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February 7, 2013

America and Algiers



America and Algiers

The political situation of the United States and Algiers … may be thus summarily stated ….

The seventeen annuities due from the United States to the Dey and Regency of Algiers, Sept. 5, 1812, at 21,600 dollars per year, amounted to 367,200 dollars of which sum the United States had paid (July 22, 1812) 351,363 dollars, leaving a balance due…of 15,837 dollars; but which the Dey insisted was 27,000 dollars, he computing the 17 years according to the Mahometan calendar, which gives 354 days to a year.

The Alleghany, sent out by the United States with a cargo of naval stores, to discharge the arrearages due in fulfillment of treaty stipulations, arrived at Algiers on the 16th July 1812; – and the Dey and officers of the Regency expressed entire satisfaction; – but when the unloading of the cargo commenced, the Dey demanded a list of the articles, and became outrageous to find [less gunpowder and fewer cables than he had expected.]

Mr. Lear (American Consul) was accordingly ordered to depart the 23d July, with all the Americans in Algiers, on board the Alleghany…and to pay immediately into the treasury 27,000 Spanish dollars, and in case of refusal, the ship to be confiscated, all the Americans in Algiers to be kept as slaves, and war instantly declared against the United States.

Mr. Lear, therefore, was compelled to raise the money…and having paid it in, was allowed to depart, with the ship and cargo, and the Americans….

Mr. Lear writes that “the character of the present Dey, Hadge [Haji] Alli Bashaw, is that of a severe, obstinate and cruel man” — and adds, “if our small naval fleet can operate freely in this sea, Algiers will be humbled in the dust.”…. [List of the Algierian war vessels].

COMMENT: The treaty with Algiers had been signed in 1795. Tobias Lear was the American Consul-General in Algiers, and I quote from a brief biography:

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