James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Murray Forbes, 22 November 1806

Hamburg 22nd. Novbr. 1806.


I had last the honor under 18t. ulto. announcing the Commencement of hostilities between France and Prussia and the various success of two small affairs there reported to ⟨ha⟩ve taken place. Previous to the date of my letter, however the fate of the Campaign as it regarded ⟨the⟩ Prussian Monarchy was nearly fixed. On the 14th. October a general Action was fought at ⟨Je⟩na on the Saal River in or near the Duchy of Weimar in which the grand prussian Army ⟨comma⟩nded by the king in person was totally defeated with an immense Loss both in killed and prisoners. ⟨The⟩ dispersed detachments of the Army, the two largest of which were under the Commands of ⟨Pr⟩ince Hohenlohe and General Blucher have at different periods between the 14th. last and 8th. present ⟨mo⟩nth fallen also into the hands of the French. The Corps under General Blücher about 14000 ⟨acti⟩vely pursued and almost continually engaged with a very superior force under Prince Murat ⟨an⟩d Marshall Bernadotte (now Prince de Ponte Corvo) traversed Mecklenburg and sought an ⟨A⟩sylum in our Sister City Lubec. Their resistance was desperate through ineffectual. Lubec was taken ⟨by⟩ Assault and exposed for several hours to indiscriminate Massacre and plunder. At least 5000 men were ⟨ki⟩lled in that unfortunate City and this City escaped a similar fate or even much greater evils from the <⟨most⟩ ⟨acci⟩dental Circumstance. Blucher was directing his flight to our Gates when he heard that a body of Swedes who had fled to Travemunde to embark, had a considerable park of Artillery with them. This Circumstance ⟨dec⟩ided him on flying to Lubec. The Inhabitants of this City were in the greatest Consternation for several ⟨da⟩ys. At length on the 8th. inst. Blucher and his whole Corps capitulated to Prince Murat and Prince ⟨de⟩ Ponte Corvo’s Corps near Travemunde. After the surrender of the Prussians, the French except a very ⟨sm⟩all number drew off towards Brandenburg to join the grand Army under the Emperor and the ⟨gen⟩eral opinion here was that this City and its immediate Vicinity would escape actual invasion. ⟨Thi⟩s hope however suddenly vanished when on Wednesday Morning last, the 19th. of the present mon⟨th M⟩arshall Marlier at the head of the Dutch Army called the Army of the North, notified to the Senat⟨e th⟩at he was to occupy the City on that day and accordingly entered our Gates at two o’Clock. About ⟨o⟩ne thousand came into the Gates that day, two thousand being lodged in the Suburb of St. George. ⟨Thi⟩s step was as little expected by the French Minister as by the Government of this City. Since that ⟨da⟩y troops have been daily entering the City and various Suburbs. Marshall Marlier has taken ⟨po⟩ssession of the City in the name of the Emperor & king and although the Senate have not yet ⟨been⟩ dissolved, the Garrison has been disarmed and the whole Police is in the hands of the French. On ⟨the 21⟩st a Proclamation was published here ordering the declaration of all British manufactures ⟨with⟩in 24 hours under pain of Military punishment. Inclosed is a printed Copy of this proclama⟨tio⟩n. Last night at a late hour all the members of the British factory together with some other ⟨con⟩siderable Merchants were arrested and detained untill about noon this day, when the Government ⟨of⟩ the City having given security, they were suffered to return to their houses accompanied by a guard ⟨hav⟩ing previously given their word of honor, not to quit the town, untill the Will of the Emperor ⟨is⟩ known. A Courier was immediately dispatched to Berlin with representations calculated ⟨to⟩ mollify the Severity of this measure and these Gentlemen are waiting the answer. It is difficult even to narrate the rapidly succeeding events of the present times. To conjecture the Consequences from one day to another is quite impossible. I must necessarily refer your Excellency for the details of the various Actions, to the official Bulletins. The views of the Emperor are confided to no one and while the most intelligent men are wholly unable to account for the sudden Change of Policy which has dictated the occupation of our City, it is supposed that even Marshall Marlier is uninstructed as to any further measure connected with it. It is universally admitted, however that this measure will give a most tremendous shock to the Commerce of all Europe. This has allways been the Central knot of those great Exchange ope⟨ra⟩tions which not only give life to trade, but are interwoven with the Finances of every Governmen⟨t of⟩ Europe. If, therefore the occupation of our City has for its object a blow at the trade of England, i⟨t⟩ will involve every Country in Europe in Consequences not less injurious. It is understood ⟨that⟩ the French are Masters of the Country quite up to the Wisla. All Communication with Prus⟨sia⟩ is intercepted by the Army. Of course we are ignorant, of what is going on there. I have ⟨recei⟩ved oral Assurances from the Governor of the City, that I shall be permitted to continue my functions. I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s very obedient Serv⟨ant⟩

(signed) J. M. C. Forbes

DNA: RG 59—CD—Consular Despatches, Hamburg.

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