Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates
America’s first confrontation with the Islamic world helped forge a new nation’s character.
When I first began to plan my short biography of Thomas Jefferson, I found it difficult to research the chapter concerning the so-called Barbary Wars: an event or series of events that had seemingly receded over the lost horizon of American history. Henry Adams, in his discussion of our third president, had some boyhood reminiscences of the widespread hero-worship of naval officer Stephen Decatur, and other fragments and shards showed up in other quarries, but a sound general history of the subject was hard to come by. When I asked a professional military historian"a man with direct access to Defense Department archives"if there was any book that he could recommend, he came back with a slight shrug.