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Barbary Wars

The Barbary Wars were two wars between the United States of America and piratical city-states in North Africa. At issue was the pirates' demand of tribute from American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. American naval power attacked the pirate cities and extracted concessions of fair passage from their brigand rulers.

The Barbary Wars are sometimes called "America's Forgotten War", although they share that dubious honor with several other conflicts. The wars largely passed out of popular memory within a generation. After September 11, 2001, some interest in the wars has been revived, with comparisons between the Americans' no-compromise stance in the early 1800s to the current War on Terrorism.

The punitive actions against the Barbary States were launched by the administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. When they proved successful, partisans of the Jeffersonian Republicans contrasted their administrations' refusal to buy off the pirates with the failure of the preceding federalist administration to live up to the rhetorical flight:

Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.

attributed to Charles C. Pinckney in the course of the XYZ Affair.

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