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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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752. BARBARY STATES, Jefferson's Views on.—
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752. BARBARY STATES, Jefferson's Views on.—

Our instructions relative to the
Barbary States having required us to proceed
by way of negotiation to obtain their peace, it
became our duty to do this to the best of our
power. Whatever might be our private opinions,
they were to be suppressed, and the line
marked out to us was to be followed. It has
been so, honestly and zealously. It was, therefore,
never material for us to consult together,
on the best plan of conduct toward these States.
I acknowledge, I very early thought it would be
best to effect a peace through the medium of
war. Though it is a question with which we
have nothing to do, yet as you propose some
discussion of it, I shall trouble you with my
reasons. Of the four positions laid down by
you, I agree to the three first, which are, in
substance, that the good offices of our friends
cannot procure us a peace without paying its
price; that they cannot materially lessen that
price; and that paying it, we can have the
peace in spite of the intrigues of our enemies.
As to the fourth, that the longer the negotiation
is delayed, the larger will be the demand;
this will depend on the intermediate captures:
if they are many and rish, the price may be
raised; if few and poor, it will be lessened.
However, if it is decided that we shall buy a
peace, I know no reason for delaying the operation,
but should rather think it ought to be
hastened; but I should prefer the obtaining it
by war. 1. Justice is in favor of this opinion.
2. Honor favors it. 3. It will procure us respect
in Europe; and respect is a safeguard to


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interest. 4. It will arm the Federal head with
the safest of all the instruments of coercion
over its delinquent members, and prevent it
from using what would be less safe. I think
that so far, you go with me. But in the next
steps, we shall differ. 5. I think it least expensive.
I ask a fleet of one hundred and fifty
guns, the one-half of which shall be in constant
cruise. This fleet, built, manned and victualled
for six months will cost four hundred and fifty
thousand pounds sterling. Its annual expense
will be three hundred pounds sterling a gun,
including everything; this will be forty-five
thousand pounds sterling a year. I take the
British experience for the basis of my calculation;
though we know, from our own experience,
that we can do it in this way, for pounds
lawful, what costs them pounds sterling. Were
we to charge all this to the Algerine war, it
would amount to little more than we must pay,
if we buy peace. But as it is proper and necessary
that we should establish a small marine
force (even were we to buy a peace from the
Algerines), and as that force, laid up in our
dockyards, would cost us half as much annually,
as if kept in order for service, we have a
right to say that only twenty-two thousand and
five hundred pounds sterling, per annum, should
be charged to the Algerine war. 6. It will be
as effectual. To all the mismanagements of
Spain and Portugal, urged to show that war
against these people is ineffectual, I urge a
single fact to prove the contrary, where there is
any management. About forty years ago, the
Algerines having broken their treaty with
France, that court sent Monsieur de Massiac,
with one large and two small frigates; he blockaded
the harbor of Algiers three months, and
they subscribed to the terms he proposed. If it
be admitted, however, that war, on the fairest
prospects, is still exposed to uncertainties, I
weigh against this the greater uncertainty of
the duration of a peace bought with money,
from such a people, from a Dey eighty years
old, and by a nation who, on the hypothesis of
buying peace, is to have no power on the sea
to enforce an observance of it. So far, I have
gone on the supposition that the whole weight
of this war would rest on us. But, 1. Naples
will join us. The character of their naval
minister (Acton), his known sentiments with
respect to the peace Spain is officiously trying
to make for them, and his dispositions against
the Algerines, give the best grounds to believe
it. 2. Every principle of reason assures us that
Portugal will join us. I state this as taking
for granted, what all seem to believe, that they
will not be at peace with Algiers. I suppose,
then, that a convention might be formed between
Portugal, Naples and the United States,
by which the burthen of the war might be
quotaed on them, according to their respective
wealth; and the term of it should be, when
Algiers should subscribe to a peace with all
three, on equal terms. This might be left open
for other nations to accede to, and many, if
not most, of the powers of Europe (except
France, England, Holland, and Spain, if her
peace be made), would sooner or later enter
into the confederacy, for the sake of having
their peace with the piratical States guaranteed
by the whole. I suppose, that, in this case, our
proportion of force would not be the half of
what I first calculated on.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. i, 591.
(P. July. 1786)