EXETER, N.H. — There was a man with a “Stop Puppy Mills” T-shirt and another whose shirt read “National Sarcasm Society.” There was a woman, dressed entirely in white, holding a banner reading “Lead Us to Clean Energy.” There was a man with an Apache haircut. There was even a little old lady in tennis shoes.
This could only be a Bernie Sanders rally.
And the lady in tennis shoes? She was here mainly out of curiosity. She voted for Mitt Romney in the last two New Hampshire primaries.
Then there was the candidate himself. He wore a dress shirt, open at the neck, and his speech started early and ended late. He used the word “billionaire” more than half a dozen times, and he sprinkled his talk with references to “Corporate America.” He spoke about big campaign contributions (he has none, wouldn’t take any) and the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America” (he deplored it) and won his biggest applause when he said, “This is a rigged economy, an economy that is not sustainable, and that is not an American economy.”
But he wasn’t done yet. In the sweltering confines of the Exeter Town Hall — every seat filled, the back of the hall five deep with standees, the balcony jammed and every one of the seven granite steps outside occupied with the devout, the devoted and the determined, all drenched in heavy perspiration — he launched into his speech: full employment, the Citizens United decision, gay marriage, voter suppression, the Trans Pacific Partnership, student debt, climate change, acidification of the oceans, access to abortion, energy efficiency, the criminal justice system, prison reform, mental health and crumbling infrastructure. In one sentence he crammed in the words “racism,” “sexism” and “homophobia.”
But wait. We’re not nearly done yet. Elimination of tuition at all public colleges. Guaranteed single-payer health care. Assuring that police are no longer an “oppressor force.” Paid family leave. Paid vacations.
“This,” he said at one point, not remotely finished, “is some of what we have to do.”
The unseen Charles Dickens: read the excoriating essay on Victorian poverty that no-one knew he had written
As The Independent revealed on Monday,
a bound collection of the 19th century magazine ‘All the Year Round’,
annotated by its editor Charles Dickens, has yielded the names of the
articles’ anonymous authors; among them Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth Gaskell
and Dickens himself.
One of the most spectacular essays – an attack on a complacent
establishment that could tolerate the appalling state of poor relief –
had previously been attributed to one Joseph Parkinson, and presumed to
be only a commission from the great man of letters. But from the newly
studied margin notes, it now seems that Dickens not only supplied the
idea but was chief author of the polemic. Below, we publish the piece -
originally entitled ‘What Is Sensational?’ – which remains a great
example of passionate reporting; still relevant, still an inspiration to
anyone who sees their role as giving a voice to those who cannot be
The essay came after a number of scandals involving
conditions in the workhouses hit the headlines during the 1860s. It uses
a series of rhetorical questions to highlight the abuse of the poor and
the failures of those found wanting in their duty of care. The title
plays on the then current vogue for ‘sensational’ literature, most
notably exemplified by Mrs Braddon and Wilkie Collins. For Dickens it is
not fiction that is sensational but the appalling facts about how the
poor were neglected and mistreated.
In his opening argument
Dickens addresses Gathorne Hardy, then President of the Poor Law Board,
who argued that the press has sensationalised the deaths of two paupers -
Timothy Daly and Richard Gibson – “murdered” by the gross neglect they
suffered in workhouse hospitals in 1864 and 1865. The incidents caused a
national outcry, and led to a campaign by Florence Nightingale for a
major upheaval of the workhouse nursing system.
Parliament in session, with Disraeli standing
By 1867, Gathorne Hardy would be drafting a new poor law bill to
remedy the situation in London’s workhouses, leading to the creation of
separate hospitals and a fund to finance the costs of all drugs, medical
appliances and the salaries of all poor relief officers.
What Is Sensational?
by Charles Dickens
Right Honourable Mr Gathorne Hardy, the President of the Poor Law
Board, has a grievance. The newspapers have, he says, written
“sensationally” upon workhouse mismanagement, and an interest “wholly
disproportionate to the circumstances” has been roused in the public
mind. Further, lest any public writer should misunderstand his meaning,
he is kind enough to particularise the cases to which sensation writing
has been applied.
These were the condition of the Strand Union
workhouse, and the deaths of the paupers Daly and Gibson. It is a noble
and instructive sight to look down upon from our snug perch in the House
of Commons while this genial remark is made. Opposition and government
benches both full; legislators smugly quiet, attentive, and approving;
while our orator, who is tediously fluent, well dressed, and
self-complacent, pours forth his shameless aspersions against those who
have borne disinterested testimony to the truth. Paid by the public to
protect the Poor, the official representative of a costly system under
which paupers starve and die can find nothing more germane to the
subject of poor law reform than abuse of those who have performed the
real work of his department, and but for whom, it and its salaried
servants, parasites, and admirers would have continued with folded hands
and brazen front to murmur, “All is well.” During the celebrated
Chelsea inquiry into Crimean mismanagement, a true humorist and
draughtsman, now no more, gave us a sketch of “The witness who ought to
have been examined”, in the shape of the skeleton of one of the hundreds
of horses dead of starvation.
But that the heartless perversity
which can sneer at human suffering as sensational would not be convinced
though one rose from the dead, we might well wish that the two murdered
paupers, Daly and Gibson, could be brought from their graves to bear
testimony against their accuser and his accomplices. Mr Hardy proclaims
himself an accessory after the fact by his audacious attack on witnesses
not to be suborned, and he is himself criminal in his miserable
palliation of crime. “Wholly disproportionate to the circumstances,”
smiles this Christian statesman, with a propitiatory wave of the hand;
while well clad, well fed, clean, comfortable, prosperous legislators
smile back assent, and no man says them nay.
philanthropists, platform orators, great religious lights, men well
known at Exeter Hall, and without whose names no charitable
subscription-list is complete, can be seen from our point of observation
here, placidly beating time to Mr Hardy’s verbose cadences, and
murmuring to each other afterwards that his performance has been very