This collection contains the papers of American soldier and
diplomat William Eaton (1764-1811), chiefly accumulated during his service in the
Mediterranean and dating between 1798 and 1805. The papers document the relations between
the United States and the Barbary states, the Tripolitan War (1801-05), James Leander
Cathcart, and naval operations of the U.S. and European powers.
William Eaton (1764-1811), American soldier and diplomat, was best known for his exploits in
the Barbary states from 1798 to 1805. After a period of service in the United States Army in
Georgia, he became United States consul to Tunis and took part in the negotiations concerning
some changes in the 1797 treaty with this country. In 1803, following a conflict with Tunis
authorities, he was expelled from the country, and returned to the United States. Having
succeeded in promoting his plan for an American intervention designed to support a rival
claimant for the rule of Tripoli, Eaton arrived to the Mediterranean in 1804, with the fleet
commanded by Samuel Barron, as United States naval agent to the Barbary States. Eaton led an expedition
in behalf of the deposed ruler of Tripoli, in an attempt to end the war
between that country and the United States begun in 1801. When the success of the venture
seemed almost secured with the capture of Derne, Eaton was surprised to be ordered to leave
Tripoli, and to learn that negotiations by Tobias Lear for a peace, involving the ransom of
American captives and maintaining the usurping ruler, were concluded. Following the peace
of 1805, Eaton returned to the United States. He obtained a grant of 10,000 acres in Maine
from the Massachusetts legislature and later received about $10,000 to liquidate claims for
his expense in Tripoli. In May 1807-1811, he served as a member of the Massachusetts House
of Representatives. He finally retired
to his home in Brimfield, Massachusetts, and died in 1811.
555 pieces in 9 boxes, 11 envelopes, and 1 case
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