At the very outset of his presidency, Thomas Jefferson faced a long-standing problem that was only getting worse. For nearly two decades, privateers supported by the Barbary States of the North African coast had preyed on American ships, seizing merchant vessels and cargo, holding crews for ransom and demanding tribute in exchange for ending their attacks. Following Jefferson's inauguration, the leader of one these states, Tripoli, stepped up these attacks and demanded more money. Long opposed to paying such tribute, President Jefferson acted quickly, deploying a squadron of U.S. Navy warships to the Mediterranean to protect American shipping. This seemingly out-of-character move by Jefferson set the stage for a bold act that would grab the world’s attention and established a precedent for executive authority that reaches to the present day.
In this episode of our In the Course of Human Events podcast, former U.S. Navy Captain and Monticello Guide David Thorson connects a sword hanging at the foot of Jefferson’s bed to events almost 220 years ago and nearly 5,000 miles away. Joining him for this episode are Monticello’s Director of Education and Visitor Programs, Steve Light, and its Web Content Developer, Beth Sawyer.   

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Narrated by David Thorson

Hosted by Steve Light and Beth Sawyer

Direction and editing by Joan Horn

Sound design by Dennis Hysom

Production by Chad Wollerton and Joan Horn

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