The Second Barbary War (1815)
President James Madison saw an opportunity when peace was made with Britain after the War of 1812 to deal with the Barbary States who returned to harassing American trade vessels in the Mediterranean region. On 23 February 1815, Madison spoke to Congress about the issue of Barbary piracy and the need for American military action.
He said, “I recommend to Congress the expediency of an act declaring the existence of a state of war between the United States and the Dey of Algiers.”10 Madison saw this declaration of war as a necessity for not only protecting American merchant ships in the region, but also to assert the United States’ dominance as a power which could operate and conduct itself unmolested by any other nation.
President James Madison’s plea for war highlighted the “acts of more overt and direct warfare against the citizens of the United States trading in the Mediterranean, some of whom are still detained in captivity.”10 Congress declared war on Algiers on 2 March 1815 and gave Madison “the authority to take whatever measures he deemed necessary.”10
President Madison quickly formed a naval squadron from the United States Navy under Commodore Stephen Decatur. Commodore Decatur was ordered to sail to Algiers and attack any Algerine ships he came across, thereby achieving more favorable terms with the new dey, Omar Agha. Decatur’s squadron of ten ships sailed from New York on 20 May and on 15 June, his squadron passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and encountered Algerine ships returning from pirating cruises in the Atlantic. Decatur pressed home the attack and captured two Algerine ships with their crews of nearly five hundred, killing the Algerine commander Rais Hamidou in the process, at small loss to his own force.7
By late June, Decatur reached Algiers with the captured vessels and he positioned his fleet outside the port of Algiers. The port captain and Swedish consul came out to negotiate and Decatur made it clear the United States demanded peace on its terms.12
In return for the release of American prisoners in Algiers, Decatur returned his prizes to Omar and received all the "favourable [sic] features of those...[terms] conclcuded with the most favoured [sic] nations." (CITATION: Letter no. 3, Series of Letters to the United States Senate from Commodore Stephen Decatur and Others, 1816)
This was all accomplished a little more than three months after the approval of military force by Congress and a few days of naval combat. Commodore Decatur continued on to Tunis and Tripoli with similar intentions to prove a point of American dominance. After the conclusion of peace, the American squadron liberated European slaves and formally secured similar terms as it had with Algiers. Commodore Decatur was hailed as a national hero upon his return to the United States.13