The name of John Howard stands alone in history as the pre-eminent type of disinterested benevolence, and the tendency of his work has been universally accepted as having less admixture of evil than perhaps that of any other man. Respect and admiration have been lavished upon him without measure; whether by those whose sympathies were naturally with the objects of his commiseration, or by those who simply desired to emulate his singlemindedness and active humanity. There is this peculiarity in his wide reputation, namely, that the criminal as well as the unfortunate have a direct interest in applauding his beneficence; while the good cannot but admire his devotion to the cause of the helpless, and his straightforward simple method. It would be too much to say that he preceded as well as excelled all other labourers in his special field, or that without him prison reform would never have been achieved, or would have been even indefinitely postponed; for a Parliamentary Committee had reported fully on the subject 70 years before, and Mr. Popham was Howard's immediate predecessor in introducing some important practical legislative improvements. But it is indisputable that Howard awakened an enthusiasm on the subject without which it is impossible to say how far those improvements could have been carried; and further—that he was the principal means of the complete exposure of the frightful abuses and defects of prison management which were then so prevalent. The expansion of his indomitable labours to nearly every corner of Europe, while it established England's pre-eminence in the stupidity as well as cruelty of its maladministration, furnished him not only with ample proofs that these evils were almost equalled in some foreign countries, but with many examples and patterns (for instance, in Holland and Switzerland), which he copied and laboured to introduce generally; and added such weight and volume to the public opinion, which he created or converted to his views, that there is no similar movement which has been more widely, energetically, and persistently sustained.
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