H. Hallam Hipwell
Everybody knows, in a general way, that Lisbon businessmen who lived in 1800 and Wartime carried on their affairs under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. Napoleon's Berlin Decree of 21st November 1806, commanding all Continental states to close their ports to British ships, was the lash held over Portugal's back.
It fell a year later, after the Franco-Spanish Treaty of Fontainebleau had been signed on the 27th October 1807 providing for the partition of the Lusitanian kingdom. Thanks however to Trafalgar in the first place, and the lines of Tôrres Vedras four years later, the sea roads of Lisbon were kept open by England and Portugal's ocean-borne trade remained reasonably constant.
The risks were great but the profits were handsome, for merchants seem to have worked on the assumption that a fair yield on everyday transactions was 40%, while doubling their money on a commercial venture was satisfactory but not out of the way of business.
Indeed, the motto of the Lisbon merchants appears to have been "business as usual"; a fact lending particular interest to anything throwing light on the everyday transactions of the British and Irish firms handling import and export trade, with, in some instances, a respectable banking connection as a side line. Such material is not as widely available as one might suppose; old ledgers, letter books, day books, and other registers have seldom survived the neglect or indifference of a third generation.
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