"Uprising in Brazil — 1823"
This letter is really interesting, as it describes what is happening, at
the time of political upheaval in a foreign country. It shows that the situation
was affecting trade and the personal lives of the people concerned. It was
addressed to James Finnie Esqr Lisbon, and written by their trading partners
I W & I Whitmore of London. The three postal markings are
F 2 7 24 (This indicates Foreign Office 1824 According to Willcock and Jay, there is no record of what the 2 & 7 represent).
2) Lisbon arrival stamp 5 LISBOA 2 in oval.
There is also a manuscript note "Rocio Co 350" — I wonder if this is the actual address, added by the Lisbon Post Office for delivery?? (There is a filing note on the letter — London 22nd Jany 1824 J.W. & J Whitmore Received 5th Feby 1824, Answered 14th Do ) so that matches the date on the Lisbon postmark. (Fig.2)
So now to the letter which is in two parts ; the first explaining the postal situation, and then that they have had other letters from Rio de Janeiro.
"London 22nd January 1824
The list consists of 30 different financial dealings in European currencies, Bank stocks and Bonds, all with precise rates — for example "Genoa 43-3/4 @ 7/8". (Fig.3)
There is a surprising range from Spanish, Portuguese and French to Russian, Danish, Prussian and English. The Rio de Janeiro entry is quoted at 50 — and there is a comment about this in the next part of the letter, which continues in a different handwriting. The first paragraph is financial information.
"Extract from 2 letters received from Messrs Finnie Brothers & Co of Rio de Janeiro dated 19/25 November 1823Fig 4
Then the letter continues with amazing details of the political situation in Rio de Janeiro.
"Within the last week we have had a great change in our political affairs our general Assembly by the order of the Emperor was surrounded by a body of Armed Troops and dissolved by a Decreto on 12 instant, 7 of the Members the 3 Andradas, Montezuma, Verguireo, Rocha & Belcher were apprehended and sent prisoners to the Fortresses and tis said will be sent off to Havre de Grace in course of a Day or two — All the troops are still in Arms encamped at St Christove near the Emperors Palace about 3 miles from the City a complete change of Ministry has taken place but several Individuals who were appointed having refused to accept we can hardly give a correct list tho' we believe it will be composed of Jao Severianno Maciel da Costa for the Impero, Luis Jozedo Carvalho e Mello for Foreign affairs, Felizberto Caldeira for War, Francisco Villela Barboza for Marine, Marianno Joze Perreira da Fonseca for Finance and Clemente Ferreira Franca for Justice.
(*) NOTE :- The Emperor. In 1808 after Napoleon invaded Portugal King John VI moved his capital from Lisbon to Brazil. In 1821 he returned to Lisbon and his son Crown Prince Pedro, remained as regent. In 1822 Pedro declared Brazil an independent kingdom and took the title Emperor Pedro I.
The letter then continues with information about the port and cargoes. All the ships listed were part of the British fleet, and much information about them is available on the internet. The Spartiate for instance was a French vessel built in 1797 but was captured by the British at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and pressed into service in the British Navy.
"The Spartiate 74 with Sir George Eyre arrived here on the 17 Inst and we have besides the Creole, Briton and Doris Frigates and Mersey S.W. in the Harbour.
These last four items were Portuguese coins. A doubloon was a gold coin worth a double pistole — slightly over £1 in value. The Milreis was worth 1000 Reis possibly the Milfour was worth a quarter of it.
"Lord Cochrane arrived here on the 9 Inst in the Don Pedro 74 from Maranhao -and the Netherohy Frigate has arrived at Bahia."(Note Lord Cochrane was a colourful character who deserves a story to himself, but he arrived in Rio, as reported here in this letter, to take command of the Brazilian navy 1823-25. I wonder who appointed him — a Briton, instead of a Portuguese admiral, as Brazil had been under Portuguese rule since the 1500s. Perhaps his reputation — as he had been in command of Chile's navy from 1818, where in 2½ years he made Chile mistress of her own waters. Perhaps the new Emperor Pedro was making a break from his father King John VI of Portugal.)
The second extract is a progress report on the political situation, beginning with the exchange rate, which is now worse than reported in the letter.
"25 November 1823
Then there is a final request which is an indictment of the high cost of postage at this time. I think it is surprising that merchants would bother, but that is the way to stay in business. Another interesting point is that the parcel they want to be forwarded, is addressed to James Finnie, a friend, yet it comes from the Finnie brothers in Rio.
"By Mr de Roos under another cover we send you a small parcel with an inclosure for our friend Mr James Finnie which have the goodness to forward by some Merchant Vessel to Lisbon in order to save Postage."
What I find so interesting about these old letters is that they give a personal viewpoint of some event in the past. It seems unlikely that in 180 years from now there will be any personal letters in existence telling of current events, as the phone and e-mails have taken over, and few people save their e-mails.
This article was first published in Stamp News the Australian monthly magazine.
Copyright By EARS Leisurewrite
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