The Freeman's Oath, from a collection of material relating to the fear of a French invasion


Between 1803 and 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte formed an ‘Army of England’: a formidable force of 200,000 soldiers and sailors garrisoned in channel ports in readiness for a potential English invasion. French encampments at Calais, Boulogne and various other coastal towns were the cause of consternation among the British government, resulting in the mobilisation of some 400,000 civil volunteers and the construction of fortified defences up and down the English coastline. 

The threat of French invasion was responsible for a surge of loyalism in Britain, evidenced by the many ballads, cartoons and pamphlets that were published in support of the general call-to-arms. Many highlighted the ‘dark threat’ to English liberty created by French continental despotism or otherwise lampooned Napoleon by depicting him as a comical dwarfish character. The broadside shown here offers a romantic image of patriotism, in which Britannia and a British lion stand protected by armed militia with swords dawn. The text warns of enslavement by French ‘tyrants’ and calls on Englishmen to ‘prevail in your dear native land’.

Full title:
The Freeman's Oath from [Loyal and patriotic hand-bills, songs, addresses, etc. on the threatened invasion of Great Britain by Buonaparte.]
estimated 1803, probably London
Print / Image
William Nelson Gardiner
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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