A nation whose single greatest influence was Christianity makes “first contact” with the lands of Islam…
In practice, America’s first contact with the lands of Islam came through their trading of slaves among other things while in the colonial stage. The Islamic warriors could not hold the interior of Africa largely due to the geography of the interior. Over time the interior of Africa became viewed as a virtually inexhaustible supply of slaves for the Islamic countries. The slave markets buzzed and routes were established going east (to Arabia, Persia etc.) and west (to the Americas) on a huge scale.
Britain’s massive naval presence in the Mediterranean (and elsewhere) protected America for the most part from becoming slaves… though white slaves were highly prized especially in the harems. Most of Islam’s white slaves were imported from the Islamic frontiers bordering Russia.
That all changed with the declaration of independence. America was no longer under the protection of the British flag. The Barbary States along the northern coast of Africa, Tripoli (AKA Libya) in particular began capturing and selling American ships back to the US on a massive scale. This tribute money from “unbelievers” to avoid enslavement eventually reached the unbelievable sum of 20% of the entire US budget.
It appears that 10 of the first 11 Americans seized died in slavery. It took a while for the Americans to take the threat seriously. (It sounds a lot like today…)
In 1787 alone eleven American vessels were plundered and 121 sailors were taken, hostage. They demanded one million dollars in ransom from the fledgling democracy.
Young America was naive in thinking that its oceans would protect it. Thus they did not want a navy. It was their belief that a navy would cause them to be drawn into the endless cycles of war that existed in Europe. America has always slipped back into the same illusion that we can just shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are modern examples of similar thinking. Washington and Jefferson were both against a navy in the beginning.
Americans were unprepared for (and didn’t really know how to react to) this threat. “But let me ask you my Dr. Marquis, in such an enlightened, in such a liberal age, how is it possible the great maritime powers of Europe should submit to pay an annual tribute to the little Piratical States of Barbary? Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind or crush them into non-existence.” George Washington to Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, August 15, 1786.
These African states were independently demanding different bribes and then playing slight of hands games and demanding more. Jefferson was part of the “peace commission” to the various Islamic states. Note Jefferson’s frustration in this communication:
“The information as to the Barbary states, which we obtained from Abdurahman the Tripolene Ambassador was also given to Mr. Jay. If it be right, the scale of proportion between those nations which we had settled be also right, eight times the sum required by Tripoli will be necessary to accomplish a peace with the whole, that is to say about two hundred and fifty thousand guineas. The continuance of this peace will depend on their idea of our power to enforce it, and on the life of the particular Dey or other head of the government with whom it is contracted. Congress will no doubt weigh these circumstances against the expense and probable success of compelling a peace by arms. Count d’Estaing having communicated to me verbally some information as to an experiment formerly made by this country, I shall get him to put it into writing and I will forward it to Congress, as it may aid them in their choice of measures. According to this, a force, which after the first outfit, might cost about three thousand guineas a month sufficed in a short time. However, which plan is most eligible can only be known to yourselves who are on the spot and have under your view all the difficulties of both.” Thomas Jefferson to James Munroe 05/10/1786
Note that when dealing with Islam… “right” is not the issue. This issue of your ability to live in peace depends on whether they believe you have the power to stop them. If you are a non-Muslim you are not entitled to “right” as the rest of the civilized world views it. “Right” only applies to Muslims.
Thomas Jefferson and James Adams were sent to negotiate a peace treaty with these pirates… Muslims. Jefferson and Adams wrote back to John Jay on March 28, 1786, regarding this effort.
“We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the ground of their pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed, that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.
The Ambassador answered us, that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet; that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority, were sinners ; that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners ; and that every Mussulman who was slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
That it was a law, that the first who boarded an enemy’s vessel should have one slave more than his share with the rest, which operated as an incentive to the most desperate valor and enterprise; that it was the practice of their Corsairs to bear down upon a ship, for each sailor to take a dagger in each hand and another in his mouth, and leap on board, which so terrified their enemies that very few ever stood against them; that he verily believed the devil assisted his countrymen, far they were almost always successful. We took the time to consider and promised an answer, but we can give him no other than that the demands exceed our expectation, and that of Congress, so much, that we can proceed no further without fresh instructions.” (The diplomatic correspondence of the United States from the Treaty of Peace to the adoption of this present constitution, Volume II pg 342)
John Jay, upon its receipt, penned his own letter and forwarded both to Congress. Jay’s letter concluded in this manner:
“For these reasons, your Secretary is much inclined to think that a fair and accurate state of the matter should be transmitted to the States ; that they should be informed that the sum … will be necessary to purchase treaties from the Barbary States ; and that, until such time as they furnish Congress with their respective proportions of that sum, the depredations of those barbarians will, in all probability, continue and increase. All which is submitted to the wisdom of Congress.
JOHN JAY.” (Ibid pg 343)
The US continued paying the bribes (Muslims call it jizyah) until they were able to build a navy… and Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated. By 1797 three of the six ships ordered by Congress were completed. One of those ships is the USS Constitution. It survives today and is the oldest active ship in the world.
When Washington died in 1799 the ruler of Libya called our ambassador in and sent then President Adams a message that when the ruler of any tributary state dies, it is customary for said state to send the ruler of Tripoli a special gift. He estimated Washington to be worth an extra $10,000 in tribute money!
America stalled and the demand was raised to $225,000. Jefferson was sworn in. As president, he refused their demands, Tripoli (modern Libya) and Morocco declared war on us… for refusing to pay them off.
“To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean, with assurances to that power of our sincere desire to remain in peace, but with orders to protect our commerce against the threatened attack. The measure was seasonable and salutary.” Thomas Jefferson 12/08/1801 Annual message to Congress.
The marine hymn preserves the pride over winning America’s first war as a nation… “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. . .” Yes, the modern marine’s anthem is actually commemorating their victory when we invaded Libya and changed out the government for the first time! The enslavement of our sailors on the high seas and the accompanying extortion all based on the teachings of Mohammed is directly what led to this country’s building of its first navy and fighting its first wars…
It led to the first time an American flag was hoisted over a city on foreign soil after taking the said foreign city. Our standing navy is the direct result of forcibly halting Islamic extortion while France Spain and most of Europe shook in their boots.
It was the first time we had to stand alone as a country. We were attacked and enslaved specifically because we were a mostly Christian country and it was the “right” of any Muslim to enslave us. That “right” continued until we were both strong enough to defend ourselves and willing to defend ourselves.
The first Barbary War lasted from 1801 to 1805. The second was in 1815. It was largely due to the Muslims testing to see if after the war of 1812 repelling the British invasion… to see if we still had the will to fight. We did, so they left us alone for a while. A popular slogan at the time was “millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”
Consider that this is the role of our government as described by God in Romans 13: 4… “It is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
It took our government awhile to take on its role of standing up for and protecting its citizens, but we finally learned. . . . . In summary, our first contact with Islam forced us to build a navy and fight a war to keep from becoming slaves. Our ancestors were hypocritical over it since they owned slaves themselves. In a very real way, they had financed the ability of the Muslim world to enslave them. It was only after they decided that the price had to be paid regardless of what it was that they were kept at bay.
When President Obama spoke of Jefferson having a Koran and America has a long history with Islam… what he said was sort of true. Jefferson got a Koran so that he could understand how to deal with this threat. Jefferson learned well and dealt with the threat.