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Stories of New Jersey
The Dey, The Bey, And Some Jersey Sailors
The Barbary War. (Period, 1800-4.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

When the "George Washington" reached Constantinople, she created a sensation. Never before in the waters of the Golden Horn had the stars and stripes been seen, and the people of the city could not imagine where this strange ship came from. Some of these people had heard of America and the United States, but they knew of it only in a vague and misty way, very much as we understand some parts of the interior of China. If Captain Bainbridge had told them he was from New Jersey; he might as well have told them he came from the moon.

But the Americans were very well received in Constantinople, and the officers of the government were glad to welcome them and do them honor. Captain Bainbridge and the Turkish admiral became very good friends; and when the latter heard how the former had been treated at Algiers, he condemned the insolent Dey, and laid the matter before the Turkish Government. In consequence of this, Bainbridge was given a paper, signed by the Sultan, which would protect him thereafter from any such disrespectful treatment from any of the minor Mohammedan powers. When Captain Bainbridge had enjoyed all the Turkish hospitality his duties permitted him to receive, he sailed from Constantinople and again entered the port of Algiers. The Dey was glad to see him come back, for he had some more business for him; and our Jersey captain was soon informed that he must sail away again on another errand for his Barbary master. But this time the Barbary master was very much astonished, for Bainbridge peremptorily refused to do anything of the kind

Now the blood of the Dey boiled hot, and he vowed that if the "George Washington" did not immediately sail forth upon his service, he would declare war upon this miserable little country which owned it, and he would put the commander and crew of the ship in chains, and clap them into dungeons. But Bainbridge did not turn pale, nor did he tremble. He simply pulled from his pocket the paper which he had received from the Sultan, and allowed the furious Dey to glance over it. When the raving pirate read the words of his imperial master, all the fury and the courage went out of him, and he became as meek and humble as if he had been somebody come to pay a tribute to himself. He received Bainbridge as a friend and an equal, and, from commanding and threatening him, became so gracious, and made so many offers of service and friendship, that Bainbridge decided to take advantage of this auspicious change of temper.

Not long before, the French consul at Algiers had been seized and imprisoned, together with all the Frenchmen who were doing business in that place; for, so long as people belonged to a country which was a great way off, the Dey considered himself an all-powerful ruler, who could do what he pleased with them without fear of their far-away government. Bainbridge determined to try to do something for these poor men; and when he again met the smiling and pleasant Dey, he urged their release. The paper which Bainbridge received from the Sultan must have been written in very strong terms; for, although the demand of the American captain was a heavy one, the Dey agreed to it, and when the "George Washington" sailed from Algiers, she carried away all the Frenchmen who had been living there.

Bainbridge was not at all satisfied with this Algerine business; and when he reported the affair to the authorities at home, he requested that he might never again be sent to carry tribute to Algiers unless he could deliver it from the mouths of his cannon.

The next year the Bashaw of Tripoli; who had had no tribute from the United States, began to be very uneasy in his mind because he did not fare so well as the other Barbary potentates, to whom money and merchandise were delivered every year. He accordingly spoke up in defense of his rights. It is not likely that he knew where the United States was, what sort of a country it was, or how large or how small its army and navy might be. He knew that the Americans were miserable, humble people, who paid tribute to the Bey and the Dey, and he could see no particular reason why they should not pay it to the Bashaw. Consequently he wrote a letter to the President of the United States, in which he expressed his views very pointedly, and informed him, that, if proper arrangements were not made in six months, he would destroy all the American ships on the Mediterranean, and declare war against the United States.

Strange to say, a thrill of terror did not run through the government of the United States; and six months pissed without any notice having been taken of this impertinent communication. Thereupon the Bashaw cut down the flag pole in front of the American consul's office at Tripoli, and commenced the great work of annihilating the United States of America. He began on the small American trading vessels which he found along the Barbary Coast, intending probably, when his convenience would permit, to sail out upon the Atlantic, find the United States, and help himself to the treasures which its government had so disrespectfully declined to hand over to him. The example of the Bashaw had a great effect upon the Dey and the Bey and the sub-Sultan; and Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco also informed the President of the United States that they were going to war with him if he did not immediately promise to pay tribute more regularly and in articles of better quality.

But the United States was getting tired of this sort of thing, and determined, no matter what the other civilized powers chose to do, that no more tribute should be paid by it to these insolent pirates. Consequently our government informed the mighty monarchs of the Barbary Coast that it was quite ready for war, and sent four ships to the Mediterranean, one of which, the "Essex," was commanded by Bainbridge.

But the fleet did not do very much on this expedition, and the war with North Africa dragged considerably. Bainbridge came back to America, and after a time returned in command of the "Philadelphia." There was a small squadron with him, but he sailed faster than the other vessels, and reached the Mediterranean alone. Here he overhauled a Moorish vessel which had captured an American brig under a commission from Morocco. Having rescued the American vessel, the crew of which were prisoners in the pirates' hold, the " Philadelphia" took the Moorish vessel as a prize to Gibraltar, and then started out again to see what could be done to humble the port of Tripoli.


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