Left to Right: LibertyAndProsperity.com Treasurer Bruce Barkoff, Director Paul Klepacki, Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, Director Mike Smith, Republican Somers Point Councilman Michael Owen, and LibertyAndProsperity.com member Alan Stearne. Photo taken shortly after event. Atlantic County Surrogate Jim Curcio, a Republican, and roughly three dozen others also attended the outdoor, socially distanced event on September 4, 2020.
One September 4, 1804, 26 year old Richard Somers and all twelve of his crew were killed instantly, when their “fireship” Intrepid exploded in the harbor of Tripoli, North Africa. Their goal was to destroy the last of the “Turkish flotilla” and bring a three year war to an end. Earlier this month, we held a ceremony in his boyhood home of Somers Point, New Jersey on that same day 216 years later.
LibertyAndProsperity.com and the Somers Point Historical Society have been holding events to remember Richard Somers ever since 2004, the 200th year of his death in Tripoli. In 2004 and 2006 both Jeff Van Drew (then Democrat) and Jack Gibson (Republican), then the two Assembly Members representing Somers Point, obtained resolutions from the entire NJ State Assembly recognizing the importance of Richard Somers in New Jersey and American history. Both resolutions are displayed in our Somers Point office.
We were joined by Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, who presented us with a Proclamation to recognize the event. We were also joined by Republican Surrogate Jim Curcio who represented Atlantic County. Republican Councilman Michael Owen represented the City of Somers Point.
Several local radio hosts promoted the event. They included Harry Hurley and John DeMasi of WPGTalkRadio.com 95.5 FM, and Dan Klein, Ann Baker, and Don Williams of WONDRadio.com 1400AM.
Two weeks earlier, Sally Hastings and the Somers Point Historical Society opened a new maritime exhibit in their nearby Historical Museum. That museum explains the remarkable story of the people who settled in this area 350 years ago, and how they achieved exceptional success. More particularly, it explains our traditions of sailing and shipbuilding that inspired and prepared Richard Somers for his historic mission. Click here for details on that story.
However, we were disappointed by the community leaders, organizations and institutions who ignored the event. There was no publicity in area daily or weekly newspapers or any of the Philadelphia TV stations. There was no participation by Stockton University or any local public schools. Not a single library in the area had a program, lecture, or exhibit about Richard Somers. Why?
Richard Somers was not guilty of any of the “sins” that caused other historical figures like Christopher Columbus to be “cancelled”.
Neither Richard Somers, nor any members of his family owned or traded in slaves. On the contrary, they were Quakers. They were among the first Americans to aggressively and systematically work to end slavery in this country, and to help freed slaves live independent, productive lives. They created comfortable lives for themselves by supplementing their farm income with other businesses. Richard Somers great-grandfather John Somers started a ferry to connect the New York road with the Cape May stagecoach road.
Another relative, James Somers built a dam and road (now known as Central Avenue) across the Patcong Creek which now separates Linwood and Egg Harbor Township. The water current from that dam powered two mills. A grist mill on the Linwood side of the creek was used to grind grain into flour. The other was a sawmill, used to make lumber for buildings and ships.
William Penn controlled all land titles in South Jersey (then called West Jersey) as well as in Pennsylvania. He did not approve any land titles without proof that no Native Americans claimed that land, and that all sales of land by Native Americans were fair and voluntary.
Neither Richard Somers, nor any members of his family killed or mistreated Indians, now called Native Americans. South Jersey was settled by Quakers under the leadership of William Penn. Penn gave strict orders not to occupy any land claimed by Native Americans, unless that land was sold freely and voluntarily for a fair price. Those orders were carried out. Although the Leni Lenape Indians (also called the Delaware) often fished, gathered berries, and harvested claims in and around South Jersey, they had few permanent settlements here. That all became known in 1995, when the mayor of the beach resort of Wildwood spent years in court trying to get approvals allowing a Leni Lenape casino there.
There were no laws preventing women from voting, owning property, or holding public office in New Jersey when Richard Somers was alive here.
So why was Richard Somers cancelled? Was it any of these eleven “inconvenient truths” that don’t support the narrative of today’s “woke” socialists and communists?
- Richard Somers, like most young men of his day, finished eight years of formal schooling by age 16. At that time, he had better knowledge of reading, writing, history, literature, science, and mathematics than most college graduates today.
- Richard Somers, like most young men of his day, mastered a useful skill or trade by age 17. Richard Somers mastered sailing and navigation. By age 17, he was in charge of “coasters”, sailing ships that carried cargo between New York and Philadelphia.
- When Richard Somers finished school, America was such a peaceful nation, that we had an army of only 5,200 men, and no navy at all.
- America only started to build a navy in 1796, thirteen years after we won our independence. That was when Americans got tired of paying bribes and tribute to Islamic “Barbary Pirates” in the Mediterranean and French pirates in the Caribbean. Under international law at the time, the “Barbary Pirates” were not criminal “pirates” like the French. They could be executed when captured. The “Barbary Pirates were instead “corsairs” or “privateers” for Islamic nations legally at war with non-Muslim nations that did not pay them tribute.
- When Richard Somers was 20 years old, he gave up a promising career as a private ship captain, to join our new navy in Annapolis at age 20.
- In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent our new navy to fight the “Barbary Pirates”. He put 23 year old Richard Somers in command of the Nautilus, a 160 ton warship with 20 cannons and a crew of 100 men. Richard Somers sailed that ship, without incident, across the Atlantic Ocean, to Spain, and then the Mediterranean. Most other ship commanders of the U.S. Navy at that time were the same age as Richard Somers.
- America was the only nation to fight the “Barbary Pirates” of North Africa. England, France, Spain, and Portugal, the major sea powers found it cheaper to pay tribute than fight them. Only Americans said “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute”.
- For three years, young Americans like Richard Somers won the admiration of the world by defeating the Islamic “pirates” in battle after battle. After one battle, Pope Pius VII publicly declared, “The American commander, with a small force, and in a short space of time, has done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages”.
- Although Richard Somers failed in his attempt to destroy “the Turkish flotilla” in Tripoli on September 4, 1804, he inspired other Americans to continue the fight, and win a decisive battle “on the shores of Tripoli” one year later.
- The Islamic kingdoms of North Africa that ordered their “pirates” to attack American ships were also part of a massive slave industry. Their “pirates” also captured and enslaved thousands of white Europeans and tens of thousands of black Africans each year and either put them to work themselves, or sold them throughout the Arab world. The most brutal slave work was being chained to the oars which powered the warships of the “Barbary Pirates” when there was not enough wind.
- When America defeated the Barbary Pirates in 1805, and again in 1815, we effectively ended the African slave trade. This also made many Americans aware of the horrors of slavery, and intensified efforts to end slavery in America.
This story of Richard Somers is a key to understanding the story of America, when America was great. It is there inconvenient to those who hate America, and want to divide us and tear us apart.
And, of course, Richard Somers was a white, Christian male. During the past thirty years, our schools, colleges, media, and Hollywood pop culture have falsely blamed white, Christian men for almost every problem in the world today.
Many candidates for public office in this year’s election are winning votes by just by being of a different race or gender. Teaching young people about white, Christian, male heroes like Richard Somers does not promote that political agenda.
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