Honest Enemies

America’s enemies try and disguise their motives a lot more now than they used to. Our enemies used to be way more honest.

North African pirates (called Barbary corsairs) raided American merchant vessels starting in the 1780s. They were trying to get ransom and tribute in exchange for the lives of Americans.

In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to talk to the ambassador from Tripoli (one of the countries whose pirates was attacking us.) Jefferson and Adams gave this account of their conversation:

We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretentions 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 Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.


Note that the line about going “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marines hymn comes from a campaign in the Barbary Wars.

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