James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 3 December 1805 (Abstract)

From William Jarvis, 3 December 1805 (Abstract)

§ From William Jarvis. 3 December 1805, Lisbon. “The foregoing Mr Pinckney did me the favour to take charge of. He sailed the 19th.1 & left the inclosed letters addressed to you, to himself to your care & to his daughter⟨s⟩; to be forwarded.

“In my haste I omitted to inclose a Copy of my letter to Mr de Araujo of the 6th. Ulto. relative to the quarantine, I now send it with a Copy of his answer.2

“Two days after I waited on him & the Marquis Pombal, a Vessel from Alexandria was cleared. She had 30 days passage & only lay 8 days. One from Baltimore & one from Plymouth, which arrived two days after, being detained longer, I sent to learn of the Secy. of the Junta the cause; he returned for answer that advices had been given by the Portugee Ambassador at Madrid, that a Vessel which had arrived at St. Ander from Philada. had brought Accounts that the yellow fever was raging in that place & in New York with much violence & that the Spanish Government had given orders for a rigid quarantine from the U.S., and that he supposed the quarantine would be more strictly enforced here. I thereupon wrote the inclosed of the 28th. Ulto. to the Marquis Pombal,3 having two days before made a second Petition for them; petitions in these cases being customary they were released the 28th after laying 15 days, I rather believe before the letter was delivered. I have heard nothing farther about it but I am much inclined to believe that our Vessels will not lay longer than 5 to ten days with clear Bills of health.

“From the Army of Germany our advices are only to the 15th. Bulletin & the 4th. from Italy, which I presume you will have rec⟨ie⟩;ved before this reaches you.”

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, CD, Lisbon, vol. 2). RC 3 pp.; written at the foot of the 18 Nov. 1805 duplicate of Jarvis to JM, 17 Nov. 1805. For surviving enclosure, see n. 3.

1For Charles Pinckney’s arrival at Charleston, South Carolina, see Jarvis to JM, 17 Nov. 1805, and n. 3.

2For Jarvis to António de Araújo, 6 Nov. 1805, and Araújo’s reply, see Jarvis to JM, 17 Nov. 1805, and n. 3.

3The enclosure (8 pp.) is a copy of Jarvis to the marquis de Pombal, 28 Nov. 1805, flattering Pombal’s wisdom and knowledge, stating that the lengthy detention of the Governor Carver and Truxton, must have been owing to Jarvis’s poor French when he spoke personally to Pombal. He described yellow fever as a disease of hot climates and noted that it began to the north of the equator in August or September and sometimes continued into November when cool weather began but generally disappeared in the West Indies at the beginning of the heavy fall rains. He attributed the cause to “a foul, poisonous atmosphere” occasioned by the air emanating from putrid substances and from low situations where air did not circulate freely. He noted that in hot weather with prevailing southern winds, the miasma was most virulent, fading with clear weather, northerly winds, and frequent rainstorms. He added that in the past year the cold rainy summer in the United States and hot weather in Spain had accounted for the lack of yellow fever in the former and its prevalence in the latter country. Jarvis continued that “many of the ablest physicians” who had studied the disease had decided it was not contagious but was caused by “a miasma.” He argued that in a country like Portugal, blessed with pure air, excellent drinking water, and a diet composed chiefly of vegetables, it was impossible for the disease to be communicated without an extreme change in the weather. Jarvis added that his government would never hazard the health of other countries and had given orders in July 1801, that were strictly enforced, to collectors of customs. He extolled the virtues of the collectors, adding that their large salaries and the fear of being deposed from office, which was held at the will of the president, placed them above temptation. He stated that even beyond this, the immediate detection of any false news in the papers required everyone to adhere to the truth. Jarvis apologized for discussing a disease Pombal and Araújo knew better than himself but asked “whether Bills of Health granted under such circumstances ought not to have the utmost Credit given them”? He assumed Pombal would agree and asked that the prince regent give orders that ships from the United States with clean bills of health and healthy crews be admitted to pratique immediately or at least detained for no longer than five days, excepting always those vessels that had no, or limited, bills of health.

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