James Madison and America's First Encounter with Islam: Tracing James Madison's Engagement with Barbary Affairs Through the 1st Barbary War
Penn History Review, Vol. 21, Issue. 1, 2014
38 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2018
Date Written: 2014
This paper traces the development of James Madison’s foreign policy regarding the Middle East, specifically the Barbary States.
In the years following 9/11, historians became interested in America’s first encounter with Islam and many focused on the naval wars the United States waged against the Islamic States of North Africa in the Early Republic Period as a way to understand the nascent beginnings of U.S.-Middle East foreign policy. Today the history of the Barbary Wars remains as interesting to political analysts and historians alike. Some use it to discuss the lessons of the Barbary Wars for American military intervention in Middle East. Others believe these early conflicts represent America’s first war on terror and can be thought to have set an important precedent for how America deals with terrorism. Regardless of the implications that the Barbary Wars have for current U.S. foreign policy, almost all commentaries have focused on the role Thomas Jefferson played in shaping America’s early response to piracy at the hands of Islamic States in the Mediterranean. While Jefferson had a role in shaping the country's response to such piracy, this paper argues that James Madison was also critical in the development of early American foreign policy regarding the Middle East. Using correspondence, state department dispatches, and congressional records, this paper suggests that the country's interests in the Mediterranean and with the Barbary States were essential to how Madison developed his stance on early American foreign policy. In fact, this paper argues that the legacy of Madison's view on the Barbary States would substantially influence broader U.S. foreign policy of the early 19th century.
Keywords: Madison, Barbary Wars, piracy, foreign policy
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