The Argus at KellyGang 12/2/1879

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Editorial Jerilderie robbery

The news published yesterday of the escape of the gang who commenced their career with the Mansfield murders from the circle with which it was hoped they were surrounded could not but cause a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction and of regret. It would be impolitic now to stop to inquire where the fault, if any, lies. What concerns us most is the knowledge that the Jerilderie outrage adds immensely to the gravity of the situation. It shows that the outlaws have a far longer reach of arm than anyone had previously imagined. The Euroa robbery could be understood, as the township was situated at the foot of the ranges which the outlaws occupy, and a descent upon it was consequently easy. The circumstance that excited surprise was the noiseless, simple manner in which a portion of a community could be isolated and plundered without the knowledge of friends and neighbours.

But Jerilderie is a hundred and twenty miles away from the Strathbogie mountains. Melbourne itself is thirty or forty miles nearer to the bushrangers' centre of operations than is the Riverina township; and moreover, between the ranges and Jerilderie there is a deep river and a large expanse of level country. The fact that the gang could strike a blow at this distance with ease and certainty gives us a new idea of the value of their position in the ranges. So long as their fastnesses are secure they can descend, it seems, upon communities which have deemed themselves safe, and have only taken interest in the Mansfield tragedies as sensational but far-off events. But after Jerilderie the area of safety is very much limited, and it is as well that colonists should realise the fact, and should take precautions accordingly. We should be sorry to excite any panic by pointing out the distance which the bushrangers have covered, but in this case forewarning which ought to mean forearming, is of the first importance.

The raids the KELLYS are effecting are made possible by the total lack of preparation on the part of the population. For a long term of years there has been no occasion for citizens to keep firearms handy and to practice their use. They have not been required to band together for self-defense or to nerve themselves for an emergency, and consequently it is only natural that their present condition when suddenly attacked should be one of utter helplessness. Our state of security was so complete that even the police carried neither rifles by their side nor revolvers at their belt, and in town as in country the handcuffs and the staff were all the material a constable required. We could wish that this halcyon season had continued, as it would have done but for the foolishness of the Lands department in allowing selections to be made when the land could only be required for "cattle duffing" purposes, and by the careless- ness of the police in ignoring the development of a dangerous element at Greta. The KELLYS reap the advantage of being the first to disturb the settled peace, but we refuse to believe that their immunity can continue, even supposing the red-handed ruffians escape early capture by the police.


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