James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 28 August 1806

Lisbon 28th: Aug: 1806


Inclosed I have the honor to hand you copies of mine of the 19th: Ultimo 9th. & 2nd. of 9th & 10th Inst; which went by the Brig Maria for Alexandria & the Brig Perseverance, Captn Bowler, for Providence R. I.

Lord St. Vincents arrived here the 14th: Instant with five line of battle Ships, a frigate & Sloop of War. His unexpected appearance has excited considerable Alarm; and employed the ingenuity of the whole Country to divine the causes of a Step so unexpected & extraordinary. All the reports in circulation relating thereto seem to be merely conjecture. At least they cannot be traced to any unexceptionable source. Those who wish & are determined that this Country shall remain in Peace say that it is nothing m⟨ore⟩ than to wait for Jerome Bonaparte, least he should get in here; the other ports in Europe which he will probably attem⟨pt⟩ being so closely beset, that ⟨he⟩ must inevitably fall into the hands of the English ⟨&⟩ offer in proof or as a fact corroborative of this opinion that three or four Men of War are kept ouside to wa⟨it⟩ for him: others say that it comes out in the course ⟨of⟩ the present Negotiation be⟨tween⟩ England & France, that the Emperor Napoleon has obta⟨ined⟩ all the Country north of ⟨the⟩ River Ebro, say Catalonia ⟨&⟩ Navarre, Guipuzcoa & Biscay & as an indemnification ⟨has⟩ consented that the King of Spain shall possess him⟨self⟩ of this Country. You will readily perceive what ⟨stress⟩ ought to be laid on thes⟨e⟩ reports. Those who preten⟨d to⟩ be best informed say ⟨that⟩ in the course of the Neg⟨otia⟩tion now depending, a threat has been made that in case a treaty was not concluded between the two Countries, England & France, that British Manufactures should be excluded from this port Country, & dependencies, or in case of a refusal a French Army would take possession of it Portugal. That the British Govmt. to prevent the execution of this threat, or that any very beneficial consequences should result to France from such a step, or injurious ones to themselves, have ordered these Men of War here, & if needful will send a considerable reinforcement, with a sufficient number of transports, to take off the Portugueze Navy, the effects of the British Merchants, & to assist to the carrying off the wealth of such Portugueze as choose to quit the Country. In fine to take away the Royal Family if they choose to quit it for the Brazils & to destroy all the Provision⟨s⟩ & stores, that if the French do come, they shall have little more than the bar⟨e⟩ Walls of Lisbon & as barr⟨en⟩ a Country. That the arrival of this Squadron has som⟨e⟩ relation to the Negotiatio⟨ns⟩ carrying on at Paris, I h⟨ave⟩ little doubt; but what, ⟨I⟩ beleive no body here, besi⟨des⟩ those who are directly co⟨n⟩cerned in explaining the ⟨cause⟩ of the step, have any kno⟨w⟩ledge. It is possible that Fr⟨ance⟩ finding England not so c⟨om⟩plying as they could wis⟨h⟩ may have made some threat of the kind; but ⟨I⟩ cannot be persuaded, w⟨ith⟩ any serious intention ⟨of⟩ carrying it into executi⟨on⟩ because I cannot belei⟨ve⟩ she would do a thing s⟨o⟩ evidently contrary to her interest. For it is certainly contrary to her interest for the English to possess themselves of the Brazils & the other Foreign Colonies of this Crown, or if the Royal Family should go there (to the Brazils), by the protection she has & will afford, from the Superiority of her Navy, to command pretty much the whole of that valuable trade: and probably obtain the Açores & Madeira in hand for the Service rendered. As the English have no Wine Countries those would be a very valuable acquisition to them. The Squadron under Lord St. Vincents lay eight days before Prattic was granted it; but a frigate which arrived here the day before yesterday bringing the Earl of Rosslyn & Genl. Simpcoe (Simcoe I beleive) got Prattic yesterday. If any thing can be inferred from this, it is, that a change favourable to Gt. Britain has be⟨en⟩ produced; or possibly the fo⟨r⟩mer was only accident ⟨as⟩ the Prince & Minister of Foreign Affairs were then in the Country. It is no⟨t⟩ known, but said, that ⟨the⟩ Earl of Rosslyn, is come here as Envoye Extraord⟨i⟩nary. People however are much puzzled to know ⟨the⟩ business of the General. Hi⟨s⟩ arrival has tended to renovate a report that Sixteen ⟨to⟩ twenty five thousand B⟨ri⟩tish troops are to be sen⟨t⟩ here. This I cannot belei⟨ve⟩ because this number of troops are only suffici⟨ent⟩ to embroil this Countr⟨y⟩ but not to defend it and because the Britis⟨h⟩ not sending in more ⟨ves⟩sels of War than are all⟨owed⟩ by Treaty between this Country ⟨&⟩ France do not disco⟨ver⟩ a disposition unnecess⟨arily⟩ to hazard its Neutrality.

It will be unnecessary for me at this time to observe, that the information I received from the Secretary of the French Legation, relative to Peace was devoid of foundation. At least it was premature. I was disposed to give more credit to it, from the report of the Courier having brought similar advice to this Government; and when I spoke to ⟨Monsr⟩ Legoy as if I was doubtful of the Peace upon the terms he mentioned, observing that I had no question but the English would make Peace on those conditions, he replied that the preliminaries were actually signed upon those terms, repeating it with some emphasis; and besides, from all the information I had before received from him having proved true.

Inclosed Sir you will receive three communications relative to the imprisonment of Mr Marcilleino Rs. da Silva, my deputy Consul for Faro. I was much at a loss what to do regarding him, h⟨e⟩ having four days before told m⟨e⟩ that his Mercantile business had turned out so badly at ⟨Faro⟩ that he should not return, ⟨of⟩ course that the Office was aga⟨in⟩ vacated. But as he had not ⟨re⟩turned his Commission, & I ⟨con⟩sidered that his treatment had been in the highest deg⟨ree⟩ cruel, I determined to apply ⟨for⟩ him. As the answer of the ⟨judge⟩ contradicted in General poin⟨ts⟩ the facts stated in mine of 26th: July to His Excellency, I ⟨wrote⟩ out the necessary questions, to ⟨be⟩ answered under Oath, to substa⟨nti⟩ate the truth of my assertio⟨ns,⟩ which luckily, in all the mat⟨erial⟩ points, there was witnesses to ⟨prove;⟩ not choosing to let the truth ⟨of⟩ what I had said rest upon ⟨my⟩ own assertion. This delay occa⟨sioned⟩ by having this evidence ta⟨ken⟩ legally, was the cause of Mr da ⟨Silva⟩ being detained a few days lo⟨nger⟩ but the 22nd. the order was sent ⟨to re⟩lease him, with his Books pa⟨pers &⟩ Cash. The next day after His ⟨Excy’s⟩ Office reached the Judge in⟨quir⟩ing into the cause of Mr da ⟨Silva’s⟩ imprisonment, he requested ⟨leave⟩ of absence, under pretence ⟨of⟩ illness, & has gone into the Country, substituting another Judge in his place.

With this goes three letters from Mr Erving & in another packet four, two Recd. from Mr Kirkpatric & one from Mr. Baker. These would have been forwarded sooner had any opportunity offered since the Perseverance With perfect Respect I have the honor to be Sir Yr. Mo: Ob: Servt

William Jarvis

31st. Aug:

Probably this Country is exhibiting now a Political Phenomenon rarely to be met with; impressments for Soldiers in every quarter of the City, but not any additional hands put on or apparently any steps taken to fit out, the Marine; altho out of ten or 11 line of battle Ships now laid up, five or Six frigates & 7 or 8 Sloops of War, not more than a third could be got to Sea, short of a six weeks or two months repair.

DNA: RG 59--CD--Consular Despatches, Lisbon.

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