2815. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 June [1816]

2815. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 24 June [1816]

My dear R.

Nothing but a system of conquest will put an end to Moorish piracy in the Mediterranean. [1]  If the Court of Portugal were not in Brazil Portugal has at this time a force capable of resuming her old plans upon the opposite shore, & is the only European power who could do it without exciting the jealousy of other states. [2]  – You may knock their cities down, – but they will build them up again, & go on as before. [3]  Civilization in Barbary can only be effected by force. The Missionary & the Merchant (especially the Pedlars) will do wonders in other countries, but the Moors require military force, & garrisoned towns. I am not sorry that they have provoked [MS obscured]

Can you send me the Report upon Education? [4]  – When may we look to see you?


24 June.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: [partial] KESWI/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 27 JU 27/ 1816
Endorsement: [partial] 24 June 18
MS: Huntington Library, RS 288. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The cities of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli had long preyed on shipping in the Mediterranean and enslaved captives. Following the end of the wars with France in 1815 the British government was no longer willing to accept this hindrance to trade in the area and a squadron of ships under Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757–1833; DNB) was sent to the area to negotiate the freedom of European captives and an end to piracy. After lengthy negotiations in March–May 1816 satisfactory agreements were reached with Tunis and Tripoli and hundreds of slaves were freed. However, the Dey of Algiers refused to promise an end to slavery or to prohibit piracy. Pellew arrived back in England on 24 June for further instructions. BACK

[2] The Portuguese Court had fled to Brazil following the French invasion of November 1807 and did not return until 1821. In the early modern period Portugal showed some interest in acquiring trading bases on the North African coast, though little was achieved beyond the conquest of Ceuta in 1415. BACK

[3] Just after Pellew returned to England, news arrived of the massacre on 23 May 1814 of 200 Italian sailors in Bona and Oran, allegedly on the orders of the Dey of Algiers. Pellew was ordered to return to the Mediterranean and on 27 August 1816 the British fleet bombarded Algiers, forcing the Dey to release all European captives and agree to put an end to piracy. BACK

[4] Brougham had persuaded the Commons to appoint a select committee to look into the education of the poor in London, and presented its report to parliament on 20 June 1816. He severely criticised the operation of educational charities – a move that was widely (and correctly) interpreted as an attack on the Church of England. BACK