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Document number: 7236
Date: 24 Apr 1834
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BAKER Thomas John Lloyd
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 12th February 2012

Dear Sir

I have written to Mr Cunningham the keeper of our County Prison & desired him to speak to the man whom I mentioned to you in my last letter as likely to answer your purpose, & if not, to try to find some one else whom he can recommend. There is a man who lived in my service for fourteen or fifteen years who in many resects would suit you well, but he wants more of the spur than he would have in most Parishes. He would, I fear, be too good natured & complying, unless he is a good deal looked after. If any active man or an active select vestry would stick to him he would I think do well, but I hope we may do better for you. We give our man at Uley <1> $40 a year. If you get a married man whose wife would act as your Matron & manage the house while he should be out, I suppose you would allow her some thing more which would make the pay of both together perhaps £50 or 55 if it be necessary.

The Man I first spoke of came as one of the Turnkeys to our Gaol. I forget what Regt he was in, but he was severely wounded at Waterloo. His character was exceedingly good & he rose in the estimation of us all. He was promoted to be keeper of one of our houses of Correction in which situation he might have continued, but that he felt hurt at a hasty, & perhaps intemperate, speech of one of the Magistrates, & resigned it. We were all sorry to lose him – his salary there was I think £20 a year. Should Parishes encorporate largely I look to him as likely to make a very valuable superintendant of some large workhouse which shall contain perhaps some hundreds of inmates.

I was in London a few weeks ago & saw Mr Cowell, who you will remember was one of the assistant Poor law commissioners.<2> He gave me a book, just published, containing a Joint report from Messrs Cameron & Knottesley two other assistant Commissioners, & his own report. A good deal of the latter relates to Uley, & this he had from me. he has gone into it a good deal more at length than I did in my pamphlet, & has made out, I must say, a very strong case indeed. – I also got the report of the Commissioners, founded of course on those of the assistant Commissioners, which I read attentively, & on which I sent observations at considerable length to Mr Chadwick, to whom I was introduced, & who did me the honor of requesting that I would do so. These observations were confined to the recommendations of the Commissioners, & are applicable to much of what Lord Althorpe said as reported in my paper – I have not seen a copy of the bill – if you can be good enougth to procure one for me (or if two so much the better) I shall be happy to look it through & to submit to your consideration any thing that my practice may suggest. In the mean time allow me to observe that.

I cannot feel entirely satisfied with a central commission who are to work by means of local assistants. It is most true that the Magistrates have acted incorrectly, & by so doing have done much mischeif, but from their local knowledge & near connection with the people & the rates, they can, I haven no doubt, do it better than any one else, & I have also no doubt that under a well formed act which shall take from them the power of ordering relief, excepting in Workhouses, they may safely, & ought to be trusted with the execution of the law. Such a commission oug will be besides, an enormous expense to the Country, & a sourse of patronage with which no Ministers, whether Whigs or Tories, ought to be entrusted. It is not possible but that they should be new men, & of course enexperienced. The Magistrates know their duty, & if properly directed by the new act, would do it well. No fault is found even on the present plan with those in the North of England, & those in the South pretty generally see their error.

It is quite necessary that the allowance system should be stopped – but I most sincerely hope that no attempt will be made to stop it all at once on some day to be fixed on in the course of the summer. People not used to find work for themselves cannot possibly do it all at once. They must arrive at it by degrees – they are not aware of their own powers, & if suddenly left to themselves, they will be dispirited & broken down, & as the only resourse that will occur to them, they will throw themselves on Private charity – a thing greatly to be dreaded as I think – more even than a continuance of the present most wretched system, because it is entirely beyond the reach of the law. Instead therefore of stopping the pay all at once I would suggest the propriety of taking off (say) sixpence a week from all who receive small pays (say half a crown a week) from the day to be fixed, & a shilling a week from all who receive more than that sum, for a month or two, then another sixpence from the small pays & another shilling from the larger pays for another month or two, & so on till the whole shall have been taken off. It is reasonable to supose that those who are most in want, now receive most – These then will receive it longest. If a man loses a shilling a week he will make it up by getting work now & then for his wife or for a child whom he never thought of setting to work while he could live on the rates – in a month or two he will find out that this can be done to a greater extent than he was aware of & he will provide for the loss of the next shilling a week which he shall lose, & so on, but the loss of the whole will be an evil of too great magnitude for him to provide against all at once, & if he once depends on private charity & finds it to answer, there will be an end to his own exertions for ever. Again – private purses will be more easily opened than they are even now, if it be generally believed that distress is more frequent from the impossibility of finding work, & thus the evil will be greatly encreased in every way.

In all that has been done at Uley I have had, it is true, an eye to the diminution of the expense of maintaining the poor, but I have never lost sight of another object which I believe to be of still greater importance to the nation at large as well as to the poor themselves – viz the improvement of their conduct & condition. The two, I am sure, may be made to go hand in hand, & each to assist the other with very little additional trouble, & almost no expense, risk, or inconvenience. Our attempts as I have often endeavoured to shew, have succeeded in this respect far beyond what I had hoped for, which has been proved by the small number of commitments from Uley, & from the decrease of crime. We have been too long by far in getting rid of the out of door pays, indeed we have not done it yet. I wished to have done it long ago, but others of our Select Vestry differed from me & I could not effect it. Surely it is highly desirable that this should be strictly attended to in framing every clause of the act.

I am very Glad that it is intended to consider the Mothers of bastard children as widows & to compel them to maintain their children as far as they can. I think also that in no cases excepting those of danger to the mothers, they ought to be allowed to be sworn before birth, but I think they ought to be sworn after birth, & that if the children should become burdensome to pshes, <3> the Fathers ought to be made to bear them harmless, or to be severely punished, but I would never have them called on till the expense shall have been incurred in part. I would aslo retain the power of commiting the mothers as lewd women if the children become [ghery cable/] My reasons are these – It is desirable that arrangements should be made by the parents for the support of their children – Many men who would not hesitate to cheat a parish, would not allow a woman to want, much less to be punished – & I think the dread of punishment should hang over them both as a stimulus to their exertions to bear the Parishes harmless. The very act of supporting the child will be a two fold benefit – it will act as a caution to prevent the like from happening again, & it will keep up a mutual affection, not unfrequently, between the children & their parents. If any man marries the Mother of a bastard Child, that child ought to be considered as his from the day of his Marriage & he ought to be compelled to maintain it – so also if he marries a widow – he ought to be obliged to maintain her children by her former husband. I do not recollect that Lord Althorpe has alluded to this in his speech.

The law of Settlement is most material. Bad as the settlement laws are at present I fear they will not be much mended by what is proposed. Very many Persons are born in London or in other large towns & leave them & live elsewhere. In fifty years or so they are in want of Parish relief – they find their names in the registers of those Parishes it is true, but who can prove that the person who appears & calls himself Thomas Jones is the person who appears in the Register by that name? My Father & Mother never lived in the Parish in which I was born, & I am pretty sure that there is no one in existence who could prove me to be the person mentioned by my name in the Register. This must so very frequently occur that & the difficulty would be so very great, that it would always almost be worth the while of a Parish to contest the point, that & litigation would I fear be even more common than it now is, & justice would be by far more uncertain. – The desirable thing would be to have persons settled in those places where, from having most friends, they will have least need of assistance from parishes, as well as the best chance of comfort to themselves, but it is desirable to induce them as much as possible to go where their labor is most wanted, & that will be in very many instances, in other places than where they were born, but if they have before them the chance of being removed back in sickness or in old age, it will be a strong inducement to them to remain there, or to keep up their acquaintance with the place, particularly in middle age of in after life. – Again – The trade of the Country is falling into decay – Those who were born in Manufacturing places are seeking work & finding it elsewhere for their children – these children will spend the best of their lives elsewhere, & it would be exceedingly hard to have them returned in old age to the places of their births, where they could have no friends, & nothing to depend on but the rates. In my letter to Mr Chadwick I ventured to propose that three years residence should be a settlement, & that the settlements of children until they should be emancipated should follow & change with those of their Parents.

But it is time that I should release you – You see how dangerous it is to set a man on his hobby – Mine at present is I hope at least an innocent one – No one is obliged to adopt or even to approve my suggestion, but as they appear to me to be important – as I have attended pretty closely to the subject for nearly four years, & as I well know to my sorrow that hardly any one else has done the same I must venture to hope that they some of them at least will prove worth your consideration & I urge them with less mercy from being quite sure that if the worst should happen it will cost you but a very small quantity of fire to render any letter at least perfectly harmless.

While writing it, another person has been mentioned to me as likely to answer your purpose, so that perhaps it would be as well if you were to give me some further ideas as to his wife bcoming your Matron, & any thing else that may occur to you respecting it.

I am quite unacquainted with Lord Althorpe & with all the present Ministry. I suppose a committee of the House of Commons will in due time be formed – You will oblige me by informing me what members or other gentlemen take the lead in m framing the bill & carrying it through – Tis possible that I may know some of them.

I remain Dear Sir – Yours truly
T G Ll Baker

Hardwicke Court <4>
April 24 – 1834

H F Talbot Esqr MP
Laycock Abby
near Chippenham
Sackville Street


1. A Parish and village in the Cotswolds, county of Gloucestershire.

2. The ‘Select Vestry’ was a voting body set up to assist the poor. With the severity of depression in rural areas after the Napoleonic Wars, and the onset of industrialisation, the traditional means of supporting the poor were clearly inadequate. In 1818, the ‘Act for the Regulation of Parish Vestries’ passed, setting up a voting system based on the rateable value of property. In 1819, this was further amended to add resident clergymen. The Select Vestry elected the Guardians of the Poor and distinguished between the 'deserving' poor and those who were idle. These acts were named after their supporter, the Tory MP, William Sturges-Bourne (1769-1845). This system was completely replaced in 1834 with the passage of the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’, which established a national Poor Law Commission. Each parish, or union of small parishes, was required to build a workhouse. Outdoor relief was permitted, but discouraged, and previous discrimination against Roman Catholics and Non-Conformists was eliminated. This forced revisions to the workhouses and practices of Select Vestry in parishes that had established a system. In the 1840s, further restrictions were introduced which compelled confinement to a workhouse as the only method of receiving aid.

3. parishes; shortened by a contraction mark

4. Manor and seat of the Baker family, in the town of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire.

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