Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to João, Prince Regent of Portugal, 12 October 1801

To João, Prince Regent of Portugal

To our Great and Good Friend, His Royal Highness the Prince Regent of Portugal and the two Algarves, on this side and on that of the sea, in Africa of Guinea, and of the conquest, Navigation and Commerce of Æthiopia, Arabia, Persia and of India &ca.

I have received with the deepest concern the letter of your Royal Highness, dated on the 12th of June last, wherein you announce to me the decease of your much beloved son, the most serene Prince of Beira, Don Antonio, which took place on the preceding evening. A Prince who even at his tender years afforded such flattering expectations of future virtues and greatness snatched from the hopes of your Royal Highness and his country, is justly considered as an irreparable bereavement, and claims our sincere sympathy. Whilst under this mournful visitation we mingle our affliction with that of your Royal Family, and the Portuguese nation, we pray you to be assured of the continuance of those friendly sentiments, founded on mutual interest, which have hitherto united the two nations in an harmonious and beneficial intercourse. May the Lord have you, Great and Good Friend, in his most holy keeping.

Written at the City of Washington on this 12th. day of October in the Year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred & one.

Your Good Friend.

Th: Jefferson.

FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences); in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Thomas Jefferson, President of the U. States of America”; below signature: “By the President” and “James Madison Secy. of State.” Enclosed in Madison to the Portuguese minister of foreign affairs, 16 Oct. 1801, asking him to give TJ’s letter to the prince regent; the secretary of state for foreign affairs and war was João de Almeida de Mello e Castro, formerly Portugal’s minister to Great Britain (Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:179; José Calvet de Magalhães, História das Relaçoes Diplomáticas entre Portugal e os Estados Unidos da América (1776–1911) [Mem Martins, Portugal, 1991], 55, 62; A. H. de Oliveira Marques, História de Portugal, 13th ed., 3 vols. [Lisbon, 1997–98], 2:464).

João (1767–1826) ruled in the place of his mother, Queen Maria I, who because of mental problems was unable to act as head of state after 1792. João had the title prince regent from 1799 until 1816, when his mother died and he became king. His coronation took place in Brazil, where the royal family migrated upon the invasion of Portugal by France in 1807. Known as João “the Clement,” he moved back to Portugal in 1821 (José Correia do Souto, Dicionário de História de Portugal, 6 vols. [Lisbon, 1985], 4:78–83; Douglas L. Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Portugal [Metuchen, N.J., 1993], 122–3).

In the letter of 12 June 1801, João announced the death of his son António the day before. As João’s oldest son, António, who was six years old when he died, had been next in line for the throne after his father and was the prince of beira. João’s letter, addressed to the United States of America rather than to the president or to TJ personally, conveyed an expectation that the U.S. would make a reciprocal expression of sentiment (RC in DNA: RG 59, Ceremonial Letters, addressed: “Aos Estados Unidos da America que muito amo e prezo” [“To the United States of America, which I much love and esteem”], in Portuguese, in a clerk’s hand, signed by João as prince of Brazil and countersigned by Mello e Castro, endorsed by Jacob Wagner; Souto, Dicionário, 1:232; 4:83).

João had written again on 4 July 1801, this time to announce the birth of a daughter on that day. The baby received the name Isabel Maria. In the letter, João referred to his wife, Carlota Joaquina, by her title, the princess of Brazil. She was a daughter of King Carlos IV of Spain (RC in DNA: RG 59, Ceremonial Letters, addressed to the United States, in Portuguese, in a clerk’s hand, signed by João, countersigned by Mello e Castro, endorsed by Wagner; Souto, Dicionário, 2:178–9; 3:310). On 10 Nov. 1801, TJ wrote to acknowledge that letter, “in which you communicate to me the pleasing intelligence, that on the same day your very dear Spouse, the most serene Princess of Brazil, had happily encreased your royal family with another daughter: An event which whilst it fills your paternal heart with joy, confirms the loyal hopes of your subjects, that they will long continue to be governed by the virtues which distinguish your illustrious house, has not failed to excite in us a lively interest. On the auspicious occasion receive our cordial congratulations and at the same time our prayers that the Lord may keep you, Great and Good Friend and your royal Family under his most holy protection” (FC in Lb in DNA: RG 59, Credences; in a clerk’s hand, including signatures by TJ and Madison; enclosed in Madison to Mello e Castro, 13 Nov. 1801, requesting him to present the letter to the prince regent “in suitable time” [Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 2:239]).

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