Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Jarvis, 18 February 1809

Lisbon 18 feby 1809


It is a common observation that the present is a time of Political Phenomena. The extraordinary events which have occurred within the last thirty years, on both sides of the Atlantick, will without doubt amply justify the assertion: but the United States has been the only Country during this period, and unhappily for mankind almost any other where the good of the people has been the sole seed of Government. In the attainment of this Philanthropic object, your administration will perhaps stand unrivalled in the history of the world; and after discovering such pre-eminent talents for Government, your moderation (magnanimity, I think the more correct expression) in the reliquishment of power, while at the highth of popularity, will perhaps excite no less admiration, and by convincing your cotemporaries & posterity that the services you have rendered your Country had no sinister or self interested view, must add lustre to your administration. Your last message Sir too will doubtless be considered a political legacy to your Country, and the National plans pointed out in it, must, within a few years be adopted. From the small share of information I possess on the subject, it appears to me that the extension of manufactures is necessary to render us a rich & truly independent peoples; for nothing can be more evident than while we import nearly twice the amount of the home produce which we export, that when the Commerce of Europe again flows in its usual channels, our Country must be drained of its circulating Coin to pay the difference; and that a considerable body of our Citizens must become the indirect dependents of their foreign Creditors. The years 1786, 7 & 8 exhibited the first, and most of our Capitals now exhibit the last in a small degree. The facility of internal communication by land & Water, in addition to its promoting the same object by a constant & rapid intercourse between one part of the Continent & the other, will tend to wear off local prejudices, introduce a spirit of harmony & affection between different parts of the Union, efface an unhappy idea which seems to generally to prevail and which many appear to be very desirous of inculcating, that nature has pointed out some of our great internal Water communications as a line of political separation, thus preventing her County in turning into a cause of division discord & misery, what the art of man in clearing their multiplied branches, and opening a channel by locks & canals between the nearest of those leading into different great streams could make a source of comfort & happiness to unborn millions; and a public system of education by inculcating generally principles of morals & honor & a similarity of sentiments & manners, will eminently tend to the same benevolent end, and will have a tendency to promote the permanence of our political institutions. So far as my little reading extends, China is the only Country where so benevolent a place in all its parts, has ever been, even partially attempted; and if Confucius was the author, the comparative happy state of China, with the rest of Asia, does as much honor to his Philosophical Wisdom as to the goodness of his intentions. But not to go to Asia for examples, if We look to Holland & England, the advantages arising from Manufactures, public roads & canals, will be found still more conspicuous. The one a Marsh, the other situated in so inclement a climate, that one of its best writers says that nature gave it only the floe, the haw & the acorn, yet principally by these means they have become two of the most flourishing Countries in the Universe. The success which has attended your plans in general will doubtless, Sir, give a sanction to those you recommend, which they could not receive from any other quarter: and although you have done so much for the welfare of your Country, my love for the care of a person I so highly respect is so far overcome by my attachment to that Country, as to make me hope that your elegant pen will be employed to illustrate the advantages & to impress on the public mind the necessity of the introduction of those plans. A subject of this importance I think cannot be too often touched upon, nor too stronly impressed on the public mind and I was gratified to see Sir that you again introduced it.—

So far as I can perceive, I am happy to find Sir that your internal administration has silenced your political enemies and the silence of party adversaries must be allowed to be mute praise; and I am satisfied that in less than a year your foreign policy will meet with the same mute applause from the same persons. In fact it struck me that the trifling opposition it met with this Session of Congress was more owing to party considerations than from a conviction on the minds of those members that the measures were wrong. The correspondence carried on with G.B. would doubtless at any time excite much attention in England; but in the present posture of their affairs, it will probably cause a ferment that may cost the Ministers their places. At all events it will tend to do away a prejudice which the Ministerial visits attempt to inculcate into the public mind, that our politicks & measures are governed by french interest & french influence; thus leaving the question to the fair sense of that Nation. Since the knowledge of the defeat of General Blake it evidently appears that the Ministry have had no system. They seem to have thought it necessary to do something, without knowing what to do. At times they have embarked troops, then ordered them ashore & sent out the empty transports, then embarking them again on board of others, then countermanding their sailing; and a scene exactly similar has been presented here. On the part of the Portuguese little efficient exertion has been made to oppose the French. A few regular regiments have been organized & an order published for the general arming of the people; who make some shew of exercising with guns & pikes once a week; but I imagine that the French will meet with little resistance in Portugal beyond some annoyance to their advanced posts & foraging parties. They are now as near us as the Bridges of the Archbishop & Almaraz on the Tagus; and I have little doubt of their being in possession of the whole Peninsula before june, if the Northern powers remain quiet.

I must now again take the liberty to solicit your commands, wherever I may be; and the alacrity & attention with which I shall fulfill them, will, I trust, evince the great pleasure I shall always take in complying with your wishes.

With sentiments of the most perfect veneration—I have the honor to be Sir Your Mo: Obliged & Obd. Servt

William Jarvis

P.S. 14 March

Several circumstances having detained the vessel by which this goes, affords me the opportunity of informing you that after a short contest the french have beat the Portuguese stationed near Braganza & entered that City; that a body of about three thousand B. troops which sailed from here the early part of feby., were refused an entrance into Cadiz, & returned here some days since; that the expedition of five thousand troops which sailed from England the latter part of feby. for Cadiz under the command of Genl. Sherbrook were refused admission into that place on the 9th instant & from thence reached here yesterday—I presume now that the B. M—will give up all hopes of Spain—15th It is to day confidently reported that the French are in possession of Chaves, the strongest town on the northern frontier. 17th. It is whisperd that Saragoa has certainly surrendered

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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