No. 482.
Mr. Vidal to Mr. Hunter.

No. 12.]

Sir: I concluded my dispatch No. 10 with a promise to enter into a few details in regard to the visit of the frigate Guerriere to this port; but I had to examine, before writing this dispatch, a claim of $20 against that vessel, of which I will say something further below.

In regard to the Guerriere itself I must say that had I received beforehand reliable information about its coming I would not have neglected that opportunity to ascertain from the government of the regency whether in its relations with the United States it is ruled by our treaties with the successive Pashas of Tripoli, or by those we made with the Porte. All the consuls here pretend that in spite of the acknowledged suzeraineté of the Ottoman government over Tripolitania, all the treaties of their respective governments with the former bashaws are still in force; but, strange to say, not one of my colleagues has yet been able to make [Page 1139] out a case to test the value of those pretentions, the merit of which I cannot judge, for I cannot yet find out on what written document they rest. Now, it is said in article xiii of our treaty of 1805 with Tripoli:

“On a vessel-of-war, belonging to the United States of America, anchoring before the city of Tripoli, the consul is to inform the bashaw of her arrival, and she shall be saluted with twenty-one guns, which she is to return in the same quantity or number.”

But Captain Stevens, who probably never heard of that article, saluted the forts the moment the frigate cast anchor; and the latter returned the salute, and so I lost the opportunity to test the willingness of the Pasha to abide by our treaty of 1805.

It was an unfortunate circumstance that the Guerriere should come to us on Good Friday, when all the flags of my colleagues were at half-mast. In consequence the usual honor of hoisting the colors was not paid her, either on that day or the next. * * *

It is usual for the commanding officer of a war-vessel visiting an eastern port to acknowledge the courtesy done him and his vessel by the foreign consuls who have hoisted their flags by calling at the various consulates. But in this case, as no flags were hoisted, no visit could be expected by my colleagues. However, to my great surprise, the Italian consul-general, dining lately at my house, assured me that the captain and I had been guilty of a breach of international etiquette; that we ought to have acknowledged the politeness of the consuls even when no politeness had been done; and that on that account he for one would never more hoist his flag for an American war-vessel, whether it was on Good Friday or not. As I could not see the virtue of that logic, he added, in a friendly manner, that in order to prove to me that I was wrong he would write to his government, and he was sure I would be disapproved by our State Department. Now, I candidly want to know, for my future information, whether the commanding officers of our war-vessels visiting eastern ports have to acknowledge by a personal call to foreign consuls a politeness which, through good or bad reason, has not been done them.

A few hours after my visit on board the Guerriere, I addressed to the Pasha a letter requesting him to appoint an hour for the reception of the United States officers, and I soon received an answer, the style of which is so eminently literary that the letter was probably written by his excellency himself, for he is one of the most elegant Turkish writers of the age.

I have the honor to send you, herewith inclosed, copy of my letter, marked No. 1, and copy of the Pasha’s answer, with a free English translation, respectively marked 2 and 3.

In the evening of the same day I made arrangements with the director of foreign affairs to secure for our officers a reception of an extraordinary character. It is customary for the Pasha to receive official visits, either alone in his grand hall or in company with one or two of his household officers. But on this occasion, all the religious, military, and civil officers in Tripoli were ordered to be present in full uniform, and a military brass-band, with an array of about 500 soldiers, were on the wharf of the castle to receive us with all military honors when we landed from our boats. On the other hand, I had warned Captain Stevens that the reception would be exceptionally brilliant, and that for the good name of our country he and his officers should display as much gold lace as there would be to be seen in his excellency retinue. I am happy to say that in this, as in other more important cases, our country was not outdone by foreigners; and, on the next day, as I was sitting [Page 1140] at the upper end of the grand hall, on the right-hand side of the Pasha, smoking my latakié and sipping my moka, it was a matter of no little pride to compare the long line of elegant and proud-looking young officers of the Guerriere, on our right, with the two or three dozens of dignified, gold-laced Turkish high dignitaries sitting on our left.

After the presentation of all the officers on both sides to one party and the other, and the usual compliments, I renewed verbally my request to the Pasha for the authorization to take away the anchor of the Philadelphia. His excellency was pleased to say, with many eastern compliments, which I will not report, that he was but too happy to be offered that opportunity to show his good feelings toward the United States of America. Therefore, would he not only give the asked-for authorization, but it was a real pleasure to him to make our Government a present of the sum of eight thousand Turkish piastres which his officers had spent on various occasions to have that same anchor dug up and carried from place to place, to be finally left on the wharf where it was now lying.

In regard to that matter, let me here say that Captain Stevens engaged, for ten dollars, a man with his lighter, to transport the anchor from the wharf to the Guerriere. But, as the man pretended to have a previous claim of twenty dollars for carrying the same anchor, some two or three years ago, from one place to another, Captain Stevens did not pay anything, but requested me to investigate the claim and settle it as I saw fit. I have done so, and as nothing was produced to my satisfaction to corroborate the allegations of the man, I paid him ten dollars only, promised for the use of his lighter by the crew of the Guerriere. Will you be kind enough to tell me to what Department I have to present that little extra bill?

About one hour after we left the palace, his excellency and most of his officers went on board a Turkish man-of-war stationed in our port, and were conveyed to the Guerriere, where they were received in a semi-regal style. It is unnecessary to say that they visited every nook of the vessel, and were highly pleased with everything they saw.

* * * * * * *

When the Guerriere visited this port the Turks, of Tripoli at least, had come to think and speak of America a good deal more than was their wont, and to consider our friendship as more desirable than that of any other nation. Hoping that they will live on in those sentiments, and that that piece of information will be well received by you,

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 1.—Translation.]

Mr. Vidal to the Pasha of Tripoli.

Excellency: I have the honor to inform you that Capt. Thomas H. Stevens, commanding officer of the steam-frigate Guerriere, of the American Navy, which arrived this morning at Tripoli, desires to pay you a visit, accompanied by the officers of his staff. His sojourn in this port having to be of very short duration, I would beg of you, if not inconvenient, to receive him to-morrow.

I will take the liberty, apropos of that visit, to remind your excellency that there are in the port of Tripoli a few remnants of the frigate Philadelphia, which was burnt down in 1804 by Lieutenant Decatur of the American Navy. The causes which brought [Page 1141] up a war between the United States of America and the Bashaw of Tripoli have ceased to exist for a long time, and to-day there is left in the hearts of men the remembrance only of a deed which owed its splendor as much to the gallant renown of the Tripolitans as to the bravery of the Americans.

Considering the friendly relations which to-day unite both countries, and which we may hope will last forever, and remembering the proofs of personal good-will which you have already given me, I will improve the opportunity of the arrival in this port of the Guerriere to request your excellency to allow Captain Stevens to collect the anchor and other remnants of the Philadelphia which may yet be in the harbor, to be sent to the museum of our naval school at Annapolis.

By granting me that favor you will give to the whole American people a proof of friendship to which the Government that I have the honor to represent will not, I am sure, remain indifferent.

I take this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurance of the consideration with which I have the honor to be your very respectful servant,

United States Consul.

His Excellency Halet Pasha,
Governor-General of the Regency of Tripoli and Barbary, &c.

[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

The Pasha of Tripoli to Mr. Vidal.

Very Illustrious Sir Consul: I have received the communication which you addressed me on the occasion of the arrival of the American frigate Guerriere in this port, to announce to me the official visit of her commanding officer and his staff, and to inform me, at the same time, that there is on one of our wharves an anchor formerly belonging to another American frigate which was totally lost in this port, and that on account of the excellent relations and the cordial entente existing between our governments that anchor could be restored to America.

Having the highest regard for the friendly feelings and the cordial entente by which my government and the one you represent are united, and for the maintenance of which I without ceasing pray the Most High, I feel it an honor to answer you that not only will I be most pleased to receive the visit of the American officers, but that I intend to pay it back in person on board their frigate.

About the anchor to which you allude, it is for my government and myself a real cause of happiness to be able to please you. Therefore I hasten to inform you that, according to your desire, I have given orders for the exportation and the transfer of said anchor, which probably at the moment I am writing is already on board the frigate.

To have realized your wishes is for me a happy opportunity. Please accept that anchor as a token of my friendship for you, and the graceful manner with which you accepted it is a new and pleasing proof of those friendly feelings which unite our respective governments. I esteem it a good fortune that my star has so directed it that I should be at the head of this government when occurred that memorable event.


To the Consul of the American Republic.