|Addressee(s)||José Maria de Góis|
Extorsion letter, signed with the alias José Maria Monteiro de Serpa, sent to José Maria de Góis.
The author threatens the recipient with death if the latter doesn't deliver 6 coins to liberate a man from the Limoeiro jail.
In the first quarter of the 19th century, extorsion letters became a very typical practice in the Limoeiro jail, near Lisbon. Prisoners, pretending to be highwaymen, contacted people outside jail, threatening them with all sorts of ruinous events in the case they didn't hand in a certain amount of money. The frequentness of this practice was possible also because of the political and social turmoil associated with these first years of Liberalism.
«Illustrious Mr. José Maria de Góis.
I'll be very glad to know that you're in good health, in the company of Mrs. Mariana, to whom I also offer myself to whatever may be suitable to her. Illustrious Sir, who writes this letter to you is a loyal friend of yours, José Maria Monteiro de Serpa, captain of a gang of thieves who brings 25 men with him, only to kill and steal on the roads. At the moment, I'm in this city of Lisbon, where I'm in need of 6 coins. I wish you lend them to me and you'll send them through one of your servants to Limoeiro, to the City dungeon, and hand them in to a fellow of mine who's imprisoned there and whose name is António Manuel Serrano. As soon as he gets to the prisoner, he'll speak to him in secret. As soon as he tells him my name and this saint, which is São Roque, he'll give him a receipt, as this money will be paid to you by the end of the month. You'll send this money to the prisoner, in notes, before the 14th this month of January. If you fail to do as I tell you, don't complain afterwards of whatever happens to you, for my name has a good reputation. I've already written to you to your house in Lapa but the letter didnt follow because there were news that you had moved to Cais do Sodré. Now, if you don't send the prisoner an answer, I swear by all that is sacred and by this [drawing of a cross] that you can make your confession, for I follow all your steps, day and night.
I'm your friend,
José Maria Monteiro de Serpa
Your servant, the Captain of gangs
I certify this with my coat of arms.»