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Date of Graduation

Spring 5-7-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Chris Arndt

Steven W. Guerrier

Nukhet Varlik


This thesis is an analysis of the connection between republican ideology and America’s experience during the Tripolitan War, 1801-1805. Special focus is paid to the connection between early American republicanism and America’s perceptions of the Barbary states, with specific analysis of racial, religious, and social issues which influenced American policy at the time. To accomplish this, Chapter One provides an overview of early perceptions of the Barbary pirates by the United States, in order to better establish the pirates as a barbarous and uncivilized “other” in the eyes of Americans. Chapter Two, then, begins with a brief description of the experience of being imprisoned by corsairs, before moving to a discussion of the ideological debate between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. This chapter elaborates on their views on the most effective method for dealing with the Barbary states and their definitions of republicanism, both being arguments which are indicative of their wider political beliefs. Chapter Three consists of an analysis of captivity narratives to illustrate the captives views on republicanism. This chapter also discusses the response of Americans at home to these seizures. Finally, Chapter Four is a case study of Stephen Decatur, Jr., as the pinnacle of republican manhood at the time. This examination brings together aspects of republicanism and Jeffersonianism, discussed throughout this work, in order to present Decatur as a culmination of this ideal. Thus, this thesis demonstrates that, despite being glossed over by many historians of the period, the Tripolitan War helps to clearly define republican ideology in the opening years of the nineteenth century, while also demonstrating that those ideas remained constantly in flux.

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