John Adams

Special Message

June 23, 1797

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

The Dey of Algiers has manifested a predilection for American-built vessels, and in consequence has desired that two vessels might be constructed and equipped as cruisers according to the choice and taste of Captain O'Brien. The cost of two such vessels built with live oak and cedar, and coppered, with guns and all other equipments complete, is estimated at $45,000. The expense of navigating them to Algiers may perhaps be compensated by the freight of the stores with which they may be loaded on account of our stipulations by treaty with the Dey.

A compliance with the Dey's request appears to me to be of serious importance. He will repay the whole expense of building and equipping the two vessels, and as he has advanced the price of our peace with Tripoli, and become pledged for that of Tunis, the United States seem to be under peculiar obligations to provide this accommodation, and I trust that Congress will authorize the advance of money necessary for that purpose.

It also appears to be of importance to place at Algiers a person as consul in whose integrity and ability much confidence may be placed, to whom a considerable latitude of discretion should be allowed, for the interest of the United States in relation to their commerce. That country is so remote as to render it impracticable for the consul to ask and receive instructions in sudden emergencies. He may sometimes find it necessary to make instant engagements for money or its equivalent, to prevent greater expenses or more serious evils. We can hardly hope to escape occasions of discontent proceeding from the Regency or arising from the misconduct or even the misfortunes of our commercial vessels navigating in the Mediterranean Sea, and unless the causes of discontent are speedily removed the resentment of the Regency may be exerted with precipitation on our defenseless citizens and their property, and thus occasion a tenfold expense to the United States. For these reasons it appears to me to be expedient to vest the consul at Algiers with a degree of discretionary power which can be requisite in no other situation; and to encourage a person deserving the public confidence to accept so expensive and responsible a situation, it appears indispensable to allow him a handsome salary. I should confer on such a consul a superintending power over the consulates for the States of Tunis and Tripoli, especially in respect to pecuniary engagements, which should not be made without his approbation.

While the present salary of $2,000 a year appears adequate to the consulates of Tunis and Tripoli, twice that sum probably will be requisite for Algiers.


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

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