James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 14 June 1808

Lisbon 14 June 1808


The last letter which I had the honor to address to you of the date of the 18th. April went via London & inclosed a letter from Mr. Erving. This gentleman by letter & Mr. Young in person will doubtless communicate to you that the Spanish Kings Charles & Ferdinand & the royal family, in general have abdicated the Crown of Spain in favour of the Emperor Napoleon, and of all the particulars relative to that transaction, long before this will reach you.

It is said here that the Archbishop of Seville has taken on himself the Regency of the Kingdom in the name of Ferdinand the Seventh, has organised a Council, which he calls the Council of Castile, that all the common people have risen in favour of their antient dynasty, that a body of two hundred thousand Men have bee⟨n⟩ organised, that immense ⟨con⟩tributions have been ma⟨de⟩ by the Churches & others for t⟨he⟩ support of the Army and th⟨at⟩ all the fortified towns in the Kingdom are in possess⟨ion⟩ of the Spaniards who are determined to defend them. Th⟨ere⟩ can be no doubt that the national spirit against a change is very high; bu⟨t⟩ I imagine that the opposit⟨ion⟩ or rather resistance cannot be attended with any succe⟨ss⟩ for they have no Officers of Skill & experience or ⟨ta⟩lents to oppose to the vetera⟨n⟩ armies of France and they ⟨are⟩ almost as deficient of Me⟨n⟩ of experience & ability in t⟨he⟩ civil departments of Govm⟨t.⟩ Add to those disadvantag⟨es⟩ an army composed of raw tr⟨oops⟩ raised on the Spur of the oc⟨casion⟩ or soldiers who have n⟨ever⟩ seen any service & little or ⟨no⟩ doubt can be entertained ⟨of⟩ the event. But from the ⟨moun⟩tainous nature of the Country and the facility they will afford to Men well acquainted with them & the difficult passes, to take refuge there, a kind of predatory War by marauding parties, may perhaps from thence be carried on for some time, and may give the Emperor considerable trouble. The Spaniards too, as far as I know of them, appear to me to be well adapted to this kind of warfare and in their present state perhaps for no other. About 8.000 troops were sent from the environs of Lisbon to take Badajos, which the Spainards have strongly garrisoned & cut off all communication by this route, the main post road, between this Country & Spain, but as immediately after the Spanish troops which were in St. Uber & Porto about twelve thou⟨s⟩and in all, marched into Spain to defend their Country, taking with them from Porto six Military & Civil Officers, who were charged with the administration of the Government, the French troops are again recalled & are now ⟨on⟩ their return. There were no French troops in Porto & but very few to the southward of the Tagus. Two days since the Spaniard⟨s⟩ i e troops who are here wer⟨e⟩ disarmed, in all about 5,000 ⟨who⟩ are principally confined on boa⟨rd⟩ the Shipping. I am led to suppo⟨se⟩ that some alarm & much interes⟨t⟩ exists on the part of the Emper⟨or⟩ about the Spanish possession⟨s⟩ in America, and that more t⟨han⟩ ordinary pains will be taken ⟨to⟩ cultivate the good will of the Un⟨ited⟩ States in hopes to secure them. Government will doubtless see ⟨the⟩ advantage which can be ma⟨de⟩ of this disposition of affairs & ⟨un⟩questionably benefit of it.

At Porto, it is unde⟨rstood⟩ that after the Spaniards had qu⟨it⟩ the Portugueze flag was hoisted, a British Sloop of War entered & of⟨fered⟩ the protection of the fleet & pro⟨ceed⟩ed to Sea again; but that all remained quiet. These chang⟨es⟩ have excited much talk here, ⟨but⟩ every thing has remained perfe⟨ctly⟩ tranquil.

A general embargo ⟨was⟩ laid the 3rd. of May on all ves⟨sels⟩ & to the last application I ma⟨de⟩ on the subject the Duke of ⟨Abran⟩tes (i e General Junot) informe⟨d me⟩ that if the vessel was laded ⟨with⟩ ingots of gold & the latter was ⟨taken⟩ out & given him for the de⟨par⟩ture of the former he could ⟨not⟩ consent to it.

Just before those disturbances took place in Porto, five or six vessels arri⟨v⟩ed there laded with fish, and were detained by the head of the Police ⟨o⟩n suspicion of having come from England & of having been visited by English Cruisers. As there were two Americans among them I ap⟨p⟩lied to the Duke on the subject ⟨a⟩nd he was so obliging as to ⟨a⟩ssure me, that no American ⟨v⟩essel nor Cargo should be confiscated, ⟨l⟩aded with provisions & that he would pass a general order for their admission; but these dis⟨tu⟩rbances have put a stop to ⟨a⟩ny thing being done untill a French force which is proceeding there re-establishes the French Government again.

Fortunately the wheat & American flour which has been extracted from Spain, will be sufficient to supply the consumption untill the new harvest & the appearance of that is uncommonly favourable. With perfect Respect I have the honor to be Sir Yr. Mo. Ob. Servt.

William Jarvis

P.S. As I see no prospect by ⟨re⟩maining in this Country but ⟨of⟩ expending the little which seve⟨n⟩ years labour has enabled me to gain, I must beg leave to observe, that I still remain of the same sentiments I so⟨me⟩ time since offered regarding an exchange of this place ⟨for⟩ the Consulate of the City of ⟨Bahia⟩ de St. Salvador, should the President not disapprove of my application.

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

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