FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 5 - The Napoleonic Prisoner of War File
15 August 2021
As we wrote in Part Three of this case study, Thomas Mansell was one of Napoleon's "hostages", a British détenu, and there is a file with his name on it in the archives of the Service Historique de la Défense. We have seen the file, now, and photographed its contents. Chronologically, the correspondence begins with three letters from Thomas Mansell to the Minister of War, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, written in late 1803 and early 1804. The administration of the prisoners of war was the responsibility of the Ministry of War and many prisoners wrote pleading letters to the Minister, so the existence of these is not unusual.
On the 15th of December 1803 (he used the date of the Republican calendar 23 frimaire An 12), Mansell wrote that he was an Englishmen who had been living in Paris for sixteen months (putting his arrival at about August 1802) and had been employed in weaving cotton stuffs at the workshop of Jean Glasin at no. 2 rue Menilmontant. He requested an extension of his permission to stay in Paris, which originally had been granted by General Junot.
On the 24th of January 1804 (3 pluviôse An 12), apparently having had no reply, he wrote again, repeating that he was an Englishman, a machinist weaver of cotton stuffs, who requested permission to remain in Paris. He added that he was living in the rue des Filles du Calvaire.
On the 28th of February 1804 (8 ventôse An 12) he wrote again, repeating all of the information given in the two previous letters and saying that he had now been in Paris for seventeen months. (This again places his arrival as August of 1802.) He added that General Harty could give him a reference.
Clearly, he had been released from Fontainebleau before the 15th of December 1803. As the edict to arrest all British citizens had been issued in May of 1803, he was held in detention at Fontainebleau for no more than about six months.
We can verify the timing and names of some of his information:
- Chassagne has a very small mention of John Glasin, saying that he and a Michael Webster, both of Manchester, were in Paris from at least the spring of 1802 and had offered to the government their method of weaving piqués.1
- General Jean Andoche Junot was the Military Governor of Paris in 1803 and 1804. Though Thomas Mansell seems to have arrived in Paris in August of 1802, he would not have required a residence permit from the military until his country went to war with France again in May of 1803, so Andoche (and not his predecessor) would have been the person to grant permission to Mansell to stay in Paris.
- Major-General Oliver Harty was an Irishman in the French Army who, according to this article in the Dictionary of Irish Biography online, had been praised by Berthier for his fighting in the War in the Vendée That phase of the war ended in 1800; it is unclear where Harty was between then and the resumption of war with Britain in 1803, so he could have been in Paris in 1802 and early 1803 and he could have encountered Thomas Mansell. Mansell may have hoped that using Harty's name would have made a good impression on Berthier.
There are then two letters from Mansell to the Minister of War written in September and October of 1809. By then, Berthier was no longer the Minister of War; in 1807, he had been replaced by Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke, a French General of Irish descent. There is also an exchange between the Ministry and the Chief of Paris Police about Mansell's request.
On the 26th of September 1809, Mansell wrote, identifying himself still as a mechanician weaver who had lived in Paris for seven years. Now, perhaps hoping to appeal to Clarke's imagined sympathies, he said that he was Irish. He stated that he had worked to set up many factories, particularly one in the Saint Avoye quarter called Aveugles. His reason for writing was that he had lost his wallet, containing all of his papers and he requested a new permit to remain in Paris. His address was at number twelve in rue du Picpus, the home of a Mr. Rocher.
On the 27th of September, he sent another letter with testimonials from two employers: Burdin and Carret (a company that failed in the financial crisis of 1811) and D. Heilmann, whose "calicos were of a poor quality".2
On the 5th of October, the Ministry of War's bureau that dealt with prisoners of war wrote to the Chief of Paris Police, recounting the tale of lost papers, repeating that Mansell was Irish, adding that he was aged about thirty and saying "I have no information on this man. I have some letters but they all have different spelling of the surname. I fear he may have made a bad use of his papers for one of his compatriots. Please investigate his character." (Many English desperate to get out of France at that time did buy or steal papers of those there legitimately.)
The Chief of Police replied to the Minister of War on the 14th of October, repeating the details Mansell had given, affirming that he was Irish and lived at rue du Picpus, number twelve, and that he had worked for Burdin and Carret. He added that Mansell also was known to the conservators Mille and Morand, both of whom worked at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, which had established a department in about 1804 or 1805 to teach mechanical weaving.
On the 26th of October 1809, Clarke issued his decision that, with the recommendations of the conservators and of his employers, Burdin and Carret, who also offered to post a bond for him, Mansell could remain in Paris, under police surveillance. Clarke wrote to the Governor of Paris, then Pierre-Augustin Hulin, asking him to give a new permit to Mansell.
Frustratingly, there is no request from Mansell to marry and no mention of Maire Fouyol.
The letters from Mansell all are written in different hands and none is the same hand as the signatures.
Though the surname is spelt three different ways, as Clarke noted, the signatures above do appear to be the same hand. If the signatures were Thomas Mansell's, they contradict the statement in the baptisms that he could not write his name. Just in case he had already met Marie Fouyol and asked her to sign his name for him, we can compare the above with her writing of his name in the 1814 baptism:
There is not much similarity between her hand and the signatures. More importantly, the signatures never spelt the surname with the letter C, as Marie did, but always with the letter S; so it is unlikely that she was signing for him. No certain identification of the signer can be made at this point.
So, our prisoner of war file on Mansell gives a great deal more information about him, but it provides none about his wife.
- Chassagne Serge. "L'innovation technique dans l'industrie textile pendant la Révolution". Histoire, économie et société, 1993, 12ᵉ année, n°1. [Theme:] "Entreprises et révolutions". pp. 51-61; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/hes.1993.1660 https://www.persee.fr/doc/hes_0752-5702_1993_num_12_1_1660. p59.
- Bergeron, Louis. Banquiers, négociants et manufacturiers parisiens du Directoire à l'Empire. Paris : Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1999. https://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/195. p313.