James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Leander Cathcart, 14 January 1808

Madeira Jany. 14th. 1808


I have the honour to inform you that on the 24th. Ulto. Sir Samuel Hood ⟨w⟩ith Four Sail of the Line, five Frigates & ⟨a⟩ number of Transports with General Berresford ⟨&⟩ four Thousand Troops on board, anchor’d ⟨w⟩ithin two Cables length of this City & imme⟨d⟩iately clapped Springs on their Cables & hoisted ⟨o⟩ut their Batteaux & apparently made every preparation to make a vigorous attack upon the Town in case of resistance. At half past ⟨t⟩hree P.M. three British Officers landed & ⟨w⟩ent to the Governors Pallace, who called a ⟨C⟩ouncil of War & arrangements immediately took place for landing the Troops & putting them in possession of all the Fortifications, ⟨w⟩hich was effected in all that evening in perfect good order & tranquility. Thus has this valuable Colony fallen a Victim to t⟨he⟩ Hectors of the Ocean, as Portugal itself to the little petulant Bully of the Continent & the poor Prince Regent has gone with a few Nobles & Priests to his Possessions in the Brazils, not knowing which has don⟨e⟩ him the greatest injury, his pretended friends or his declared Enemies. The London of Ninety Guns one of the Britis⟨h⟩ Squadron that accompanied him to the Brazil touched here on the 11th. Ulto. & gav⟨e⟩ us the first information of his having ab⟨di⟩cated the Throne of his Ancestors if I may be allow’d the expression & had pass⟨ed⟩ by on the night before on his way to the Cape de Verd Islands where the Squadr⟨on⟩ is to rendevous. This intelligence came very opportunely before the arrival of Sir Sam⟨uel⟩ Hood & has prevented the effusion of bloo⟨d⟩ for the Governor had every thing prepare⟨d⟩ to resist their landing before the Lond⟨on a⟩rrived but the departure of the Prince ⟨a⟩lter’d his determination. On the 26th. the Articles of Capitulation were signed & the British Flag was displayed without ⟨a⟩ny parade as a thing of course & a mere ⟨tr⟩ifle in the Scale of National events.

On the 1st. of January 1808 An Oath of Allegi⟨a⟩nce to his Britannic Majesty was admi⟨n⟩istred to the Council & heads of Departments ⟨   ⟩. Books were opened at the Pallace for ⟨s⟩ubscribers to the said Oath. On the ⟨2⟩d. the Embargo was taken off which had ⟨e⟩xisted since the arrival of the Squadron & ⟨t⟩he Governor indicated to me by letter & likewise, ⟨by⟩ Message that the Trade between the Island ⟨&⟩ the United States would not be interupted ⟨b⟩ut permitted to flow in its usual Channel; ⟨I⟩ have likewise to observe that no Vessel is ⟨p⟩ermitted to clear out at this Island from ⟨an i⟩nterdicted Port, nor are Vessels from thence ⟨p⟩ermitted to land their Cargoes. The Schooner Summer of Boston Capt. Waine, with fish & four Pipes of Brandy from Nantz arrived her⟨e⟩ a few days ago, but was not permitted to la⟨nd⟩ a single Article, not even sufficient to pay her Port Charges & the Captain was inform⟨ed⟩ that if he was found attempting to enter an interdicted Port he would be captured & condemned. The Brig Equator, Tulloch of Portsmouth N H was boarded off Lisbon by the Defence of 74, The Lieutenant of whi⟨ch⟩ endorsed his Register & inform’d Capt. Tullo⟨ch⟩ that if he was found attempting any interdicted Port that he would be captured an⟨d⟩ condemned & that this was the general ru⟨le⟩ of Conduct which would be observed to al⟨l⟩ Neutrals by British Vessels of War.

On the 6th. inst. there sailed a Convoy su⟨p⟩posed for the West Indies composed of sever⟨al⟩ Transports & Merchantmen & convoy’d by tw⟨o⟩ Sail of the Line & some smaller Vessels of War. There remains here the Admiral wit⟨h⟩ two sail of the Line & some Frigates, now ⟨a⟩t Sea upon a Cruize. Whether they intend to take possession of the Azores immediately ⟨o⟩r wait orders & a reinforcement from England ⟨i⟩s not known. The Garrison of this Island will consist of between 1500 & 2000 Regulars & it is supposed that Sir Saml. Hood will remain upon this Station for some time & will occasionally co-operate with Sir Sydney Smith who blockades Lisbon with a Squadron of Nine Sail of the Line & Frigates. At Lisbon are six sail of the Line Russians & several sail which the Prince left behind him which have been refitted by the French, but Sir Sydney Smiths Character is too well established in France to make it even probable they will ⟨c⟩ome out to give him battle, unless with a ⟨v⟩ery superior force nor is it very probable when We consider the magnitude of the object that ⟨t⟩he British has not more than Nine Sail of the Line on that Coast, altho’ only that number are immediately off Lisbon.

On the 7th. inst. an American Vessel from the Streights hove in sight & informed the Officer of the Guard Ship that boarded him, that the Emperor of Morocco has declared War against the United States, and that he touched here merely to lan⟨d⟩ a letter for the Consul. The officer answere⟨d⟩ that he could not land any thing previou⟨s⟩ to his obtaining permission from the Admiral & added that if he would lay off & on untill he went onshore he would inform the Consul. This the Captain did not think proper to do & immediately bor⟨e⟩ away, so that I have only this verbal information of the event which must be attribu⟨ted⟩ to the weakness of our Squadron in the Mediterranean & you may depend Sir that We should long ’ere now been at War with Tunis of those Barbarians had not been at War among themselves.

I have nothing farther to communicate ⟨a⟩t present, A Copy of the Capitulation having already been transmited to the ⟨d⟩epartment of State, And continue with the highest respect & esteem Sir Your most obed Servt.

James Leander Cathcart

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

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