FOX News correspondent Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger follow their bestselling “George Washington’s Secret Six” with the more satisfying “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History.”
While “The Secret Six” seemed more speculative fiction than researched history, “TJ and the Tripoli Pirates” has the feel of a more deeply researched book while never losing track of the story’s underlying drama.
Kilmeade and Yaeger explore the story behind the Marines’ Hymn line “... to the shores of Tripoli.”
At the time of America’s independence and start as a nation, European countries paid exorbitant sums in protection money to keep the beys and sultans from capturing their ships and kidnapping and ransoming their crews.
As the United States began international trade as a sovereign nation, its ships became targets for the pirates working for the Muslim rulers.
By the time of Jefferson’s presidency, several American ships had been captured and their crews had been kidnapped and made slaves.
Jefferson moved to end the practice of blackmailing American ships.
While Jefferson headlines the title with his face prominently featured on the cover, he plays an important though minor role in the book. The majority of the action follows the American crewmen held hostage as well as the diplomats and captains assigned to negotiate and confront the rulers and the pirates.
Kilmeade and Yaeger write an intriguing tale filled with adventure and colorful personalities.
Their book also answers the question of why a nation as new as the United States dared confront the beys and the pirates while the older, wealthier and established European nations would not or could not.
Simply, the U.S. could not afford anything less. Fledgling American trade could neither afford to pay the necessary bribes nor could the U.S. allow its trade to be stymied by constant harassment from pirates.
So, America went to war with a shipping and trade system that had been in place for decades.
“Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” fills in the blanks for what is often a briefly covered episode in American history.