Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Friederick Haller (1808–1886)

by J. Kerrison

This article was published:

John Friederick Haller (1808-1886), merchant and protagonist, was born on 5 April 1808 at Magdeburg, Prussia, where he lived until he went into business as a merchant in London in 1829. He emigrated to Van Diemen's Land and reached Hobart Town in the Hindoo in December 1840. He set up as a merchant on the old wharf and later applied for letters of denization which Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison was pleased to grant 'to so respectable a member of the community'.

From his arrival he took an active interest in colonial welfare. A strong Congregationalist, he became secretary to the Evangelical Union, and was outspoken on strict Sunday observance. Although very interested in religious education, he was yet honest enough to recommend that a grant to Sunday schools which flourished without this aid should be transferred to other needier educational institutions. He served on many committees connected with education. In 1844 he was put on the committee controlling the apprenticeship of inmates of the Queen's Orphan Schools. Three years later he led a deputation of 300 colonists petitioning the Queen against the projected denominational system of education; he was then joint secretary of the committee set up to form the Hobart Town High School, to which he had subscribed a considerable sum. In 1845 he established the Observer: A Van Diemen's Land Journal of Politics, Agriculture, Commerce, and General Intelligence which ran for nine months. Editorials upheld Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Eardley-Wilmot's opposition to Anglican claims to the independent control of clergy, and unlike most contemporaries the Observer credited the lieutenant-governor with a sincere desire to support colonial protests against the increased financial burdens of transportation. In 1847 he was a trustee of the Hobart Town Savings Bank.

An ardent promoter of the anti-transportation cause, he was for several years secretary of the Southern Tasmanian Council of the Australasian League, and was the medium for protests against the government's acceptance of convicts arriving in 1850-52. In November 1852 he appealed against the turbulence of a meeting held by the pro-transportation party, and publicly accused the Colonial Office, Denison and the Hobart Town Advertiser of inciting class struggle, driving free labour from the colony, and destroying the morals of the lower classes by supporting the continuance of transportation. To further his views he wrote extensively for several opposition newspapers.

In January 1844 Haller had married Emma Pike of Jericho, Van Diemen's Land. After the death of his only son, Frederick William, in 1853, and the later success of the anti-transportation cause, Haller left the colony with his wife and two daughters; he died at East Melbourne on 29 March 1886.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Haller (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

J. Kerrison, 'Haller, John Friederick (1808–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 April, 1808
Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany


29 March, 1886 (aged 77)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.