Spotlight: MORGAN HAS GONE !

Tumut and Adelong Times (NSW : 1864 – 1867; 1899 – 1950), Thursday 20 April 1865, page 2


MORGAN HAS GONE! A week ago the name carried terror and alarm with it ; people did not know whether or not any night they might not be shot down in the dark and coldly murdered ; men of wealth were arranging to sell their property, and leave a colony where lawless out-rage and crime were so rampant ; persons who had thoughts of settling amongst us and giving us the benefit of their labor, their capital, and their skill, abandoned the idea in dread of the safety of their lives ; and now, at the end of a little week, the same name is a theme of public, rejoicing, and its owner is buried in the cemetery at Wangaratta —

” —— Cut off even in the blossom of his sins, Unhousel’d, unappointed, unanel’d No reckoning made, but sent to his account With all his imperfections on his head,”

And there was something dramatic, something appropriate in the end of Morgan. He who had without a word of warning, shot down others, was, in his own turn, treated in the same way ; and he who never gave one himself, complained that he “had not had a fair chance.” The very day was remarkable. It used to be a by-word that Sunday was a “Morgan day.” Poor Smith was shot, on a Sunday, M’Lean was murdered on a Sunday ; and, on a Sunday, these crimes have been avenged on their perpetrator. We have often said that Morgan’s end would be accomplished in some simple manner, and so it has proved. The thousands of pounds, probably now swelled to hundreds of thousands, have done nothing ; the police constables, by the score and by the fifty, could not achieve that which the coolness of a nurse girl and the courage of a simple shepherd have been able to bring about. Not all the force of detectives, not all the marchings and counter-marchings and ambuscades of the police, with all their trappings and firearms which would never go off when they were wanted, and with all their horses, which were always found useless when required for a run, could accomplish what the wit of ALICE KEENAN and the pulling, of a single trigger by the man WENDLAN did at Peechelba on that eventful Sunday morning.

And, at this stage we must make a few remarks respecting the police. Of course every Victorian paper we shall take up for the next week or two will be full, of praises of the police of that Colony, and of censure and disparagement of the force of New South Wales. It is true that the police here have failed ; but those of Victoria are not entitled to much of the glory. The shot would have been fired by WENDLAN if the police of Wangaratta and Beechworth had not been at his back, and it is very probable that if the single-barrelled gun had been in any of their hands instead of his, the shot would have missed its mark ; so that there is nothing to crow about after all, although when Morgan. fell, hit by WENDLAND’s shot, Detective MAINWARING and Troopers PERCY and EVANS could rush upon him and shout “we have got you now you rascal.” It must be remembered that the police of New South Wales have had numerous and great difficulties to contend with. As a rule they have been badly officered by men taken from counters, banks, and stores, and who have had more skill in cultivating a moustache or a Dundreary than in learning their business as members of a police force. They have been so bound and tied up in coils of red tape that every movement was fettered. They have not only not had the assistance and support of the settlers and squatters, but they have actually had their opposition. The hands on the stations have been of a very different description to those employed on the other side, and universally, instead of information being given to those engaged in his capture, it has actually been withheld or they have been purposely misled and thrown off the scent. So far has this been practiced that, with some few exceptions, the police have actually avoided the stations and have preferred to bush it and rely upon their own exertions. This has knocked up and killed men and horses, while those who ought to have aided and assisted them have protected and harbored the miscreant whom they were denouncing in words, but sheltering and sympathising with in their actions. The very mailmen who have met and seen him repeatedly have been afraid to give any information, and have almost trembled if it got out to the world that they repeated any remarks he might make to them while he was robbing Her Majesty’s mails without the slightest resistance. All these things have combined to make Morgan’s capture almost an impossibility, and it is only fair to the police to record the fact on their be-half.

In Victoria a better class of servants are employed, and WENDLAN could do that which here would cost him his own life. And this leads us to remark on the subject of the reward that should be given him and the girl ALICE KEENAN for their part in the transaction. We do not know whether there will be any difficulty in the payment of the reward of $1100 offered by the New South Wales Government, or whether the Victorian Government will also come forward and give a handsome amount to the girl and the man ; but we would go upon much broader principles, and at once say that it is the special duty of every squatter in the Colony and every landholder to raise a fund, of some thousands of pounds, which shall make them, both independent for the remainder of their lives, and we trust that immediate steps will be taken to open such a fund by lists and contributions through every bank and newspaper in New South Wales. And this should be done and the money invested in Government securities to give ALICE KEENAN and WENDLAN a life pension without any reference to any paltry sum they may or may not get from either Government. This would be the best inducement to others to go and do likewise, and would prevent much bushranging hereafter by the wholesome dread of punishment constantly hanging over their heads from those who would honestly and courageously do their duty.

We see that it is the opinion, of the Victorian Attorney-General that as a matter of form WENDLAN must take his trial for shooting Morgan. This certainly appears very ridiculous, particularly after a verdict by his fellow countrymen of “Justifiable homicide.” But the law, does curious things at times, and this is one of them with a vengeance. It was well known that a convict illegally at large was in a man’s house and premises to rob, and probably to murder ; that he was there with a heavy reward upon his head for numerous crimes of the worst description ; and, forsooth, because he was not first called upon to surrender to those whom he would instantly have shot if they had spoken a word, the man who had the nerve and courage to fire at him in pure self defence, if such a thing ever existed yet in this world, is to be made to look like a criminal himself. We should like to see the jury who would find such a man guilty of any legal offence! If such a jury could be constituted, by any chance, we certainly think that they ought themselves to be afterwards tried as aiders and abettors of the ill deeds, of MORGAN. We perfectly agree with the following remarks of a Melbourne contemporary on the subject :— “He would be rather an unreasonable stickler for the letter of the law, then, who would insist that this reckless ruffian should have been first put upon his guard, and thereby enabled to deal death freely from his many revolvers amongst the ranks of his pursuers, as they emerged from their ambush. Besides if WENDLAN had not fired the moment he did, Morgan in another instant, as his suspicions had been roused, would have probably descried him, and shot him down at once, as was his wont. It was therefore as much an act of self defence, as one of aggression, on the part of WENDLAN to anticipate the attack, certain to be directed in another instant against himself by the bushranger. And there can be little doubt, therefore that his firing upon Morgan was justified, according to the strict letter of the law, by the circumstances in which he was placed. It would be strange indeed if WENDLAN should suffer a moment’s inconvenience from his resolute conduct. If he were, it would go a long way towards educating our population into the New South Wales reverence for freebooters and homicidal bushrangers.” — Banner.

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