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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
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Letter to William Tallack (S623aa: 1905)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter from Wallace commenting on portions of a book by William Tallack (onetime Secretary of the Howard Association), Penological Principles. Wallace's remarks were printed in Tallack's later book Howard Letters and Memories in 1905. Original pagination from this latter source indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S623AA.htm

     [[p. 62]] That distinguished naturalist, Alfred R. Wallace, Esq., F.R.S., D.C.L., thus commented on some portions of the author's book on "Penological Principles":--

     "Your chapter on 'Crimes of Society' is very powerful, but too brief, especially the first part. To me it seems that society creates nine-tenths of the crime. You do not, I think, dwell on the greatest of all 'crimes of society,' in my opinion--the neglect to so organise itself that every man may live (and live decently and well) by his labour. While one honest and industrious man or woman remains unwillingly out of work, and therefore out of food and often out of warmth, clothing, and home, society and its delegate, Government, are criminals. So long as we set property, gain, wealth, against the lives or well-being of the people who create that wealth, society is criminal.

     [[p. 63]] "Again, I believe that all the present systems of punishment are wrong--that the first and second and third aim of all punishment should be the reform of the criminal; and that having taught and reformed him, mainly by kindness and work for his own benefit, arrangements should be made that he should have immediate work and means of an honest livelihood secured to him, as to all others. Till this is done, all punishment is but an added crime.

     "I entirely demur to the dictum that prisons should not be made attractive. I maintain that they cannot be made too attractive, so long as they are entirely self-supporting, which, with proper organisation, they can easily be made. Then it is better that all who cannot find other means of living should come into these 'prisons' (which to them would not be prisons, but homes) rather than be driven to the choice between starvation, crime, or that vile prison-establishment--the workhouse.

     "Of course you will think these ideas dreadfully wild, impracticable, and socialistic They are so, no doubt; but then I am a Socialist."

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