As I may in a week or two have ye pleasure of seeing you in Town I will reply very briefly to yours <1> recd this morning. -
I never doubted that this Parish gained on the whole by the new Poor Laws, I trust that will soon be said with truth of every parish in the Kingdom - But is that any reason why we (who still remain heavily burdened) should not endeavour to shake off any unfair charge which we conceive oppresses us? In the 3 years average which was made of Expenses on account of the Poor, were included in our parish all the sums voluntarily raised to enable them to emigrate. Now this as far as it goes was most unfair, equally contrary to the spirit & the letter of the Poor Law Amendment Act <2> - Suppose all our poor had wished to emigrate and we had spent 10,000 £ in enabling them to do so, that would have [sic] a wise step on our parts (under the old law) but what would have been the consequence under the new law? That we should have had
our expenses this 10,000£ reckoned as part of our current expenses of that year, & reckoned [illegible deletion] as such, in taking the average - You see I have still a leaning towards that admirable method of argument, the reductio ad absurdum. <3>
You tell me that a Central Workhouse has been recommended for this district, by Col A'Court <4>- If it is the universal custom of the Commissioners to accept the recommendation of the Assistant Commissioner, then there is no more to be said -
Ipse dixit. <5>
But I can only tell you this, that Col A'Court when he went over the Asylum in this Parish paid us the compliment to say it was the best arranged one he had ever seen - It is quite new <6> - It is useless for any other purpose, If not used as an asylum it will probably be pulled down, a signal instance of the folly of the proverb "Aide-toi et le ciel t'aidera" <7> or in more homely English, of attempting to get out of the mire, by putting one's own shoulder to the wheel - We were in the mire, or slough of Despond, some 4 or 5 years ago, & we made an effort & built this workhouse. Now you give orders to have it taken down, and build a new one. Let me ask you then whether it is your intention that this parish should contribute its quota towards building [missing text]<8> one? If so, I can only say, we are Checkmated.
Believe me Dear Lefevre Yours vy Truly
H. F. Talbot
J. G. Lefevre Esq.
Commissr of ye Poor Laws
2. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, established by Earl Grey's government meant that poor people had to live in a workhouse, instead of living at home and receiving help from the parish.
3. Reduction to absurdity.
4. Sir William á'Court, 1st Baron Heytesbury (1779-1860), possibly Lt-General Charles á'Court (1785-1861).
5. He himself has said it; an assertion; a dictum.
6. The Workhouse of Lacock was built during the summer of 1833 and completed in the Autumn of that year. Various improvements and additions were made in 1834.
7. Help yourself and heaven will help you.
8. Text torn away and obscured by seal.