Alexander Somerville (1811-85) was an extraordinary figure, notorious in his own lifetime for his espousal of political reform. The youngest child of impoverished farmers from the Scottish border country, he was the last soldier to be flogged publicly in Britain, after openly stating that his regiment would not fire on Reform agitators. In his subsequent journalistic career his stance was influenced by his concern that violent revolution would inevitably be crushed and so lead to greater suffering among the working class, and he therefore supported the less radical reform movement urged by Cobden. He was a passionate opponent of the Corn Laws, and The Whistler at the Plough (published in 1852) is a collection of his letters and essays for the Anti-Corn-Law League, based on information gathered during his own travels around the country. The volume also contains his eyewitness account of the Irish famine of 1847.