James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George W. Erving, 15 March 1808

Private No. 32

Madrid March 15th. 1808

Dear Sir

My last unofficial letter was dated Jany. 29. On the 15 Instt. I had the pleasure to Receive one from you, but it is a press copy only made by one of your secretaries, & permit me to suggest so badly done as to be for the most part illegible: of the dates there is no appearance except the word "Washington" but I judge by the dates of the newspapers ⟨en⟩closed in it that it was written in October. I mention this circumstance the rather because I beleive that ⟨you⟩ must be wholly unaware of the carelessness practiced with regard to the pressing of letters; scarcely any of those which I have received, nor of those which I ⟨fou⟩nd amongst the papers of the legation are entirely legible.

It would be idle for me to descant upon ⟨the⟩ Extreme satisfaction which I have received from the intelligence of our embargo law; & there cannot ⟨be⟩ an individual American in Europe who does not Every day see new reason to glory in this great manifestation of the wisdom & Energy of our nati⟨onal⟩ councils; and it is to be hoped if our people be not the most ungrateful for the individuals ⟨in⟩ our country the most selfish of those who inhabit the earth: that this measure must meet not ⟨only⟩ with a general & full approbation of its principles but a ready Sacrifice of whatever interests are Embraced by it. I have had a short conversation with Mr. De Beauharnois upon this S⟨ubject.⟩ I represented the measure to him in its true light as one perfectly precautionary & in of⟨   ⟩ in its principles, & said that tho’ it was impartial Yet in its Effects he woud find that it was ⟨less⟩ prejudicial to france than it woud be to othe⟨rs⟩ pointing out where it woud bear the hardest. ⟨He⟩ has not a genius adapted to any great forecast ⟨in⟩ political affairs, hence experience is absolutely ⟨nece⟩ssary to make him sensible of Such truths, he did ⟨not⟩ however fail to talk much, but it is not ⟨diff⟩icult to perceive that all his ideas had only ⟨on⟩e simple maxim; that whoever is not openly a ⟨   ⟩ partial friend, is not to be respected ⟨for his⟩ impartiality: I do not presume however that ⟨   ⟩ the Sentiments of his government or that ⟨he k⟩nows any thing at all about them.

What this government may think of our ⟨proce⟩edings becomes Every day less important. She ⟨is a⟩pproaching most rapidly an awful crisis ⟨of wh⟩ich she is fully sensible; now considerations ⟨of⟩ any other kind must give way to that one which ⟨fa⟩tally presses upon her. I have said in the ⟨acco⟩mpanying official letter whatever it seemed ⟨prop⟩er to say upon the subject in an official communication; I can here however mention that I have learnt a great deal in some ⟨late interviews⟩ with the Prince, all of which tends to confirm the opinions which I have now & heretofore Expressed. There are a multiplicity of circumstances connected with the present state of affairs, which are Extremely interesting ⟨as a⟩ matter of history, & which I woud therefore w⟨   ⟩ accord if my leisure admitted; but as that cannot be I will confine myself here to the brief men⟨tion⟩ of Such facts as may be necessary to a complete view of the present state of things & to the for⟨ming⟩ a safe judgment of the result. The great circumspection with which the Emperor has m⟨oved⟩ is particularly striking, & leaves but little Room to doubt that he has apprehended the probability of then courts taking the alarm & following the Example of the Prince Regent of Portugal; hence the offer of an indemnity for the Queen of Etr⟨uria,⟩ the several projects of Marriage, & the tranquil⟨izing⟩ Messages which he has been continually send ⟨some⟩times by his Ambassador Sometimes by his own ⟨   ⟩ dispatches ⟨   ⟩ but it is also observed, that his troops did not advance ⟨   ⟩ that he had by a particular message ⟨   ⟩ by Mr. ⟨   ⟩ late charge d’affaires here) ⟨   ⟩ the sailing of the Carthagena squadron escaped being closed, Barcelona was taken, ⟨   ⟩ at Cadiz is constantly observed by the ⟨Britis⟩h squadron also ⟨   ⟩. The road to Coruňa ⟨   ⟩ leads thro the main body of the french ⟨   ⟩s; and there are no ships in any other port. ⟨   ⟩ the time of announcing his intention to visit ⟨Mad⟩rid he dispatched to the armies at Vallidolid ⟨Mur⟩at who is considered as particularly friendly ⟨with the⟩ prince of peace; they have always corres⟨pon⟩ded together & have reciprocally made presents ⟨to ea⟩ch other; so much did the latter rely on ⟨the⟩ friendship of Murat that he at first determined to meet him at Victoria (in the heart of the french Armies) & had made his preparations for the jou⟨rney.⟩ He however dropped that plan on more mature ref⟨lection.⟩

The degree of confidence with which the careful Conduct of the Emperor might have inspired the co⟨urt⟩ here, has been destroyed principally by the represen⟨tations⟩ of one Ysquierdo, who has lately arrived from Pa⟨ris⟩ where he has been a long while the agent of the Prince, a sort of counter-ambassador & where by means of his money operations most probably he has had the greatest opportunity of diving very deep into the recesses of the Cabinet: so deep, that I suspect it may soon now be doubted which party he is deceiving: The result of his confer⟨ences⟩ at Court is the most perfect consternation & terror. The Emperor now seems to come (to use our new England phrase) "like a Judgement." It is diffi⟨cult⟩ to say precisely what degree of merit the prince ⟨has⟩ in the present Crisis: if he had been a Statesman he never woud have brought the Country into such a dilemma; but yet he has not been deficient ⟨in⟩ sagacity, & now he displays or seems to display ⟨a⟩ considerable portion of dignity Energy & determination of character: present appearances lead to ⟨an⟩ Expectation that he will Resist with Such means as can be collected & that his Exit will be more honorable than his general acting has been, and such as to Extort Even from his Enemies (who ⟨   ⟩ uncommon violent & by no means candid) some degree of applause. Had he been properly ⟨inst⟩ructed in the State affairs which accident called ⟨him⟩ to act in, & finally controul; or even had been born in a different class so as not to have been as he has been continually Exposed ⟨to⟩ counteractions & oppositions, he has some abilities which might have rendered him an ⟨use⟩ful Minister. You perceive that I treat ⟨him⟩ with the charity due to a fallen man, for ⟨ind⟩eed I can see no prospect of his saving himself ⟨fro⟩m the impending danger; he will deserve the ⟨   ⟩ consideration however of the advice which he is now pressing upon his majesty he is influenced ⟨more⟩ by personal considerations, & the desire of identi⟨fying⟩ his own cause with that of the crown, than by any honest conviction that the kingdom is in danger but upon this point it is impossible to decide. ⟨A⟩ few days will clear it up.

A Postscript of my private letter No. 30 Jany 6th. informed you of the conclusion of the p⟨rocess⟩ against the Duke of Infantado & others. I here⟨with⟩ inclose a very curious paper being that on which ⟨the⟩ charge against Infantado was founded; it is a Commission from the Prince of Asturias (the d⟨ate⟩ to be filled up after the King’s decease) naming ⟨him⟩ general in cheif & pointing obviously to the immediate arrest on that count of the Prince of ⟨Peace.⟩ Its authenticity may be relied on. Dear Sir with very sincere Respect & Esteem your most obliged & Ot. ⟨   ⟩

George W Erving

P S. The Consuls from time to time press for a settlement of their Accts. I have constantly replied that I did not find myself authorized to settle them without special instructions from you. You have not as yet been so good as to give yo⟨   ⟩ direction as to the Compensation for ⟨   ⟩; on which subject ⟨   ⟩ty of applying to you.

G. W. E.

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Spain.

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