“The American commander, with a small force, and in a short space of time, has done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages”.
The above comment of Pius VII was in regard to Commodore Edward Preble, commander of the American naval squadron that humbled the power of the Barbary States that had for centuries sent forth pirates to prey upon Christian commerce in the Mediterranean, the white captives being held for ransom, or sold at a handsome profit in the slave marts of the Arab world. The first of two wars fought by America against these pirate principalities, the First Barbary War, 1801-1805, established that the United States Navy, although tiny by European standards, was highly professional, with an officer corps filled with “Salamanders”, men who were quite willing to seek out hot enemy fire to accomplish their missions. The Marine Corps Hymn recalls “the shores of Tripoli”, where eight Marines, after a 600 mile forced march, led 500 mercenaries to victory in an all out attack, seizing the key city of Derna in Cyrenaica, an astounding, near miraculous victory.
Perhaps Pius VII was thinking of all of this when on April 8, 1808 he made Baltimore an archdiocese and established dioceses in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Bardstown, Kentucky. Americans were capable of remarkable feats, and the Church would grow with this new unusual nation.