Interesting Take on the History of the Constitution
bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 20 07:59:21 PDT 2007
They don't know about WWII.
They think Nazis are funny.
How should they know about Barbary pirates, for goodness sake?
On Apr 20, 2007, at 6:18 AM, Griffin, Stephen M wrote:
> C’mon now, everybody knows about the Barbary pirates, don’t they?
> After all, “To the shores of Tripoli”? Aren’t there some war
> powers cases here?
> Although when I described these facts to my students earlier this
> semester, they thought it humorous and told me, “pirates are funny.”
> Steve Griffin
> Tulane Law School
> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [mailto:conlawprof-
> bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of DavidEBernstein at aol.com
> Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2007 9:04 PM
> To: Conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
> Subject: Interesting Take on the History of the Constitution
> From Michael Oren, author of Power, Faith and Fantasy, a book about
> U.S. involvement in the Middle East:
> While working on the book, Oren encountered several unknown
> episodes "that knocked me off my chair." One has to do with the
> Americans' first war in the Middle East and its influence on the
> U.S. Constitution. Oren describes at length the Barbary Wars
> between the U.S. and the rulers of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and
> Libya around the turn of the 19th century. The Barbary Wars were
> mainly a struggle for control of trade routes. After U.S.
> independence in 1776, American ships lost the protection of the
> British navy, the strongest in the world, becoming easy prey for
> pirates. The problem was greatest in the Straits of Gibraltar, as
> U.S. ships made their way to the eastern Mediterranean. The North
> African rulers viewed the region as being under their control and
> demanded payment for safe passage.
> These were the early days of the young democracy, the dramatic
> decade between independence and the formulation of the U.S.
> Constitution. The founding fathers - Washington, Jefferson and
> Madison - were busy with the question of whether to pay up or
> instead create a strong military force to defend American interests
> in the region. Oren believes the threat to U.S. economic interests
> in the Middle East was very influential in the decision to
> strengthen the central government and in fact to create the United
> States of America as it is today.
> "In that decade," Oren says, "there were very prolonged debates in
> the 13 states about the constitution that was being formulated.
> When I opened the protocols of every single state, I found a wealth
> of material. Preoccupation with this question was a significant
> catalyst in the decision to establish the strong federal government
> we see today. The assumption was that without a strong and stable
> federal administration, the U.S. would not have the resources
> necessary for setting up a strong fleet. It was clear that each
> would not be able to build battleships on its own.
> "This feeling was very strong in a state like Massachusetts, in
> which maritime commerce was a crucial economic component, but
> similar opinions were also heard in the South. This is how
> Williamson from North Carolina, for example, wondered out loud:
> 'What will prevent Algerian pirates from landing on American shores
> and taking American citizens as slaves?'
> "In the end, the Americans played a complicated game. In some
> instances, they paid the ransom demanded of them, sometimes while
> biting their tongues and forgoing national pride. Only in the 19th
> century did they feel strong enough to threaten them with military
> force and put an end to this episode. But from my point of view, it
> was a real revelation to find out that the Middle Eastern threat
> had had such an influence on the American Constitution and the
> structure of the U.S as we see it today."
> David E. Bernstein
> George Mason University School of Law
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