Book Review: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade

24611888Title: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History

Author: Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Genre: History, Nonfiction, American History, Military, Biography, Politics, Military History, American Literature, Pirates, Adventure

Publisher: Sentinel

Published: November 3, 2015

Page Amount: 256 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: Brian Kilmeade – cohost of “Fox & Friends” on Fox News and the national radio show “Kilmeade & Friends” – returns with another fascinating historical narrative, co-written with Don Yaeger. Like their acclaimed bestseller George Washington’s Secret Six, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates sheds new light on a vitally important episode that has been forgotten by most Americans. Only weeks after President Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, he decided to confront the Tripoli pirates who had been kidnapping American ships and sailors, among other outrageous acts. Though inclined toward diplomacy, Jefferson sent warships to blockade Tripoli and protect American shipping, and then escalated to all-out war against the Barbary states.

Why Read: Thomas Jefferson. Part of me wants to just leave it at that. What other reason do I need to read a book about pirates and President Jefferson? But I’ll elaborate… This all connects back to Hamilton, and the fight between him and Jefferson, a fight of principles. Do we want a large encompassing government or a small and inactive government? After reading Chernow’s Hamilton, I was convinced that I knew everything I needed to know about Jefferson – namely that I did not like him. After some time and some convincing from friends, I decided that I maybe needed a more balanced view: and so this book emerged.

Review: When I started this book, I was entirely pro-Hamilton and fully anti-Jefferson. Now that I finished it, I will say… the tables have not completely turned, but I am certainly more sympathetic to Jefferson’s viewpoint than I ever expected to be. Jefferson, while completely opposite to Hamilton, had his views for good reasons. Jefferson was, at heart, a diplomat and a quiet man, not prone to throwing his views into a fight ring. The book on the Tripoli Pirates doesn’t really talk about how Jefferson became Jefferson. Instead, it talks about how he handled the issue of the Barbary States (Libya, etc.)

It doesn’t just cover Jefferson’s viewpoints, Kilmeade and Yaeger also cover some of the ship battles scene by scene. I have never been so enraptured by the scenes of age-old battles for dominance in the ocean. Mostly, I had also not really known enough about any of the battles between the United States and the Barbary States over the issue of tributes. Did you know that scores of American sailors were kept as slaves because America refused to pay them tributes? I did not. Reading this, I learned quite a bit about Jefferson’s dilemma and how it was not even him that determined what happened, but by the speed of information. When letters do not cross the Atlantic, how could Jefferson or any president for that matter make decisions on the fly?

Probably my favorite story in this book was the story of Stephen Decatur, who had to burn the Philadelphia, an American ship because it was taken by Tripoli. I won’t spoil the ending, but needless to say – it was powerfully written and compelling. I have begun Meacham’s Jefferson biography to enhance my Jeffersonian knowledge, so rest assured – you will be hearing much more on Jefferson from me before long.

Highly Recommended: Because Jefferson.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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