James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 22 January 1807

Lisbon 22nd. Jany. 1807


The last letter I had the honor to address to you was under date of the 20 Ulto. & went by the Brig Maria, Captn. Hilliard, via New York. I was favoured a few days Since with two copies of the Presidents message at the opening of the present Session of Congress. Few things could have gratified me more than such a picture of the happy state of our Country from authority so unquestionable. The great benefit which his Country has already reaped from his services, and the fatherly love & care he shews toward it ⟨in⟩ attempting to perpetuate its happiness & prosperity by the wisest ⟨p⟩lans, must greatly endear him ⟨to⟩ his Countrymen & make pos⟨te⟩rity venerate his memory. Did ⟨s⟩uch ideas want the ornament of stile, the simple elegance & perspicuity of the composition mu⟨st⟩ make them appear to the greates⟨t⟩ advantage. I did not know wh⟨at⟩ I could do better with the two tha⟨n⟩ to inclose one to His Excellen⟨cy⟩ Mr d’Araujo & to wait on the Fre⟨nch⟩ Charge with the other, requesting him to deliver it to the Span⟨ish⟩ Ambassador. Two nights afterwa⟨rds⟩ I met them both at a third pla⟨ce⟩ in a large company. They both appeared pleased with it. A stra⟨nge⟩ story had got about here that ⟨Colo.⟩ Burr, had caused an insurrecti⟨on⟩ in Kentucky, the object of which⟨h⟩ was to cause a separation betw⟨een⟩ the Western & Eastern States. Absu⟨rd⟩ as this was many appeared ⟨to⟩ beleive it & among the rest I ⟨found⟩ the French Charge inclined to ⟨give⟩ some Credit to it; but the mess⟨age⟩ has eradicated every impressi⟨on⟩ of the kind. The Secretaries of t⟨he⟩ Legations also appeared to be pleased with it. I think Moore ⟨in⟩ his Travells somewhere obs⟨erved⟩ that a Frenchman is alway ⟨will⟩ing to allow great merit to every ⟨o⟩ther Nation, because he beleived that France was so decidedly superior to all other Countries, that no one would pretend to dispute her pre-eminence. It may be owing to this National vanity that ⟨a⟩ Frenchman when he praises a great Man of another Nation ⟨i⟩t is generally by a comparison ⟨w⟩ith some one of his own. The Secretary of Legation in speak⟨i⟩ng of the President compared him ⟨with⟩ Henry the fourth of France after the Civil Wars were ended. This ⟨is⟩ no small praise in the mouth ⟨of⟩ a Frenchman, for of all their ⟨lo⟩ng line of kings he is the only ⟨on⟩e whom they seem to speak of ⟨w⟩ith affection. I shall take the ⟨l⟩iberty to hand inclosed my ⟨n⟩ote accompanying the mes⟨sa⟩ge with His Excy. Mr d’Araujo’s ⟨an⟩swer in English.

The late edict ⟨d⟩eclaring England in a State ⟨of⟩ Blockade, completely paralized ⟨tr⟩ade here for three or four ⟨we⟩eks. It was generally expected that a similar declaration wou⟨ld⟩ have been made on the part ⟨of⟩ Gt. Britain & as that Nation ⟨has⟩ a fleet adequate to the enforce⟨ment⟩ of it, the ruin of Neutral Co⟨m⟩merce was looked on as certa⟨in.⟩ At last a packet arrived bringing advices to the 28th. Ultimo, ⟨at⟩ which time no notice being ⟨ta⟩ken of it, not even in the Ki⟨ng’s⟩ speech, in some degree restor⟨ed⟩ confidence to the Mercantile world. I understand that Many ⟨pri⟩vateers are fitting out both in France & Spain in consequen⟨ce of⟩ it & am apprehensive that the⟨y⟩ will give much embarrassme⟨nt⟩ to our Commerce; which m⟨ust⟩ be attended with Serious dislo⟨cat⟩ions, always unpleasant but which it is peculiarly desira⟨ble⟩ under existing circumstanc⟨es⟩ to avoid if possible. I confess ⟨it⟩ was the last thing I should ever ⟨have⟩ expected; for in addition to th⟨e⟩ palpable infringement on th⟨e⟩ law of Nations, I cannot persu⟨ade⟩ myself that it is consistent wi⟨th⟩ sound policy, for was the English to retaliate with their superiority at Sea, it must distress the French Nation exceedingly. From the British writings I had supposed that they long had wanted a pretext for destroying Neutral Commerce & that they would have siezed the opening that this had offered with the greatest avidity. That they have not done it, makes me conclude that the Ministry are again turning their attention toward a Peace.

There has been a report here for some time past that Buenos Ayres was retaken by the Spaniards the 12 August, but it rests altogether on the authority of private letters. This would be a thing very acceptable to the Portugueze, for fear the possession of that Country by the English, should leave the opening to such an immense ⟨c⟩ontraband with the Brazils ⟨a⟩s nearly to destroy the trade between the mother Country & ⟨her⟩ Colonies.

A circular from Capt⟨n.⟩ Campbell will accompany th⟨is.⟩ I did not comply with his wi⟨shes⟩ in making it public, as I cons⟨i⟩dered it would tend to injur⟨e⟩ our flag without any imme⟨di⟩ate danger. These people seldo⟨m⟩ get to Sea before May or june. If I am well informed, the Tun⟨i⟩sian vessels are not in the hig⟨h⟩est state of repair; of course it must take some time to ⟨re⟩pair them; beside which, after ⟨wit⟩nessing the result of the War, t⟨heir⟩ neighbours the Tripolines, engag⟨ed⟩ in with us, I cannot beleive th⟨ey⟩ will be very much inclined ⟨to⟩ break with us; and if they d⟨o,⟩ there is already a force in the Mediterranean, that would aff⟨ord⟩ ⟨a⟩ very considerable protection to our Commerce against ⟨that⟩ power; I therefore concluded to shew the letter to such as were bound into the streights, by way of precaution; and I hope Govmt. will not disapprove of my not making it public.

A short time since the Quarantine was lessend from eight days to five from Philada. & New York & from five to three from all other ports in the U. S., but I am afraid that I shall not get any alteration in the discharge by Bira. With the most perfect Respect I have the honor to be Sir Yr: Mo: Ob: Servt

William Jarvis

P. S. A Sloop of War which arrived at Faro a few days Since brings advice ⟨that⟩ a Treaty had actually been entered in⟨to⟩ lately, sometime, in Novr. between Gt. Britain & Russia & the porte. The most ⟨pro⟩minent articles are, that those two powers shall be entitled to trade i⟨n⟩ the Black Sea for nine years & that ⟨the⟩ Russians shall be allowed to recr⟨uit⟩ their Armies in the Turkish domi⟨n⟩ions, probably in the Christian p⟨ro⟩vinces, & be permitted to March thr⟨o⟩ the Turkish territories whenever th⟨e⟩ affairs of War required it. This ⟨no⟩ doubt will be viewed as a virtu⟨al⟩ declaration of War, whenever it may suit the convenience of Fra⟨nce.⟩

Upon the Royal Decr⟨ee⟩ being handed me two days sinc⟨e⟩ from the "Real Fazenda" I was happ⟨y⟩ to perceive that it not only cle⟨ared⟩ Captn. Hooper of the duties on h⟨is⟩ Cargo, but also conferred a favo⟨ur⟩ on Commerce at large. The ol⟨d⟩ franquia Law (ie the Law which⟨h⟩ granted the privildge of Ves⟨sels⟩ under certain circumstances, ⟨pro⟩ceeding to Sea without payin⟨g⟩ the duties on the inward Cargo, but paying the regular port charges on the Vessel) made it necessary that a Vessel should have been bound to a foreign port & have put in here owing to actual distress of weather or a want of necessaries to obtain this priviledge: when the judge or administrator of the customhouse determined what number of days she should be allowed to lay. By the present edict however Vessels are allowed to take the benefit of a franquia for ten days when entering for the purposes of Commercial speculations only. This will save much trouble & secure a point of much Service to our flag; inasmuch as it will prevent any further embarrassment to such vessels as it is desired should proceed elsewhere in Search of a better market. The decree goes inclosed with a Translation: and its benefits will be duly appreciated when it is recollected that the most of our Vessels come here on speculating Voyages & procee⟨d⟩ to such places as offer the best p⟨ri⟩ces for the Cargoes, which the central situation of this place enables with ease to do, when the markets here are not favorable. Within a few months p⟨ast⟩ there has been here several pe⟨r⟩sons of respectability from New Orleans, to whom I have ma⟨de⟩ it a rule to give the most pointed attention, wishing ⟨to⟩ do the little in my power to m⟨ake⟩ Government as popular as p⟨os⟩sible in that quarter.

P. S.

29th. Jany.


Monsr. Rayneval the Fren⟨ch⟩ Charge d Affaires the last even⟨ing⟩ informed me that a decisive battle had been fought betwe⟨en⟩ the French & Russian Armie⟨s.⟩ It commenced the 22nd. Decr. near Osterode by the french attacking the whole Russian line, continued the 23rd. 24, 25, 26, 27 & 28th. when the french obtained a complete Victory; Killing, wounding & taking prisoners 30,000 Men, the rest of the Russian Army flying in all directions. The whole of the Russian Artilery & field equipage fell into the hands of the french: The Emperor Napoleon at the head of one column of his army consisting of 50,000 was pursuing his route to Memel, by which the communication between the Prussians & Russians would be completely cut off. The Maria being detained longer than was expected affords me the opportunity of communicating this information by her.

W. J.

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

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