Lord Salisbury

JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

37 CHARLES STEWART PARNELL

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In 1911, twenty years after Charles Stewart Parnell MP died, they built an obelisk in Dublin. A statue of Parnell stands at the foot of the obelisk. Today the Parnell Society meets once a year in Parnell Memorial Park. And if that does not impress, his gravestone is marked with just one word, PARNELL. There are a few dead rock stars that have missed that trick. The admirers of Parnell described him as being ‘sparse with words’ but lethal in debate.   The British Tory Government of Lord Salisbury admired skilled debate but not when it came from its opponents. Lord Salisbury hated Parnell. He claimed that Irish Home Rule was the greatest threat to the British Empire since Napoleon.  Gladstone was different. He was sympathetic to the 57 Irish Nationalist MPs and their cause. He said, ‘There is no crime recorded in history which will compare for a moment with the means by which the Union was brought about.’

Sir Robert Anderson became Assistant Commissioner Metropolitan Police in 1888. He was an Irishman but there is no statue of him in Dublin. He was not sympathetic to Home Rule for his fellow countrymen and women. Anderson said that, ‘no one could suppose the United Kingdom will tamely consent to be swamped by a horde of paupers and agitators’.  He was concerned about threats to the income of the English landlords and their Irish descendants, the people that had created the paupers who were obliged to work as agricultural labourers.   In their first meeting the Home Secretary Henry Matthews told Anderson that it was his responsibility to find Jack the Ripper. In his memoir Anderson remembered his answer. ‘My answer was to decline the responsibility. I said, ‘I hold myself responsible to take all legitimate means to find him.’ Anderson was being a smart aleck and sidestepping responsibility.   His experience of law enforcement was shaped by his previous role in the Special Irish Department within CID and not always legitimate.

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Charles Stewart Parnell set up an organisation called the Land League, which later evolved into something called a Plan for Campaign. Its purpose was to resist punitive rents and summary evictions. The landlords in Ireland, many of them absent landlords, felt unappreciated.   Arthur Balfour had become Secretary of State for Ireland in 1887. Although Parnell advocated non-violent protest throughout his career, Balfour declared the Plan of Campaign a criminal conspiracy. On the 18th of March The Times printed the first of eight articles titled ‘Parnellism And Crime’.   In the first article it was claimed that Parnell had ‘marched with murderers’.  Subsequent articles continued the accusation during the following weeks.   The final three articles alleged that Parnell had links with terrorists in the USA.  To accompany the articles The Times published a facsimile of a letter that Parnell had supposedly written. Five years previously Thomas Burke and Lord Cavendish had been murdered in Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Times used the facsimile as evidence that Parnell had excused his previous condemnation of the killings and also that he condoned the murder of Thomas Burke.

The facsimile was a forgery.   Anderson had a friend, a young Dublin journalist called Edward Caulfield Houston. This journalist did appreciate the landlords in Ireland, whether absent or not. Houston had hired fellow Irish journalist and muckraker Richard Piggott to investigate Parnell and to find anything incriminating against the Irish politician. Piggott, Houston and an academic called Sir Thomas Maguire met in Paris and plotted.

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The accusations, which had begun in 1887, continued into 1888. Parnell avoided taking his accusers to Court but he denounced them in Parliament.   The Leader of the House, W H Smith, responded by setting up a Parliamentary Commission. Rather than it being an impartial enquiry it became a trial of Parnell. Lord Herschell objected to a Parliamentary Commission being used in this way. This did not help. Parnell was charged with conspiracy.

Anderson and his CID unit the Special Irish Department had the responsibility of collecting evidence that would support what had been alleged in the articles in The Times.  After he retired Anderson admitted that he had written some of the articles. Piggott had been required to make journeys between London and Paris.  He had been in the French Capital when Anderson was supposedly there on holiday and not worrying himself about the recent murder of the Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly.  Holiday or not, something had given Anderson the necessary confidence to qualify his responsibility for catching Jack the Ripper. In retirement Anderson admitted that ‘we did a lot of illegal things’.

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The Parliamentary Commission investigating Parnell had begun on 17th September 1888, the day after Annie Chapman was murdered in Whitechapel. The Commission charged Parnell and members of his Land League and Plan for Campaign with ‘a conspiracy seeking absolute independence from England, that they had promoted agrarian agitation against the payment of rent and they incited persons to sedition and the commission of crimes including murder.’ The first half of that does not sound so bad but the judges sat for 138 sessions and put 150,000 questions to 445 witnesses.  Those in authority wanted a conviction and they were serious enough to bend a few rules.

Not every English policeman was content with the action taken against Irish agitators. Undercover men had joined the Land League with the intention of persuading others to commit crimes. Patrick McIntyre described himself as ’late of the Political Department of Scotland Yard’. He said, ‘Not a single plot in England had not been incited by the Police’. John Daly had been imprisoned in 1883 for carrying bombs.   It may not have persuaded St Peter at the gates of Heaven but on his deathbed the Birmingham Chief of Police revealed that John Daly was innocent. In 1887, Richard Piggott visited Daly in prison. Daly was offered his freedom but not because he was innocent and the authorities were embarrassed by contrite police chiefs. If he wanted to leave prison, Daly had to accuse Parnell of supporting violent sedition. Daly refused the offer and walked back to his cell. Through unofficial channels Liberal MPs heard about the visit to Daly by Piggott.   The MPs demanded to know who had authorised the visit. Home Secretary Henry Matthews said not me, boss. The Secretary of the Prison Board said that somehow he had no idea what was happening inside one of his prisons. The Secretary was Sir Robert ‘I decline the responsibility’ Anderson.

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There was a further visit to Daly but the prisoner again refused to accuse Parnell.  He stayed in prison for another ten years and fourteen years after the Birmingham Chief of Police had declared him innocent. Meanwhile the Commission was doing its competitive best to be just as sordid. Hungry and desperate Irish agricultural workers were paid to appear in front of the Commission and testify against Parnell.  Liberal MP John Morley said the Commission ‘was designed for the Public outside the Court, and not a touch could be spared that might deepen the odium.’  On 21st February 1889, Richard Piggott testified before the Commission. His two days cross-examination exposed the journalist as a fraud. On the third day Piggott disappeared.  On 1st March 1889 he was shot dead in a hotel room in Madrid. The killing was reported as a suicide but on the 28th February The Times had reported that the Police had located Piggott.  People have argued about what may or may not have happened in the hotel in Spain but in terms of establishment guilt the argument is without consequence. Whether Piggott killed himself or was executed by his employers the motive for the killing was the same, to hide the truth about the crimes Piggott had committed against Parnell.  Dr Maguire, the academic who had plotted in Paris with Piggott and Edward Caulfield Houston, was reported in Reynold’s News as dying ‘suddenly and mysteriously’ on 2nd March 1889. Irish MP Thomas O’Hanlon in Parliament asked for a post-mortem to see if the previously healthy academic was poisoned.  The question was unanswered.

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Meanwhile the Commission continued asking 150,000 questions. Parnell demanded that the accounts of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union be presented as evidence. The judges who somehow had approved almost 500 witnesses refused the request.  The Commission put on a stubborn show but closed without making accusations. Sir Robert Anderson did not appear as a witness before the Commission. There is no evidence to indicate that while he was in post as Assistant Commissioner he did anything to establish who had written the forged letter to The Times or fabricated the evidence contained in the articles in The Times newspaper. But, despite being attributed to a Times journalist, three of the eight articles had been written by Anderson. These three articles were titled ‘Behind The Scenes In America’. No doubt Sir Robert Anderson felt in this instance that he had more than acquitted his responsibility. In the investigation to the crimes of Jack the Ripper there was less enthusiasm from the man who was loyal to his Irish homeland, or at least the parts of it owned by his landlord friends.

Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.

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JACK THE RIPPER ‘THE DEMENTED GENIUS’ HIS DEEDS AND TIMES

28 SIR HENRY MATTHEWS

 

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In Britain there are two government departments distinguished by euphemisms. The Ministry of Defence collects destructive weapons and uniformed warriors and uses both to kill troublesome foreigners, often in territories where there are natural valuable resources. The Home Office employs a police force to maintain order within the British homeland and to ensure that a comfortable establishment is not made too uneasy by excesses in democracy. Just in case the British people become suspicious the Home Office is denied a government minister. The person in charge of the department is called the Home Secretary. What could be less sinister than that?

Sir Henry Matthews was Home Secretary between 1886 and 1892. Opinion about his suitability was consistent and negative.   The Star newspaper described Matthews as ‘a poor and spiritless specimen of the race of smart adventurers who creep into politics by the back door.’ The rear entrance mentioned in the condemnation could have been a reference to the rumour that Queen Victoria had persuaded Prime Minister Lord Salisbury to appoint Matthews as Home Secretary. Later the Monarch stated that Matthews had ‘a general want of sympathy with the feelings of the people’. Somehow our titled equal opportunities employer and champion of democracy had failed to notice this trait when Matthews was appointed Queens Council in 1868.

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Matthews preferred to trust senior civil servants rather than the police but even the men that Matthews relied on were unimpressed by him. Evelyn Ruggles Brise was Private Secretary to four Home Secretaries. He believed that Matthews was ‘quite incapable of dealing with men’. Nothing in the English language is quite as flexible as the word quite and its use by Brise should be noted. Home Secretary Sir Henry Matthews, like his Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, was a Freemason. Both were also members of the exclusive and expensive Athenaeum Club. There is a branch of the Athenaeum Club in Liverpool. The library has 60,000 books, luxurious rooms, and membership costs £1200 a year. Meals and drinks are extra. Most Liverpudlians are unaware of its existence in the centre of the City.

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Before he entered politics Matthews was a capable barrister who possessed polished interrogative skills. His cross-examination of Sir Charles Dilke in a high profile divorce case appears to have impressed everyone including Queen Victoria. The cross-examination finished the political career of Dilke and his ambition to be Prime Minister. An ability to pick apart the decisions and motives of others is a blessing to a barrister but it can be an impediment to someone who is required to make decisions and allocate responsibilities. Indeed, Matthews may have felt he was being at his most steadfast and decisive when resisting the urging of others to take action. If there are some bureaucrats who believe that any decision is better than no decision, the majority lean towards believing that no decision is better than most decisions. Matthews belonged with the cautious.

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Sir Henry Matthews was born in 1826 in Ceylon.   He never married but was described as charming and a ladies man. Perhaps his ease and confidence amongst both men and women meant he was unable to resist letting people dangle and this conceit or weakness prevailed both in his professional and social lives.  Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren liked military uniforms and rank too much to be self-effacing. And he would have objected to being left to dangle by his Home Secretary. Despite a possible tortuous process Matthews approved several initiatives proposed by Warren. These included the reorganisation of the Metropolitan Police to include an increase in the number of inspectors and sergeants. There were, though, disagreements between the two men. Whether or not to give a reward for information about Jack the Ripper was a saga of inconsistencies and disagreements that haunted the Home Office from the 4th of September 1888 when the first request for a reward was lodged and refused. Mary Ann Nichols the first victim in the ‘canonical five’ was murdered on the 31st of August.   More serious than the arguments over the reward was the turf war between James Monro and Sir Charles Warren.   The forthright Monro was appointed as Assistant Commissioner Metropolitan Police in 1886. He was given responsibility for the CID and was also head of the Secret Department, which was known as Section D. The Secret Department managed internal security and monitored the activities of those that the Government regarded as subversives. These responsibilities gave Monro direct access to the Home Secretary.   Warren objected to one of his Assistant Commissioners being independent and having equal privileges. Monro felt he needed to keep his work discreet and, well, secret. Both men had a point, and a talented Home Secretary would have resolved the matter without too much difficulty. The solution, which was a long time coming, was to give the Secret Department managerial independence, and put someone in charge that had equal rank to the Commissioner Metropolitan Police. Instead, Matthews let the two men dangle.

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The trio of Matthews, Warren and Monro did not operate as a successful managerial team.   This does not mean that their conflict prejudiced the Metropolitan Police investigation into the crimes of Jack the Ripper. The detection of the Ripper required sharp men on the streets and some luck. Senior policemen are nowhere near as influential as they think. Read the police reports of H Division that are available today, and they provide an account of a methodical but unimaginative approach to crime detection within the Detectives of Whitechapel. Suspects were interviewed when they appeared, and facts were evaluated. In the main, rushes to judgement were avoided. More decisive action by the Home Office, though, may have prevented the deaths of some of the Ripper victims.   This could have included extra police put on the streets sooner and clear instructions for the extra men on the beat.   Additional resources were invested into crime prevention but there is little evidence of a strategy about how those extra resources could be best used.   Monro managed undercover operators and he should have been able to improve the security of the citizens of Whitechapel.   The Secret Department was interested in security but, of course, the poor that walked the streets were not a priority for a Government led by Lord Salisbury. The poor could dangle in their slums.

If the record of Sir Henry Matthews is blemished, he was Home Secretary during a difficult period.   The mistakes made in the Jack the Ripper investigation occurred because of individual failure but also because there was little precedent for what had happened. Apart from trendsetting crime there was agitation on the streets for a socialist revolution. Meanwhile many of the rich and powerful not only indulged in licentious behaviour but were also part of an establishment that imposed a puritanical morality on ordinary people.   The result was a heady mix of sex, violence, indignation and accusation.

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Bloody Sunday in Trafalgar Square in 1887 began as a protest against unemployment and the action of the British Government in Ireland. Sir Charles Warren remembered his colonial days and rather than keep the peace he waged war. 400 demonstrators were arrested, and 75 people were injured.   At least Warren and Matthews permitted demonstrations. Monro wanted them to be subject to a complete ban. There was also the Cleveland Street Scandal in 1889, which revealed a male brothel staffed by telegraph boys. The customers of the brothel were rich and included people important enough to avoid prosecution. The affair was covered-up but eventually exposed by Ernest Parke the editor of the radical North London Press. What followed was a main course in Victorian hypocrisy. The telegraph boys received light sentences, and none of their clients were prosecuted.   Parke was sued for libel and sentenced to 12 months in prison for exposing criminal behaviour that somehow did not require punishment. Sir Henry Matthews did not provide a moral lead in the affair. He looked after his masters. This was not difficult because it meant he could relax and do nothing. Matthews took a similar approach in the case of Florence Maybrick. In dubious circumstances Florence was convicted of poisoning her husband James. The arsenic in his body was not enough to kill anyone especially James. He was an arsenic addict that had developed a degree of immunity. The Press and public protested about the absence of evidence in the conviction of Mrs Maybrick.   Nowhere near as fastidious Matthews prevaricated and fudged. Florence Maybrick was left to dangle inside prison for fourteen years.

Matthews left the Home Office in 1892 and used his title as Viscount Llandaff to attend the House of Lords and do very little else in politics. He disappeared from public life. He died in 1913 at the age of 87.   His main concern as Home Secretary was protecting the status of the establishment he served and, just as important, himself.   Twelve months after his death the same people he protected took the British people into the first of two World Wars.

 Howard Jackson has had seven books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories and collections of film criticism.   If you are interested in original horror and crime fiction and want information about the books of Howard Jackson and the other great titles at Red Rattle Books, click here.