Thomas Jefferson, First annual message to Congress, December 8, 1801
In his 1801 annual message to Congress, delivered in writing, President Thomas Jefferson reported that Tripoli, a Barbary state, posed the greatest threat to peace. Jefferson presented evidence of the ongoing problem of piracy and explained that in response to Tripoli’s increasing demands and aggression, he had sent frigates into the Mediterranean to protect American trade.
The legislature will doubtless consider whether, by authorizing measures of offence… they will place our force on an equal footing with that of its adversaries.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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.