Tuesday 31 July 2012

Myself, Wife, and seven Children at your Mercy.

More from Bethnal Green Vestry Minutes, 1834 ... in this case, a parish Beadle tries to keep his job, after being discovered to have double-charged for certain parish monies, and kept the profits. I admire his chutzpah and the Dickensian mixture of 'humility' and self-justification ...

To the Vestrymen-Governors of the Parish of Saint Matthew Bethnal Green-


      With a Heart overwhelmed with the deepest anguish, at the Awful Situation in which I find myself unhappily placed, I beg leave most respectfully, in the first instance to return my grateful Thanks to the Vestry, for all their past favors and kindness towards me, assuring thme of my unfeigned Sorrow and Contrition, at the Circumstance that has occurred, and although I am unable to offer any satisfactory Explanation for what appears against me, after a lapse of four Years and at a time of great harassing Parochial Business, when we had these Board Days a Week for Relieving the Out-Door Poor, with sometimes eight or ten Removals on one Day besides [illegible word] Warrants, Visitations and sometimes a dozen Persons in one Summons to answer at Worship Street, yet I can venture to assure the vestry I never had the most distant intention to do a wrong Act intentionally. One of the Cases indeed to which the Committee kindly directed my Attention is so full of Mystery that I must have been bereft of my Senses in asking for two Receipts for the Sum of Four Guineas, from Mr. Carter on the same Day. I have no recolletion whatever of the Circumstance, and I will not attempt to reason on the fact which appears clear that the Amount was received by me from Mr. Carter. But what adds to my afflictions is that any other Person should be supposed to be concerned in this most wretched Mistake of mine. No Gentlemen, if I am to fall let the disgrace be on me alone. I feel bound to acknowledge my Error and to intreat your forgiveness. I at once throw myself upon your kind forbearance, hoping that your Judgment will not forget the side of Mercy, if not on my Account, I would earnestly intreat you on behalf of my Wife and seven Children, were it not for them I could endure any Privation even Banishment or Death itself. May I then be permitted to cherish the hope that my Case has not been wholly prejudiced by the Circumstance of Your Commitee's Report being substantially divulged throughout the Parish, before it was made known officially to the Vestry. Calculating on my dismissal some Candidates have already offered themselves for the Situtaion but I have hitherto previously abstained from Soliciting the benevolent Office of any Governor on my own behalf under existing Circumstances. In refunding the Vestry the Sum of £6 which I admit to have received, I once more humbly throw myself upon your generous consideration most earnestly hoping that as I have been in my Situation above ten years and several under forty four [illegible word] without a single compaint will have some weight with the Vestry in my favor, but whatever the Decision of the Vestry may be I will not presume to murmer nor offer a Complaint against any Individual for the part he may have thought fit to have taken against me on this trying Occasion. Mr. Lane I hope will allow me to Appeal to him as to the wish frequently expressed by you that all my Accounts might be brought under one head as I was afraid I might possibly get into Errors by paying and receiving Money from so many different Persons. I now beg leave to Thank the Committee for the kind way in which I was treated by them during the present trying Inquiry and I now humbly wait for the Vestry's determination, under the severest Anguish both of Body and Mind humbly praying that I may be restored to your Favor and Confidence under any Security that may be required. Several kind Friends who have witnessed my deep Distress having voluntarily offered to become Bound in any way for my future Conduct. I now Gentlemen leave myself Wife and seven Children at your Mercy. Most humbly begging your Pardon for the great trouble I have given you.
    I remain with all Humility Your Unhappy Servant,
          John Davis, Beadle.


  1. What was the deal with capitalizing (seemingly) random words....? I've never seen mention of the reason...

  2. Good question - a pre-Victorian thing, though, so I've no idea.

  3. Do you know if he kept his job or whether his pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears?

  4. He felt himself obliged to resign, not long afterwards.