Muslim Barbary pirates

Muslim Barbary pirates

Anyone who suffered through a dry history teacher, in a hot classroom that seemed like interminable torture can perhaps be forgiven for believing history is “boring.” We hear it all the time.

That would be, however, focusing the blame on the wrong villain. Dry history teachers blow away like the last vestiges of a late summer harvest, but history – especially American history – is ever-vibrant, ever-relevant.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

We are reminded of that with the release of Brian Kilmeade’s marvelous book, “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History.” Written with Don Yaeger, the book traces a relatively obscure passage from America’s sistory book, the moment when Thomas Jefferson decided to read the Koran and properly deal with Muslim pirates off the African coast, who were stealing our property and enslaving our sailors.

There’s a lot to like about this book – a whole lot – but nothing more than the author’s very smart decision to focus on the men who actually did the fighting for our country. Kilmeade and Yaeger didn’t just focus on Jefferson and his team. It brings these early American heroes back to life in a way, and puts flesh on this riveting story.

From the get-go, “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” reminds us that this war against Islam that has been forced upon us is not really new. Take note of this remark by a fellow who was there:

“Picture to yourself your Brother Citizens or Unfortunate Countrymen in the Algerian State Prisons or Damned Castile, and starved 2/3rd’s and Naked. … Once a Citizen of the United States of America, but at present the Most Miserable Slave in Algiers.” – Richard O’Brien, Diary, February 19, 1790

The situation was this: As our fledgling country was dealing with myriad issues and growing pains, Barbary Coast pirates, the forerunners of today’s ISIS, were patrolling the waters off the coast of Africa and bedeviling sea commerce, from Europe to America. Just as today, too few leaders were willing to deal with the issue.

But then Jefferson redirected the policies of Washington and Adams, and flexed the national muscles to take the fight to a far-off but vicious enemy. The story Kilmeade and Yaeger weave is so incredible, you’ll likely not want to loan your copy to anyone.

Once you finish this book, you’ll remember names like Yusuf Qaramanli, Richard Somers, Richard Valentine Morris and Tobias Lear. Seriously, someone should turn this book into a movie.

The story begins on a warm summer day in 1785, as an American ship spots an unknown vessel approaching. Before they can act, a menacing and motley crew are swinging on ropes into their midst, knives between their teeth; it was like an Errol Flynn movie directed by Rob Zombie.

Jefferson was America’s minister to France at the time, still years from the presidency, and an initial letter from the captured ship’s captain let him know that his country was dealing with an enemy the likes of which they’d never seen. The authors of “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” are terrific storytellers, and the ensuing chapters build the suspense like few other books have done.

It is also instructive for the reader to realize Islam, born in the deserts of Arabia in the seventh century, is no different today. It was no different in the days of Jefferson; in fact, an awakening of sorts had happened in his day, in which the Wahhabists of Arabia (the spiritual forefathers of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has today infested American government thanks to men like Barack Obama) were rising up to establish Islam as a new caliphate.

In 1800, Qaramanli, the bashaw (or pasha; important person) of Tripoli, gave Jefferson six months to “properly” respond to his piracy. The Muslim overlords demanded tribute from the United States.

Jefferson didn’t need nearly that much time to respond. Notice how he found the situation as soon as he took office in 1801:

President Jefferson ordered that all correspondence be submitted to him for review. As he looked over the papers Adams had left behind, his concern about the state of America’s safety grew. Jefferson had known the Barbary situation was bad, but he hadn’t realized how bad it truly was, as he reviewed the existing treaties with Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis. The last had been ratified in January 1800 and promised payment of $20,000 in annual tribute, as well as the bizarre payment of one barrel of gunpowder every time an American vessel received a cannon salute. After fifteen years of observation, Jefferson knew as well as anyone that this demand was not in good faith. Instead, it was a warning that the whole region was nothing less than a powder keg.

Wow, it seemed that the U.S. was going the way of Europe already! But Jefferson had a new strategy: he would send the Marines!

You’ll have to order a copy to see what happened next, but suffice to say this is one story you will never, ever forget. … mostly because Kilmeade and Yaeger are no dry Western Civ teachers on a sweltering September day.


Discover how real and relevant Bible prophecy is to you with Jim Fletcher’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine): How to stop worrying and learn to love these end times”

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