Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Penny's Worth of Independence

W.W., a commenter, took the time to send a link he thought Gates of Vienna readers might enjoy.
Wot th’-?!
This coin was listed on a forum for coin collectors and included a link to American Numismatic Rarities, LLC, which gives the specifics of the item listing.

This 1841 Webster copper one cent piece ("millions for defence" hard times token) sold for $437.00. Since the starting bid was $165.00, one wonders if the newest depredations of the Barbary Pirates engendered interest in the coin.

As the poster on the coin forum remarked:

     The "tribute" referred to was the millions paid in the 18th century, shortly after independence, to ransom American hostages - now lacking the protection of the British Navy - from the Barbary pirates of the Ottoman Empire.
This tribute was a substantial proportion of federal revenues at the time. President Jefferson didn't want to pay it and sent the little U.S. fleet and its Marines into action. Together with Arab allies and foreign mercenaries, U.S. forces reached "the shores of Tripoli" and subdued its pasha into peace. This task was repeated under President Monroe a decade later, and this time piracy was ended permanently.
What he refers to, of course, is President Monroe's response (sometimes attributed also to Pickney when he was dealing with the traitorous French demands for "gifts" in exchange for help from them) to the Berber pashas' demands for money in exchange for being left alone on the high seas. To which Monroe is supposed to have replied: "millions for defence and not one penny for tribute."

Now there's a good negotiating baseline that the State Department might consider adopting. Instead, they seem to go by the "don't-rock-the-boat, we-don't-know-how-to-swim" routine.

What do you suppose a coin struck for the State Department might look like?


MikeZ said...

A coin for the State Department ... the mind boggles.

No idea about the image, but the inscription would be in Arabic.