MADISON, James (1751-1836), President. Autograph letter signed ("James Madison") as President, to Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Crowninshield (1772-1851), Montpelier, [Virginia], 20 April 1815. 1 page, folio, integral address leaf, minor browning to edges, otherwise fine.
MADISON DIRECTS NAVAL OPERATIONS AGAINST THE BARBARY STATE OF ALGIERS
Immediately after the end of the War of 1812 came to a close, President Madison confronted a foreign policy dilemma that had plagued the United States since Washington's presidency. The Barbary States on the northern coast of Africa had continued their predation upon American merchant vessels engaged in the Mediterranean trade. The Federalist administrations of Washington and Adams had elected to pay an annual tribute to forestall the pirates, but during the War of 1812 Algiers, taking advantage of the American Navy's absence, returned to the practise of seizing ships. Once hostilities were concluded with England, the President determined to use military force to curb the renegade state. A large naval squadron under the command of Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) and William Bainbridge (1774-1833) was dispatched.
Here, Madison comments on Decatur's orders, which "appear to embrace all the essential points," although "it may be proper to apprize him, that as several nations, particularly the Dutch, are understood to be at war with Algiers, and will probably have armaments engaged in it, he will open & keep up such an understanding with their commanders, as may best promote the common object. It may be proper also, in order to guard...agst. misconstructions, to insert 'establish' before the word 'declare' a blockade etc." Madison directs Crowninshield to confer with Secretary of State James Monroe: "As there is so close a connection, in the arrangements for the expedition agst. the Algierians, between the Departments of State & Navy, it will be useful, for you & Mr. Monroe, to see the instructions of each other. This precaution will prevent incoherences, and may suggest hints for improvements on one side or other, or even on both."
In June, Decatur's squadron arrived in the Meditteranean and won an important victory over the Algerine Admiral's flagship, the Mashuda. Anchoring his fleet in the harbor at Algiers, Decatur convinced the reluctant Dey of Algiers to sign a treaty ending the payment of tributes, restoring American property, providing reparations for recent seizures, and guanateeing the emancipation of any Christian slaves who escaped to the American naval ships. Decatur went on to achieve similar success at Tripoli and Tunis.