Ovens and Murray Advertiser at KellyGang 15/7/1880
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THE POLICE AT GLENROWAN
It was only to be expected that, when the excitement occasioned by the marvellous incidents of Glenrowan episode had somewhat subsided, a reaction of some kind should take place.The sudden lifting from the public mind of the weight which was imposed on it by the long existence of such blood-thirsty gang was followed by a recoil like that of a much strained spring swiftly set free.It was simply according to human nature that such should take place.It is especially the character of Britons that, while we are for ever pluming ourselves on our capabilities for arduous enterprise and seldom fail in making good our boast, we invariable reach that consummation through a sea of mistakes and disasters.
The public then, to use a familiar phrase, “take it out” of the powers that be by abusing them not only for misfortunes which have arisen through their shortcomings, but for not having been prepared for contingencies which could not possibly have been foreseen.For instance the state of things which culminated the other day in the bloody gap of Glenrowan has been the growth of years, during which the public in the teeth of incontrovertible evidence were constantly demanding reduction in the general expenditure.It is true that this and other localities in the colony were anxiously claiming increased police protection, but the whole people were crying out for retrenchment.
For years we have heard it said that there were too many police, but no one can have been better aware than the Chief Commissioner—long before the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick , before the Baumgarten cases, and even before the desperate affray between Constable Hall and the man who lies wounded awaiting his fate—that there was in the nest of felonry around Greta a young brood of vultures, growing up who would at no distant day be on the wing.Captain Standish did, by establishing one or two isolated police stations, do what was in his power to repress the evil; but to master it would have required that region to be regularly “garrisoned.”
For our own part, from what we knew of the district and from its own internal evidence, we never for a moment doubted the substantial correctness of Constable Fitzpatrick’s extraordinary story.In spite of public opinion Ned Kelly himself admits that the whole statement was absolutely true.Granted that since the Mansfield murders, Captain S tandish has had unlimited means at his disposal, the difficulties had then assumed such proportions that they were not to be overcome by simply marching into the disaffected country.Not only was the ground exceedingly intricate, but crime had become organised, and sympathy with the criminals almost universal.
Whatever measure of success, therefore, the police have now achieved, it is entirely due to themselves, independent of any aid derived from sources on which they were entitled to depend.They have taken twenty months to accomplish it, but they had to contend with a grievance which had been accumulating for twenty years.No one who does not know the Kelly country can have any conception of the facilities it offers to evaders of the law, and no adequate idea can be formed by strangers of the number, the capacity and the fidelity of their friends.More-over, wherever the inhabitants were not influenced by relationship of blood, marriage or crime, they were controlled by terror.This, however, is a portion of the subject with which the Government has still to deal.
Another impediment in the way of the police was that the press generally, especially the metropolitan portion of it, were insatiable in their thirst for news of the outlaws.Failing that they reported every item of information they could ferret out as to the movements of the police.Where their scouts failed them, the Kellys had only to consult the newspapers. And now the papers have joined the great mass of the public in attacking the police as to the Glenrowan affair.Little they knew that at the very moment they were lately upbraiding the police for their apathy and idleness, that the toils which Mr Nicholson had been gathering round the miscreants for the last six months were at last closing in, so that Ned Kelly himself has confessed that the gang were so harassed as to be weary of their lives.
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