Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

object of his visit ; but on taking leave, he informed me that he had no employment, and was very poor, and requested me to lend him a dollar, which I did, and assured him that whenever his necessities required it, he might apply to me with the certainty of finding such relief as I had it in my power to give him. I alterwards frequently met this old gentleman on public occasions, when he would modestly offer me a friendly pinch of snuff át a respectful distance from the official characters I was visiting. A few years after, this old man was raised to the eminent post of Hasnagee, or prime minister, which he now holds, at the age of about ninety years, and is in the receipt of at least fifty thousand dollars per annum.' pp. 31, 32.

The depredations of the Algerines on the commerce of the United States began early. According to their custom of being at war with all Christian nations, who did not purchase a peace, they declared war against us immediately after the recognition of our independence by the European powers. In July, 1785, two American merchant vessels, one commanded by Captain Stevens, and the other by Captain O'Brien, were seized by the corsairs, and taken to Algiers, where the officers and men, amounting in the whole to twentyone persons, were consigned to slavery. For the ten years following, our commerce was protected against these pirates by the Portuguese, who were at war with them, and who kept a maritime force in the Straits of Gibraltar, sufficient to prevent the Algerine cruisers from passing into the Atlantic ocean.

Meantime various expedients were resorted to, by the government of the United States, to redeem their unfortunate countrymen from slavery. These all proved unsuccessful, chiefly on account of the exorbitant demands of the pirates. It was thought not more a dictate of policy, than of benevolence, to refrain from gratifying these demands, as a compliance to this effect would operate as an additional incitement to future aggressions. The amount required for the ransom of twentyone persons was fistynine thousand four hundred dollars. An effort was made to negotiate for the redemption of the prisoners, through the society of Mathurins in Paris, instituted for the purpose of redeeming Christian captives from infidels, but the attempt was ineffectual. Eight years were thus consumed, without coming to any terms with Algiers, or rescuing these American citizens from bondage.

Affairs assumed a new aspect in 1793, when a truce between Portugal and Algiers was stipulated through the mediation of the

British government. This opened a passage for the corsairs into the Atlantic, and in a few months they captured eleven American vessels, containing one hundred and nine officers and seamen, who were all reduced to slavery. From that time more earnest exertions were made to procure a peace with Algiers, and the sympathy of the country was universally awakened in behalf of the suffering captives. The business was entrusted to Colonel Humphreys, the minister from the United States to Portugal, who despatched Mr Joseph Donaldson to Algiers, as commissioner to negotiate a treaty of peace. A time, more unpromising to the interests of the United States for executing such a treaty, could hardly have occurred. The truce with Portugal, and peace with other powers, had left the Dey's corsairs almost without employment. M. Skjoldebrand, brother of the Swedish Consul in Algiers, who had been consulted in this matter, wrote to Colonel Humphreys as follows. The Dey declared to me, that his interest does not permit him to accept your offers, even were you to lavish millions upon him. Because, said he, if I were to make peace with every body, what should I do with my corsairs? They would take off my head for the want of other prizes, not being able to live upon their miserable allowances.' Mr Donaldson succeeded, however, in forming a treaty, (September, 1795,) on terms as degrading to the American nation, as they were necessary in the exigencies of the case. The United States became bound to pay the Regency of Algiers upwards of seven hundred thousand dollars, as the price of peace and the ransom of the captives, and to render an annual tribute, payable in military and naval stores, the entire charges of which would amount to above seventy thousand dollars yearly.*

Owing to the difficulty of procuring funds, the conditions of the treaty were not fulfilled so soon as the Dey expected. He became impatient, expressed apprehensions that the delay was intentional, and threatened to renew the war and send out his cruisers. In this extremity, the American Commissioners, Joel Barlow and Mr Donaldson, agreed that their government should make the Dey a present of a frigate, if he would wait three months longer. This proposal was acceded to, and before the three months had expired, the requisite funds were received,

* By the Purveyor's Estimate returned to the Secretary of the Treasury in 1796, the cost of the two first years' annuities to the Dey and Regency of Algiers was $144,246.

[ocr errors]

Thus was a peace concluded with Algiers, which cost the United States first and last more than a million of dollars, and left them tributary to a horde of pirates.*

This treaty continued in force till 1812, when it suited the Dey's policy to break it, and to adopt a course, which, says Mr Shaler, has drawn upon the Algerines, either directly or indirectly, greater calamities than they ever before encountered, and its effects will probably cease only with the extinction of their independence as a piratical power.' The motives inducing to this step need not here be developed.

• The epoch which was selected by the reigning Dey of Algiers for a declaration of war against the United States, gave to it a character of the most deliberate and determined hostility. On the seventeenth of July of the above year, (1812,) an American ship called the Alleghany, arrived here with the tribute in military and naval stores, which was then due from the United States to the Regency. This vessel was received with demonstrations of apparent satisfaction, and was begun to be unloaded, when the Dey sent for the invoices and bills of lading of all her cargo. When they were explained to him, he expressed the utmost discontent at not finding the quantity of powder, and large cables, that he pretended to have positively required, and great indignation at the same vessel having been made the means of conveyance of some gunbarrels for Morocco, that were landed at Gibraltar, and of some small quantities of private property ; which he affected to regard as personally disrespectful.

• He ordered, in consequence, that the Consul should pay in cash the amount due from the United States to the Regency, and depart on the twentyfifth of the same month, with his family and all American citizens that might be here, on pain of the ship and cargo being confiscated, and himself, his family, and his countrymen here, reduced to slavery. The Consul, keeping steadily in view what he regarded as the interests of his country, made all proper remonstrances against this arbitrary proceeding, but in vain, and was compelled to depart on the day named. In September following, a small American brig, of little value, with a crew of eleven persons, was sent into Algiers as a prize to their

[ocr errors][merged small]

* The correspondence between ministers, consuls, agents, and other persons, and also the Messages of the President, and Reports of the Secretary of State, respecting the relations between the United States and Algiers, down to the period of ratifying this treaty, may be found among the Confidential Documents,' published in the tenth volume of American State Papers. VOL. XXII.-NO. 51.

54

cruisers. This insignificant prize proved to be the only advantage that they ever obtained from a war which they had declared with so much arrogance, and, in their opinion, with prospects of the most brilliant success. In the following year, the American gove ernment made an indirect attempt to ransom their captives in the power of the Algerines, who positively rejected any negotiation on the subject, alleging that they regarded their American slaves as above any pecuniary ransom.

pp. 120-122. During the war with England, which existed at this period, the attention of our government was but partially drawn to these outrages of the Algerines; but as soon as peace was restored, by the ratification of the treaty of Ghent, the Congress of the United States declared war against the Regency of Algiers, and made such appropriations as to render the means of conducting it prompt and efficient. The degradation of paying tribute to lawless banditti, and of being subjected to their caprice, was no longer to be endured. A squadron was fitted out for the Mediterranean, under the command of Captains Bainbridge and Decatur, and these two commanders were appointed commissioners, conjointly with Mr Shaler, to propose and conclude a treaty of peace. The first division of this squadron, under Commodore Decatur, with Mr Shaler on board, sailed from New York in May, 1815. Early in the succeeding month they arrived in the Mediterranean, and soon captured an Algerine frigate and brig. A few days afterward, the squadron appeared off Algiers, and the two commissioners propounded to the Regency the

terms on which they were authorized to renew the peace. At that time the Algerine cruisers were at sea, and such was the imposing attitude of the American squadron, and the impression made by the recent captures, that the conditions dictated by the commissioners were immediately assented to. From the date of this treaty, all tribute from the United States to these pirates was abolished, the laws of nations were recognised, and the American government was ever after to stand on the same footing, as the most favored nations. The captured frigate and brig were by agreement given up to the Dey.

After this treaty was concluded, Mr Shaler landed in Algiers as Consul General from the United States, which station he has held ever since. The Dey, stimulated probably by the agents of a foreign power, sought a pretence to break the treaty, and renew hostilities; but the differences were settled by the prudent management of the Consul, and peace has not since been interrupted. While the present policy of the European governments exists, however, it is necessary for the United States to keep a respectable naval force in the Mediterranean, to impress on these depredators the certainty, that any attempts to resort to their old practices will meet with a prompt and exemplary chastisement. In short, however much the causes are to be deprecated, yet it is a truth of no small moment, that the service to which our navy has been called, in humbling the Barbary pirates, has been a primary source of its own increase, and of our character and prowess as a nation.

In the year 1816, Algiers was bombarded by the combined English and Dutch fleets, under command of lord Exmouth, with entire success. Peace was made on such terms as the admiral chose to dictate. By one article of the treaty, Christian slavery was forever after abolished in Algiers. It is about fifty years since private cruising for prisoners, with the view of enslaving them, was prohibited. It then became a monopoly of the government. Whatever may be the fate of the treaty just mentioned, the spirit of the age will hardly allow this practice to be renewed for any length of time. The powers,

which are still disgraced by a tribute to the Algerine pirates, are Naples, Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal, each of which pays annually twentyfour thousand dollars, besides presents, and other tokens of degradation, whenever there is a change of consuls.

Mr Shaler's third chapter is devoted to a full, instructive, and highly entertaining description of the city of Algiers. After a residence there of ten years in a public station, with no ordinary habits of practical and philosophical observation, he must have been peculiarly well qualified for writing such an account. Whoever reads it, with all the reasonable expectations excited by these circumstances, will not be disappointed. The topography of the city, its fortifications, public buildings, and police, as well as the character of the people, their pursuits, and customs, receive a brief and discriminative examination.

Algiers is situate on the side of a hill, which rises by a sudden ascent from the seashore, and, as the houses are whitewashed, it has a brilliant and picturesque appearance when approached from the sea. It is surrounded by a high wall; the streets are extremely narrow, and the houses flat roofed, after the eastern fashion. The fortifications of the harbor are so formidable, as to make an attack by ships alone a hazardous undertaking, They have been strengthened since lord Exmouth's bombard

« PředchozíPokračovat »