James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 3 November 1808

Lisbon 3rd. November 1808


My last dated 28th. June, which I have transmitted ⟨by a⟩ private conveyance by way of Spain, stated the situation of ⟨pu⟩blic affairs to that date. The subsequent events have doubtless ⟨been so⟩ fully detailed in the Public Papers which have reached ⟨the U⟩nited States, as to render any very minute account unnecessary ⟨in this.⟩ The success of the Spaniards encouraged the People in this ⟨Kingd⟩om untill the French were finally circumscribed to a few ⟨leagues a⟩round Lisbon & the possion of Evora, Almeida and one or ⟨two ot⟩her strong places of minor importance, when the British ⟨about⟩ the early part of August landed in the Neighbourhood ⟨of Figu⟩eira about 22,000 Troops. These forthwith marched ⟨to the⟩ southward, and the French force which had gone to ⟨the A⟩lentejo with a view to open a communication with that ⟨Provin⟩ce for the purpose of supplying Grain for the Capital, as ⟨it wa⟩s given out, were recalled, and all the troops which were ⟨in Lis⟩bon & the environs, except about a thousand, marched to ⟨join⟩ the others, and which together composed a Corp of twelve ⟨or thir⟩teen thousand Men. The encounter took place on the ⟨   ⟩ August in the morning, by the French attacking the ⟨Englis⟩h entrenchments; in which attack they at first gaind ⟨a co⟩nsiderable advantage, but were finally obliged to ⟨retrea⟩t in which they were not pursued by the English, and ⟨a ca⟩pitulation of the 21st. of August was the consequence ⟨of it.⟩ What was the real cause of such terms I cannot say, ⟨unless⟩ an observation made to me by a person who was an eye⟨witness⟩ to the action was correct, that the disorder in which ⟨the att⟩ack of the French threw the British Troops, caused ⟨a retre⟩at of part of the Army for upwards of a mile and it ⟨was w⟩ith difficulty, that they there could be recalled and brought back to the ⟨actio⟩n. Be this as it may the Portuguese ⟨Army⟩ (reported to be 40,000 Strong, but perhaps not more than ha⟨lf that⟩ number, were in the vicinity, but were not permitted to ⟨enter⟩ the engagement) as well as the nation at large, were highly ⟨dis⟩satisfied with this as well as the definitive Capitulati⟨on of⟩ the 30th., but they have not been the occasion of any par⟨ticular⟩ misunderstanding. The French Troops began their em⟨bark⟩ation in the early part of September & compleated it in ⟨the⟩ latter part, except a small number that were in the dista⟨nt⟩ Garrisons. They took with them all their private prop⟨erty⟩ and the Public money & valuables. Advice has already b⟨een⟩ received by an English Frigate that General Junot & his ⟨division⟩ have safely arrived at la Rochelle. No disturbance in ⟨the city⟩ took place before the change, and but little about the ⟨time.⟩ ⟨   ⟩ a few Frenchmen were pretty severely beat by the small Mobs ⟨and it is⟩ said three or four were killed. The Regency resumed ⟨its func⟩tions about 20th September, and it has since been p⟨rincipal⟩ly engaged in organising the Army. The English Tro⟨ops⟩ began to march to the Pyrenees about a fortnight ⟨ago⟩ ⟨   ⟩ upwards of twenty thousand have gone. Ten or twe⟨lve⟩ thousand will remain here & be distributed in the ⟨Provinces.⟩

I have conversed with several of the higher Britis⟨h officers⟩ respecting our affairs. General Ferguson, a Member ⟨of Parlia⟩ment, in the opposition, seemed to be fully persu⟨aded⟩ that the Administration were much in the wrong ⟨as it⟩ regarded the United States. He appeared to be ⟨fully⟩ of the opinion that our trade was of much greater ⟨impor⟩tance to G B, than any advantage that could be ⟨derived⟩ to her Commerce from cutting us off from the C⟨ontinent. Gener⟩al Beresford, however was of quite different sentiments. He ⟨introdu⟩ced American affairs himself, and I continued the ⟨conver⟩sation the best part of two hours. Throughout the whole ⟨he ta⟩lked with much temper. In the course of conversation he ⟨dwelt⟩ much upon the supposed opposition to the embargo in ⟨the no⟩rthern ⟨U⟩nited States, and the probability that it would cause ⟨a sepe⟩ration of the union, & built much hope upon the expected ⟨change of⟩ Administration, as he termed it. To this I observed, ⟨that⟩ this was altogether a mistaken opinion founded on the ⟨inflamatory⟩ writtings of some of our intemperate (I might have ⟨said⟩ hireling) Newspaper Editors, that on the reverse the Northern ⟨States⟩ had been among the warmest, to recommend the measure, ⟨and I⟩ was persuaded, that the measure was still approved by ⟨the be⟩st informed of the Mercantile part of the community, ⟨and a⟩s to the change of President, it would depend altogether ⟨upon⟩ the resignation of Mr: Jefferson, for I was confident the ⟨people⟩ had so high an idea of his superior abilities, integrity ⟨& patri⟩otism, that they would re-elect him so long as he ⟨would⟩ serve; but that there could be no doubt, if he refused ⟨serving⟩ again, that Mr. Maddison would be elected, who ⟨doubt⟩less would pursue the same line of Politics; in fact ⟨that⟩ the Orders in Council had left us no other course, for ⟨if we⟩ opened our Ports, our Vessels must fall a prey to the ⟨Britis⟩h Cruizers, and if the act prohibiting British Manu⟨fact⟩ures was repealed our Country would be drained of specie to pay for them. I also observed that the funds ⟨with⟩ which we paid the large balance due for their Manufac⟨tures,⟩ was drawn from those Countries they had shut us ⟨out o⟩f, and that these funds were in payment of mere ⟨articles⟩ of luxury, allowing us therefore a free trade to he Continent ⟨was in f⟩act making their enemies indirectly contribute to the expences accruing to them from the war. He then said ⟨we⟩ had no right to complain of the injustice of the measure ⟨when⟩ we had submitted to the same thing from France. I r⟨eplied⟩ that the French orders I believed of the 21st. Novr. 1806 to ⟨which⟩ he alluded were annulled in the subsequent month, as ⟨it re⟩garded the United States, by the declaration of the Mi⟨nister⟩ of Marine & Colonies, that our treaty with France wou⟨ld in⟩ every respect be fulfilled; & that it must be in the know⟨ledge⟩ of every British Merchant that this declaration had ⟨generally⟩ been rigidly fulfilled, our trade to & from G. Britain ⟨having⟩ remained uninterrupted. He then observed that G Br⟨itain⟩ had made every advance toward an accommodation ⟨by⟩ sending out an Ambassador Extraordinary to adju⟨st the⟩ existing differences. I replied that I understood that ⟨this⟩ Gentleman was clothed with no other powers than ⟨that⟩ of treating about the insult offered to the Chesape⟨ake,⟩ & that was such a small part of our grievances that ⟨Government⟩ was of opinion that it would be highly improper to s⟨acrifice⟩ the essential interest of our Country to a compliment⟨ary⟩ acknowledgment of error; upon which he briskly an⟨swered,⟩ it appears then that Mr. Jefferson will sacrifice the ⟨honor⟩ of his Country to its Interest; I replied that perhap⟨s some⟩ might conceive it such, but that I was satisfied t⟨he⟩ President had the real interest & welfare of his Cou⟨ntry⟩ at heart & that he would steadily pursue them; a⟨nd at the⟩ same time could not help smiling to observe ho⟨w the⟩ opinions of even men of sense are warped by pro⟨fessional⟩ sentiments. There was some desultory conversation ⟨beside⟩ not worth committing to paper. I also twi⟨ce called⟩ on Sir Wm: Scott, but did not either time find ⟨him⟩ at home. As there were some American Vessels desirous of proceeding to the Azores, Spain &c. an⟨d not wish⟩ing to widen the differences by increasing the number of ⟨capt⟩ures, nor yet to expose the property. I wrote the question, ⟨of w⟩hich the inclosed is a copy, and gave it to a particular friend ⟨of mi⟩ne at whose house he staid while in Lisbon to present it ⟨as fro⟩m himself, to which after a day or two he gave the answer ⟨that⟩ follows; and as it strikes me from what I can learn ⟨that⟩ the B Government is begining to repent of the differ⟨ences,⟩ I have no doubt that the conduct of the Navy will ⟨corres⟩pond with his opinion.

⟨Alth⟩o’ few persons are suffering more by the continuance of ⟨the E⟩mbargo than myself, yet from all the information I ⟨can o⟩btain & every thing I observe, I am persuaded that it is ⟨the o⟩nly line of Policy we can consistantly pursue, & is that ⟨which⟩ is most likely to obtain us justice; but if it does not ⟨produ⟩ce this effect in a short time, altho’ I deprecate ⟨war a⟩s a great evil, I feel myself much inclined to the ⟨opin⟩ion that Canada & Nova Scotia ought to pay for the ⟨Britis⟩h depredations on our Commerce.

⟨Noth⟩ing material has taken place in Spain for six or ⟨eight⟩ weeks, except the succouring Figuieras in Catalonia ⟨by the⟩ French. The largest part however of the Spanish ⟨regu⟩lar Forces are collecting in the neighourhood of the ⟨Pyre⟩nees, which will be joined by a considerable Army of ⟨Englis⟩h. The encounter will doubtless be terrible, but I ⟨canno⟩t divest myself of the opinion, but that the talents, skill ⟨disci⟩pline & courage of the French will vanquish the en⟨thusia⟩stic & desperate, but undisciplined bravery of the ⟨Spani⟩ard.

The Russian Minister has quit Spain, in conse⟨quen⟩ce of an insult from the Populace of Madrid ⟨The⟩ Russian Chargé here spoke highly of ⟨the S⟩pirit with which Mr: Erving and the ⟨rest o⟩f the Foreign Ministers and Agents behaved on the occasion. With entire Respect I have the honor to ⟨be⟩ Sir, Your Most obed⟨t Servt⟩

⟨Wm Jarvis⟩

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

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