Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Thomas Jefferson sent the U.S. Navy to subdue Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean.
Example: [Sampley, 2007]
Origins: In January 2007, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the United States' first Muslim Congressman when he was sworn into the House of Representatives. For the ceremonial photo opportunity afterwards, he elected to pose with a copy of the Quran published in 1764 and once owned by Thomas Jefferson:
Mr. Ellison, who had already planned to use a Koran for the ceremony, learned about Jefferson's Koran, and made arrangements with the Library of Congress to borrow it for his ceremonial oath.Jefferson himself had a significant connection with Islam through the conflict now known as the "Barbary Wars," which grew out of attacks on American merchant vessels (and the capture and ransoming of their crew and cargos) by pirates from the North African kingdoms of Tunis, Tripoli, Algeria, and Morocco (collectively referred to as the 'Barbary Coast"). Through the first half of the
Although the Library of Congress is right across the street from the Capitol, library officials protected the book from the elements by taking a long, winding underground route via tunnels. When they got there, a crowded room of reporters, photographers, and videographers was waiting.
The Koran was acquired in 1815 as part of a more than 6,400-volume collection that Jefferson sold for $24,000 to replace the congressional library that had been burned by British troops the year before, in the War of 1812. Jefferson, the nation's third president, was a collector of books in all topics and languages.
In 1787 the Continental Congress ratified a treaty with Morocco calling for the payment of tribute by the United States in exchange for an end to attacks on merchant ships, but Tripoli and Algiers continued to prey on American shipping. In 1794 Congress (urged in large part by New England merchants disgruntled with ship seizures in the Mediterranean and rising insurance rates) passed the Naval Act, which reestablished the
The Barbary Wars began in 1801, when President Thomas Jefferson dispatched a naval squadron to the Mediterranean to protect American ships and the crews who manned them. Jefferson drew heavy criticism when Tripoli seized the USS Philadelphia and its
The outline of history presented in the article referenced above is basically correct, although its emphasis on "Muslim slave traders" (no mention that Jefferson himself, like many other Americans at the time, was also a slaveowner) and the "Muslim book of jihad" is questionable. The successful resolution of the Barbary issue came about not specifically because of anything Jefferson gleaned from reading the Quran, but because he realized early on that paying tribute to pirates and brigands was not a viable solution, especially when the payees were half a world away and effectively outside the reach of American military power. Believing that paying tribute to the Barbary nations would only lead to additional demands, and that England and France could not be counted upon to join a confederation of nations created to "compel the piratical states to perpetual peace," Jefferson reasoned early on that the best course of action was to create a navy which could subdue the Barbary powers by force:
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. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in aAdditional information:
"From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money," Jefferson added in a
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