529. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, [June 1800]

529. Robert Southey to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, [June 1800] ⁠* 

IN the Voyage du ci-devant Duc du Chatelet en Portugal; published with additions and corrections, by J. Fr. Bourgoing, Paris, an 6 de la Rep.; [1]  and which might be more justly entitled A Statistical Account of Portugal; the following statement of the population of that kingdom is given: Entre Ducro e Minho 50400; Traz los Montes 156000; Beira 560000; Estremadura 660000; Alentejo 280000; Algarve 650000; altogether 2,225,000 inhabitants. The Portuguese settlements in Asia contain 50,000 souls; those in Africa 80,000; Brazil 430,000: Madeira and Porto Santo 130,000; the Azore Islands, 80,000; Cape Verde Islands, 16,000; the Islands in the Sea of Guinea, 3000. The number of inhabitants in all these colonies and foreign possessions then is 799,000; and consequently, the sum total of all the subjects of the king of Portugal 3,024,000.

This kingdom, according to the statements of the Portuguese, is 150 Portuguese miles in length, and 40 in breadth. According to Büsching its length is no more than 75, and the breadth 35 common German miles. [2]  The whole superficial contents amount, according to the best maps of the country, to 1875 geographical miles: so that there are only on an average 1190 inhabitants to every square mile. This low degree of population is partly owing to the licentious manners of the people, partly to the disproportionate number of the clergy and religious of both sexes, of whom there are said to be 200,000. The population of Lisbon is by Büsching estimated at 150,000. Our author makes it only 100,000. The number of inhabitants of the other cities of the kingdom he gives as follows: Coimbra 12,000; Oporto 50,000; Setubal from 11 to 12,000; the district of Setubal including the city, 20,000.

All the provinces of Portugal are not equally fruitful. Oranges, which Estremadura, Alentejo and Algarve produce in great abundance, and of an excellent quality, are wholly wanting in the other provinces. On the other hand, Entre Duero e Minho distinguishes itself by its well-conducted agriculture. Traz los Montes is almost wholly barren, and cultivated only on the banks of the rivers. Beira produces all the necessaries of life: the sea that washes its shores abounds with fish: its pastures feed numerous herds of cattle; and it likewise furnishes honey and salt. Estremadura is not less favoured by nature: its wines are excellent. In Alentejo rice is produced. Algarve, too, is well cultivated. Portugal would be more productive, and the state of agriculture more flourishing, if the English had not got possession of the corn-trade.

The land-forces of Portugal consist of 29 regiments of infantry, and 10 regiments of cavalry; constituting altogether a military establishment of 30,000 men, under the command of 104 colonels, 150 majors, 42 generals, a field-marshall, a general of cavalry, a general of artillery, 3 inspectors-general, 8 lieutenant-generals, and 28 major-generals. Of the wretched state into which the army has here sunken, many striking proofs occur; the truth of which cannot well be doubted, as these facts are every where asserted, and no where contradicted. The Portuguese navy consists of 13 ships of the line, and 15 frigates. The trading vessels amount to scarcely 100.

The public revenue of Portugal is, according to some, 76, according to others 80, millions of French livres: and the debts of the state had, in the time of our traveller, already risen to the sum of 15 millions of cruzados. The chief branch of the king’s revenue is that drawn from the American mines; the yearly produce of which is estimated at from 50 to 60 millions, of which however a small proportion only comes into the royal exchequer. The trade of Portugal is, it is well known, entirely in the hands of the English.


* MS: MS has not survived
Previously published: Monthly Magazine, 9 (June 1800), 439 [from where the text is taken], unsigned. New attribution to Southey. BACK

[1] Jean Francois de Bourgoing (1748–1811), Voyage du ci-devant Duc de Chatelet en Portugal (1798). BACK

[2] Anton Friedrich Busching (1724–1793), A New System of Geography, 6 vols (London, 1762), II, pp. 176, 214. BACK