Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Tag: Articles of Confederation

Pirates: An Early Test for the New Country

Today’s post comes from Tom Eisinger, senior archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.

Richard O’Bryen's letter to Thomas Jefferson, first page, July 12, 1790. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Richard O’Bryen’s letter to Thomas Jefferson, first page, July 12, 1790. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

When Richard O’Bryen, captain of the Philadelphia ship Dauphin, penned his July 12, 1790, letter to Thomas Jefferson, he had been a captive of the Barbary pirates in Algeria for almost five years.

This letter, and others, helped bring attention to an unexpected problem the Federal Government inherited from the government under the Articles of Confederation: pirates.

The new nation was faced with the questions: What could be done about the Barbary pirates? And what could be done for the American prisoners held for ransom in Algeria?

In the late 18th century, the Barbary pirates were a well-known problem in Europe. These pirates—who came from Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunisia—captured vessels sailing in the Mediterranean Sea and held their crews for ransom.

To free a captured vessel, European nations were forced to pay the ransom. Some European nations signed treaties with the four Barbary nations and paid tribute for safe passage of their vessels.

The Barbary pirates were not an issue for the American colonies while they were under the protection of the British Empire or during the Revolutionary War while they were under the protection of France. However, … [ Read all ]

History Crush: George Washington

George Washington, the Virginia Colonel: 1772. ARC Identifier 532861

Today’s History Crush post is from archives technician Timothy Duskin, who confesses that his admiration for our first President has only increased since researching the records related to George Washington at the National Archives.

I have always considered George Washington to be the greatest Founding Father, the greatest President, and the greatest American. Two years ago, I gave a “Know Your Records” lecture on records related to George Washington at the National Archives. My sentiments were reinforced in the course of my research for that lecture and they have remained the same ever since.

As a major in the Virginia militia, Washington delivered the demand of Virginia Governor Dinwiddie to vacate the Ohio Valley to the French in 1753. He was responsible for starting the French and Indian War in 1754, when he became commander of the Virginia Regiment and eventually became the war’s foremost hero.

Washington’s political career began when he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761, where he took up the cause of the North American colonies. He was then elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, which appointed him General and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army at the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775.

After the Boston Tea Party, counties in all of the colonies passed resolves to address … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: A really big mustache—and bathtub

The replica of the tub on display in the "BIG!" exhibit at the National Archives.

Oh, President Taft. It was your birthday yesterday, and I just had to feature you here on Facial Hair Friday.

You were one of the few Presidents that seemed to stick my brain when I was studying for the AP History exam. Important dates, key battles, our founding documents—I could barely keep those facts stuck to my teenage grey matter, but I always remembered you, Taft, because of your bathtub. Sadly, there was no question about your powder room fixtures on the exam.

When I joined the National Archives, the “BIG!” exhibit was in its final weeks. I walked through and saw the many big things we have in the National Archives (like a huge globe and the 13-foot-long Articles of Confederation), and then I turned the corner and there it was.

You see, the reason that I remembered Taft so well was that our teacher mentioned he had a bathtub specially made for him due to his size. Yes, kids can be cruel. (And Taft would have been familiar with this—remarks about his weight were something he was all too familiar with growing up.) And there in the middle of the exhibit was the bathtub.

The bathtub was a replica of the one Taft had built. Taft weighed 340 pounds and stood almost six feet tall. Two months after being … [ Read all ]