Barbary States

Barbary States
   Four states of Northern Africa - Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli - that plundered seaborne commerce for centuries. With the exception of Morocco, they were nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. Surviving by blackmail, they received great sums of money, ships, and arms yearly from foreign powers in return for allowing the foreigners to trade in African ports and sail unmolested through the Barbary waters. They demanded tribute money, seized ships, and held crews for ransom or sold them into slavery.
   By the end of the eighteenth century, the effectiveness of Tripoli’s corsairs had long since deteriorated, but their reputation alone was enough to prompt European maritime states to pay the tribute extorted by the pasha to ensure safe passage of their shipping through Tripolitan waters. American merchant ships, no longer covered by British protection, were seized by Barbary pirates in the years after American Independence, and American crews were enslaved. In 1799, the United States agreed to pay $18,000 a year in return for a promise that Tripoli-based corsairs would not molest American ships. Similar agreements were made at the time with the rulers of Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis.
   In May 1801, however, the United States refused to succumb to the increasing demands of the pasha of Tripoli; in return, the pasha declared war. The United States sent naval squadrons into the Mediterranean under the leadership of Commodores Richard Dale and Edward Preble. The navy blockaded the enemy coast, bombarded his shore fortresses, and engaged in close gunboat actions. In June 1805, a peace settlement was negotiated, thus ending officially the Tripolitan War.
   After the War of 1812, two American naval squadrons returned to the Mediterranean. Diplomacy backed by resolute force soon brought the rulers of Barbary to terms. Commodore Decatur obtained treaties that eliminated the American tribute. In the years immediately after the Napoleonic Wars the European powers forced an end to piracy and the payment of tribute in the Barbary States. Algiers capitulated to the French on July 5, 1830, the Dey (ruler) went into exile and the Ottoman janissaries were shipped back to Constantinople. Following the French conquest of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli proclaimed at once an end to Christian slavery and corsair activities. They preserved a fictitious independence until they became respectively in 1881 and in 1911 a French protectorate and an Italian colony.
   See also <>.
    Fisher, Godfrey. Barbary Legend: War, Trade, and Piracy in North Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974;
    Lane Poole, Stanley with the collaboration of J. D. Jerrold Kelly. The Barbary Corsairs. Westport, CT: Negro Universities Press, 1970.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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