James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George W. Erving, 3 November 1807


November 3, 1807


I sent ⟨   ⟩ I left Madrid ⟨   ⟩ it the gala days of the ⟨   ⟩ as is sooner ⟨   ⟩ if ⟨   ⟩.

My public letter acquainted you ⟨   ⟩ the state of affairs between France & Portugal. It was serious ⟨   ⟩ stated when Mr De Beauharnois ⟨re⟩cd a courier (the 30th. at Night) announcing to ⟨him⟩ that the Emperor had declared war against ⟨the⟩ Prince Regent, ordered his legation to quit ⟨Pa⟩ris in 24 hours: on the 31st. Count D’Ega the ⟨Po⟩rtuguese ambassador here was ordered to quit ⟨Ma⟩drid in 48. hours, & Spain in 10 days:

The object of this letter is to give you the most ⟨corr⟩ect information possible Respecting a scene which ⟨i⟩s now opened here; it began to develop till ⟨   ⟩ previous to the date of my letter above referred to tho the variety of accounts & reports ⟨   ⟩ which prevailed in Madrid upon this subject previous to my departure persist ⟨   ⟩ & induced me rather to defer any mention of it till I should be able on coming hither to ascertain all its circumstances with some precision, in a scene whic⟨h⟩ in whatever catastrophe it may terminate as to the intended victims will most unquestionably produce very immediate results of the highest political consequence: and I am now Enabled to give you not only such circumstances Respecting it as will ⟨be⟩ generally known, but such other interesting particu⟨lars⟩ as possibly will never become public; but which, whatever may appear hereafter to contradict them, you may entirely rely on the accuracy of.

Some time about the Commencement or midd⟨le⟩ of last month the french ambassador received two letters from his Emperor, one addressed to the King & one to the prince of Asturias, with orders to deliver them into their respective hands; which he according⟨ly⟩ did; & I cannot say to a certainty what were their contents but which ⟨   ⟩ the King ⟨   ⟩ in question on their ⟨   ⟩ at the time a marriage to the Portuguese princess was proposed ⟨for⟩ the prince of Asturias, passed upon & rejected by him. He wrote to the Emperor requesting his interference on that point to what ⟨effect⟩ is unclear.

This correspondence appears to have Excited distrust ⟨&⟩ jealousy. The Princes household has been composed wholly of persons placed by the influence of the ⟨p⟩rince of Peace to whom he has a most ⟨   ⟩ ⟨a⟩version; consequently tho he is generally beloved, amongst such a number of officers & servants as ⟨   ⟩ about him, there could not be wanting some ⟨to⟩ make a false report of his conduct, nor others ⟨w⟩ho may have made an unfair one. However this may be, the King was induced to beleive that this ⟨p⟩rince was Engaged in a conspiracy against his ⟨cr⟩own, & even his life. One detached circumstance ⟨sh⟩oud be here mentioned because it may have promoted ⟨the⟩ natural tendency the King may afterward have ⟨   ⟩eved to such ⟨   ⟩. On the 15 Ulto he desired the Prince of peace to wait on the prince of Asturias & communicate with him on the contents of the Emperors letter before referred to. The latter treated the former in this interview with a great deal of brusquerie & harshness, & snatched the letter from his hands & ⟨   ⟩ the floor, with some expressions ⟨of⟩ contempt applied to the P of P. who left the presence very much dissatisfied, but he had learnt there for the first time what ye. Prince had let drop in his rage viz. that he himself had also recd. a letter from the Emperor to the same effect as that brought to him by the P. of P.

On the 26th. 9 guards du corps were arrested sent to Madrid, & lodged in different pri⟨sons.⟩ The particular motives for their imprisonment remains to this day a profound mystery: bu⟨t on⟩ the evening of that day the King detained the pri⟨nce⟩ with him alone after the other infantes had left his chamber & had a long conversation with him.

On the 27th. in the morning he again called him, ⟨&⟩ then charged him with being in possession of treasonable ⟨   ⟩ demanded his keys, sent for his port-folios; other things in which papers might be, examined & ⟨   ⟩ to be examined not only this, but his chambers furniture & every thing which belonged to him: ⟨   ⟩ Enquiry probably occupied that day and the next, ⟨an⟩d from the papers, ⟨   ⟩ I think not more, were ⟨   ⟩ (one of which was some sort of cypher) as ⟨evi⟩dences corroborating the suspicions already formed. On the 29th. 22 guards were sent to occupy the ⟨prin⟩ces apartments, & the King then went thither in ⟨per⟩son placed him in arrest & charged the Major ⟨Gen⟩eral to answer with his life for the security of ⟨the⟩ princes person. Every person in his household ⟨from⟩ the highest dignity down to the meanest ⟨scu⟩llion & stable boy was also arrested; they continue ⟨in co⟩nfinement The valets de chambre & all above that ⟨   ⟩ Each in a seperate cell of ye. Convent under two ⟨sen⟩tinels; & all below the rank of valet de chambre ⟨in⟩ the common jails. Besides these arrests there were 40 or 50 others made at Madrid ⟨   ⟩ and are still continued; 4 persons arrived under guard from Madrid yesterday & 36 are expected to day and for the reception of whom that part of the convent occupied by noviciates is cleared & prepared.

When the prince was thus secured the ⟨king⟩ sent for 6 Counsellors of Castile, the president ⟨of⟩ the council, & the Minister of grace & justice; ⟨they⟩ held a consultation, & on the 30th. his decree ⟨   ⟩ this affair was published by the minister of gra⟨ce⟩ & justice. The decree shews a considerable anxiety to prepossess the public opinion in f⟨avor⟩ of these proceedings, & the matter in question ⟨   ⟩ there the most serious aspect. It was eith⟨er⟩ on the 29th. or 30th. that the counsellors & Minister ⟨were⟩ summoned, attended the prince for the purp⟨ose⟩ of taking his Examination; & the king went wi⟨th⟩ them. The prince on this occasion behaved ⟨with⟩ great firmness, & displayed an Energy of char⟨acter⟩ which he was not supposed to possess; he ⟨   ⟩ the ministers with the greatest ⟨   ⟩ calling them by opprobrious names, branding ⟨them⟩ as traitors to his father & himself. He asserted ⟨in a⟩ dignified tone his rights as prince of asturias, & ⟨   ⟩ his astonishment at the insolence of those who ⟨   ⟩ to question him; in fine he was wholly ⟨   ⟩table; & his father endeavoured to appease him ⟨   ⟩ told that the scene drew tears from his Eyes: ⟨the⟩ junta separated without doing any thing toward ⟨it⟩s objects. On the 1st. Inst, I cannot say ⟨how⟩ it was brought about, nor who were the persons ⟨prese⟩nt, but the King was there, the Prince answered ⟨   ⟩ question in form submitted to be cross Examined, ⟨par⟩ticularly with respect to certain papers, & this sort ⟨   ⟩ as it is called, which seemed to intimate a ⟨   ⟩ of killing somebody, & the Prince closed the ⟨proce⟩edings, after having promised that nothing was ⟨far⟩ther from his thought than to attempt any thing ⟨agai⟩nst his father, & professing his love for him, & his ⟨   ⟩ to the very idea of the Crimes, with which they ⟨pre in⟩tended to charge him, with ⟨a bold⟩ Explicit declaration that what the suspicious matter had refer⟨ence⟩ to did include the plan of taking away the life of t⟨he⟩ P. of P., whom he then went on to describe as a trai⟨tor⟩ who had ⟨tried⟩ in various ways to destroy him, who had usurped his rights, & who was an Enemy to his father & to his Country. His avowal & his language were of such a nature, & all the mysteries in the papers stood so well Explained, that the commission, with whatever dispositions it went, was confounded; it seemed that there was nothing further to ask. Here the business rests at present; the public anxiety is on the utmost str⟨etch⟩.

I will continue to write to you whatever ⟨   ⟩ may occurr; in the mean time will hazard giv⟨ing⟩ an opinion on some important points connected with the affair:

Nobody can beleive, who does not see the most positive proofs, that the P. of A. is capable of any kind of wickedness, much less of treason against his father: He is universally beloved and he ⟨   ⟩ Enemy is determined ⟨   ⟩ ⟨th⟩ere is no doubt in the minds of those best acquainted with the intrigues of the Court that ⟨i⟩t has always been the object of the Prince of Peace by one means or other to remove this the greatest obstacle to his ambition and then to ⟨   ⟩ the King to commit the Regency to him⟨se⟩lf and the Queen. The Prince of Peace who beleives ⟨h⟩imself to be a very fine Politician on this as he has on occasion overshot his mark The Prince of Asturias is under ⟨the⟩ special protection of the Emperor If ⟨the⟩ Prince of Peace his head his own and other of more ⟨co⟩nsequence will inevitably follow ⟨The⟩re are those who believe that he would not ⟨l⟩ive even twenty four hours after such a ⟨   ⟩ Counting to a certainty on a popular insurrection. That I cannot beleive in but ⟨   ⟩ Buonaparte for vengeance we may I presume that there is a Word left out here ⟨   ⟩ if the Prince of Asturias be acquitted which I beleive he will be then the other ma⟨y⟩ fall in ⟨   ⟩ event then his Reign ⟨   ⟩ finished He has pretended to hold ⟨him⟩self aloof from these proceedings but even if he we⟨re⟩ really innocent in them, no body wou⟨d⟩ believe him. The fact is that he left this on the 1st. was taken ill at Madrid on the 18th. & return⟨ed⟩ here well on the 31st. During the time that he was confined at Madrid I beleive he made three several visits here by night. He was cer⟨tainly⟩ here on the 29th. Immediately the arrests took place three several couriers were dispatched to the Emperor by the Friends of the Prince of Asturias The declaration ⟨of⟩ the Prince on his last Examination and the certainty that he has been in correspondence with the Emperor and is under his protection seems to have confo⟨unded⟩ his Enemies It is Said that he is to be sent to the Castle of Segovia but for many reasons that cannot be. Most probably the Prince of Peace wi⟨ll try⟩ to smooth ⟨matters⟩ over but this will not do The Prince of Asturias can neither be deceived by or reconciled to him and is resolved on his ruin.

Before this Event the Emperor had ordered 80000 more ⟨tr⟩oops for Spain.

The arrests still continue It is said that they comprize ⟨a⟩ll the household of the late princess of Asturias; & ⟨s⟩ome of those who without having any immediate ⟨con⟩nection with the prince have been usually considered his friends; that amongst these are several persons ⟨of⟩ the first distinction such as the Dukes of St. Carlos ⟨and⟩ Infantado; all the papers belonging to the latter ⟨   ⟩ were seized ⟨   ⟩ himself having left Madrid ⟨   ⟩ days since to visit his brother who was sick ⟨at⟩ Bourdeaux & has since died ⟨   ⟩ I cannot learn ⟨if⟩ any further Examination of the Prince has taken ⟨place⟩; immediately after the last, the government ⟨   ⟩ the greatest diligence to Suppress the decree ⟨   ⟩⟨wh⟩ich it published on ye. 30th. & to recall all the printed ⟨bu⟩lletins of it, so that it is impossible now to procure one; but I have obtained a copy of it whic⟨h⟩ is herewith transmitted; it is however ⟨   ⟩ in the preamble ⟨   ⟩ With Sincere Respect & esteem Dear Sir Your very obliged & obt Srt

George W Erving

5th. Yesterday being the birth day of the King, his Son sent him his felicitations; which as is said very much affected the father. 9 of the inferior ⟨   ⟩ have been let out of prison & the apprehensions for ⟨the⟩ prince are generally very much diminished.

6th. At nine o clock last night the Prince of Asturias was set at liberty; & all his househol⟨d.⟩ He kissed the Kings hand & they were entirely reconciled: This was effected by the mediation of the Prince of Peace who says that he came her⟨e⟩ from Madrid for the very purpose.

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Spain.

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