Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Joseph Barnes, 10 April 1801

From Joseph Barnes

Messina Sicily April 10th. 1801

In my Letter dat’d Feb. 14th., to you my best friend Mr Jefferson, I Specified the circumstances in which I presumed the English expedition to Egypt would prove Abortive—which is the result—

In consequence of the great despot of the East having guarranteed the French in Egypt, &, of the powerful influence he had over the Ottoman Court, the Grand Siegnor has refused permission for the English to Land in Egypt!! Consequently, Should they not take possession of Some of the Islands, Candia, Cyprus or others, they must immedately return to Malta—

I also anticipat’d, in Said Letter, the views of the French relative to the Ottoman Empire—It appears they have Stipulat’d in their Treaty with the Emperor of Germany to march an Army of 60.000 men thro’ his dominions in order to meet a much greater Army of Russions at Constantinople, no doubt with the view of dissolving the Ottoman Empire—

And, ‘tis Suggest’d, with the further view of attacking the English possessions in the East—this however is to be prov’d—The convention of Neutrality of the Northern Powers has been formally ratified—in which I am happy to find, the contracting parties engage to enforce as far as may be in their power. the Great principle of Neutral bottoms making Neutral property—as Stipulat’d between the Unit’d States and France.—

To complete the Stroke against the British Commerce & Manufactures, the French have forced the Portugees into an Alliance with Spain and France, to the exclusion of the English—What will be the event is at present difficult to calculate—England cannot exist Long without vent for its manufactures, nor can its opponents, especially Portugal & Danemark Stand it Long without Commerce.—

As all these circumstances operate in favor, and render America Still more Essential, Should England, which no doubt it will being So prevalent at Sea, declare the ports of its enemies in a State of blockade, hope the Executive of the Unit’d States will embrace the Oppertunity, and by an energetic remonstrance thro’ the means of a proper Envoy obtain permission to exercise the rights of Neutrality & Laws of Nations, by Navigating into every port of each Country not in an Actual State of Siege, or Shut the ports of the Unit’d States against & Let them take the consequences—I Should glory in Such an agency, to have it in my power to Speak the Language which the representative of a great Republic Aught to do, tho’ not yet done, to a Nation So imperious as the English—having practical knowledge from four years residence in London.—

Having just read an English paper dated London Feb. 7th. containing a Paragraph purporting, that the Prosperity Arrived at Dublin in 29 days from Philada. had brot. the confermation of the Election of Mr Jefferson and Mr Burr, & the presumption being of course the first is President, I do exulting again most heartily Congratulate Mr Jefferson, & felicitate myself & fellow Citizens on the happy event & flattering prospect which expands before us; not doubting but all the objects Suggest’d in my former Letter will be effect’d, and whatever may tend to promote the true interest & happiness of Citizens of the Unit’d States, at Least attempt’d.

Enclos’d with this you have an Address, unsolicit’d, of Several Citizens of the Unit’d whose names are thereto Subscrib’d, Recommending me, from the circumstances therein Specified, to the approbation of the President of the Unit’d States to fill the office of Consul general or Commercial Agent of the Unit’d States to the two Sicilies—and, as Mr Jefferson is President, every attention due will follow of course

I Should however prefer the office of general Commercial Agent in France—or residence at Marseilles, or Bourdeaux in Some capacity—With constant Solicitude for your health & happiness, & Long continuence in the Presidency Mr Jefferson I remain yours most respectfully

Jos: Barnes
of Virginia

P.S. Any Agency or Services in my power to promote the interest &c of the People of the United States & of the Government may be command’d at all times either at home or abroad.—Director of the Mint or of the Public works in & for the Unit’d States would be a favorite object—

The Neopolitans disgust’d at the degrading treaty made with France desire the English—& as the French insist on Sending a garrison to Naples & this place—tis impossible to Say what will be the result—

RC (DNA: RG 59, LAR); addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr. P. of the U.S Washington,” with notation that the letter was to be carried by David Sawyer, commander of the snow Fox of Boston (who was a signatory of the enclosure); franked; postmarked at Boston, 23 June; endorsed by TJ as received 29 June and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “to be Consul of the two Sicilies.” Enclosure: Memorial signed at Messina, 4 Mch. 1801, by Robert H. Rose of Pennsylvania and five American ship captains urging the appointment of Barnes as consul general for the Two Sicilies (MS in RG 59, LAR, addressed: “His Excellency The President of the United States,” endorsed by TJ as received 29 June and so recorded in SJL; Dupl in same, in Barnes’s hand including signatures, one of which is lacking, Barnes adding notations stating that he would send the original MS by post through England, endorsed by a clerk as “Recommendatory of Joseph Barnes”).

Despite Barnes’s expectations, the english expedition to egypt was successful. After landing at Aboukir Bay in March, the British forced the French garrisons at Cairo and Alexandria to surrender in June and early September, respectively (Piers Mackesy, British Victory in Egypt, 1801: The End of Napoleon’s Conquest [London, 1995], 67–77, 196–7, 221–4). Great despot of the east: Emperor Paul of Russia (Barnes to TJ, 14 Feb. 1801). Paul sought a formal compact with France, contemplated a partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and dispatched a military column with the intention of attacking the British in India (Roderick E. McGrew, Paul I of Russia, 1754–1801 [Oxford, 1992], 315–16; Ehrman, Pitt description begins John Ehrman, The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle, London, 1996 description ends , 397–400).

Candia: Crete.

Grand Siegnor: the Ottoman sultan, Selim iii. The Turks negotiated with the British over the landing site in Egypt, but did not forbid the invasion and in fact sent an army to assist (Mackesy, British Victory, 21–6, 178–9; Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 1277).

Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia made conventions with Russia in December 1800 to form the league of armed neutrality. An article in each of those pacts guaranteed the free passage of ships and protected the cargoes of neutral vessels. Those provisions appeared also in a treaty between Russia and Sweden in March 1801. The convention between the United States and France included similar guarantees, Article 14 declaring “that free ships shall give a freedom to goods” (Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 55:354–6, 411–37; 56:1–23; Vol. 32:296–7).

Preliminary articles of alliance between Spain and France in January 1801 contained an ultimatum requiring Portugal to abandon its friendly relationship with Great Britain and yield other concessions or face an immediate invasion. Portugal failed to comply with the demands and Spain declared war in March, although it was some weeks more before Spanish troops, supported by French reinforcements, attacked (H. V. Livermore, A History of Portugal [Cambridge, 1947], 389–91; Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 55:467–73).

By a treaty concluded between France and the Two Sicilies late in March, the ports of Naples and Sicily remained closed to British ships. Secret articles of the pact allowed French troops access to the territory of Naples in transit to other locations (Parry, Consolidated Treaty Series description begins Clive Parry, ed., The Consolidated Treaty Series, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969–81, 231 vols. description ends , 56:51–6; Barnes to TJ, 14 Feb. 1801).

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