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 A Ripperologist Article 
This article originally appeared in Ripperologist No. 80, June 2007. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.
Anderson, Monro and Jsfmboe
by Martin Fido


Change each letter for its predecessor in the alphabet, and you have Ireland.

This not very challenging cypher was one of the great secrets of the Fenians in the 1870s. Fenians were Irish nationalists who plotted against the British government, and it was active government work against them that brought Dr Robert Anderson into the business of policing and allied him with James Monro. Commentators who wish to undermine the weight some of us give to Anderson’s opinions on the Ripper case almost invariably cite Liberal and Irish Nationalist politicians who detested (or, in Winston Churchill’s case, were embarrassed by) Anderson’s entrenched Unionism. But very few have understood exactly what was at issue: why Anderson was accused of hubris or duplicity, and how he managed to persuade himself that he had always acted with integrity. To understand Anderson and Monro and the extraordinary Jubilee plot they agreed they had foiled, one needs some knowledge of Jsfmboe.

Dr Robert Anderson
The complex and confusing history of the competing underground organisations and the covert spies working within and against them has been most fruitfully unravelled by Christy Campbell in Fenian Fire(1) and Leon O’Broin in The Prime Informer(2), to which books most of the following is owing.

In 1858 the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was founded in Dublin with the establishment of Irish independence by violence as its avowed aim. Since granting Catholics civil rights in 1828, the Westminster Parliament had done nothing effective about Irish grievances: that led to an impoverished economy, exploitative and often absentee Protestant-ascendancy landlords, and a do-nothing laissez-faire policy of letting the free market allow people to starve during the great potato famine. When legitimate grievances are cavalierly disregarded by government, terrorism is a reasonable response. The British misrulers of Ireland had finally brought it into being.

In 1859 the Fenian Brotherhood was founded as the American wing of the IRB, to raise funds and volunteers for the cause. Since the majority of Irish Americans at this time were exiles who had been forced to leave home by the potato blight, their resentment of the British government that had done nothing for their country was intense and, then as now, there was more vehement and aggressive anti-English nationalism to be found in Massachusetts and New York than in Armagh and Cork.

Francis Millen, a soldier of fortune who had achieved general’s rank in Mexico, joined the Fenian Botherhood, and in 1864 accepted a paying position to go to Ireland and draw up strategic plans for a violent rising supported by trained American volunteers. But two years later, after falling out temporarily with the Brotherhood’s leader, Millen went to the British consul in Mexico City and sold a complete outline of the IRB and Fenian Brotherhood setup. This material was passed to Dublin Castle where the young Robert Anderson was appointed to examine and collate reports on the Fenians. He listed Millen as ‘Informant M’ and carefully inked out his name from all documents.

Home Secretary Gathorne Hardy
In 1867 Millen came to England, unsuccessfully seeking appointment as a permanent spy at a salary of £500pa. Samuel Anderson (Robert’s elder brother and the attorney-general in the Irish viceregal government) arranged for him to meet Sir Richard Mayne, the founding commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. But Millen was given no appointment, and Mayne and the Met were gravely discredited by a series of Fenian bombing outrages that culminated in the destruction of half a street in Clerkenwell in an attempt to free a Fenian leader from the prison exercise yard. In consequence Conservative Home Secretary Gathorne Hardy formed a Counter-Revolutionary Secret Service Department under Col. William Fielding, with Inspectors Adolphus Williamson and James Thomson seconded to it from Scotland Yard, and Robert Anderson brought from Ireland to act as its civilian secretary. The department was closed after five months, when the scare following the Clerkenwell bombing subsided, but Anderson remained at the Home Office and received reports from (among others) Thomas Miller Beach who had been recruited as a spy that year.

In 1868 Millen and Beach joined some breakaway Fenians who formed the new violent organization Clan-na-Gael. At the same time, Millen’s reports to London were dropped.

In 1876 the violent independent Fenian O’Donovan Rossa started “Skirmishing”, (ie active terrorism). But the election of Charles Stewart Parnell, a politician of genius, as MP for Meath in 1875, made Irish Nationalism with the limited goal of ‘Home Rule’ (rather than complete independence and severance of the Union with Great Britain) politically effective at Westminster. Parnell’s visit to America in 1879 and adoption of Land Redistribution demands (with rent strikes and ‘boycotting’ instead of violence as practical weapons) led the Clan to support him temporarily. Rossa’s competitive violence with a new bombing campaign, however, forced the Clan to reject the parliamentary approach as well.

In 1880, Beach came to London and gave Anderson a full and somewhat damning account of Parnell’s actions in America the previous year, including his private endorsement of complete independence as a political goal, and his private acknowledgement that Nationalist aims could not be achieved without violence. Of course, as Sinn Fein MPs from Constance Markievicz to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have recognized, demanding complete independence from Britain is incompatible with making laws for England, Scotland and Wales, though a constitutional separatist may usefully win election to a seat he chooses not to use, thus cheating Unionists of an extra vote in Parliament. Parnell was having his cake and eating it: acting the pacific constitutional agitator for Home Rule within the Union when in England; declaring himself an independent separatist who condoned violence when appealing to firebrands in America. Anderson took and retained very full notes of this information.

O’Donovan Rosssa

In 1882 in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Irish Nationalists assassinated Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke, the new (Liberal) Chief Secretary and Permanent Undersecretary in the vice-regal government. Parnell denounced the murders. Liberal Home Secretary Sir William Harcourt appointed former Cyprus Police Chief Col. Henry Brackenbury to organize secret police work in Dublin, and ordered Anderson to cooperate with him in London. Before the year was out, Brackenbury had been replaced by Edward Jenkinson, previously private secretary to the Liberal viceroy, Lord Mayo.

Meanwhile, in Scotland Yard the Special Irish Branch, or Section D was established with Adolphus Williamson in command. He was to liaise daily with Anderson and send all reports to him. In 1883, however, Jenkinson was transferred to London and as a fellow-Liberal had the ear of Harcourt. He told him that Williamson was the only worthwhile man at Scotland Yard, and they agreed that Anderson was merely ‘a second-class detective’. The reports from Williamson were re-routed to Jenkinson, who set about building up his own network of spies and informants. In 1884 Anderson was told that he was to have no further responsibility for Fenian activities in London. Although Beach continued to report to him and pointblank refused to trust anyone else in London, Anderson was officially downgraded to Secretary to the Prison Commissioners, and given a grant of £2,000 in 1886 to compensate him for the reduction of his salary. It was clearly Jenkinson’s intent to establish himself as a permanent Liberal presence in the Home Office where Anderson had hitherto been a permanent Unionist presence.

Anderson found, however, a new ally in Scotland Yard when James Monro was appointed Assistant Commissioner in charge of the CID and set about building his own Special Irish Branch. Monro was disconcerted to find Jenkinson in situ with a spy ring that he refused to share. But like Anderson, Monro was an Irish Protestant millenniarist and a firm Conservative Unionist. The two formed a friendship and cooperated to avoid being supplanted by Jenkinson. In the short run things went Jenkinson’s way. A power struggle in the Clan-na-Gael led to increased bombing and a growing supply of increasingly high-level dissatisfied informants that included General Millen. Jenkinson also used a network of disaffected IRB members and agents provocateurs to promote subversive activities that he could then uncover, making arrests which impressed Sir William Harcourt. Even so, he overreached himself by his repeated failures to let Monro know where his spies were operating, and was reprimanded for this. Some authorities began to perceive Jenkinson as reckless and scandal-prone, and he became increasingly eccentric, adopting wigs and false whiskers to practice his own amateur sleuthing. But Lord Mayo still trusted him, and Jenkinson continued to send reports to him even when the Liberal administration was replaced by a Conservative one.

Thomas Henry Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish, assassinated by Irish Nationalists in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Source:

This happened in 1885 when the Conservatives adroitly outmanoeuvred Gladstone, winning Parnell’s temporary support for a caretaker government with a promise to reduce the harsh coercion measures introduced in Ireland after the Phoenix Park murders. Conservative leader Lord Salisbury’s secret hope, which succeeded, was that Gladstone would try to win back Irish support by promising Home Rule: a move that he correctly perceived would win a short-term election victory and a long-term split in the Liberal party. But in 1885 Jenkinson had already converted to Home Rule. He met Millen in France, and he tried unsuccessfully to persuade Salisbury that Home Rule was the only way to secure peace in Ireland. Salisbury was, however, very interested in retaining Millen as an informant, and his short-lived caretaker administration agreed that Millen should be given £100 down and a monthly stipend of £40.

Charles Stewart Parnell

In 1886 Gladstone and Parnell won the general election and the parliamentary approach to Home Rule was in the ascendancy. At this point the Metropolitan Police Commissionership fell vacant, and Jenkinson hoped to be appointed. It went, however, to the Liberal general Sir Charles Warren, who was just as disconcerted to find himself by-passed by Monro’s secret Irish section reporting directly to the Home Secretary as Monro had been to find Jenkinson doing the same to him. Nonetheless, this was the year of Jenkinson’s downfall. Rounding up ‘the usual suspects’ when an Irish threat to the Prince of Wales’s life was reported, Monro uncovered Jenkinson’s network of dissidents and barmaids, which he described as ‘a school of private detectives working as rivals and enemies of Scotland Yard.’ Liberal Home Secretary Hugh Childers told Jenkinson there were to be no more unofficial spies in London.

1887 was the year in which Anderson’s alleged duplicity occurred. Gladstone’s failure to get Home Rule past the House of Lords was followed by his defeat in the general election. Jenkinson was caught working behind Monro’s back once again, and all his Home Office responsibilities were transferred by the Conservatives to Monro. Anderson was appointed Monro’s “Assistant in Secret Work” at an increased salary, and was permitted to retain the £2,000 he had been awarded the previous year. Early in the year The Times began publishing a series of features called Parnellism and Crime. These were written by the journalist Wolf Flanagan, and included a letter purportedly from Parnell that approved the murder of Burke in Phoenix Park. Similar letters had appeared in a libel suit brought by an Irish Nationalist MP the previous year. All the letters had been supplied by Dublin journalist Richard Piggott. Despite Anderson’s knowledge that Piggott was a shady character, Anderson and Monro apparently agreed that the articles were useful, and Anderson subsequently claimed (while Monro denied) that in the course of their conversation Monro approved the idea that Anderson should reveal his knowledge of Parnell’s activities and comments in America, gained from Beach in 1880.

In June 1887 Queen Victoria’s 50th Jubilee was celebrated, and various newspapers reported that a plot to assassinate her with bombs planted in Westminster Abbey had been discovered. In fact, there were several groups with an interest in seeing a revived bomb scare or bombing incident. Sullivan, the Fenian Brotherhood and the diametrically opposed Conservative government all wanted parliamentary Irish Nationalism discredited, and evidence of continued terrorist plotting would go far to undermine Parnell’s claim of peaceful constitutional politicking. Jenkinson hoped that bomb threats might force the Conservatives to agree that Home Rule was the only way to achieve peace in Ireland. O’Donovan Rossa always welcomed violent action. Conversely, the Parnellites and Gladstonian Liberals were desperate to avoid any more violence.

At this stage General Millen accepted money from at least three mutually conflicting sources. The British government was paying him as an informant. A would-be Clan leader called Alexander Sullivan paid him to negotiate with potentially violent parties in France. And a Fenian Brother called Patrick Cassidy paid him £500 to engineer a bomb outrage. Author Christy Campbell thinks it possible that Jenkinson also asked Millen to set up a spurious bombing incident that could be exposed.

James Monro

Somebody in authority sent the recently retired Scotland Yard Inspector Johnson and his wife to strike up acquaintance with General and Mrs Millen in France and keep an eye on them. Mrs Johnson revealed later that she believed this person to be Anderson, though it might equally have been Jenkinson or agents of The Times, since the government was keeping that newspaper au fait with a good deal of the covert activity going on, relying on it to produce more anti-Parnellite propaganda as the occasion arose. Lord Salisbury’s name on memoranda showing that he was aware of some contact with Millen is used by Christy Campbell to justify Fenian Fire’s extraordinary and somewhat overstated subtitle: The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria.

Monro, after receiving reports of Fenian plotting in France, sent Adolphus Williamson to France to head off the conspirators, and was apparently genuinely astonished to discover that the principal bomb plotter, General Millen, was in Jenkinson’s pay. Anderson, on the other hand, had received Millen’s reports back in 1867, and knew perfectly well who he was. He may not have shared this information with Monro immediately, since there was a curious coda to the plot in October. An American called Joseph Cohen died in South London, and either because his landlady found it worth notifying the police, or because Millen or some other Fenian had betrayed him, the police watched his lodgings and arrested two men named Callan and Harkins who came to visit him and who proved to have smuggled dynamite into England. At Cohen’s inquest Monro denounced him as the financier of the plot to bomb Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. At the magistrate’s court hearings on Callan and Harkins, Monro exposed Millen as the organizer. But at their high court trial the following year Millen’s name was scrupulously withheld. This suggests that either he was still in British pay, or Anderson did not want his prior dealings with him to be known.

In the meantime Parnell bestirred himself to demand a Parliamentary Special Commission to investigate the libels in The Times. The Salisbury government decided to use the opportunity to discredit Irish nationalism. The start of the Special Commission coincided exactly with the Whitechapel murders, and may well explain the stress and ‘overwork’ that led Dr Gilbart Smith to prescribe rest in Switzerland for Anderson. He was to appear as a witness himself, and he had to avoid being exposed as author of some of the Parnellism and Crime articles at the same time as he avoided exposing any of the spies infiltrating the Fenians. In the first instance, however, there seemed no danger in naming Millen as a notorious dynamiter (whose plotting had never actually involved him in planting dynamite: an activity he claimed to deplore).

Thomas Miller Beach (aka Henri LeCaron)

In December Beach offered to testify against Parnell for £10,000. According to Anderson he insisted on doing so, even though it would end his usefulness as a spy. Christy Campbell, however, believes that Beach’s ambiguously worded letters indicate that Anderson was pressing him to testify. In the event, his testimony in February was a great success for the government. Few people doubted his claim that Parnell had privately advocated complete independence for Ireland and acknowledged the necessity for some violent campaigning. But it was immediately overshadowed by the exposure, confession, flight and suicide of William Piggott, the man who had forged the letters purporting to express Parnell’s approval of one of the Phoenix Park murders. In a subsequent libel action The Times had to pay Parnell £5,000 damages, and history tends to have forgotten that Beach’s accusations stuck and were accepted as findings against Parnell in the committee’s final report. It has been suggested that Anderson might have made contact with Piggott in France, though to what end is not clear.

There was every possibility that the government might choose to produce Millen as another witness against Parnell and a distraction from the Piggott scandal. This, however, might have been embarrassing for Monro and Anderson after they had publicized his involvement in the Jubilee Plot. Still, Parnell’s chief of intelligence, Michael Davitt, knew that Millen had accepted British pay and could have exposed the deviousness of the spymasters by revealing this knowledge. It seems that the Clan desperately wanted this covered up. Beach (under his pseudonym ‘Henri le Caron’) had been very close to Sullivan and other Clan leaders: it would have ruined their credibility if it became known that yet another spy had completely duped them for years. So everyone was quietly relieved when Millen, who seems to have hoped there might be lucrative pickings in becoming a Commission witness, died at his desk in the New York World. The pleasure it gives writers to say, ‘apparently of a heart attack’ disguises the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever of foul play.

Both Parnellites and Conservatives claimed to have ‘won’ their case before the Commission, but Parnell was destroyed within a year when Captain O’Shea named him as co-respondent in his divorce suit, and the nonconformist Liberal and devout Catholic votes essential to Parnell’s political strength were withdrawn from him. Still, the Fenian troubles and succeeding Irish Question were so dominant in English politics for the next 30 years that Anderson’s part in these affairs as revealed in his memoirs became the most highly publicised feature of his life, and hostile political comment has remained the principal source from which Ripperologists wishing to discredit him have drawn ammunition.


1 Campbell, Christy, Fenian Fire: The British Government Plot to Assassinate Queen Victoria. London: HarperCollins. 2002.

2 O’Broin, Leon, The Prime Informer: A Suppressed Scandal. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1971

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