James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 23 October 1807

Lisbon 23rd: Octr. 1807


The foregoing is a copy of my last which went by the Brig Betsey Captn Bradford for Philada: The British Convoy sailed the 17th: Instant, about 55 Sail of Merchantmen in all. There remain about twenty Englishmen now here & several vessels are yet loading, but all will be gone in about a week. The Minister & Consul will leave here in a few days in a Brig of War now waiting for them. Yesterday the decree of which the inclosed is a copy was put up in the public places usual on these occasions. Although it does not go to the prohibiting of British produce & Manufactures, it is certainly tantamount to a declaration of War. In what light the British Cabinet may choose to view it, or what measures it may call forth, I shall not venture even to Surmise. Perhaps the obligation imposed on this Country may be some extenuation of the step. The greatest exertions are still continued to prepare the fleet for Sea. There are now five or six line of battle ships ready, & two or three will be so in a day or two, making eight, three frigates and three or four smaller vessels. The preparations for the departure of the Prince of Beira are still continued. All descriptions of Stor⟨es⟩ are publicly preparing for him. As a place of Security to obviate the deman⟨ds⟩ of either Gt. Britain or France t⟨o⟩ take the Navy, & possibly to prevent the conseqences to Lisbon of any forcible attempt to get possessio⟨n⟩ of it, I should not be surprised if the whole fleet was sent to th⟨e⟩ Brazils. Perhaps the Prince of Beira may be sent, as a decen⟨t⟩ apology for its departure. But ⟨I⟩ still beleive that His going wi⟨ll⟩ depend on circumstances, pro⟨ba⟩bly on the final determinatio⟨n⟩ of the Emperor Napoleon, which ⟨it⟩ is said is daily expected. At pr⟨e⟩sent however every thing seem⟨s⟩ to wear the appearance of resi⟨st⟩ance against Gt. Britain. Th⟨e⟩ Horse & foot are all ordered ⟨to⟩ the Sea coast. New batteries a⟨re⟩ erecting along the shore & the mouth of the River. A considerable train of field artillery went through the City toward the Sea coast, and in fact the only preparations for defense now making is in that quarter. As late as the 12th: the French Army had not moved from Bayonne, but it is said that a Spanish Army to the amount of 25,000 Men were marching toward this Country. But should the English blockade the port it will be obliged to return as there is not more than two Months bread in the Warehouses, for the consumption of the City, & the harvest has not yielded more than four or five for the Country. This is one & a very powerful means of annoyance which a maritime enemy will have over this Kingdom, which thank God, ours is exempt from. I wait with impatience the arrival of a packet from England to learn more distinctly the probable issue of our demands. I have till within a very few days sanguinely calculated on an amicable termination of ou⟨r⟩ differences with Gt. Britain; because I was satisfied that in addition to its being but a common act of justice to give u⟨s⟩ ample satisfaction for the ou⟨t⟩rage committed, as well as Security for the future, it wa⟨s⟩ greatly for her interest so to do; and circumstanced as she now is it would be the highth of impolicy to break with us in fact nothing short of politica⟨l⟩ madness; But if she forces us in⟨to⟩ the contest, I think her crazy machine cannot withstand shock five years. To us it ca⟨n⟩ot prove a permanent evil, if it Sweeps off some of our cir⟨cu⟩lating wealth, it will check the growing luxury of our Coun⟨try⟩ which in time may prove so⟨me⟩ advantage. With perfect Respec⟨t⟩ I have the honor to ⟨be⟩ Sir Yr Mo: Ob: Ser⟨vt⟩

William Jar⟨vis⟩

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

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