October 15, 2014
A CRUCIBLE OF AMERICAN IDENTITY
From the founding of the United States to its keeping, wars have been fought- some lost some won- but by re-examining history, some decisions about going to war or capitulation have been learned and questions asked. Could they have been avoided and other strategies sought? Analyzing the relationship between the United States and the North African Barbary States in the 1800s conveys the author’s main purpose in this article by showing how a young nation at that period in time was taken advantage of by the Barbary States and made to pay frequent ridiculous tributes to sultans, yet its citizens imprisoned, killed or enslaved. The eventual consequence was the pursuit of reciprocity: respect and honesty in trades. The author takes us on a journey from the beginning to the crest and the nadir through the experiences of some exemplary individuals of how the United States eventually got what it wanted. The story of William Bainbridge, famously described here as having pervasive bad luck, sets the tone of the fate which befell the Americans frequently but specifically on the George Washington. The anger that must have seethed from their thoughts from the humiliation they experienced when their course was redirected to Istanbul under severe threats could not be tempered as Bainbridge himself swore that he would never take tribute to Algiers “unless authorized to deliver it from the mouth of our canon”. This told well of the humiliation as he once more quipped” such mortifying degradations….makes me ponder on the words, independent United States”. This meant that the lofty image the United States had of itself or the image it portrayed to some other nations as a powerful nation that could defeat the British Empire in battle was false. How do you explain defeating a giant yet yielding to an ant? Nevertheless, this was a catalyst for a nation to create and reaffirm its identity, to live up to the image it...
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