Spencer Perceval KC (1 November 1762 – 11 May 1812) was a British statesman and barrister who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1809 until his assassination in May 1812. He is the only British prime minister to have been assassinated, and the only solicitor-general or attorney-general to have become prime minister.
- Mr. Perceval would indeed feel happy in the obedience which he shall pay to your Majesty's gracious commands if he thought that his exertions & services could merit such an opinion. Mr. Perceval can only say that he will not be wanting in exertion, in industry, in zeal & in duty—but in talent & power, he feels his great defects for such a station in such arduous times.
- Letter to George III (2 October 1809), quoted in The Later Correspondence of George III, Volume V: January 1808 to December 1810, ed. A. Aspinall (1970), p. 386
Quotes about Spencer Perceval edit
- He is not a ship-of-the-line, but he carries many guns, is tight built, and is out in all weather.
- Henry Grattan, quoted in Henry Richard Vassall, Third Lord Holland, Further Memoirs of the Whig Party 1807–1821 With Some Miscellaneous Reminiscences, ed. Lord Stavordale (1905), p. 133
- Yesterday the Duke of Wellington talked about the Spanish war... We talked of Napier's controversy with Perceval. He said Napier had not fairly treated Perceval's character in the controversy.
- Charles Greville, journal entry (30 June 1835), quoted in Charles Greville, A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV. and King William IV. Vol. III, ed. Henry Reeve (1874), pp. 270-271
- Spencer Perceval, who has been the object of so much party hatred and invective, had, indeed, all the qualities which claim the admiration of those who are capable of appreciating sterling worth. The person who, out of the limits of Perceval's domestic circle, perhaps knew him best—who possessed his entire confidence, who was familiar with all his actions, and we might almost say with all his thoughts—was wont to speak on every occasion of his former chief as the model of a high-minded, high-principled, truthful, generous gentleman, sans peur et sans reproche.
- Edward Herries, Memoir of the Public Life of The Right Hon. John Charles Herries in the Reigns of George III., George IV., William IV. and Victoria, Vol. I (1880), p. 20
- He did enter, and there was an instant noise, but as a physical fact it is very remarkable to state that, though I was all but touching him, and if the ball had passed through his body it must have lodged in mine, I did not hear the report of the pistol. It is true it was fired in the inside of the lobby, and I was just out of it; but, considering our close proximity, I have always found it difficult to account for the phenomenon I have noticed. I saw a small curling wreath of smoke rise above his head, as if the breath of a cigar; I saw him reel back against the ledge on the inside of the door; I heard him exclaim, "Oh God!" or "Oh my God!" and nothing more or longer (as reported by several witnesses), for even that exclamation was faint; and then making an impulsive rush, as it were, to reach the entrance to the house on the opposite side for safety, I saw him totter forward, not half way, and drop dead between the four pillars which stood there in the centre of the space, with a slight trace of blood issuing from his lips.
- William Jerdan, The Autobiography of William Jerdan, Vol. I (1852), p. 134
- That he was a good Protestant and a bad belligerent are the two worst things that have been said of him. He was honest, adroit, courageous, and distinguished for his skill in debate. Lord Eldon speaks highly in his letters of "little P." as he calls him, and he seems to have been highly popular with all that section of the Tories. But though decidedly a very able man, he had neither the information nor the genius essential to an English Minister at that momentous epoch.
- T. E. Kebbel, A History of Toryism: From the Accession of Mr. Pitt to Power in 1783 to the Death of Lord Beaconsfield in 1881 (1886), p. 94
- But, unluckily, like many other men of narrow views, he was gifted with that strength of will and decision of manner by which weaker natures are subdued in spite, it may be, both of higher culture and more enlightened opinions. Though far less capable of appreciating the character of the struggle than several among them, Mr. Perceval's will became a law to his colleagues, and completely overruled the better judgment and more special experience of Lord Liverpool.
- T. E. Kebbel, A History of Toryism: From the Accession of Mr. Pitt to Power in 1783 to the Death of Lord Beaconsfield in 1881 (1886), pp. 94-95
- Perceval's character is completely established in the House of Commons; he has acquired an authority there beyond any minister within my recollection except Mr. Pitt.
- I am very much grieved at Perceval's death. Many of his opinions I disliked—but there was nothing to object to in him besides his opinions. His talents were admirable, and if he had not been bred a lawyer he would probably have risen to the character of a great man. He wanted Mr. Pitt's splendid declamatory eloquence, but in quickness and dexterity as a debater he was (I think) hardly inferior to him. On the whole he appeared to me the most powerful man (independently of his situation) that we had in Parliament since the death of Mr. Fox. Perhaps I ought to except Lord Grey, but I am not sure. In private, by the universal consent of everybody that knew him, he seems to have been possessed of all the qualities that can make human nature amiable and respectable — particularly good temper and generosity.