Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Jarvis, 20 August 1807

Lisbon 20 Aug: 1807


Not having been honored with an answer to my last two letters makes me with diffidence venture to address you, least my correspondence should become troublesome to you Sir, who know so much of interest & importance to attract your attention. But I could not forbear offering my tribute of praise for your wise determination relative to the late horribly perfidious attack on the Chesapeake. Had I written you however on every act of wisdom which has distinguished your administration, I know of no one which would not have called forth a letter: but this being particularly interesting to the feelings of every well wisher to his Country, I hope will prove my apology for the liberty I am taking. The news of the attack reached here some days before your proclamation, when every body seemed to be persuaded that it would be the cause of an immediate rupture. The federal papers too, through which medium the advice of the transaction was received, put the only favourable gloss on it, in behalf of the English, that it was capable of receiving, by representing the seamen as British Subjects—This I took the liberty to say I was persuaded was not the case; for notwithstanding that the invariable practice of the British Commanders in refusing to give up our Citizens, who had deserted from our Merchantmen & entered into the British service, would fully authorise their detention, and that the examples of moderation & justice which Govnt. had given were so often requited by insults & aggression upon our flag; yet so long as you Sir (the President) saw any reasonable prospect of obtaining satisfaction & justice, I was sure no step would be taken which would be likely to prevent an amicable adjustment of this affair as well as the national differences at large, & that war would be resorted to only when all other means had failed: and I took the liberty to enforce this my opinion by your invariably wise, moderate & liberal conduct & character. When Sir your proclamation was received it dispelled all ideas of an immediate declaration of War; and I think I was never witness of a more general approbation of any instrument. All who spoke of it praised it for its moderation, firmness, wisdom & the elegance of the composition; and several of the best judges pronounced it one of the best State papers they had ever read. It is certainly deserving of all this.

It is supposed that this Country is again in danger, as I mentioned in my Official letter, but I am persuaded it will eventuate in the payment of a farther good sum of money as the price of neutrality. Perhaps too it has the additional object of trying to compell England to a Peace; to which it is understood they are averse. I am afraied Sir that I shall tire your patience with the trifles I trouble you, (having taken the liberty to send by this conveyance a box of grapes & a box of Citron) & also with my letters, but I trust to your indulgence for an excuse for both as mere testimonies of the great veneration & Respect wherewith

I have the honor to be Sir yr mo: ob: & devoted Sert

William Jarvis

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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