Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa routinely captured American sailors and held them as captives demanding ransom and tribute far beyond what the new country could afford.
Jefferson found it impossible to negotiate a truce, and decided to move beyond diplomacy. He sent the U.S. Navy and Marines to blockade Tripoli–launching the Barbary Wars and beginning America’s journey toward future superpower status.