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An Act for the Protection of Commerce of the U.S. in the Mediterranean, passed by the Senate February 1, 1802

This 1802 act of Congress was a response to years of attacks on U.S. ships by Barbary pirates. Though not a declaration of war, it supported President Thomas Jefferson’s decision to send a U.S. Navy squadron to the Mediterranean and to use force to protect American citizens and property.

…It shall be lawful fully to equip, officer, man, and employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged required…for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof…

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

An Act for the Protection of Commerce of the U.S. in the Mediterranean, passed by the Senate February 1, 1802 …It shall be lawful fully to equip, officer, man, and employ such of the armed vessels of the United States as may be judged required…for protecting effectually the commerce and seamen thereof…

Protection from Piracy - 2

Pirates from the Barbary States preyed on ships off Africa’s western and Mediterranean coasts for centuries. After gaining independence, the U.S. lost British protection on the seas. In the 1780s and 1790s, pirates captured and enslaved many American sailors and demanded exorbitant ransoms for their return. With diplomatic means failing, Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Navy to defend against further attacks on American commerce.