View Full Version : Macnaghten's Police Experience

Simon Wood
09-27-2008, 10:43 PM
Hi All,

What has never been explained [at least to my satisfaction] is how six top cops—Anderson, Monro, Swanson, Littlechild, Macnaghten and Abberline—failed to reach some sort of consensus about the identity of the "Ripper".

Macnaghten aside, surely the other five must have sat around a table at some time during the WM.

Talking of Macnaghten—

In 1888, Macnaghten, a land-manager and tea-planter, returned from Bengal to London, where Monro offered/promised him the post of Assistant Chief Constable, an appointment which was subsequently blocked by Warren.

On the face of things MM had no police experience. So why Monro thought a tea-planter would make a good top cop is puzzling.

Or did MM have police experience?

MM's autobiography recounts how his May 1881 meeting in Bengal with Monro "changed my whole life's work."

His life's work appears to have changed very quickly, for two years after his meeting with Monro MM was in London discussing the Indian Criminal Procedure Bill at the Banqueting Rooms, St James's Hall [see—The Times, June 25th 1883].

Odd work for a tea-planter.

I cannot shake the feeling that Macnaghten was less than candid in his memoirs.



Stephen Thomas
09-27-2008, 11:27 PM
[QUOTE=Simon Wood;45092]
What has never been explained [at least to my satisfaction] is how six top cops—Anderson, Monro, Swanson, Littlechild, Macnaghten and Abberline—failed to reach some sort of consensus about the identity of the "Ripper".

What has always puzzled me is that all these gentlemen never expressed the slightest concern that JTR had never been captured and would therefore have been walking about free as a bird, possibly contemplating a new reign of terror. Apart from Anderson, of course, though much later. How Macnaghton could say that JTR was never caught and then adamantly state that he had five victims and five victims only doesn't make any sense to me.

Simon Wood
09-27-2008, 11:36 PM
Hi Stephen,

Nor me.

But I am certain that someone will attempt to square this particular circle.



Mitch Rowe
09-28-2008, 12:09 AM
How big was this Tea Plantation? What issues did MacNaghten face while managing it? We know he was attacked by Natives. For what reason? If the Natives were restless so to speak, its possible MacNaghten was in charge of a Security Force of his own. If this was a large Plantation and MacNaghten was managing it he may have been not as useless as People think.

Dan Norder
09-28-2008, 03:04 AM
How Macnaghton could say that JTR was never caught and then adamantly state that he had five victims and five victims only doesn't make any sense to me.

Lots of people state lots of things quite adamantly without having any evidence to back it up. You can see it on these boards, can read it in books, and can certainly find examples of it among the police, journalists and others back during the Whitechapel murders. It's just human nature.

I am always surprised when people assume that someone stating something quite forcefully must have some sound reason to say so even if no justification for that conclusion is ever given when the experience of day to day life dealing with other people should suggest that the opposite is very likely.

Stewart P Evans
09-28-2008, 09:43 AM
When looking at the men named above, surely they should be listed in order of seniority and with their proper status explained before being discussed. Taking a mean date of 1889, listed in descending order, they are as follows -

1. James Monro, Chief Commissioner, non-policeman, gentleman 'officer corps.'

2. Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner, non-policeman, (lawyer).

3. Melville Leslie Macnaghten, Assistant Chief Constable, non-policeman, gentleman 'officer corps.'

4. John George Littlechild, Chief Inspector, career police officer (since 1867).

5. Donald Sutherland Swanson, Chief Inspector, career police officer (since 1868).

6. Frederick George Abberline, Inspector, career police officer (since 1863).

It will be seen that I have arranged these men in priority of rank, then length of police service so that Abberline, who was the most experienced policeman in terms of length of service, comes last as he was only an inspector in 1889.

Stewart P Evans
09-28-2008, 05:43 PM
Having been for so many years Anderson's second in command and then actually going on to do the same job, Assistant Commissioner (Crime), it might be of use to recall Macnaghten's 1913 comments on the identity of the Ripper - three years after Anderson's book and three months before Littlechild wrote his letter.

"...That remarkable man was one of the most fascinating of criminals. Of course he was a maniac, but I have a very clear idea who he was and how he committed suicide, but that, with other secrets, will never be revealed by me."

09-29-2008, 12:14 PM
That he was a remarkable man,and also a maniac,is a description we might all use.That it was only an idea of who he was,falls far short of stating with conviction that he was,and the,how he committed suicide,just a bolster to the idea.
Altogether,not a very convincing arguement,that the person writing those words,knew much.

09-29-2008, 05:28 PM
Yes Sir Melville Macnaghten was a non-police officer. However, he served in an administrative capacity and conventional wisdom of the day (which was just beginning to show signs of change) was that career administrators and not top-cops were to serve in these positions.

Here is the important thing to remember about Macnaghten:

His value lies not his his professional sleuthing ability, which may have been nil.

Macnaghten is the repository for information passed on to him. He collected this information, processed as best he could, preserved it in his memoranda, and passed it on in some form to Griffiths and Sims who in turn disseminated the information until it degenerated into a game of "Chinese whispers." Macnaghten is the hub, the core, the filter through which this information flowed. This is his value to us today.

Of course, as Stewart reminds us of Sir Melville's 1913 comments, he had more information that he probably never told except perhaps in the strictest confidence.

Simply put, Macnaghten took information from Druitt's own MP, Henry Richard Farquharson in 1891, and possibly from Druitt friend and clergyman John Henry Lonsdale (all three --Macnaghten, Farquharson, and Lonsdale-- at Eton during the same time), and possibly also from a Druitt family member and possibly from an Anglican clergyman who had heard a confession (which clergyman might have been Lonsdale himself), and who knows who else, and blended and processed them into the two versions of his memos. This accounts for his errors and even contradictions. His memoirs are then a reaction to the further distortions inflicted by his successors in print.

10-05-2008, 02:02 AM
For several generations, now (ever since Sir Joseph Simpson in around in the 1960s, in fact) it has been taken for granted that what Stewart designates a policeman - one who has risen through the ranks - is most fitted to be Commissioner. Prior to that Commissiones were appointed from other occupations - especially the law and the military at first. The great founding fathers of civil policing, Sir Charles Rowan and Sir Richard Mayne, were respectively a soldier and a lawyer - and it is significant that this combination produced a brilliant model for giving us all peace and security in public places that had been unknown before 1827.
Until the 20th century, Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners were all appointed from the "gentlemanly" classes, and only Warren's objection to Macnaghten (as a white man who had been overwhelmed by rioting Indians) and Williamson's threat of resignation ensured that the first Metropolitan Chief Constable (a rank inferior to Assistant Commissioner) was an officer who had risen through the ranks. And he was, in any case, succeeded by the 'gentleman' Macnaghten.
Unsurprisingly, this began to rankle with the coppers who had walked the beat, and by the time of Anderson's and Macnaghten's retirements, the coppers' journal was starting to give them farewells and obituaries at their deaths suggesting that the real work had always been done for them by their underlings. Which may or may not have been the case: we are reading opinions rooted in a justified political grievance, though God knows, breaking down English class-consciousness and class barriers has been a very slow and difficult business.
Interestingly today, however, with a Commissioner forced to resign prematurely for the first time since the 19th century, I start to wonder heretically whether some outside blood with an outside view of things might not be good for the police. Of the Metropolitan Commisioners since Simpson, only Sir Robert Mark, with his determined elimination of what had become rampant noble and ignoble cause corruption, seems to me to match the greatness of such 'non-policeman' Commissioners as Rowan and (until his last autocratic years) Mayne; Sir Edward Henry, who introduced the fingerprinting that gave Scotland Yard its international detective lead in the 1920s and '30s; Lord Trenchard, whose whirlwind of innovations included radio cars and a wireless centre, the police forensic science laboratory, and a detective training school (although his attempt to introduce class mobility and class gradations in the Met with a Police College was undestandably resented and resisted). Even the slightly comic Sir Harold Scott - the bespectacled 'Commisioner who fell off his horse" was the right man in the right place at the right time: a civil servant who knew how to steer the force through the difficulties of government penny-pinching and austerity, and who allowed The Blue Lamp's Dixon of Dock Green to give the force a warm public image for twenty years.
I should not be at all sure that it would be a bad thing if the Met, suffering from a long-running press frenzy of hunting for real or imaginary scandals, took a few yewrs under the direction of an experienced executive commander who does not suffer from the embattled feeling of having been always under attack, yet might recognize and understand the anxiety felt by racial minorities and civil libertarians as well as those who believe the never-ending press pretence that crime is constantly increasing.
All the best,
Martin F

11-10-2011, 08:34 PM
http://www.google.com/imgres?q=scotland+yard+19th+century&um=1&hl=pt-PT&biw=1024&bih=587&tbm=isch&tbnid=N7g70Fly5Z6xhM:&imgrefurl=http://cmgurney.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html&docid=fWo5CqJ67mMJeM&imgurl=http://lh4.ggpht.com/_zfxQ5eoshTo/TOhJlS6WdXI/AAAAAAAAAo0/mNF5_jsn-5o/McCarthy%252520John%252520at%252520Sidney%252520St reet.jpg&w=414&h=603&ei=BQS8To33J5T58QOYoKzPBw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=281&sig=117442425164223868383&page=10&tbnh=115&tbnw=77&start=179&ndsp=19&ved=1t:429,r:13,s:179&tx=36&ty=26