In the wake of all the phone hacking scandals it is worth remembering what an incredible newspaper The Times once was, and the huge importance not just to Britain, but to the world, of its founder John Walter who was a tireless campaigner both in his paper and through parliament, for his defence of the poor of the 19th century.
Most of us know the horrors of the workhouses thrhough Oliver Twist; Walter opposed their introduction and kept reporting the abuse and horrors of the system. He died a week after the Poor Law comission expired, in July 1847. This is part of his obituary:
“His public spirit was not of that exclusive or theoretical character which comprehends only a class or a consituency within the range of its affections… He considered every Englishman his felow-citizen and friend, and sought the suffrage of affection from the humblest labourer, and the feeblest and most desolate pauper as anxiously as the vote and interest of the all-important elector. They only who knew Mr Walter can be aware of how much his feelings for the poor had been formed and cherished by teh associations of his personal experience, and how much the bereavements, the separations, the denials, and indignities frm which he sought to rescue the unprivileged and persecuted classes of this country, were those which he had personaly felt or witnessed or both… His indignation at the injustice and cruelty done to the poor by a notorious act, adn at the riumphant tone o its advocates in Parliament hurried him again into harassing, tedious, and expensive contests. It was his desire to re-enter the House of Commons… armed with a public commission to throw back in the face of the Minister the oft repeated vaunt that the Poor Law was acceptable to the people of England. Time, however, reserved his triumph. the verdict of England reached Mr Walter in the chamber of death It was there that he heard the fate of the once potent commission… He died with the news of victory in his ear.