A little history here:
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Muslim priates terrorized any and all ships in the Mediterranean and Northern Atlantic. They took captive the crews and any passengers, subjecting them to barbaric treatment until they were ransomed. The captives wrote heart-wrenching letters to their families and governments, begging them to pay the demanded ransom.
This was extortion at its nastiest.
Before the Revolutionary War, American ships were protected by Great Britain. When America declared its independence, France came to its aid and took American ships under its wing. Once the war was over, America had no protectors and was on her own.
Her ships were considered fair game, that is until Thomas Jefferson intervened.