[Napoleon's planned invasion of England.] Three rough drafts of royal proclamations, drawn up for the Privy Council by Attorney General Spencer Perceval, dealing with contingencies relating to the administration of justice in the event of invasion.

Spencer Perceval (1762-1812), Prime Minister [George III; Napoleon Bonaparte; French plan for the invasion of Great Britain; Privy Council]
Publication details: 
No place or date. [For the Privy Council, between April 1802 and February 1806, but likely to be c.1802, as on paper watermarked 1801.]
SKU: 21813

The present item is a significant document in British history. It comprises the annotated rough drafts of three royal proclamations, drawn up for the Privy Council by the Attorney General (and future Prime Minister) Spencer Perceval (1762-1812). The document, which appears to be unknown, is in Perceval's autograph, and deals with matters relating to the administration of justice in the event of a French invasion. Perceval was appointed Attorney General by Addington on 15 April 1802 and left office as a result of Pitt's death on 12 February 1806. During that period of nearly four years he was, as the Oxford DNB states, 'the Pittites' leading law officer in the Commons'. The invasion of England has been described as 'Napoleon's Obsession' (see Nick Lipscombe, British Journal of Military History, June 2015). Plans for an invasion were already in train during the fourteen months of peace accorded by the Treaty of Amiens, and during the two years following the British declaration of war in May 1803 Napoleon raised a new Armée d'Angleterre, whose 200,000 men were trained and garrisoned at camps at Boulogne, Bruges and Montreuil. In addition, a large 'National Flotilla' of 2400 invasion barges was built in Channel ports along the coasts of France and the Batavian Republic (modern Netherlands). A medal was even struck and a triumphal column erected at Boulogne in anticipation of success. However a trial before Napoleon in the summer of 1804 ended in disarray, and the following year Napoleon was distracted from his plans by the Ulm Campaign. It is not the case, however, that the Battle of Trafalgar, with its destruction of the French and Spanish fleets, put paid to Napoleon's plans. Following Nelson's victory Napoleon embarked on a huge programme of shipbuilding, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Melville, noted after the war that given time Napoleon would 'have sent forth such powerful fleets that our navy must eventually have been destroyed, since we could never have kept pace with him in building ships nor equipped numbers sufficient to cope with the tremendous power he could have brought against us'. In addition to casting light on the British Government's contingency plans, the document gives an interesting glimpse of 'what might have been' had the invasion taken place. No record whatsoever of the document's three planned proclamations, or indeed any reference to them, has been discovered. The document is 4pp, foolscap 8vo. Bifolium. In good condition, lightly aged. On laid paper with Britannia watermark of 'J WHATMAN | 1801'. Unattributed and without date or place. Containing three drafts in Perceval's autograph: first, 'draft Proclam[atio]n. for Adjourning Term'; second, 'The Writ of Adjourn[men]t | The King to the Justices. | &c &c'; third, 'Order for Adjournment of Circuits if need be after the Appointment of the Same'. Misleadingly endorsed in pencil, in a nineteenth-century hand: 'Addington | Martial Law | Proclamn. in event of French Invasion'. Folded four times, including a central vertical fold down both leaves, marking the dividing line between the two columns into which each of the four pages is divided, the right-hand column containing the texts of the three drafts, and the left-hand column carrying notes and interpolations. An untidy working draft, with deletions and pencil additions, giving a sense of immediacy and urgency. The right-hand column on the first page is headed 'draft Proclamn. For adjourning Term', next to which, in the left-hand column: 'The proclamation is a Warrant to the Chancellor to issue Writs of Adjournment vz. 1. And. 279.' The text of this proclamation begins: 'Whereas our Enemies the Subjects of the French Republic have with great force invaded that part of our United Kingdom called great Britain – And Whereas The utmost Exertion of Ourselves and all our Soldiers, Sailors & other Subjects are and ought to be directed towards the defeating & repelling of the Said Invaders; And Whereas in consequence of such Invasion a State of War unhappily prevails, & must prevail within the said part of our United Kingdom till the defeat of the said Invaders, and the Wholesome Course of the Common Law of this Realm must till such Event (which God in his Mercy accelerate) be suspended, We have therefore by and with the advice of our Privy Council ordered and Commanded, and it is hereby ordered and commanded that all Pleas Suits Writs Bills & precepts [two-part section reworked in pencil follows] be adjourned to the said [rest left blank, but the left-hand hand column supplies details of what is to be inserted]'. The second draft, 'The Writ of Adjourn[men]t', is short and untidy, with the king commanding the justices to 'without delay adjourn & cause to he adjourned all pleas Suits &c &c returnable &c &c – (as above)', and the sheriffs and bailiffs to 'retain all & every the writ & writs precept & precepts which are returnable before us'. The third draft, on the 'Adjournment of Circuits', begins: 'The Kings Most Excellent Majesty taking into his Royal Consideration that the holding of the next Assizes for the several Counties of this Kingdom [amended to 'that Part of the United Kingdom called England'] at the days & times first intended might generally [amended to 'greatly'] obstruct the good Endeavours of His Majestys Subjects for the Common defence of the Kingdom at this time of Invasion by the French, and desiring graciously to provide that his good people may not suffer in their private Affairs whilst they are so unanimously attending the Service & Safety of the Publick – His Majesty therefore by the Advice of his Privy Council having thought fit to command His Judges of the respective Circuits to appoint other more convenient times for holding the said Assizes and in obedience thereunto the Judges having appointed the times & places of holding the same in manner following that is to say | Home Circuit […]'.