Suckered! Plus Quadrilogy Part 1
In the Suckered! trilogy, we saw how two British detectives from Scotland Yard were sent to North America for normal policing purposes despite suspicions, both at the time and in recent years, that those policing purposes were no more than a cover to enable those detectives secretly to carry out (unspecified) illegitimate activities designed to assist a private organisation in making a case against elected members of Parliament in respect of an on-going Special Commission at the High Court in London.
One of the responses to the trilogy was posted by Wolf Vanderlinden on the Casebook forum on 28 June 2015. In this post, he drew attention to the wider context and set out a number of allegations of collusion between The Times newspaper and the British Government & Scotland Yard which, in his view, provide support for the notion that Inspector Andrews (he does not mention either Inspector Jarvis or Superintendent Shore) could not have been doing anything other than assisting The Times when he went to Canada in November 1888.
According to Vanderlinden:
'In the end even a cursory look at the historical record shows that [Lord Orsam's] articles abjectly fail to offer an objective, balanced or reliably researched look at the anti-Parnell political actions of men like Monro and Anderson, let alone the actions of their political masters in the government. In effect [Lord Orsam] has swept history under the rug rather than offer context to articles which he is attempting to “demolish.”'
Wolf's full post can be found here.
The problem with Wolf's approach is that the 'context' can never assist in understanding the reasons for the specific missions carried out by two individual officers in 1888; only the actual evidence relating to those missions can do this. Moreover, the context can actually confuse and mislead because if one believes that the authorities were prepared to do anything and everything to assist The Times in prosecuting its case, then one can easily fall into the trap of attributing meaning to simple coincidence, blinding oneself to what the documentary evidence is actually saying and end up being suckered by hoaxes and false stories.
Indeed, the 'context' of suspicion of Irish Nationalists in America and the United Kingdom during the late 1880s as to what the British authorities were up to at the time provides a very good explanation as to why the idea that Inspectors Andrews and Jarvis were doing something other than, respectively, escorting Roland Barnett to Toronto and hunting for Thomas Barton, came into existence, and gained such momentum, in the first place.
In fact, the Suckered! trilogy did provide context by referring to the visit to New York of former C.I.D. inspector, Maurice Moser, in the summer of 1887, which visit was exposed in the American press. Moser, who had left the Metropolitan Police Force earlier in the year to become a private detective, had actually been sent by The Times to obtain further evidence in support of that newspaper's 'Parnellism & Crime' series but, for some Americans, the distinction between The Times and the British Government was blurred. Thus, in the New York Tribune of 17 September 1887, Moser was referred to as 'an accredited representative of the London Times or of the English Government' . The same newspaper also stated that:
'No day passes in which well-known Irishmen in the city are not ready to bear testimony to the fact that English detectives are in the city in large numbers and are constantly striving to find out something connected with the movements of the Irish revolutionists on this side of the Atlantic.'
It was already, in other words, a widely held view was that the British government was sending detectives over to the U.S.A. to find incriminating evidence against Irish-Americans.
Furthermore, there were suspicions of collusion between the British government and The Times before the Special Commission had even held its first session. When, in July 1888, the proprietor of The Times, John Walter, paid a visit to his old friend, W.H. Smith, then the First Lord of the Treasury, who was responsible for setting out the Special Commission's terms of reference, in what was then known as the Members of Parliament (Charges & Allegations) Bill (which would become the Special Commission Act), there simply must have been some form of collusion going on. This was despite W.H. Smith asserting in the House of Commons on 31 July 1888 that:
'I deny absolutely that I have had any negotiation, any arrangement with Mr Walter, with reference to this Bill...He never saw the reference; he never saw the Bill. I was never engaged in any sort of plan or scheme in connexion with it...he made no communication to me which has or could have exercised the least weight or influence upon me. He mentioned the fact of the Bill to me, but he neither sought to influence me nor should I have permitted any influence whatsoever...Neither by word or by writing has the proprietor or editor of The Times exercised the least influence or pressure on Government in connexion with this Bill.'
Some people, of course, are never satisfied and, although there is no evidence to the contrary, the allegations of collusion at this meeting between W.H. Smith and John Walter have never fully died away.
Such collusion is not a specific allegation that Wolf Vanderlinden makes in his post but he does helpfully specify a number of allegations which will be used as the framework for this quadrilogy. Every point he makes in his post will be dealt with.
Wolf refers to a number of secondary sources written by historians in which additional allegations are made, namely Bernard Porter, Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch Before the First World War, (Boydell & Brewer, 1987); Christy Campbell, Fenian Fire, (Harper Collins Publisher, London); Peter Edwards, Delusion, (Key Porter Books, 2008) and Irish Historical Studies, 1973, Dublin University Press. The latter is an unhelpfully vague reference which does not specify the volume, author or title of the relevant article, and an examination of the 1973 volume of Irish Historical Studies produces no likely candidates, so it is assumed to be a reference to T.W. Moody's 'The Times versus Parnell and Co., 1887-90' which appeared in Historical Studies 6, 1965, (as referenced by Bernard Porter). All these sources will be considered.
It will be seen in this quadrilogy that, upon close examination, the allegations of improper collusion between the British authorities and The Times are, in large part, based on basic misunderstandings, misconceptions and, on many occasions, simple mistakes. Nothing provides any support to Wolf's claim that Inspector Andrews, or any other Scotland Yard detective, must have been doing Irish work in America in December 1888.
In the first part of this quadrilogy, we will be examining the allegations made against Robert Anderson personally. In part 2 we will look at the allegations of collusion between the British government and The Times, while in part 3 we will examine the more general allegations against the Metropolitan Police then, in part 4, having established the 'context', we will look more closely at the resignation of James Monro as Commissioner of Police in 1890.
Wolf commences his attack on Robert Anderson, unsurprisingly, with the articles he wrote for The Times in 1887. He refers to Anderson's 'use of Government intelligence documents...secret intelligence, which was bought and paid for by the British public and not his to reveal as he wished, in order to attack Parnell and the Irish Party in the Times' and, he says:
'This act was considered so egregious that it almost cost Anderson his pension when, in 1910, some 23 years after the fact, he admitted doing it'.
Anderson would, of course, have cavilled at the description of Le Caron's letters to him, and their enclosures, as 'Government intelligence documents' which were bought and paid for by the British public - he clearly didn't think of them in this way (technically, no letters or documents were purchased from Le Caron) - and his act in writing the articles did not actually cost him his pension. We also need to bear in mind that when the articles were published in 1887, Anderson was not the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and it does not follow that his articles influenced his actions when he later became Assistant Commissioner.
Before looking at why Anderson wrote the articles, let us first consider the 'Parnellism and Crime' series and a number of the misconceptions surrounding it.
There were no fewer then ten articles in The Times under the headline of 'Parnellism and Crime'. These were as follows, with their date and sub-headline stated; and the author, where known, in brackets:
1. 7 March 1887 - 'I. A Retrospect: Ireland.' (John Woulfe Flanagan).
2. 10 March 1887 - 'II. A Retrospect: America.' (John Woulfe Flanagan).
3. 14 March 1887 - 'III. A Study in Contemporary Conspiracy.' (John Woulfe Flanagan).
4. 18 April 1887 - 'Mr Parnell and the Phoenix Park Murders.' (Various, unknown*).
5. 2 May 1887 - 'Mr Dillon and Mr P.J. Sheridan' (Unknown*) .
6. 13 May 1887 - 'Behind the Scenes in America. I'. (Robert Anderson) .
7. 20 May 1887 - 'Behind the Scenes in America. II.' (Robert Anderson).
8. 1 June 1887 - 'Behind the Scenes in America. III.' (Robert Anderson).
9. 7 June 1887 - 'A Page from the Irish World' (Unknown*).
10. 13 June 1887 - 'The Phoenix Park Murders.' (Unknown*).
*In his 1965 paper entitled 'The Times versus Parnell and Co., 1887-90' (Historical Studies, 6, 1968), Professor T.W. Moody says that W.T. Kirkpatrick was another contributor so he may be responsible for those currently unknown, or at least some of them, although according to The History of The Times: The Twentieth Century Test 1884-1912, W.T. Kirkpatrick was only responsible for articles entitled 'Working of the League' which were published in the second half of 1887. Also according to the History of the Times, John Woulfe Flanagan was one of a number of contributors to the 18 April 1887 article.
The three articles under the sub-heading of 'Behind the Scenes in America' are generally regarded to be the most innocuous - Winston Churchill referred to them as 'three articles of minor importance' in the House of Commons on 21 April 1910 - and it is undoubtedly for this reason that Simon Daryl Wood, in his book, 'Deconstructing Jack: The Secret History of the Whitechapel Murders' , made an attempt to argue, in very convoluted fashion, that Robert Anderson was the author of the first three articles (i.e. those published in March 1887).
Despite Anderson making clear in a letter to The Times dated 11 April 1910 that his only connection with the 'Parnellism and Crime' series was 'my three articles entitled 'Behind the Scenes in America', thus clearly identifying the articles he had authored, Wood's highly tuned suspicions were aroused by the fact that, in an article for Blackwood's Magazine of April 1910, Anderson had referred to 'my authorship of 'The Times' articles of 1887 on 'Parnellism and Crime' , thus making it appear that he had authored the entire series of articles. Anderson subsequently explained that his original draft of the Blackwood's article had used the words 'May 1887', which would have identified the trilogy (albeit that the final one was published in June), but his typist had omitted the word 'May' . Such a simple explanation failed to satisfy Mr Wood.
Noting that the editor of The Times, George Buckle, said in 1890 that Flanagan had only written three of the articles in the 'Parnellism in Crime' series, which he described as 'those not by any means the worst', Wood, thinking that this must be a reference to the three 'Behind the Scenes in America' articles, concludes in his book (or at least gives the impression of concluding) that Flanagan must have been the author of these articles, leaving Anderson as the author of the first - and worst - three.
Wood, however, seems to be unaware that there were a further four articles in the series, two of which attempted to link Parnell to the Phoenix Park murders and these might well have been what Buckle meant when referring to 'the worst' articles.
Wood also notes that Joseph Soames, lawyer for The Times, stated in evidence to the Special Commission that the author of 'Parnellism and Crime' (i.e. all the articles in the series) was John Woulfe Flanagan, the implication being that if Soames was wrong about this (because Anderson was the author of some of them) then he might have been wrong about Flanagan being involved at all. Indeed, in a post dated 4 February 2010 on the JTR Forums site, in a thread entitled 'Anderson and the Parnell Commission' (#36), Wood asked: 'Could Anderson have authored all the articles?'
Unknown (apparently) to Wood, Soames' evidence was corrected by the manager of The Times, John MacDonald, who, in his testimony to the Special Commission on 19 February 1889 stated, 'Soames is misinformed'. MacDonald clarified that Flanagan was not the author of all the articles but went on to confirm in his evidence that Flanagan had authored the first three in the sequence.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that Anderson did not write the first three articles but was the author of the three 'Behind the Scenes' articles of May/June 1887 and that the British Library, which, in its catalogue identifies him as the author of the first three articles, is simply mistaken.
The first three 'Parnellism and Crime' articles, based almost entirely on information extracted from newspapers, were long-winded, poorly written, difficult to follow and relied on the reader being able to grasp a series of complicated and confusing connections between Parnellites and known criminals/terrorists. There was no knockout blow landed on the Parnellites which no doubt explains why, on 18 April 1887, The Times decided to risk publishing a possibly forged letter supposedly signed by Parnell, but not in Parnell's handwriting, claiming that Thomas Burke got his just deserts when he was murdered in Phoenix Park in 1882.
Prior to the publication of this letter, we may assume that Anderson had been reading the 'Parnellism in Crime' articles in The Times and felt that he could do much better, due to his far superior knowledge of the inside workings of the Irish Republican movement. However, he does not appear to have initially thought of writing anything, least of all for The Times. This idea, he said, came from his friend, Hugh Oakley Arnold-Forster.
As Anderson informed a representative of the Press Association on 7 April 1910 (as published in the Daily Telegraph and other newspapers of 8 April 1910):
'The idea of the articles arose through Mr. Arnold Forster, who suggested my writing them, and giving them to the 'Times' as the most suitable medium.'
We find a basic error by Christy Campbell, who claims in his book Fenian Fire that Anderson approached Arnold-Forster as 'a potential intermediary' between him and The Times (Fenian Fire, p.225). Campbell quotes a letter from Anderson's files dated 14 April 1887 in which Arnold-Forster says:
'Dear Anderson. I find, as I feared, that our people (C & Co) do not like to undertake anything of so pronounced [a] nature...I should myself suggest that you should allow me to open negotiations either with the Loyal Pats or with Buckle of The Times.' (HO 144/1538/8).
Campbell claims that the 'C' in 'C & Co' stands for 'Chamberlain' so that (by implication) Arnold-Forster was helping Anderson to hawk the article to Joseph Chamberlain and the Liberal Unionists before taking it to The Times. In fact, 'C & Co' stands for 'Cassell & Co', a publishing company of which Arnold-Forster was a director in 1887 so that, far from Arnold-Forster being an 'intermediary', he was the original destination for Anderson's article (or articles), which was intended to be published as a pamphlet by Cassell & Co.
Thus, as Anderson wrote in a letter to The Times dated 25 April 1910, published on 30 April 1910:
'In April 1887, in conversation with a friend [Arnold-Forster] with whom I had formerly been in close touch officially about such matters [Anderson here explains the reason for wanting to publish something, as set out below]...My friend was then connected with one of the leading publishing firms [Cassell & Co] and the proposal was that I should write a short pamphlet for publication by that firm. I acted on that suggestion: but they hesitated to publish it anonymously, and so the matter dropped. After an interval, however, he urged me to let him offer it to The Times, but this I refused to authorize. But as the days went by...I allowed him to take the manuscript and use it at his discretion. The Times wished to publish it but required the name of the author: and this again brought matters to a full stop. Finally, however, in response to a further appeal from him, I left myself in his hands on this point also...The result was that my MS was "edited" in the form in which it ultimately appeared as three separate articles in The Times.'
Anderson's letter to The Times was written in response to the outrage engendered in early April 1910 by his article in Blackwood's Magazine of that month (entitled 'Some Scotland Yard Experiences and Incidents') in which, as we have seen, he revealed that he had authored (some of) the 'Parnellism and Crime' articles. It is not, however, commonly known that Anderson had already let this information slip in the March 1910 issue of Blackwood's (in an article entitled 'At Scotland Yard') but it had gone completely unnoticed by everyone at the time, including the nation's press. Here is what he said in that article:
'When...'The Times' set itself to render a great national service by exposing the new phase which the Irish conspiracy had assumed in Parnellism, the question was raised of resorting to the same tactics. My friend, H.O. Arnold-Forster, had some knowledge of action of that kind, taken in Mr Forster's time, and it was he who pressed the matter upon me. I willingly responded; but as Mr Monro was then responsible for the conduct of the secret service work I conferred with him and we decided to use 'The Times' in the public interest.'
Clearly, no-one understood what Anderson meant and it was only when he spelt it out in the next month's issue that the press picked up on the sensational news. To a press representative on 7 April 1910, Anderson repeated a phrase from his March 1910 article when, in explaining why his 1887 articles ended up in The Times, he said:
'Mr Arnold-Forster pressed the matter on me...'
This quote appeared in the Daily News of 8 April 1910 (not The Times of 30 April 1910 as Christy Campbell states in the notes to his book) and, according to Campbell, the claim that 'Mr Arnold-Forster pressed the matter on me...' , is revealed by the contemporary correspondence to be 'the very opposite' of the truth. But the evidence from the letter of 14 April, cited above, demonstrates that the idea to submit the 'Behind the Scenes in America' articles to The Times was Arnold-Forster's and, in his original article, Anderson states that he 'willingly responded' so, to the extent that Campbell thought that Anderson was trying to say that he was reluctant to send it to The Times, and needed to be repeatedly 'pressed' by his friend, that is wrong.
Five days after the letter of 14 April, on 19 April 1887, Arnold-Forster wrote to Anderson saying:
'I only caught Buckle yesterday and only settled the business this afternoon. I found your note on my return just now. I have arranged matters as you wished. Please set to work at once....' (HO 144/1538/8).
While it might seem, on the face of it, that this letter confirms the arrangements for Anderson's articles to be published in The Times - and Campbell uses it to say that the deal was struck on 18 April (the day that Parnell's supposed letter was published in The Times) - it is not impossible that, as Anderson said in his letter to The Times of 25 April 1910, the matter was paused after 19 April because the editor decided that he did not want to publish an article by an author whose identity he did not know. This would certainly explain why, after a period of eleven days, Arnold Forster wrote again to Anderson, on 1 May, saying:
'I have seen Buckle and in accordance with your wishes I have at his request and according to your instructions communicated your name to him.' (HO 144/1538/8).
Clearly, Anderson had been persuaded to allow Arnold-Forster to inform Buckle that he, Anderson, was the author of the intended articles and Arnold-Forster wanted to make it clear in writing that he had given Buckle the name under the express instructions of Anderson. This could be said to be consistent with what Anderson stated in his letter to The Times.
There may be some parts of Anderson's chronology of events which are difficult to reconcile with the surviving correspondence but such minor details need not detain us because the crux of the story related by Anderson to press representatives in early April 1910, namely that the idea for the articles to be published in The Times came from Arnold-Forster, is consistent with his known private correspondence.
Anderson's justification for having the articles published at all was set out in his letter to The Times dated 11 April 1910 in which he referred to the Jubilee dynamite plot and said:
'...the main purpose with which the articles were written was to thwart that dynamite campaign by letting in the light upon the proceedings...'
There is undoubtedly some truth in this and Anderson's articles included a fair amount of the dark art of psychological warfare by revealing secrets of Clan-na-Gael which were (falsely) said to have been obtained recently, as a result of personal quarrels between rival leaders which, the article said, had made it possible 'to secure a number of important documents, including copies of the "Constitution" of the society and printed lists of the officers at various epochs, letters from the past and present leaders, secret reports of conventions, and secret circulars issued from time to time by the executive and preserved in violation of definite rules and solemn pledges.' (Times, 13 May 1887).
The idea, as Anderson explained it in 1910, was that each of the squabbling rival leaders would blame the others for the leaks, leading to a weakening of the organisation and the abandonment of any Jubilee plot.
Whether it actually had any effect at all is debatable but in view of the allegation that Anderson was acting unilaterally we should note that James Monro, then the Assistant Commissioner, accepted in 1910 that he had probably told Anderson in 1887 that 'publicity as to the state of affairs in America was desirable' (HO 144/926/ A49962), albeit that he strongly disagreed with Anderson's equally strongly held belief that he had approved of the plan to do this via The Times, insisting that he did not know at the time that Anderson had authored the articles.
While there may be some truth in Anderson's claim that the 'Behind the Scenes in America' articles had a legitimate public interest purpose in attempting to prevent criminal outrages, it is fair to say that he could have achieved his stated aim without attempting to link members of Parliament - and Parnell specifically - with terrorism and crime. There is no doubt that he was playing politics with his articles (and, while it is possible that he did so at the request of the editor of The Times, this would not relieve him of responsibility for the article's contents).
In the first 'Behind the Scenes' article there was barely any mention of Parnell other than a reference to it being freely whispered among delegates at the August 1881 United Brotherhood Convention in Chicago that 'Mr Parnell and his friends were in line with them and willing to accept their aid in attaining common objects, asking no questions about ulterior aims' . There was also a reference to 'rumoured negotiations [by the dynamiters] with the Irish members of Parliament.'
In the second article, it was stated that Clan-na-Gael raised funds for Parnell's party and alleged that Parnell wanted to 'continue to accept help from America, and at the same time avoid offering a pretext to the British Government for entirely supressing the national movement in Ireland.' It was also said that the aim of the parliamentary party was the same as the revolutionary party, namely national independence, and that, from June 1883, every Clan-na-Gael lodge became an agency by means of which members of Parnell's party had been returned to Parliament 'and salaries have been paid to them who have no other means of livelihood.'
This article was accompanied by a leader which, using far stronger language than Anderson did, said that evidence had now been shown (i.e. in the 'Behind the Scenes' articles) that Parnellites had been 'the associates and instruments of the avowed enemies of England in the United States' and that Parnell hypocritically 'shapes his course to suit his masters', while, with 'a fine touch of cynicism', he continued to accept help from America while not alarming English public opinion.
The last of Anderson's articles concluded that Parnell's supposedly 'constitutional' organization was 'planned by Fenian brains, founded on a Fenian loan and raised by Fenian hands' and alleged that dynamite plots were being 'hatched by the very men who hail Mr Parnell as their "esteemed and honoured leader." '
So there is no doubt that Anderson can be criticized for using knowledge obtained in public service for political purposes but two points do need to be made. Firstly, that the 'Behind the Scenes' articles were, arguably, not the worst of the series in terms of denigrating the Parnellites and, secondly, that they do not evidence any particular dislike of Parnell by Anderson, who made no personal attacks on the man.
While Anderson's articles were written from the viewpoint of a typical Conservative or Liberal Unionist of the time, there is nothing in them to support the notion, pushed by Wolf Vanderlinden that Anderson was a man who 'seemingly hated Parnell with an overwhelming passion.' In any event, the issue here is not whether one can criticize Anderson for writing the articles - a pointless exercise - but whether the only possible conclusion that can be drawn from his authorship of the articles is that, when he became Assistant Commissioner, he was so obsessed by the Parnell issue that he secretly and improperly assisted The Times in its case before the Special Commission.
Before moving on from the 'Behind the Scenes' articles, we need to nail one myth which has arisen about them, namely that they were responsible for Frank Hugh O'Donnell writing a letter of complaint to The Times in June 1887 which was the precursor to his commencing libel proceedings in November 1887 which, in August 1888, led directly to the establishment of a Special Commission to investigate the allegations against the Parnellites. In other words, it is suggested, there would not have been a Special Commission at all had it not been for Robert Anderson stirring the pot with his articles in May and June 1887.
We find this argument first made by T.W. Moody in his 1965 paper, 'The Times versus Parnell and Co., 1887-90'. where it is stated that Anderson's three articles 'caused an ex-Parnellite, F.H. O'Donnell (an arch egotist and eccentric) to suppose that he had been libelled by The Times and to bring an action accordingly.' (Historical Studies 6, 1968, pp.150-1). The point was repeated by Christy Campbell in his 2002 book Fenian Fire when he said that Anderson's articles 'produced an unlooked for result' (p.299). Then, more recently, Stewart Evans in his educational posts in the thread, 'Anderson and the Parnell Commission', on the JTR Forums site, referred, in a post dated 6 February 2010 (#65), to O'Donnell's letter of complaint to The Times being published on 17 June 1887 in response to the 'Behind the Scenes' articles and said that, 'It may be clearly seen that he refers to content of Anderson's articles and this is when he instigated his action'.
In actual fact, O'Donnell's letter had nothing to do with Anderson's 'Behind the Scenes' articles and does not refer to the content of any of them. It was written in response to the 'Parnellism and Crime' article in The Times of 13 June 1887. This article had made certain allegations against Frank Byrne, the former secretary of the Irish Land League of Great Britain, and the stated purpose of O'Donnell's letter was to correct 'some misstatements of your anonymous informant on "Parnellism and Crime" in relation to alleged complicity of the Parnellites in the crimes of Byrne'.
As The Times pointed out in its leading article of 17 June 1887 (the same day as it published O'Donnell's letter), some of those supposed misstatements 'have not been made in our columns' but the newspaper certainly believed that O'Donnell was referring to its article of 13 June because it set out its response to O'Donnell with respect to what had been said in its article 'on Monday' which was Monday, 13 June 1887. Furthermore, during the libel trial, on 5 July 1888, the Attorney-General referred to, 'The very letter he [O'Donnell] wrote to The Times just after this article of 13th June...'.
Moody and Evans might have been confused by the fact that the second of Anderson's articles referred to Byrne having supplied the knives with which the Phoenix Park murders had been committed and that O'Donnell's letter took issue with the notion that Byrne was the 'procurer of instruments of murder'. However, O'Donnell was actually referencing a claim in the 13 June article that Byrne had 'procured the weapons' with which the Phoenix Park crime had been perpetrated.
We may note at this point that Stewart Evans says that Anderson made an allegation against Parnell that he paid an 'opportune remittance' to Frank Byrne which enabled him to escape from the country following the Phoenix Park murders (post in 'Anderson and the Parnell Commission' thread on the JTR Forums site, #23, dated 4 February 2010) but this allegation did not appear in any of Anderson's 'Behind The Scenes' articles as published in The Times, being first made in The Times on 13 June 1887.
According to Wolf Vanderlinden, Anderson was 'the man whom Henry Matthews described as "a tout for the Times" '
Wolf is mistaken here. It was not Henry Matthews who said this about Anderson - on the contrary, he termed this description 'a gross injustice' (Times, 20 April 1889) - it was Sir William Harcourt. One might dismiss this is a careless piece of typing by Wolf were it not for the fact that we find this error in the secondary literature: Andrew Cook says the same thing in his 2006 book, M: MI5's First Spymaster (page 79 of 2014 version).
Harcourt used the expression 'tout for the Times' in respect of Anderson's role in putting his informant, Henri Le Caron, a.k.a. Thomas Beach, in touch with Edward Houston, an agent for The Times, so that Le Caron could give his sensational evidence to the Special Commission. There is no doubt that Anderson wrote a letter of introduction for Le Caron and sent him off to Mr Houston but Wolf Vanderlinden thinks it goes further than that. He adopts the words of Parnellite M.P., Tim Healy (hardly an impartial historian) who said in his 1928 book:
'British interests necessitated secrecy as to spies, but Anderson cared little for that, provided Parnell could be discredited, Beach, therefore, was shipped from the U.S.A., and became the "star" witness at the Commission. To tender such an agent as a witness to help a newspaper was a step unprecedented'.
The Special Commission was, as stated in its own report, 'unprecedented' so, especially in the context of a situation where, as we shall see in Part 2, the Home Secretary and other ministers were saying in the House of Commons that it was the duty of all officials to assist the Commissioners, it was a bit pointless for Healy to say that Anderson's action was unprecedented. However, the basic mistake that Healy makes is to say that Beach was 'shipped' from the U.S.A. to England. He was not. He was already in England due to the death of his father. It is difficult to understand why Wolf reproduces this quotation of Healy because, in the very next paragraph of his post, Wolf says (underlining added):
'In fact although it is said that Anderson didn't want Beach to appear before the Commission Anderson, according to Beach himself, summoned him to his house, while he was in England for the funeral of his father, in order to tell him that the Times was looking for someone to testify at the Commission.'
So Wolf was perfectly aware that Beach, or Le Caron, was in England for his father's funeral and was not 'shipped' over from the U.S.A. as Healy claimed. It is not a minor detail because the point Healy was trying to make was that it was Anderson who was pushing Le Caron to give evidence (against British interests) to the extent that he called him over from the States, whereas, as set out below, the evidence is that it was Le Caron who was pushing Anderson to allow him to give evidence to the Commission.
Anyway, at this point, Wolf cites Peter Edwards' 2008 book, Delusion, as his source for the above point. He is obviously referring to the following two sentences at page 228 of Edwards' book:
'Le Caron was ready to sail back to America after the funeral when he was summoned to meet with Anderson. The spymaster told Le Caron that the Times sought a witness regarding the American side of the Irish conspiracy.'
Edwards, however, adds something that Wolf omits to quote or mention, namely that:
'Anderson also told him that he didn't want him filling that role. If Le Caron took the witness box, Anderson knew this would forever dry up a valuable stream of information. Le Caron sorely felt the need for a change in his life.'
This puts a totally different light on the matter. For, while it is certainly true that Anderson sent a telegram to Le Caron on the night before he was due to sail back to America, the evidence is that this was done by Anderson at Le Caron's request to assist him in his stated desire to give evidence to the Special Commission, so that the way it is put by Wolf is highly misleading.
There is no need for us (or Wolf) to rely on Peter Edwards to interpret Le Caron's own words. In cross-examination on 8 February 1889, Le Caron said that, in August 1888, having been aware of the setting up of the Special Commission:
'Feeling some interest in the matter, I wrote to this side of the water [i.e. to Anderson] in that month, and again in September, and again in November. At that time, in common with those around me, I believed that the Government were in this case, and I saw what I considered the moral effect it was having among my then confreres...I saw that erroneous information was being published in the public press and claims being made by the Irish press...I felt it my duty to write, and I did write and offer to taken all risks and testify to that which I could testify.'
Of Robert Anderson, he said:
'he tried strongly to dissuade me from doing anything of the kind...he never consented. He told me distinctly if I did anything of the kind the responsibility was on my shoulders.'
He added that Anderson was acting 'at my earnest request.'
In his book, Twenty-Five years in the Secret Service, Le Caron explained that he was about to return home from England following his father's funeral when:
'...I suddenly learnt from Mr. Anderson that The Times had approached him with a view of obtaining a witness regarding the American side of the conspiracy. Before this point was reached, I had chatted over my proposal of going into the witness box with Mr Anderson, but he had very frankly told me that he had no intention of giving up such a useful informant of his own initiative; and as he had no connection with the Times case, he did not think it likely that any approach would be made to him on the subject...on the eve of my departure for America I learned that my services might, after all, be utilised, and my desire to drive the truth home given fully play. To be effective, however, my coming appearance should be kept a profound secret, and so I appealed to Mr Anderson to make such arrangements as would allow of this being the case.'
Needless to say, Le Caron's story is corroborated by a written statement that Anderson provided to The Times' lawyers on 8 February 1889 (HO 144/1538/5) which he was ready to swear to at the Special Commission and which is rarely quoted but which is reproduced in its entirety below:
'I wish to confirm the statement in Le Caron's evidence that he wrote to me several times last year offering on public grounds to give evidence at this Commission and that I discouraged and dissuaded him from doing so.
Some weeks ago I had a letter from him dated from Queenstown to say he had been summoned to England at an hour's notice by news of the death of a relative and would call me on arrival. He did so and sat with me for a couple of hours. On that occasion he again brought up the subject and I discovered that he supposed this Inquiry was a Government Prosecution and that I was personally interested in it. I put him right on both points. I told him the Government was standing neutral and that as for myself I had never even been asked the question either by the Government or the Times as to what I knew or could give proof of in the matter.
I begged him to reconsider his decision in the light of these facts and urged upon him the terrible risks he would incur and the penalty he would have to pay.
When he next called on me he said he was prepared to face the risks if I was of opinion that his testimony would do a great public good. He said he could not forget he was an Englishman and he deemed it a public duty to come forward. But in further conversation I refused to go to the Times on his behalf and it ended in my arranging that in the event of my being applied to I would cable him to return.
The following week Mr Houston called on me on behalf of Mr Macdonald who was ill to ask my help in selecting a witness to prove the American case.
I was diplomatic in my replies and he left me saying it was better Mr Macdonald should come and see me.
After conference with Mr Macdonald I telegraphed Le Caron to come to me and finding he was still of the same mind I arranged to give him still a locus poenitentiae [a way out] that Mr Macdonald should name some trustworthy person to take his Statement and that the question of his giving evidence should not be finally decided until then. Mr Macdonald named Mr Houston as his coadjutor in the business.
That being settled I sent for Le Caron again and explained the arrangement to him.
He at once asked me what amount of help I could give him in preparing his Statement. I answered "None" telling him plainly I could hold no further communication with him until his evidence was concluded.
In answer to further appeals I assured him I had faithfully kept my promise, often repeated to him, to treat his letters as private papers, that they were all at my private house and that he might claim them back at any time.
He arranged to call for them and did so. I made them into two parcels and he took one on the first occasion and the other on the second. I told him I had culled out those which he would not want - not as he has said here those which he would need to refer to.
I did all this with the expectation that I should be cross-examined about it in this Court. Any man may give information to Government and get his letters back by return of post if he claims them.'
We may also refer to a letter that Anderson wrote to The Times on 20 March 1889 (published in The Times of 21 March 1889) in which he said:
'When Major Le Caron called on me in December, having been summoned to England by his father's death, he repeated the expression of his desire to give evidence before the Commission. He had written to me several times about this, and I had already tried to dissuade him from it. I found he was under the impression that the 'prosecution' as he called it, was a Government matter and that I was personally interested in it. I set him right on both these points. I assured him that 'Scotland Yard' had no part whatever in the conduct of the case - had it been otherwise the presentation of it would possibly be very different; but that in fact I had never received even a hint that the Government wished me to assist 'The Times' and I had never been as much as asked a question as to what I knew of the matters involved in the inquiry.'
More succinctly, to the Morning Post of 8 April 1910, Anderson said:
'What happened was this, Le Caron, when he came over to this country, making up his mind to give evidence was under the impression our Government would be pleased. I told him this was a complete mistake. I felt he was putting his neck in a noose, and I did all I could to stop him.'
So both men consistently and repeatedly said that it was Le Caron who wanted to give evidence on behalf of The Times and that Anderson tried to dissuade him from doing so. Indeed, Anderson was lightly criticised for this by the Home Secretary who felt that the Assistant Commissioner should not have attempted to prevent the Special Commission from hearing Le Caron's evidence. Thus, Henry Matthews stated in the House of Commons on 29 April 1889, 'I am not quite sure that Mr. Anderson did not go too far in trying to prevent Le Caron from giving information.'
The Globe newspaper, however, had no doubt that Anderson acted properly. In its edition of 21 March 1889, it stated:
'Mr Anderson simply did what it was his duty to do; had he acted otherwise, he would have laid himself open to suspicion of trying to keep back from the Special Commission matter of the first importance for the elucidation of the truth.'
No doubt some people will say that Anderson and Le Caron conspired together to give a false story but this would mean that Anderson was effectively putting his whole career into Le Caron's hands. How could he possibly have trusted him sufficiently that he would perjure himself and would stick to a fabricated story under oath and under cross-examination in the witness box? Some people seem to think such a conspiracy is a simple matter but attempting to induce a person to tell a lie in the witness box is fraught with danger and risk of exposure.
We may note that Le Caron's account is consistent with his surviving correspondence to Anderson. In a letter dated 18 September 1888 (HO 144/1538/8), Le Caron wrote:
'I wish it were possible to testify. I am perfectly willing if it would result in good.'
Three letters from Le Caron appear to be missing (which we know because they are numbered in sequence) but in a letter dated 30 October 1888 he referred to The Times' case being 'weak'. Further correspondence must be missing but he wrote a short letter from on board the Cunard steamship 'Umbria' on 14 December 1888, informing Anderson that he would be in Colchester for a few days. He wrote again from Colchester on 16 December requesting a meeting. The issue of him giving evidence to the Special Commission must have been discussed at that meeting for on 30 December (HO 144/1538/8) he wrote:
'I have thought over the question - and have come to this determination - viz. that if I can accomplish great good - I am willing to accept the risk which may follow.'
This is perfectly consistent with Anderson having told him that if he gave evidence at the Commission his life would be at risk.
Furthermore, in considering the correspondence, we should note that the full set would have been available to the Special Commission so that, when Le Caron stated in his evidence that he had informed Anderson in August and November 1888 of his desire testify to the Commission, these letters would have been capable of being checked, albeit that they are missing today.
Before moving on from the Le Caron issue, we may note that there was a huge controversy at the time as to whether Anderson was justified in returning Le Caron's correspondence to him so that he could use it to refresh his memory in order to prepare for his evidence to the Special Commission. Whether Anderson was justified or not in doing so is not a relevant consideration for this quadrilogy but we may simply note that Anderson's point was that, for all informers, it was standard practice to keep their correspondence private and to return it to them on request. In this view he was supported by the Commissioner, James Monro, who wrote to the Home Office on 22 March 1889:
'I think it right to add that my experience and practice in dealing with informants' letters is entirely in accord with what Mr. Anderson states. The continuance of such practice is absolutely essential for the detection both of political and other crimes.' (HO 144/926/149962).
The Home Secretary agreed, saying in the House on 29 April 1889 that: 'Nothing was commoner in the police service than to return to all informers of all classes the written communications which they made'. He also made the point that he had not been consulted by Anderson before the correspondence was handed over, but the very fact that the Home Secretary complained about this demonstrates that 'the authorities' were not acting together to assist The Times by putting forward Le Caron to the Special Commission via Edward Houston and that it was something done by Anderson on his own accord, without permission, at the specific request of Le Caron.
In any event, the Home Secretary made clear that, had he been asked, he would have sanctioned the provision of the papers to Le Caron because he regarded it as the duty of everyone to assist the Special Commission. Thus, he said in the House on 20 March 1889:
'Mr Le Caron was entitled to have them [the papers from Anderson]; and in my judgment the Secretary of State would have neglected his duty if he had prevented documents which were essential to presenting the whole truth before the Special Commission from being laid before the Commission, if Major Le Caron was minded to give evidence there...I know no principle which is more English than that the servants of the State are bound to furnish the lawful Courts of Justice with full information in a lawful inquiry...'
So the whole issue is a non-point.
Thus far, we have not seen any evidence of Anderson actually hating Parnell with an 'overwhelming passion' as Wolf Vanderlinden asserts. In his 1906 book, Sidelights on the Home Rule Movement, however, Anderson does make some disparaging comments about Parnell. He says, for example, that Parnell's agitation 'inveigled' men into crime (p. 77 of 1908 edition) and he calls him 'a Fenian at heart' (p. 91). Using Barry O'Brien's 1899 book, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell as his source, Anderson says that 'intense unreasoning hatred of England' was 'the ruling passion' of Parnell's political life.
Yet, at the same time, on a personal level, Anderson in his book, could be said to be almost sympathetic to the then deceased politician. For he says that, in his last year, he 'merited to the full the pity which he could have scorned' (p.82) and concludes that an understanding of Parnell's 'strangely picturesque personality' means that 'we shall deal generously with his memory, and take a kindlier view of his last sad lapse and his tragic end' (p.82). While Anderson clearly did not agree with Parnell's political views and believed him to be too closely associated with the enemies of England, if not actually one of those enemies, there is no good reason to believe that he had an all-consuming passionate hatred of him, as Wolf seems to think.
Furthermore, Anderson's views on the response by the English government to the Phoenix Park murders in 1882 may be regarded as surprising; for he believed that, having come to a deal with Parnell a few days earlier, the Government should have stuck to it. Thus, he said in his 1910 book that, 'it must in honesty be acknowledged that, if Parnell had been given a free hand, Ireland would have suffered less during the year than it did under Mr Gladstone's operation' (p.104). His main criticisms on this point were reserved for the Government's reversal of policy and, he said, 'What wonder is it if the English government is despised by the Irish people.' (p.103).
The key reason usually given for saying that Anderson had an unusual hatred for Parnell is his belief that the self-confessed forger Richard Pigott did not forge the letter dated 15 May 1882 in which Parnell supposedly said that Burke 'got no more than his deserts'.
Anderson is quoted by Vanderlinden as saying in his 1906 book:
'And as regards the Parnell 'facsimile letter' of May 15, 1882, I have received definite confirmation of my statement that it is in the handwriting of Arthur O'Keefe. I have obtained further proof moreover that at that period O'Keefe was employed by Mr. Parnell as an amanuensis.'
Vanderlinden says of this statement that it 'disagrees with the verdict of history'. That in itself should not be a problem; historians disagree with the verdict of history all the time and it can always change.
It would have been more sensible if Vanderlinden had said that Anderson's view disagrees with the verdict of the Special Commission but, in that case, Vanderlinden would have to accept that Parnell and members of his party, 'did invite the assistance and co-operation of and accepted subscriptions of money from Patrick Ford, known advocate of the use of crime and the use of dynamite...invited and obtained the assistance of the Physical Force party in America, including the Clan-na-Gael and in order to obtain that assistance, abstained from repudiating or condemning the action of that party' and 'did incite to intimidation, and that the consequences of that crime and outrage were committed by the persons incited' (Findings of the Special Commission, see The Times, 14 February 1890). This was essentially what Anderson had been saying in his articles in the Times.
Indeed, in his letter to The Times in March 1910, Anderson made the point that, regarding his articles in The Times, 'not a single statement of mine was ever refuted or even challenged.'
The significance of Anderson believing that the handwriting in the 15 May 1882 letter was that of O'Keefe - who was presumably Francis Arthur O'Keefe, an Irish Nationalist M.P. who was one of those against whom evidence was given at the Special Commission - is this, according to Vanderlinden:
'Anderson was still attacking Parnell, and using an out and out lie to do it, some 17 years after the end of the Commission'.
But was Anderson actually 'attacking' Parnell or was he expressing a reasonable and genuinely held belief in the authorship of the letter; one that he was perfectly entitled to hold and express?
When Vanderlinden speaks of 'the verdict of history' it is actually not clear what history he is speaking of. In the official History of the Times, a cogent argument (in far more detail than there is room for in this article) is put forward that Pigott was not the forger of the 15 May letter. Not many (if any) other historians appear to have given the matter any serious consideration. While it is true that one part of the argument was qualified in a later edition of the History of the Times, the argument itself was by no means withdrawn as Moody suggests in 'The Times versus Parnell and Co, 1887-90' (pages 174-175).
The Special Commission did not have to consider the matter at all because, immediately following Pigott's suicide and the revelation that he had confessed to being the forger, the Attorney General accepted that Pigott had forged all the letters. Under the circumstances, there was no realistic alternative for the Attorney General other than to withdraw any reliance on the letters obtained from Parnell. To have continued to argue that one of them might not have been forged by Pigott (especially if it was being accepted that someone forged it) would have exposed him, and The Times, to ridicule and would certainly have annoyed the three judges who sat on the Commission. Hence, a finding was inevitably made by the Commissioners that Pigott forged all the letters but it was done in a single short sentence without analysis (see page 58 of the Special Commission Report).
In the cool light of day and at a distance of well over one hundred years, we should be able to give the matter some calm consideration. For there are a number of good reasons to suppose that Pigott did not forge the letter of 15 May 1882. In discussing this issue, an attempt is not being made to argue that he did not forge the letter, or that the letter was not a forgery. Only that there are reasonable grounds to make such an argument, which means that there were reasonable grounds for Anderson to say what he did in his book in 1906 so that his doing so does not mean that he was so full of hatred of Parnell that he put forward an absurd or false claim.
Before looking at this issue in more detail we should note that, while there is evidence independent of Pigott that Pigott was a forger, the only evidence of Pigott actually forging the 15 May 1882 letter comes from Pigott himself in a signed confession he made to Henry Labouchere on Saturday, 23 February 1889. The problem is that, if he had only forged some of the letters, he had a strong motive to confess to forging them all because, at a minimum, he could have thought it prevented him from facing a perjury charge initiated by Parnell and, at a maximum, he might have hoped for payment from Labouchere for having provided the confession (and he claimed in his evidence that Labouchere offered him £1,000 if he would do so - Times, 22 February 1889).
Anderson realised the foolishness of simply accepting anything Pigott said. To a journalist who asked him how he could claim that Pigott did not forge the 15 May 1882 letter when he had made a confession and explained how he had done it, Anderson's reply, while reportedly laughing was: 'Yes, are you not aware that Pigott was a man who continually had a hole in his pocket; a man who one moment would say one thing, and the very next minute say the opposite' (Daily Telegraph, 8 April 1910).
Indeed, having told Labouchere on the Saturday evening that he had forged all the documents, Pigott changed his story on the Sunday. For on 24 February he provided a new and different account in a letter, which he subsequently verified in an affidavit, in which he said that the first batch of letters provided to The Times via Mr Houston, one of which was the 15 May 1882 letter, was given to him by the Irish Nationalist Patrick Casey in Paris at the Hotel des Deux Mondes. 'These letters are, as far as I know', he said, 'genuine.' (Times, 27 February 1889). He admitted to forging the remaining batches of letters with Casey. That was his last word before he shot himself in Madrid.
Now, it is true that Pigott had a motive to partially withdraw his confession in the hope that (having pacified Parnell) The Times might not charge him with perjury or fraud if he stated that the 15 May 1882 letter was genuine. We can't really believe a word he says; but that is why we cannot simply accept his confession to Labouchere as gospel. Instead, we need to consider the issue in a proper, non-emotional way.
The starting point is that Richard Pigott provided Edward Houston with three separate batches of letters over a period of two years. In the first batch of eleven letters, provided in July 1886, there were five letters supposedly authored by Parnell and six letters supposedly authored by Patrick Egan. There is no doubt that Pigott forged the Egan letters.
The Parnell letters are a different matter. In the first place, three of the five letters do not contain anything obviously compromising or incriminating against Parnell. The text of these (undated) letters was as follows:
Send full particulars. What amount does he want?
Tell B. to write to me direct. Have not yet received the papers.
Yours very truly,
I see no objection to your giving the amount asked for. There is not the least likelihood of what you are apprehensive of happening.
Given the vague nature of these letters, it is a little difficult to know why a forger would have bothered forging them. However, Parnell, having considered them carefully, said they were not authored by him so we must accept they were forgeries. The more important point about these letters is that they were in the handwriting, or rather an imitation of the handwriting, of Henry Campbell, Parnell's private secretary (see Parnell's testimony to the Special Commission: Times, 28 February 1889). For it was common ground that Parnell did not write his own letters. He only dictated and signed them. Campbell usually acted as his amanuensis.
The interesting thing about the 15 May 1882 letter is that it was, according to Parnell, not in Campbell's handwriting, i.e. not in an attempt at imitating Campbell's handwriting, but in a different hand. This raises the question of why a forger would forge letters by Parnell in one style of handwriting and forge another letter - a more important one - in a totally different style of handwriting. On the face of it, it makes no sense.
Furthermore, Parnell told a Press Association journalist on 19 April 1887 that, 'frequently when he is in a hurry he has left a sheet or two of notepaper signed for his secretary to fill in the body of his letters at his leisure' (evidence of J.E. Woolacott, Times, 16 February 1889). This means that there might have been in existence blank pieces of paper with Parnell's signature on them on which someone (in May 1882) could have filled in the blank space with a letter on Parnell's behalf expressing support for the murder of Burke in Phoenix Park, which Parnell never saw or approved of.
In the same conversation with the journalist on 19 April 1887, Parnell was reported as saying that the 15 May 1882 letter, 'in no way resembles the handwriting of any person who ever acted as his amanuensis' (Times, 16 February 1889). This means that if, in fact, the handwriting even resembled that of O'Keefe, and O'Keefe had acted as Parnell's amanuensis, then Parnell was lying. On that basis, Anderson did not even need proof that the handwriting was O'Keefe's; if it was like O'Keefe's handwriting, that was enough to expose Parnell's statement as untrue and to suggest that there was more to the letter than Parnell had been prepared to admit.
In this respect, it is difficult to know how Anderson could ever have had 'definite confirmation' that the handwriting was O'Keefe's. Presumably he meant that a handwriting expert had pronounced it so, but handwriting experts are notoriously unreliable. Yet, if the handwriting looked like O'Keefe's then there must be a good chance that it really was O'Keefe's because it would be very surprising if Pigott, or anyone else, would have faked O'Keefe's handwriting when Campbell was the obvious person's handwriting to copy.
As to the signature on the 15 May 1882 letter, it is notable that it was written on a separate page whereas the 9 January 1882 letter - the one in which the word 'hesitancy' is famously spelt as 'hesitency' - has Parnell's signature immediately beneath the main body of the text. The reason for the signature being on a separate page was believed by The Times to be so that it could be torn off to dissociate Parnell with the letter if required. It was another reason why the letter was thought to be genuine.
Referring to letters of the alphabet (as opposed to letters of correspondence) in the 15 May 1882 letter, Parnell initially said in the House of Commons on 18 April 1887 that, 'only two letters bear any resemblance to letters in my own signature...My signature - its whole character - is entirely different...if the House could see my signature and the forged signature they would see that except as regards two letters the whole signature bears no resemblance to mine.'
Following the O'Donnell v Walter trial, on 6 July 1888, however, Parnell gave a rather different account, saying in the House of Commons on 6 July 1888 that the signature on the letter dated 15 May 1882 was 'a copy of a signature of mine which I have not used since the end of 1879'. He went on to excuse his not mentioning this earlier by saying:
'At the time I was speaking on this subject in the House before, I had forgotten that I had ever used such a signature...and it was only upon looking over correspondence with my agent that I found I had changed my signature at the end of 1879.'
With a number of genuine letters signed by Parnell in its possession, The Times claimed to be able to disprove his claim that he discontinued this signature in 1879 but due to Pigott's suicide, and The Times' subsequent withdrawal of any reliance on the letters, this was never properly explored in evidence.
None of this is to say that the letter of 15 May 1882 was a genuine letter or bore a genuine signature - for that is not what we are dealing with here - only that Robert Anderson could have held a rational and reasonable belief that the handwriting in the letter was that of O'Keefe's, which is all he said. In fact, he was quite prepared to accept Parnell's claim that it was a forgery. Thus, he said in his 1906 book:
'Having regard to Parnell's denials, I will not assert that the letter was not a forgery. I leave it an open question. But if it was a forgery, it was concocted for the purposes, not of the Times, but of the extremists among the Land Leaguers, who were both scared and exasperated by Parnell's denunciations of the murder.'
In view of that statement - whether Anderson is right, or wrong and barking up completely the wrong tree - it is hard to see how his views on the matter can be used to support the claim that he was filled with hatred for the deceased Charles Parnell. One could argue from it all that he was too defensive of The Times (and, by implication, of his own articles) but not that he hated Parnell.
The final part of Vanderlinden's argument that Anderson simply must have sent his officers to America on Parnell related investigations is based on a memorandum that Anderson wrote to Commissioner Edward Bradford on 14 January 1899 in which he referred to having taken 'extra-legal action' when dealing with anarchist threats in London. Thus, Wolf quotes Anderson as saying (although the below quote has been corrected against the original):
'I am clear that the measure of peace & order wh[ich] we have been able to maintain in recent years has been due to action taken by this dept. wh[ich] was (if I may coin a word) extra-legal: I hesitate to use the ordinary word wh[ich] seems applicable to it...The experience of all the years during wh[ich] I have held my present office has been this:- for more or less prolonged intervals these men [foreign anarchists] have been treated under the ordinary law, with the invariable result that they have assumed a menacing attitude, and taken dangerous plots. Then some "extra-legal" action has been adopted by the Police & they have at once grown quiet and timid.'
Even on the face of it, this extract tells us nothing about Anderson and the Parnell Commission. What Anderson appears to have been saying to Commissioner Bradford is that there had been peace and order 'recently', i.e. in the years prior to 1899, because the police had changed their tactics towards anarchists who, instead of being treated under ordinary law (as they had previously been), had action taken against them which Anderson knew was not technically lawful but believed was required to prevent anarchist outrages. Although, when reproducing this quote, Vanderlinden (or rather the unacknowledged author he has taken the quotation from) slips in the literal time period of Anderson's holding office as being 'since August 1888', this is not helpful considering that Anderson did not even start work properly as Assistant Commissioner until October of that year and it was probably some considerable time after that before he faced his first anarchist threat.
Had we been discussing the issue of whether Anderson deployed 'extra-legal' action regarding police operations against Irish dynamiters, his words to Commissioner Bradford might be relevant but the Special Commission did not involve any police operations. Indeed, Wolf appears to have misunderstood the argument against him. In the second part of the Suckered! trilogy, 'The Third Man', it was stated:
'The fact of the matter is that there is not one iota of evidence that Robert Anderson had even the slightest interest in sending an officer to America to assist the Times or do any work at all relating to the Parnell Special Commission. The Times was perfectly capable of hiring its own private detectives and there was simply no need for Scotland Yard to do anything at all in America, especially as Anderson was fully aware that he would come under scrutiny; so it would have been foolish to use police detectives to act in this way.'
According to Vanderlinden, however:
'The belief that these men [i.e. James Monro and Robert Anderson] wouldn't gather intelligence against Parnell for the Times because it was illegal or morally wrong, or because they wouldn't do such an underhand thing is laughable.'
But it was not asserted in the Suckered! trilogy, to which Wolf was responding, that Anderson did not gather intelligence for The Times because it was illegal, underhand or morally wrong. It was simply because there was no need for him to do so as The Times had its own agents in America who could do exactly what any Scotland Yard officer could do.
As seen in Suckered!, there were genuine policing reasons why two officers travelled to America in November 1888. Someone had to escort the fraudster Roland Barnett to Toronto and someone had to track down the fugitive Thomas Barton in the United States and Canada. There is no question of these missions being cover stories for some other mission; they were real, and necessary, police operations.
It is notable that we are never told by Vanderlinden exactly what Inspector Andrews was supposed to be doing for The Times in Canada. Nor for that matter what Inspector Jarvis was doing. In short, there was nothing for them to do for The Times because Scotland Yard had no need to do anything for The Times. Apart from anything else, there was the obvious risk of discovery of any such investigations which would have probably led to Anderson being dismissed from his post. There was no need for him to get involved.
And the careful reader of Wolf's post will have noticed that James Monro has suddenly been slipped into the equation, despite him not being alleged to have had an obsessional hatred of Parnell or of being the author of any articles for The Times. So why does he care about whether The Times wins or loses its case?
For Vanderlinden, however, the case of The Times versus Parnell before the Special Commission was more than a simple legal dispute. It was: 'British Civilisation versus Irish Chaos. In other words, this was war by other means.'
Thus, says Vanderlinden, referring to the 1899 memo:
'Anderson clearly used illicit police methods when it suited him - when peace and order were threatened and dangerous plots had to be stopped - and he boasted that such methods worked effectively.'
What 'methods' was Anderson talking about? Well he provides an example in his 1899 memo relating to the breaking up of an anarchist plot involving an Italian anarchist called Asdrubale Malavasi (and others). Malavasi had been arrested after a fierce struggle by Detectives Stephens and Carlin in Islington on 14 October 1898, during which struggle Malavasi produced a loaded revolver. The Italian was subsequently brought before Horace Smith, the magistrate at Clerkenwell Police Court, and charged with using threatening behaviour (Times, 17 October 1898). Detective Stephens testified that, prior to the arrest, he and Detective Carlin, 'had the prisoner under observation with a view to finding out where he went to' but, as they followed him, they were abused by him leading to his violent arrest (Times, 17 October 1898). Malavasi claimed to have thought the police (in plain clothes) were 'roughs' and he was only carrying a weapon for protection, which he said he was used to doing in America, but it did him no good. On sentencing him, after finding him guilty of the offence, the magistrate told Malavasi he would require two sureties in £500 each or go to prison for two months (Times, 24 October 1898) and it seems that, unable to find such high sureties, he went to prison. Anderson says of this arrest in his 1899 memo to Commissioner Bradford (HO 45/10254/X36450):
'So recently as a few weeks ago it [i.e. the 'extra-legal' practice of the police] enabled us to break up a conspiracy for the assassination of the King of Italy. The leaders of the plot...were placed under police surveillance. Malavasi resented this with violence, and he was arrested and brought before a magistrate. The magistrate on being appraised of the circumstances, winked at the action of the police, and committed the man to gaol in default of finding sureties. And the other confederates disappeared from London...'
In other words, it seems that the extra-legal action that Anderson speaks of in his memo was no more than keeping anarchists under surveillance, a police action which, as Anderson points out in the memo (citing Sir Godfrey Lushington), was a practice 'unknown in English law'. Perhaps, as Anderson would reveal in one of his Blackwood's articles in 1910, other extra-legal police action involved the secret interception of mail but that is a far cry from the type of illegal actions that Wolf seems to envisage.
We might also note that, in his 1899 memo, Anderson says that these 'methods' which 'have been resorted to with such excellent results' were 'methods which successive secretaries of state have sanctioned'. So this was not Anderson going out on a limb and instructing his officers to commit illegal acts but he apparently had the backing of the Home Secretary for such methods.
Furthermore, Anderson's supposed 'boast' that such methods worked effectively was made, in 1899, some ten years after the Parnell Commission concluded its hearings so it is entirely unhistorical for Wolf to assert that Anderson believed in 1888 or 1889 that such methods worked effectively. He quite possibly had no idea at the time whether they would or would not work but the point is, in any case, an irrelevant red herring because there was no threat to peace and order arising from the Special Commission's findings (whatever they were going to be). Vanderlinden, however, seems to think differently because he continues:
'What plots more dangerous than the bombing campaigns Britain had faced? What greater threat to peace and order than the possible dissolution of the country? Who did Anderson feel was complicit in both? Would the ultra-Unionist Robert Anderson fail to use "extra-legal" means to obtains his political ends?'
Vanderlinden has got carried away, conflating the work of the Special Commission with the Irish-American bombing campaign and assuming without any evidence that Anderson, as Assistant Commissioner, had 'political ends.' If Anderson was a madman then anything is possible but he is unlikely to have been insane, and a rational Assistant Commissioner would not have got involved in investigating the issues being dealt with by the Special Commission. He would have left it to The Times to carry out the investigations, for all the reasons already stated.
If, on the other hand, Anderson genuinely believed that someone, including a member of Parliament, had committed a criminal offence he had a legal duty to investigate and bring the offender to justice. But there is no reason to suppose he took such a view and his own words tell us that he deliberately kept clear of interfering with the work of the Special Commission.
The still careful reader will note that, in the previous quote, Vanderlinden has gone back to Anderson alone but then in his next paragraph he brings Monro back, saying:
'Or instead, are we to believe that men like Monro and Anderson were simply a troop of inexperienced Boy Scouts. Babes in the woods of the murky late Victorian politics of Empire. Men so honourable, blameless and guileless that they were incapable of any sort of underhand or devious practice; no matter the threat, situation or cause. At best the "belief" is farcially naïve .'
While Vanderlinden has set out his views on Anderson, it is difficult to know what he means by 'men like Monro' because, in his post, he had told us nothing about Monro and why he should have behaved like Anderson, the author of The Times articles and a man supposedly consumed with hatred for Parnell. Why bother to set all those things about Anderson if it turns out that Monro's views and actions were exactly the same? In any case, as already stated, the issue is not whether Monro and Anderson were 'honourable, blameless and guileless' but whether they were totally stupid, interfering in something that had nothing to do with them.
We will look more at the relationship between Monro and Anderson in Part 3, when we will consider the specific allegations that Scotland Yard assisted The Times (outside of America). For the moment, let us simply note that if Monro and Anderson shared a dark secret of having assisted The Times in 1888-89 then it is odd that, in April 1910, at the same time as agreeing with Anderson that Scotland Yard had not assisted The Times in any way, Monro effectively called Anderson a liar after Anderson said that he had told Monro prior to publication in 1887 that he was the author of the 'Behind the Scenes in America' articles. It is an odd way for a co-conspirator to behave because he could not have known whether Anderson would have come out with a counter allegation and the whole conspiracy would have unravelled.
We will be dealing further with the events of 1910 in Part 3 but, before that, in Part 2, we will examine the allegations of collusion between the Conservative Government and The Times, with some surprising results.
First published: 18 September 2015