James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 12 January 1808


Lisbon 12th: January 1808.


The inclosures of the 21st: Ulto. 4th & 9th instant are copies of my three last letters which went by the way of St: Uber in the Brig Perseverance Captn: Atkins for New York & the Ship Active Capt: King for Philadelphia. I have now the honor to inform you, that after several applications, both verbal & written, Passports have been granted for our Vessels to proceed to Sea, with the promise that in future there shall be no detention whatever. I have been also authorised to say that our Vessels would be admitted into the Ports of this Kingdom, no matter from whence they came without any questions being asked, when laded with Provisions. The order is passed at the Customhouse for the admission of them ⟨Rice⟩.

Among the numbers of arrestations which has been made in this Kingdom of British Subjects, was Mr.⟨Wm⟩ Baker, my Consular Agent for Figueira, who with the Partners of the house have held the Office 17 Years: and with His effects the Judge included four hundred barrels of flour & twenty ⟨   ⟩ of Corn imported in the Schooner Lucy Captain Cotton from Plymouth belonging to Messrs. Daniel & Charles Jackson of that place. When I was made acquainted with it about a fortnight ago I made a verbal application to Monsr. Herman the Administrator General of the Finances & to Monsr: ⟨   ⟩ charged with the Sequestration of British Property, & was ⟨glad⟩ to learn from Figueira Yesterday that the Sequestra⟨tion⟩ was taken off the property & that Mr ⟨Wm⟩: Baker w⟨as⟩ freed from his confinement to His house.

As there is no means yet ⟨   ⟩ out, of Quadrating the cravings of hunger with the Quantity of Provisions, the Blockade of this Port ⟨is⟩ likely to cause the greatest distress. Whilst the B⟨ritish⟩ Government are professing in their public Do⟨   ⟩ in England, the greatest regard to the Portugueze Nation, by way of a proof of their friendship ⟨they⟩ are in act actually Starving them. The Supply ⟨of⟩ an Army of 25 to thirty thousand Men, in ⟨a⟩ conquered, or what is tantamaunt a conquered Ci⟨ty⟩ must be certain; and should all the inhabitants ⟨starve⟩ the Army must be fed; so that preventing the ⟨entry⟩ of Provisions they do not injure the French ⟨Army⟩ but the inhabitants of Portugal.

Reviewing my last let⟨ter I⟩ am Still more Strongly impressed with the ⟨wish⟩ I in that took the liberty to express that my ⟨Country⟩ would not be involved in Active offensive operations ⟨against⟩ Gt: Britain. It is appears to me that they will be ⟨   ⟩ with an expensive highly injurious to the public, wi⟨thout⟩ causing any proportionate injury to the enemy. On the reverse from the financial necessities of that Nation I imagine we can injure them much more by defensive measures. Prohibiting their Manufactures, laying an embargo, and if necessary Sequestering British Debt as a Security for the just demands of the Americans for the payment of their illegal Captures is a much more Secure & certain means of bringing that Government to a compliance with our just demands. In fact the destruction of our Commerce leaves us no alternative but that of prohibiting their Manufactures, unless we Suffer the whole wealth of our Country to be drawn from us to pay for those articles of superfluity. Their prohibition too, will be attended with the advantage of intrading the Manufactures of the Cotton & other produce of our own Soil & rendering us more independent of Foreign Nations in addition to Keeping our Wealth within ourselves. An embargo Presents the obvious advantages of securing our property at the same time we distress Gt: Britain both at home & abroad.

The Schooner New York having been Stranded near Vilha Real, & an extraordinary demand made for duties, I wrote to General Solano, who particularly governs all Portugal South of t⟨he⟩ Tagus, to order their remission which he said to ⟨the⟩ Vice Consul at St: Uber who delivered the letter he would immediately do. The inclosed of the ⟨4th⟩ Jany. is a Copy of that letter. Inclosed are Copies of my ⟨letters⟩ to General Junot 24th: Decr: & 4th: Instant ⟨   ⟩ to the detention of our Vessels, Duplicates ⟨of⟩ letters to you of the 21st: Decr: & the 4th: & 9th: ⟨inst⟩ a copy of a letter from Mr. Lear a letter ⟨from⟩ Mr. Erving & the Several public Orders of Genera⟨l⟩ Junot. With perfect Respect I have the honor to ⟨be⟩ Sir! Yr: Mo: Obedt: ⟨Servt:⟩

William Jarv⟨is⟩

N. B. In the course of the foregoing I have mentioned the passports had been granted to our vessels and although I much doubt whether I deserve praise or Censure in this transaction, yet I think it my duty to acquaint you with the particulars which related to it; trusting that as I have acted as I thought most conducive to the interest of my Countrymen, I shall merit the excuse of Government although the affair has been attended with some irregularity. After the several applications I had made both verbal & written to Genl. Junot & Monsr. Herman, for permission for our vessels to proceed to Sea, to the former of which I always experienced the utmost politeness & constant promise of their being granted immediately; I personally applied again on the 10th. instant to Genl. Junot to know his determination, as mentioned in my last. ⟨   ⟩ The 10th I ⟨sent⟩ to know what it was. The answer was that it was necessary to see the proprietors of the Cargo, all which I sent, when the Secretary observed that the passports would be given in the evening. The Baron Stocqueler, Austrian Consul General, who ⟨i⟩s also Consul General of the Hanse Towns had been waiting there some time on the same business. Shortly after I received this answer the Austrian Vice Consul who was there with the Consul Genl. called on me ⟨&⟩ said that he beleived the passports would not be given without being paid for. A little before dinner Captns. Williams & Kitts (both bound home) had been sent and were taken into a room, when a Gentleman of the General’s family told them, that he had the passports in his hands, shewing them, and if they would give fifty pieces a piece for them they should have them. This they positively refused. ⟨   ⟩ then fell to forty, then to thirty, which they still refusing the Gentleman observed in French (which Captn Williams talks very well) that he was charged with the business of the passports & that he would give them his honor that they should not have them without paying for ⟨   ⟩. I sen⟨t⟩ in the evening, but no one could be seen Of the Austrian Vice Consul in the evening they demanded fifty pieces for each vessel. Somethi⟨ng⟩ of the kind had been indirectly mentioned to me through a third person some days before, when I observed that if any accommod⟨a⟩tions in trade were given, my Countryme⟨n⟩ would have no objection to pay for them but as to the fair open trade between the United States & Portugal and back it w⟨as⟩ entirely out of the question. In this way I have no doubt they would have been perfectly satisfied to understand it, ha⟨d⟩ not the same two Captains that were sent for, by the advice of some busy p⟨er⟩son, sent a petition to the General ⟨for⟩ their passports, it being suggested to them that they were detained on acco⟨unt⟩ of the two others bound to the Northward This I learnt only after the proposition ha⟨d⟩ been made to them for the 50 pcs. To ha⟨ve⟩ taken the Treaty between the two Nation⟨s⟩ to convince them of the impropriety of the d⟨e⟩tention & to rebut the demand when the more powerful arguments of the want ⟨of⟩ the Country for Bread Stuffs & of the im⟨me⟩diate departure of the vessels affording the most ready & sure m⟨eans⟩ of a supply, I considered as useless; for rights & ⟨   ⟩ of this kind have Seldom much weight with men who from profession are in the habit of construing Treaties with their Swords. I consequently determined to wait on the Gentleman & make the best money bargain I could with him; which by interesting him in the immediate dispatch of the passports would in the end be a considerable saving to our flag. I therefore in the morning waited on him & after the usual salutations observed to him "Monsr: vous etes baucoup trop fort and after conversing about an hour, I observed that there could be no doubt that a reasonable fee ought to be given for the dispatch of papers & when any facilities of trade were granted that more could be afforded. I proposed five pieces (Joes) for Captn Kitts & ten for captain Williams (both as before observed bound home) fifteen for a small Schooner bound to the North & thirty for a Brig; which after some farther talk & consulting with another he complied with: and that all vessels bound to the United States over 200 Tons should pay as a fee of Office ten pieces & all under five pieces; and that those bound to the North over 250 Tons should pay fifty pieces over 200 & under 250 forty pieces over 150 30 pcs. over 100 = 20 pcs. & under 15 pcs. but were to be allowed to go wherever agreeable & the passports to be granted immediately. As this would prevent the demand of the troublesome & inconvenient bonds not to go to an enemy’s port, which had been demanded in several places where the French Armies had entered, would prevent all embarrassments & detentions similar to what had been experienced in other places particularly Hamburg for six months, would be the means of giving the Vessels now in port enormous freights, who have the Certificates formerly mentioned, would prevent the probability of much greater impositions was each Individual left to bargain for themselves, ⟨   ⟩ as the present cannot be considered as a regular Government, I concluded it best to do what I never have done before and wha⟨t⟩ I certainly would not have submitted to ⟨from⟩ an established Government. This transaction may be deemed as departing somewhat from Official dignity but when an unmeaning Official consequence comes in competition with the interest of my Countrymen, I shall always be content to ⟨   ⟩ much of the exterior importance of Office to the⟨ir⟩ accommodation & advantage. The Austrian Consul General was perfectly content to comply with the same terms for his flag The freighters of the two vessels bound to ⟨the⟩ North paid the whole for those two ves⟨s⟩els.

Lord Chesterfield says the man⟨ner⟩ is every thing. I was never more disposed to acquiesce in the justice of this observ⟨a⟩tion: for the person I was carrying on the very honorable & truly dutchmanlike nego⟨ti⟩ation with is a Man of polite & polishe⟨d⟩ manners, and really conducted the bus⟨i⟩ness with so much ease & in a stile so Gentleman like, that I almost lost sight of the nature of the transaction The perquisite I understood was to be ⟨di⟩vided amongs three. With Respect & [  ]

W— J—

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

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