British responses to the French Revolution were at first mixed. Some political figures such as Charles James Fox celebrated events in France as a victory for liberty, while others such as William Pitt greeted the revolution with ambivalence. Radical political groups in Britain took strength from events across the channel and organised themselves on formal lines in order to campaign for parliamentary reform.

When France declared war on Britain in 1793 however the mood of the country changed. Fearful of domestic insurrection and a French invasion, the government began clamping down on radical movements at home by repressing political assemblies and the issuing of seditious words. Home-grown patriotism was meanwhile roused by anti-French sentiments which helped to foster a wave of loyalism in Britain. Huge armies of amateur volunteers came together to create a force of nearly 400,000 men by 1800, ready to repel an invasion at a moment’s notice.