James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 18 June 1803

From William Jarvis, 18 June 1803

Lisbon 18th. June 1803.


Since I had the honor to address you few occurrences have taken place in Europe that I presume will not be communicated from the Scene of Action much before this will reach Washington. Between that date and the publication of the inclosed State Paper a hot press was set on foot by the English Vessels of War in this Port, but in no instance did they impress American Seamen with Protection; those without as well as the English that had shipped in the United States were released immediately by an application from the office. After the declaration was issued the impress Service ceased. It has been the great object of this Court since there was the smallest appearance of a renewal of hostilities to remain neuter, but it is much feared that they will not, should the War continue for any length of time, it being confidently said that General Lannes has in several instances pressed the Prince to consent to 25,000 Men being sent here to protect the Country; which the Prince has positively refused, accompanied with a declaration that if the French marched any Troops into the Country he would immediately leave it, with whatever he could take with him to the Brazils. However it must seem that this report is incorrect; or else the Government do not feel very appre⟨hensive⟩ of such an event, the bulk of the fleet laying dismantled i⟨n⟩ the River and many of the Ships want considerable rep⟨airs⟩ and no Steps whatever taken to put them in order for ⟨Sea.⟩ Such conduct in most other nations would be the stronge⟨st⟩ evidence of their safety and may be deemed so in this, if ⟨the⟩ French finding that they cannot take possession by the con⟨sent⟩ of the Government are not determined to lull them into ⟨an⟩ entire Security that if they conclude it necessary to strik⟨e will⟩ enable them to take possession of the fleet as well as the Country. But whatever Security the Government may f⟨eel,⟩ the mercantile World seem to be totally void of any; the exchange on London having fallen from 68d: to 64d: per milreis and nobody will sell at that; and the Paper has depreciated from 5 to 9 perCent. Possibly this may be ow⟨ing⟩ to the panic in London having depressed the excha⟨nge⟩ between the advice by the two Packets from Par to 60d: per milrei (ie. 7 1/2d [. . .] per milrei or 12 1/2 per Cent.) Those facts I have adduced as the best criterion of the public Sentiments regarding this Country: but when ⟨it⟩ reverts to the fluctuation of the Public funds [. . .] from the fabricated Paragraphs in their Papers [. . .] it may not be considered as a Criterion; the fall having been much accelerated by Mercantile Letters from thence. The official advice from Mr. King to Lord Hawkesbury received by the last Packet concerning Louisianna gave me the most entire satisfaction. I have not entertained much doubt since the misunderstanding between France & England that very favorable Terms could be obtained; but ever believed that the Pride of Bunaparte and what might be conceived the glory of the nation would make the Government withhold their consent to an unqualified cession. The cession however can hardly be sufficiently appreciated if it was for no other reason than that assigned by the English Ministry as the chief motive for the renewal of hostilities, Security; but for several other reasons, some of which I took the Liberty to offer in my last, I conceive that Country belonging to us of the greatest consequence to our Welfare. This with the Success that the Wisdom of the Executive has almost invariably secured, will make the President the Idol of our Country. Notwithstanding, I think that Government ought to have had a little more mercy on the good Federalists; for should it prove as hot a Summer at home as we are likely to have here from the Commencement of it; I really am apprehensive that causing a suppression of the usual ebullition of gall it may create a redundance of bile which turning putrid may destroy thousands with the yellow fever; beside which, if he had only consented to let those Gentlemen had their own way last winter, it would h⟨ave⟩ afforded an opportunity to have blooded a great ma⟨ny⟩ of our fellow Citizens; a fine thing for plethoric ⟨hands⟩ in warm weather, and an admirable Specific aga⟨inst ⟩ dying of acute fevers and lingering Diseases.

The circular letter to the Consuls of the ⟨U. S.⟩ with the supplementary Consular Act, the Acts of the Session of the 7th. Congress and the President’s Letter ⟨and⟩ Duplicate to the Prince Regent I received and sh⟨all⟩ duly attend thereto. No Provision is made in the ⟨Letter⟩ for Men who are necessarily left behind from Sickness and the Law can be evaded altogether by the Capta⟨ins⟩ and Seamen so far coming to an agreement as to ⟨have⟩ the latter abscond for 48 hours; this might in a g⟨reat⟩ measure be avoided by it’s being made a Duty in⟨cumbent⟩ on the Captain to apply to the Consul to app⟨rove⟩ such Mariner and being obliged to swear that ⟨the⟩ desertion was not by his Knowledge or Cons⟨ent.⟩

Inclosed is a copy of my note covering ⟨the⟩ President’s letter.

No occurrence worthy of notice was communicated in several letters from different Ports in the Streights by the last post.

To-day I got an american Seaman cleared from Prison who was taken from the Brig Betsey of New York, Captn. James Mc.Call, about three Weeks since for smuggling Tobacco.

A thing that I conceived some national advantage, I find that many of my candid Countrymen are dissatisfied with; the fact is that four times the Quantity of bread Stuff has arrived here this Spring that ever was known in the same length of Time; the consequent depression of price, the effect of their own imprudent speculations, many have the modesty to assert was caused by the admission of flour. I really think them nearer right than they seem to be aware of, for if the prohibition had not been taken off, an opportunity would not have been afforded to have acted so injudiciously. I have the Honor to be, Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant,

William Jarvis

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