James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Jarvis, 11 September 1802

From William Jarvis, 11 September 1802

(No. 6)

Lisbon 11 Septr. 1802.


I did myself the honor to address you on the 6th. Instant the day I recd. the information relative to the prohibition of Foreign Flour & communicated the contradictory answer of the Judge & administrator of the Corn Market. The next day I sent to the Inspector General in whose name it was issued, whom I understood was in such agonies from the gout, that he could not be spoke with. The 8th. I waited on him but was inform’d from his Excellency that he was so ill that he could not attend to it, but referred to his representatives in the Corn Market, who were as divided in sentiment as were the Judge & Administrator; from which I concluded, that the order was worded so ambiguously on purpose to prevent, or allow, the consumption, as there should be a plenty or scarcity of grain on hand. Inclosed is a Copy of the Communication I made to the Minister on the subject which I submit with the greatest diffiden⟨ce⟩ to persons so eminent for abilities, & must beg the indulgence of Government toward it. As We could make no claims of right I knew of no better way of treating the affair than by attempting to prove, what I really believed, tha⟨t⟩ it was for the interest & policy of this Governmen⟨t⟩ to admit our flour freely. I laid particular stress on the importation being as much for the interest of the owners of Real Estates as for the rest of the Inhabitants of this Country, as it is understood they were the authors of the Prohibition, partly by their own solicitations ⟨to⟩ the Prince, partly by getting the Millers to g⟨o⟩ in a body & represent to him, that in consequence of the importation of flour they were starveing, & by persuadeing the Managers of the Royal Domains (ie Casa de Bragansa) to represent to him that so long as it was allowed to be imported they could not sell the grain cultivated on the Royal Estates to the great injury of his Revenue. It is unfortunate for a People when the Prince beleives his interest different from theirs, & their misfortunes are like to be perpetuated, when the only persons who have his ear are of the same opinion; nor under those circumstances is there much probability that any representations however just will convince them of their error, which I am apprehensive nothing will do short of a general scarcity. I was the more desirous of saying ⟨s⟩omething as to the health, as I understood that ⟨w⟩hen flour was first prohibited, it was somewhat ⟨o⟩wing to a popular prejudice that an epidemic ⟨w⟩hich prevail’d about that time, was occasioned in part by the badness of the flour, & a good opening was left by two Physicians being employ’d in the Corn Market to inspect Bread stuffs. The calculations of our distilleries I made from the statement of the Internal Taxes for 1800, allowing each Still work’d 2 months, but upon farther reflection I think they would average more than three months, which would considerably reduce the agregate capacity of the Country ⟨s⟩tills; the grain that might be substituted to Mollasses is correct, allowing the Rum distilled the same year all first proof, & a bushel of ⟨g⟩rain to make two gall’s spirits.

Inclosed is also the Copy of the ⟨o⟩riginal order & a Copy of a letter dated 16th. Aug: from Mr. O’Brien.

Two days since I recd. from Baltimore two letters & a packet of News Papers for Charles Pinckney Esqr. & a letter for his Secretary which I ⟨s⟩ent by Post yesterday. With the greatest Respect I am Sir Yr. Most Hble Servt.

William Jarvis

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