Philippe-Antoine Merlin enjoyed a notable career in French law and politics: deputy for Douai to the États généraux in 1789, president of the Convention nationale and a member of the Comité de salut public in 1794, commissioned to report on civil and criminal legislation in the same year, a member the Institut national des sciences et des arts from 1795 onwards, Minister of Police in 1795 and then Minister of Justice in 1796, and member of the Directoire exécutif between 1797 and 1799. Under the Consulate, Merlin became commissaire for the government at the Tribunal de Cassation, a court of error created in 1790. In 1804, the Tribunal de Cassation became the Cour de Cassation, and Merlin became its procurer-general. As such, he played a role in the application and interpretation of the Code civil des Français, or Napoleonic Code, also promulgated in 1804. Banished from France during the Second Restoration in 1816, Merlin spent his years in exile writing the Répertoire de jurisprudence and Recueil alphabétique des questions de droit.
Robbins Ms. 232 contains a collection of thirty-eight requisitions, or prosecutorial addresses, written by Merlin between 1801 and 1804, while he was commissaire for the government at the Tribunal de cassation. Each requisition contains a brief case summary with its number, the date, and the names of the parties in the upper left corner. Many concern cases involving obligations or transactions contracted before 1789 in accord with laws that conflicted with those enacted since the Revolution. Thus, it provides a unique window into French law before the adoption of the Napoleonic code. Written on loose paper that was subsequently bound, the requisitions were heavily edited. There are numerous corrections, cancellations, and interpolations.
Many of these requisitions were written on the back of announcements, letters addressed to Merlin, notices, forms, and other ephemera. These include multiple copies of his daughter’s marriage announcement; an invitation to dine with the Premier Counsel, Napoléon Bonaparte who ruled France as First Consul before his coronation as emperor in 1804.