|To the Shores of Tripoli Without Congress|
When President Obama recently sent warships to the Mediterranean Sea to engage in military action, he wasn't the first american president to do so.
Thomas Jefferson, our third president, did in 1802.
There are quite a few differences then and what's going on now, not the least of which is presidents willingness to go to war without the sanction of Congress.
The first overseas war that the United States was ever involved in started by Jefferson sending ships into the Mediterranean to combat a problem our nation was having in Tripoli, which is located in present day Libya.
In the early 19th Century, U.S. merchant ships trading in Asia had been pledged for years by Muslim pirates, labeled the Barbary Pirates, which operated out of Northern Africa in the region known as the Barbary Coast.
These pirates had a nasty habit of looting merchant ships from Europe and America, but what they were really after was people that they could take as prisoners to either be held for ransom or sold in slave markets in the Middle East.
Jefferson, rightly so, thought that paying pirates off would lead to more hostages being taken and chose to send warships to protect our merchant ships.
He believed, however, that the problem would never be solved until he could strike the pirates where they lived and teach them that it would be in their best interest to leave our ships alone.
There was a problem. The Constitution wouldn't let him commit the country to a war with the pirates without Congress' approval.
With this in mind, he instructed commanders of the warships to act only defensively, even though he knew that this would put American sailors at risk.
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