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Special Message

January 13, 1806

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I lay before Congress the application of Hamet Caramalli, elder brother of the reigning Bashaw of Tripoli, soliciting from the United States attention to his services and sufferings in the late war against that State; and in order to possess them of the ground on which that application stands, the facts shall be stated according to the views and information of the Executive.

During the war with Tripoli it was suggested that Hamet Caramalli, older brother of the reigning Bashaw, and driven by him from his throne, meditated the recovery of his inheritance, and that a concert in action with us was desirable to him. We considered that concerted operations by those who have a common enemy were entirely justifiable, and might produce effects favorable to both without binding either to guarantee the objects of the other. But the distance of the scene, the difficulties of communication, and the uncertainty of our information inducing the less confidence in the measure, it was committed to our agents as one which might be resorted to if it promised to promote our success.

Mr. Eaton, however (our late consul), on his return from the Mediterranean, possessing personal knowledge of the scene and having confidence in the effect of a joint operation, we authorized Commodore Barten, then proceeding with his squadron, to enter into an understanding with Hamet if he should deem it useful; and as it was represented that he would need some aids of arms and ammunition, and even of money, he was authorized to furnish them to a moderate extent, according to the prospect of utility to be expected from it. In order to avail him of the advantages of Mr. Eaton's knowledge of circumstances, an occasional employment was provided for the latter as an agent for the Navy in that sea. Our expectation was that an intercourse should be kept up between the ex-Bashaw and the commodore; that while the former moved on by land our squadron should proceed with equal pace, so as to arrive at their destination together and to attack the common enemy by land and sea at the same time. The instructions of June 6 to Commodore Barron shew that a cooperation only was intended, and by no means an union of our object with the fortune of the ex-Bashaw, and the commodore's letters of March 22 and May 19 prove that he had the most correct idea of our intentions. His verbal instructions, indeed, to Mr. Eaton and Captain Hull, if the expressions are accurately committed to writing by those gentlemen, do not limit the extent of his cooperation as rigorously as he probably intended; but it is certain from the ex-Bashaw's letter of January 3, written when he was proceeding to join Mr. Eaton, and in which he says, "Your operations should be carried on by sea, mine by land," that he left the position in which he was with a proper idea of the nature of the cooperation. If Mr. Eaton's subsequent convention should appear to bring forward other objects, his letter of April 29 and May 1 views this convention but as provisional, the second article, as he expressly states, guarding it against any ill effect; and his letter of June 30 confirms this construction.

In the event it was found that after placing the ex-Bashaw in possession of Derne, one of the most important cities and provinces of the country, where he had resided himself as governor, he was totally unable to command any resources or to bear any part in cooperation with us. This hope was then at an end, and we certainly had never contemplated, nor were we prepared, to land an army of our own, or to raise, pay, or subsist an army of Arabs to march from Derne to Tripoli and to carry on a land war at such a distance from our resources. Our means and our authority were merely naval, and that such were the expectations of Hamet his letter of June 29 is an unequivocal acknowledgment. While, therefore, an impression from the capture of Derne might still operate at Tripoli, and an attack on that place from our squadron was daily expected, Colonel Lear thought it the best moment to listen to overtures of peace then made by the Bashaw. He did so, and while urging provisions for the United States he paid attention also to the interests of Hamet, but was able to effect nothing more than to engage the restitution of his family, and even the persevering in this demand suspended for some the conclusion of the treaty.

In operations at such a distance it becomes necessary to leave to the discretion of the agents employed, but events may still turn up beyond the limits of that discretion. Unable in such a case to consult his Government, a zealous citizen will act as he believes that would direct him were it apprised of the circumstances, and will take on himself the responsibility. In all these cases the purity and patriotism of the motives should shield the agent from blame, and even secure a sanction where the error is not too injurious. Should it be thought by any that the verbal instructions said to have been given by Commodore Barron to Mr. Eaton amount to a stipulation that the United States should place Hamet Caramalli on the throne of Tripoli--a stipulation so entirely unauthorized, so far beyond our views, and so onerous could not be sanctioned by our Government--or should Hamet Caramalli, contrary to the evidence of his letters of January 3 and June 29, be thought to have left the position which he now seems to regret, under a mistaken expectation that we were at all events to place him on his throne, on an appeal to the liberality of the nation something equivalent to the replacing him in his former situation might be worthy its consideration.

A nation by establishing a character of liberality and magnanimity gains in the friendship and respect of others more than the worth of mere money. This appeal is now made by Hamet Caramalli to the United States. The ground he has taken being different not only from our views but from those expressed by himself on former occasions, Mr. Eaton was desired to state whether any verbal communications passed from him to Hamet which had varied what we saw in writing. His answer of December 5 is herewith transmitted, and has rendered it still more necessary that in presenting to the Legislature the application of Hamet I should present them at the same time an exact statement of the views and proceedings of the Executive through this whole business, that they may dearly understand the ground on which we are placed. It is accompanied by all the papers which bear any relation to the principles of the cooperation, and which can inform their judgment in deciding on the application of Hamet Caramalli.


Thomas Jefferson, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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