James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 8 October 1803 (Abstract)

§ From William Jarvis

8 October 1803, Lisbon. Encloses circulars “to the several Consuls in the Streights,” marked nos. 1,1 2,2 and 3,3 with information about “the Moorish Ship.” “This morning” heard that “her Pilot” had sailed on board an American ship “to Sallee to deliver the Cordage and Sail Cloth they got here, which is wanted to rig a new vessel.” “After affording the Moor what succours he wanted to the great danger of our flag, I conceived agreeably to a strictly impartial Neutrality, that an adequate Protection ought to have been granted to our Vessels.” Waited therefore on 5 Oct. on the visconde de Balsemão “to request the favor of a Convoy for several Ships that would shortly be ready for Sea.” As “he was very unwell,” he promised that if Jarvis would write to him, the business “should immediately be attended to.” Wrote him no. 4, “to which no reply has been made.”4 Waited on Balsemão again “this afternoon” but learned that he had gone “to Mafra, and was not expected back till the middle of the next week.” Wrote him note no. 3.5 Doubts “the application will be attended with Success.” If he has no answer by 11 Oct., he will “advise the Captains to proceed to Sea.” Feels “disgusted” when he sees “the affairs of a Government conducted on a Scale as narrow and illiberal as ever entered into the traffic of a huckster.” “What renders the conduct of this Government, on this occasion, more strikingly impolitic, is that the Ministry have three or four times called the Merchants together during the last two Months, to try to induce them to send for large Quantities of bread Stuffs and yet decline adopting the very means which in all probability would insure them an abundance.” Asks if it would not be prudent, if the difference with Morocco is not adjusted, “to keep a frigate pretty constantly” off Salé and cruising “off Saffia and Mogadore, another occasionally between Cape St. Vincent and this port, one constantly off the Moorish Ports near the Mouth of the Streights, accompanied by a Tender so sharp built and light, as to allow being rowed 4 or 5 Miles an hour, to keep the Row Gallies of Tangiers in Check when the weather is calm.” Believes that “five frigates with the Enterprize and two Brigs of War properly stationed would be adequate to the complete protection of our Trade both in and out the Streights.” “What farther information I have received from the Streights is contained in No. 6.”6

“The alarm of the British Factory mentioned in my last is pretty fast subsiding.” “The Moorish Ship” passed the Castle before any enemy ship; “cannot learn that any orders were given to detain her 24 hours.” Encloses his letter of 2 Oct. Adds in a 10 Oct. postscript that he has “understood from the Pilot and an American vessel which was a little without the Bar, coming in, as the Moor was going out that he steered directly to the Southward.” Believes a “strong Northerly wind springing up since … will make it hardly worth to remain longer in port to wait for an uncertain Convoy.”

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