Fred Thompson: To the Shores of Tripoli
The very first line written for the Marine Corps Hymn, about the shores of Tripoli, refers to America’s first foreign war. After the Revolution, U.S. ships were sailing the world in search of trade without British protection. With no real navy to protect our merchants and travelers, American vessels and citizens were being targeted for looting, enslavement and ransom. The enemy was the so-called Barbary pirates — agents of the North African provinces of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Ransom and protection money were demanded and paid. Stories of terrible treatment of American men and women in the dungeons of North Africa were well known. Behind it all, the country was having a pro- and antiwar debate.
On the one hand were those who took the “no blood for trade” approach. They had legitimate concerns about the cost and political impact of maintaining a standing military. They favored negotiations and payments rather than fighting. For a long time, their side was winning the argument. In 1786, Tho