Somers story an important lesson in American history

Somers story an important lesson in American history

By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.?
? George Orwell, British journalist and author of ?1984? and ?Animal Farm,? 1903-1950

In 1783, America won its independence from England after eight years of war. But our peace treaty with England got us into a new war with four Arab kingdoms (the Barbary States) on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa ? Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.

They were allies of the powerful Muslim Turks who conquered a big chunk of Eastern Europe and were only stopped at Vienna. While the Turks attacked Christian Europe by land, the Barbary States attacked by sea.

They gave ?letters of marque? to Muslim sea captains (including European pirates who converted to Islam) to attack ships or villages of the non-Muslim countries they were at war with, and share their profits with the government. This made them lawful ?privateers? (?corsairs? in French) rather than pirates.

These Muslim corsairs captured and enslaved some 800,000 to 1.2 million Europeans during the 300 years between 1500 and 1800. They even raided villages in Ireland and Iceland, since blond, blue-eyed women got the highest prices in the Turkish slave markets.

The Barbary corsairs outfought most European navies at the time because money from the slave trade bought them the best ships and weapons. Arab ships moved faster and did not depend on wind or tide because they had both sails and oars manned by an endless supply of slaves. Muslim fighters were fearless, since they believed they went to paradise, redeemed of all sin, if they were killed fighting non-Muslims.

By 1783, England, like most European nations, gave up fighting the Barbary States and paid ?tribute? (bribes) to have its ships and coastal villages left alone. This protected American ships when we were part of the British Empire. But the Barbary corsairs attacked our ships right after England recognized our independence.

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson, then our ambassador to France, tried, but failed to persuade Congress and the Europeans to fight the Barbary States, so America also paid tribute.

But the more we paid, the more the Barbary States demanded. Finally, in 1798, Americans said ?Millions for defense! Not one cent for tribute!? Congress agreed to spend millions of dollars to build warships and a navy academy in Annapolis, Md. Richard Somers of Somers Point, then 20 years old, was among the first to enroll.

When Jefferson became president in 1801, he persuaded Congress to send our new fleet to fight the Barbary corsairs. Richard Somers, then 23 years old, commanded one of those ships. The oldest ship commander was 30. The youngest was 15.

The experienced Europeans ridiculed us, and predicted our quick defeat. But those young Americans astounded the world. In three years, they put three of the four Barbary fleets out of action, and blockaded the last one in its home port of Tripoli.

On Sept. 4, 1804, Richard Somers and his entire crew were killed as they tried to sneak a ship loaded with explosives into that harbor to destroy that fleet.

Although he failed, Richard Somers inspired Americans and Europeans to continue the struggle. Within 12 years, we ended the Muslim slave trade in the Mediterranean once and for all.

America?s struggle with slavery overseas also inspired many Americans, including Benjamin Franklin, to demand the end of slavery in this country. Slavery was ended in all federal territories in 1787, and in all Northern states soon afterwards. The importation of new slaves was outlawed in 1808.

When efforts to free slaves in the remaining Southern states failed, many in the North, like Abraham Lincoln, organized to contain, and then end it. Others helped slaves like Frederick Douglass escape from the South. Anger at this ?anti-slavery agitation? in South Carolina started the Civil War in 1861.

This Sunday, Sept. 9, and the Somers Point Historical Society will remember Richard Somers with a ceremony at 2 p.m. at City Hall, New Jersey Avenue and Shore Road in Somers Point, rain or shine.

At 3 p.m., will host a buffet with cash bar to fund our activities at Gregory’s Restaurant, 900 Shore Road, in Somers Point. Get tickets for $25 per person, $35 per couple at (609) 927-7333 or at the door. Please join us.

Once every American child learned this story from school, plays, and popular books and magazines. But now, ?progressives? control them. So it is your job to teach yourself and your children the true history of America.

(Reprinted from September 5, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.

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  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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