War Without Declaration

The Barbary Wars

Authored by: William P. Leeman

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533805
eBook ISBN: 9781315817347
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813354


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Despite winning its independence from Great Britain in 1783, the United States still faced several potential threats to its national security both in North America and on the high seas. The end of the Revolutionary War meant that America and its shipping would no longer enjoy the protection of the British Empire and its Royal Navy. This reality became apparent almost immediately after gaining independence as corsairs from the Barbary States of North Africa began to target U.S. merchant shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The United States had two options available in meeting this threat: give in to Barbary demands for tribute payments to prevent future attacks, or use military force to subdue the corsairs. Though initially paying tribute and ransom, the United States ultimately chose to use military force in the Mediterranean region and fought two Barbary Wars, the first from 1801 to 1805 and the second in 1815.

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