The Barbary Coast , or Barbary , was the term used by Europeans from the 16th until the 19th century to refer to the middle and western coastal regions of North Africa—what is now Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. In the West, the name commonly evokes the Barbary pirates and slave traders based on that coast, who attacked ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic and captured and traded slaves from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
The Forgotten Wars The Barbary Wars were two wars between the United States of America and Barbary States in North Africa in the early 19th century. At issue was the pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. American naval power attacked the pirate cities and extracted concessions of fair passage from their rulers. The USS Enterprise capturing the corsair, Tripoli
The Forgotten Wars (right) President Thomas Jefferson, third US President, 1801-1809. (left) President John Adams, second US President, 1797-1801. In 1784, the United States Congress allocated money for payment of tribute to the Barbary pirates and instructed her British and French ambassadors (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively) to look for opportunities to negotiate peace treaties with the Barbary nations.
Tripolitan ambassador: It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every muslim who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy's ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.
“ Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.“ – Sen. Robert Goodloe Harper The United States chose to fight the pirates of Barbary, rather than pay tribute, as did all the other nations who traded in the Mediterranean Sea. The eventual victory by the tiny United States Navy broke a pattern of international blackmail and terrorism dating back more than 150 years.
USS Philadelphia Burning of the frigate Philadelphia in the harbor of Tripoli, February 16, 1804, by Edward Moran, painted 1897, depicts a naval action of the First Barbary War.
Leathernecks The United States Marine Corps actions in these wars led to the line "to the shores of Tripoli" in the opening of the Marine Hymn. Because of the hazards of boarding hostile ships, Marines' uniforms had a leather high collar to protect against cutlass slashes. This led to the nickname Leatherneck for U.S. Marines.
Algeria Algiers remained a haven for and source of pirates until its conquest by France in 1830. The thoroughness with which the French conquered and colonized Algeria, causing the deaths of up to a third of Algeria's population, put an effective end to piracy from the Barbary coast.