After independence in 1783, America tried to avoid war by disbanding our navy and almost all of our army.
When America was disarmed, our citizens were attacked throughout the world. First by “Barbary Pirates” near North Africa. Then by England & France everywhere.
After 13 years of this, America built a navy in 1796. Richard Somers of Somers Point, NJ was among first to join.
The “Barbary Pirates” were not pirates. They were not criminals or outlaws of the sea. They were “corsairs” or “privateers” with licenses from the lawful rulers of Tangier, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, the richest and most powerful slave centers in the world. They were followers of a Prophet who taught them to make war on non-believers, attack and rob their ships and villages, rape their women, and make slaves of whomever they captured.
In 1801, America fought them alone, and soundly defeated them. We ended their slave trade.
America’s war against the enslavement of whites in Africa increased awareness of the evil of enslaving blacks in America. It intensified efforts to end it.
That “Barbary War” of 1801 created a military that recognized and promoted outstanding commanders and won wars.
New Jersey in the days of Richard Somers was a land of “boundless opportunities”. It was normal for men born in poverty to live prosperous and comfortable lives by their mid-twenties. Most people in free states like New Jersey lived far better than most, including slaveowners, in South.
Until the Civil War killed roughly 600,000 young men, there was a “scarcity of women” in America. Until then, almost all women were married and had many choices of whom to marry. Men and women saw themselves as equal partners in a single family unit who fairly shared responsibilities.
Richard Somers, like most young Americans then, mastered reading, writing, arithmetic with basic knowledge of science and history by age 16. Like most Americans, he mastered a useful trade and was supporting himself by age 18. Somers, at 18, was the “master” or skipper of ships that sailed between New York and Philadelphia.