The Jefferson Administration - the Tripolitan War and the War of 1812 - RR144K19
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The Federalist Administration of Adams was followed by the administration of Thomas Jefferson, partly of John Adams insistence that he would rather be right than president, and his refusal to get the United States involved into a foreign war, especially when the United States was in no position to get involved. Adams lost to Thomas Jefferson. Now in one respect Jefferson who had as a Democratic Republican protested against the strong emphasis on the federal government on the part of the federalists, used the power of the presidency more than Washington and Adams had done. Particularly, he emphasized patronage.
Now patronage means that when you get office, you decide to give Federal offices to you friends. It was not Andrew Jackson who carried this out, although Andrew Jackson carried patronage to a far greater degree. The principle in Washington’s administration had been that, he was hiring men of ability. And men of both parties although they had not developed at the beginning, he tried to retain in his administration, to make his administration representative of the country. Adams while not given to patronage on the whole, did try towards the last to appoint what was known as Midnight Judges. These were last minute appointments, just before his term of office expired, and naturally they created quite hue and cry on the part of the Democratic Republicans and their protest to it and their legal attempts, and action to revoke these midnight appointments.
However with regard to the economy, Jefferson made a very wise choice in his secretary of the treasury, a man who was a very, very important man in determining American monetary and economic policies. Gallatin. [00:02:30]
Now one of the first things that Gallatin did was to...
Now one of the first things that Gallatin did was to repeal internal revenue taxes. Gallatin’s thesis was that the administration would be better off by encouraging American Industry by low taxes rather than by protectionism. Second, Gallatin worked with the backing of Jefferson to cut back military and diplomatic expenditures. Third, he worked to effect a strict accounting in every area, to put in a very efficient type of accounting system. Then finally, he worked for a reduction of the national debt as quickly as possible. Gallatin thus was emphatic on a very sound economic policy. Hamilton had been a protectionist to a considerable degree. Gallatin was closer to being a laissez faire, or a free market man.
However one thing interfered with the administrations and Gallatin’s plan for a cut back in military spending, and this was the Tripolitan war of 1802-1805. We rarely ever hear about this war today. Does anyone know whom we fought? It’s a sad fact because this is one of the more dramatic wars of American history. It was fought entirely by the navy, by volunteer seamen, and it was fought against the Barbary Pirates. Now, Tripoli, a portion of North Africa was at that time ruled by a Muslim power that regarded it as fair game to attack the ships of any country if that country were not strong enough to defend itself, or if that country refused to pay tribute. [00:05:06]
The United States refused to pay tribute...
The United States refused to pay tribute. There were attempts, and there was a little bit in that direction of sentiment, that it was better to pay tribute, but by and large American ships that were trading in the Mediterranean were regularly seized, and the seamen were either put into prison, or made into slaves in North Africa, slaves of the Muslims. And the punishment, the torture the abuse to which American Seamen were regularly subject was a fearful one. Really unprintable. Now there was a great deal of indignation on the part of some Americans, but unfortunately, even then too great an indifference to what was happening. The attitude of too many people was that: “Well, those ships are going into the Mediterranean, and it’s their own fault, they are taking a risk by going in there and whatever happens to them is their own business. They are private merchantmen, it’s a business deal, and they are going in there to do business, so, that’s their problem.” That’s their problem. There was no dealing with any flag, any ship flying the American flag, deserve the protection of the United States.
However, little by little, sentiment turned to the favor of military action. And particularly, under the leadership of one naval commander, who through a number of outstanding naval actions was able to destroy the power of the Barbary pirates, forced them to sue for peace, and protect thereafter all Americans, ships and seamen in those waters. It was Stephen Decatur.
Some of you may recognize his name because there is a city named after him now. He is truly one of the great American military hero’s. It’s a sorry fact that we hear so little about the Tripolitan war, from the standpoint of sheer excitement, and drama as well as horror, that war is one of the most remarkable in modern history, and certainly in American history. The naval campaign was the most dramatic one. Someone ought to do a book on the Tripolitan war, for the general reader. It would be a most exciting story. That war, as I indicated, lasted from 1802, through 1805. [00:07:58]
At the same time because of the Napoleonic war, as...
At the same time because of the Napoleonic war, as I indicated last week, Napoleon realized that he would lose the Louisiana Territory. Now the Louisiana Territory which France had extended from New Orleans, upwards to the Canadian border, and west to the Rockies. So that it covered a vast amount of territory, which today is known as the Middle West. Once you get beyond the Indiana Illinoi territory, everything beyond that, the Rockies, is part of the Louisiana Purchase territory.
Napoleon, rather than lose this to Britain, which would have then had as part of its Canadian possessions all of what is today Canada right down to the belt of Mexico, made as Napoleon said a great empire out of the United States, by selling the Louisiana Territory to them at a nominal price. It was one of the great bargains that we have had in our American history, like the purchase of Alaska. And the irony of it is that in both cases there was a great deal of criticism of the administrations for the purchase of so much land.
The only area in what is that great area between Canada and the Gulf that was not part of the purchase was Texas, which belonged to Spain. During the administration of Jefferson, there was a consistent problem not only with the Barbary pirates, but also with Britain. Britain was in a long war against Napoleon, and therefore the British ships were refusing to allow American ships to go to Europe, to trade with anyone, particularly in France, but anyone from whose ports the goods could go to France. As a result, Jefferson called for an economic boy-cot of England and France. Now it didn’t hurt France in that we were not being successful in that we were not getting goods to France, so in a sense while it was a boy-cot of both countries, it was primarily anti-British. Unfortunately, like most boy-cots it hurt the United States more than it hurt Britain. It did not help France. [00:10:48]
As a result finally, it was repealed because of its...
As a result finally, it was repealed because of its disastrous effect on the American economy. Jefferson in his first inaugural address set the temper to of a political philosophy, in which he set forth a creed that the president must be president for all Americans. This in a sense is echoing what Washington had felt. But now this idea was being parroted with less sincerity to a degree, and it became now a part of the American Creed as it were, that the President even though he is the head of a party is also the representative of all the people. In a sense this has become so accepted today, that it gives the incumbent a tremendous edge, in that today the president can speak as Nixon does and as Johnson did, and every other president over television and the radio, without it being a political address ostensibly. He does it, he doesn’t have to pay for time because he supposedly represents not only a party, but all the nation. And yet at the same time, from Jefferson on, although there were elements of this in Adams, but primarily from Jefferson on and with Jackson especially, this was increased and with Franklin Delano Roosevelt especially it was intensified. The President becoming more and more, the head of his party, but at the same time emphasizing all the more that he is the president of all the Americans, so that there has been a tremendous power, to the party in power, particularly as the modes of communication have increased. [00:12:54]
Because this pose...
Because this pose: “I am everyone’s president, rather than the head of my party and as president representative of one segment of America, is today an instrument of tremendous power. It was during the administration of Jefferson that a relative of his whit whom we did not at all get along, John Marshall, as chief justice of the United States, rendered a series of decision which did a great deal to establish the power of the Supreme Court, and the Doctrine of Judicial Review. We shall return to Marshall a little later this week, to deal with some aspects of his decisions.
Now, let us turn to another subject, the War of 1812. The War of 1812. Now actually, the War of 1812 lasted longer than 1812. It began in 1812, it lasted through 1814 to January of 1815. The war of 1812 was a very important war for American history psychologically, and yet the British hardly regarded it as very important. In a sense neither side won, the War of 1812 was definitely not an American victory, and it definitely not a British victory. However the very fact that in spite of some serious defeats we won some important victories also, did establish American prestige.
In particular American felt, when the war was over, a tremendous pride, a real satisfaction, that in spite of great problems during the war they had come out on top. And a month after the peace treaty was signed, a very great victory was won because the news had not yet reached America. Does anyone know? Yes. The Battle of New Orleans with Andrew Jackson. That of course was a tremendous psychological boon to Americans because they so thoroughly defeated the British. [00:15:34]
The British during the entire War of ...
The British during the entire War of 1812 were involved in war against Napoleon. As a result, in Britain today, if you were to ask anyone about the War of 1812, there would be a puzzled look on their face. They would hardly know what you were talking about. In fact, to them at that time they were in a long war of about 22 years except for one year of peace in between, with Napoleon, so most of them are barely aware of this. In fact some of them including historians are appallingly ignorant, of the War of 1812. What was one of the events of the War of 1812, very dramatic that happened in this area? Does anyone know? Yes. Good for you. Now what (decided?) the invasion of Washington D.C.? They burned it.
Now, here’s an interesting little story that I’m going to read to you, from the account of a historian. “At and English banquet of scholars where the Napoleonic wars were being discussed, and American colleague, a historian, who happened to present, referred to the Anglo-American War of 1812. An internal phase of the so called World War of the Fourth Coalition, 1812 to 1814. “Oh, were you in that one too?” One of his hosts inquired, an English Historian. And he answered, “Yes, that was the war in which you burned Washington.” “Great Heavens,” exclaimed the astonished host. “I knew we had burned Joan of Arc, but I did not realize we had burned George Washington!” Now, that’s how ignorant they are of the events of that war. But the sad fact is in the United States the ignorance of the War of 1812 is very great. [00:17:43]
Now, the balance of power is important to understand...
Now, the balance of power is important to understand modern European history. It also finally involves the United States. And we are going to come to its involvement in the United States, and the attitude of the United States to it later on this week. The balance of power was a theory developed by Britain, and it has been a consistent disturber of the peace. It has been the occasion of more wars than perhaps any other single factor in European history. Now what is the balance of power thesis?
According to the balance of power theory, and one nation after another has played this game against the other, Britain has been the most successful. According to the balance of power theory, your nation must be the strongest, and it cannot allow any other nation to reach a power of relative equality. If it begins to get stronger, what you do is immediately help a third power to gain strength, and egg them into war with that second power. So that you try to nullify them, and if need be you go into the war one whichever side is necessary, to nullify that power. [00:19:08]
So that, when a nation works a balance of power theory...
So that, when a nation works a balance of power theory, whether it is, say Louis the 14th of France, or whether it is Britain, or whether it is Spain, or whatever power has ever developed it, they become a perpetual disturber of the peace. The minute a country becomes strong enough, you create another power in order to undercut it. Thus, to give you a modern example, after World War I, Britain successfully undercut Kaiser Wilhelm and Germany, and broke the power of Germany, its great rival. Germany was stripped of its African colonies, and other colonies, and reduced to a greatly lesser power.
However, on the continent of Europe, the country that came out quite strongly was France. France made a succession of treaties with central European powers, newly created powers. With Czechoslovakia, even with the Soviet Union. So that now France was the continental power. As the position of France throughout the 30’s, and the 20’s and early 30’s became strong, what Britain then did, was to turn around and help Germany in order to set up again a balance on the Continent. So that there would be a countervailing force, as against the strength and power of France. As a result if you go back and look at the history of the early 30’s, you find the various English leaders, whether it was Churchill, or Chamberlain, or Baldwin, all taking a very favorable attitude towards Hitler and the Nazi’s. Why? Because they were determined to see something good in Germany, in order to build up Germany as a counterforce to French power. As a result, at one point after another, they helped Germany. At Munich for example, they broke France. Why? Because France had declared it would defend, (By a lance?) Czechoslovakia. And they compelled France that the treaty at the Munich meeting, at the conference, to abandon Czechoslovakia. [00:21:56]
And then Hitler took the part of Czechoslovakia, without...
And then Hitler took the part of Czechoslovakia, without firing a gun. But when they had done this they began to realize, “Now we have created a very strong Germany, and France had become very weak. France had become radically demoralized. And so the balance of power now was not in the favor of France, but of Germany and Germany had become very strong. So there next step was, the British worked with Poland. And though the history books don’t say this because Hitler did not want war, what Hitler wanted was through bluff, through threat, through negotiations, to gain vast powers. But anything short of war. They began to egg the Poles, to commit atrocities against the Germans, and finally to attack the Germans. So actually World War 2 began because the Poles had been egged by the British to attack the Germans. And finally it reached a point where Hitler would have been so unpopular in Germany if he didn’t defend his own people there in Poland and along the border, that he had to go to war. And of course, then it meant the destruction of Germany.
But the balance of power then put what power up at the top? In Europe. No, after World War 2 France had been occupied, France came out very weak until De Gaulle began to strengthen it somewhat. What power was the greatest power, the greatest threat in Europe? Russia. Russia. So, Churchill came to the United States at Westminster College and made his famous Iron Curtain speech, and got us into the Cold War. The idea was now, “Let Russia and the United States, the two great powers, destroy each other, and then we again will come out ahead.” And this is the balance of power politics. One nation after another works it against the other, with disastrous consequences.
It’s in terms of the balance of Power Politics that President Nixon went to be (King?). Why? “Well, there are two great Communist powers, they aren’t too friendly now. Let’s get in on both sides, we’ll be friendly to both, and kind of work up a jealousy and a rivalry, so that each will work against the other. And we’ll be there, so that they can kill each other off.” It’s a dangerous game, is it not. [00:24:34]
Very dangerous. This balance of power politics, I’ve just given you a little bit of what the British have done and what we are now doing, and of course all these other countries are playing this same game. It has been a cause of more wars than any other single factor in the modern era. Now, Britain because of this balance of power politics was determined to destroy Napoleon. It brought Russia on its side through pressure finally, and was determined because it had trade power over Russia, that the peace between the Czar of Russia and Napoleon be broken.
France was not able to supply the Czars Russia because it didn’t have any sea power. Britain had destroyed French sea power. So on land France under Napoleon was winning victories until finally after 22 years of warfare, they were destroyed at Waterloo. However earlier the United States finally came into the war, reluctantly, unhappily, but out of necessity. We went into the war because first of all the United States rights and the country were being treated with contempt by the British. Britain did not regard us as a real country that was likely to endure very long. Their feeling was that one of these days we would collapse, and we would be forced to come back, and so we were treated with total contempt.
Now, some of us in some cases rightly, and perhaps in some cases wrongly regard some of the new African countries as something of a joke, and in fact some of them are ruled by men who were guilty a few years ago under French rule of Cannibalism and a few other things. So we see those countries as artificial and as a joke and very unstable. Now just as we regard some of those African countries, so we were regarded by the British, rightly or wrongly. [00:26:53]
Then second there was a regular confiscation of American...
Then second there was a regular confiscation of American cargo’s, and interference with American trade. So the very real issue was freedom of the seas. We were a neutral power. We were not trying to get in there to help anybody. All we were asking for was the freedom of the seas for our ships. Now the idea of the freedom of the seas has never been settled. As a matter of fact it’s not likely to be settled today because it’s part of a free trade, free market philosophy. And that philosophy has in our day taken a severe setback. So it’s not likely that anyone today will speak strongly or favorably to the issue of freedom of seas.
This is another reason why the War of 1812 although it did not settle the issue of Freedom of Seas, was fought for it. This is another reason why the war is not popular with modern historians. The idea of the freedom of the seas in terms of the Freedom of trade, a free market economy, does not appeal to them. And as a result a war fought for that, is to them a ridiculous war. They will have no respect for the principals that were involved there. So that was the second reason for the war. The third was the impressment of American seamen into the British navy. Any time Britain captured and American ship, they simply took the ship, confiscated it, and they treated seamen as nothing, and they were forced to become British seamen in the British Navy. Now the British Navy in those days was made up of the dregs of the slums, people who were caught by press gangs, they were roving gangs that the British Navy would hire to go into the slums, shanghai any drunks, any poor foreigners that might be wandering through the streets late at night, going to their lodging, and then take them at gun point and manacle, up to the ship, hold them prisoner until they were out at sea, and then compel them to serve. And if they did not serve they were taken up on deck and they were whipped with the cat o’ nine tails. Brutally.
They could be whipped until they were killed. As a result this impressment of American seamen into the British Navy was a very brutal aspect of the British campaign, and contempt for America. And so out of protest finally, this too was a factor in the war. [00:29:48]
After all, if your husband or your brother or your...
After all, if your husband or your brother or your father had been impressed in the British navy, you certainly would resent it. Then fourth and finally, one of the reasons for the war from the American point of view was that Britain was readying the Indians all along the frontier to turn them loose. And they knew that one of these days when it suited the British, they would turn loose those Indians on American settlers.
The War of 1812 was in some respects a very disastrous war for America, some of the highlights of the war first of all. America thought that an offensive against Canada would be very important, both to undercut a source of raw materials for Britain, and also to capture Canada and make it into a part of the United States. This offensive was a failure. It was a longtime dream of America in the War of Independence and through the War of 1812, somehow, to make Canada a part of the United States. And so it was that one of their first attempts in the war was to bring Canada into this country, by force. It failed. Second there was however, a very important victory on Lake Erie by Commodore Perry, which gave the United States very clearly this area, which they should have had in the War of Independence, and area where its rights were not respected by the British.
Then second (Third) under Harrison the North West was recovered for the United States. Fourth, very early in the war the American Navy, a very small Navy had some important victories against the British. 5 naval ships were captured, and 300 British Merchant ships. [00:32:02]
However, the small American Navy was not able to cope with the tremendous British fleet. And so it was overwhelmed by a blockade, and America was subjected like France to a very sever blockade. And this caused a great deal of hardship. On top of that, Washington D.C. was taken and burned by Ross. The great victory that so encouraged Americans after the disaster in Washington D.C. happened after the peace treaty was signed. In the Battle of New Orleans Andrew Jackson defeated Pakenham, in some respects the Battle was a peculiar one, scholars have pointed out that Pakenham was stupid in some of the things he did. He did everything wrong. On the other hand, Jackson was a remarkable General, with a tremendous ability at commanding troops. And sometimes an outstanding commander can throw the enemy off balance and make him do stupid things. Almost draw them with a magnet, with a feeling of: “I’ve got to defeat that man.”
And so, we cannot detract from the very remarkable victory that was won by Jackson. The Peace of Ghent was signed however, prior to the battle of New Orleans. So the battle of New Orleans had no effect. One reason why the peace of Ghent was as favorable to the United States as it was when actually at that point without the Battle of New Orleans we could have come out a little bit the loser, was because the British were anxious for peace in order to turn and deal with France. [00:34:23]
As a result, both sides were anxious for peace, anxious...
As a result, both sides were anxious for peace, anxious to get the war over. As a result no mention was made of some of the important issues of the war. No mention of neutral rights, no mention in the peace treaty of freedom of the seas. No mention in the peace treaty of the evil of impressment, or of the search and seizure of American ships. So in a sense on some of the key issues on which we lost, the peace treaty made no mention. On the other hand it was not a loss in that the British did not try this after that. We had demonstrated that we were ready to go to war over these things. So while Britain did not technically surrender its claim that it had the right to do these things, it didn’t try them. So that in itself was a plus.
So, while some scholars are very contemptuous of the result of the war, and they emphasize the fact that America didn’t win on these things that it was supposedly going to fight for, freedom of the seas, right of neutral ships, freedom from impressment, freedom from search and seizure, the fact remains that although Britain never conceded one of those rights, it did not then exercise them against us. And that was a plus. [00:36:00]
For the United States in other words this was the first...
For the United States in other words this was the first real gain, it was never again treated with contempt by Britain.
Then second, the United States was no longer seen as a tail to be wagged by European events, in terms of the balance of power politics. We were now a force to be reckoned with. We had a tremendous territory, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Rockies, exclusive of Texas. Moreover, the European powers recognized that there were certain territories that we did not have that would not be difficult for us to gain. We’ll come to the significance of this later. But for the moment, what were these territories? I mentioned Texas. What? Florida. Florida was under Spanish rule. The Spanish empire was now very, very weak. It was only a question of time before anyone that wanted to seize that area could seize it. And what happened to the Spanish Empire to the west of the (Pelaga?) California, Texas and so on, what happened? Yes, they became independent, Mexico declared its independence and controlled that area. But Mexico itself as you know had an unstable government. So California for example for a while was up for grabs, and it was under a number of flags.
Just out of curiosity, let’s see how many of the flags you can recall. Spain was one of the flags that flew over California… Russian flag, good for you… No not the English… the Russians, where did the Russians have possession of California, how far down did they come? Fort Ross. Fort Ross. North of San Francisco. They actually at different times came all the way down to Monterey with their fishing trips and small settlements; they actually had a Fort at Fort Ross, and held that for a territory. So the Spanish flag and the Russian flag flew over California, then what other flag?
Yes, the Californian flag, the bear flag republic because California like Texas was an independent country though very briefly. But in between what else? No, no, well who after the Spanish flag, who controlled it? Mexico yes. But there was another country in between that for a while, I think 29 days, had control over California. They sent there Navy up there and took it from Mexico for a while. What? Not France. The South American power, Argentina. And then, the U.S. Quite remarkable isn’t it? It isn’t definitely, no. There are theories as to what the name means, but it isn’t really settled. One of the peculiar things is, we could’ve also had Baha California, lower California, and we didn’t bother to take it. It’s a very valuable territory, Yes. So the balance of power politics you see, recognized that now we had the power to go westward, and southward into Florida at almost any time. And so the balance of power politics was very intensely concerned about this threat. Because they recognized that the United States now could have a tremendous impact. [00:40:51]
So, we’re going to deal with this on a later occasion...
So, we’re going to deal with this on a later occasion, but the Monroe doctrine and the Polk doctrine which has virtually dropped out of textbooks, you never hear about the Polk doctrine anymore, and in a few years you are not going to hear much about the Monroe doctrine, because we have really abandoned it in the past decade. These two doctrines had to do with the balance of power politics, to try and prevent the balance of power politics from operating in the Americas. As I say, we will return to that at a later date.
But with the victory of the War of 1812, limited as it was, in a sense really a draw as far as the peace treaty was concerned, nonetheless the United States had to a great extent set back the British feelings about the United States, and made it clear that we were a country that was here to stay. And so the third consequence of the war of 1812. First we were never again treated with contempt by great Britain, because while we did not gain the things we fought for in the peace treaty, for all practical intent Britain left us alone on them; Second the United States was no longer seen as a tail to be wagged in the balance of Power Politics in Europe, and third: all of this meant a tremendous national pride. Americans began to feel very proud of their country. It helped bring North and South together. It meant also what was known as the era of good feeling, under President Monroe, an 8 year period when the whole country was quite closely united, North and South, very proud; “We are Americans. We can lick the world.” That was the attitude. A very great self confidence in their accomplishments.
As a result, the war of 1812 was very important in American History, as was the Tripolitan War, the war against the Barbary Pirates. Because in both these campaigns the United States had stood its ground, it had defended the rights of Americans from being treated as nothing but slaves, and in the first case actually to be turned into slaves by the Barbary pirates, and then in the second case to be turned into slaves of the British navy. This culminated in a very great protection of the right of the American abroad. So that at the end of the century the feeling of the American government was that anybody abroad that laid a hand on an American had to pay for it.
What was the most famous incidence in that regard, about the end of the century, the beginning of this? Does anyone know? Under what President and what the incident was? Well, perhaps it will help if I give you the name of the President. Theodore Roosevelt. No, he was not a president during the Spanish American War, that was under McKinley. Well, under Theodore Roosevelt, an American who had been a Greek Immigrant and came to this country, worked here for a time, became an American, returned to the near East, was in north Africa, and he was captured by one of the Muslim rulers there, brigands virtually, and Theodore Roosevelt sent an ultimatum. The man who had captured the Greek was named Raisuli, the Greeks name was Perdicaris. And so, Roosevelts ultimatum was a simple sentence. “Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead.” That simple. “Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead.” In other words, you don’t touch an American citizen. Even if he’s now left this country, as a Greek immigrant who came here just to work and earn money and has gone back there and is living there. He still has an American citizenship, and you don’t touch him.
Now this meant a tremendous security for Americans outside the boundaries of the United States. It’s only been under our socialistic administrations of recent years that this has been abandoned. And today there are American service men rotting in Vietnam prisons, in Chinese prisons, in Soviet Prisons, and we do nothing about it. We have destroyed a century of prestige that has been built up, of respect for the American citizen, that began with the War of 1812, and the Barbary Pirates incidents, the Tripolitan War. Those two wars made it clear that the United States required that its citizens anywhere in the world be treated with respect. We have surrendered that. So a United States citizen is not safe when he goes abroad. And some of the things that happen to American citizens are disastrous, tragic. This is why I feel its foolish for an American citizen to… [Tape ends.] [00:46:48]