#2. There was such very little government in 1783, and Americans paid virtually no taxes. (Example, NJ counties had only 4 paid officials who were elected, and paid with fees they collected: Judge, Clerk, Sheriff, and Surrogate). Unlike in Europe where only a handful of insiders got licenses or permits to go into almost any profitable business, every American in New Jersey was free to buy and clear land for farms, dam up streams to power mills, and build and go into almost any business he or she wanted. Few people cared that only property owners could vote, because even the poorest teenager who completed school and mastered a trade in his or her teens was confident he would own property and be financially independent by age 25. German soldiers who were paid by the British to fight the Americans, but instead came to love the people they were fighting wrote letters back home describing America as “Das Land der unbegrentzen Moeglichkeiten” (The Land of Boundless Opportunities). New Jersey adopted its state flag and seal depicting two goddesses, Liberty and Prosperity, standing next to each other. The message was that this culture of liberty with low taxes and limited government brought prosperity to America and New Jersey.
#3. From the very beginning of our nation, America produced an abundance of goods that the rest of the world wanted. They included lumber, corn, grain, fish, whisky, furs, and tobacco. Many Americans in South Jersey made fortunes in just a few years building and sailing ships that carried and sold those goods all over the world.
#4. Richard Somers, of Somers Point was born in 1778, and grew up during America’s first years of independence when George Washington was President, and when nearby Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. Like most Americans then, Somers learned more by age 16 after 8 grades of school than most Americans today after 12 years of public education and four years of college. Like most Americans then, Somers mastered a useful occupation (navigation and seamanship) by age 17. Somers worked for relatives or as an unpaid “apprentice” for a stranger when not attending school during the summer. Somers was put in charge of cargo ships sailing between New York and Philadelphia by age 17. Somers had a promising future. Had he continued, he would have sailed on more profitable routes to and from Europe, Asia, or South America, where he would quickly earn enough money to buy his own ships, or retire from the sea and buy a farm like so many retired sea captains who bought homes in what is now Linwood.
#5. For more than a thousand years, fanatic Muslim sea fighters from “the Barbary Kingdoms” of North Africa (Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli), attacked, robbed, and captured European Christians in ships and coastal villages from Italy to Iceland and Ireland. During this time, more than 1.5 million European Christians (and 5 million black Africans captured and marched across the Sahara Desert) were sold as slaves in the Arab world. After centuries of Jihad (holy war), the Barbary Kingdoms eventually agreed to stop attacking English, French, and Spanish ships and villages, in exchange for bribes or “tribute” paid by those countries. Until 1776, America was part of the British Empire, and our ships were protected by the British bribes. During the American Revolution, France was our ally, and their bribes protected American ships. However, when American independence was recognized in 1783, we were on our own and the Barbary Kingdoms attacked and seized our ships, and held their crews and passengers for ransom.
#6. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, America’s ambassador to France, and John Adams, our ambassador to England met with the Ambassador to Tripoli and asked why his country was attacking Americans who had done them no harm. According to Thomas Jefferson, this was the answer:
“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every Muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise”.
#7. Thomas Jefferson was astonished. He bought an English translation of the Koran so he could read it himself. That is how the Koran ended up in his library. Jefferson then recommended that Congress build a navy to protect Americans from the Barbary Kingdoms. Congress denied Jefferson’s request, and decided that it was cheaper to pay bribes, ransom, and tribute like the France, Spain, and the British Empire.
#8. From 1784 to 1800, the U.S. federal government spent 10% to 20% of its budget on ransom, tribute, or bribes to the Barbary Kingdoms. Paying tribute did not bring peace. The Barbary Kingdoms used the money to buy faster ships and modern weapons.
#9. The “Barbary Pirates” were not pirates. Pirates are criminals — outlaws of the seas. If captured, they were immediately executed. The sea-fighters of the Barbary Kingdoms “corsairs” (privateers) who were protected by International Law. That is because the Barbary Kingdoms declared war or “jihad” against any non-Muslim country that refused to pay bribes or tribute. When captured, Barbary sea-fighters were were held as prisoners of war, and released after peace negotiations.
#10. In 1796, a number of French sea-fighters imitated the Barbary corsairs and attacked and robbed Americans in the Caribbean. When American diplomats complained to French officials, they demanded bribes to stop the attacks. Angry Americans shouted “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute!” America stopped paying bribes, and used that money to create a navy instead.
#11. In 1798, Richard Somers gave up his promising career in private shipping, and volunteered to be one of America’s first navy officers at age 20. Somers and other students did get their training in classrooms at Annapolis. The instead got on-the-job training as “midshipmen” on warships fighting French pirates in the Caribbean.
#12. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became President. In that same year, In 1801, the Barbary Kingdom of Tripoli demanded bigger payments from America, and declared Jihad against us when we refused. Jefferson then sent our new navy overseas to fight the Barbary Kingdoms, and protect Americans overseas.
#13. Richard Somers was placed in command of the warship Nautilus in 1801 when he was 23 years old. He then sailed 5,000 miles across the Atlantic to confront the sea fighters of the Barbara Kingdoms.
#14. The leaders of Europe ridiculed Americans for doing this. They had fought fanatic Muslim sea-fighters for centuries and paid bribes and tribute to them because they could not defeat them. They laughed at America for sending a handful of ships commanded by “mere schoolboys” to fight the most feared sea-fighters in the world.
#15. In three years, those young Americans amazed the world. They showed “Yankee ingenuity” in equipping their ships and planning daring attacks. The Americans were also much better fed, and physically taller and stronger than most Europeans and North Africans. The Americans were absolutely fearless in battle and were especially skillful in using the tomahawk, a perfect weapon for hand-to-hand combat adapted from American Indians.
#16. British Admiral Lord Nelson himself called on U.S. raid on Tripoli, “the most bold and daring act of the age.” Pope Pius VII declared that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages”.
#17. Many Americans today ask why so many Islamic terrorists are attacking and killing non-Muslims in Israel, Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines, and the United States. The sad truth is that the Islamic world has been at war with non-Muslims for most of its 1,400 year history. It can be argued that the crushing defeats inflicted upon the Barbary Pirates by Richard Somers and those other young Americans (and Europeans who later did the same after being inspired by the Americans) the world a rare 200 years of peace between Islam and the non-Muslim worlds.
Seth Grossman, September 8, 2017.
Seth Grossman is a Somers Point attorney, and executive director of LibertyAndProsperity.org. The organization also maintains a Liberty and Prosperity Facebook Page, and meets for breakfast 9:30 AM every Saturday at the Shore Diner in Egg Harbor Township by Parkway Exit 36. Seth Grossman can be reached at email@example.com.