|John Martin “The Seventh Plague” 1823|
The rest of the Jerilderie letter, another 1600 words, could reasonably be called a “rant” by Ned Kelly. The letter began with a reasonably dispassionate, though self serving account of a couple of events from Kellys earlier life, but steadily becomes more and more fervent and emotional as he warms to his twin themes of Police corruption and the injustices of his families mistreatment at their hands. Finally he gives up on any attempt at telling anything more about his story and instead abandons himself to an angry unrestrained and hyperbolic attack on authority and the Police, and anyone who might support them. He singles out Irish police in particular, describing them as cowards and traitors to their “country ancestors and religion” because they
“…deserted the shamrock, the emblem of true wit and beauty to serve under a flag and nation that has destroyed massacreed and murdered their fore-fathers by the greatest of torture as rolling them down hill in spiked barrels pulling their toe and finger nails and on the wheel. and every torture imaginable more was transported to Van Diemand’s Land to pine their young lives away in starvation and misery among tyrants worse than the promised hell itself all of true blood bone and beauty, that was not murdered on their own soil, or had fled to America or other countries to bloom again another day, were doomed to Port Mcquarie Toweringabbie norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyrany and condemnation many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land”
This is powerful emotive language, an appeal to Irish patriotism, and an expression of resentments that many Irish would agree with. He’s on a roll but still manages to interrupt the flow to boast about himself and his ability to injure and defeat Policemen in a brawl, something which he thinks makes him a better man
“The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house.
I have seen as many as eleven, big & ugly enough to lift Mount Macedon out of a crab hole more like the species of a baboon or Guerilla than a man actually come into a court house and swear they could not arrest one eight stone larrakin and them armed with battens and neddies without some civilians assistance and some of them going to the hospital from the affects of hits from the fists of the larrakin and the Magistrate would send the poor little Larrakin into a dungeon for being a better man than such a parcel of armed curs”
Next he makes blood-curdling threats to any person who may assist the police in their endeavours to track him down:
“I have never interefered with any person unless they deserved it, and yet there are civilians who take firearms against me, for what reason I do not know, unless they want me to turn on them and exterminate them without medicine. I shall be compelled to make an example of some of them if they cannot find no other employment If I had robbed and plundered ravished and murdered everything I met young and old rich and poor. the public could not do any more than take firearms and Assisting the police as they have done, but by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be fool to what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so deprived as to take blood money will be outlawed and declared unfit to be allowed human buriel their property either consumed or confiscated and them theirs and all belonging to them exterminated off the face of the earth, the enemy I cannot catch myself I shall give a payable reward for”
These apalling threats of torture and extermination “off the face of the earth” demonstrate yet again Kellys tendency to regard violence as means to an end.
Also remarkable in this paragraph is his almost pathologically delusional belief in his innocence, something expressed again in the next paragraph where he embarks on a character assassination of Superintendent Smith, but says
“if there is any one to be called a murderer regarding Kennedy, Scanlan and Lonigan it is that mis-placed poodle he gets as much pay as a dozen good troopers”
It seems to particularly bug Kelly that the senior officers get better pay than troopers,
“send the men that gets big pay and reconed superior to the common police after me and you shall soon save the country of high salaries to men that is fit for nothing else but getting better men than him self shot and sending orphan children to the industrial school to make prostitutes and cads of them for the Detectives and other evil dis-posed persons.
“Send the high paid and men that received big salaries for years in a gang by themselves after me, As it makes no difference to them but it will give them a chance of showing whether they are worth more pay than a common trooper or not and I think the Public will soon find they are only in the road of good men and obtaining money under false pretences”
He then returns briefly to the killings at Stringybark Creek, saying that McIntyre was not a coward because he surrendered, but
“…it was cowardice that made Lonigan and the others fight it is only foolhardiness to disobey an outlaw as any Police-man or other man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequence which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come,..”
Statements like that were probably part of the reason Kellys defence counsel refused to enter the letter as evidence in his trial – how damaging would it have been for the Court to hear that Kellys view was that ANYONE who didn’t do exactly as he ordered would receive “a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come,..”– exactly what happened at Stringybark Creek and nothing at all to do with “self defence”
Again, violence as a means to an end.
Finally, we come to another of those passing statements of Ned Kelly which some have tried to inflate into evidence that Kelly had a nobler agenda, and a grand plan for North East Victoria. He mentions a Stock Protection Society, a local organization set up to counter the ongoing problem of stock theft in the region: Kellys view is that the organization
“….only aids the police to procure false witnesses and go whacks with men to steal horses and lag innocent men”
“ I wish those men who joined the stock protection society to with-draw their money and give it and as much more to the widows and orphans and poor of Greta district…”
and later says
“I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give 10 pounds out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund”
He also claims that
“…it will always pay a rich man to be liberal with the poor and make as little enemies as he can as he shall find if the poor is on his side he shall loose nothing by it, If they depend in the police they shall be drove to destruction”
However, as usual he follows his orders up with threats of violence and, in the last words of the Letter has this to say
“do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat in Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning. but I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.”(“druth” is a slang term for extreme thirst that follows excessive drinking of alcohol – according to Wikipedia)
Ian Jones describes these last few sentences as “wild rhetoric” but claims they could have formed the basis for a purported “Declaration of the Republic of North eastern Victoria”, a document he claims exists because someone reported seeing it in 1962. Nobody else has ever seen it, despite exhaustive searches : there is then no evidence at all that such a document exists or ever existed. Furthermore, despite Ian Jones fondness for the “Republic” idea, evidence for such a vision is completely lacking in the Jerilderie letter, Ned Kellys great “opus” the very place where it should be, if ever there was such an idea in the mind of Ned Kelly. But its not.
What is found in the Jerliderie Letter are distinct and repeated and clear references to Ned Kellys mother and brother and sisters, passing reference at the very end to the poor and widows and orphans of “the Greta district” in the context of issuing threats to members of a stock protection Society, and nothing at all about the wider community of North East Victoria, nothing at all about political ambition or ideology or declarations of Independence. Instead there is a massive outpouring of resentment anger and hostility, and graphic and violent threats towards Police and anyone supporting them, rich or poor.
If it was going to be a founding document for a Republic, the Republic would be a place where violence was king, anarchy would reign and God help anyone who got in the way of the Kelly Gang.
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