The Barbary Treaties 1786-1816
Algiers 1815 : Hunter Miller's Notes

No original of this treaty has been found in the archives of the Department of State. It is believed that the original treaty was written in the English language only.

The report of the American Commissioners, Commodore Stephen Decatur and William Shaler, Consul General at Algiers, dated on the U. S. S. Guerriere, Bay of Algiers, July 4, 1815 (American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV, 6), gives the circumstances of the negotiations. The act of March 3, 1815 (3 Statutes at Large, 230), had authorized naval operations against the Dey of Algiers, whose predecessor had commenced hostilities in 1812; the United States naval forces had been successful; the treaty was dictated as a result; and such negotiations as there were, took place on board the Guerriere. On that vessel "the model of a treaty" was brought forward by the American representatives on June 30, 1815; to that vessel the boat came back from the shore "within three hours, with the treaty signed as we had concluded it, and the prisoners." That signed treaty was surely written in English; but was perhaps in preliminary form only, for the report of July 4, 1815, says: "The treaty has since been drawn out anew, translated by them, and duly executed by the Dey; which we have the honor to transmit herewith." Two originals of that report, one signed by Decatur and for Shaler and the other signed by Shaler and for Decatur, are in D. S., Negotiations Mediterranean.

It appears that there were at least three originals of the treaty. A despatch of Shaler to the Secretary of State, dated July 5, 1815 (D. S., 9 Consular Despatches, Algiers), says: "A copy [meaning an original] of the treaty remains with the Regency, a second is in my hands, and a third is dispatched by (captain Lewis [U. S. S. Server] for ratification..

Thus there were duplicate originals in the possession of the American representatives; this appears also from a statement over the signature of Shaler, dated November 3, 1815, and copied below. The original transmitted to Washington by Captain Lewis in the U. S. S. Epervier did not arrive, as that vessel was lost at sea; but there is nothing in any of the available documents or papers to indicate that the original language of the treaty was anything other than English. In the letter of Shaler of April 15, 1816, cited below, he writes that at an interview with the Dey of Algiers, the Consul of Sweden compared the United States instrument of ratification with "the copy in the Bashaw's possession"; and later on he mentions "the Treaty as signed by himself [the Dey of Algiers] in our language."

The intrinsic evidence alone would be sufficient to prove that the treaty was written first in English; Articles 2, 3, and 4, for example, were certainly not written as a translation. Obviously the treaty was in great part adapted from the treaty with Tripoli of 1805 (Document 31), the text of which was certainly first written in English. As Commodore Decatur wrote on July 7, 1815, to the Secretary of State (D. S., Negotiations Mediterranean): "With the exception of a few of the Articles, candour requires, that we should acknowledge our plagiary from Mr Lear's treaty with Tripoli."

There was, indeed, a Turkish translation of the treaty in the hands of the Dey of Algiers; and there were stipulations in that version which had no equivalent in the English; these were disclosed at an interview between Shaler and the Dey of Algiers on April 3, 1816 (letter of Shaler of April 15, 1816, D. S., 9 Consular Despatches, Algiers), as to which Shaler reported:

He [the Swedish Consul] then had the Turkish translation read to him, and I was much surprised to find the promise to return his ships, and to give a consular present introduced into his instrument as a treaty stipulation. . . . I declared to him [the Dey of Algiers] that the United States would regard the Treaty as executed in our language, which had been so fully explained to him, thro' his interpreters by the Consul of Sweden previous to his affixing his signature to it, as the only rule for our relations with Algiers, for he well knew that it was impossible for me to obtain any positive assurance of the fidelity of its translation into the Turkish language, which he acquiesced in and again assured me that he intended to preserve the peace inviolate.


The text of the treaty here printed is from an authenticated copy in the archives of the Department of State (9 Consular Despatches Algiers), which may be called the existing authenticated copy. The text in 8 Statutes at Large, 224-27, and in other treaty collections, is from another authenticated copy which is not now available. That other authenticated copy is almost certainly the one which was transmitted to the Senate by President Madison, who first sent to the Senate " an office copy " and then a copy " certified by one of the Commissioners . . ., the original of the treaty not having been received" (Executive Journal, III, 3, 4; also American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV, 4-6). There are a few variances between the texts of the articles in the two copies, none of which is very material; and, for some quite unexplained reason, Articles 13 and 14 in the one come in reverse order in the other; but the existing authenticated copy seems to be the one more carefully prepared; the other was drawn up on the U. S. S. Guerriere on July 6, 1815; the existing authenticated copy was compared at the consulate at Algiers with the original there. As will be seen from 8 Statutes at Large, 224-27, the authenticated copy there printed omits the two final clauses here printed; namely, that of June 30, 1815, with the signature of the Dey of Algiers, and that of July 3, 1815, with the signatures of William Shaler and Stephen Decatur; and the date of July 6, 1815, given in the Statutes at large, is merely the date of the authentication by Shaler, not any date of the treaty.

There are two authentications signed by Shaler in the copy of the treaty from which the text here is printed; the first is dated at Algiers August 30, 1815, and reads as follows: "A true copy from the original in the Consulate General of the U. S. in Algiers."

Then follows this much more elaborate certificate, under the seal of the consulate and bearing also the individual seal of Shaler:

I William Shaler Consul General of the United States of America for the city and Kingdom of Algiers do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true copy of the original treaty of peace and amity concluded at Algiers on the thirtieth day of June last between the Commissioners of the United States, and Omar Bashaw Dey of Algiers as therein expressed. The said original being deposited in the Chancery of this Consulate, and a duplicate of the same duly executed, was forwarded to the Secretary of State by Captain William Lewis of the United States navy in the U. S. Brig Epervier, which sailed from this port of Algiers on the 7 July 1815.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal of office in the Chancery of the Consulate General of the U. S. in the City of Algiers, this 3 of November 1815 and of the independence of the U. S. the 40th.


There is no duplicate or written copy of the United States instrument of ratification in the Department of State file; but there is little doubt that the date of the ratification was December 26, 1815, as stated in Laws of the United States, Bioren & Duane ea., VI, 656; the document was forwarded to Shaler on January 9, 1816, to be delivered to the Dey of Algiers; from the covering letter (D. S., 8 Instructions, U. S. Ministers, 29-30) the following is extracted:

I have the satisfaction to inform you that the President has, with the advice and consent of the Senate, ratified the Treaty, negotiated by Commodore Decatur and yourself with the Dey of Algiers, and I have now the honor to transmit you the ratified Copy signed by the President, to be delivered to the Dey.
You will have been informed that the Original of the Treaty, which was put on board the Epervier, never reached this country. We have of course been obliged to rely on a Copy brought over by Commodore Decatur, to which the Signatures were not annexed. This fact will enable you to explain to the Dey the reason why they are not inserted in the ratified copy now sent. You will judge of the expediency of applying to the Dey for a Copy of the Treaty signed and ratified by himself, to be transmitted to this Department.

Accordingly, the ratification was duly delivered on April 3, 1816, but it was returned three days later. Shaler wrote in his above-mentioned letter of April 15, 1816:

On the evening of the 6th instant the Bashaw sent back the ratification of the treaty, by the Drogoman saying that such a thing was unknown here; that he had consulted the oldest men in the Regency, who informed him that it was without any precedent, and he did not wish to introduce any new customs into his government.

Despite that statement, it is at least possible that the practice in Algiers had varied from time to time; some observations on the point will be found in the notes to the treaty of 1795 with Algiers (Document 17), and the notes to the treaty of 1786 with Morocco (Document 14) should also be consulted.

Moreover, in April, 1816, the question of ratification was hardly a separate one; for a dispute had then arisen which went to the very existence of the treaty; the Dey of Algiers alleged that the non-delivery of a captured Algerine brie, the return of which had been promised by Commodore Decatur during the negotiations of 1815, had avoided the whole agreement; he finally consented to write to President Madison, the treaty remaining more or less provisionally in force until the receipt of an answer; still, the letter was a quite blunt repudiation of the treaty, saying, "a new treaty must be made." A translation of the letter of the Dey of Algiers, dated April 24, 1816, is in Sketches of Algiers, by William Shaler, pages 276-78 (date there misprinted 1817. The same volume, at pages 295-97, contains the text of the answer of President Madison. Both letters are also printed as Appendix VII in Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs, by Gardner W. Allen; and in that volume, at pages 294-98, is an account of the April, 1816, negotiations. The result was the renewal of the treaty by a new agreement, the treaty with Algiers of December 22 and 23, 1816 (Document 37), the notes to which should be consulted.


The original proclamation has not been found; but it was published at the time (e. g., Niles' Weekly Register, IX, 312-14, December 30, 1815) it says that the treaty "was concluded at Algiers on the 30th day of June last" and that it "is in the words following, to wit," and then recites the text in English as in the authenticated copy now missing, but without the certificate of Shaler of July 6, 1815, which follows Article 22 in 8 Statutes at Large, 227. The proclamation also omits the two final clauses of the treaty which are here printed, dated respectively June 30 and July 3, 1815; in similar form the proclamation was also printed in the Session Laws of the first session of the Fourteenth Congress, 162-66, published in 1816.

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.