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William Tallack Correspondence

An inventory of his correspondence at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: 2001-01-01

Biographical History

William Tallack (1831-1908) was a British social activist interested in penal reform and heavily influenced by his Quaker faith. Tallack believed that offenders should be offered opportunities for moral education and reflection, so that they could seek salvation and forgiveness in the eyes of God. He advocated for prevention and treatment of crime in addition to methods of deterrence. He pushed for teaching prisoners new skills in order to educate them in personal responsibility and moral rectitude, and believed in isolating criminals in singular cells so that they would be encouraged to repent. Tallack believed that crime was caused by poverty, neglect, and a lack of moral education, so he attempted to eradicate this by campaigning for better schools, housing, sanitation and restrictive alcohol intake.

In 1863, Tallack became the secretary for the Society for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, and in 1866 he became the secretary of the Howard Association, a group named after an eighteenth-century prison reformer. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1901.

Tallack published his views extensively in articles, letters to the press, pamphlets, and books. His most famous books are Defects of Criminal Administration (1872) and Penological and Preventative Principles (1889).

Source: Forsyth, Bill. "Tallack, William (1831-1908)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (on-line).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Tallack Correspondence is a collection of incoming letters, most of which are in connection with Tallack's position as secretary of the Howard Association, an organization devoted to the cause of prison reform. A tireless social activist, Tallack enlisted the support of authors (James Anthony Froude, Robert Hawker, Richard Houghton, William Lecky, George MacDonald, George Augustus Sala) and clergymen (Randall Thomas Davidson, John Jackson, Henry Parry Liddon, James Martineau, William Pennefather, Henry Richard, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, A.P. Stanley, Archibald Tait, Frederick Temple, William Ullathorne, Herbert Vaughan) as well as philanthropists (Michael Bass, Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury), social reformers (William Booth, Charles Bradlaugh, John Bright, Mary Carpenter, Frances Cobbe, Ouida), and statesmen (Arthur James Balfour, Joseph Chamberlain, Randolph Churchill, William Gladstone, John Wodehouse Kimberley, John Morley, Thomas O'Hagan, Charles Stewart Parnell).

Most of the letters in the collection are single items of correspondence thanking Tallack for supplying 1) copies of his letters about prison reform which had appeared in various publications; 2) the annual reports of the Howard Association; or, 3) Tallack's own books and pamphlets regarding prison issues, and others of his various religious and political tracts. Responding to the receipt of a reprint of a Tallack letter, Herbert Gladstone writes (3 Oct. 1906):

I hold as strongly now as in 1894 that our efforts shd be to prevent the young criminal from joining the ranks of the habitual; & that the habituals themselves should be dealt with by methods more rational & more deterrent than those now in force. And the very fact that so much has been done to make the prison treatment less repulsive & more hopeful is in itself a reason why hardened old ruffians should not be allowed to reap all its material advantages without the least intention of profiting or endeavoring to profit an the moral side.

A Quaker, Tallack received the support of many of his fellow social reformers who shared his religious convictions (Joseph Bevan Braithwaite, Bright, W.E. Forster). The earliest letters in the collection are from Quakers William Allen, William Forster, Joseph John Gurney, and Joseph Sturge, however these items are addressed to either Simon Horner or John Barry, rather than Tallack.

Arrangement of the Collection

The William Tallack Correspondence consists of 1 box of letters, ordered alphabetically by name.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Allen, William, 1770-1843.
Argyll, George Douglas Campbell, Duke of, 1823-1900.
Balfour, Arthur James, 1848-1930.
Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine), 1834-1924.
Bass, Michael T. (Michael Thomas), 1799-1884.
Booth, William, 1829-1912.
Bradlaugh, Charles, 1833-1891.
Braithwaite, J. Bevan (Joseph Bevan), 1818-1905.
Bright, John, 1811-1889.
Brougham and Vaux, Henry Brougham, Baron, 1778-1868.
Burns, John Elliot, 1858-1943.
Carpenter, Mary, 1807-1877.
Cecil, Hugh, 1869-1956.
Chamberlain, Joseph, 1836-1914.
Churchill, Randolph Henry Spencer, Lord, 1849-1895.
Cobbe, Frances Power, 1822-1904.
Cobden, Richard, 1804-1865.
Coleridge, John Duke Coleridge, Baron, 1820-1894.
Cranbrook, Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, Earl of, 1814-1906.
Curzon of Kedleston, George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess, 1859-1925.
Davidson, Randall Thomas, 1848-1930.
Du Cane, Edmund F. (Edmund Frederick), 1830-1903.
Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Temple Blackwood, Marquis of, 1826-1902.
Ewart, William, 1798-1869.
Farrar, F. W. (Frederic William), 1831-1903.
Forster, W. E. (William Edward), 1818-1886.
Forster, William, 1784-1854.
Fowler, Robert Nicholas, Sir, 1828-1891.
Froude, James Anthony, 1818-1894.
Gilpin, Charles.
Gladstone, Herbert John Gladstone, Viscount, 1854-1930.
Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart), 1809-1898.
Gurney, Joseph John, 1788-1847.
Hampton, John Somerset Pakington, Baron, 1799-1880.
Harcourt, William Vernon, Sir, 1827-1904.
Harrowby, Dudley Ryder, Earl of, 1798-1882.
Hawker, Robert Stephen, 1803?-1875.
Hill, Rowland, Sir, 1795-1879.
Iddesleigh, Stafford Henry Northcote, Earl of, 1818-1887.
Jackson, John, 1811-1885.
Kitchin, G. W. (George William), 1827-1912.
Lawrence, John Laird Mair, 1811-1879.
Lecky, William Edward Hartpole, 1838-1903.
Lichfield, Thomas George Anson, 1825-1892.
Liddon, H. P. (Henry Parry), 1829-1890.
Lusk, Andrew, 1810-1909.
MacDonald, George, 1824-1905.
Martineau, James, 1805-1900.
Milnes, Richard Monckton, Baron Houghton, 1809-1885.
Morley, John, 1838-1923.
Morley, Samuel, 1809-1886.
O'Hagan, Thomas O'Hagan, Baron, 1812-1885.
Osborne, Sidney Godolphin, Lord, 1808-1889.
Ouida, 1839-1908.
Parnell, Charles Stewart, 1846-1891.
Pennefather, W. (William), 1816-1873.
Richard, Henry, 1812-1888.
Richmond, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Duke of, 1818-1903.
Rosebery, Archibald Philip Primrose, Earl of, 1847-1929.
Russell, George William Erskine, 1853-1919.
Russell, John Russell, Earl, 1792-1878.
Sala, George Augustus, 1828-1895.
Salisbury, Robert Cecil, Marquess of, 1830-1903.
Selborne, Roundell Palmer, Earl of, 1812-1895.
Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of, 1801-1885.
Sharp, Isaac.
Spencer, John Poyntz Spencer, Earl, 1835-1910.
Spurgeon, C. H. (Charles Haddon), 1834-1892.
Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn, 1815-1881.
Sturge, Joseph, 1793-1859.
Tait, Archibald Campbell, 1811-1882.
Tallack, William, 1831-1908.
Taylor, James Hudson, 1832-1905.
Teignmouth, Charles John Shore, Baron, 1796-1885.
Temple, Frederick, 1821-1902.
Thomson, William, 1819-1890.
Ullathorne, William Bernard, 1806-1889.
Vaughan, Herbert, 1832-1903.
Victoria, Empress, consort of Frederick III, German Emperor, 1840-1901.
Wilberforce, Samuel, 1805-1873.
Wilberforce, William, 1759-1833.
Wodehouse, John, Earl of Kimberley, 1826-1902.

Corporate Bodies

Howard Association (London, England)
Society of Friends.


Capital punishment.
Prison reformers -- Great Britain.
Quakers -- Great Britain -- Political activity.
Social reformers -- Great Britain.


Great Britain -- Politics and government -- 19th century.

Genres and Forms



Social reformers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Tallack Correspondence
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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