Soon after assuming the presidency, John Adams dispatched new consuls to North Africa: James Cathcart to Tripoli, William Eaton to Tunis, Richard O’Brien to Algiers, and James Simpson to Morocco. Cathcart, Eaton, and O’Brien had a particularly unhappy time living in North Africa and heavily criticized what they deemed the idleness, laziness, and military ineptness of North African men. They also advocated using military force against the Barbary States instead of paying tribute.
See below for a June 23, 1800 letter by Eaton to the Secretary of State that encapsulates his frustration and expresses his vision for more robust policies. What type of rhetoric does Eaton use? How does he portray the United States?
A national uproar occurred when, in September 1800, the Dey of Algiers forced the George Washington to transport Algiers’s tribute to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople. Outnumbered by the Algerian navy, Captain William Bainbridge had no choice but to comply. Diplomat Richard O’Brien recorded the contents of the tribute: African slaves, four horses, one-hundred fifty sheep, twenty-five horned cattle, four antelopes, four horses, four lions, four parrots, four tigers, and one-million dollars’ worth of goods. However, the trip ended on a positive note. The sultan had never heard of the United States and was eager to learn about the new country. He gave Bainbridge a firman (a royal decree) granting the American captain safe conduct through the Mediterranean.
Back in the United States, the public was outraged. Newspapers published articles that castigated the John Adams Administration for leaving the American navy vulnerable in the Mediterranean and called for retaliation. Adams lost his bid for reelection, but by the time Thomas Jefferson became president in March 1801, the United States was primed for war. Americans wanted to unleash the resurgent American navy against the Barbary “pirates” in order to prevent another incident like the George Washington from happening again.
 Richard O’Brien to William Eaton, 19 October 1800, Naval Documents I: 384.
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