Research Subjects: Government & Politics



Letters on British Politics Captured by the French in January 1804

Transcribed, edited and annotated by Dominique Contant and Tom Holmberg

The Admiral Aplin, Capt. Rogers, was an English East India Company (EIC) Ship (of 558 tons and 16 guns, mainly carronades) captured by the French privateer, Psyche (32 guns), on 9 January 1804 near Mauritius.  Capt. Rogers at the Court of Inquiry into the capture stated that he had destroyed all of the Company's dispatches and all letters he deemed of importance.  Rogers was surprised to learn of the subsequent publication of the intercepted correspondence in the official French newspaper, the Moniteur.  Of the capture Capt. Rogers reported, "We left Portsmouth on the 28th of August 1803 and on the 3rd of January, in lat. 0. 50 south, lon. 92 east, we perceived an enemy from the mast head.  We made press of sail, frequently altering our course to avoid her, as she appeared to be of considerable force.  She continued, however, to chase us till the 9th, when we found, that at day-light she had got within gun-shot… We accordingly hauled our course and turned all hands to quarters…. It was soon, however, observed, that our shot fell short of her, while the enemy's, from superiority of metal had their full effect…. Having called a meeting of all my officers, [I] felt myself under the mortifying necessity of hauling down my colours."

In response to the British publication of letters from the French in Egypt intercepted by the Royal Navy (Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt: intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson, with an English translation. London: Printed for J. Wright, opposite Old Bond-Street, Piccadilly, 1798-1800), the French published a selection of letters captured aboard the East Indiaman Admiral Aplin. The publication of these letters was part of the propaganda war carried on by the two opposing forces in the Napoleonic wars (by September 1799 a copy of the Corrispondenza dell' armata Francese intercettata dalla Squadra de Nelson was reported on sale in Milan).  In both cases the editors of the documents gave them the worse possible interpretations, which the editors of the present volume complain of in their introduction. (At least one other set of intercepted letters were later published: Copies of the original letters and despatches of the generals, ministers, grand officers of state, &c., at Paris, to the Emperor Napoleon, at Dresden; intercepted by the advanced troops of the Allies in the north of Germany. London, J. Murray, 1814.)

 

All notes in brackets ([ ]) or identified by –Eds. are ours, the editors. Notes marked with "[—M]." indicate differences that appeared in the original Moniteur publication.  All other notes are from the original, as noted below.

 

 

In French

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2003


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