Thomas Jefferson on Islam

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson was a draftsman of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president (1801-09). He was also responsible for the Louisiana Purchase.  And he waged war on Islam, very early in his presidency..

The First Barbary War (1801-05) was the first declared war the United States fought on foreign land and seas. Islamic pirates from the Berber states of Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis and the Sultanate of Morocco harassed for centuries the Western Mediterranean seas especially, but also the Eastern Atlantic coast and even South America. “The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Muslim market in North Africa and the Middle East.” (Wikipedia) Piratical activity by Muslim populations had been known in the Mediterranean since at least the 9th century.  Historian Robert C. Davis estimated that between 1530 and 1780 1–1.25 million Europeans were captured and taken as slaves to North Africa, principally Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, but also Constantinople and Salé.

Prior to independence, American merchant vessels had enjoyed the protection of the British Navy.  But once the United States declared their independence, British diplomats were quick to inform the Barbary States that U.S. ships were open to attack.  In 1785, Dey Muhammad of Algiers declared war on the United States and captured several American ships.  The financially weak Confederation Government of the United States was unable and unwilling to raise a navy or the tribute that would protect U.S. ships. (U S Department of State Historian)

In 1786, Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli’s ambassador to Great Britain. “We took the liberty to make some enquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.”  The answer was quite revealing.

The Ambassador [of Tripoli] answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

{Letter from the commissioners, John Adams & Thomas Jefferson, to John Jay, 28 March 1786} — Thomas Jefferson, Letters of Thomas Jefferson

NB: This attitude of 1786 by Muslim leaders persists today, as evidenced by numerous statements of ISIS and other terrorists.  Note also this translated quote from Quran (5:33).

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”

Getting back to history, starting in about 1784, the US Congress decided to follow the same path taken by most of Europe—simply pay up the ransoms as their ships and crews were captured and pillaged.  Eventually, Jefferson (first as the Minister to France, later as President) became appalled by the payment of these ransoms to the Muslim barbarians.  Secretary of State Jefferson declared to Thomas Barclay, American consul to Morocco, in a May 13, 1791, letter of instructions for a new treaty with Morocco that it is “lastly our determination to prefer war in all cases to tribute under any form, and to any people whatever,” but the United States continued to negotiate for cash settlements. In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty with Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli. (Library of Congress) Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America’s minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress.

When Jefferson became president, in 1801, he had had enough.  He refused to accede to Tripoli’s demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean.  As he declared in his first annual message to Congress, “To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . .” (Library of Congress, Jefferson Papers)

Jefferson’s backbone for war with the Islamic terrorists of the sea withstood four years of pressure from political opponents and even his own cabinet, with never a declaration of war by Congress, but an 1805 treaty culminated a significant decrease to the hostilities, even if they were revived causing the short lived 1815 war with Algiers.

But Jefferson had demonstrated to the world the immorality and inhumanity of Muslim terrorists who justified their warring practices by the Quran, stood up to them, and succeeded in corralling their threat to the world.  All because he had a backbone, and wisdom, and used it.

Oh, that we had such leadership today!

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