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Sunday, August 25, 2013


When speaking of the Peninsula Wars, of course, the 2 countries that from the Peninsula are spoken about too. But what about the islands and archipelagos that go with these 2 countries? Here is a view of what happened to one of the 2 archipelagos that belong to Portugal.  
Taken from the book “O Tempo de Napoleão em Portugal - Estudos Históricos”, by António Pedro Vicente, Comissão Portuguesa de História Militar, 2º edição, Lisboa 200, pp 201-220

London declares in 1807 that every French harbor or plaza , or any belonging to Frances allies or England enemies, and any European country in where the British flag is excluded, is therefore considered blocked. Excluding Portugal (secretly). And in this way, the United Kingdom takes advantage of its maritime supremacy.

"The Plumb Pudding in danger", James Gillray, 1805.

Knowing that Portugal would sign a surrender treaty with France and knowing that France would occupy the entire Iberian Peninsula and reaching, therefore, the sea and the ocean, England rushed to gain strategic points across the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore Madeira and the Azores became very important in the eye of the British Crown (the Azores for being a central point in the North Atlantic and Madeira for being close to the entrance of the Mediterranean sea). Specially knowing that the departure of the Portuguese Crown was imminent.
Beresford (Commander of the ground forces) arrives in Madeira in the year 1807 (by that time England was already Portugal's secret ally and therefore) removing the local administration from the Portuguese Crown to it's own and forcing the population to swear loyalty to the British King (!!!).
Obviously, not only would this bring a military advantage, but also a financial one. In fact, the commerce between the United Kingdom and Madeira grew, specially in wheat (probably for the soldiers and not forgetting the beautiful wine). Occupying the Portuguese islands would bring a great advantage to the British Industrial revolution.
The Azores did not capitulate in the same fashion, but after hearing what had happened to Madeira they immediately agreed with a future removal of the Portuguese Administration (March 1808).
On his way to exile, the Portuguese Crown Prince (later King) makes a stop at Madeira, which explains the nonexistence of criticism towards the British political attitude, when on December 24th the British squad arrives at the islands under the command of the Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. Pedro de Antas e Menezes, Governor-General, raises no objection.
Madeira's capitulation is signed by both and Beresford and 2 infantry regiments are placed each with 1000 men and 2 artillery companies, 1 month after the the Portuguese's King passage through.
On March 1808, the Portuguese Minister, Domingos António de Sousa e Coutinho, travels to London after receiving innumerable complaints of Madeira's inhabitants and tries to re-negotiate it's political status. After talks to the British government’s representative, George Canning, Madeira is returned to Portugal, the Portuguese flag is raised again and the British military presence stays. Major General Mead replaces Beresford until October 1814.
In the word of the books author «The occupation of Madeira was, therefore, a normal attitude, tolerated and accepted in the blockade's range, that the United Kingdom imposed to what had been decreed by Napoleon. One can, however, discuss the circumstances of this occupation, put in practice by a general, that with 36 years of age, wanted to bring value and imprint of a glorious deed to a simple and acceptable strategic occupation.»

Partial Treaty signed between Portugal and the United Kingom. Taken from book mentioned above. «
Article 1 - Since the signing of this treaty, the island of Madeira and it's dependencies will be delivered to the commanders of His British Majesty's forces and to be maintained by His Majesty with the same rights, privileges and jurisdiction as the Portuguese Crown has had until now.»

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