History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson/Second/II:13

Chapter 13: The Dos de MaioEdit

While the people of the United States waited to see the effect of the embargo on Europe, Europe watched with breathless interest the death-throes of Spain.

The Emperor Napoleon, in December, 1807, hurried in triumphal progress from one ancient city to another, through his Italian kingdom, while his armies steadily crossed the Pyrenees, and spread over every road between Bayonne and Lisbon. From Madrid, Godoy saw that the end was near. Until that moment he had counted with certainty on the devotion of the Spanish people to their old King[.] In the last months of 1807 he learned that even Spanish loyalty could not survive the miseries of such a reign. Conspiracy appeared in the Escorial itself. Ferdinand, Prince of the Asturias, only son of Don Carlos IV., was discovered in a plot for dethroning his father by aid of Napoleon. Ferdinand was but twenty-three years old; yet even in the flower of youth he showed no social quality. Dull, obstinate, sullen, just shrewd enough to be suspicious, and with just enough passion to make him vindictive, Ferdinand was destined to become the last and worst of the Spanish Bourbon kings; yet in the year 1807 he had a strong bond of sympathy with the people, for he hated and feared his father and mother and the Prince of Peace. Public patience, exhausted by endless disaster, and outraged by the King's incompetence, the Queen's supposed amours, and Godoy's parade of royal rank and power, vanished at the news that Ferdinand shared in the popular disgust; and the Prince of Peace suddenly woke to find the old King already dethroned in his subjects' love, while the Prince of the Asturias, who was fitted only for confinement in an asylum, had become the popular ideal of virtue and reform.

Godoy stifled Ferdinand's intrigue, and took from Napoleon that pretext for interference; but he gained at most only a brief respite for King Charles. The pardon of Ferdinand was issued Nov. 5, 1807; December 23, Napoleon sent from Milan to his minister of war orders[1] to concentrate armies for occupying the whole peninsula, and to establish the magazines necessary for their support. He was almost ready to act; and his return to Paris, Jan. 3, 1808, announced to those who were in the secret that the new drama would soon begin.

Among the most interested of his audience was General Armstrong, who had longed, since 1805, for a chance to meet the Emperor with his own weapons, and who knew that Napoleon's schemes required control of North and South America, which would warrant Jefferson in imposing rather than in receiving terms for Florida. Whatever these terms might be, Napoleon must grant them, or must yield the Americas to England's naval supremacy. The plan as Armstrong saw it was both safe and sure. Napoleon made no secret of his wants. Whatever finesse he may have used in the earlier stage of his policy was flung aside after his return to Paris, January 3. In reply to Armstrong's remonstrances against the Milan Decree, the Emperor ordered Champagny to use the language of command:[2]

"Answer Mr. Armstrong, that I am ashamed to discuss points of which the injustice is so evident; but that in the position in which England has put the Continent, I do not doubt of the United States declaring war against her, especially on account of her decree of November 11; that however great may be the evil resulting to America from war, every man of sense will prefer it to a recognition of the monstrous principles and of the anarchy which that Government wants to establish on the seas; that in my mind I regard war as declared between England and America from the day when England published her decrees; that, for the rest, I have ordered that the American vessels should remain sequestered, to be disposed of as shall be necessary according to circumstances."

No coarser methods were known to diplomacy than those which Napoleon commonly took whenever the moment for action came. Not only did he thus hold millions of American property sequestered as a pledge for the obedience of America, but he also offered a bribe to the United States government. January 28 he gave orders [3] for the occupation of Barcelona and the Spanish frontier as far as the Ebro, and for pushing a division from Burgos to Aranda on the direct road to Madrid. These orders admitted of no disguise; they announced the annexation of Spain to France. A few days afterward, February 2, the Emperor began to dispose of Spanish territory as already his own.

"Let the American minister know verbally," he wrote to Champagny,[4] "that whenever war shall be declared between America and England, and whenever in consequence of this war the Americans shall send troops into the Floridas to help the Spaniards and repulse the English, I shall much approve of it. You will even let him perceive (vous lui laisserez même entrevoir) that in case America should be disposed to enter into a treaty of alliance, and make common cause with me, I shall not be unwilling (éloigné) to intervene with the court of Spain to obtain the cession of these same Floridas in favor of the Americans."

The next day Champagny sent for Armstrong and gave him a verbal message, which the American minister understood as follows:[5]

"General, I have to communicate to you a message from the Emperor. I am instructed to say that the measure of taking the Floridas, to the exclusion of the British, meets entirely the approbation of his Majesty. I understand that you wish to purchase the Floridas. If such be your wish, I am further instructed to say that his Majesty will interest himself with Spain in such way as to obtain for you the Floridas, and, what is still more important, a convenient western boundary for Louisiana, on condition that the United States will enter into an alliance with France."

Weary of verbal and semi-official advances, Armstrong determined to put this overture on record, and in doing so, to tell the Emperor plainly the price of American friendship. February 5 he wrote to Champagny a note, embodying the message as he understood it, and promising to convey it to the President.[6]

"I should little deserve," he added, "and still less reciprocate the frankness of this declaration, were I to withhold from your Excellency my belief that the present conduct of France toward the commerce of the United States, so far from promoting the views of his Majesty, is directly calculated to contravene them. That the United States are at this moment on the eve of a war with Great Britain on account of certain outrages committed against their rights as a neutral nation is a fact abundantly and even generally known. Another fact, scarcely less known, is that under these circumstances France also has proceeded, in many instances and by various means, to violate these very rights. In both cases all the injunctions of public law have been equally forgotten; but between the two we cannot fail to remark a conspicuous difference. With Great Britain the United States could invoke no particular treaty providing rights supplementary to these injunctions; but such was not their situation with France. With her a treaty did exist, . . .a treaty sanctioned with the name and guaranteed by the promise of the Emperor 'that all its obligations should be inviolably preserved.'"

This was hardly the reply which the Emperor expected; but, temper for temper, Napoleon was not a man to be thus challenged by a mere diplomatist.

"You must write to the American minister," was his order to Champagny,[7] "that France has taken engagements with America, has made with her a treaty founded on the principle that the flag covers the goods, and that if this sacred principle had not been solemnly proclaimed, his Majesty would still proclaim it; that his Majesty treated with America independent, and not with America enslaved (asservie); that if she submits to the King of England's Decree of November 11, she renounces thereby the protection of her flag; but that if the Americans, as his Majesty cannot doubt without wounding their honor, regard this act as one of hostility, the Emperor is ready to do justice in every respect."

In forwarding these documents to Washington, Armstrong expressed in plain language his opinion of Napoleon and Champagny. "With one hand they offer us the blessings of equal alliance against Great Britain; with the other they menace us with war if we do not accept this kindness; and with both they pick our pockets with all imaginable diligence, dexterity, and impudence." Armstrong's patience was exhausted. He besought the Government to select its enemy, either France or England; but "in either case do not suspend a moment the seizure of the Floridas."[8] A week afterward he wrote to Madison that "in a council of Administration held a few days past, when it was proposed to modify the operation of the Decrees of November, 1806, and December, 1807, though the proposition was supported by the whole weight of the council, the Emperor became highly indignant, and declared that these decrees should suffer no change, and that the Americans should be compelled to take the positive character either of allies or of enemies."[9]

These letters from Armstrong, enclosing Champagny's version of Napoleon's blunt words, were despatched to Washington during the month of February; and, as the story has already shown, President Jefferson roused a storm against France by communicating to Congress the Emperor's order that the United States government should regard itself as at war with England. Turreau felt the publication as a fatal blow to his influence; but even Turreau, soldier as he was, could never appreciate the genius of his master's audacity. Napoleon knew his ground. From the moment England adopted the Orders in Council the United States were necessarily a party in the war, and no process of evasion or delay could more than disguise their position. Napoleon told Jefferson this plain truth, and offered him the Floridas as a bribe to declare himself on the side of France. These advances were made before the embargo system was fairly known or fully understood at Paris; and the policy of peaceable coercion, as applied to England, had not been considered in the Emperor's plans. Alliance or war seemed to him the necessary alternative, and from that point of view America had no reason or right to complain because he disregarded treaty stipulations which had become a dead letter.

All this while the Emperor held Spain in suspense, but February 21 he gave orders for securing the royal family. Murat was to occupy Madrid; Admiral Rosily, who commanded a French squadron at Cadiz, was to bar the way "if the Spanish Court, owing to events or a folly that can hardly be expected, should wish to renew the scene of Lisbon."[10] Godoy saw the impending blow, and ordered the Court to Cadiz, intending to carry the King even to Mexico if no other resource remained. He would perhaps have saved the King, and Admiral Rosily himself would have been the prisoner, had not the people risen in riot on hearing of the intended flight. March 17 a sudden mob sacked Godoy's house at Aranjuez, hunting him down like a wild beast, and barely failing to take his life; while by sheer terror Don Carlos IV. was made to abdicate the throne in favor of his son Ferdinand. March 19 the ancient Spanish empire crumbled away.

Owing to the skill with which Napoleon had sucked every drop of blood from the veins, and paralyzed every nerve in the limbs of the Spanish monarchy, the throne fell without apparent touch from him, and his army entered Madrid as though called to protect Carlos IV. from violence. When the news reached Paris the Emperor, April 2, hurried to Bordeaux and Bayonne, where he remained until August, regulating his new empire. To Bayonne were brought all the familiar figures of the old Spanish régime,—Carlos IV., Queen Luisa, Ferdinand, the Prince of Peace, Don Pedro Cevallos,—the last remnants of picturesque Spain; and Napoleon passed them in review with the curiosity which he might have shown in regarding a collection of rococo furniture. His victims always interested him, except when, as in the case of Tousaint Louverture, they were not of noble birth. King Charles, he said,[11] looked a bon et brave homme.

"I do not know whether it is due to his position or to the circumstances, but he has the air of a patriarch, frank and good. The Queen carries her heart and history on her face; you need to know nothing more of her. The Prince of Peace has the air of a bull; something like Daru. He is beginning to recover his senses; he has been treated with unexampled barbarity. It is well to discharge him of every false imputation, but he must be left covered with a slight tinge of contempt."

This was a compliment to Godoy; for Napoleon made it his rule to throw contempt only upon persons—like the Queen of Prussia, or Mme. de Staël, or Toussaint—whose influence he feared. Of Ferdinand, Napoleon could make nothing, and became almost humorous in attempting to express the antipathy which this last Spanish Bourbon aroused.

"The King of Prussia is a hero in comparison with the Prince of the Asturias. He has not yet said a word to me; he is indifferent to everything; very material; eats four times a day, and has no ideas; . . . sullen and stupid."

Madrid and Aranjuez, the Escorial and La Granja were to know King Charles and his court no more. After showing themselves for a few days at Bayonne, these relics of the eighteenth century disappeared to Compiègne, to Valençay, to one refuge after another, until in 1814 unhappy Spain welcomed back the sullen and stupid Ferdinand, only to learn his true character; while old King Charles, beggared and forgotten, dragged out a melancholy existence in Italy, served to the last by Godoy with a loyalty that half excused his faults and vices. The Bourbon rubbish was swept from Madrid; Don Carlos had already abdicated; Ferdinand, entrapped and terrified, was set aside; the old palaces were garnished for newcomers; and after Lucien and Louis Bonaparte had refused the proffered throne, Napoleon sent to Naples for Joseph, who was crowned, June 15, King of Spain at Bayonne.

Meanwhile the Spanish people woke to consciousness that their ancient empire had become a province of France, and their exasperation broke into acts of wild revenge. May 2 Madrid rose in an insurrection which Murat suppressed by force. Several hundred lives on either side were lost; and although the affair itself was one of no great importance, it had results which made the day an epoch in modern history.

The gradual breaking up of the old European system of politics was marked by an anniversary among each of the Western nations. The English race dated from July 4, 1776, the beginning of a new era; the French celebrated July 14, 1789, the capture of the Bastille, as decisive of their destinies. For a time, Bonaparte's coup d'état of the 18th Brumaire in 1799 forced both France and England back on their steps; but the dethronement of Charles IV. began the process in a new direction. The Second of May—or as the Spaniards called it, the Dos de Maio—swept the vast Spanish empire into the vortex of dissolution. Each of the other anniversaries—that of July 4, 1776, and of July 14, 1789—had been followed by a long and bloody convulsion which ravaged large portions of the world; and the extent and violence of the convulsion which was to ravage the Spanish empire could be measured only by the vastness of Spanish dominion. So strangely had political forces been entangled by Napoleon's hand, that the explosion at Madrid roused the most incongruous interests into active sympathy and strange companionship. The Spaniards themselves, the least progressive people in Europe, became by necessity democratic; not only the people, but even the governments of Austria and Germany felt the movement, and yielded to it; the Tories of England joined with the Whigs and Democrats in cheering a revolution which could not but shake the foundations of Tory principles; confusion became chaos, and while all Europe, except France, joined hands in active or passive support of Spanish freedom, America, the stronghold of free government, drew back and threw her weight on the opposite side. The workings of human development were never more strikingly shown than in the helplessness with which the strongest political and social forces in the world followed or resisted at haphazard the necessities of a movement which they could not control or comprehend. Spain, France, Germany, England, were swept into a vast and bloody torrent which dragged America, from Montreal to Valparaiso, slowly into its movement; while the familiar figures of famous men,—Napoleon, Alexander, Canning, Godoy, Jefferson, Madison, Talleyrand; emperors, generals, presidents, conspirators, patriots, tyrants, and martyrs by the thousand,—were borne away by the stream, struggling, gesticulating, praying, murdering, robbing; each blind to everything but a selfish interest, and all helping more or less unconsciously to reach the new level which society was obliged to seek. Half a century of disorder failed to settle the problems raised by the Dos de Maio; but from the first even a child could see that in the ruin of a world like the empire of Spain, the only nation certain to find a splendid and inexhaustible booty was the Republic of the United States. To President Jefferson the Spanish revolution opened an endless vista of democratic ambition.

Yet at first the Dos de Maio seemed only to rivet Napoleon's power, and to strengthen the reaction begun on the 18th Brumaire. The Emperor expected local resistance, and was ready to suppress it. He had dealt effectually with such popular outbreaks in France, Italy, and Germany; he had been overcome in St. Domingo not by the people, but, as he believed, by the climate. If the Germans and Italians could be made obedient to his orders, the Spaniards could certainly offer no serious resistance. During the two or three months that followed the dethronement of the Bourbons, Napoleon stood at the summit of his hopes. If the letters he then wrote were not extant to prove the plans he had in mind, common-sense would refuse to believe that schemes so unsubstantial could have found lodgment in his brain. The English navy and English commerce were to be driven from the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean, and American waters, until the ruin of England should be accomplished, and the empire of the world should be secured. Order rapidly followed order for reconstructing the navies of France, Spain, and Portugal. Great expeditions were to occupy Ceuta, Egypt, Syria, Buenos Ayres, the Isle de France, and the East Indies.

"The concurrence of these operations," he wrote May 13,[12] "will throw London into a panic. A single one of them, that of India, will do horrible damage there. England will then have no means of annoying us or of disturbing America. I am resolved on this expedition."

For this purpose the Emperor required not only the submission of Spain, but also the support of Spanish America and of the United States. He acted as though he were already master of all these countries, which were not yet within his reach[.] Continuing to treat the United States as a dependent government, he issued April 17 a new order directing the seizure of all American vessels which should enter the ports of France, Italy, and the Hanse towns.[13] This measure, which became famous as the Bayonne Decree, surpassed the Decrees of Berlin and Milan in violence, and was gravely justified by Napoleon on the ground that, since the embargo, no vessel of the United States could navigate the seas without violating the law of its own government, and furnishing a presumption that it did so with false papers, on British account or in British connection. "This is very ingenious," wrote Armstrong in reporting the fact.[14] Yet it was hardly more arbitrary or unreasonable than the British "Rule of 1756," which declared that a neutral should practise no trade with a belligerent which it had not practised with the same nation during peace.

While these portentous events were passing rapidly before the eyes of Europe, no undue haste marked Madison's movements. Champagny's letter of Jan. 15, 1808, arrived and was sent to Congress toward the end of March; but although the United States quickly knew by heart Napoleon's phrase, "War exists in fact between England and the United States, and his Majesty considers it as declared from the day on which England published her decrees;" although Rose departed March 22, and the embargo was shaped into a system of coercion long before Rose's actual departure,—yet Congress waited until April 22 before authorizing the President to suspend the embargo, if he could succeed in persuading or compelling England or France to withdraw the belligerent decrees; and not until May 2—the famous Dos de Maio—did Madison send to Armstrong instructions which were to guide that minister through the dangers of Napoleonic diplomacy.

The Secretary began by noticing Champagny's letter of January 15, which had assumed to declare war for the United States government.

"That [letter]," said Madison,[15]"... has, as you will see by the papers herewith sent, produced all the sensations here which the spirit and style of it were calculated to excite in minds alive to the interests and honor of the nation. To present to the United States the alternative of bending to the views of France against her enemy, or of incurring a confiscation of all the property of their citizens carried into the French prize courts, implied that they were susceptible of impressions by which no independent and honorable nation can be guided; and to prejudge and pronounce for them the effect which the conduct of another nation ought to have on their councils and course of proceeding, had the air at least of an assumed authority not less irritating to the public feeling. In these lights the President makes it your duty to present to the French government the contents of Mr. Champagny's letter; taking care, as your discretion will doubtless suggest, that while you make that Government sensible of the offensive tone employed, you leave the way open for friendly and respectful explanations, if there be a disposition to offer them, and for a decision here on any reply which may be of a different character."

While Armstrong waited for Napoleon's "friendly and respectful explanations," he was to study the Act of Congress which vested in the President an authority to suspend the embargo:—

"The conditions on which the suspending authority is to be exercised will engage your particular attention. They appeal equally to the justice and the policy of the two great belligerent Powers now emulating each other in violations of both. The President counts on your best endeavors to give to this appeal all the effect possible with the French government. Mr. Pinkney will be doing the same with that of Great Britain."

The Florida affair remained to be discussed. The President courteously acknowledged the Emperor's wishes "for an accession of the United States to the war against England, as an inducement to which his interposition would be employed with Spain to obtain for them the Floridas." Armstrong was told to say in reply "that the United States having chosen as the basis of their policy a fair and sincere neutrality among the contending Powers, they are disposed to adhere to it as long as their essential interests will permit, and are more particularly disinclined to become a party to the complicated and general warfare which agitates another quarter of the globe, for the purpose of obtaining a separate and particular object, however interesting to them; but," Madison added, "should circumstances demand from the United States a precautionary occupation against the hostile designs of Great Britain, it will be recollected with satisfaction that the measure has received his Majesty's approbation." Finally, Armstrong's advice to seize the Floridas without delay was answered only by the singular remark that the Emperor had given no reason to suppose he would approve the step. In private Jefferson gave other explanations, but perhaps he most nearly expressed his true feeling when he added that Armstrong wrote "so much in the buskin that he cannot give a naked fact in an intelligible form."[16]

Turreau, who stood nearer than any other man to the secrets of American foreign politics, attempted to draw the President from this defensive attitude. Turreau's instructions were such as to warrant him in using strong language. In a despatch dated February 15, Champagny repeated to his minister at Washington in still plainer words the substance of what had been said to Armstrong: "Some American ships have been seized, but the Emperor contents himself for the moment with holding them in sequestration. His conduct toward the Americans will depend on the conduct of the United States toward England." As previously to Armstrong, so again to Turreau, the threat was supported by the bribe:—

"The Emperor, wishing on this occasion to establish a still more intimate union of interests between America and France, has authorized me to notify Mr. Armstrong verbally that if England should make any movement against the Floridas, he would not take it ill if the United States should move troops there for defence. You will be cautious in making use of this communication, which is purely conditional, and can take effect only in case the Floridas are attacked.[17]

Not until late in the month of June did Turreau find an opportunity to talk at his ease with the President and Secretary of State; but, as usual, his account of the conversation was interesting.[18] He began with Madison; and after listening with some impatience to the Secretary's long list of complaints, he brought forward the suggestion of alliance:—

"I watched the Secretary of State, and the experience I have in dealing with him made me easily perceive that my proposal embarrassed him; so he replied in an evasive manner. At last, finding himself too hard pressed, for a third time he said to me 'that the intention of the Federal government was to observe the most exact impartiality between France and England.' 'You have departed from it,' said I, 'when you place the two Powers on the same line relatively to their conduct toward you.' . . . 'Well,' said he, 'we must wait the decision of the next Congress with regard to the embargo; doubtless it will be raised in favor of the Power which shall first recall the measures that harass our commerce'"

For three hours Turreau lectured the secretary on the iniquities of England, while the secretary doggedly repeated his phrases. Wearied but not satisfied, the French minister abandoned Madison and attacked the President. Jefferson entertained him with a long list of complaints against Spain, which Turreau had heard so often as to know them by memory. When at last the conversation had been brought to the subject of alliance against England, Jefferson took a new view of the situation, which hardly agreed with that taken by the Secretary of State.

"You have complained," replied the President, "that in consequence of our measures and of the proceedings of the last Congress, France has been put on a level with England in regard to the wrongs we allege against both Powers, while there was no kind of analogy either in the date or the gravity of their wrongs toward the Americans. I am going to prove to you generally that we never intended to admit any comparison in the conduct of these two Powers, by recalling to you the effect of the very measures you complain of. The embargo, which seems to strike at France and Great Britain equally, is in fact more prejudicial to the latter than to the former, by reason of the greater number of colonies which England possesses, and their inferiority in local resources."

After pursuing this line of argument Jefferson reverted to his own policy, and made an advance toward an understanding.

"It is possible," he said, "that Congress may repeal the embargo, the continuation of which would do us more harm than a state of war. For us in the present situation all is loss; whereas, however powerful the English may be, war would put us in a way of doing them much harm, because our people are enterprising. Yet as it is probable that Congress will favor raising the embargo if the Orders in Council are withdrawn, it would be necessary for your interests, if you are unwilling to withdraw your decrees, that at least you should promise their withdrawal on condition that the embargo be withdrawn in your favor. You will also observe that were the embargo withdrawn in favor of the English, this will not close our differences with them, because never—no, never—will there be an arrangement with them if they do not renounce the impressment of our seamen on our ships."

With this avowal, which Turreau understood as a sort of pledge that Jefferson would lean toward war with England rather than with France, the French minister was obliged to content himself; while he pressed on his Government the assurance that both the President and the secretary wished more than all else to obtain the Floridas. Such reports were little calculated to change the Emperor's course. Human ingenuity discovered but one way to break Napoleon's will, and this single method was that of showing power to break his plans.

In due time Armstrong received his instructions of May 2, and wrote June 10 to Champagny a note declining the proposed alliance, and expressing the satisfaction which his Government felt at hearing the Emperor's approval of "a cautionary occupation of the Floridas." Napoleon, who was still at Bayonne in the flush of his power, no sooner read this reply than he wrote to Champagny,[19]

"Answer the American minister that you do not know what he means about the occupation of the Floridas; and that the Americans, being at peace with the Spaniards, cannot occupy the Floridas without the permission or the request of the King of Spain."

Armstrong, a few days afterward, was astonished by receiving from Champagny a note[20] denying positively that any suggestion had ever been made to warrant an American occupation of the Floridas without an express request from the King of Spain: "The Emperor has neither the right nor the wish to authorize an infraction of international law, contrary to the interests of an independent Power, his ally and his friend." When Napoleon chose to deny a fact, argument was thrown away; yet Armstrong could not do otherwise than recall Champagny's own words, which he did in a formal note, and there left the matter at rest, writing to his Government that the change in tone had "no doubt grown out of the new relations which the Floridas bear to this government since the abdication of Charles IV."[21]

For once Armstrong was too charitable. He might safely have assumed that Napoleon was also continuing the same coarse game he had played since April, 1803,—snatching away the lure he loved to dangle before Jefferson's eyes, punishing the Americans for refusing his offer of alliance, and making them feel the constant pressure of his will. They were fortunate if he did not at once confiscate the property he had sequestered. Indeed, not only did his seizures of American property continue even more rigorously than before,[22] but such French frigates as could keep at sea actually burned and sunk American ships that came in their way. The Bayonne Decree was enforced like a declaration of war. The Emperor tolerated no remonstrance. At Bayonne, July 6, he had an interview with one of the Livingstons, who was on his way to America as bearer of despatches.

"We are obliged to embargo your ships," said the Emperor;[23] "they keep up a trade with England; they come to Holland and elsewhere with English goods; England has made them tributary to her. This I will not suffer. Tell the President from me when you see him in America that if he can make a treaty with England, preserving his maritime rights, it will be agreeable to me; but that I will make war upon the universe, should it support her unjust pretensions. I will not abate any part of my system."

Yet in one respect he made a concession. He no longer required a declaration of war from the United States. The embargo seemed to him, as to Jefferson, an act of hostility to England which answered the immediate wants of France. In the report on foreign relations, dated Sept. 1, 1808, Napoleon expressed publicly his approval of the embargo:—

"The Americans,—this people who placed their fortune, their prosperity, and almost their existence in commerce,—have given the example of a great and courageous sacrifice. By a general embargo they have interdicted all commerce, all exchange, rather than shamefully submit to that tribute which the English pretend to impose on the shipping of all nations."

Armstrong, finding that his advice was not even considered at home, withdrew from affairs. After obeying his instructions of May 2, and recording the conventional protest against Napoleon's uncivil tone,[24] he secluded himself, early in August, at the baths of Bourbon l'Archambault, one hundred and fifty miles from Paris, and nursed his rheumatism till autumn. Thither followed him instructions from Madison, dated July 21,[25] directing him to present the case of the burned vessels "in terms which may awaken the French government to the nature of the injury and the demands of justice;" but the limit of Armstrong's patience was reached, and he flatly refused to obey. Any new experiment made at that moment, he said, would certainly be useless and perhaps injurious:—

"This opinion, formed with the utmost circumspection, is not only a regular inference from the ill success of my past endeavors, which have hitherto produced only palliations, and which have latterly failed to produce these, but a direct consequence of the most authentic information that the Emperor does not, on this subject and at this time, exercise even the small degree of patience proper to his character."[26]

Finally Armstrong summed up the results of Jefferson's policy so far as France was concerned, in a letter[27] dated August 30, which carried candor to the point of severity:—

"We have somewhat overrated our means of coercing the two great belligerents to a course of justice. The embargo is a measure calculated above any other to keep us whole and keep us in peace; but beyond this you must not count upon it. Here it is not felt, and in England . . . it is forgotten. I hope that unless France shall do us justice we will raise the embargo, and make in its stead the experiment of an armed commerce. Should she adhere to her wicked and foolish measures, we ought not to content ourselves with doing this. There is much, very much, besides that we can do; and we ought not to omit doing all we can, because it is believed here that we cannot do much, and even that we will not do what we have the power of doing."

Fortunately for Jefferson, the answer made by Spain, May 2, to Napoleon's orders was not couched in the terms which the United States government used on the same day. Joseph Bonaparte, entering his new kingdom, found himself a king without subjects. Arriving July 20 at Madrid, Joseph heard nothing but news of rebellion and disaster. On that day some twenty thousand French troops under General Dupont, advancing on Seville and Cadiz, were surrounded in the Sierra Morena, and laid down their arms to a patriot Spanish force. A few days afterward the French fleet at Cadiz surrendered. A patriot Junta assumed the government of Spain. Quick escape from Madrid became Joseph's most pressing necessity if he were to save his life. During one July week he reigned over his gloomy capital, and fled, July 29, with all the French forces still uncaptured, to the provinces beyond the Ebro.

This disaster was quickly followed by another. Junot and his army, far beyond support at Lisbon, suddenly learned that a British force under Arthur Wellesley had landed, August 1, about one hundred miles to the north of Lisbon, and was marching on that city. Junot had no choice but to fight, and August 21 he lost the battle of Vimieiro. August 30, at Cintra, he consented to evacuate Portugal, on condition that he and his twenty-two thousand men should be conveyed by sea to France.

Never before in Napoleon's career had he received two simultaneous shocks so violent. The whole of Spain and Portugal, from Lisbon to Saragossa, by a spasmodic effort freed itself from Bonaparte or Bourbon; but this was nothing, a single campaign would recover the peninsula. The real blow was in the loss of Cadiz and Lisbon, of the fleets and work-shops that were to restore French power on the ocean. Most fatal stroke of all, the Spanish colonies were thenceforward beyond reach, and the dream of universal empire was already dissolved into ocean mist. Napoleon had found the limits of his range, and saw the power of England rise, more defiant than ever, over the ruin and desolation of Spain.


  1. Napoleon to General Clarke, Dec. 23, 1807; Correspondance, xvi. 212.
  2. Napoleon to Champagny, Jan. 12, 1808; Correspondance, xvi. 243.
  3. Napoleon to General Clarke, Jan. 28, 1808; Correspondance, xvi. 281, 282.
  4. Napoleon to Champagny, Feb. 2, 1808; Correspondance, xvi. 301.
  5. Armstrong to Madison, Feb. 15, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  6. Armstrong to Champagny, Feb. 5, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  7. Napoleon to Champagny, Feb. 11, 1808; Correspondance, xvi. 319.
  8. Armstrong to Madison, Feb. 15, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  9. Armstrong to Madison, Feb. 22, 1808; State Papers, iii. 250.
  10. Decrès to Rosily, Feb. 21, 1808; Thiers's Empire, viii. 669.
  11. Napoleon to Talleyrand, Correspondance, xvii. 39, 49, 65.
  12. Napoleon to Decrès, May 13, 1808; Correspondance, xvii. 112.
  13. Napoleon to Gaudin, April 17, 1808; Correspondance, xvii. 16.
  14. Armstrong to Madison, April 25, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives, Cf. State Papers, iii. 291.
  15. Madison to Armstrong, May 2, 1808; State Papers, iii. 252.
  16. Jefferson to Madison, Sept. 13, 1808; Writings, v. 367. Cf. Jefferson to Armstrong, March 5, 1809; Works, v. 433.
  17. Champagny to Turreau, Feb. 15, 1808; Archives des Aff. Étr. MSS.
  18. Turreau to Champagny, June 28, 1808; Archives des Aff. Étr. MSS.
  19. Napoleon to Champagny, June 21, 1808; Correspondance, xvii. 326.
  20. Champagny to Armstrong, June 22, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  21. Armstrong to Madison, July 8, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  22. Napoleon to Champagny, July 11, 1808; Correspondance, xvii. 364.
  23. Armstrong to Jefferson, July 28, 1808; Jefferson MSS.
  24. Armstrong to Champagny, July 4, 1808; State Papers, iii. 254.
  25. Madison to Armstrong, July 21, 1808; State Papers, iii. 254.
  26. Armstrong to Madison, Aug. 28, 1808; MSS. State Department Archives.
  27. Armstrong to Madison, Aug. 30, 1808; State Papers, iii. 256.