The Argus at KellyGang 20/8/1879
Now that the Lancefield bank robbers are in custody it may not be amiss if we briefly glance at some of the salient points connected with the late outrage. In the first place we are surprised at the carelessness displayed by bank authorities in leaving their branch establishments unprovided with any efficient means of defence. For many years these minor offices conducted their business in peace, and while then liability to attack remained without practical demonstration, it was not astonishing, perhaps, that no precautions were taken. But when this false sense of security was completely dispelled by the doings of the Kelly gang at Euroa and Jerilderie, we should have thought that no time would have been lost in making arrangements to meet such emergencies.
It is evident, however, that in addition to defensive arrangements that might be made in the way of material, it would be necessary to place men of some nerve and courage in charge. You might stud the walls and ceiling of a bank chamber with masked loopholes, and half fill the adjoining rooms with firearms and ammunition, but unless there were stout hearts to take advantage of the provision made, it would all be in vain. According to a contemporary, Bray, one of the prisoners, has said that he felt a little frightened when he went into the Lancefield bank at fist, but when he saw the fear of the people inside he got all right again. In his opinion "an old washer-woman could have stuck them up." It is evident that had the place been a complete arsenal, the result would have been the same.
Then, again, the behavior of the townspeople appeals to us to have been most contemptible. As far as we know, it does not present a single redeeming feature. From the conduct of the valiant Musty, who suggested to one of the robbers that he should draw down the blind lest anyone should come to his (Musty's) assistance, down to that of the gypping crowd who stood "loafing about the bank, instead of scouring the country in pursuit, we look in vain for a single spark of manhood. The community is disgraced by the exhibition of such cowardice and helplessness in the face of lawless violence. The progress of civilisation doubtless leads people to lean more and more upon officers of the peace for protection, but up to the pre- sent time our race has never suffered a habit of relying on authority to impair its power of acting promptly, when occasion arose, on the healthy instincts of self preservation. We should be sorry to think that public spirit has been killed by a long course of government by regulation or favour, but really the conduct of the Lancefield people looks as if, at all events, it had become demoralised. Liberty must rest on law, and law must rely for defence on the right aims of those who make it. Freedom is as surely dying out amongst people who will not maintain with their lives the laws they have made, as military prowess is waning amongst nations who dwell at ease, and rely on mercenaries to fight their battles.
THE LANCEFIELD BANK ROBBERY
The announcement that the Lancefield bank robbers had been captured excited general satisfaction in Melbourne yesterday. From information received by the police authorities in town, it would appear that the mounted police were pretty close upon the tracks of the men, although those in pursuit did not actually run them down.
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