Four American presidents--George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison--had paid tribute to various Arab leaders, negotiated contracts and treaties, endured the hostage-taking or enslavement of some 700 Americans and the capture of 35 American ships, and paid millions of dollars in tribute and ransom to secure the freeing of American hostages.
In 1815, not long after the war with Britain, Madison ordered commander Stephen Decatur to head a 10-ship expedition against the Barbary pirate regimes of North Africa and threaten them with "serious disaster" if they did not agree to a "just and lasting peace." The Arab leaders, or deys, complied.
In his State of the Union message to Congress on Dec. 5, 1815 (the termed merely the two-term president's seventh annual message to Congress), Madison began his message with unrestrained boasts about the first war the United States had won abroad, the first war it fought in the Middle East--and still the only war it has ever won outright in the Middle East.
Madison's remarks on the Barbary wars follow:
I have the satisfaction on our present meeting of being able to communicate to you the successful termination of the war which had been commenced against the United States by the Regency of Algiers.
The squadron in advance on that service, under Commodore Decatur, lost not a moment after its arrival in the Mediterranean in seeking the naval force of the enemy then cruising in that sea, and succeeded in capturing two of his ships, one of them the principal ship, commanded by the Algerine admiral. The high character of the American commander was brilliantly sustained on that occasion which brought his own ship into close action with that of his adversary, as was the accustomed gallantry of all the officers and men actually engaged.
Having prepared the way by this demonstration of American skill and prowess, he hastened to the port of Algiers, where peace was promptly yielded to his victorious force. In the terms stipulated the rights and honor of the United States were particularly consulted by a perpetual relinquishment on the part of the Dey of all pretensions to tribute from them.
The impressions which have thus been made, strengthened as they will have been by subsequent transactions with the Regencies of Tunis and of Tripoli by the appearance of the larger force which followed under Commodore Bainbridge, the chief in command of the expedition, and by the judicious precautionary arrangements left by him in that quarter, afford a reasonable prospect of future security for the valuable portion of our commerce which passes within reach of the Barbary cruisers.
Read Madison's Seventh Annual Message to Congress in full."