Few bushrangers can lay claim to being the living embodiment of bushranging as John Gilbert was during his short and violent career. Known variously as “Flash Johnny” and “Happy Jack”, Gilbert was known for his impulsiveness and energy. Gilbert was a bundle of contradictions; vain, ostentatious and unpredictable yet courteous to women, admired pluck and preferred bluff over violence. He captured the imagination of New South Welshmen in the early 1860s and became a legend in his own lifetime.
During his life Gilbert’s origins were a mystery to most. Journalists would scramble for the merest hint of a clue in the hope of uncovering the story behind the most notorious highwayman in Australia. Gilbert was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1842, the youngest child of English emigrants William and Eleanor Gilbert. John had a slew of siblings: Ellen, William jnr, Francis, James and Charles. When John was still an infant his mother died, but soon afterwards William remarried to a Canadian woman named Eliza. After this union John’s half-brothers Thomas and Nicholson were born.
As a ten year old he journeyed with his family from the beautiful waterside vistas of Ontario into the United States, departing from New York on the ‘Revenue’ to the dry, sweltering goldfields of Victoria.
In 1854, twelve year-old Johnny Gilbert took his leave of his family and obtained employment as a stable boy for a pub in Kilmore. While this work provided pocket money and good experience with horses, one of his greatest loves, his exposure to the larrikins, louts and rogues travelling to and from the gold fields seems to have fostered a fascination for lawlessness in the boy. When he was about eighteen, Gilbert headed to the gold fields of New South Wales to seek his fortune.
Gilbert worked around the boom town of Kiandra, one of the most bustling gold rush locations. The gold fields in this time were a cesspool of debauchery, lawlessness and other forms of villainy. Murders, riots, lynchings and robberies were everyday occurrences and put enormous strain on the understaffed and overextended colonial police. A law passed in Britain had prevented the various regional police forces to unite as one entity, forcing the existing regional forces to remain fractured and overworked. This, combined with the rise in lawless behaviour and the huge influx of immigrants seeking riches on the goldfields, resulted in absolute mayhem. No doubt this was a perfect environment for Johnny Gilbert who had a thirst for adventure and thrill-seeking. At this time bushranging had blossomed from sporadic cases of stock theft, home invasions and highway robbery by criminals hiding in the untouched wilds into something almost industrial in its scale. The easy pickings from the mail coaches and less cautious miners meant that anyone that was unprepared for the backbreaking labour of mining for gold was very likely to “go bush”.
It was around this that Gilbert crossed paths with Frank Gardiner. Gardiner was on the run, having violated his ticket of leave conditions, and had established himself in Lambing Flat (later Young) with his mate William Fogg, running a dodgy butcher’s shop that dealt in meat from stock that had been procured illegally. Gilbert adopted the Murringo region as his new home and picked up work as a stockman. Likely it was through Gardiner and Fogg that Gilbert became associated with men that were not known at that time but would soon become household names, such as John O’Meally, Fred Lowry and John Peisley.
By 1862 Gilbert was fully entrenched in the lawless lifestyle of Gardiner and his cohort and on 10 March that year he was involved in his first documented act as a bushranger. Along with Gardiner, O’Meally and Tom McGuinness he robbed two storekeepers of almost £2000 in gold and banknotes. Such a score was no doubt absolutely thrilling for the bandits but devastating for the victims. Gilbert took to adopting a very flash dress sense as his new outlaw lifestyle began to bring in spoils he could hardly have imagined on a stockman’s wage. He was fond of ostentatious clothing such as bright red sashes and tassles, as well as jewellery and accessories, particularly fob chains and rings. He worked with Gardiner committing highway robberies including at least one involving a young squatter named Benjamin Hall. Gilbert seems to have worked his way up to being Frank Gardiner’s closest bushranging associate as the only known photograph of Gilbert is a carte de visite of him and Gardiner together.
At the beginning of June 1862 Gilbert began to strike out without Gardiner. On the first of the month he and two others allegedly robbed Herbert’s Store at Little Creek, taking monkey jackets and boots. They then went to Chard’s store and attempted to rob the store owner of £30. The commotion roused some local miners who armed themselves and attempted to capture the bandits but they managed to escape.
On 15 June, 1862, Gilbert accompanied Gardiner and his gang to Eugowra Rocks where they robbed a gold escort in one of the biggest gold heists in Australian history. The bushrangers had blocked off the road with drays from a waylaid bullock team in order to halt the Orange gold escort. When the escort arrived, Gardiner emerged from behind the boulders that rested uphill alongside the road and called upon the coach driver to bail up. Gardiner’s gang promptly opened fire, injuring several policemen and spooking the horses who bolted and caused the mail coach to crash. The gang looted the coach as the police escaped, lifting around £14000 in gold and cash (close to $4000,000 in modern Australian currency). The police responded swiftly and Sub-Inspector Pottinger led a party of police that, almost by accident, managed to find the bushrangers’ camp and recover a portion of the loot.
Just after this, Johnny Gilbert was joined by Henry Manns (one of Gardiner’s gang) and his brother Charlie Gilbert as he attempted to leave the district to avoid the increased police activity. Gilbert converted his stolen gold into cash at a bank and carried the spoils – £2500 – in a valise on his saddle.
On 7 July, the trio were stopped by Sub-Inspector Pottinger who was accompanied by Detective Lyons and a volunteer named Richard Mitchell. When they asked Johnny Gilbert for documents proving his ownership of the horse he was riding, he duped and fled. Henry Manns and Charlie Gilbert were arrested but “Happy Jack” had a plan. He rode towards the Weddin Mountains and alerted members of Gardiner’s gang and Gardiner himself. The police and their prisoners stayed overnight at a nearby station. The following day, as the police and their prisoners continued on their way, the bushrangers positioned themselves for ambush at Burrangong.
The bushrangers emerged from the bush and bailed up the escort and opened fire. Detective Lyons was thrown from his horse when it was clipped by gunfire and he chased it into the bush. Pottinger and Mitchell returned fire at the bushrangers without effect on both sides. As Pottinger and Mitchell doubled back for reinforcements. Charlie Gilbert and Henry Manns were freed and the bushrangers escaped. Once clear the men split up, Manns heading to Murrumburrah where he would soon be arrested again, the Gilbert brothers heading to Victoria where they collected their brother James and left for the nearest port to make their way out of the colony.
The brothers managed to gain passage to New Zealand where they headed for the goldfields. They were determined to go straight and leave bushranging behind them. Johnny, however, became paranoid that he would be recognised and began cross-dressing in public to counter this. His disguise was unconvincing however and ended up drawing more attention to him than it diverted. Johnny told his brother that he had to return to Australia and soon made his way to Queensland.
As this was occurring, Frank Gardiner began to grow tired of the bushranging life and escaped out of New South Wales with his mistress Kitty Brown. Gardiner’s absence left a power vacuum in the Lachlan bushranging scene.
Gilbert’s time in Queensland was short lived as his sudden appearance and distinct features immediately put him on the radar and he returned to New South Wales at the beginning of 1863, where Ben Hall was making a name for himself as a bushranger.
Initially teaming up with Fred Lowry, a tall and brash former stockman and prison escapee, Gilbert was involved in several robberies around the Yass gold fields. Gilbert decided to utilise his contacts from his time with Gardiner, teaming up with John O’Meally, Ben Hall, Patsy Daley and others. This new gang, known popularly as the Gilbert Gang, wasted no time in making a splash.
On 2 February, 1863, the gang robbed Dickenson’s Store at Spring Creek, stealing £60 worth of goods. As they made their escape they bailed up a policeman and stole his horse. While positive identification of the culprits was impossible, it is more than likely that the Gilbert Gang was responsible.
On 15 February, Vincent Cirkell, a publican in Stoney Creek, was shot dead. It was believed the Gilbert Gang suspected him of being an informant and that O’Meally had been the trigger man. This version of events was merely a fabrication as the poor man was shot during a robbery that had escalated out of control and the assailants did not match the descriptions of any of the gang members. Such misidentification was commonplace as the hysteria surrounding the gang intensified and minor bushrangers were happy to let the more prominent bandits take the blame.
The gang struck again on 28 February, robbing Solomon’s store on the Wombat Diggings. The bushrangers fired at Meyers Solomon, the storekeeper, beat a young man named George Johnstone and threatened to kill Solomon’s wife before leaving with £250 worth of loot.
The first gang member to be captured was Patsy Daley. Daley’s aggression had made him particularly wanted by police and they got their man on 11 March when he was found hiding in a mine shaft. After this, the gang’s numbers would fluctuate wildly.
On 1 April, Gilbert hit the road with Lowry and a recruit named Gibson. They were spotted by a party of police and engaged in a horseback shoot-out, ending in Gibson’s capture and Gilbert and Lowry escaping into the bush. One of the officers had mocked Gilbert’s shooting, yelling that he couldn’t hit a haystack.
The Gilbert Gang continued their depredations unabated. Along with various robberies, the bushrangers made a point of partaking in less villainous activities. Gilbert and O’Meally at one point crashed a wedding and only left after being given some booze and cake. Despite such jovial incidents, the gang’s robberies were becoming more frequent and less discerning. Nobody was exempt from their attention regardless of age, sex or social class. Gilbert had even taken to using fire as a tool to distract people from pursuing him after a robbery.
On 7 June the gang were particularly busy, robbing Henry’s store near Possum Flat of half a chest of tea and dress prints; O’Brien’s store was robbed of £37 cash; McCarthy’s store was stuck up and the widow McCarthy liberated of her rings and 15 shillings, as well as taking four ounces of gold from one of her customers; finally they tried to bail up McConnell and Co. but when the staff refused to let them in they peppered the place with shot, broke in and looted the place, taking goods and £15 from the till. Having had their fill of robbing stores they robbed Heffernan’s pub of booze, watches and firearms before moving on to Regan’s Hotel while singing O’er the Hills and Far Away, an old English folk song.
On 21 June, Gilbert and Lowry attempted to rob John McBride but were met with resistance. McBride drew a Colt revolver and started firing, blowing Lowry’s hat off. In the battle McBride was hit in the thigh and the bushrangers bolted. McBride would die soon after from his wound. This appears to have been the last straw for Lowry, who was not sighted with any of Gilbert’s gang afterwards. He would go on to form his own gang and operate near Fish Creek.
After a series of brushes with police, Gilbert and O’Meally set their sights on bigger fish. On 30 July they rode into Carcoar and attempted to rob the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. This was the first time anyone had attempted to rob a bank in New South Wales. Gilbert attempted to lure the clerk with a dodgy cheque while O’Meally watched the door. When O’Meally attempted to bail up the bank manager at the door, Gilbert was distracted and the clerk pulled a pistol on the bushrangers and fired a shot. At that moment the manager ran for help and scores of gawkers filed out into the street. The bushrangers cut their losses and mounted, riding out of town as fast as they could. Unwilling to call it a day, the pair robbed a store on the way back to their camp, leaving with around £300 worth of goods and cash.
The gang, now merely comprising of Gilbert and O’Meally, had recruited a juvenile delinquent named John Vane as a telegraph and supplier of horses. Since the failed bank robbery the pair had decided they needed more manpower and adopted as junior gang members Vane and his best friend Mickey Burke. Vane was tall, lanky and somewhat clumsy whereas Burke was energetic and enthusiastic.
The new look Gilbert Gang’s first operation was on 2 August. At dusk they arrived at Coombing Park and stalked the grounds. Their intention was to steal a prized racehorse named Comus II, owned by Icely, the station owner. Vane and Burke took Comus II from the stable along with a grey gelding belonging to Sub-Inspector Davidson but were spotted by Icely’s groom. The groom took aim but was shot in the mouth by Burke, allowing the bushrangers to escape.
Now the gang reconnected with Ben Hall and became a formidable force unlike anything yet seen in New South Wales. On 24 August the gang bailed up nine diggers and held them captive while they waited for four storekeepers they had been informed were due to pass through. The gang robbed these storekeepers of whatever they had on them that was somewhat valuable, disappointed that these seemingly well-to-do men were not as flush as had been intimated. The gang also stole the horses and gear from the men to replace the knocked up mounts they had been on and rode towards Junee. In the meantime the alarm had been raised and a police party led by Sub-Inspector Pottinger rode out to catch the bushrangers. The groups crossed paths and there was a shoot-out, but the bandits escaped much to Pottinger’s chagrin.
In Junee on 27 August, the gang got to work. Gilbert raided Hammond’s Store with Vane and Hall while O’Meally and Burke struck Williams’ pub. Gilbert left a good impression on the Hammonds and their servants with his fine clothing, well groomed appearance and pleasant demeanour during conversation. He even took the time to flirt with the ladies. When the gang left town they took two of Hammond’s horses, five packhorses and goods and cash to the value of £250.
The gang continued to wreak havoc, robbing stores and distributing the stolen goods amongst their sympathiser and selling the surplus to traders. At the end of August, O’Meally killed a storekeeper named Barnes who they had previously robbed. When they encountered Barnes they attempted to rob him and he tried to ride away. As he fled O’Meally shot him under the shoulder and he fell to the ground, smashing his head, dying instantly.
On 19 September the gang set up a mile out of Blayney and stuck up travellers. Nine people were captured and robbed and kept captive under some trees nearby. A mounted trooper was bailed up and robbed and made to join the others. This was followed by the mail coach from Carcoar, which was also bailed up. When one of the occupants refused to follow Gilbert’s orders he threatened to blow the man’s brains out. The unperturbed traveller, named Garland, called Gilbert’s bluff but Ben Hall intervened and convinced Garland to do as instructed or receive a beating. The mail was sifted through while Vane and Burke bailed up more travellers, taking possession of a racehorse named Retriever. Now with no less than a dozen prisoners the decision was made to head for Blayney. As they went Gilbert bailed up a man named Beardmore who offered to write a cheque for £20 if Gilbert would loan him a revolver and duel at twelve paces. Gilbert refused, but Beardmore’s jibe that he knew Gilbert wouldn’t be game infuriated the bushranger and prompted him to accept the challenge. Hall again intervened. Gilbert relieved Beardmore of a gold ring, but when the man asked to have it back because it was a gift from his mother, Gilbert accepted because he admired Beardmore’s pluck.
A few days later, the gang bailed up three constables. They stripped them naked and tied them to a tree. O’Meally threatened to shoot the men but Hall cooled him off. The gang took possession of the uniforms and with the one taken from the trooper near Blayney, they now had four complete troopers’ uniforms, which they began using as disguises while riding. The gang was about to seal their place in history.
In September, the gang raided Grubbenbong Station, the property of John Loudon. They ransacked the place, taking any valuables they could find before demanding supper. When Mickey Burke went to smoke his pipe Gilbert ordered him outside as it was impolite to smoke near women. After the meal, Gilbert was so taken by the Loudons that he returned all they had taken. The gang then rode to William Rothery’s Cliefden Station, where they again bailed up the household and demanded refreshments. Hall and Vane checked out Rothery’s horses before the gang indulged in food and champagne. They rode off with two of the horses and headed for Canowindra.
Here they arrived at dusk the following day, bailing up Robinson’s Hotel and shouted the patrons drinks and cigars. Gradually the townsfolk were all taken prisoner in the hotel and what began as a raid became a big party with dancing and piano. While the townsfolk were occupied with the dance the local store was raided, the loot put on packhorses. The local constable had been handcuffed and was brought in and placed on a chair to watch the amusements. The festivities continued into the early hours. The gang left at sunrise, but there was more to come.
On 3 October the gang raided Bathurst. Whereas Canowindra had a tiny population of a few dozen, Bathurst was a thriving city with more than 6000 residents. They arrived in the evening and made their way through the crowds of Saturday night shoppers. Their first stop was the gunsmith but none of the pieces on offer were to their taste. They moved on to the jewellers but when the jeweller’s daughter saw what was happening she screamed and tried to raise the alarm. The bushrangers mounted and began riding wildly through the streets. They then bailed up the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel with the intent of stealing a racehorse named Pasha, but the horse was not there so the gang departed.
With the gang’s activities becoming ever more brazen, a reward of £2,500 was offered for the apprehension of the gang or information leading to it. This did not bother the bushrangers, however, and they continued business as usual. On 12 October, they once again struck Canowindra. As before, Robinson’s Hotel was bailed up and the townsfolk herded inside for another night of festivities. The gang held the town for three days, covering the cost of meals and drinks. All who entered the town were detained but not once were they bothered by police.
Of course, the good fortune of the gang could not last and the first major blow to what was now considered the Gilbert-Hall Gang was about to be landed. On 24 October, the gang descended upon Dunn’s Plains near Bathurst. Here was the residence of Henry Keightley, a police magistrate who had been assisting police and openly bragging about what he would do if he encountered the gang. The gang ordered Keightley to surrender but instead he retreated inside and opened fire on the bushrangers. A heated battle ensued during which Burke was shot in the stomach. In incredible agony he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head but still took half an hour to die. Keightley and the other occupants of the house surrendered when they ran out of ammunition. Vane, beside himself at Burke’s death, beat Keightley and his friend Dr. Pechey. Keightley was then held to ransom. His wife was ordered into town to fetch £500, which would them be given to the bushrangers in exchange for Keightley’s life. The demands were met and the gang took off, true to their word.
It was now established that Ben Hall had taken control of the gang. His generally calm demeanour proving to be more suited to leadership then Gilbert’s impulsive and whimsical style. The reward was raised to £4000 for the gang or £100 for their accomplices. The death of Burke had hit Vane hard and tensions arose between him and Gilbert who struck him during an argument and gave Vane a black eye. Vane promptly turned himself in, no longer seeing any appeal in the lifestyle he had adopted. The gang was once again reduced to the trio of Gilbert, Hall and O’Meally. They passed through Canowindra again but only stayed for a drink. The police were soon hot on their heels and interrupted a robbery. The gang got away but the police were becoming an ever more problematic occurrence. Brushes with the police became more and more frequent with the gang having to drop everything and run on multiple occasions, rarely even having time to get their boots on. In this atmosphere of frustration and increased tension the gang decided to attack Goimbla Station.
Goimbla Station was the home of David Campbell, a squatter who had been assisting police. As with the Keightleys, the gang intended to intimidate him into no longer helping their enemies. Campbell refused to surrender to the bushrangers and took cover in the house and opened fire. Another battle took place, during which the gang burned a barn and a stable, roasting the squatter’s horses alive. Mrs. Campbell joined in the fracas, fetching guns and ammunition while being fired at, and the squatter’s brother William was wounded. David Campbell refused to give in and seeing O’Meally stand up from behind cover, he fired and hit him in the neck. He died instantly. Gilbert and Hall knew they stood no chance and ran away, leaving the blood-drenched corpse of their longest standing confederate behind.
For the remainder of 1863 and into 1864, the pair continued to rob travellers and raid stores. They recruited John Dunleavy and Jim “Old Man” Gordon to help out. The gang were involved in several shoot-outs with the police including one at the appropriately named Bang Bang Hotel. These violent brushes with the law seemed to be bringing out the worst in Hall and Gilbert. When they bailed up a man named Barnes, who they suspected of being involved with the disaster at Goimbla, they threatened to burn his cart and hang him, even going so far as to procure a rope. Hall suggested that instead of a hanging they should flog him, so Barnes was tied to a tree and given 25 lashes.
Perhaps realising what the bushranging life was doing to him and those around him, Gilbert took his leave of the gang around August. While Ben Hall continued to commit crimes with Dunleavy and the Old Man, Gilbert returned to Victoria where his family lived.
In October 1864 Gilbert returned from his sojourn to rejoin Ben Hall who had been abandoned by the other two in the intervening months. They recruited John Dunn, a seventeen year old ex-jockey, who had previously telegraphed for Gilbert and O’Meally but was now wanted for skipping bail. Straight away the gang launched into their old tricks with new blood. Dunn was a natural, immediately keeping pace with the other two as they bailed up a buggy at Breadalbane Plains on 24 October, establishing the new outfit. More robberies followed but Hall was not satisfied with this and wanted another taste of the glory days.
16 November 1864 saw the Hall Gang strike at Black Springs, just outside Jugiong. Dozens of travellers were bailed up, including diggers, teamsters, squatters and Chinese, who were robbed then kept prisoner on the opposite side of a hill to shield them from the road. The gang intended to rob the mail coach that was due that afternoon. A trooper named McLaughlin was bailed up and added to the collective and when the coach arrived shortly after, the gang were surprised by the police escort riding behind. A horseback gunfight ensued. During the gunfight Gilbert shot Sergeant Edmund Parry in the back, killing him instantly. This was the point of no return for Gilbert.
The gang continued a spate of smaller robberies, stealing valuables and horses from the Binalong region. The mail started sending the deliveries by horseback during the night in an effort to foil the robbers but the bush telegraph informed the gang and they adjusted operation accordingly. When they had taken all they desired, they burned the rest of the letters and papers. While Hall and Gilbert always rode together, Dunn was not always present for the gang’s nefarious activities.
On Boxing Day, 1864, the gang bailed up Edward Morriss at his store in Binda. They raided the cashbox and took over £100. The gang then escorted Morriss and his wife to a ball at the Flag Hotel. With the bushrangers were their girlfriends Christina McKinnon and the Monks sisters Peggy and Ellen. At the ball the gang sang, danced and shouted drinks all the while acting in a lewd fashion with their female companions. When Morriss escaped to release the gang’s horses, the bushrangers fired on him and then turned their ire on his store. The bushrangers set fire to the building causing £1000 in damages and destroying the records of Morriss’ debtors.
26 January, 1865, the gang rode to Kimberley’s Inn, Collector, and held it up. Earlier that day they had been engaged in their usual activity on the roads. While Hall and Gilbert raided the inside, Dunn tried to keep guard outside. When Constable Nelson arrived to arrest the bushrangers, Dunn shot him dead. When Gilbert examined the body, he took the murdered trooper’s pistol belt to replace his own.
On 6 February, 1865, the gang went to work near Springfield Station. After they had robbed several travellers and a bullock team, a buggy arrived carrying the four Faithfull boys, sons of the squatter who owned Springfield. When the gang attempted to bail them up, two of the boys, Percy and George, presented firearms. A gunfight broke out during which Gilbert’s horse, spooked by the noise, reared just as he was aiming his revolver. The sudden movement blocked the aim and the horse was killed as the shot hit it in the head. Gilbert took cover behind a fence as bullets struck close. Hall chased the youths, seemingly intent on gunning them down as they retreated to their house. The gang ransacked the boys’ things and retreated before they could return.
In response to the murders perpetrated by the gang as well as the depredations of Daniel Morgan who had been operating along the Murrumbidgee at the time, the New South Wales government passed the Felons Apprehension Act that would make the three Hall Gang members outlaws by act of parliament. They had 30 days to surrender before the act was passed.
The trio were unfazed, continuing to add to their long list of crimes by stealing horses and firearms, robbing travellers and mail coaches. They brought in a fourth member to the group, long rumoured to have been Braidwood bushranger Thomas Clarke, but almost certainly Dunn’s mate Daniel Ryan. The quartet attempted to rob a gold escort on 13 March near Araluen. The gang opened fire and a battle erupted during which two troopers named Kelly and Byrne were injured while defending the gold. The bushrangers were outmaneuvered and forced to retreat without the loot.
The four bushrangers continued to operate in the wake of the failed heist. Moving their operations closer to Binalong, they stole horses to replace the ones they had been riding on in order to keep ahead of the police. By 17 March the gang was back down to three. They continued to rely on sympathisers for food and shelter, the police becoming more dogged in their pursuit.
In May the gang split, Hall seemingly taking leave of Dunn and Gilbert. He set up camp at Billabong Creek but was sold out by one of his sympathisers, Mick Coneley. On 5 May Hall was ambushed and shot to death, around 30 bullets being pumped into his body. He never fired a shot and was still mere days away from being declared an outlaw.
Gilbert and Dunn must have sensed the net was closing in. They no longer knew who they could trust, but Dunn was certain his family would provide them temporary shelter.
On 12 May, 1865, Gilbert and Dunn sought refuge with Dunn’s grandfather near Binalong. Overnight, the police were informed and they surrounded the house. The following day the police made their move and as the bushrangers tried to escape, a running gunfight took place. Gilbert was shot through the heart by Constable John Bright and killed instantly, but Dunn escaped. Gilbert was 23 years old.
His corpse was taken back to Binalong and autopsied. An inquest was held and Gilbert was buried in the paddock of the police station, the grave was unmarked. Dunn was captured nine months later and, after a trial, was hanged in Darlinghurst Gaol for the murder of Constable Nelson.
It has been claimed that in his short life Gilbert had committed more than 600 crimes. His flashy dress sense, jovial personality, expert horsemanship and flair for drama made him instantly popular among the class of people that admired rogues. Yet, his short fuse, willingness to use lethal force and his lack of distinction between who he victimised are qualities that paint him as one of the most villainous bushrangers to his detractors. Like many bushrangers he is both as noble and as ignoble as he is described by his supporters and detractors. It is a paradox only resolved by simplistic reasoning.