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Mountford, Timothy (fl. 1804-1810) to [Tobias] Lear re: journal entry arguing absurdity of British/French alliance

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02794.057 Author/Creator: Mountford, Timothy (fl. 1804-1810) Place Written: Algiers, Algeria Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 1804/01/25 Pagination: 4 p. 24.6 x 20.6 cm

Summary of Content: Signed: "T.M." Mountford presents extensive arguments against the report "that the French & English have formed an alliance for the reduction of all Barbary," arguing that the two nations are natural enemies, that the French do not need the aid of the British and that the British inherently distrust the French. The alliance is only feasible if "both [nations] suffering from the ravages of war . . . have finally agreed, to throw on the heads of the Barbary powers (and particularly Algiers, the enemy of both) the destruction they were planning for each other." Mountford was Lear's secretary in Algiers.

Full Transcript: Algiers, 8 in the evening
Jan 25, 1804
My Dear Sir,
In looking over my journal, I find the following observations recorded, which I bed leave to submit for your amusement.
"There is ...a report found its way into the heads of some persons, That the French & English have formed an alliance, for the reduction of [inserted: all] Barbary. I shall not pretend to say, it is not so, because things equally strange, and inconsistant [sic], as this appears to me, to be [inserted:have] happened.
But, I shall say, it strikes me, as highly unprobable [sic] & inconsistant [sic] with what has been formerly the Policy of those two powerful nations.
First, nature has made such a difference in the habits of the two nations, that theretofore they never could agree, in one single point, either political or religious.
And secondly, if the French wished to make a conquest of "all of Barbary," they are equal to the Task - and would despise the assistance of any power on Earth.
The English, on the other hand, might be desirous of being possessed of so fine a Country - but, have not the abilities to effect it. And being afraid of French politics, and possessing no small degree of national [2] pride, they would consider it, equally degrading, to have a compact of this kind, existing between themselves & their ancient enemies, the French.
With regards to the British, I have s[ai]d they had not abilities to effect a conquest of this kind- And, for this reason, it would require more troops to conquer & keep possession of Barbary, than she is capable of sending for the purpose, without leaving some of her possession, in so defenceless [sic] a situation, that they would fall into the hands of the first power that might attack them.- No. this is not the political creed of a British Cabinet- theirs is the motto- "Keep what we have got-and Catch what we can."
True-the British might batter down [inserted: the City of] Algiers, and every seaport in Barbary, with their not to be disputed Naval force. But the could [struck: not] withstand, so vast a number of troops, as Barbary could furnish, as to be able to retain on foot of Land.
When an inviting moment may offer, the French have sufficient Naval force, to make an attack on Barbary, in her seaports-and highly capable (without distressing her already extensive territory) of furnishing troops sufficient to overrun the whole Country & keep possession of it-which by the by- is above every other object.- And this, the British are not capable of doing at any time.[3]
Why then, in the name of reason, should the French, divide their glory-their honor-and the riches of so fine a Country, with the British, or any other nation.
But, here let me stop to apologise [sic]- I have spoken, according to the foundation of such information, as has come to my knowledge- yet, I admit that it is possible, this confederacy may have taken place, between the two nations-and the only reason, at present, I can assign for it-is-that they are both tired of fighting against each other.- both suffering from the ravages of war, within & without- and both, have finally agree, to thrown on the heads of the Barbary powers, (and particularly Algiers, the enemy of both) the destruction they were planning for each other-and thus terminate the differences between them, in the annihilation of their foes, and the Division of Barbary & its riches between them.

With great respect, I have the
Honor to be your
Very obt. S.

P.S. - Sir, If you are not in possession of Facts-relative to this combination-the possession of my curious ideas, on this business-if properly applied, might draw forth an object, of which not, could be more desirable, to ascertain.

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Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Global History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyBarbary CoastBarbary PiratesBarbary WarsPiratesMilitary HistoryDiplomacyTreatyFranceAfrica

Sub Era: The Age of Jefferson & Madison

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