Communicative Practices: Fox Versus Hanway

face of a prisoner

About a century before Jonas Hanway began to condemn prisoners’ evil communication, George Fox was preaching against everyone’s evil communication. Fox was the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. He proclaimed to the inhabitants of London: “keep to yea and nay in all your communication; whatsoever more is evil.” Fox never achieved prominence in elite London society. Throughout his life, Fox was repeatedly imprisoned and beaten. The Quakers are notable for their distinctive embrace of silence and listening. Unlike Fox and the Quakers, penal scholars and other public figures have neither advocated silence for the general public, nor embraced silence for themselves.

Jonas Hanway was an ambitious, sophisticated, and acclaimed social reformer working among the elite of London. Hanway admired the Quakers, but he himself did not seek to emulate their communicative practices. Hanway condemned prisoners’ evil communication and advocated solitary confinement for prisoners. In the nineteenth century, intellectual and political elites world-wide similarly endorsed suppressing prisoners’ communication.

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