15 October 1888
The Home Secretary, in a letter to the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, says that the grant of a free pardon to an accomplice of the Whitechapel murderer must be limited to persons who have not been concerned in contriving or actually committing the murders, and that the propriety of making the offer must largely depend on the nature of the information received from day to day.
One of the questions of the immediate future is that of the reorganization of the Metropolitan Police. London, outside the City, with the solitary exception of the Home Office, is pervaded by a sense of alarm and discontent, such as can rarely have been witnessed before. Mr. Matthews of course is quite complacent. The system which has brought him to the Home Secretaryship without previous experience of administrative work, and has put an army of 13,000 under his supreme control, can but be deserving of all admiration and confidence. Sir Charles Warren is less undisturbed. He seems conscious that he is on his defence, and he defends himself with spirit. The force under him is only a little less discontented than the public it serves. It has become aware that it has lost the confidence of the people of London, and the men who compose the force are fast losing confidence in themselves. There is a sense at Scotland yard that something is wrong; and there have already been resignations. The unrest within is, however, infinitely less than the unrest outside. London, as a whole, has lost confidence in the organization by which the law is enforced, the safety of property and life is ensured, and the good order of the streets is kept. The immediate occasion of this sense of public apprehension is not altogether a reasonable one. It is not the fault of the police that the perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders is still at large, and the complaints about them for not ferreting him out are somewhat unreasonable. But the conspicuous failure is but one of a series. It is justly felt that after the first two undetected murders there should have been a watchfulness which rendered others impossible. There had been general alarm all through East London before it was startled by the news that two murders had occurred in the public streets in a single night, and it is not to be wondered at that from the period of the double crime alarm has deepened into loud dissatisfaction and angry discontent. We agree with all that Sir Charles Warren has said as to the unusual facilities for secrecy and escape which the unfortunate victims provided for their murderer. We admit that since the murders there has been much fussy activity on the part of the police, who have arrested large numbers of people who could not possibly have been guilty or even open to reasonable suspicion. But the consciousness on their part that they had failed to keep the confidence of the public seems to have led to a desire to show that something was being done. The murderer has consequently had every warning that publicity could give him. The police have shown their hands, as is their custom in London. All this, and the publication of facsimiles of letters and postcards, which bear on their faces the obvious suggestion that they are mere wicked and foolish jokes, have tended to disturb the public mind rather than to reassure it. It is not these events in the East end alone which have produced the panic. We pointed out some time since how long the list of unavenged murders had grown. A series of failures to prevent or to detect the very worst form of violence has culminated in the East end assassinations, and the sense of public security which had been gradually undermined has finally given way.
This is the real explanation of the present state of public feeling towards the police. Confidence in them was worn thin before it broke. It was only at the last and severest trial of a long series that the faith of the people in their official protectors was destroyed. It is too late to ask whether the system under which the Metropolitan Police is administered justifies this want of trust. The point to which the Home Office - when it is restored to efficiency and practical statesmanship - must direct its attention is how to restore the sense of security which has been lost. This will not be done by mere additions to the police force. Quality is more essential than quantity, and it is in quality rather than quantity, in morale rather than in numbers, in methods rather than in men, that the police force is wanting. We have frequently pointed out that as compared with other great cities, abroad as well as at home, London is well provided with police. In his report for 1887 Sir Charles Warren makes some very startling statements which are not altogether borne out on inquiry. Sir Charles Warren, for example, gives a list of the number of new houses built in London year by year as counted by the police. He shows the number thus counted to have been 500,864 in the years from 1849 to 1887. He wishes the inference to be drawn which the Spectator draws, that as there were 5,288 police available in 1849, and there are only 8,773 in 1887, the proportion of police to houses has greatly diminished. But Sir Charles Warren has overstated his case. There is an obvious error in his figures. The number of inhabited houses in the whole of the metropolis under the Metropolitan Board of Works was only 488,995 at the census of 1881, and the total number in the Greater London of the Metropolitan Police District was 645,818. The number in Greater London in 1871 was 528,804. Now, taking Sir Charles Warren's Police figures, we find that 136,555 houses were added to his Police district in the ten years; yet the actual growth as revealed by the census was only 117,014. It is evident, therefore, that there is great exaggeration in his figures. Another defect of his reckoning seem to be that the City Police are omitted. Now, in 1887 there were in the City besides the Superintendent and the head inspectors, 12 inspectors of divisions, 14 station sergeants, 12 detective sergeants, 68 sergeants, and 787 constables, adding a total of 893 efficient men to the protective force of the metropolis. These men are not under Sir Charles Warren, but neither is the central area. Add these to Sir Charles Warren's 12,460 and we get a police force for the metropolis of 13,353. Now, in Liverpool, which has far more than a tenth of the population, had in 1886 only 1,352 police all told, and Manchester had 875. London is therefore, even as matters now stand, better supplied with police than these cities. So that the statements which have been freely made of late that the metropolis is not so well found as other towns is not only baseless, but is the very reverse of the truth. It is, in fact, not more men that are wanted, but new methods. The police in all our great towns are under civic administration, and they consequently work well as a civic force. They are not distracted from civic duties by military regulations. In one large borough the military system was at one time put in force. The police were drilled, organized, and managed as they are in London. The experiment failed. The police became inefficient for their proper work, but the old system was reverted to, and all their old efficiency came back.
It is the military system, the centralised organization, the irresponsible management, which has now broken down in London. Our police are admirable for all duties which have a military element in them. They arrange public processions admirably. They keep the streets well on occasions of great public displays. They can march well together, and are a very fine body of men. But these are not their chief duties. What the public want a police force for is to keep the streets orderly, to prevent violence and crime, to look after our houses and property at night, and to be in the view of the criminal classes a terror to evil doers. Their duties are local; and in every district they ought to be looked after by men who know that part of the town, and are full acquainted with its dangers and its needs. All this requires the kind of local superintendence which the watch committees give in the municipal boroughs. It is impossible that such local adaptation can ever be given to men organized into a great army of 13,000 men, under one head, and from a single central office. To expect this really civic character from the Metropolitan Police is to expect the impossible. The qualities required are not only those which a military organization fails to develop, but which it actually discourages and represses. There is reason to believe that this strongly felt in the force itself. Individuality is discouraged. To take an active initiative is to get into trouble. The safest thing for the constable to do is to get through his beat, to be punctual at certain points, and to report himself duly at the times and places where he is required to be. The less he goes out of his regular routine the more he is likely to please his superiors. This is, of course, the inevitable effect of military organization. As a consequence everybody complains that the constables are not alert, that they go a mill horse round, that they have no originality or initiative. It is contended that the only way to keep an army of so many thousand men together at all is to adopt this military organization. The answer to that is that if it is proved the army must be broken up into smaller bodies under local management. A beginning might be made by limiting the Metropolitan Police to the metropolis proper, and letting Middlesex and Surrey have their own police. Why Staines and Uxbridge, or even West Ham or Croydon or Kingston, which have municipalities of their own, should have Metropolitan Police and be ruled from Scotland yard is a problem beyond solution. The obvious course would be to put the London Police, except those of the City, under the County Council, and limit them to the London area. The Government offices might have a police of their own, and the Home Office a detective police; but whatever is done in this way, the only lasting cure for the disorder of London is to let the shopkeepers and householders be themselves responsible for the order of their streets and the security of their property, as they are in the City, and as they are in every other large town in the kingdom.
It is satisfactory to find, from the Report of the Howard Association, that at least some little progress is being made towards further improvement in our methods of treating criminals. Probably the Association should be credited with a large amount of potential progress, for, if the actual improvement is but small, the wide diffusion of knowledge upon such topics, which is the result of its efforts, must in time work some very great changes. Happily for the nation there are now a large number of people working energetically in all those numerous directions in which the intelligence of the people is stimulated and by which alone crime can be prevented. Such institutions as Toynbee Hall, the People's Palace, Continuation and Evening schools, People's Lectures, the work of the Recreative Evening Schools, and so forth, must all be potent agents of good by giving ideas and providing amusement free from the vicious surroundings of the music hall and the tap room. Mr. Peek's evidence before the House of Lords' committee shortly summed up the chief causes of pauperism as drink, overcrowding, and large families. The first two are widely recognized, and the provision of entertainments apart from the beershop is steadily increasing. The countless evils of overcrowding are equally well known, and a most lurid light has lately been cast upon them by the inquiry of the Sweating Commission and the more recent tragedies in Whitechapel. The third evil is one which must necessarily lessen as the others diminish. Given a more sober, more healthy, and more moral population, there will be fewer who have brought into the world more children than they can support. Nevertheless, there is wide field for action even in this particular, and the beginning has been made by the efforts of such bodies as the Self Help Emigration Society.
Nothing adds more to the difficulty of dealing with pauperism than injudicious charity. It is well known that the proportion of honest and deserving beggars is excessively small in comparison with the vast army of knaves who trade upon the kindness of the weak and ignorant. And it therefore follows that alms given in all good nature to a stranger who tells a pitiful tale are in almost every instance merely a bribe given to a rogue to persist in his evil ways. Even organized charity has many faults. We all know how the relieving officer is commonly represented as the embodiment of harshness and cruelty. Such a picture is a libel upon a class of men who as a rule discharge a most difficult task with great care and with a good deal of shrewd wisdom. Far more serious are the other questions raised by Mr. Peel. Relief, he points out, requires organization, not only in each parish, but throughout much wider areas. Why, for instance, should a pauper receive 2s 4d a week in Rotherhithe while another similarly situated would have 5s 6d in Battersea? The anomaly is, of course, absurd, and relief should at least be unifies all over London. Another passage quoted by the Howard Association from the same evidence suggests that outdoor relief is a mistake altogether, as it "is detrimental to the character of the poor, weakens their provident instinct, tends to remove prudential checks on marriage, and also to depreciate the rate of wages," leading to the crying evil of underpaid labour. How to deal with our pauper population is a question which will some day have to be solved. Already some of the consequences of its neglect are staring us in the face, and the day is not far distant when its claims to be grappled with will become all powerful. Perhaps some modification of the Elberfeld system or some other equally comprehensive scheme will be adopted, but in the meantime let us do what we can to prepare the way through the agency of such bodies as the Howard Association. By their means the dark places of our civilisation are being revealed to those who live in the light of prosperity. Philanthropy and education are doing what they can to throw a little radiance into the gloom. With their aid we may ere long apply our knowledge with the strong arm of the law and so prevent the social catastrophe which some foresee and dread.
The Chief Commissioner of Police has caused the following statement to be circulated:- With reference to a statement in various journals that the word "Jews" is spelt "Juwes" in the Yiddish jargon, the Commissioner of Police has ascertained that this is incorrect. It is not known that there is any dialect or language in which the word "Jews" is spelt "Juwes."
The following communication has been received by the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in answer to a request that a free pardon might be proclaimed to an accomplice or accomplices of the murderer:-
"October 12th, 1888
I am desired by the Secretary of State to thank you for the suggestions in your letter of the 7th inst. on the subject of the recent Whitechapel murders, and to say in reply that, from the first, the Secretary of State has had under consideration the question of granting a pardon to accomplices. It is obvious that not only must such a grant be limited to persons who have not been concerned in contriving or in actually committing the murders, but the expediency and propriety of making the offer must largely depend on the nature of the information received from day to day, which is being carefully watched, with a view to determining that question. With regard to the offer of a reward, Mr. Matthews has, under the existing circumstances, nothing to add to his former letter.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
(Signed) Godfrey Lushington."
An instance of the circumstances under which groundless arrests occur is reported from the locality of High Holborn. A gentleman was on Saturday proceeding along Holborn in the direction of the City, when he was suddenly pounced upon by a strange man of the labouring class, who exclaimed in an excited manner, "This is Jack the Ripper." A struggle ensued, and the two fell heavily to the ground. A very large crowd of people quickly collected. Considerable excitement prevailed, and the "suspect" was conveyed to the police station. Such incidents are clearly traceable to the effect of the threatening letters which have been circulated purporting to have been written by "Jack the Ripper."
Your mention in today's issue of Sir Jacob Bell's bloodhound reminds me of a story quite recently told me by an artist friend that may not be generally known. As you say, Sir Edwin Landseer had intended making a sketch of the dog, but for some reason this was not done at the time. One night shortly afterwards the dog was suddenly aroused by some unusual movement outside, when he jumped through the window and fell dead. A messenger was at one sent to Sir Edwin Landseer, who came instantly, and in time to "set up" the body before it became rigid, and on the following morning Sir Edwin proceeded to paint that splendid picture of one of the finest specimens of a bloodhound ever seen in England. My friend, who is no mean exponent on canvas of all kinds of animals, wild or domestic, told me this story of the "Sleeping Bloodhound" with an artist's sympathetic interest.
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
249 Camden road, N., Oct. 13.