NAPIER, Francis, eighth Lord Napier (1758–1823), army officer. ALS to John Hunter 1794


NAPIER, Francis, eighth Lord Napier (1758–1823), army officer. ALS to John Hunter 1794

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NAPIER, Francis, eighth Lord Napier of Merchistoun (1758–1823), army officer. Autograph letter signed to John Hunter W.S., Queen Street, Edinburgh, close-written 2 1/2 sides, 4to, Liverpool 4th July 1794, with integral address panel bearing the Liverpool horseshoe stamp, Edinburgh arrival Bishop mark (JY/7) and Napier's seal in red wax (which has removed a piece of paper from the opposite blank edge). He writes sympathising with Hunter's accident, and on legal matters expresses his determination that Johnny Buchan "may be forced to come to a Settlement as soon as possible ........ neither of us being immortal". He complains of the very hot weather "It has forced me to lay aside the flannel waistcoat I have worn for some years next my skin and for all that I cannot keep myself cool. Besides, my complexion is burnt as brown as a berry, which prevents my making conquests amongst the misses, which you will allow must be very mortifying to a person of my youth & friskiness", and on public affairs "I have received many invitations to dine with the principle people here. They all seem very loyal subjects, as are the common people to a man. God save the King, is echoed by men, women & children, in every corner of the streets. I trust, our friends in Edinr. are beginning to behave better. The report of the secret Committee gives but a miserable account of Scottish Loyalty. The accounts from the Continent are seriously alarming, and I fear very much for the safety of the Duke of York & his army. How very providentially Lord Howe’s Victory was timed, will now appear more evident, since the Land Operations of the allies are in so bad a way. Had that action not taken place, the friends of anarchy in this country would have had nothing to suppress the joy they feel for the disaster of Prince Cobourg. For my own part, I think this business must put an end to the operations of the allies, and lead to a Peace, if the French chuse to consent to it, but – that there may be a doubt, while they have any plunder to expect".


Napier served in Canada under General Burgoyne, and fought in the American War of Independence, and was one of those who surrendered at Saratoga on 16 October 1777. In 1793 he was appointed lord-colonel of the Hopetoun fencibles, a position he held until the regiment was disbanded in 1799. In 1796, and again in 1802 and 1807, he was chosen as a representative peer. He married Maria Margaret Clavering in 1784, the daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir John Clavering and Lady Diana West.(ODNB).

At the time of writing, one year into the war with France, Lord Howe had just defeated the French fleet on the ‘glorious first of June’, which was a considerable tactical and psychological victory. On land, the duke of York was in command of British troops assisting the Austrian army under the prince of Coburg, but in May 1794 the French defeated the British army at Tournai, and the duke was nearly taken prisoner. Coburg suffered his own disaster when his army was defeated by the French at Fleurus on 26 June. The British army steadily fell back, in spite of the arrival in July of ten thousand fresh troops under the earl of Moira, and the duke was driven out of Belgium (ODNB).   

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