Suckered! Plus Quadrilogy Part 4
We saw in Suckered! that James Monro did not resign as Commissioner as a result of anything to do with the allegation by Henry Labouchere that Inspector Jarvis was in Colorado in December 1888. So why exactly did he resign?
From Simon Daryl Wood's Deconstructing Jack, the reader is left with the distinct impression that there was something very odd about Monro's resignation as Commissioner. But then again Wood thinks that there was something odd about all the senior police resignations in the period 1888 to 1890. For Wood, the official reasons for: Monro's resignation as Assistant Commissioner in August 1888, Sir Charles Warren's resignation as Commissioner in November 1888 and then Monro's resignation as Commissioner in June 1890 are all false. In this final part of the Suckered! Plus quadrilogy we will see that the reasons for all three resignations were those reasons stated at the time.
We do not need to spend very long on the resignation of Sir Charles Warren because the supposed reason for it, according to Wood, has nothing to do with Irish matters. Nevertheless, in order to put the other resignations into context, it is worth looking at what Simon Wood says about Warren's resignation against the reality.
In his book, Wood states that the idea that Warren resigned on 8 November 1888 as a result of his unauthorised article in Murray's magazine has 'little merit'. He points out that, 'on the morning of the Miller's court murder [9 November] there was not a hint of Warren's resignation.' He claims that when the resignation was publicly confirmed on 12 November, 'Home Secretary Henry Matthews neatly back-dated the event.' Thus, for Wood the resignation was all about the murder of Mary Jane Kelly and had nothing to do with Murray's magazine article. This is despite him quoting the Home Secretary saying in the House of Commons: 'I have to say that Sir Charles Warren did, on the 8th instant, tender his resignation to Her Majesty's Government and it has been accepted.'
One actually has to look outside of Wood's book to understand what he is saying because, in a post made on the JTR Forums board on 7 June 2009, in a thread entitled 'Sir Charles Warren's resignation', he does not dispute that Sir Charles submitted his resignation on 8 November but seems to think that the fact that it was not accepted until 10 November means that he did not resign until 9 November, although it is hard to make sense of this argument. In the forum post, Wood says:
'I would suggest that Warren resigned on 9th November, and that as a courtesy the government's acceptance was treated as a response to his letter of the 8th, allowing him to resume his military career with an unblemished record.'
The problem is that, if Warren submitted his letter of resignation on 8 November, as Wood seems to accept, then that must be the date of his resignation. There was no back-dating involved. Further, if the resignation wasn't accepted until 10 November then why does Wood date it as 9 November rather than the 10th?
Wood seems to think that the Murray's article was, as Sir Charles told the New York Herald, 'perfectly innocuous and could not do any harm' so that there was no need for Sir Charles to resign. Further, Wood claims that the article was not a real issue because advance notice of it had appeared in newspapers some weeks before the magazine went on sale, and he says in his 7 June 2009 forum post that it would have been 'easy to lawfully prevent its publication'.
The facts of Warren's resignation, however, do not support Simon Wood's theory.
It is true that, on 19 October 1888, more than two weeks before publication, the Home Office was alerted to the forthcoming publication of Warren's article by a report in the Pall Mall Gazette which said that Warren 'has contributed to the November number of Murray's Magazine an article on the police of the metropolis.' This caused Godfrey Lushington to write a memorandum to the Home Secretary about what action to take.
Speculating on the contents, Lushington wrote that:
'...it will be scarcely possible for Sir C. Warren to avoid controversial matters and saying something as to the past to which objection may be taken by Sir E. Henderson, Mr Monro, Mr Pennefather, myself or you. And he may easily commit you to something in future you don't approve.
In fact the publication at the present time is very injudicious. In former days the Secretary of State would undoubtedly have interfered and rightly so; but I think you will be hardly inclined to take so strong a message which will be sure to be misinterpreted. And if the publication is not to be stopped I would advise you to have nothing to do with it.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
So the answer to Wood's belief that publication could be easily stopped is very simple. While it would have been legally possible, it was politically impractical because it would have been viewed as some form of draconian government censorship.
When Warren's article in the November 1888 edition of Murray's magazine became available in the first week of November, it was nowhere near as bad as Lushington had feared but nevertheless contained some unfortunate phraseology from a political perspective. In his article, Sir Charles commented: 'It is to be deplored that successive Governments have not had the courage to make a stand against the more noisy section of the people representing a small minority [i.e. the mob]...' thus making a clear political point outside of his remit. He also argued for the use of the police as 'a military force' and defended the controversial police operations in Trafalgar Square.
From the perspective of the Home Office, the article needs to be read in the context of a dispute between the Commissioner and the Home Secretary that had occurred a year earlier. In late October 1887, Sir Charles had written a letter to the Office of Works stating that the Home Secretary had given him authority to close Trafalgar Square due to fears about mob rioting. Henry Matthews subsequently wrote to Sir Charles about this in a letter dated 3 November 1887, saying:
'I did say that the authority of the Office of Works, as representing her Majesty, was necessary, if the public were excluded from the Square. But it did not enter my mind to request you to take that step. I should not have taken it myself without consulting the cabinet.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
Four days earlier, the Home Secretary had written to Sir Charles saying that the letter he had written to the Office of Works, 'has confirmed an impression left on my mind by other incidents, that you do not fully appreciate the limits to your authority as Commissioner of Police, or your relations to the Home Office.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
In what was a long letter to Sir Charles complaining about his behaviour, the Home Secretary set out a number of Police Orders issued by the Commissioner which the Home Secretary believed should have been approved by him first and said:
'I need scarcely remind you that under the Metropolitan Police Act no Order as to the General Government of the Force can be made by the Commissioner except with the approbation of the Secretary of State. Apart from this, the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police is in the same position with relation to the Secretary of State as the Head of any other Home Office Department: and no rule is better understood in the Civil Service than that the Head of a Department is not at liberty to take a step involving questions of public policy without first obtaining instructions from the Secretary of State or other superior authority.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
In response, on 1 November, the Commissioner wrote a very argumentative and rather disrespectful letter to the Home Secretary, defending his actions, about which a seriously unimpressed Godfrey Lushington, the Under Secretary of State, commented sharply:
'A plainer instance of insubordination I cannot imagine.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
There were other problems, and Sir Charles would later tell an American reporter for the New York Herald that 'a great grievance has been the interference of the Home Office in the Police Department'. His police force was not, he insisted, 'a department of the Home Office' and he resented orders being sent to him 'by the Home Office clerks' (New York Herald, 13 November 1888). Nor did he like the fact that the Home Secretary by-passed him in speaking directly to the Assistant Commissioner for Crime - first Monro then Anderson - thus keeping him in the dark on certain matters (New York Herald, 13 November 1888).
With the publication of Sir Charles Warren's article in Murray's magazine in November 1888, a written question for the Home Secretary was tabled by long time Warren critic, Llewellyn Atherley-Jones, the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, asking:
'...whether his [the Home Secretary's] attention had been called to an article by the Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police published in Murray's Magazine of this month, in which the Commissioner discusses the management and discipline of the police under his control, and made disparaging remarks upon members of the late Government; and whether it was in accordance with the usage and discipline of the Civil Service that a salaried official should be permitted to publicly discuss matters relating to his department, and disparage the conduct of ex-Ministers of the Crown; and, if not, whether he has seen fit to take any action in the matter.'
As a consequence of this question, Sir Charles Warren was asked by Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, the Home Secretary's Private Secretary, about the perceived attacks on politicians contained within his article and he replied on 7 November (HO 144/208/A48043):
'...the remarks were intended as a general statement without reference to any party.'
At the same time, Ruggles-Brise sent Warren a copy of a Home Office circular of 27 May 1879 which stated: 'it should be considered a rule of the Home Department that no officer should publish any work relating to the Department, unless the sanction of the Secretary of State has been previously obtained for the purpose' (HO 144/208/A48043). He asked the Commissioner for his observations on this circular. In response, Sir Charles wrote in a second letter dated 7 November:
'I never heard of this circular you sent, nor do I now consider it in any way refers to the Commissioner of Police any more than any of the other Police Magistrates.
I should certainly not have accepted the post of Commissioner if I had known that my mouth was to be shut....' (HO 144/208/A48043).
Both of Sir Charles' letters made their way to the Home Secretary, and to Godfrey Lushington who was apoplectic. In respect of the Commissioner's second letter, Lushington said:
'If this impudent letter does not open the eyes of the Secretary of State to the fact that the Commissioner is and has long been out of hand, in a state of complete insubordination, ignoring the authority of the Secretary of State, nothing I can say will be of any avail.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
These were extraordinary comments from the senior civil servant in the Home Office.
Henry Matthews agreed that a formal warning to the Commissioner was now required and, on Thursday, 8 November 1888, Sir Charles received a 'pressing and confidential letter' from Edward Leigh Pemberton, Assistant Under Secretary at the Home Office, enclosing the same Home Office circular that Ruggles-Brise had already provided (HO 144/208/A48043). In the covering letter, Leigh Pemberton said:
'Mr Secretary Matthews directs me to state that his attention has been called to an article signed by you in this month's number of Murray's Magazine relating to the management and discipline of the Metropolitan Police Force. He desires me to forward to you the enclosed copy of a Home Office Circular which was duly communicated to the Commissioner of Police in 1879 and to state that the directions in that circular were intended to apply to the Metropolitan Police and to every officer in the force from the Commissioner downwards.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
In an interview with the New York Herald published on 13 November 1888, as cited by Wood in his JTR Forums post of 7 June 2009, Sir Charles said that he only responded to this letter 'after Mr Matthews' statement in the House of Commons in reference to my article in Murray's Magazine'. In that statement, on 8 November, the Home Secretary said, in response to the question tabled by Atherley-Jones referred to above, as follows:
'My attention has been called to the article in question. I am assured by the Commissioner that his statements are made without reference to party and he points out that ...[it]...applies on the face of it to successive Governments, and not to any one Government in particular....In 1879 the hon Home Secretary issued a rule by which officers attached to the Department were precluded for publishing works relating to the Department without permission, and a copy was sent to the then Commissioner of Police. The present Commissioner, however, informs me he was not aware of the existence of this rule. I have accordingly drawn his attention to it, and have requested him to comply with it in the future.'
It is true that this was only a mild reprimand, the wording of which had, in fact, been toned down from Godfrey Lushington's original draft in which he had wanted the Home Secretary to say that it was contrary to civil service rules for Sir Charles 'to publicly discuss without permission matters relating to his Department' and that he was requested to 'strictly' comply with the circular in future. Moreover, the Home Secretary was not requiring a resignation. However, it was still too much of a public humiliation for the Commissioner to accept.
In response to both the letter and the House of Commons statement, on the same day, Warren wrote a letter to the Home Secretary in which he repeated that had he known that such a circular existed, and applied to the Metropolitan Police Force, he would not have accepted the post of Commissioner. In the final paragraph of his letter of 8 November, Warren wrote:
'I desire to say that I entirely decline to accept these instructions with regard to the Commissioner of Police, and I have again to place my resignation in the hands of Her Majesty's Government.' (HO 144/208/A48043; underlining added).
The use of the word 'again' shows that Warren had previously tendered his resignation (on another issue) which had been refused but this clear show of insubordination would ensure a different result.
Now, it is true that the letter of resignation of Sir Charles dated 8 November 1888 does not bear a Home Office date stamp showing when it was received. It is also the case that, if written after the Home Secretary's statement in the House of Commons, it must have been written very late in the day because those comments do not appear to have been reported in the evening newspapers of 8 November, such as the Standard and the Star, suggesting that they were made in the House late in the afternoon or in the evening. It might be said that Sir Charles only submitted the letter the following day, on 9 November, after it was known that Mary Kelly was murdered. However, Sir Charles told the reporter for the New York Herald: 'I sent in my resignation before the Kelly murder, on the 8th of this month' (New York Herald, 13 November 1888) and there is no good reason to doubt his word about this.
The Commissioner's letter of Thursday, 8 November was acknowledged by the Home Secretary on Saturday, 10 November 1888. He wrote to Warren:
'In my judgment, the claim...put forward by you, as Commissioner of Police to disregard the instructions of the Secretary of State is altogether inadmissible and accordingly I have only to accept your resignation.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
In other words, it was Warren's refusal to accept the instructions of the Home Secretary in respect of possible future publications which meant that the Home Secretary had no choice but to accept the Commissioner's resignation, regardless of whether Mary Jane Kelly was murdered before he had time to reply.
On Sunday, 11 November, Warren replied to the Home Secretary as follows:
'I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday's date, received last night, stating that you accept my resignation, and I have to request that I may be informed on which date Her Majesty's Government desire that my responsibility as Commissioner of Police should cease.' (HO 144/208/A48043).
The Home Secretary replied to Warren on the same day, saying that his reign as Commissioner should come to an end, 'as soon as the necessary arrangements for the transfer of duties and the nomination of your successor can be made' (HO 144/208/A48043).
That having been sorted, the resignation of Sir Charles was announced by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons at the first opportunity on Monday, 12 November 1888. It would not have been announced before it was formally accepted which explains why there was no news of it on 9 November, just as there was no news of Monro's later resignation as Commissioner on 10 June 1890 until 12 June 1890 (and no-one has suggested that Monro actually resigned on 11th June!). There is no mystery about it. Sir Charles Warren's letter of resignation was submitted on 8 November 1888, just as the Home Secretary stated, so that his resignation occurred on that date. Wood's reluctance to accept this basic fact is strange.
Moving on to the earlier resignation of Monro as Assistant Commissioner in August 1888, Wood is struck by the timing of this resignation, bearing in mind that the Special Commission Act had only passed through Parliament and become law a few days earlier. For Wood, this cannot have been a coincidence because, 'Here was exactly the right man to be relieved of all extraneous duties in order to help "get up the Times case" for the Special Commission...'
The strange thing is that Wood also says that Monro resigned as Assistant Commissioner 'due to irreconcilable differences with Sir Charles Warren over manpower levels and the autonomy of the detective department'. If that was the case then the resignation was a genuine one. However, Wood goes on to say that, 'On 17th August 1888, four days after the Special Commission received its royal assent, James Monro tendered his resignation...' , suggesting a link between the two events and, indeed, he expressly states that 'the timing of his resignation smacks more of contrivance than coincidence'.
The contrivance, for Wood, was to get Monro into a position where he could assist The Times, and he quotes the Star newspaper as saying that Monro had been employed by the Home Office to get up The Times' case for the Special Commission. For some reason, Wood thinks that 'the Star was right' simply on the basis of a 1910 Home Office memo recording that Monro came over to the Home Office after his resignation to continue to direct 'the secret Irish work' but that was an entirely different matter and, to the extent it is accurate, no doubt relates to a continuation of his previous work at Scotland Yard as Secret Agent, being nothing to do with The Times' case for the Special Commission. There is not a jot of evidence to support the claim in the Star that Monro assisted in getting up The Times' case for the Special Commission.
Furthermore, the Star's claim - which was only made in a headline in that newspaper of 19 November 1888 - was not supported by the text of its report which discussed the reason for Monro's resignation as Assistant Commissioner in August. That report said something different to the headline, namely that, 'It is alleged that Mr. James Monro devoted too much of the time of his department to Irish business, especially in support of the Times case.' This was based on a supposed leak from 'an authoritative source'. Such allegation is not supported by the contemporary internal correspondence between Sir Charles Warren and James Monro prior to Monro's resignation and doesn't really make sense in the context of the Special Commission because Monro stopped working at Scotland Yard in late July 1888 before the Special Commission Act had even been passed.
Given the timing of the allegation, eleven days after Warren's resignation, suggesting that the source was Sir Charles himself, it looks like the Star report might have been based on nothing more than Sir Charles Warren's suspicions about what Monro was up to in his office, something which Warren knew very little about due the secret nature of the work. The notion in the headline of the Star's story that Monro was going to the Home Office to continue to assist The Times' case seems to be nothing more than speculation based on the premise that he was already assisting The Times.
The truth of Monro's resignation as A.C.C. in August 1888 is as follows:
Initially, in the years after Sir Charles Warren's appointment as Commissioner in 1886, the relationship between the Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner at the C.I.D. was good, with Sir Charles backing Monro over the issue of the role of Edward Jenkinson with whom Monro was involved in a bitter dispute. Warren wrote to the Home Office on 27 July 1886 that, 'after reviewing the whole circumstances I have come to the conclusion that Mr Monro was perfectly correct in his intimation of the impracticability of working in unison with Mr Jenkinson and I feel it my duty to inform you that I have ceased to put any confidence in Mr Jenkinson...' (MEPO 4/487).
Problems started, however, in February 1888 when Monro requested an Assistant Chief Constable to help him (and Chief Constable Williamson) to deal with Irish work. Sir Charles started to wonder whether it would not be better for someone other than Monro to take on the role of Secret Agent and do the Irish work so that Monro could concentrate on normal criminal work.
Nevertheless, he was initially supportive of Monro's request for an assistant and approved the recruitment of Melville Macnaghten but then started to question Monro as to what extent the taking over of Irish work from Jenkinson was occupying his time. When Sir Charles subsequently changed his mind about Macnaghten's appointment, after the Home Office had confirmed the appointment in writing on 29 March, and after Monro had informed Macnaghten that the job was his, relations between Warren and Monro broke down completely.
On 20 April 1888, Sir Charles wrote an accusatory note to Monro as follows (HO 144/190/A46472B):
'I understand from Mr. Matthews that you have informed Mr. Macnaghten that he has been appointed Assistant Chief Constable, and that this has caused great difficulty and complication. I shall be glad if you will explain how this has occurred.'
Monro replied on the same day:
'I was informed that the Secretary of State had approved of Mr. Macnaghten's appointment and I communicated the fact of this approval to Mr. Macnaghten. In so doing I followed the general practice in such matters especially as I was aware that you had approved the recommendation made by me, and had in Mr. Macnaghten's presence told me to put the matter through. I am not aware that this has caused difficulty and complications.'
The correspondence between the two men continued in a downward spiral over the next few days, during which time Monro appealed over Sir Warren's head to the Home Office regarding the decision not to appoint Macnaghten, and the nature of the changed relationship between Monro and his boss can be well seen in a memo written by Sir Charles to Monro on 2 May 1888 (MEPO 4/487). Warren said:
'I think you must be completely under a misapprehension in the matter regarding Mr Macnaghten....It appears that while over at the Home Office as Secret Agent you heard from Mr Ruggles-Brise that the Secretary of State had approved of my recommendation of Mr Macnaghten upon which without reference to or consulting me you informed Mr Macnaghten that the Secretary of State had appointed him Assistant Chief Constable. In the meantime I withdrew my recommendation and I have informed you of this. You have replied that the Secretary of State's appointment must still stand as far as you are aware.
You have no official knowledge of any appointment of Mr Macnaghten from the Commissioner, and as the recommendation is withdrawn the appointment cannot be made. ...I am quite at a loss to understand on what ground you consider you were justified in passing the Commissioner by in this matter which has led to this difficulty.'
A furious Monro replied on 4 May:
'I regret that I cannot accept the statements made in your minute as fully representing the facts of the case, so far as they are within my knowledge, nor can I admit that any action of mine deserves the admonitions which you have seen fit to pass on my conduct in the matter.
I am not under any misapprehension as to my relationship with you as Commissioner of Police and I am not aware of anything which has given you reason to think so.
You are mistaken in assuming that while over at the Home Office I heard from Mr Ruggles Brise that the Secretary of State had approved of your recommendation of Mr Macnaghten. I received this information from Mr Ruggles Brise at my office in 21 Whitehall Place.
I communicated the approval of the part of the Secretary of State of your recommendation to Mr Macnaghten in accordance with recognised practice, and with the full knowledge that your recommendation of Mr Macnaghten had already been communicated to that gentleman by you.
I am not aware that previously to the approval of your recommendation by the Secretary of State you had withdrawn your proposal to Mr Macnaghten's appointment. I was and still am under the impression that such withdrawal of your recommendation was subsequent to the approval of the Secretary of State and the fact of your having withdrawn the recommendation was not communicated to me by you till many weeks afterwards in your memo of 23rd or 24th (I am not quite sure of the actual date) April....I had official knowledge of the appointment approval of the Secretary of State conveyed to me in accordance with recognised practice, and I submit that I was justified in acting as I did. I cannot admit that I made any mistake in so acting, and it is therefore impossible for me to take any steps to justify what I cannot recognise as a mistake on my part.' (MEPO 4/487).
Sir Charles asked Monro what correspondence he had had with the Home Office regarding the appointment of an Assistant Chief Constable and, when, on 7 May, Monro said he had no such correspondence, Sir Charles wrote to Monro as follows (HO 144/190/A46472B):
'I shall be obliged if in future you will be good enough to keep copies of all correspondence which passes between you and the Home Office and records of verbal communications, as Assistant Commissioner, and let me have them every day in order that I may know what transpires.'
Monro's response two days later was blunt (HO 144/190/A46472B):
'I regret I cannot oblige you on this matter. I cannot but consider that any such request is based on misapprehension of my position and duties as Assistant Commissioner in charge of C.I.D.'
Sir Charles immediately complained to the Home Secretary, with a letter written in the following terms (HO 144/190/A46472B):
'Mr. Monro appears within the last few days to have been acting independently of the control of the Commissioner, and...declines to furnish me in future with copies of all correspondence which passes between himself and the Home Office and records of verbal communications as Assistant Commissioner and considers that my directions are based on a misapprehension of his position and duties as Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department...This assertion of independence on the part of Mr. Monro appears to have arisen quite recently, and I cannot imagine on what it can possibly be based.
The Commissioner of Police is...responsible for the Criminal Investigation Department just as any other Department of the Police Office but I cannot exercise my responsibility while an Assistant Commissioner asserts his independence. In the mean time I consider that the safety of the Metropolis is imperilled by this conflict of authority, and I have to request that you will take any steps that may be necessary to acquaint Mr. Monro that as Assistant Commissioner he acts entirely under the authority of the Commissioner of Police.'
The Home Secretary was reluctant to oblige and, on 15 May, Monro went on the offensive, demanding that Sir Charles provide him with copies of all correspondence he had had with the Home Office relating to the appointment (or non-appointment) of Macnaghten, a demand which was repeated again in memos of 4 and 7 June. Warren stalled and wrote to the Home Secretary for assistance saying: 'I still consider the safety of the Metropolis endangered by this conflict of authority'. (HO 144/190/A46472B).
On 11 June 1888, Monro wrote the following memo to Godfrey Lushington, the Under Secretary of State at the Home Office (HO 144/190/A46472B):
'...when action has been taken by Sir Charles Warren, and statements have been made by him conveying aspersions on my personal character and of official integrity, I have a right to demand that details of such accusations should be furnished to me and that the fullest enquiry should be made.
Apart however from the personal aspect of the subject it is my duty in the public interest to point out the question which has been raised goes very far beyond that of the appointment of an A.C.C.
The action of Sir Charles Warren has been based on a complete misapprehension of my status and position as Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department.
To perform the specified duties of head of the C.I.D. I was specially selected and appointed by the Secretary of State in 1884 to enable me to perform those duties with more effect than my predecessor the statutory position of A.C. was conferred on me and to take up this appointment and perform the duties so specifically assigned to me by the Secretary of State I resigned a high appointment in Her Majesty's Bengal Civil Service.
The system of administration of the Criminal Investigation Department was inaugurated in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission of 1878, and has been followed with success under various Secretaries of State for the last ten years.
The action of Sir Charles Warren however subverts the principle on which this system was established and practically restores the procedure in the despatch of public business which was condemned by the Commission and the defects which led to the creation of the Criminal Investigation Department under the separate charge of a responsible officer.
The effect of such a change of system on the administration of the Criminal Investigation Department is already visible, and the change is certain to lead to such grave consequences as regards the administration of justice that I cannot refrain on public grounds from bringing the matter to the notice of the Secretary of State and requesting full enquiry into the whole subject.
Until this important question is definitely settled, it is impossible that the work of the C.I.D. can be carried out with efficiency, and, with the restrictions now attempted to be imposed on the action of the Head of the Department I must in justice to myself disclaim all responsibility meanwhile from any unfavourable results to which the system now initiated will lead.
I therefore claim on public grounds that the whole issues raised by the action of Sir Charles Warren, as affecting the administration of the Criminal Investigation Department, and myself personally, be referred for full enquiry before a competent committee and the extreme urgency of the question as affecting the public interests is my reason for requesting that this may be done with the least possible delay.'
In his covering letter enclosing the memo to Lushington (HO 144/190/A46472B), Monro said:
'I send this accompanying official letter with regret, the state of matters leaves me no option...'
By letter of 20 June, the Secretary of State refused the enquiry (HO 144/190/A46472B). This did not please Monro and, problems rumbled on, with Sir Charles believing that Monro was going over his head to communicate with the Home Secretary directly, so that in July, Sir Charles Warren referred to matters having now reached a 'crisis.'
On 24 July 1888, Monro, claiming to be ill, wrote to Sir Charles saying:
'I came to town today being sent for by Secretary of State. I had intended to return to office but was unable. I am unfit for work and shall be glad to have leave to the end of the week, after which I propose taking my usual leave for August.' (MEPO 4/487).
Later that same day, Sir Charles forwarded Monro's letter in confidence to the Chief Clerk of the Metropolitan Police saying:
'Note that Mr Monro makes no mention of having communicated yesterday with Secretary of State on the duties of A.C. C.I.D. and secret agents without informing me.
Secretary of State informed me of this yesterday at the House of Commons.
I am thus left by him to infer that matters are in a normal condition in the middle of a crisis which he has caused.' (MEPO 4/487).
At the same time, Sir Charles wrote to Monro as follows:
'I am sorry to hear that you are ill. You can as you propose have leave till the end of August and I will arrange for your duties during that time to be carried out by another Assistant Commissioner.' (MEPO 4/487).
Despite Monro's illness, he wrote one last, hostile, memorandum to Sir Charles on 26 July 1888, largely in respect of an issue relating to the protection of persons and buildings, as follows:
'When I gave you my assurance that I had addressed you as A.C. C.I.D. pointing out that (as you may remember was arranged at your request) I had written on police paper I was under the impression that I had done all that was in my power to remove the misapprehension under which you were apparently labouring. I can only regret that my efforts have been unsuccessful and I can do no more than I have done to clear the matter up.
I have informed you in my capacity as A.C. C.I.D. how I think the question of protection of persons should be dealt with.
With reference to the matter of protection of buildings regarding which alone I have begged to be excused of making any suggestions I have no advice to offer. That buildings should be efficiently protected is clear but I have no knowledge of the matter (which is not within my department)...'
Sir Charles Warren replied on the same day as follows:
'With reference to your report I am under misapprehension as to the position in which you sent me a memorandum today. The memo I refer to deals with information which you only gave me as Secret Agent. It refers to the new departure of the Clan na Gael, and enters into the danger generally existing therefrom. This is information which you only possess as Secret Agent and which you do not possess as Assistant Commissioner as it has never passed through me. The fact of your writing it on police paper cannot alter this.
I have again to point out that I asked you to tell me whether you as A.C. C.I.D. think any extra precautions are necessary in any way both as regards persons and property and you reply that you "ask to be excused making any suggestions".
The Executive work of looking after the protection of buildings is as you know in the hands of A.C.B. but it does not preclude the A.C. C.I.D. from giving the Commissioner his advice and assistance with regard to such matters when called upon to do so.
I consider it distinctly your duty as A.C. C.I.D. and as possessing direct secret information about London as well as information about America from the agent (through Commissioner) to give your assistance to the Commissioner as to precautions to be taken generally in moments of danger...' (MEPO 4/487)
From the aforementioned correspondence over the previous four months, it is clear that Monro's position as Assistant Commissioner was by this time untenable. His relations with his boss - who he did not seem to regard as his boss - had broken down completely and irretrievably. On 17 August 1888, Monro wrote the following letter to the Home Office:
It is with great regret that I feel compelled to tender my resignation of the office of Assistant Commissioner Metropolitan Police, in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department.
Grave differences of opinion on questions of Police Administration have arisen between Sir Charles Warren and myself, and I feel that under a change of policy and system, from which my long experience compels me to dissent, I can no longer continue [to be] responsible for the efficiency of the Criminal Investigation Department, which was specially entrusted to me by the Secretary of State in 1884.' (HO 144/190/A46472C).
The resignation was accepted by Godfrey Lushington on behalf of the Home Secretary on 21 August.
An undated Home Office memo records that other gripes of Monro (some of which were hinted at in his letter of resignation) included:
1. His communications with Home Office being interfered with.
2. Commissioner's instructions that no officers (including detectives) be sent out of London without instruction except on urgent cases.
3. Reports of criminal cases and enquiries sent from divisions to the Chief Constables before going to HQ.
4. Promotions no longer wholly within the gift of the A.C.C.
5. Forwarding of proposals for an increase in C.I.D. to the Chief Constables.
6. Refusal to remove the injustice of excluding C.I.D. men for promotion unless they revert to uniform duty.
7. C.I.D. officers being deputed for duty without reference to the A.C.C.
8. Insanitary quarters of C.I.D.
The Home office memo states: 'None of these grievances except Macnaghten incident submitted to Secretary of State before resignation.' (HO 144/190/A6472C).
It may be noted that Monro's resignation was of his role as Assistant Commissioner. He said nothing about resigning as Secret Agent in charge of Special Branch (dealing with Irish crime) and it is possible that he simply continued in that position for the next three months until Sir Charles resigned as Commissioner and he was appointed in his place in December (continuing as Secret Agent). Having said this, Henry Matthews stated in the House in November 1888 that Monro, at that time, held no office of any kind and was in no way connected with the department (Times, 14 November 1888). He would only admit to having had 'the benefit of Mr Monro's advice in matters relating to crime' (Times, 7 November 1888) and that he had sought advice from him 'confined to the general question of the proper organization proper for the department in the abstract, without any reference whatever to the daily current business of the department.' (Times, 14 November 1888).
To that extent, there is a conflict of evidence as to precisely what Monro was doing in the few months between his resignation as Assistant Commissioner and his appointment as Commissioner, bearing in mind the above mentioned 1910 Home Office memorandum (which went to the Prime Minister) stating that, in that period, he 'came over to the Home Office and continued to direct the Irish secret work' (HO 144/926/A49962). It may be that the truth was somewhere in the middle and that the 'advice on crime' that Monro was giving the Home Secretary was in respect of Irish terrorist crime. However, the contemporary documentation within the Home Office files is non-existent so it is not really possible to confirm either way.
At the same time, we may note a report (based on a Press Association story) which appeared in the London Evening Post on 4 September 1888 which stated:
'Mr. James Monro, C.B., the late chief of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard, has, says the Central News, received an important appointment at the Home Office, and assumed the duties of his new post yesterday. Colonel Wilkinson has been appointed his assistant. The announcement has caused considerable surprise at Scotland Yard and in official circles generally, and much curiosity is felt as to the duties of his new post. On this point the authorities refuse to give any information, but it is believed that Mr. Monro's work will be of a character similar to that formerly performed by Mr. Jenkinson.'
If there was any truth in this report, it supports the notion that, far from being recruited to assist The Times in its case at the Special Commission, Monro was only continuing in his role as Secret Agent at the Home Office.
We might also note in passing that the same issue of the Evening Post stated that, following a report in the Manchester Courier which said that Sir Charles Warren had decided to resign as Commissioner, the editor of the Evening Post had sent a reporter to make enquiries from which it concluded that 'there is little doubt that Sir Charles Warren has decided to resign, though, owing to the absence of Mr. Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary at Penmaenmawr, on his holidays, the resignation has not yet been forwarded to headquarters.' This could explain why Warren's resignation letter of 8 November 1888 referred to a previous resignation offer; quite possibly he had attempted to resign in September but the Home Secretary had refused to accept it.
Added 28 August 2016:
I now believe that the previous resignation offer by Sir Charles Warren was made in March 1888, at a time when he complained that his efforts were 'continually being paralysed by the action of the Receiver and others', but it was not accepted by the government (HO 144/200/A47288).
Moving on now to the big one - the resignation of Monro as Commissioner in June 1890 - Wood says in his book that the notion that this was due to differences with the Home Secretary regarding police pensions and Superannuation is an 'oft- repeated trope'. It has, he says, 'always been something of a conundrum, for after Monro's resignation his demands in this regard on behalf of the Metropolitan Police were met in full'.
Pausing there, one has to wonder how an event that occurred after his resignation could have affected Monro's decision as to whether to resign or not. And perhaps the very fact of his resignation was the cause of the Metropolitan's demands being met in full (if they were, in fact, met in full, as Wood claims, which, as it happens, they were not). We won't have to wonder too long about any of this because the answers will be provided below.
It is right to note that Simon Wood is not the only one to think there is some sort of mystery about Monro's resignation. In their 1992 book, Scotland Yard Files, Paul Begg and Keth Skinner state that:
'he [Monro] submitted his resignation on 12 June, five days before the Police Pensions Bill was to be published. In the event, it offered a generous scheme and won general approval. Why didn't anyone tell Monro what the bill offered? Why did he not wait to find out?'
'...only a week separated Monro's resignation from the publication of the Pensions Bill. Could the proposals in a Government Bill have been altered in a week?'
Pausing there, the answer, as we will see, is: yes they could.
Begg and Skinner continue:
'And even if they could, even if Matthews was prepared to consider a compromise, given the influence of the people involved in attempting to get Monro to withdraw his resignation, why wasn't Monro simply told that Matthews was willing to reconsider? The mystery of Monro's resignation is deepened by the speed with which the notoriously indecisive Matthews announced the name of Monro's successor. Within forty-eight hours it was revealed that the new Commissioner would be Colonel Sir Edward Ridley Colborne Bradford.'
We will see that this so called mystery is not really a mystery at all. But before we do, we need to bear in mind that there was a second major aspect to Monro's resignation, which was the proposed appointment of Evelyn Ruggles-Brise as the replacement for the late Colonel Pearson as Assistant Commissioner. Noting that, immediately after Monro's resignation, this proposed appointment was withdrawn, Chief Constable Howard being appointed in his place, Simon Wood says:
'Monro appears to have been caught in a game of bait and switch.'
Leaving aside that a 'bait and switch' would mean that Henry Matthews was playing a game with the career of his own private secretary to whom he had intimated that he would secure a permanent berth in accordance with his wishes (as stated in a note from Matthews to Ruggles-Brise dated 28 May 1890 quoted by Wood in his book), Wood doesn't seem to appreciate that a 'bait and switch' would mean that Monro was baited so that, if he resigned because he would not accept Ruggles-Brise as an Assistant Commissioner, it means his resignation was a genuine one relating to this issue. In other words, while it might mean that the Home Secretary wanted to get rid of him, it does not suggest that there was a hidden reason for the resignation.
In view of the fact that both of the Home Secretary's decisions that supposedly caused him to resign - the Police Pensions Bill and the appointment of Riggles-Brise - were reversed after his resignation, Wood says:
'On the face of things Monro appeared to have more than sufficient grounds to press for a case for some form of constructive dismissal.'
This is unintentionally amusing because employment law in the post-war period has undergone many changes and is rather different from the law in the nineteenth century when it was known as the law of Master and Servant. Constructive dismissal was not recognised in English law until the 1960s and not as we know it today until the 1970s due to various legislative advances (i.e. the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, the Industrial Relations Act 1971 and the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974).
Wood, however, says that Monro 'rolled over' as if it was strange that he took no legal action - when there was no legal action he could have taken - and asks if there were 'deeper implications'. Because for Wood:
'police superannuation and political patronage were small beer compared to other rumours swirling around Whitehall at the time.'
And the issues were:
'little more than a minor hiccup in the intricate machinery of government'.
Wood then mentions the Cleveland Street scandal which is odd because, not only had the issue of the Home Secretary's delay in approving the apprehension of Lord Arthur Somerset been resolved in November 1889, more than six months before Mono's resignation, when a warrant for the peer's arrest was finally issued, but Wood otherwise gives the impression that the resignation was due to the Labouchere allegations about Inspector Jarvis. In Wood's statements, however, we find an explanation as to why he has gone so badly wrong. He thinks that 'police superannuation' was 'small beer' and a 'minor' issue. This is the problem. While it might seem to us today to be an unimportant topic, it was, for Monro, just about the most important issue of the period affecting the entire Metropolitan Police of which he was responsible.
If we look carefully at the reasons for Monro's resignation, all will become clear.
The starting point is a speech given on 25 June 1881 by Sir William Harcourt, the then Home Secretary, to a large assemblage of police officers in Twickenham, at the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage, in which it was believed that he had promised to improve police pensions. In fact, he had only said:
'I hope that at an early period it may be my grateful office to add to their [Police] comfort and content by supplying a defect which has long been felt in placing on a fixed and satisfactory footing, not only in London, but throughout the country, the superannuation and pension of those who have spent the best days of their lives in the service of their countrymen' (HO 45/9698/A50055).
Despite the vagueness of what he was saying in this announcement (which was received with 'repeated rounds of cheering' from the police officers in the audience), many in the force, including Monro, appear to have regarded this as a sacred, binding promise which, in 1890, Henry Matthews, as Harcourt's successor, had a duty to fulfil in the exact way that the Police Force wanted. Anything less would be regarded as a betrayal.
While the police certainly wanted better pay and conditions, the question of their pensions was of great significance. At the time, a pension of two-thirds of salary was only obtainable after 28 years of service in the force; if retiring after 25 years an officer would receive a maximum pension of only 60% of salary (referred to as thirty fiftieths) while, after 15 years, a salary of just 30% of salary (or fifteen fiftieths) was achievable. But in all cases, a medical certificate of unfitness for further service was required (HO 45/9698/A50055). What Monro and the rest of the force wanted was more favourable rates from 15 years service upwards, with a maximum pension of two-thirds pay, without medical certificate, after 25 years service. There was very little room or mood for compromise.
For Monro, things seemed to be heading in a positive direction in August 1889 when the Home Secretary set up a departmental committee, consisting of Lushington, Haliburton, Monro, Mowatt and Pennefather, for the purpose of considering the question of the superannuation of the Metropolitan Police (HO 45/9698/A5005). Twelve days of evidence was taken between 28 October and 20 December 1889. Officers such as Swanson and Littlechild testified, with Swanson saying that 'a man is thoroughly worn out after twenty-five years' service.' (HO 45/9698/A50055).
On the committee, Monro was causing trouble, informing Godfrey Lushington that due to the 'obligatory promise' to the force made by Sir William Harcourt, he felt precluded 'from discussing details which are inconsistent with the promise and the principle it established'. This caused the Home Secretary to write to Monro on 27 December 1889 as follows:
'I do not wish to express any opinion on the question whether there has been such a promise or not. If there has been I cannot doubt it will be kept. But my object in appointing the Committee in question was to obtain the benefit of their deliberations on all the details of the superannuation system considered on their merits and quite irrespective of any such promise.
If you feel that you cannot join in the deliberations of the Committee on that footing and cannot discuss the detail of the superannuation system, irrespective of any considerations but their intrinsic merits it occurs to me that you might prefer to withdraw from the Committee.
I should under these circumstances quite approve of your doing so.
In that event I hope that either in person or by some one whom you may delegate for that purpose, you will lay before the Committee such evidence as you think useful for their guidance.' (HO 45/9698/A50055)
In response, on 3 January 1890, Monro wrote to Matthews in the following terms:
'You correctly interpret my views as to the obligatory promise made to the existing force by the Secretary of State, and the evidence before the Committee shows that my views are shared by the whole of the Metropolitan Police, who are fully aware of the Parliamentary strength of their position.
Holding these views, viz that existing pensions are by promise made by the Secretary of State to be improved, I cannot be expected to discuss for example the question...as to whether the pensions of the existing force are insufficient. I instance this point as an illustration of my position.
But while I cannot with reference to the views I hold enter into discussion on points which are opposed to this principle on which in my opinion the consideration of the question as regards the existing force should be approached. I do not wish to refrain from discussing matters which may not be inconsistent with the principle above referred to. And under any circumstances, while regretting that I should be obliged to differ from the views held by my colleagues, I shall take care that the reasons for my dissent are fully laid before the Secretary of State when the time for submission of the report of the Committee has arrived.
Under such circumstances, therefore, it does not seem to me to be advisable that I should accept the suggestion kindly made by you that I should withdraw from the Committee.' (HO 45/9698/A50055).
The new year was only a few days old and trouble was clearly brewing. Infuriated by the Commissioner's petulant and sanctimonious approach, the Home Secretary decided to suspend any further meetings of the Superannuation Committee. This caused Monro to write two letters to Lushington on 6 February 1890. The first said:
'I was informed in answer to a question put by me a few days ago, that the meetings of the Superannuation Committee were suspended and Pennefather tells me that he understands there are to be no more meetings. It seems to me that we should know exactly how matters stand, as questions have been put to me on the subject, and I am bound to explain to my men the position of affairs. May I therefore suggest that you call a meeting of the Committee and let the members know how matters stand.' (HO 45/9698/A50055).
The second said:
'Writing as a member of the Committee, I cannot help thinking that the suspension of our meetings should have been formally communicated to us, and recorded as part of the proceedings of a meeting. I hope that the discussion of Government will not be delayed, so that the business of the Committee may be finished one way or another. The procedure cannot fail to call forth comment, for the progress of proceedings is I know being watched with the most eager interest by the whole of the force, and they are not likely to refrain from asking questions on the subject.' (HO 45/9698/A50055).
The Committee never met again and never produced any recommendations. No reason was given to the Commissioner for the suspension but the Home Secretary would later explain that it was done because of Monro's inflexible position.
Monro was quietly seething at the suspension of the Committee and his mood was not helped in April 1890 by a false arrest made by one of his constables which opened up a old wound of an issue between the police and Home Office which had not been resolved but which Monro felt required urgent attention.
This issue had started back in early 1888 when Monro was the Assistant Commissioner.
At 1:30pm on 10 February 1888, Detective-Sergeant McIntyre stood at the gates of the yard of the Palace of Westminster waiting to arrest James Gilhooly, an Irish Nationalist member of Parliament. When the person who was identified to him (by a constable based in the Houses of Parliament) as Gilhooly walked out of the gates, the detective stopped him and informed him that there was a warrant for his arrest. A request was made to see the warrant but it was not in McIntyre's possession so he asked Detective-Sergeant Sweeny, who was with him, to fetch it. He then escorted his prisoner down Whitehall, towards Scotland yard, when another officer ran after him and whispered in his ear that the person he had arrested was not Gilhooly but another Irish Nationalist M.P., Patrick O'Brien.
O'Brien, who was immediately let go, was very angry and reported the incident, causing him to be visited by an apologetic Chief Inspector Littlechild who said he was very sorry about the mistake. But O'Brien was not pacified and remained furious at having been 'dragged through the streets' by a policeman. He said he intended to bring a claim for an illegal arrest.
The matter was raised in the House of Commons on 13 February with members asking why Detective McIntrye did not have the warrant with him when he had arrested O'Brien, who would then have been able to see that his name was not on it. Was this even lawful? William Gladstone said that:
'..in this grave matter of arresting a member on his way to or from the performance of his duty the officer of police proceeded without being in possession of the warrant. That is a grave fact in this case...I am informed by high legal authorities that the arrest could not be properly and legally made by a man not in possession of a warrant.'
The legal point was not disputed and the Home Secretary was forced to issue a public apology to Mr O'Brien.
The events in Parliament caused a great deal of angst within Scotland Yard. Until then, it was believed by the police that a warrant issued to one of them was issued to all of them so that the arresting officer did not need to be physically holding the warrant. Sir Charles Warren consulted Monro who told him that 'similar action on the part of police officers occurs every day'. He was unable to find any ruling of any government official that a warrant must be in the possession of the arresting officer and he requested specific instructions from the Home Office as to 'whether it should be understood that no arrest of any person for whom a warrant has been issued is to be made except by an officer having the warrant in his possession.' (MEPO 2/186).
Consequently, the Home Office consulted the Law Officers who provided the following opinion on 8 March 1888:
'That all cases in which a police officer arrests by virtue of a warrant a person charged with an offence less than felony the police officer should have such warrant in his possession at the time of the arrest.' (MEPO 2/186).
On the following day, Sir Charles Warren reported to the Home Office that: 'Mr Monro on this considers police action will be paralysed' (MEPO 2/186). Messrs Wontner solicitors were consulted and advised fresh legislation because there 'is no doubt as to the correctness of the views of the Law Officers' (MEPO 2/186).
On 21 March, Monro formally requested the Home Office to introduce fresh legislation to deal with the problem. The legal advice received was that the existing system should not be disturbed pending any fresh legislation 'as although a person is not liable to be prosecuted for resisting or assaulting an officer attempting to effect his arrest without a warrant, they are of opinion that it would be better to run the risk of so rare an occurrence than to make it publicly known that offenders are safe from arrest when beyond the jurisdiction of the police holding the warrant.' (MEPO 2/186).
This was unacceptable to Scotland Yard. It was made clear to the Home Office on 7 April that 'Mr Monro is not prepared to allow his officers to run any such risks or to carry out an illegal system' (MEPO 2/186). The Home Office, rather unhelpfully, promised to 'bear in mind' the request for fresh legislation but pointed out that the practical difficulty, which, they said, only arose in cases of misdemeanour, could be legally met by the multiplication of warrants. Monro responded on 2 May to say that the multiplication of warrants was impractical, as thousands would potentially be required to ensure that every officer who might make the arrest was holding one.
There the matter was left for a time. Monro, of course, resigned as Assistant Commissioner in August 1888 and Anderson did not chase it. Monro did not forget the issue, however, and, after returning as Commissioner, pressed the point. On 27 February 1889, he asked the Home Office:
'Are police to arrest on the knowledge that a warrant has been issued? Are they to refrain from arresting until they have the warrant in their possession?' (MEPO 2/186).
The response from the Home Office, 2 March 1889, was familiar, saying they would bear the point in mind and that an early opportunity would be taken to amend the law. Pressed further by the Commissioner, the Home Secretary directed on 11 March that in any serious case not involving political considerations, the police were to act without warrant if they knew a warrant had been issued (MEPO 2/186).
Nothing further was done and the issue reared its ugly head again in April 1890 when, on a warrant, but without having that warrant in his possession, a constable from 'E' Division managed to arrest a respectable man called Lawrence Jacobs of 33 Woburn Place in another case of mistaken identity. Jacobs, like O'Brien, was very angry and a letter of regret from the Commissioner was sent to him. On 2 May 1890, Monro wrote to the Home Office that:
'...this raises again the question, regarding which I have already addressed H.O. and on which I have not yet received any definite instructions - viz the unfairness of Police to continue doing what has been declared to be illegal, arresting a person for whom a warrant has been issued without such warrant being actually in possession of the officer making the arrest.' (MEPO 2/186).
Monro requested 'speedy legislation' saying, 'nothing so far as I am aware has yet been done in the way of removing from the police the responsibility of continuing to act in violation of the law.' In writing this, he sounds angry enough but privately he was clearly apoplectic that nothing had been done by the Home Office in the entire two years since had first raised the issue back in March 1888. As he would tell a reporter after his resignation; he had pushed 'time after time for a Bill to deal with this difficulty, but without result.' (Times, 23 June 1890). It was enough to make a man think of a quieter and easier life outside of governmental control and perhaps the first thoughts of retirement started at this point.
At the very same time, there was another, similar, issue involving a solicitor and prodigious letter writer called Arthur Hepburn Hastie. In the World of 14 May 1890, columnist Edmund Yates (a.k.a. 'Atlas') reported that 'relations between Scotland Yard and the Home Office are again becoming strained'. There was reference to a dispute over who was responsible for permitting processions in London but Yates said:
'I understand that other matters of little or no public interest have caused far more friction...there is open war.'
The issue related to a robbery at Hastie's flat in Cromwell Road by two of his French servants on 26 March 1890. While Hastie and his wife were out, the two servants, a man and wife, helped themselves to all the valuables in the flat, including silver, jewellery and furs, which they took away in Hastie's own suitcases. When Hastie reported the theft within an hour at Kensington Police Station he expected the police to make every effort to catch the pair, including telegraphing their description to all British ports in the south of England on the basis that, being French, it was very likely that they would try and escape to France.
However, both the Kensington police and Inspector Butcher of the C.I.D. refused to do this, saying that it was unlikely that the servants would cross over to France and that it would be too expensive to send so many telegrams in any case. Hastie offered to pay for the telegrams but they still refused and he went ahead and sent them himself (which was pointless because he did not have the authority to give instructions to the police at the ports). He then went down on the train to Newhaven in the hope of intercepting them but failed.
Hastie continued to be unhappy with the work and attitude of the detectives on the case and reported the matter to Scotland Yard but his complaints fell on deaf ears, causing him to make the matter public in a long letter to The Times which was published on 2 April 1890. An unseemly public squabble followed with Robert Anderson writing a fairly feeble response to The Times on behalf of Scotland Yard the following day, causing Hastie to write a further letter castigating the police again the very next day.
It didn't appear to be good for a senior police officer to be writing letters to newspapers criticizing victims of crime, as Anderson did, and the newspapers of the day commented that Hastie's story 'is not calculated to impress the reader with high regard for the officials of the Metropolitan Police' (Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 3 April 1890) and that it was 'little wonder that so many criminals escape and that the Continent is so secure a haven of retreat' (Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 3 April 1890).
Even worse, the Home Secretary, who conducted an investigation of the matter, took Hastie's side. He wrote to him on 26 April saying he was of the opinion that:
'some notification should have been sent to the police of the outports and the Paris police on the night of the robbery...'
Hastie forwarded this letter on to The Times which published it on 3 May, along with Hastie's comment that: 'I venture that the general opinion will be that the Home Secretary's view of the conduct of the police is a more sensible one than that of Dr. Anderson's'.
This infuriated Monro who pestered the Home Secretary to be allowed to respond in the press but was firmly refused permission to do so. Although the Home Secretary did not require Inspector Butcher to be disciplined, he told Monro that his officer had made 'a mistake' (HO 65/69). Monro objected in a number of letters to the Home Office - claiming that Hastie had been rude to Inspector Butcher (as if that justified the refusal to notify the police at the ports) - but the Home Secretary would not budge from his opinion and Monro clearly felt humiliated and unhappy that he was not receiving the support he wanted from his superior.
As Yates described it in the World, Hastie had:
'goaded Mr. Matthews into censuring the police for not taking certain specified steps to arrest the thieves. But instead of giving effect to the censure, the Commissioner has commended the officers concerned, and assured them of his entire approval. And so it has come about that a trumpery complaint which a little common sense would have disposed of in five minutes has been allowed to give rise to a burning question, and to endanger the relations between two Government departments.'
There were more complaints. Long running problems with the police's clothing contract and with the lack of time for refreshment breaks both concerned Monro and it was a struggle to get satisfaction from the Home Office on these issues. There was also a problem between the Home Office and Commissioner about an attempt to consolidate Police Orders. As The Times later told it:
'Sir Charles began the task of consolidating these orders, which are issued daily under the hand of the Chief Commissioner, and are acted upon by the force. Mr. Monro continued the task and, to all intents and purposes, completed it. The Home Office authorities desired, it appears, to criticize the consolidated orders; but the criticism was delayed. Meanwhile, Mr. Monro required the orders for practical use. Then the Home Office suggested that a small committee, consisting of a Home Office clerk, the Chief Commissioner's clerk, and the Receiver's clerk, should sit upon the orders. Mr Monro refused to have his own orders criticized by his subordinates. Then the Home Office suggested that a barrister should look over the orders; Mr. Monro agreed, and, at the request of the Home Office, named a barrister...But Mr. Monro, although he was willing to give the barrister every assistance, was not willing to allow his officers to help in the duty of criticizing.' (Times, 23 June 1890).
Within two weeks of his rant about the lack of action regarding arrest without warrant, Monro's mind was turning back to police pensions because there was talk of a draft pensions Bill being produced by the Home Secretary. Monro wrote to the Home Office on 15 May 1890 saying that 'there is a strong feeling among the men about their pensions and they anxiously await the draft bill.' (HO 46/100).
Monro regarded himself as the protector of the interests of the men in the Metropolitan Police Force and he was only going to accept police pensions in the form which he believed had been promised by Sir William Harcourt in 1881. He decided to give the Home Secretary the benefit of his views in a written memorandum on pensions which was presented to the Home Secretary on 5 June 1890. As the Home Secretary would later say:
'...the point which the Commissioner insisted, and without which he stated that, in his view, no Bill would be acceptable to, or would be accepted by the police, was a pension of not less than two-thirds of the pay for 25 years' service, without condition either of age or medical certificate...' (Times, 21 June 1890).
A few days after presenting his memorandum, however, on 9 June, Monro was hit by a double whammy from the Home Secretary. Matthews hinted to him that his choice to replace the recently deceased Colonel Pearson as Assistant Commissioner would not be the experienced Chief Constable, Andrew Howard, but the Home Secretary's own friend and private secretary, Evelyn Riggles-Brise. Monro could hardly believe it; but what was worse was that he discovered that the draft Superannuation Bill did not give in to all his demands.
Sure, Henry Matthews had made a major concession in agreeing to offer a pension of two-thirds pay after 25 years' service without reference to age or medical certificate. This was exactly what Monro had been asking for. But he wasn't at all pleased because Matthews had pulled a fast one. In return for this generous award, the amount of pension for men retiring between 15 and 20 years of service would actually be reduced. Monro's reaction, as the Daily Telegraph would later report, was not a happy one.
'To this proposal he took grave exception and warned the Secretary of State that such a condition would not be accepted by the police as an adequate fulfilment of the promise of 1881.' (Daily Telegraph, 21 June 1890).
Henry Matthews was not prepared to back down. He had to think about the cost to the ratepayer and savings had to be made somewhere. In the context of all the other problems, Monro had had enough. But more than this; he had a plan. If he resigned over the issue it would surely cause such a crisis that, under pressure from the entire Metropolitan Police force, which was well represented in Parliament, the Home Secretary would have to recede.
On 10 June 1890, Monro handed in his resignation. The letter stated:
'The result of our interview yesterday has been to convince me that I can longer with propriety continue to hold the appointment of Commissioner of Police.
The views which I entertain as to the justice and reasonableness of the claims of the metropolitan police in connexion with the superannuation being unfortunately on vital points diametrically opposed to those of the Secretary of State, I cannot for reasons given in my memorandum of the 5th inst. accept the Bill as adequately meeting such just and reasonable claims. It is therefore unfair to both Government and to myself that I should be placed in a position of having to support a bill with reference to which I find myself in opposition to the views of the Secretary of State, and in sympathy with what I conceive to be the just claims of the members of the metropolitan police force. For many months I have found myself surrounded with difficulties in attempting to procure recognition of what seem to me to be the fair requirements and demands of police service in connexion with other important matters. My views as to police administration unfortunately differ in many important respects from those held by the Secretary of State, and I have received clear indications that the duties of the successor of Colonel Pearson are to be intrusted to a gentleman who, however estimable personally, has no police, military or legal training. I have no wish whatever to trench upon the authority and prerogative of the Secretary of State and in such circumstances I feel it is only right to place my resignation of the appointment which I have the honour to hold in your hands. I hereby do so, and shall be ready at once to make over charge to any officer who, on my resignation being accepted, may be appointed to succeed me' (Times, 14 June 1890).
Two points in the letter do need to be borne in mind. Firstly, as Monro points out, it would have been his duty as Commissioner to support the Government's Superannuation Bill. He could not have conducted a campaign against it while in office. Secondly, that he could not have opposed the appointment of Ruggles-Brise as Assistant Commissioner, which was within the clear prerogative of the Home Secretary, and remained in office. It is, of course, true that he could have threatened to resign, and continued to cause trouble from within, but then he might have been sacked and that would not have allowed him to retain the moral high ground.
Monro knew what he was doing. When it was time for him to say goodbye to his superintendents and chief officers eleven days later, on 21 June 1890, he remarked:
'I know very well that when you get the pensions, which is a thing, if I may say it without exciting any comment, that you are pretty sure to get - when that day comes, I believe and know that you will all think kindly of your Commissioner who tried all that he could do to get them for you, and by his retirement probably succeeded in doing so (applause)' (Standard, 23 June 1890).
He was, in other words, very confident that his actions would force the Home Secretary's hand. His resignation had already caused Matthews to abandon his plan to promote Ruggles-Brise. As soon as Monro handed in his notice, it was obvious to the Home Secretary that it would be politically impossible to go ahead and make the appointment of his private secretary as Assistant Commissioner. Ruggles-Brise was too close to him and it could conceivably have caused such unrest within both the Metropolitan Police and Parliament that Matthews would have to resign. A damage limitation exercise was required and the Home Secretary knew he had to act fast before the pressure against Ruggles-Brise built up to a point where a change of plan would have been viewed as a humiliating climb down.
Already on 12 June, a news agency report had stated that 'Mr. Matthews has nominated to the important post of Assistant Commissioner Mr. Ruggles-Brise, a Home Office clerk, who has for some time past acted as his private secretary. Mr. Ruggles-Brise has had no experience of police duties' (Times, 13 June 1890). Two days after Monro's resignation was announced, Matthews played his trump card in the House of Commons. The hostile question which allowed him to play it came from Edward Pickersgill, the member for Bethnal Green South West. Was it true, he asked, that Mr Monro had submitted the name of Mr Howard, 'a police officer of great experience' but that he (the Home Secretary) had 'nominated his own private secretary, Mr Ruggles-Brise who had no police experience whatever? '(hear, hear)'. An answer in the affirmative was unthinkable and a prepared Henry Matthews was not going to allow himself to be caught in that trap. His reply was as follows:
'In answer to the question from the hon. member for Bethnal Green, I have to inform him that I have not rejected the name of Chief Constable Howard. On the contrary, I propose to appoint him to the post. (Cheers and laughter)'.
And with one bound the Home Secretary was free. It was political genius and defused the issue completely. The leader in the next day's Times was fully appreciative of his political skills. 'The Home Secretary is a dextrous man', it said, 'He has managed adroitly to extricate himself from the difficult position in which he was placed by the resignation of Mr Monro.' The leader continued:
'Mr Monro firmly believed that Mr Matthews had made up his mind to pass over Chief Constable Howard, and to appoint a gentleman whose claims rested, so far as it was possible for outsiders to see, on the sole fact that he was Mr. Matthews's private secretary. To this suspicion Mr. Matthews has given the most complete reply possible, by announcing his intention to appoint Chief Constable Howard. Mr Matthews has been misrepresented, misunderstood. He had no thought of appointing his private secretary. Yet we may be allowed to congratulate him on the rapidity with which, since Mr Monro's resignation he has become convinced of Chief Constable Howard's fitness. We have it from the Home Secretary that, at the time he received Mr. Monro's letter of resignation, he had formed no opinion on the question of patronage, and had expressed none. It is all the more creditable to his reputation for sagacity that he should had since made up his mind so quickly. Mr Monro, on the other hand, may justly complain that this resolution was not taken earlier. If Mr Matthews had been scheming to get rid of his Chief Commissioner, he could not have devised a better means of doing so than of delaying this gratifying decision until Mr. Monro had lost patience. It is unnecessary to condole with Mr. Ruggles-Brise, who, we have no doubt, will not be a sufferer in the long run by a complaisance which has enabled his chief to withdraw dextrously from an untenable position.'
It will be noted that, amongst the sarcasm, The Times has identified the 'bait and switch' scenario that Simon Wood has referred to but Henry Matthews explained his thinking on the matter to the House of Commons on 20 June:
'I felt the moment Mr Monro's resignation was in my hands on June 10 that the want of experience of Mr. Ruggles-Brice, which under Mr. Monro's guidance would have been of comparatively small importance, now assumed on the contrary the gravest importance. While the scale might have been evenly balanced between the two candidates up to that time, yet after Mr Monro's resignation the claims of the candidate who had had daily experience of the police decidedly preponderated'.
In other words, it was only because of Monro's resignation that Matthews felt he could not appoint Ruggles-Brise; whether for the reasons expressed by him in the House or the political considerations which would have made the appointment practically impossible. There was no 'bait and switch'. As The Times' leader writer commented:
'On the question of patronage Mr Matthews makes the ingenious defence that he had not really made up his mind as to Colonel Pearson's successor, but that the mere fact of Mr Monro's resignation turned the scale against Mr Ruggles-Brise. By implication, however, he admits Mr Monro's contention that, had he not resigned, Mr Ruggles-Brise would have been appointed. This, however, is not of importance except as exonerating Mr Matthews from the charge of sharp practice in withholding his intentions from Mr Monro until after he had resigned.' (Times, 21 June 1890).
Having rescued his political position within the House of Commons regarding Colonel Pearson's successor, the Home Secretary still had the entire Metropolitan Police Force to deal with. He was trying to cut their pensions and they were not happy.
On 13 June, a meeting of the Police Committee was held in Kensington at which issues of superannuation and pay were discussed and a constable of the 'E' Division said that 'all the men at his station were in favour of a strike.' (Times, 14 June 1890).
Three days later, on 16 June 1890, the Police Superannuation Bill was circulated and it was immediately apparent to Monro that the Home Secretary had taken the opportunity afforded by his resignation to make some changes. When Monro received the Bill he realised it was very different to the draft he had been shown a week or so earlier. Thus, as The Times reported:
'The Bill as it appears in printed form is different in arrangement and matter from that which was submitted to Mr. Monro. The order of the clauses has been altered, and, in addition, substantial changes have been made in the text. Something has been added; something has been taken away.....the Bill which was placed in the hands of the members of the House of Commons yesterday is not the Bill, and is substantially different from the Bill, upon the basis of which Mr. Monro tendered his resignation...It is not the same Bill either in substance or in form.' (Times, 17 June 1890).
On the point of substance, the Home Secretary had restored normal pensions to those having served between 15 and 20 years in the force but, at the same time, in order to claw some money back for the ratepayers, had removed the element that Monro had regarded as absolutely critical, namely the provision of a pension equal to two-thirds of pay for officers after 25 years' service. Instead, an officer now needed to serve for 28 years to attain such a pension. While this might not seem to us to be a massive difference, it was for Monro. As the correspondent for The Times said:
'I believe that he [Monro] made it a cardinal point that constables, having obtained 25 years' service, should be absolutely entitled to receive a pension equal to two-thirds of their pay. The Bill does not meet this requirement.' (Times, 17 June 1890).
As the Daily Telegraph reported:
'The bill as presented to the House of Commons was certainly not the same as the draft upon which the resignation was tendered. For example, the proposed diminution of pensions to which objection had been taken had disappeared; but as a set-off, the two thirds had also been dropped, and in its place was inserted a clause giving a pension of only three-fifths pay after twenty-five years of service, the full pension of two-thirds only being attainable after twenty eight years of service, and the conditions being otherwise the same.' (Daily Telegraph, 21 June 1890).
It was war. At 4pm on the day the Bill was circulated, Monro (who had resigned but was still in situ) chaired a meeting of all his senior officers at Scotland Yard. The Times reported: 'Copies of the bill were distributed to those who attended, and a short discussion took place, in the course of which, the chairman having invited opinion, a number of those present condemned the measure as in no way meeting the just requirements of the force.' (Times, 17 June 1890).
Also on the same day, four hundred men from various divisions gathered at Paddington Police Station: According to The Times:
'They were determined to obtain redress for their pension grievance by every fair means possible and leave the public to judge....It was pointed out that the measure enforced arbitrary limits as to pensions, and the future pension scheme was in some respects held to be worse than the present system...As to the detail of the scale of pensions, the men protested that the benefits of the old scheme had been almost entirely ignored in the new Bill, and under no circumstances could they approve of the existing scale of pensions being altered to the disadvantage of the police officers.' (Times, 17 June 1890).
Two days later, on 18 June 1890, a memorandum signed by all the Metropolitan Police superintendents was submitted to the Home Office stating that the principal objection to the Police Bill was that it did not provide the right to retire unconditionally at 25 years old with the maximum pension of two-thirds of their pay. 'This' , the memorandum stated, 'it is desired to press for most strongly...and we earnestly hope that Members of Metropolitan Constituencies may find themselves able to advocate our claims and obtain for us the concessions desired' (MEPO 2/256). The memorandum attached a four page document entitled 'Statement of Objections to the Police Bill of 1890 by the Metropolitan Police Force, with Observations thereon'. The political element to this memorandum, with its appeal to the London members of Parliament, was significant.
In the House of Commons on 20 June, Henry Matthews explained why he accepted Monro's resignation:
'I felt that the attitude assumed by the Commissioner of demanding - of assuming to treat as if he were an independent power as to the terms of superannuation he would accept and would not accept, as to demanding from the Government greater pecuniary advantages for the force, and his tendering his resignation upon the terms of a Bill which, after all, was not yet before this house (hear hear), his attitude was such, I say, that I felt it was my duty to accept the offer of resignation.' (Times, 21 June 1890).
Police agitation continued. The Times of 25 June 1890 reported an incident at Bow Street Police station, where:
'it is stated, every man in the premises was paraded in the yard...many of the men declined to obey orders, and this led to the officers threatening to suspend some and report others. The large gates were barred between the Bow-street man and their delegate comrades until after 8 o'clock.'
Meanwhile, over at 'T' Division, 'the men were prohibited from meeting. This they resented, and in the end the ringleader was taken before the superintendent. His comrades cheered him and so persistently did they continue to do this that the man was sent out by the superintendent in order that the others might be quieted.'
Events such as these were being repeated throughout London and, in addition, there must have been intense lobbying through members of Parliament by senior members of the force.
The first concession came on 22 July 1890 when, in a House of Commons Standing Committee, the Home Secretary agreed to an amendment of the Police Bill so that it now granted a pension of two-thirds of salary after 27 years' service (Times 24 July 1890). So one year had been chipped off. Things were getting better. The crucial change, however, came on 5 August 1890, when the Home Secretary, in a surprise move, agreed to a further amendment to the Bill which meant that it was now possible for a constable to obtain a pension of two-thirds pay when retiring after 26 years of service (Times, 6 August 1890).
Not everyone was happy. Sir George Campbell complained that, 'such a proposal would be reversal of the decision by which the Standing Committee had come to by a great majority', adding that, 'It was a surrender to the agitation of the Police force.' Sir George Trevelyan 'regarded the committee as having shown too great a willingness to yield to the interests of the police and to have thought too little of the interests of the ratepayers' (Times, 6 August 1890).
Those retiring after 25 years would potentially receive a maximum of only 62% of pay, as opposed to the 67% which had been demanded, and it is quite possible that Monro would have resigned if this had been in the original draft Bill in June but, by August, in view of all the circumstances, Monro was not too unhappy, feeling that he had got almost everything he wanted and, thus, that his resignation had had the desired effect. In an article he wrote for the journal New Review, entitled 'History of Police Pensions', which was published in September 1890, he said:
'By the action of Parliament the Police Bill is now the law of the land, and its provisions, although not granting all that the police desired, mark a distinct advantage in the pensionary benefits granted to the "great army of order which is always in the field". '
Explaining in the same article what had happened after his resignation, Monro said:
'Little by little...when the matter came to be discussed in Parliament, concessions were unwillingly made by the Secretary of State. The twenty-eight years' limit of service was first abandoned, and twenty-seven years substituted, a concession which rendered the limit of service less illusory by 1 per cent than the original period of twenty-eight years. Then a proposal to grant a maximum pension after twenty-six years was first opposed by Mr. Matthews, but at length, being unable to resist the feeling expressed by the Metropolitan members of Parliament, he conceded even more than was involved in this last suggestion, and put forward a scheme for granting a maximum pension after twenty-six years' service...'
Thus we see the explanation for how the Police Act of 1890 ended up providing almost everything Monro had been asking for, yet equally an explanation as to why Monro's resignation was not a mystery. The changes had been hard fought and came virtually at the last minute, with the Police Bill receiving Royal Assent on 14 August 1890, less then two weeks after the critical amendment.
There was nothing trivial about the issues involved. As Henry Matthews had stated in the House of Commons on 20 June 1890: 'I cannot disguise from the House the fact that this question of police superannuation is one of extraordinary gravity.' It is undoubtedly true that a more diplomatic and patient man than Monro could have adopted a different approach but, as Matthews also said in the House of Commons on 20 June of Monro:
'He is a man whose opinions and convictions are so strong that he cannot reconcile himself but to see anything but the adoption of those opinions..'
Nevertheless, despite the obvious importance to Monro of the pensions issue, it should not be forgotten that the other problems he was having with the Home Office - which were flagged in his resignation letter - must have played a part in the way he reacted on 9 June. AsThe Times commented:
'We cannot think that Mr Monro would have adopted the attitude of dictator to the Cabinet, which is involved in his refusal to consider anything short of the full demand of his men, unless the relations between Mr Matthews and himself had already been strained to breaking point.'
After his resignation, Monro was very keen to brief the press about all these other issues. The warrants issue especially had seriously frustrated him. Yet, it is fair to say that Monro regarded the pensions issue as a moral one. It was all about right versus wrong. A promise had been made by Sir William Harcourt to the police and it had to be kept at all costs. His attitude was extreme - it is questionable whether Harcourt had made such a binding promise at all - but the only thing that matters is what Monro thought about it.
This moral crusade that he then went on, sacrificing his own job as Commissioner to ensure that his men received better pensions, explains all the comments he subsequently made about his resignation which have, by some, been taken out of context to suggest that there was some additional factor involved. Let us take the various quotes of Monro from his unpublished memoirs and now pull them together into context.
Monro said he had resigned:
'because had refused to do what he considered to be wrong, and, by government grace, was able to sacrifice his own worldly interests on behalf of those of the men, which as their Commissioner he was bound to uphold, even at the sacrifice of his own.'
If we extract the phrase 'refused to do what he considered to be wrong' it sounds like he was being asked by the Government to do something illegal or immoral. In fact, what Monro considered would have been 'wrong' would have been a failure to challenge the Government's pension proposals. His 'sacrifice' on behalf of his men was his resignation to ensure they got the pension they deserved.
This interpretation can be seen clearly in a passage quoted by Begg and Skinner although they do not draw the obvious conclusion. In that passage, Monro referred to (underlining added):
'a sacrifice of my interests on behalf of those of the Police. This is absolutely true. There was absolutely no necessity for my resigning my post had I chosen to remain. All that I had to do was to tell my men that I had done all I could for them in the way of getting their pensions, but that government would not comply with their demands...I was asked to be a party to wrong doing towards men whose interests I was bound to protect and whom I was under an obligation to shield to the utmost of my power...Every effort was made from all quarters to induce me to withdraw my resignation - the highest in the land, our present King, who was then Prince of Wales, used his personal influence to get me kept in my post - but for me, so far as I could judge, there was but one course which was consistent with right and honour...Had I not resigned, I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the men would not have got their pensions - when I did resign the feelings were so strong the unjust proposals of the Home Secretary as to pension were swept away in indignation, and in the end the men got almost what they asked for.'
The two underlined sentences make it perfectly clear that the wrongdoing related to pensions and pensions alone. Monro was saying that not even the king (had the prince been such at the time) could have dissuaded him from taking a stand on that moral ground. He would not betray or abandon his men to the highest in the land. He would not compromise nor attempt to stay and argue the point. Only resignation was a proper course (or sacrifice) for him.
The fact that the Home Secretary announced in the House of Commons on 20 June 1890, a full ten days after Monro submitted his resignation, that Sir Edward Bradford was to be the new Commissioner, is not something that requires any further explanation because someone needed to be appointed to the post.
There is no mystery involved here.
First published: 18 September 2015