Jack the Ripper, Conspiracies, and the Press
By Dave Yost
E-mail correspondence - Written March 2000
I would like to reference some items as a preface, which you may wish to consider:
1) The Star might be viewed as the "mainstay" of the radical press and it was formed during the early part of 1888 (January, I believe). In its 1st issue its purpose to bring about change by revolution if necessary was clearly stated, and that their intent was to stir up the masses. (I also believe it was around this time that Socialism and Marxism were gaining footholds as political beliefs.)
2) At the beginning of the murders, the conservative press (The Times, etc) actually defended the police.
3) Because of the public interest in the murders, quite a few new papers were created, giving the average reader approximately 160 some odd news papers from which to choose (this was an increase of about 128 news papers). Interesting, however, that the Daily Telegraph maintained the largest circulation throughout; but the Times was the only paper which could be directly quoted within a Court of Law.
4) 'Bloody Sunday' was a term coined by the radical press and it is very miss leading as only one person was killed during the incident. But, the emotional impact of this term did its damage since it was so often repeated.
5) Because of the large influx of newspapers, there was in affect a "circulation war", causing even the conservative papers to take an anti-police stance, eventually, in order to compete and not loose out financially.
6) The poor conditions of the East End resulted from numerous factors, but mainly from the large increase of immigrants to London, the financial problems of Britain’s cotton industry due to the US Civil War (which caused 3,000,000 layoffs just in Manchester’s cotton industry), and the numerous social and redevelopment programs which were ill-conceived and poorly carried out.
Within 30 years London's immigration population tripled without any successful attempt to account for it. Which was difficult as the many people who created this population were of the low labor class and with minimal skills; (how many bricklayers does a town need, for example?) Many women turned to prostitution but the anti-solicitation laws that were enacted didn’t decrease their number, but only put them at odds with the police.
7) Fenian activity was still occurring within the West End of London and occupied enough time of the Metropolitan Police.
8) There are several ways to view JTR with respect to conditions at the time: A) He came about as a result of it, B) He brought it all together, so to speak, and C) His actions were merely exploited by such people as the radical press in order to advance their own agenda. (There should be no doubt that he did not create the conditions.) As for whether or not JTR consciously took an active hand in the events that transpired (apart from the killings themselves), or was merely a nut, an everyday serial killer? Well...guess that depends on what you wish to accept and how you perceive the big picture.
I can not necessarily agree that the setting for the murders started with Warren's appointment to Commissioner, since this occurred in Feb 1886 when Henderson was forced to resign due to political pressures caused by the outcries of the Middle Class when their shops were damaged after a demonstration turned riot. I can understand how some may conceive this notion, but the conditions of 1888 were already in force long before Warren's appointment. The major difference was the lack of the radical press constantly buzzing like a bee in the ear of the poor. The middle, working & upper classes still fully supported Warren till the conservative papers began to criticize him.
Warren did desire a "free reign", as it were, in how to run the Metropolitan Police. However, the problems between him and Matthews began in the summer of 1886 when Matthews became Home Secretary. The major conflict there was not so much in how the Metropolitan Police should be run, but the autonomy of the Commissioner's office itself. This conflict did not start with Warren/Matthews and doubt it ended with Warren's resignation; (it had been an internal conflict for about 50 years prior the murders, i.e., c.1838 which is only about ten years after the Metropolitan Police was created by Sir Robert Peel). It should also be mentioned that there were internal conflicts within the Metropolitan Police itself. Monroe acted like his Secret Department should not come under the Commissioner but directly under the Home Secretary. Additionally, Warren had actually forwarded two resignations. The first was rejected. Upon Warren being reprimanded for providing a press release that was not approved by the Home Office, he tendered his second resignation, which was accepted and dubiously announced at the time of MJK's death. The radical press trumpeted this as a victory, neither knowing nor understanding the forces behind the resignation.
Another item is that on 10 Nov, a pardon was publicly offered. This was also viewed as a triumph and wrongly connected to Warren's resignation. It was actually Dr Phillips who persuaded Matthews to provide the pardon, but it is unknown as to what arguments Phillips used. Also, the idea of a reward was an another source of conflict almost from the beginning between the Government and the general populace of the East End. Even though private offers of reward were given, including one for 500 pounds by a Member of Parliament, this was deemed unsatisfactory, since it was not an "official" reward from the Government whose position was - no reward in the case of murder, as it tends to cause innocent people to be wrongly accused merely for the money. The East End wrongly assumed this lack of an "official" reward was due to the fact that the women were East End street walkers and killed in Whitechapel, as compared to a West End tart working in a brothel being killed in a well-to-do neighborhood. A classic example of the have-nots blaming the haves for their lot in life. This class distinction was readily used by the radical press since they wished to stir up the poor, hoping for a revolution against her majesty’s government.
After Warren's resignation, notice of the pardon, and the apparent cessation of the murders, did the East End suddenly improve? NO. Were people more aware of the conditions within the East End? YES. The aims of the radical press were never realized, except perhaps in the form of Warren's resignation which had nothing to do with the murders or the agenda of the radical press. Did Warren's resignation make the "huddled masses" feel better? POSSIBLY, thinking they had a hand in it and that it would do them good, like those who go on hunger strikes till there's peace in the Mid East. Do their actions assist with the political turmoil in that area? No, but the protestors feel better for having done it. Although, I wonder if much of the press and populace of the east end self-fulfilled their own "prophecies", as it were, because it seems to me that they hindered the police more than aided them with their constant complaining about the police, numerous letters to the police, and of course we can not forget with their harming innocent people because some bloke wrongly thought some guy was JTR, which created a mob condition. How much man-hour was virtually wasted from dealing with all of this while still carrying on normal police duties, investigating the crimes themselves, and from dealing with the Fenian activity in the West End? The people of the East End created their own problems - they found it easy enough to drift to London or even walk to Kent for Hop-picking, but they found it impossible to drift out into the country and obtain work on a farm. West Enders were being bombed!
It was the radical press who never forgave Warren for anything they felt was unjust and who constantly blamed Warren for everything they felt was wrong in their lives. This was extremely unfair and ultra-critical. Yet, this view was hashed and re-hashed so often that the masses accepted it also. I would also think that the press' reactions after MJK's death was the result of several things: The primary one being that they began to run other lead stories keeping JTR on the back burner in order to maintain their circulation. After MJK, there was a police drop off in manpower, but this was do to financial considerations and not from any personal knowledge or insight about the murders or the killer(s). With no new leads, no "exciting" interviews, etc, the press moved onto other issues, occasionally bringing out JTR, knowing it would automatically sell papers. I recall one paper that declared that someone who was arrested was JTR. 4 or 5 years later they stated that someone else was JTR. Does this mean or indicate anything? No, except that papers were willing to drag out JTR whenever possible knowing it would sell. Much like today, place "JTR" on the title and you've got a seller no matter what the book's contents might be, and now it seems that the more unusual and exciting the theory can be made, the more quickly the book will be bought. Do these books help our study? Maybe, but probably not in any fashion conceivable to the author. But, I do think at times that they do hurt us, much like the radical press hurt the police in conducting their investigations.
Actually the distrust of and anger towards Warren stemmed from those with whom he conflicted during such incidents as ‘Bloody Sunday’ - the lawbreakers. The working & middle classes did not "oppose" him till much later, and although I've never read anything about it, I doubt very much that the upper class "opposed" him at all.
The murders occurring in 1888 may or may not be a coincidence, depending on what you think Jack's motives were, but how much better would it have been for political gain to begin these murders in Jan of 1888 rather than the fall? I tend to think of JTR as a typical serial killer that may or may not have had a permanent residence within Whitechapel. From this view, determining his motives is a mute point, as we can not fully account for why a serial killer does what he does. This also indicates that outside forces exploited his actions for their own greed, gains and goals. This also brings up an interesting question; did Jack start killing while in Whitechapel and/or stop killing while in Whitechapel? I personally have no thought on this question, since I am concentrating on knowing & understanding the events directly related to the deaths of the canonical five, believing this is the best starting point from which to conduct my investigations. Albeit, I am familiar with one or two people who have at least looked into other murders that were committed outside London, away from England after MJK's death. Yet even this is assuming that JTR started his killing spree within Whitechapel.
With respect to royalty, Queen Victoria was concerned about the murders. She herself received letters regarding them. One of the more notables was from the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, but I think it was with respect to the offer of reward. No reply was given as I recall.
There were numerous arrests and many more that were detained and questioned. Pizer is a good example of this and of why offers of reward were not coming from the Government, and it demonstrates what I've previously mentioned. Pizer was arrested by Sgt. Thick (who knew Pizer) and was detained for about 36 hours because of information given to police by a man named Violennia. Violennia was questioned for 8 hours and did view the body, and he was eventually reprimanded for wasting the police's time. Pizer was released and gave a satisfactory account of himself during the Chapman inquest. He was "exonerated". The Press however stated he was 'Leather Apron' and might be involved in the killings. Pizer took them to court for liable and won! This entire incident is a good example of people being falsely accused, of people being arrested, of the police following any/all leads, of the press incorrectly reporting events, and of the time, efforts, etc that were wasted by the police in order to follow up on this lie given them by Violennia. This is possibly a good example of the historical re-telling of stories relating to JTR and how much time we as researchers waste used to learn and discuss topics like Pizer when this should already be well known and summarily dismissed, if even considered at all.
I think several things have helped to produce the vast number of suspects we know about today. 1) With literally volumes of press accounts at the time, the average person possibly felt that he knew what was to be known - except who JTR was. 2) No official report was available till 1976 when MEPO 3/140 was placed within the Public Records Office. 3) Published works on JTR whether a book or contemporary official's memoir spoke a lot of who they thought did it, even the memoranda which came out around 1954. But even then Macnaughten spoke of these three men in a context and with an intent to demonstrate how foolish the news paper was for relating Cutbush as JTR...nothing more...nothing less. It was not until Rumbelow's book was there any serious attempt to look at the information available on the case and not merely spew forth another suspect. 4) No one place or book has every piece of information on the crimes and there are significant flaws in A-Z to render it merely as a useful guide and not as "holy writ". 5) Today, there many books on JTR, (i.e., books on suspects). These books will often ignore information, miss use info, and/or be lacking on info and will typically base the reasoning for suspecting a man of being a serial killer on numerous "what ifs" compounded by suppositions and combining all of this with what I call "adjectival embellishments". So what we have is a great story - fiction, not historical. 6) Another aspect is the poor listing of references and sources. Sudgen's book is about the best one on this aspect but even his is lacking on certain respects. 7) Lastly, we have the human element and no two people will view the same event in the same way or come to same conclusion with the exact same data before them, and we draw upon our own experiences and background when making the decisions we do.
Personally I agree with Warren's actions regarding the graffito. The markets opened up at 5am. By the time there would have been enough light for a good photo, many people would have thronged to the area causing at best difficulties for the police. What should have been done was a proper comparison between the two notebooks and the writing - sadly this was not done. There are many situations in this case where we can easily say; it would've been nice if... such as if Cadoche had enough curiosity to look over the fence which was also remarked on by Baxter during the inquest. To me there would be little gained by having a photo of the graffito (but it would be nice to have), assuming it would've survived all these years in the first place - so it may be a mute point to consider having the photo taken in the first place. While the message is ambiguous since it uses double negatives, I do think it does blame the Jews for something. For what? I don't know, as the writing never said for what the men should be blamed. Which version might be the more correct one? Does it matter since they both boil down to saying the same thing? Insp. Dew wrote that many such messages existed throughout the city. Anti-Semitic feelings were readily expressed and the occupants of that building in Goulston were primarily Jewish. Martin Fido has pointed out to me that there was a Jewish shoe store/factory near there and it may have been from a disgruntled purchaser.
I don't think we've been kept in the dark, as the information has always been there. Keep in mind that possibilities always exist, but the "truth" only exists within our own minds, because truth is a matter of philosophy. Case in point: there are about 100+ "truths" in this case of JTR, one for each suspect. Which one is accurate or factual, if any of them? To me JTR was a serial killer, plain and simple, and that his actions were used by the radical press. While I understand from where some people may come with this conspiracy line of thinking, I seriously doubt that the murders were committed to bring down Warren or create turmoil within her majesty’s government. I personally see no conspiracy except that to exploit the murders, which became as fruitless as the anyone's ability to date to name the man, so I don't think there should be any concern regarding a conspiracy to withhold JTR’s identity.
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