Note: this post owes a great debt to Fletcher Pratt wonderful book from 1950 Preble’s Boys commodore Preble and the Birth of American Sea Power. Chapter 13
Today on the Sunday shows Denis McDonough and surrogates of the president continued to attempt to rally the US congress to support Barack Obama’s use of the military to
confirm his manhood punish Syria for the use of chemical weapon. They continue to make this push while insisting he not only doesn’t need their votes but will not commit himself to any result he doesn’t agree.
Given the messterpiece that this administration has painted might I suggest that this administration in general and this president in particular take a lesson from history from a young naval officer by the name of Charles Stewart during another crisis facing radical Islamic foes.
Back in 1805 the Bey of Tunis, claiming international law didn’t apply to him, demanded the return of two ships caught running a US blockade (imposed because of the Bey’s ships preying on American shipping) and an indemnity for daring to prevent him from seizing our merchantmen. Our US consul being a sane and rational man refused. The Bey not being so threatened to send his fleet after our warships. As the US had a small navy of under 20 ships that threat had some teeth.
Unfortunately for the Bey while the US navy was tiny his timing was really bad. A fleet of nine US warships was nearby from the USS Constitution and four other frigates to the USS Enterprise and three other smaller ships 230 guns commanded by John Rodgers who in an age of honor and duels was certainly not going to let the Bey’s insult pass.
Rogers led his fleet to Tunis and sent Lt. Stephen Decatur to negotiate satisfaction but the Bey defiantly refused to even see him.
That was enough for Rogers he proposed to open fire and called a council of officers for approval before doing so. With one exception every single officer backed war, that exception was Lt Charles Stewart.
Stewart case was constitutional only congress could declare war. If even the president of the United States did not hold this power how could the commander of a squadron, that had not been subject to attack, claim that right?
Rogers didn’t like it but he abandoned his planned attack and was able to eventually bring the Bey around diplomatically.
While Rogers was not happy with Stewart, President Thomas Jefferson had a different view expressing…
“high satisfaction at having an officer in the squadron who comprehended international law, the condition of his country and the policy of his government,”
…and he expressed that satisfaction by promoting him to Captain.
That would prove to be a wise decision by Jefferson. Stewart would serve his country well as captain. He and William Brainbridge would be directly responsible for persuading the Secretary of the Navy and President Madison to allow the US fleet to engage the British navy during the War of 1812. Our tiny navy’s incredible string of victories shook the world and saved the country. Stewart himself would win the final one in command of USS Constitution taking the HMS Cyane & HMS Levent in a skilled action.
Stewart would go on to be the Senior Flag officer of the Navy, the first ever US Admiral and would, even after 67 different papers endorsed him for president in 1844 decline to run for an office that he was in an excellent position to win.
President Obama and his administration would do very well to take the example and wise counsel he gave. Then again if this administration was wise enough to take such counsel we likely wouldn’t be in this mess.
For the first time since last Sunday DaTipJar is appearing in a post. That’s because you dear readers generously filled my entire $305 paycheck on the first day giving you a full week without the need to solicit your support.
While one can’t expect that kind of result two weeks in a row with a trip to DC to cover the Exempt America from Obamacare Rally coming up and lots of big news and interviews to come from it I’ll certainly be working hard this week to earn that full paycheck once again.
If 15 of you can kick in $21 we can not only get the full paycheck but cover the cost of the bus ride to the Capital. (and of course if you can kick in a little extra to cover means and expenses such as the batteries for my cameras I won’t complain either.
If you would care to do so please hit DaTipJar below:
Remember I’m still looking to crowdsource my radio advertising and that can make you up to $400?