James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George William Erving, 27 January 1808

Madrid January 27th. 1808.


On the 6th. Inst. I had the honor to transmit to you a copy of the decree issued by this Government on the 3rd., to the same purport of that published at Milan by the Emperor of France on the 17th. December, professing to render more efficacious & extensive the ⟨me⟩asures which had been previously taken for the blockade of the British Isles.

In a note to Mr. Cevallos of the 8th. Inst., acknowledging the ⟨re⟩ceipt of his communication on this subject, I asked for such explana⟨tio⟩ns as the matter seemed immediately to require, & as I judged would be ⟨ex⟩pected by the President: To which not having received a reply, & finding by the reports from several of our Consuls, that the Corsairs & ⟨ad⟩ministrations at the ports, had interpreted the decree unfavorably, & ha⟨d⟩ commenced to carry it into rigid operation against our Commerce; it ⟨ha⟩s seemed necessary again to address the Minister; copy of those two ⟨no⟩tes (Nos. 1. & 6.) are herewith inclosed.

Nos. 2. & 3. of the accompanying copies, are Mr. Cevallos’s note of the 10th. & mine of the 14th. Inst: They respect an embargo whi⟨ch⟩ had been laid on the vessels of France & its allies: As the measure was not general, I have confined myself to merely acknowledging the communication.

No. 4. is a Representation I made on the 16th. Inst. of a very extraordinary proceeding at St. Sebastian, where the papers of several vessels have been seized; The motive to which, as I am led to conclude by an American Citizen there, who has transmitted the information, is a suspicion that some of those vessels may have been boarded by the English.

I have from time to time submitted to you copies of all the important correspondence with the Minister of State upon the ca⟨se⟩ of the "Rebecca, Nimmo"; the Representations made against the Auditor of Marine at Algeciras, on account of his conduct in that case: and against the proceedings in general, of that Tribun⟨al.⟩ You will have observed, Sir, that in consequence of those represen⟨ta⟩tions, the Auditor in question was suspended, & that the Council of ⟨   ⟩ was directed to enquire into the matter of complaint; this together ⟨with⟩ all other business relating to the prize Courts, was transferred to ⟨the⟩ Almirantazgo, which after a very long delay, tho’, as I believ⟨e,⟩ having made little or no examination into the matter, has det⟨ermined⟩ that there does not exist any proof of the corrupt practises with which the Auditor has been charged, & therefore that he shall be reinstated in his office. This judgement has been communicated to me by Mr. Cevallos in a note of the 19th. Inst., copy of which (No. 5.) is herewith ⟨i⟩nclosed. It appears that the persons whom I indicated to Mr. Cevallos as evidences to support the facts alledged; as was forseen, have ⟨de⟩clined to give testimony; that the Government have not used the ⟨me⟩ans in its power to compel a compliance with its citation, as was requi⟨red⟩; that this reluctance, to appear on the part of the individuals, is ⟨co⟩nstrued favorably for the Auditor, and that similar conclusions are ⟨dr⟩awn from his Serene Highness’s approval of the sentences of the ⟨in⟩ferior Tribunal; the injustice as well as corruption of which, motived ⟨more⟩ Representations!!!

The number of french troops in this Country is continually ⟨au⟩gmenting; hitherto they have all arrived by way of Bayonne, & ⟨the⟩ most advanced post is actually at Validolid; but a very conside⟨rab⟩le army is also entering by way of Perpignan, & it is generally ⟨und⟩erstood that the ports of Spain are to be occupied by them: it is ⟨   ⟩ manifest however, that the entire object of the Emperor has not ⟨been⟩ explained to this Government, since it cannot, & scarcely pre⟨tends⟩ to conceal, certain apprehensions which those movements, naturally enough, give rise to; and which many concurrent circumstances tend also to countenance. These however do not beget any concern amongst the people in general, who seem to attend whatever change may happen in their situation, to say the least, with much indifference; & as to a very considerable portion of them, certainly, with rather complacency. I have the honor to be with the most perfect Consideration & Respect, Sir, Your very obedient Servant.

George W Erving

P. S. I inclose also copy of an indorsement, made by a British ship of war, on the papers of an American Vessel lately arrived in Spa⟨in.⟩

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

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