The Barbary Treaties 1786-1816
reaty with Algeria September 5, 1795 : Hunter Miller's Notes

The original of this treaty is in Turkish, not in Arabic as stated in the proclamation. The articles which are written in English on pages of the original document are a translation, signed by Joseph Donaldson, jr., who negotiated the treaty at Algiers.

There is an interesting account of the negotiations, entitled "Narrative of the proceedings of Joseph Donaldson Esqe," written by Richard O'Brien, afterwards Consul General at Algiers, in D. S., 1 Archives, Tunis, 1793-1801 (a volume from the consular archives at Tunis), where O'Brien gives this account of himself:

Late Master of the Ship Dauphin, of Philadelphia, but was Captured the 30th of July 1785. fifty leagues to the Westward of Lisbon by an Algerine Corsair of 34 Guns & 450 men-& Remained in Captivity until) the 11th of September 1795 Redeemed in Consequence, of the Peace made by the United States, with Algiers.

The report of Donaldson on the treaty, dated September 7, 1795 (D. S., I Consular Despatches, Algiers), is somewhat confused and in certain respects obscure; but he mentions that the text was in Turkish, saying that James Leander Cathcart, who was one of the American captives and was chief Christian clerk of the Dey of Algiers, "returned to me with Articles of a Treaty in Turkish & then Englished, which Proves to be that of the Sweedes." The Swedish treaty here referred to is the Treaty of Peace and Commerce with Algiers of April 25/May 5, 1792, which was a renewal, with additions, of a treaty of April 5/16, 1729. For the Swedish text and a French translation, see Von Martens, Recueil des principaux traites, 1st ea., VI, 296-311; 2d ea., V, 316-31. The substance of each of the respective twenty-two articles of the Swedish and American treaties is in general similar.

The date of the treaty is stated above in the two calendars according to the original documents, namely, Saturday, September 5, 1795, and 21 Safar, A. H. 1210. According to the chronological tables the Mohammedan date corresponds to September 6, 1795; however, the mention of the day of the week (see the opening phrase of the translation of 1930) fixes the date definitively, and in this case there is no doubt that 21 Safar, A. H. 1210, answers to September 5, 1795. From the report of Donaldson above mentioned it appears that the money bargain, to which the negotiations in reality wholly related, was struck on Saturday, September 5, and the treaty was delivered by Cathcark to Donaldson "the next morning."

However, a more complete and perhaps more accurate account of the negotiations is that of Cathcart, as written in The Captives, 158-95. Certainly Cathcart had at least as much to do with the bargain struck to pay $585,000 for the treaty and the ransom of the American captives as Donaldson had, and indeed, according to Cathcart, much more. He gives September 3, 1795, as the date of the arrival of Donaldson at Algiers and September 5 as the date of the verbal money agreement, the proclamation of peace, and the salute to the American flag; and on September 7 he says (page 191):

This afternoon I received the treaty in Turkish from the Secretary of State, and with the translation in English which was made and written by me, and collated with the original in twenty-three articles, and the four passports before mentioned, I took to Mr. Donaldson.


The documentary form of the original treaty in the Department of State file, the only original paper which it contains, is unusual. The document is composed of sixteen sheets of paper approximately ten inches wide and fourteen inches long, folded once, evenly, lengthwise; these sheets are held together by a ribbon which is tied along the center fold; so that, as folded, the treaty looks like a long pamphlet of thirty-two narrow leaves or sixty-four narrow pages. Neither the sheets nor the pages are numbered; but taking the pages as if they were numbered, the articles appear (beginning at page 16) in left-to-right order of pagination, one on a page, the English on the left pages, the Turkish on the right; these are followed by the final clause of the English translation of 1795 with the signature of Donaldson and, opposite thereto, the corresponding Turkish text with its signature and seal; next and last is written the confirmation or approval of Col. David Humphreys, then Minister to Portugal; and on page 14 is written, in English, the long way of the page from foot to top:

A Treaty of Peace or Amity concluded this Present Day Jima artasi ye twenty first of the Luna Safer year of the Hegira 1210 Corrisponding with Saturday the fifth of September One thousand Seven Hundred & Ninety five between Hassan Bashaw Dey of Algiers his Divan and Subjects and George Washington President of the United States of North America and the Citizens of ye Said United States.

Finally there is a later endorsement on page 1 of the document giving the date of Senate action.

Whether the present arrangement of the sheets that compose the treaty document is the original arrangement thereof is very doubtful; the internal evidence leads to the view that this present arrangement of the document is that which it had when it left the hands of Donaldson; but it may well be that when the treaty was first written in Turkish and before it was "Englished," as Donaldson says, the articles were arranged in the usual Turkish right-to-left order of pagination. The point is quite unimportant except that it is now impossible to say definitely whether the clause which has always been printed as the final clause of the treaty (according to the English translation of 1795) was not in reality a preamble. That Donaldson regarded it as a final clause is clear from the position of his signature; but as the translation of 1930 shows, it reads like a preamble and may well have been one.

However, in the reproduction of the Turkish text above, the clause appears at the end, corresponding with the English translation of 1795 and with the original document in its present arrangement.

The translation which is first printed above is that which is written in the treaty document and which was then signed by Donaldson. It is that which is in the Statutes at Large and elsewhere generally. The style of that translation as here printed follows the original document literally, except that punctuation which has been inserted in the first four articles of the document in a different-colored ink and in a different hand, apparently at a later date, is here omitted. Following that translation is the certificate or approval of Humphreys. Then is printed the translation of the Turkish which was made in 1930 by Dr. J. H. Kramers, of Leiden. As shown by the translation of 1930., the discrepancies between the original Turkish and the translation of 1795 are numerous; and in some articles, such as 10, 11, and 14, the differences are striking.


It appears that there was another original of this treaty in the files of the Consulate at Algiers. After the treaty had been in force for nearly seventeen years, a rupture took place and Tobias Lear, Consul General, and all other Americans then in Algiers, were expelled from the country on July 25, 1812. One of the demands of the Dey of Algiers at that time, which he successfully enforced, was that the yearly tribute of $21,600 stipulated in the treaty should be calculated according to Mohammedan and not to Christian years. While the money settlement was being arranged, the Dey sent by messenger to Lear for " the original Treaty, (in English and Turkish,)" so that he "might see the time when the said Treaty was ratified the terms By," and Lear delivered it "without hesitation, supposing that the Dey might wish to see something in it, or that he might compare it with that which was in the Palace "; but the Dey refused to return the treaty, sending word "he should retain the Treaty, as was the custom in Algiers, when Consul was sent away on account of his Government" (report of Lear, July 24, 1812, and letter to the Secretary of State, July 29, 1812, D. S., 8 (consular Despatches, Algiers; see also Laws of the United States, Bioren & Duane ea., I, 288-89).

According to Cathcart (The Captives, 221-23), there were, in all, four originals of the treaty, two executed at the time of the agreement and two others by October 1,1795; these were intended to be delivered as follows (ibid., 221): "one to be sent to the Secretary of State, one to Col. Humphreys, one to remain in the Consulate, and one in the palace. "


Some observations regarding the practice as to treaties with the Barbary States are to be found in the notes to the Treaty with Morocco of 1786 (Document 14).

There is no duplicate or written copy of the United States instrument of ratification in the Department of State file. The text of the instrument, however, was published at the time (e. g., Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, March 10, 1796). In form the document, dated March 7, 1796, is at once a ratification and a proclamation. It mentions the treaty as "written in the Arabic language, being translated into the language of the United States," and includes the translation signed by Donaldson and also the approval of Humphreys. A facsimile of the newspaper print is now in the Department of State file.

On April 13, 1796, the instrument of ratification was forwarded to Humphreys (D. S., 3 Instructions, U. S. Ministers, ] 17-20). The instrument was received by Humphreys on June 17, 1796, and was forwarded by him to Robert Montgomery, Agent at Alicante, for transmission to Joel Barlow, Consul General at Algiers (D. S., 3 Despatches, Spain, No. 50, June 22, 1796).

Accordingly it seems probable that the Dey of Algiers was notified by Barlow of the ratification shortly thereafter, perhaps during the negotiations and discussions of July, 1796; and it IS even possible that the United States instrument of ratification was then delivered; in his report of September 7, 1795, Donaldson wrote, "the Dey recommends a Frigate being sent here with the ratification as it is on Secret Questions usual to return the Salute which is always fired from the Castle Fort." But doubt on the point must remain in view of statements subsequently made regarding the practice of Algiers; thus Charles O. Handy, Secretary to the Mission of 1816 to AIgiers, in a letter to Commodore Chauncey of December 30, 1816 (D. S., 9 Consular Despatches, Algiers) wrote:

The Treaties which Algiers has heretofore had with the Maratime Powers of Europe, appear more in the light of capitulations made with their respective Consuls, acting with plenary Powers, than with their Governments of whose sentiments they are only the authorized organs. Consequently the rejection, or ratification, of such Treaties, is never with the Regency a subject of interest, or importance. From the long and unvaried custom, arbitrarily adopted, and resolutely pursued, by this Barbary State, they never have, & probably never will, recognize, the approbation of a Government, as essential to the completion and execution of a Treaty. Our Treaty in June 1815 they refused to receive after it had been approved of by the President & Senate, alledging as a reason therefor, that the Algerine Regency never had acknowledged the necessity of such a measure & would never be governed by it in any manner whatever.

Not very important in this case, however, were treaty formalities and treaty procedure. The existence and execution of the treaty, from the viewpoint of the Dey of Algiers, depended wholly upon the receipt by him of the large payments by the United States stipulated dehors the treaty. The delay in the transmittal of the amounts promised on the signature of the agreement caused added and successful demands for snore; the statement of Cathcart (The Captives, 22~21) is that "had the funds arrived as the Dey expected, it would have prevented all the trouble, anxiety and enormous expense which occurred afterwards, which at least doubled the original price promised for peace and the ransom of our brethern in captivity. " (See the papers with the message of President Washington of January 9, 1797, American State Papers, Foreign Relations, I, 553-58.)

Not until July 8, 1796, were the survivors of the American captives who had been held in miserable slavery in Algiers released. Joel Barlow reported that six of them had in the previous few weeks died of the plague, which " still rages with such violence in the town "; and he added:

Our people have conducted themselves in general with a degree of patience and decorum which would become a better condition than that of slaves. . . .

Several of them are probably rendered incapable of gaining a living. One is in a state of total blindness; another is reduced nearly to the same condition; two or three carry the marks of unmerciful treatment in ruptures produced by hard labour; and others have had their constitutions injured by the plague. Some of these are doubtless objects of the charity of their countrymen. (D. S., 2 Consular Despatches, Algiers, No. 8, July 12, 1796.)

The treaty was bought by the United States; and it was the price paid and payable, which the Treasury estimated at $992,463.25, and not any instrument of ratification, which made the treaty a realty

The practical difficulties of the situation were officially recognized at the time; under date of June 8, 1796, the following notice or press release, signed by the Secretary of State, was issued, entitled " Caution to Merchants and other Citizens of the United States" (text from D. S., 9 Domestic Letters, 158; the notice was published in the press, e. 9., Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, June 10, 1796):

The advices received by Captain O'Brien from Colt Humphrevs at Lisbon, show that the temporary obstacles to a fulfilment of the stipulations on the part of the United States with the Dey and Regency of Algiers are not yet removed. The treaty itself being put in Jeopardy, by these unexpected delays, the safety of American vessels entering the Mediterranean has become extremely precarious. It should also be remembered, that no treaty has ever yet been made between the United States and the Governments of Tunis and Tripoli. Merchants and other citizens of the United States, will hence see the hazard to which they will expose their property and the liberty of their fellow citizens, by engaging, in the present state of things, in commerce within the straights of Gibraltar.

Indeed, years elapsed before the stipulations of 1795 and 1796 could be fulfilled by the United States. They are discussed at some length in the instructions to O'Brien, given when he went as Consul General to Algiers in 1798 (D. S., 4 Instructions, U. S. Ministers, 188-93, December 29, 1797). The following extracts therefrom will serve to show their nature:

The Crescent Frigate in which you are to embark, you will deliver to the Dey and Regency, for whom it has been constructed and equipped, conformably to the stipulation of Mr Barlow.

The Schooner Hamdullah, which has lately sailed with Stores for Algiers is also to be delivered to the Dey. . . . This Schooner has been purchased, and the Schooner Lelah Eisha is now building here, for the Dey, in the expectation that they will not only soothe him under the past delays & disappointments in the fulfilment of our stipulations, but serve as acceptable substitutes for the stipulated, masts, Yards, and heavy planks, which are so costly and difficult to procure, and so exceedingly expensive to transport-the former, when delivered at Algiers will cost the United States perhaps thirty times their estimated price in the stipulations. You will, therefore, exert all your talents to effect these objects. And for your full information concerning them, the copies of the original agreement and of the articles for the annual presents, and of the Invoices of articles furnished in pursuance thereof, are herewith delivered to you. We shall be anxious to receive the details of your negotiations in this business & their result.


The original treaty was brought to the United States by Capt. Richard O'Brien; one of the four passports mentioned by Cathcart as having been delivered with the treaty on September 7, 1795 (The Captives, 191), and very likely the one used by O'Brien, is in the archives of the Department of State; it has the seal and also the tughra or name sign of Hassan Pasha, Dey of Algiers; and as translated by Doctor Kramers from the Turkish; it reads as follows:

The reason of the writing of this document is this: On the 23d of the month of Safar, 1210. The bearer of the present document, belonging to the American people, that has now concluded a peace treaty with the frontier-post of the holy war, Algiers, has desired a passport for himself as well as for the ship on board which he is and for all the sailors, being Americans, for the period of a year after the date of this document, in order that, when navigating and passing on sea, if they meet with war vessels of Algiers or of Tunis the well-preserved, or of Tripoli, these shall not lay hand on his ship or on his crew or his load and cargo, or molest him. According to this demand of security this passport has been drawn up and written and given into his hands. Therefore, if the war vessels of Algiers, when meeting, do him any harm or molestation, those people shall be punished severely and if he meets with molestation from the war vessels of Tunis or Tripoli, they shall be punished by the intermediary of their officers. In order to state this this passport has been given as a proof into his hands, so that it may be produced and used in time of need.

Written in the last days of Safar, 1210. Frontier of Algiers the well-preserved.

Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller
Volume 2
Documents 1-40 : 1776-1818
Washington : Government Printing Office, 1931.
127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.