise, they would capture ships and hold them for ransom. America, like all nations, had paid those annual assessments.
He thought tribute was a waste of money. The demands of the Barbary nations would never end, and they could not be trusted.
America had two options: Abandon shipping in the Mediterranean or team up with other nations to withstand the pirates. But it wasn’t his decision. It was Congress’.