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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » The First Barbary War: The Tripolitan War » Tobias Lear to American Captains of Merchant Ships, May 1, 1804. Tobias Lear Papers.

Tobias Lear to American Captains of Merchant Ships, May 1, 1804. Tobias Lear Papers.

Directions for the Captains of Merchant Vessels; or Vessels bringing the Annuities from the United States to Algiers.

It is customary for the Merchant Vessels coming in sight of Algiers, with the Annuities of the United States; or other nations, on board, to hoist their Ensign, and stand towards the Port of Algiers, taking care not to stand too close in with the land to the Westward; not nearer than two leagues, as there are some rocks 4 miles to the West of Algiers, at least 1½ or 2 miles from the shore, and the current sets strongly on the Western shore, after you are within the Bay.

In coming towards Algiers from the East, Observe, that off Cape Metafour, the eastern Cape which makes the Bay of Algiers, that Mouth of said Cape, about two miles, there is a rocky shoal.  When the wind is fresh from E. or N.E. or N. or N.W. the sea breaks, with great force, on this shoal.  On this shoal there is about ten feet of water, it is about 120 feet North & South, and 60 feet East & West.

When you come within 2½ or 3 miles of Algiers, the Algerine Boat with the Captain of the Port, will go off and leave a Pilot on board: and the Captain of the Annuity Ship must be careful what Report he makes.  It will be best to say you are loaded with Stores, on account of the Annuity, the particulars of which you do not know; but that you have letters from the Government, for the Consul of the United States.

When you anchor adjacent to the Pier-head, you will be visited by the Consul, or his Secretary and the Drogerman.  You will then follow the orders of the Consul.

When you arrive and anchor in the Port of Algiers, if you have Stores for the Regency, you will get two or three cables of the Regency to assist you in mooring.  These, with two out anchors & cables of your own, will be sufficient for your moorings between the two Pier-heads of the harbour.

If you have a bell, let it be muffled.  The sound is offensive to the people of this Country.  You are not to hoist your colours, as a Merchant Vessel in this Port.  You are to chain your boats, and not keep oars in them; for if any Slaves should escape in your boats, the Government of the U. States is answerable for the amount of their ransom.

In discharging the cargo, it is customary for the Consul to be present at times.  The Mate of the Vessel and Scrivan, of clerk of the Marine, should compare their accounts daily.

On weighing or measuring all articles, the Consul or his Secretary should be present.

In discharging the cargo into Pontoons, flats or boats of the Regency if you do not look out sharp, you will be plundered, and the note from the Ship and Store-keeper received will not agree.  They will say it has been a mistake of the Mate and you have no remedy.

When the cargo is nearly discharged, application must be made, through the Drogerman, to the General of Marine, for Ballast.  It will be carried along side, and your crew is to get it in.  On this occasion you give 3 or 4 dollars to the Algerine Boatmen.

It is always best to intimate, on your arrival, that your Vessel is chartered to take in a cargo for the United States, at some Port in Europe, after she delivers her cargo here; this may prevent a Request on the part of the Regency, for her to proceed on a voyage on their affairs.

During the time an annuity Vessel is in Port, the Markets are open for her daily supplies; but to obtain an requisite supply to prosecute her voyage, the Captain must report to the Consul, who will take measures to obtain a permit therefor.

The annuity Ship pays half the Port charges, extra boat hire, chains for the boats &c. &c.

The conduct towards the officers and people here should be decent and civil, and if any dispute happens between any of the Ship’s Company & the inhabitants, an immediate report should be made to the Consul.  In all matters of contest here, the declaration of a Turk will outweigh that of a thousand Christians. 

On leaving Algiers if the wind permits, stand out North; and do not pass to the West of the Marine, with a light wind; for if calm, you will be obliged to anchor among rocks in the eddy West current.  If the wind should be Easterly, you must work out towards Cape Metafour, and if the wind should die away, you are then in the Bay, where you can anchor, and get underway with the first fair wind; or, if very bad weather, you can enter the Port.  This is an advantage you may have, and which will not be in your power, if you pass the Marine and are caught to the West of Algiers.

Tobias Lear
Consul Genl. Of the U. States
In Algiers

Algiers May 1: 1804