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French and British Responses to the Anarchist Violence of the 1890s
by E. Thomas Wood Pembroke College Dissertation submitted for the degree of M. Phil. in European Studies at the University of Cambridge 15 July 2002
E. Thomas Wood 56 Canterbury Street Cambridge CB4 3QF Tel.: (01223) 690698 E-mail: Tom@The-Wood-Family.org
A Purblind Violence
Liberty of Action
Among the compagnons
To Check the Conspiracy
I have benefited from an unusual amount of collegial assistance in working on this dissertation. I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the suggestions, encouragement and other aid provided by the following scholars: Christopher Andrew, professor of modern and contemporary history, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; Ronald M. Bulatoff, archival specialist, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California; Dr. Lindsay Clutterbuck, a serving officer in the Special Branch; Dr. Christopher Coker, reader in international relations, London School of Economics and Political Science; Hsi-Huey Liang, emeritus professor of history, Vassar College; and Bernard Porter, professor of modern history, University of Newcastle. Dr. Geoffrey Edwards of Pembroke College, Cambridge, has assisted me both practically as my graduate tutor and intellectually through seminars and discussions that stimulated my thoughts about topics such as law-enforcement cooperation in Europe, past and present. I am most grateful. Above all, I am indebted to Dr. Robert Tombs of St. John’s College, Cambridge, supervisor of this work. His support for my work has taken many forms, and I am privileged to have worked under his tutelage. I could not have asked for a more productive relationship with a supervisor. Naturally, I alone bear responsibility for this work in its final incarnation.
I am thankful to acknowledge a £47 grant in support of my research from the Thornton History Fund of Pembroke College, Cambridge. I must also thank my friend Dr. Gerald Honigsblum, of Boston University, for allowing me to stay in his Paris apartment and serving as a sounding board for raw ideas I brought back from libraries and archives each day. Thanks are also owing to my M.Phil. course-mate Catherine Bossenmeyer for helping me negotiate an especially bewildering admissions procedure at the archives of France’s foreign ministry. Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to my wife Nicki and our daughter Eloise, who have endured occasional solitude and myriad lifestyle adjustments during the past year. You can have the computer back now. —E. Thomas Wood Cambridge, 15 July 2002
how Britain dealt with the diplomatic problems attendant on its traditional tolerance of political exiles. . on what might be called a unilateral or a bilateral basis depending on how one defines the sides. Another will examine how each government dealt with these matters and. one main chapter is intended to define those issues and the reaction of the public to them in France and Britain. A third main chapter will examine the anti-anarchist efforts undertaken by France against anarchists in England. Those parallels motivated this exploration of the antianarchist struggles of France and Britain. distinct in each country but also distinct from those confronting any other European regime.’ This work will explore the issues Britain and France faced as a consequence of the anarchist attacks of the 1890s. though it is meant as a work of history rather than a study of current policy issues. That discovery. and perhaps instructive. The final main chapter will examine British and French responses to multilateral initiatives against anarchism that eventually developed into one of the earliest attempts to achieve pan-European police cooperation – a goal that remains somewhat elusive even today. The parallels between their experiences and those of today’s world powers in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States are myriad. Broadly speaking. as they coped with what was widely perceived as an irrational and implacable conspiracy of violence against civilisation itself. and efforts to halt the violence brought to light both the possibilities and the limitations of multi-national police cooperation. in turn. written in the time of a twentyfirst century ‘War on Terror. especially. The process of investigating this topic has led to an apparent discovery that sheds new light on the early history of domestic intelligence-gathering institutions in Britain.’ examines a series of struggles against terrorism in the late nineteenth century. Britain and France faced particular challenges. Attacks by self-proclaimed anarchists frightened governments and peoples in European nation-states during the 1890s. reflects patterns of institutional behaviour that may bear scrutiny in states and societies now confronting their own fears of an ‘enemy within. evocative. This dissertation.Introduction We have been here before.
Many of the wordy anarchists of Charlotte Street and the East End were already moving on to the somewhat more promising cause of anarcho-syndicalism by the mid1890s. All of Europe’s regimes looked on in concern as the assassination of a French president by an Italian anarchist in June 1894 showed that anarchism could strike at the heart of a state – and that some were crossing borders to do so. however. In retrospect. It started on the streets of Paris. paupers and the hated bourgeoisie alike. Anarchism as a radical political stance (and as a label encompassing a very wide range of views about how society ought to be run) had menaced European nations before. Anarchists killed heads of state – not in any effort to take control of the state. The frenzy of anarchy appeared ready to wreak havoc in England as well. The attackers. as isolated incidents fed the perception of a threat to public order. Anarchists killed ordinary people – not as the regrettable collateral damage that sometimes happens in a popular revolt. Support for the violence among the militant anarchists of Europe. 6 .Imagining terror A wave of attacks by militant anarchists seemed to explode onto the modern scene in early 1892. many of whom lived as refugees in London and spent their energies publishing endless tracts goading the state and each other. but in the hope of destroying it as an institution. Even after a century marked by revolution. most of whom were swiftly caught and punished. was in fact never widespread and rarely unambiguous when it surfaced at all. we can see that this era of ‘les attentats’ had largely run its course by late 1894. leaving the scattered. often unhinged. When people are seized by fear. but this outbreak appeared uniquely vicious and threatening. and the supply of willing martyrs began to run dry soon. acts of pointless cruelty against kings. Europeans were unprepared for the nature of the anarchist menace. if sometimes spectacular. nearly always pitiable advocates of ‘propaganda by the deed’ to engage in ever more isolated. spiralling into a cycle of violence as one anarchist rose to avenge the punishment of another by state forces convinced they were facing a well-organised network. perception is more important than reality. attacked precisely because they represented an ordinariness – an order – in society for which certain self-proclaimed anarchists harboured a murderous hatred. were lone martyrs. but as targets.
Often they were out either to rule the world … or to destroy it. around the reallife tragic farce of Martial Bourdin’s supposed attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory in 1894. 77.People in France and Britain expressed horror at such ‘madness. Popular fascination with the anarchist threat was also reflected in works by less august literary lights. For some artists and intellectuals. unspecified date in December 1896. And Emile Zola. By then another spectre had arisen. or into a nation’s water-supply. cited examples that have a disturbing resonance after the anthrax scares and airliner attacks of 2001: Anarchists feature in several bad novels of the 1890s. Historian Bernard Porter. In 1894 the weekly magazine Tit-Bits claimed it had discovered just such a plot for a fact.B. but usually as men or women armed with demonic powers. who had based the character of Souvarine in his 1885 novel Germinal on anarchist godfather Mikhail Bakunin. otherwise they will be given in French. which ended with only Bourdin in pieces. Le Figaro. It even became an essential part of the aesthetic for some artists on the cutting edge. a conversational fashion-accessory to be worn in the smarter salons as an emblem of one’s aloofness from the stolid.: Throughout this paper.’1 Others in the creative elite denounced anarchism but played to the public’s interest in it at the same time. cited in Richard D. citations from French-language sources will be given in translation when cited from a source where they were translated. philistine masses. Nebraska. Joseph Conrad built one of his best novels.’ And naturally. which was the possibility that anarchists might win the race that 1 Henri Fouquier. portrayed the anarchists of fin de siècle France as cynical opportunists in Paris (1898). Sonn. whose shocking 1896 play Ubu Roi moved a correspondent from Le Figaro to condemn him as one of the ‘anarchists of art … exercising a veritable terror over the public. 1992). p. many felt the frisson that comes from being horrified. Anarchism and Cultural Politics in Fin de Siècle France (Lincoln. The Secret Agent. anarchism briefly became the radical chic of the moment. One common one was disease: released either into the air. N. by a variety of horrifying means. such as Alfred Jarry. surveying some of the stock themes in British pulp fiction and true-crime writing around the turn of the century. 7 .
Among the foreign ministries of Europe. Wells made sport of an inept anarchist bent on poisoning London’s water supply with cholera. Anarchist terrorism was just one more circumstance that one nation or another might try to turn to its advantage – or might be suspected of trying to turn to its advantage. H. but the pan-European nature of the threat also added new complications to an already-fraught diplomatic scene. it was a time of alliances and rumours of alliances. The Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch Before the First World War (Woodbridge. A fundamental tension thus arose between British civil-libertarian norms and 2 Bernard Porter. Russia and other nations remained engaged in a decades-long debate over control of Constantinople and its strategic waterway. As the long rot of the Ottoman Empire continued. nor between anarchists and others such as socialists whose ideas offended continental authorities. several countries called for Britain to cooperate in international schemes to clamp down on anarchism – schemes that generally failed to differentiate carefully between violent and non-violent anarchists.G. it must be noted. Over the course of the decade. Europe was at peace. Suffolk. because of various governments’ habit of expelling political offenders clandestinely to Great Britain.2 Sovereignty and secrecy No government could ignore the anarchist peril. hack writers were not the only ones to try the disease trope. Actually. In ‘The Stolen Bacillus. and use the power this gave them to rain down destruction on a hapless world. 103. Not only did national leaders feel personally vulnerable to attacks and feel obliged to address public fears. Britain seemed to enjoy immunity from it even while playing host to some of the world’s most notorious anarchists. while France in particular felt more and more besieged by anarchist terror. Imperial ambitions were bringing various countries into conflict with one another over places as distant from Europe as the Upper Nile Valley and Korea. but numerous conflicts were festering among Europe’s powers. p. of secret dealings and gamesmanship.was then going on to conquer the air. France had never fully reconciled itself to the territorial losses it sustained in losing its war with Germany in 1871. With increasing persistence through the 1890s.’ a story published in 1894. 8 . Britain had become a refuge for anarchist activists from across Europe – in part. 1987).
’ But when the government put the laws to a test by bringing a number of celebrated anarchists to trial in 1894. the pressure British leaders felt to respond to the grievances of other nations led to extensive behind-the-scenes discussions in London among politicians. Arthur Balfour (then leader of the House of Commons) advocated a ban on anarchist meetings in 1893. British diplomacy was drawn into secret arrangements intended to provide as much lawenforcement support as legally possible to their counterparts in countries facing anarchist attacks. measures that proscribed writings and meetings intended to provoke terrorist acts ‘directly or indirectly. however. neither proposal bore fruit. It is now clear that French police officials. diplomats. Still. Home Office officials and top police officers about what could be done under existing law to address the issues of anarchist advocacy of violence and the supposed plotting in Britain of violent acts to be committed abroad. Britain and France shared in common a level of civic openness that set them apart from most of Europe’s great powers. In both France and Britain.the perceptions of France and other continental regimes concerning the nature of the anarchist menace and the countermeasures it warranted. imposed what anarchists called the ‘lois scélérates’. the British were not doing enough to satisfy the French. outraged by Auguste Vaillant’s bomb attack on the Chamber of Deputies in December 1893. the jury refused to convict them. In Britain. Germany and Austria-Hungary retained the firm checks on social agitation they had instituted to stave off the spread of revolution earlier in the century. Gradually. Coalitions of the willing Nevertheless. At the same time. attempts to crack down on anarchist expression by legal means failed. and in 1894 Lord Salisbury (then in opposition) moved a bill that would have allowed for the exclusion of ‘dangerous’ aliens who sought to enter Britain. The French government. not content with the work being quietly done on their 9 . Spain took a very tough line toward any challenges to the political status quo. And most other regimes (with the notable exception of Switzerland) tended more toward these iron-fisted approaches than toward the openness of British and French society. Tsarist Russia remained a tightly controlled police state.
Rumours that this compagnon3 or that one was an informer swirled almost constantly in anarchist circles.behalf by the Special Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police. The anarchists themselves knew that French as well as British police were watching them. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the hundreds of reports these agents filed. at least among certain publics. another seventy. both militant and mainstream. in several other cases it is clear that new agents have been rotated in and old ones rotated out simultaneously. and the year for which the largest number of reports is found at the archive – agents filed at least 293 reports back to their overseers in Paris. One agent that year produced at least eighty-four despatches. First. and it appears frequently in the police agents’ reports back to Paris. but it seems to have become a standard generic term for anarchists after a while. agents were specifically sent from Paris to carry out surveillance operations in London. Although the reports make clear that some of their information comes from informers. these are not merely reports from mouchards. One author writes Paris to confirm that he has assumed his post. In the Archives de la préfecture de police (A. 10 . anarchist-watching clearly was a permanent assignment. there is abundant evidence that agents employed and assigned to London by the French police took part in a very thorough surveillance operation covering the anarchists there between the early 1890s and the years just before the First World War. the French agents succeeded in gathering detailed intelligence over a long period of time.P. Second. Their techniques may have included surreptitious entry of anarchists’ homes or interception of their mail.P. the French operations in London were an open secret. 3 The French anarchists often referred to each other by this comradely term. both personally and by employing anarchist informers. sowing this uncertainty may have been among the goals of the French authorities.) in Paris. In 1894 – the peak year of the anarchist scare. Fourth. For some agents. The agents may have started out using it in a sarcastic tone. They were able to infiltrate anarchist groups and gatherings. On numerous occasions they were reported in French newspapers. or both: some reports cite or quote correspondence and documents that seemingly could not have come into the possession of the agents any other way. took matters into their own hands. each in such a length and level of detail as to suggest that many hours of investigation went into it. Third. Indeed. at least. the scope of the operation was substantial.
Policing Victorian London: Political Policing. pp. Agents concurred with anarchists’ claims that an agent provocateur in the service of the police had set up the Walsall plot of 1892. the reports make clear that individuals within the Special Branch knew of and cooperated with the French surveillance operation. that Metropolitan Police officers collaborated with at least one other government in much the same manner as they worked with the French. Sources other than the A.4 We know too that cross-border secret police activity was common in Europe during the late nineteenth century. And the French believed Special Branch personnel were corruptible. And The London Metropolitan Police (Westport. with Special Branch personnel at both junior and senior levels collaborating with the French in ways clearly contrary to the wishes of many of the ministers and officials responsible for international police cooperation. Connecticut. 89-95. The cooperation far exceeded the bounds of stated British policy. Italian spies operated in London from the 4 Phillip Thurmond Smith. Russian secret police (Okhrana) operations in France and other such clandestine activity in the late nineteenth century. We know – and indeed the London police detectives of the time probably would have known – that there were precedents for French-British police collaboration against potentially unsavoury elements. In at least one instance an agent sought approval from Paris (which was apparently denied) to bribe British policemen so they would help carry out the kidnapping and forcible return to France of anarchists wanted on charges there.P. 1992). and the two countries shared information about suspected revolutionaries on a somewhat uneasy basis – supposedly through official diplomatic channels only – for the rest of the century. had actually invited and paid French officers to keep watch over their countrymen during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Public Order.5 We also know. thanks to the recent research of a Dutch scholar. as foreign secretary.P. A seminal recent history of European policing discusses German police spying in Switzerland. Lord Palmerston. The Rise of Modern Police and the European State System from Metternich to the Second World War (Cambridge. 1985). Hsi-Huey Liang. 11 5 . French police agents enjoyed ready access to sensitive operational information concerning ongoing investigations of the Metropolitan Police. an alleged conspiracy that led to the jailing of several anarchists for long terms in England.Finally. files provide some context for France’s activities in England.
Col. none of the secondary sources reviewed in the process of research for this paper explores these French police activities in London in any depth.D. the C. Ironically. 228-29.. enjoying close relations with senior as well as subaltern police officials. How. The Life of Sir Howard Vincent (London.I.I. (later Sir) Howard Vincent.6 Also of value are a number of contemporary memoirs from and biographies of key figures in and around the Special Branch.).R. S. but that ‘with meetings and arrangements of this kind the Secretary of State [for Home Affairs] preferred to have no acquaintance. 1928). detective in the pay of the Italians. Prior researchers investigating similar or related topics either have not uncovered the existence of the French operation or.H.I. 230-31. 1870-1900 [Revolution and Reaction: The Repression of the Italian Anarchists. 70-71. Public Record Office (P. 1997). Revolutie en reactie : de repressie van de Italiaanseanarchisten. Even more ironically..D.D. The ignorance made his position easier in the House of Commons. chief enjoyed ‘very intimate’ relations with Louis Lépine. proved so useful to the Italians that the Italian police chief was authorised to take them ‘into fixed service. had been implicated in the same scandal and left the country to avoid prosecution. These attest repeatedly to the closeness of ties between the London police and the law enforcement authorities of France. as part of an effort to rehabilitate the police force after the Turf Fraud Scandal of the 1870s.I.I. Research Enquiries Room. Charles von Tornow. 33. Jeyes and F. inspector with the rank of detective. though he was eventually cleared and reinstated. 1870-1900] (Groningen. making no effort to pretend the relationship operated under official guidelines. one of them a C. Thus Vincent’s biographer could report the C. The Trial of the Detectives (London. The head of C.D. have not found it so germane to their research as to warrant detailed investigation.1870s onward. Bracketed phrase added. London. Information on von Turnow from George Dilnot. Vincent had been placed in charge of C.D.D. 6 Peter Olaf Reinhard van der Mark. and service record as given in nominal index of Metropolitan Police officers. pp. 12 7 . cooperated closely with his Italian counterparts – to the point of requesting that they provide him with documentation of ‘ordinary indictable offences’ by certain anarchists in order to legitimise any surveillance operation that might be questioned on legal grounds. having encountered some evidence of it. pp.’ evidently granting them a kind of retainer or salaried status. Two policemen of the 1880s. prefect of police for the Seine region after 1893.O. ed. 1912). pp.’7 Although several historians have chronicled Britain’s policing efforts against the London anarchists.
Jean-Marc Berlière. But he confines his comments to surveillance reports generated within France. p. Vers la naissance de la police moderne (Paris. Similarly. not police employees: ‘La police obtient aussi – mais assez rarement – certains renseignements de correspondants occasionnels. even though his book gives detailed accounts of other trans-national police surveillance operations. 161. p.’ 13 .’ He added: ‘I believe there were references to London as well. Germany.’ 8 He does not elaborate further.P. on hearing this. France’s pre-eminent historian of anarchism. however. The Rise of Modern Police and the European State System. 126.’ And he felt this source of information was of little significance: ‘En général. by Louis Andrieux (prefect of police in Paris from 1879 to 1881). mêlés aux compagnons. In an e-mail sent on 11 June 2002. in passing. does not discuss French operations against anarchists in London at all. 9 Liang. notably in Switzerland. 59. elle utilise surtout les indicateurs qui. p.In the latter category is the biographer of Louis Lépine. was able to stop them by offering the French police all the information they wanted. 275.P.’ found at the A. that the Paris prefects of the late nineteenth century had ‘agents dans toutes les capitales de l’Europe.’ a pseudonym used by a prolific London agent. 10 Liang.11 Liang.9 He also gives details of an effort in 1892 by the French prime minister and minister of justice ‘to organize a clandestine spy service to watch anarchists living in Switzerland. fournissent régulièrement des rapports sur leur activité. who mentions. Le préfet Lépine. examined the files at the A. by Hsi-Huey Liang mentions several 1881 reports on Russian Nihilist activity from ‘French police informer[s] in London. as one of the authors whose reports he found. holds ‘les rapports des « correspondants » entretenus par la Préfecture de police dans pratiquement tous les pays européens. 12 Professor Liang contacted the author after learning of his research interest through the H-France Internet discussion list. ces indicateurs ne restent pas 8 Jean-Marc Berlière.’10 And he points out that the Swiss were aware the French had agents in London.P. p.P.12 Jean Maitron. but I did not follow that particular line of enquiry. Mémoires (Paris.’ Berlière adds in a footnote that the A. he noted that in working on his book he ‘did find in the archive of the Police Prefecture in Paris records of French police agents in various foreign countries.P. The Rise of Modern Police and the European State System. He even mentions ‘Z N° 2. a source who mentions. The source cited is A travers la République. in passing.P. 166. The Rise of Modern Police and the European State System. that included reports from London agents. But the Berne government. and Russia. Maitron believed the authors of those reports were paid informers. 1926). 1993). p. 11 Liang.
).17 Once again. Oliver cites a London newspaper’s claim that Bourdin ‘was followed by a “French” spy’ as he walked toward the Observatory. she found code names that had remained in use for ten years or more. files B/A 1508. the fact of anti-anarchist operations by French police in 1890s London is absent from a history covering anarchism in that time and place. offers considerable historical detail about the Special Branch’s secret campaigns against anarchists.d. documents.K anarchist movements. ‘La Surveillance des anarchistes (1894-1914). like Liang and Maitron. there is no mention of French police activities in the best-known study of U.P. alludes in her notes to A. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London (London. John Quail’s The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British Anarchists (London. une année au plus.’ in Société d’Histoire de la Révolution de 1848 et des Révolutions du XIXe siècle (eds. Recounting the Walsall plot. 18 Likewise. ‘Il semble qu’il pourrait s’agir de professionnels aussi bien que d’occasionnels. The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London. p.14 Yet Dhavernas.P. B/A 1509 and B/A 1510. Maintien de l’ordre et polices en France et en Europe aux XIXe siècle (Paris.P. 1975). p. 1978). without mentioning that the French police were operating against anarchists London. Marie-Josèphe Dhavernas.P. Leurs rapports sont quelconques et semblent rédigés le plus souvent par des individus d’une intelligence assez moyenne. 17 Oliver. 106.18 Bernard Porter. La République contre les libertés? : Les restrictions aux libertés publiques de 1879 à 1914 (Paris.’ Dhavernas concludes. 457-58. 1983). Oliver notes that one of the defendants ‘said he believed the incriminating literature found on the men was paid for by the French secret service..P. extensively addresses police measures against the anarchists in his study of the restrictions imposed on the civil liberties of French citizens during the Third Republic. Marie-Josèphe Dhavernas. 1 (Paris. n. Jean-Pierre Machelon. takes issue with Maitron’s assertion that the ‘correspondants’ did not remain in service for long. 14 . 1976) – but relies on Maitron for all references to A. 356. 77. in the work cited above. vol. 16 Hermia Oliver. though.’ 13 A later writer. the sources for all London reports cited in this paper.15 Hints of cloak-and-dagger behaviour by French spies in London surface tantalisingly in the 1983 history The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London by Hermia Oliver.). 15 Others may have failed to discover these files because of the magisterial influence of Maitron’s scholarship on anarchism.’16 Regarding the explosion of Bourdin’s bomb in Greenwich. p.P. for example. In reviewing documents at the A.très longtemps en service. along with wellinformed speculation about possible improprieties or irregularities in the Branch’s 13 14 Jean Maitron. p.
Many documents related to police actions against anarchists are known to be preserved at the A. That fact suggests that the concentration of files at the A.N. this primary repository of French historical material was effectively unavailable during the period when research for this essay was underway. who did not consult the A. the consequences of a temporary relocation had compelled it to limit access so severely as to make usage impossible for a researcher from abroad with limited time and resources.N..’ Professor Porter wrote in an e-mail to the author.K.D. 20 June 2002). He told the author of this paper he has seen ‘an entire ledger full’ of material on anarchists among the closed files (telephone conversation. has recently completed a Ph. Although the A. and further details on the London surveillance operation may lie hidden in files there.. ad hoc understandings among various police forces and government officials in 19 Since Porter’s book was published.P.P.19 Porter. thesis based in part on research in documents retained by the Branch and accessible to him only because of his status. but the Archives Nationales (A. In search of multi-national consensus Some combination of circumstances and personalities led to the proliferation of sub rosa.’s ‘Open Government Initiative’ has led to the opening of some secret files relevant to the early history of the Special Branch – most notably the memoir of Superintendent William Melville.N. p. xi). more than a century after the height of the anarchist scare. Lindsay Clutterbuck. This information would seem to contradict what police officials told Porter about the Branch’s records: ‘Scotland Yard… claims that all its Special Branch files were pulped to furnish recycled paper during the last war’ (The Origins of the Vigilant State. It draws on research undertaken in several French and British archives. the present author must also concede a liability that may affect this work. was nominally open for business.P. is the main source available on this heretofore-unknown chapter of history.operations. 15 . the U.P.20 found nothing in the available British documentary record to suggest Special Branch collusion with French police activities in Britain. numerous scholars have consulted the relevant files at the Archives Nationales without discovering the London operation. A serving officer in today’s Special Branch. a substantial amount of documentation concerning it is still held by the Special Branch and classified as secret. As fate would have it.) of France are not among them. 20 ‘I wish I had thought of going to the French archives. After noting the failure of various predecessors to discover the London surveillance operation in their research. However. But he does so with an explicit awareness that there are major gaps in the historical record of early Special Branch activities – some Branch files having been destroyed and a few records remaining closed to public view even after the passage of more than a century. However. 31 May 2002.
rather more 21 E.) The month-long meeting ultimately foundered on resistance by not only Britain but also France and other nations to a series of hard-line measures advocated by the absolutist bloc of Russia. 2 (April-June 1997). ‘La conferenza internazionale di Roma per la difesa sociale contro gli anarchici.22 Accounts that touch on it at all have even suggested it never actually took place. 103. 23 Of the few mentions of the conference in the historical record. 22 The present author’s searches have turned up only two journal articles on the 1898 conference: Jensen’s. 346. or that Great Britain refused to send representatives to it. however.23 Thorough documentation exists. ibid. The first concerted effort to fashion a European consensus on the fight against anarchist terror was the International Anti-Anarchist Conference at Rome (Conférence internationale de Rome pour la défense sociale contre les anarchistes) held in late 1898.g. ‘The International Anti-Anarchist Conference of 1898 and the Origins of Interpol. and Francesco Tamburini. 227-265. then. Historians have cited the conference as the first substantive effort on record to achieve European police co-operation. Little agreement emerged on the means of bringing about international solidarity against anarchy. in its entry on Foreign Minister Napoleone Canevaro. note 1). 16 . It is only natural. there was in fact no such proposal at the conference (Tuchman. 343. n. a precursor to the eventual creation of the Interpol trans-national police agency. apart from some tactical and technical agreements of marginal but not insignificant utility to Europe’s police forces. The popular historian Barbara Tuchman wrote that the conference ‘lasted for a month with no known result’ except that Britain and other countries defeated a proposal that all anarchists would be surrendered on demand to their native countries. fewer still have the facts straight. The Proud Tower [New York. pp. He cites two Italian historians and one German as asserting that Britain did not take part (p. 342. note 65). it has attracted little attention from historians. mentioned above. p. Because of both the secrecy in which the Rome conference was conducted and its failure to produce decisive results.’ Clio: revista trimestrale di studi storici XXXIII. The Italian government called for this secret gathering of diplomats and senior security officials in the wake of the murder of Empress Elisabeth of AustriaHungary by an Italian drifter who called himself an anarchist. Richard Bach Jensen. note 13). as noted by Jensen. 323-47. not only of the conference itself but.21 (One might add that it was also a forerunner of the European Union’s EuroPol. p. Jensen cites the Dizionario biografico degli italiani (1975) as claiming. that efforts should have arisen to organise a more comprehensive system of international cooperation against anarchist violence.’ Journal of Contemporary History 16 (1981). 1962]. that the conference never took place (p... Austria-Hungary and Germany. pp.Europe during the 1890s. a body set up in the late 1990s largely because of perceived inadequacies in Interpol’s ability to combat terrorism.
of the deliberations that took place within the British government in preparation for and later in reaction to the conference.). The Police and the People. 45.R. France in the 1800s was ‘not a country with very tight police control.significantly. Also of value are the archives of France’s Ministère des affaires étrangères (A.O. But is it all so simple? Or do the claimed successes of the French secret policemen and their British collaborators show that desperate times require desperate measures? How much police control over potentially violent political activity can a free society tolerate? As Richard Cobb observed.A. French Popular Protests 1789-1820 (Oxford. show French diplomats devoted careful consideration to British positions in the conference as they set their country’s strategy for the Rome gathering – a strategy less different in its essence from Britain’s than might be expected.’ 24 Those who 24 Richard C. but it can help to frame questions.’s Public Record Office (P. which prior scholars have not cited in their accounts of the event. only with a plenitude of police control. Cobb.K.) provide a detailed view of how British policy-shapers approached the thorny issues before them. 17 . 1970). It cannot provide ready answers. pp. Home Office and Foreign Office files held at the U. 17-18. p. The familiar and the frightening Just as the history of French and British activity against international anarchism involves some questions we cannot now answer definitively and perhaps never will. there are limits to the implications one can draw from all the parallels and recurrent themes among the wars on terrorism of the late nineteenth and early twenty-first centuries. Yet an understanding of the history of the anti-anarchist struggle can lend valuable perspective to consideration of the public security issues that have taken on paramount importance since the 11th of September. The Rise of Modern Police and the European State System.E.M. cited in Liang. The foreign ministry’s files concerning the Rome conference. Did Europe win its battle against anarchists because of or in spite of the willingness of democratic regimes to subvert their traditional protection of civil liberties? A Benjamin Franklin saying – ‘they that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety’ – has been trotted out frequently in the past year’s debates across Europe and North America.
felt the Third Republic’s police forces were functioning properly argued that ‘the “political police” was no “political activist”; it had no “active role,” and its agents were “listeners, but not actors.” … There was “nothing more lawful, simpler and more rational than that.”’ 25 What then is the harm in simple surveillance, carried out within or beyond a state’s own borders? When modern societies are beset by terrorist threats, must they not grant the state more power to invade their privacy than it would otherwise be permitted, purely in the collective interest of protecting innocent people from the external threat? If so, who decides how much extraordinary power will be granted, and who monitors the usage of that power to prevent its abuse – or indeed, can we define the abuse of surveillance powers any more satisfactorily than we can define terrorism itself? Whom can we trust? Are there intrinsic factors in the nature and culture of secret entities within democratic regimes that predispose those entities toward abuse of power? How much continuity persists in the behaviour of a secret organisation or governmental sector over the course of generations? One of the few new details about the history of the Special Branch released by the U.K. government in recent years is the revelation that its controversial anarchist-fighter William Melville26 (a key contact of the French agents in London who had been accused, among other things, of personally setting up the Walsall conspiracy) moved on in 1903 to become the War Office’s chief detective for counterintelligence. He was granted a brief to conduct surveillance and investigations on his own anywhere in Britain,27 though the War Office had no parliamentary authorisation to grant such unprecedented powers. In fact, the officer who hired Melville, Col. (later Major-General Sir) J.K. Trotter, had strongly advocated making permanent his ‘I3’ intelligence unit, instituted during the Boer War – and had been overruled earlier in 1903 by an
Jean-Marc Berlière, “A Republican Political Police? Political Policing Under the French Third Republic, 1875-1940,” in Mark Mazower (ed.), The Policing of Politics in the 20th Century: Historical Perspectives (Providence, Rhode Island, 1996), p. 30, quoting Anon., La Police à Paris, son organisation, son fonctionnement, par un rédacteur du Temps (Paris, 1887), pp. 45-46. 26 See pp. 41-46, infra, for biographical notes on Melville. 27 ‘I had to travel to all parts of the country to make enquiries re suspected persons,’ Melville wrote in a 1917 memoir of his counterintelligence work. ‘In these duties I found the police, whether in London or the provinces – absolutely useless.’ London, Public Record Office (P.R.O.), K.V. 1/8, ‘Memoir of William Melville, Kell's senior detective, 1917.’
official committee of enquiry.28 Within eight months of being deprived of the three junior officers who had made up that unit, Trotter was somehow able to retain the foremost detective in the land to carry out domestic intelligence on a scale far beyond what he had advocated for a peacetime I3. Melville’s role was formalised in 1909 when he became one of the first employees of the new Special Intelligence Bureau, which soon became known as M.I.5. How significant is this direct ancestral connection between the Special Branch and the Security Service, given that the ancestor’s hands may have been rather unclean? Are there elements of individual and group psychology (or of organisational dynamics), peculiar to secret agencies, that tend to repeat themselves over the course of time? Can a comprehension of those elements help a society keep its secret servants accountable? This work will not answer any of those questions, and its author comes to the task with a certain agnosticism about them. His goal is only to broaden understanding of the context that must underlie any consideration of these issues.
Christopher Andrew, Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (London, 1985), p. 62. Melville is undoubtedly the ‘retired police detective’ mentioned by Andrew (p. 63) as working with Major James Edmonds in 1907 for what would become M.O.5. Melville describes how Trotter approached him in October 1903 in the memoir mentioned above.
A Purblind Violence
[J]ustement, ce qui mérite l’attention, c’est que la perception collective, au début des années 1890, fut incontestablement celle d’une violence globalement aveugle, se produisant dans des lieux, cafés, restaurants, gares, avenues, etc., dont la particularité principale semblait de n’en avoir aucune, et visant (si l’on peut dire) la foule anonyme, le passant accidentel. —Uri Eisenzweig, Fictions de l’anarchisme (Paris, 2001), p. 36 This was something new. The wave of anarchist attacks that began at the end of February 189229 imprinted itself on the consciousness of Parisians, and indeed Europeans in general, as the crossing of a threshold in the experience of social conflict. For all the unrest and upheaval France had endured within living memory, nothing had prepared it for a seemingly coordinated onslaught of violence aimed at the very concept of communal order. Like the many Americans and others whose immediate response to the attacks of 11 September 2002 was to believe things had ‘changed forever,’ those who lived through the outbreak of disorder in the streets of Paris quickly came to see themselves as inhabiting a new reality. An analysis by a police spy about a month after the assaults began, while profoundly mistaken in its triumphal conclusions, is written in the voice of a man who feels he has just witnessed epochal events: ‘Que reste-t-il de l’anarchie maintenant ? Il n’y a plus de groupes. Tous les agitateurs sont arrêtés ; le reste se cache et la terreur est à son comble aussi bien à Paris que dans la banlieue. L’ère des explosions est bien finie.’30
Most historians have given 11 March 1892, the date of Ravachol’s first bombing, as the beginning of the ‘era of les attentats.’ Jean Maitron refers to ‘quelques explosions sans importance’ preceding Ravachol’s (Le Mouvement anarchiste en France [Paris, 1975], vol. 1, p. 212). But Uri Eisenzweig makes a case for the date of 29 February, when an unknown bomber struck in the rue Saint-Dominique, harming no one. Eisenzweig notes that the rubric of ‘la dynamite’’ appeared over reports in the next day’s newspapers ‘avec tout ce que l’article défini comporte de régularité cyclique, de phénomène chronique.’ In subsequent days, still prior to Ravachol’s attack, the Paris press carried stories of rumours about further planned attacks and about the discovery in a public lavatory of a suspicious glass tube that police treated as a possible bomb. Thus the public anxiety over an anarchist bombing campaign preceded the actual launching of that campaign in earnest. (Fictions de l’anarchisme, pp. 26-27.) 30 Report from ‘Zéro,’ Paris, 6 April 1892. Paris, Archives de la préfecture de police (A.P.P.), B/A 77, ‘Anarchistes, 1893’ (sic; the file contains reports from 1892 as well).
Théodule Meunier. 1. In March 1892. before the bombings harmed a single person. And the common perception of an organised anarchist menace would be reinforced on 25 April. only to have it explode in their midst. when the restaurant Véry blew up. But those detonations had not even killed anyone. of course. had just begun. it seems.K. even God: ‘Je m’en fous de votre Christ. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. killing five officers. as it were. Then.33 In November. p. including murder.’ repeating its refrain – ‘Et l’bon dieu dans le merde’ – until the song was cut off. The arrest on 30 March 1892 of François Koenigstein. would evade the authorities until later. None. killing its owner and a customer – and avenging the arrest of Ravachol.32 Ravachol was 33. the flamboyant criminal who went by the name Ravachol. He had made of himself a ‘sacrifice and offering’ worthy of Christ. the well-educated son of a Communard. in the eyes of admirers within and occasionally outside the anarchist movement. It didn’t take all that much terror to terrorise one of the world’s great cities. vol. see pp.) Two other bombings remained unsolved. The perpetrator of that act. but was acting on his own rather than in any coordinated collusion with Ravachol. with his neck in the block. The young man who placed the explosive. 219n. in the words of contemporary poet Paul Adam. uncovered after his trial for the bombings. he burst into ‘La chanson du Père Duchesne. Maitron.’ the prisoner sneered when offered the services of a priest at the scaffold. No further attacks of consequence occurred for a year. a Robin Hood of sorts. infra. allowed police to close two cases – he had bombed the homes of a judge and a prosecutor involved in a case that sent a pair of anarchists to prison for long terms.31 The execution of the latter on 11 July 1892 cemented his status as a folk hero. The world had produced a man willing to defy everyone. had also set off a bomb outside a barracks in March. in the midst of its sixth couplet. police would remove a bomb found at the offices of a mining company. 35-36.The era of the explosions. 21 . were needed. (Ravachol would go to the guillotine for earlier crimes. one Paris journal had portrayed what were seen as the new dangers 31 32 Regarding Meunier’s eventual extradition from the U. Emile Henry. which came after a waiter at the Véry recognised him and tipped off the police..
).’ in Entretiens politiques et littéraires 5. cited in Eisenzweig. 85. 118. no. London. Home Secretary Henry Matthews replied that Lord Salisbury’s government ‘would not hesitate to ask Parliament for such further powers as might appear necessary’ if existing laws proved unable to stem the anarchist tide.’35 The Times declared that society was facing nothing less than ‘the war of disorder and chaos against order and law.’ 22 . rose in Commons on 5 April to ask what the government was doing about reports that some forty anarchists expelled from France had recently landed on British shores. 28 (Paris. 102. p. ‘all assassins are ready to increase the army of anarchists and it really is with an army of murderers that society has now to deal. 5 (1892). People could not know that Walsall would be one of only a few significant incidents of threatened or actual violence on the part of anarchists in England between 1890 and 1910. Paris and the Anarchists: Aesthetes and Subversives During the Fin de Siècle (Basingstoke. H. ‘Eloge de Ravachol.O. ‘almost as mysterious and universal as the influenza. 36 The Times. Fictions de l’anarchisme. parliament and the senior echelons of government.’34 In London. p. cited in Porter. 2. The Origins of the Vigilant State. now a Conservative MP. 35 Review of Reviews. p. July 1892). 34 L’Echo de Paris.R. 144/587/B2840C. cited in Alexander Varias. 27. presented the public with an image of international collaboration to set off bombs in Britain.O. p. 29 March 1892. ‘Foreign Anarchists coming to UK – 1892-1900.’ and warned that even though not all anarchists were necessarily assassins. the level of anxiety over potential anarchist threats approached that evident in Paris – despite the negligible state of native British anarchist activity and Continental anarchists’ generally careful behaviour whilst on British soil. meanwhile. p. p. which echoed through the mass media. The Slow Burning Fuse. Paris. 435.’36 Howard Vincent. 37 Note on parliamentary question. vol. cited in Quail. si l’on ne veut pas marcher sur un engin à dynamite et disparaître par émiettement comme une chandelle romaine. The Review of Reviews fretted over an ‘epidemic’ of anarchist terror. 14 March 1892. The arrest of the anarchist plotters – four Englishmen. Public Record Office (P. The Walsall excitement coincided with the alarming news from the Continent. 1997). Word of the Paris bombings came on the heels of the exposure of the alleged bomb plot in Walsall.37 33 Paul Adam. a Frenchman and an Italian – in early January 1892.of everyday life in the capital: ‘On ne saura bientôt plus où poser le pied dans Paris. followed by a trial in March and April.
Louis Jules Léauthier.O. 23 . the ambassador survived. Majendie probably cooled to the idea he had advanced of ‘some international agreement … under which perpetrators of such offences would be debarred from either shelter or sympathy in any part of the civilized world’ – an initiative that would have to be taken ‘sooner or later (particularly in view of the increasing use of. though in an infinitely less aggravated form so far. he could liken the Paris ‘outrages’ to the Fenian bombing campaign Britain had endured a decade earlier: ‘It is clear that the French are now undergoing some of the inconveniences that we were subjected to in 1882-3-4. a Home Office official whose brief was to keep up with legal issues involving the new explosives technologies of the day. it first took the form of a shoemaker.’ 39 Ernest A.’ It must have soon dawned on Majendie and others in policy roles that the anarchist threat differed fundamentally from the Fenian menace. H. ‘International Action for the suppression of anarchism – 1892-1902. 143. ‘he was well-dressed and wore a decoration!’ On learning his victim was the Serbian ambassador to France. 45/10254/X36450. penned a minute that was circulated to the Home Secretary. Léauthier struck an haut-bourgeois victim chosen because he was the best exemplar of the bourgeoisie to be found. P. The assassin made no real effort to escape. When terror returned to the streets of Paris in November 1893. 1912). The Anarchists: Their Record and Their Creed (London. as Léauthier told the police scant moments later. as a movement not of revolution against one country but of opposition to the concept of state authority altogether – and their alarm at this realisation may have been in its own way as profound as the public fright reflected in the daily press. p.R. Most prior attackers had hit carefully chosen targets and employed getaway 38 Minute dated 18 March 1892. and facilities for.A week after Ravachol’s first bombing.. Though gravely hurt. sentenced to forced labour for life. soon perished in a prison revolt. Léauthier responded: ‘An ambassador! So much the better!’39 Here was a permutation of the terror method. production and possession of “high explosives”). Vivian Majendie. Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. and as the necessity of immediate unilateral action became more evident.O. At this early stage.’38 One finds no further evidence in the Home Office files on 1890s anarchism of any advocacy within the department for an international accord against bombers. Col. As that reality sunk in. Léauthier. Vizetelly. who stood up one night in a fine restaurant and plunged his cobbler’s knife into the chest of a fellow diner because.
415-418. convicted and sentenced in a single day. a score were wounded. 41 Maitron. Jurors accepted the prosecutor’s contention that he meant his bomb to kill.’ and police executed some 2. Anarchism seems to have given Vaillant a momentary sense of purpose in life. pp. Emile Henry. Vaillant shouted: ‘Death to middle-class society. p. adjudged the humble denizens in the café of the Gare St. Lazare’s Hotel Terminus to be. At the foot of the scaffold. His turn at the guillotine came on 5 February 1894. which he translated on 9 December 1893 into a grand gesture aimed at the very seat of state power. from a public gallery of the Palais Bourbon into a session of the Chamber of Deputies. La République contre les libertés? : Les restrictions aux libertés publiques de 1879 à 1914 (Paris. p. President Sadi Carnot approved Vaillant’s sentence. Henry. He hurled a bomb. 1976). Subsequent attackers would more often resemble Léauthier in both their choice of symbolic targets and their failure.strategies.40 One month after the bombing. 1. while police measures intensified to proportions reminiscent of the Second Empire. 233. One died in this bombing.’ as the avenger.’ aimed at criminalizing anarchist associations and publications.000 search warrants on New Year’s Day 1894 – without finding any evidence of the anarchist conspiracy believed to be coordinating the attentats. Such was the modus operandi of Auguste Vaillant. It killed no one and injured Vaillant himself worse than anyone else. and long live anarchism!’42 Vengeance came soon – visited not on anyone who had a part in putting Vaillant to death but on ‘all the accomplices and employees of Property and the State. seeking to emulate the defiant pose of Ravachol. Vaillant’s act prompted the swift enactment of the aforementioned ‘lois scélérates. The Anarchists. But now the cycle of reprisal and violence began in earnest. 42 Vizetelly. vol. and he received the only death sentence handed down in France during the nineteenth century for a crime in which nobody was killed. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. who had come to support ‘propaganda by the deed’ after learning of Ravachol’s defiance before his 40 Vizetelly. to flee from justice. 153. The Anarchists. a hard-luck character whose wife had left him after he failed to find his fortune in Algeria and then in Argentina.41 Despite considerable public sentiment in favour of commutation. and Jean-Pierre Machelon. and Henry expressed disappointment after he was swiftly captured that the numbers were not higher. 24 . pp. 149-50. Postal surveillance reprised some of the functions of the old regime’s ‘Cabinet noir. or refusal. Vaillant himself was tried. which he had intentionally tried to make non-lethal in its effects.
executioners. 93.’45 Still. The novelty of the anarchist threat was sinking in. et al. Coming at the height of the carnage in France. an Italian baker’s apprentice. 169. p. 1. 43 44 Barbara Tuchman. Everyone was a potential victim. admiring the symbolism of Vaillant’s attack. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (New 25 . 91. Jean Pauwels. was the most articulate of the era’s violent anarchists. anarchists killing Frenchmen. The remark has become a favourite example of ironic nemesis. France killing anarchists: three more bombs in February and March 1894 (the work of a Belgian. and there seemed to be no conceivable concession to the terrorist that would satisfy his demands – in fact. the fatal stabbing on June 24 of President Carnot by Santo Caserio. who perished accidentally in the last of the explosions).) 45 Mirbeau’s statement. 19 February 1894. p. month after month. Arguably. 1962). Two oft-cited comments from Parisian writers during this period illustrate the shift in attitudes.’43 Among the radicalised intellectuals of Paris. originally published in Le Journal. p. Bourdin’s act – the intent of which remains mysterious to this day – could only lend credence to the idea of an internationally organised anarchist onslaught. and the execution of Caserio in August. on the carnage went. it was hard to express what those demands really were. since Tailhade would lose an eye in the April 1894 bombing of the Café Foyot – a presumed anarchist attack that went unsolved. Cited in Tuchman. the beheading of Emile Henry in May. The Proud Tower. p. Asked by the trial judge why he chose to harm innocent bystanders. The Anarchists. Fictions de l’anarchisme. 247. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. early dalliances like Paul Adam’s enthusiasm for Ravachol were beginning to wane as the violence became less comprehensible. among other works: George Woodcock. vol. another restaurant explosion in April. Henry replied: ‘There are no innocent bourgeois. 170. (Maitron. Vizetelly. is cited in. he was also the coldest in his calculated hatred. Meanwhile in London. the committed anarchist Octave Mirbeau felt obliged to condemn the Café Terminus explosion in no uncertain terms: ‘A mortal enemy of anarchism could have acted no better than this Emile Henry when he threw his inexplicable bomb into the midst of peaceful and anonymous persons come to a cafe to drink a glass of beer before going home to bed. In December 1893. just days after Henry’s bombing of the Café Terminus on 12 February. p. Eisenzweig. Laurent Tailhade asked: ‘Qu’importe les victimes si le geste est beau?’44 Just two months later. The Proud Tower (New York. Martial Bourdin blew himself up outside the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
Country. vol.More sinister yet was the anarchist’s disregard for his own life. p. especially in the United States. he acts always in daylight and in public…. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. Anarchy or some analogous principle. 38. sacrifice his life to a just cause and kill a monarch or a dignitary in the name of God. the general perception at the time is more significant than the raw facts. the regicide type is much given to cogitations and solitude and … ‘a sickly fixation that he is called on to deal a great blow. 1981) all acted without regard for the possibility of escape and essentially without regard for their own lives (though the latter two were not put to death). becoming so only after he was caught – but in such an instance. on the very verge of the era of les attentats. Assassins Leon Czolgosz (who killed U. In retrospect. and Eisenzweig. 293. Paris. 246-47. Pauwels. 1897. vol. 1962). at behaviour such as Emile Henry’s: ‘Il est exact qu’il y a eu chez lui suicide indirect. President William McKinley. 1. A kind of Japanese Kamikaze bravery and defiance on the scaffold undoubtedly constituted effective propaganda. that a French psychiatrist. Maitron argues that Henry’s behaviour was not at all suicidal while he was committing his crimes. p. incomprehensible to many in an era not yet accustomed to looking for psychological connections between the frustration of political impotence and explosions of suicidal/homicidal rage. Liberty. 1980) and John Hinckley (who attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan. Vaillant. vol.’47 The same might be said of Léauthier. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France. I. 26 . on the contrary. Emanuel Regis.S. prepares carefully and alone. 76.’46 But contemporary observers could only marvel. 631. les paroles de ses derniers jours le prouvent : il ne fuyait pas le mort.’ He is characterized by premeditation and obsession. Barbara Tuchman explained his typology: According to Dr. He is a solitaire. Maitron. Mark David Chapman (musician John Lennon. Carl Weiss (Louisiana Governor Huey Long. 1re année. Proud of his mission and his role. il la réclamait. L’Humanité nouvelle. Fictions de l’anarchisme. 1901). he does not seek to escape York. Dr. in some mixture of horror and admiration. 1935). Bourdin or Caserio – as it could be argued in so many cases throughout the twentieth century. The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London. 46 Oliver. but. 47 R. Ironically it was in 1890. Regis. pp. 241n. identified the ‘regicide type’ of psychopath. He does not act suddenly or blindly. p. p. Afterwards. Gressent. Dr. Cited in Maitron. 1. p. one historian could see how decades of futility in verbal propaganda efforts might have led a few anarchists toward ‘propaganda by the deed’: ‘The anarchists had come to believe that written or spoken propaganda was ineffective.
Then there were the intangibles: ‘The 48 Dr. In France. And ongoing economic stagnation in France would deepen in the 1890s before it got better. p.but exhibits pride in his deed and desire for glory and for death. and ultimately they could not. Each assassin mentioned above acted alone. On the other hand. Émile-Louis-Gustave Deshayes de Marcère. Some enquiry into the mass psychology of the time can shed light into the conditions that made the violent. vol. ‘The Mental Status of Czolgosz. the Assassin of President McKinley. We can. The nation’s economic indicators pointed upward. cited in Tuchman. agitated and inclined to pessimism. the World Trade Center. Regis’ insights into the criminal mind. France: Fin de Siècle (Cambridge. its empire was still growing. 2. either by suicide or by ‘indirect suicide’ as an executed martyr. 233-78.49 The British ought to have been in a more buoyant mood at the time. 1894). The massmurder/suicides of 11 September made real what was once only a police fantasy. Entretiens et souvenirs politiques (Paris. 327. suicidal anarchists emerge when they did and made society react as it did. an embassy. recent experience makes it easier to understand the habit of conspiracy-hunting among public servants facing a new type of threat to social order. Walter Channing. pp. which had furnished much of the nationalist energy of Boulangerism. and its Irish troubles were at bay for the moment. The atmosphere of the times was ‘anxious. p. presuming that we view the impulse to murder a powerful individual as cognate to the impulse to strike against a powerful state and its symbols – a warship. 1986). but we now know that an organised network of ‘regicides’ can function effectively.’ as one contemporary observer put it. 106-107. still rankled in public opinion after the General left the scene. cited in Eugen Weber.48 The police of the late 1890s might have saved themselves much wasted effort in rooting out imaginary anarchist conspiracies if they had been able to act on Dr. Massachusetts.’ American Journal of Insanity (October 1902). The humiliation of military defeat at the hands of Germany in 1871. p. 114. The Proud Tower. as well as sporadic threats to the political system like Gen. anarchist terror peaked at a time of political and social uncertainty over events such as the Panama stock affair. Boulanger’s flirtation with authoritarian power in the late 1880s. Parisian authorities in the 1890s had to square the theory of a terrorist conspiracy aimed at society itself with the reality of individual suicidality among the attackers. the Pentagon. 27 49 .
as Bernard Porter goes on to point out. Nobody knew what sort of restructuring the socialists might actually try to impose on society should they ever gain power. Competition for empire would intensify over the course of the decade. and few in the middle classes were eager to find out. However. The Reform Act of 1884 had enfranchised huge numbers of lower-class labourers. which in turn fuelled those fears. to some extent. ordinary people may also have had at least a dim sense that they and the anarchists faced common enemies.’50 And yet. then. The Origins of the Vigilant State.1890s was the decade of the third Marquis of Salisbury. led to hand-wringing about the decline of general morality. Rudyard Kipling and the earliest flowerings of the genius of Edward Elgar: not men whom it is easy to see as pessimistic figures. vital elements of political life were in flux – elements so vital that changes in them could mean changes in the basics of social organisation. Prevailing fears in both France and Britain. 28 . leading to myriad disputes with continental powers. fuelled popular disgust with anarchist violence. as so many now were). Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial being far from an isolated incident. all was not well. as other world economies flexed their competitive muscle and began to challenge British dominance in a host of industries and markets. Anticipating Max Weber’s view of bureaucratised capitalist society as an ‘iron cage’ (Talcott Parsons’ oft-disputed translation of ‘ein 50 Porter. A series of scandals involving homosexuality. The anarchists proclaimed their rejection of a modern order that controlled working people through mechanisation and oppressive management structures that sometimes mirrored oppressive systems of social control wielded by governments and other institutions. Above all. A vague sense among the elite that Great Britain’s greatness was past its peak would be borne out by economic data in the two decades preceding the First World War. p. in an age which in many ways represented an apogee. A rising tide of immigration was creating enclaves in major cities – like the French and Italian anarchist neighbourhoods of London – that old-timers viewed with disdain and suspicion (all the more so when the immigrants were eastern European Jews. 98. bolstering socialist movements that were slowly but surely gaining a foothold in Britain.
181.’ 53 The lurid reportage may have been intended merely to sell newspapers. the popular tabloid Le Petit journal carried an account of the public execution of four anarchists at Jerez in Spain. of 1930 translation). the author will not soon forget an otherwise forgettable minstrel who took the stage on folk night at a Cambridge pub. six weeks after 11 September. It would be going entirely too far to speak of any conscious sense of common purpose shared between most workers and the anarchists.stahlhartes Gehäuse’)51 that is destined increasingly to impose its discipline on the individual. 52 That said. violent anarchists and their apologists frequently made the point that they were. many of the anarchists shared a vision of a revolution that would free mankind from the imprisonment of modern order.’ 53 Le Petit journal. Indeed. their tongues hanging out and eyes bulging as a verdugo behind each man wrenched the garrotte. 51 Max Weber (Talcott Parsons. but the image evoked an unease that the bourgeoisie could share in its own way – a sense of the awesome power of the modern state (symbolized by a smartly uniformed military regiment that stood at attention before the scaffold). Examples of this almost-subconscious kinship appear in the vernacular media of the day. praying over them as they suffered.). 29 . which was prepared not only to kill but to humiliate as it killed.’ 27 February 1892. occupying most of the newspaper’s back page. and it betrayed no actual sympathy for the anarchists’ cause. 72. The article described the Spanish method of execution as ‘atroce’ and ‘positivement ignoble. and earned uneasy applause from the assembled hipsters for a new song celebrating ‘another pair of capitalist trees now fallen…. fighting state terror with their own terror. p. Two weeks before Ravachol’s first bombing. that portrayed the dying agonies of the condemned in a most horrific manner. taken to the horrific extremes. It was illustrated with a tinted engraving. just as we cannot claim that Osama bin Laden and today’s anti-globalisation protesters rejoiced equally in the destruction of that paramount symbol of corporate global power. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London. Weber originally published this work as a pair of journal articles in 1904 and 1905. This was an image of state terrorism. Bound into hands of each anarchist was a cross. p. in essence. Two priests stood before the group on the scaffold. ‘Supplément illustré. 1992 ed. the World Trade Center. making an object lesson of the fate of those who opposed it. trans.52 But the anarchist bombings can be seen as an expression of widely felt misgivings or grievances.
In England. Asked to enforce the new law against membership in an ‘association de malfaiteurs.’ 54 With elements of both the elite and the common people in France. sometimes even an exasperated prime minister and once even the Queen – would broach the subject over the course of the 1890s. Jury nullification may be said to thwart the will of a democracy when it guts the intent of elected legislators. 54 La Justice. recoiling at the repression absolutist regimes were willing to unleash on their subjects. it is little wonder that a residuum of liberality in each country kept in check the more draconian responses advocated from certain quarters. junior ministers. officially. the punishment struck Clemenceau as ‘an act of savagery. but their trial balloons were inevitably shot down.’ In the end. The Proud Tower. Georges Clemenceau. Various parties – backbenchers. brutal though Henry’s crimes were.Even those in power could share in qualms about the state’s actions against the enemy anarchist. a member of the Chamber of Deputies at the time. 23 May 1894. but the jurors who flouted the ‘lois scélérates’ surely did so because they saw the invocation of these laws as so deeply at odds with France’s self-image as a land of liberty. as jurors in the Trial of the Thirty demonstrated in August 1894.’ and presented with the argument that the writings of activists like Jean Grave and Sebastian Faure constituted a conspiracy of incitement to violence – before a judge who. and doubtless England as well in many instances. 30 . by many accounts. 94. displayed an egregious bias against the defence – these citizens refused to play their parts as the state had hoped. politicians and government officials never saw any point in trying to gain public acceptance of a more restrictive policy toward the country’s anarchist visitors. even in a time of rising hostility to immigrants and eroding faith in the sacredness of political asylum. who approached the scaffold ‘with the face of a tormented Christ … trying to impose his intellectual pride upon his child’s body. Even enacting laws aimed at anarchists – virtual bills of attainder – did not prove a viable tactic of state control in France. cited in Tuchman. p. British civil-libertarian traditions remained strong. But the struggle against anarchism would produce incentives for some in British law enforcement to depart from those traditions – incentives too tempting to ignore. wrote of his feelings upon witnessing the execution of Emile Henry.
31 56 . 55 —Lord Rosebury. Foreign Secretary. ‘During the Forty Years’ Peace after 1871 they were afraid of one another. It was hardly surprising that the responses of Britain and France to anarchist activities on each other’s territories should reflect the vagaries of overall relations between the two countries. the two nations would wrangle over imperial spoils. enter into third-party alliances meant to hinder each other’s global ambitions.’ L. p.B. ‘During the Forty Years’ Peace after 1815 the Great Powers were afraid of revolution. At the same time.).Liberty of Action Her Majesty’s ministers are of the opinion that the present law is quite adequate for this class of crime.C. Between the 1880s and the turn of the century. and are therefore unable to enter into any international engagement which might hamper or complicate their liberty of action.R. 130. Even though no European nation was accused of what would later be called ‘state-sponsored terrorism. Seaman wrote.’ London. 13 December 1893 The anxieties of ordinary Europeans as the 20th century approached were reflected in the statecraft of the continent’s powers.’ L. and twice confront serious talk of war (in July 1893 when a false report claimed the French had ordered the British fleet out of 55 Letter to Spanish ambassador del Mazo. Public Record Office (P.’ and despite the common threat that governments and peoples alike perceived in anarchist violence. nor would they be allowed to get in the way of sovereign action. bending and breaking of great-power alliances.O. 1955).B. Proposed International Action against. Seaman. Collective security was not a concept for times like these. political agitation by foreigners rekindled old fears of revolution from abroad. responding to his suggestion of ‘a common international action against Anarchism. in a geopolitical atmosphere defined by the fevered making. Nov to Dec 1893. Even when countries were on good terms with each other.C. From Vienna to Versailles (London. 881/6427. painting history with the broadest of brushes. diplomats and politicians were conditioned to view any development that upset the status quo among nations as potentially a ploy by a rival.’ 56 Anarchism involved elements of both these cosmic fears.O. each nation faced the anarchist threat essentially as a lone combatant. a climate of mutual suspicion often permeated internal discussions of foreign policy. F. Anarchism. ‘General & Spain: Corres. Not much help was expected from other countries.
Taylor. also disappeared to London. too. in Europe. as they do not espouse the opinions of those they harbour. ‘though fierce.’57 But at times in the preceding century France had not shared in Britain’s liberalism.P. and in September 1898 over the Sudanese outpost of Fashoda). p. an appeals court denied the extradition of one Angelo Castioni to Switzerland.P. 25 March 1892. In 1891.P.’ Paris. the French considered but apparently ruled out an extradition request for him. p. It is true. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 (Oxford. 1954). 1848. 1858). 59 Report from ‘Zéro. as A. setting the stage for a pair of landmark extradition cases in the British courts (about which more below). wanted as an accomplice of Ravachol. Louis Blanc. together with another wanted anarchist called François. It would later emerge that Emile Henry.’ 32 . Looming in French thinking was a disturbing precedent in recent British case law applying to political asylum. for the exile driven from his country by absolutism or usurpation.J. Taylor wrote. v. The indomitable energy with which the English people have maintained the right of asylum is the much more honourable.J. ‘Ravachol. During the hunt for Ravachol. in the middle of the nineteenth century. 315. that these disputes. Historical Revelations (London. London connections surfaced repeatedly in the investigations. there was speculation among the authorities that he had fled to London. The accused had been among a mob that stormed 57 58 A. had spent time among the anarchists of London. she should have been the only impregnable asylum. Gustave Mathieu. A.. were family quarrels between two nations with a common civilization and a common liberalism.58 But the tradition of refuge prevented enactment of any legal restrictions on who could enter the United Kingdom or what political activities foreigners could undertake in the country.59 Théodule Meunier did flee there. and a legacy of those times – Britain’s reputation as a land of asylum for the politically repressed – became an irritant as the two countries confronted anarchist violence. that. Britain’s status as a safe haven for exiled anarchists figured in the thinking of French authorities from the onset of the Paris bombings in 1892.P.Siamese waters. B/A 1132. Post-1848 political refugees like French socialist Louis Blanc had treasured Britain’s principled willingness to accept foreigners of all shades of opinion: It will ever be to the glory of England. where he would feature prominently in the French police reports of coming years.
and that on and since the evening of the 11th instant numbers of men. No. as well as their superiors at cabinet level. ‘Angleterre – Affaires diverses politiques. ‘The Metropolitan Police have no reason to doubt the good faith of their informant though they are disposed to doubt the value of his statements. Thus in January 1893. he fled to England.M.A.’61 The British officials responsible for international police cooperation. 1815-1896. Russians. Charged with murder. Lord Dufferin. to Foreign Minister Jules Develle. tended to be far from satisfied with this state of affairs. Castioni opposed extradition on the grounds that the murder was a political offence – thus making him no more extraditable than Louis Blanc might have been for treason against Louis Napoleon.’ c. 166 of judgement. to the effect that the ‘Group of International Anarchists’ in London have recently resolved to aid the Paris Communists in a Revolutionary outbreak on Sunday next. Germans and Frenchmen were leaving for Paris to take part in the movement. grèves. 58 : ‘1892 – Anarchistes. dynamite.).’60 The implication that British courts might accord the same respect to the political goals of anarchists was as disturbing to many British politicians as to the French. British Ambassador at Paris.’ This episode did not even merit its own sub-file within the Foreign Ministry. the Home Office and Foreign Office spent some days analysing the information and then preparing a formal diplomatic note before finally sending it – one day before the supposed insurrection was set to occur: ‘[T]he Earl of Rosebery has instructed me to communicate to you the substance of a Report which his Lordship has received from the Metropolitan Police. ‘…It is stated that two French Generals will place themselves at the head of the insurgents in Paris. not a plot given much credence). so it is safe to say the French did not view 33 . But the stated British policy of communicating information about international crime through diplomatic channels had obvious limitations when matters were urgent. 14 January 1893. killing a government official. Italians. Britain was fully prepared to cooperate with France or any other country against the anarchists when cases arose that did not pose legal dilemmas. Defending civil-libertarian principles won them few friends at home or abroad when it 60 61 In Re Castioni (1891). Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères (A. quotation from p.a municipal building in Ticino. but inquiries are meanwhile being prosecuted in every direction from which information can be derived. The court accepted this argument. 1 Queen’s Bench 149. but all parties agreed that tradition and public opinion would stand in the way of any legislative attempt to circumvent such judicial folly. Paris. holding that any crimes Castioni had committed ‘were incidental to and formed a part of political disturbances.E. 15th instant. when the London police learned of a reported plot to overthrow France (granted.
And words alone could land an anarchist in a British gaol as well: David Nicoll. 1987). H. even though they were not specifically directed against the government of this country.64 Likewise. At times. supra.’ P.O. pp. The same author commented on the 28 April 1894 issue of the anarchist publication The Commonweal: ‘Though this paper breathes sedition in almost every line it can scarcely be said to advocate the use of explosives or any other form of physical violence to further a revolution…. Certainly. 116-117.O. for example. defending those who defended Ravachol. Lay by. Polti was sentenced to ten years and Farnara to twenty. 124-134. British authorities had no aversion to attempting extradition when a foreign power sought it for a suspect charged with a nominally non-political crime. 64 John Quail. which at face value involved a clearly criminal conspiracy (the possible defence being that an agent provocateur in the service of the Special Branch manufactured it).R. despite the Castioni case.O.. learned the hard way that questioning whether the authorities responsible for the Walsall case were ‘fit to live’ was crossing a legal line. editor of the anarchist weekly The Commonweal. it was speculated that sedition laws might be stretched to cover inflammatory anarchist pamphlets: ‘Writings advocating the destruction of all governments and the upset of society generally would appear to be seditious libels. The Home Office’s correspondence with the Foreign Office about the alleged plot is at London.’ [Simpson]. criminal codes.R. 63 As elaborated by Bernard Porter. resulted in lengthy prison terms for those convicted. The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British Anarchists (London.’62 But neither this idea nor other innovations of jurisprudence appear to have made it beyond the drawing board. pp. 34 . So did a London bomb plot concocted by two Italians named Francesco Polti and Giuseppe Farnara. The records of the Home Office and Foreign Office from the 1890s reflect numerous internal discussions and initiatives meant to improve the situation. Suffolk.. H. 1978). 65 See page 18.63 The Walsall case. he served eighteen months at hard labour. in practice. though the trial exposed the bombers as almost comically inept.B. P. 3 November 1896.R. H.meant. The Home Office wagered – correctly – that the courts would not allow Meunier65 and alleged accomplice François to shield themselves by it as a credible threat. 144/270/A58394.O.K. The Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch Before the First World War (Woodbridge.S.).O. however. Public Record Office (P. 144/258/A55684. Convicted of inciting violence in May 1892. 62 Home Office minute initialled ‘H. 144/545/A55176. Britain was prepared to bring the full weight of the law to bear on those few anarchists who were caught ‘red-handed’ in acts that unambiguously violated U.O.
Meunier lived out his days in a penal colony until his death in 1907. so that the uncertainty of Castioni hung in the air for quite some time. But tracking the men down (separately) in London would take months.R. 99. I think it very undesirable that the Commonweal group of anarchists shall receive even the small amount of encouragement that permission to hold a meeting would be to them. cited in Kamm.66 When a group from The Commonweal sought the same permission soon afterward. a French court acquitted François of all charges. Public Order and Civil Liberties. In effect. ‘The Home Office. after all the fuss.’ p. Convicted and sentenced to forced labour in perpetuity. thesis. 18. Regulation of public meetings was one such grey area. 35 . ‘The Home Office. Home Secretary Herbert Asquith faced criticism in Parliament and the press. col. 144/545/A55176. and extradition proceedings would drag on. 1986)..’ p. the rights of members of a particular group to gather and speak publicly were being restricted on the basis of their opinions. Public Order and Civil Liberties. 1880-1914’ (unpublished Ph. without judicial or legislative process. Interestingly. P.’67 Presumably he was referring to the Nicoll case.68 66 Richard Kamm.D. 1880-1914. though The Commonweal itself had not been on trial there. The Home Office and police also made use as best they could of the discretionary authority they could sometimes wield by virtue of the lack of clear legal definitions of their powers. Public Order and Civil Liberties. 1910. University of Cambridge. cited in Kamm. Speculation among the anarchists about the fate of these men features in several of the French police reports from London from 1892 and 1893. 1880-1914. 67 Hansard. 68 Bradford to Home Office. 97. 4th Series (1893). p. 9 April 1894. that he would have prohibited a Commonweal gathering anywhere because the publication advocated ‘the wholesale massacre of innocent persons.O. 98. Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Edward Bradford weighed in: Without offering any opinion as to the lawfulness or otherwise of a meeting of the anarchists. vol. ‘The Home Office. After allowing anarchists affiliated with the journal Freedom to demonstrate on Trafalgar Square in 1893 (having recently promulgated regulations for meetings in that space). His reasoning was that the rules regarding Trafalgar Square were not at issue. asking to bring a van into Hyde Park for a May Day celebration in 1894.O. H. When The Commonweal again sought permission to use a public space.claiming that they were charged with political offences. Asquith denied it.
MacNaghten had called in Monro to help suppress the restless natives.R. 99. Monro hired MacNaghten.) in the mid-1880s. from March 1903 until May 1913.’ p. few officers are likely to have seen the need to construct such Jesuitical justifications – if common elements in the personal and career backgrounds of senior personnel are any indication. 144/545/A55176. Public Order and Civil Liberties. Since the unit had begun as the ‘Special Irish Branch’ in response to Fenian attacks. it was only logical that some Irish policemen would have joined in the early 69 Minute by Lushington.72 At the street level. Days of My Years (London. The backgrounds they did come from may not have been incompatible with liberal values.71 Eight years later. many Special Branch officers also had a background in common. As Bernard Porter has noted. The Origins of the Vigilant State. assistant commissioner in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (C.I. where that sort of liberalism ran very thin. Melville MacNaghten (later Sir Melville). 1880-1914. 72.I. P. 71 Sir Melville MacNaghten. The Origins of the Vigilant State. The empire was coming home. James Monro. who went on himself to become commissioner in charge of C. or at least by men from its fringes. Having been beaten ‘senseless’ by villagers on his estate. 1914). helpfully arriving at a line of argument the government could use if challenged on its reasoning: ‘The legal defence would be that under existing circumstances to preach anarchism is to preach violent and unlawful proceedings. ‘The Home Office. 72. chiefs and others with responsibility for clandestine policing in this era who had served in the army.O. 10 April 1894. had first met one of his key detectives. C.D. held colonial positions in India. Liberal Britain was being policed by outsiders. virtually all of the officers in charge of secret and anti-subversive activity at Scotland Yard during the 1880s and 1890s came from military or Indian colonial backgrounds.I.70 For example. Porter names a total of ten Metropolitan Police Commissioners. p. p.Under-Secretary Godfrey Lushington concurred. He comments: None of these men had English police backgrounds.. but they were less likely to nurture them than most. p. cited in Kamm. 36 . or both.O.D. H. 70 Porter. 52. 72 Porter. in 1881 when Monro was a police chief and MacNaghten a planter in Bengal.’ 69 Within upper police echelons.D.
His responsibilities included oversight of the Special Branch. better known by his pseudonym ‘Henri Le Caron. Long before he assumed that post. 185). from August 1888 until May 1901. but the fact that the Branch became ‘dominated by Irishmen’73 in the 1890s. As the Fenian threat became pressing in the late 1860s. then one might suppose that an intensified allegiance to the British crown – in a time of Fenian agitation and ongoing political debate over the possibility of Home Rule – made some Irishmen especially good candidates to work in a police unit devoted to protecting the existing political order from external threats.D. the Home Office tasked Anderson to manage the work of Thomas Beach.’ an 73 74 Porter. rather than history. but only to suggest it distanced men like Melville and Anderson. Robert Anderson and William Melville (an Anglo-Irishman and an Irishman). 72. p. We have no evidence as to what motivated most of the people who served as Britain’s front line of defence against the London anarchists. But what we know about the lives and careers of those two bosses. of these two individuals. Their reputations are at stake in this account. sheds some light on the character of the Special Branch.days. Bernard Porter explains his focus on the ethnicity of Branch officers in terms that apply equally to the present work: ‘Much has been made in this book of their Irishness: not to denigrate the Irish people in any way. after the Fenian threat had receded. and sitting in judgement is usually an unproductive exercise for the historian. that is. he had become the foremost spymaster in the British Isles – though almost the only one. and those under them. If the many rank-and-file officers of Irish extraction shared the political outlook of two of their bosses. Robert Anderson (later Sir Robert) served as assistant commissioner in charge of the C. p. and to some extent the character. The Origins of the Vigilant State.74 Much of the story of the anti-anarchist campaign in London during the 1890s comes down to interpretation and conjecture about the activities. Any conclusions to be drawn from the available facts can only be useful to the extent they shed light on interpersonal dynamics and patterns of institutional behaviour that may be relevant to our times – conclusions of social science.I. in a time and place where espionage was widely looked on as a dishonourable activity. There is much we can never know. invites speculation. from the dominant political values of the society they had been called in to protect’ (The Origins of the Vigilant State. The author has tried to resist drawing definitive conclusions from the facts about these men found in the documentary and archival record. 37 .
The Coming Prince (1894). By painstaking calculation. He wrote numerous books on secular topics including prison reform and juvenile justice reform. pp. while carrying out his police duties during the week.’76 was born in Dublin in 1841. 1947). ‘no informant of his was ever betrayed. But an episode in one of the books may be a telling indicator of how Anderson developed the attitudes he later displayed toward sharing secret information up the chain of command. 132. Early in his Home Office career. Moore-Anderson. 17. 38 . writes the spymaster’s son. was implicated in Irish Republican crimes. ‘“How do I know the purport of the 75 76 Porter. London.C. Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson. p. At least eight of these titles are available in print at this writing. His best-known book. when Beach unmasked himself to testify before the commission investigating charges that Charles Parnell. he underwent a religious experience at the age of nineteen and began touring as an evangelical Presbyterian preacher in his spare time. and then at Trinity College. This relationship continued until 1888.P. and that the original Palm Sunday therefore fell on 6 April 32 A. eightyfour years after Anderson’s death. 13. The Origins of the Vigilant State. After that incident. Educated in Paris and Boulogne. A. he was preaching on Sundays at a church in Notting Hill.77 The two separate memoirs produced by Anderson’s son attest to the high esteem in which many eminent Victorians held him. His refusal to give their names and his insistence on treating their letters as private was objected to at one time by Sir William Harcourt.D. 93-94. By the 1880s. Anderson concludes that Daniel’s prophecy of a great ruler’s decree to ‘restore and build Jerusalem’ was fulfilled on 14 March 445 B. who called himself ‘an anglicised Irishman of Scottish extraction. 77 Moore-Anderson.75 Anderson. who remarked that “Anderson’s idea of secrecy is not to tell the Secretary of State!”’ The memoir goes on to cite an example of indiscretion by Gladstone himself. p. Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson (London. Dublin. idle gossip among Anderson’s political bosses resulted in the unmasking and murder of a Fenian informant. but he achieved the most notice for his writings on biblical themes.P. interprets the millennial prophecies of the Book of Daniel through their numerical and astronomical elements.Englishman posing as a Frenchman who had infiltrated the Fenian movement in North America. who had once written ‘a Minute of grave importance’ in Robert Anderson’s presence. M.
paint a less flattering portrait of this undoubtedly interesting figure.79 Former Special Branch agent Patrick McIntyre – who. it must be said. ‘The Home Office. p. p. 78. Anderson – Memo setting forth circs of case & authorising the payment of a gratuity of £1. 81 Ridley to Salisbury. Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson. 5th Earl Spencer.I. commissioner’s ‘great interest in the unearthing of so-called conspiracies. Anderson’s reputation suffered after he was imprudent enough to admit in a magazine article that he had taken a Fenian conspirator into the pay of the Branch at the time of Queen Victoria’s 1887 jubilee – when an ostensible assassination plot was uncovered. Charles Ritchie. Bodleian Library. then prime minister: ‘I should not particularly like under any circs to send’ Anderson as a delegate. Salisbury Papers. who would report to nobody else).’ 39 .Minute?” said my father. H.O.R. Home Office officials. Home Secretary Matthew White Ridley wrote to Lord Salisbury. In Commons. 80 Patrick McIntyre. The Origins of the Vigilant State.’ P.’80 In 1898. p. Digby of Home Office wrote to Ritchie.000. 144/588/B5005. ‘Scotland Yard: Its Mysteries and Methods. exasperated that Anderson could not produce any anti-Fenian spies apart from Le Caron despite much time and expense. cited in Kamm.’ Reynolds’s Newspaper. Oxford.O. sending two Irishmen to prison for fifteen years and winning accolades for several Branch personnel. meanwhile. 10 November 1898.82 Late in life.’ p. 1880-1914. 229n. “it was perfectly legible on the blotting pad he had used! Is it any wonder I refused to trust the lives of informants to ministers of state?”’ 78 Other sources. Porter. cited in Porter. 277. was a biased source. relieved him of his espionage duties in 1884 (except for dealings with Le Caron.. in Spencer papers. as discussions were underway to decide who would be in Britain’s delegation to the Rome anti-anarchist conference. Home Secretary Winston Churchill called Anderson’s conduct ‘foreign to the whole spirit of the British 78 79 Moore-Anderson. Hatfield House. 17 August(?) 1888. Harcourt to John Poyntz.D. ‘Resignation of Mr. The Origins of the Vigilant State. Public Order and Civil Liberties.81 Ridley’s successor. tell-all memoir that blamed Anderson for ruining his career – mocked the C. Elsewhere Porter quotes the former Home Secretary William Vernon Harcourt as calling Anderson ‘worse than useless. 45. 25 May 1895. having published a bitter. asked for Anderson’s resignation three months after taking office. 82 Kenelm E.’ writing that ‘it is impossible to find a more unfit man’ for the job of running police secret services. Anderson to send in his resignation… in consequence of the necessity which in your opinion had arisen for alteration in the staff and organization of the Metropolitan Police. 22 May 1901: ‘About 3 months ago you requested Mr.
213-215.I.. 2358. That is.’ 10 November 1903. eds. The Origins of the Vigilant State. 119. vol. 84 ‘Retirement of Superintendent Melville. 5th Series (1910).’86 Whether former intelligence officer Ian Fleming ever knew of this real-life ‘M’ in Britain’s Security Service is anyone’s guess. 1931). a fishing town in Kerry. Contemporary documentation that Melville was known by his initial can be found at the P. 40 . He listed no educational credentials in Who’s Who. 11 September 2001. 1993).I. but the release of classified material from the proto-history of M. a ‘big.L.R.5 has rounded out a detective story worthy of a Victorian/Edwardian James Bond.” The Guardian. col.: Behind the Scenes at Scotland Yard (London. Dictionary of Labour Biography.83 William Melville served as an inspector in the Special Branch from sometime prior to 1885 and as its superintendent from April 1893 until November 1903. H. IX (London..D. 1905-1906. he was married and working for the Special Branch in France: son James. the acknowledged nemesis of the anarchists. C. 3/130.. 179. By 1885.’ using the occasion to comment on the danger of vesting too much unaccountable power in secret agents. 16. Adam. recipient of gifts and honours – and intimate confidences – from virtually all the crowned heads of Europe. The Origins of the Vigilant State. writing of Melville: “it was he who came to be known as M. Melville was then taking part in a programme agreed between France and Britain that allowed British agents to keep watch over French 83 Hansard. p. and we have no information on how a young man from those environs happened to join London’s Metropolitan Police at the age of twenty. ‘The most celebrated detective of the day. who would go on to serve as solicitor general in Ramsay MacDonald’s second Labour government in 1929-30. in 1997. that William Melville was an original – if not the original – ‘M.. pp.O. but Melville did so in 1872. he would fascinate even if it had not emerged. broad-shouldered man with tremendous strength and unlimited courage’85 – Melville would under any circumstances capture the imagination more readily than any other character in the story of the struggle against the anarchists. ‘Correspondence with War Office about activities of ‘M’ and Mr Long. personal bodyguard to Queen Victoria and many of her royal friends. p. p.87 Most likely. cited in Porter. 86 Former Security Service Director-General Stella Rimington made the James Bond connection in a sidebar to her serialised memoir in 2001. cited in Porter. vol. 85 H.Government and Constitution. Melville was born in Sneem.’ 84 in the words of The Times.’ 87 Biography of Sir James Melville by Archie Potts. in Joyce M.D. 167. Bellamy and John Saville. was born in Le Havre in April 1885.
Il n’y a pas une ambassade à Londres qui n’ait eu recours a lui. pas un diplomate tant soit peu exerce qui n’ait cherche a le connaître. A French source in London sent an unsigned report (longer and more analytical than the usual agent reports.P. en résidence à Londres’: Je connais. Melville’s reputation was already on the rise.. s’il n’avait pas été à chaque instant empêche par ses chefs. depuis des années. and by the time the anarchist scare erupted in early 1892.’ 41 . si elle est étouffée au berceau comme on vient de la faire. Je le connais personnellement…. Au premier étage il y avait une réunion 88 Report datelined London. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893.ports in an effort to stem the trafficking of girls and women for prostitution. continue le correspondant. who died in December 1889]. aux démagogues allemands et autrichiens. unusually. typewritten) to the Paris prefecture in May 1892 describing how indispensable Melville had proven himself to be as a liaison for continental regimes: [L]’inspecteur Melville … n’a peut être pas l’admirable perspicacité de feu Williamson [former Special Branch chief Adolphus Williamson. and. 3 May 1892. l’inspecteur Melleville [sic]. aux communistes. By 1887 he was back in London. mais … est un agent d’une grande expérience. Il réserve son opinion en ce qui concerne les pays étrangers. In a February 1894 police report found at the A. A. Melville est parfaitement au font des ramifications des anarchistes anglais avec les anarchistes étrangers. an agent in Paris quotes from a letter sent by ‘le correspondant allemand de la Post.P. [S]pécialement en ce qui concerne les réfugies russes aurait. B/A 1508. du patronage que les socialistes anglais même modérés accordent aux nihilistes. but he had captured Meunier personally). rendu les plus grands services au gouvernement russe. et il est d’avis que l’anarchie anglaise.P. très apprécié de la Reine…. often with admiration in the mainstream press and fear and loathing in the anarchist press. des complaisances des fabians. aux irrédentistes italiens. Such was his celebrity that French dailies speculated excitedly about whether he would personally bring Meunier back to France when the court approved his extradition (he didn’t. dont la cause en cette question est intimement liée aux principes essentiels de toute société moderne. Melville had a mystique about him. n’est pas dangereuse pour l’Angleterre. aux fénians et aux « invincibles » irlandais.. and his legend spread.88 Melville was mentioned frequently in both British and French newspapers during the 1890s.P. J’étais un jour au bar d’un marchand du vin du Westend et l’inspecteur Melleville était avec moi.
became active in Britain in the 1890s.P. I was surprised later on when the Emperor [Kaiser Wilhelm of the 1914-18 war] came away from the Royal party and shook hands with me very heartily. l’inspecteur me donnait des notes biographiques sur chacun d’eux. For we now know that the Russian secret police. and Chief-Inspector Melville was frequently entrusted with this task. that higher-ups prevented the inspector from freelancing for Russia at that time. 1/8.’ Paris. to believe Melville when he records for the secret posterity of M. the Okhrana. are held at the Hoover Institution. etc.P. A 42 .V. Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson. 1917.’91 The mention. A. 92 The files of the Paris Okhrana operation. In a private letter to my father from Windsor in November 1899. Brackets in original.5 agents: ‘Few men at this time (1903) were better known in London than I was.d’un groupe anarchiste tchèque-allemand. Our detective force in Germany is very bad. Kell's senior detective.. there is always a lot of fuss. It is interesting that the notion of Melville’s assisting the tsarist regime arose as early as 1892. ‘Memoir of William Melville. too: The duty of protecting royal personages visiting Britain fell to Scotland Yard. and that the French were so well-informed about the matter. he said: “You have a wonderful police force in England. 58. spirited out of France by one of its former officers after the Bolshevik Revolution. frankly.89 A passage from the Anderson memoir cited above offers a glimpse of the glamour that Melville found himself exposed to – and shows how he liked to brag about it. Un tel est cambrioleur. un tel a escroqué. B/A 1509. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre 1894. in the May 1892 report above.R.’ Parentheses in original. 91 P. of Melville’s potential to render ‘les plus grands services’ to the Russian government bears closer inspection.92 And we know that by July 1897 Melville was on sufficiently intimate terms 89 Report by ‘France. K. which worked on the friendliest of terms with French police forces..’ 90 Moore-Anderson. p. ‘Subsequently the Duke had several conversations with me as to the relative merits of the Continental police. et comme les membres de ce cercle défilaient un à un. 26 February 1894.I. he mentioned that when out shooting the previous day the Prince of Wales [afterwards Edward VII] and the Duke of York had cordially shaken hands with him…. etc. but nothing done.”’90 One is tempted.. by way of its Paris branch. at Stanford University in California.O.
He says nothing more. K.’ 95 Cutting from the Standard.’ The Russians followed this advice. 1/8.5 memoir. p. 16. Great Detectives and Their Methods (London. 1917. cited in Porter.R.R. au finding aid gives details of the extension of operations to Britain: ‘The first request of Headquarters to dispatch the agents in Paris to London came in 1890. 43 . in his words. p. The brackets denote the author’s reconstructions of lacunae where the edges of the paper have fallen away. served eighteen months in English prisons. and Burtsev. ‘Russian spies and police agents also came in for considerable attention. at P. pp. but essentially only correspondents.I.d. For instance. 144/259/A55860. n. H. 23 April 1894. advising the Russian government to urge the British to bring charges of incitement to murder against London dissident publisher Vladimir Burtsev and an accomplice. 93 Bernard Porter discusses a letter Melville sent to an Okhrana agent in July 1897. p.’ 94 Melville writes in his 1917 M. convicted in 1898.). The Origins of the Vigilant State. 119. there are records of resident secret agents there (British and Russian).95 Melville was later remembered as the sort of policeman who ‘did not always bother to go through all the strict legal formalities with criminal “small fry” when a good hiding would do.with a Russian agent to involve himself quite voluntarily – and irregularly – in the Okhrana’s pursuit of a Russian exile in London.. an unidentified Home Office functionary wrote in its margin: ‘It is curious that so much information shd get out – not from exa[mination] in open court. ‘Memoir of William Melville. leaving to the imagination what sort of attention might have been deemed appropriate.’96 A passing note in a French police agent’s report from December 1893 appears to record the results of such a ‘hiding’: ‘Dimanche. it appears that he or personnel under his command may have engaged in a form of spin-doctoring – at least they seem to have been suspected of doing so. 94 P. 96 George Dilnot.O. Kell's senior detective. Commenting on a particularly detailed newspaper account of the arrest of the Italian anarchist Farnara in 1894. Other evidence supports the notion that Melville had a habit of bending the rules and ‘playing the system’ to achieve his ends without enduring too much bother from his bosses. 1929). an ‘opportunity to stick close to these gentlemen and harry them.93 We do not know of any other instance during the 1890s when a Special Branch member was restrained by superiors from collaborating with a foreign government. 142-44. Throughout the 1890s.O. The Origins of the Vigilant State.’ Archive of the Imperial Russian Secret Police (Ohkrana): A Guidebook (Stanford.V. 175. but from what would appear to have been communicated [by] the police. amidst tales of his activity against suspected German spies in the years before the war. in order to give Melville..O.
Malatesta a en les deux yeux pochés et Agresti la joue gauche fendue.’ whose reports generally give the impression of a sober and professional demeanour. par Melleville [sic] et par Coulon qui a été selon moi complice inconscient de Melleville.’ 98 Report from ‘Z N° 6.P. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893. French agents in London appear to have given some credence to David Nicoll’s claim that apparent co-conspirator Auguste Coulon was in the service of the Special Branch and concocted the bomb plot. was apparently asked to brief headquarters on the Coulon affair when it resurfaced in the news nearly two years after the Walsall arrests.P. par Melleville’ have been underlined by someone reading the report in Paris.’ 44 .’ London. Ce sont les agents de M. 12 December 1893. His report begins: Procès de Whalsall [sic]. L’affaire avait. B/A 1508.. Melleville [sic] qui les ont ainsi arrangés. a en lieu le procès de ce nom.meeting à Trafalgar. En mars 1891. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893.’ London. 98 The words ‘préparée.’97 In a similar category are the assertions that the 1892 Walsall anarchist prosecution was set up by agents provocateurs – claims that hung over Melville for the rest of his career. de l’aveu de tous. 23 November 1893. A. A. B/A 1508. The prolific agent ‘Z N° 6.P. été préparée.. 97 Report by ‘Jarvis. with a large exclamation point added in the margin.P.
the one modern biography of Michel (Edith Thomas. Some of the names mentioned in the despatches are unknown.P. Louise Michel . (It would be valuable to know whether the proposal to kidnap Meunier and François with Special Branch assistance101 was the sort of thing that got considered on more than one occasion. such as inciting anarchist violence.P. 101 See infra. 49-50. contriving it through agents provocateurs. La Velléda de l’anarchie [Paris. chronicling as they do the daily lives and works in exile of personalities such as former Communard Louise Michel and the tireless agitator Errico Malatesta. a protean figure whose working lifespan began in collaboration with Bakunin and ended in persecution by Mussolini. Archives de la préfecture de police (A. Conversely. The other question is 99 Paris. events and controversies that are historical dead-ends.’ London.Among the compagnons Des agents de police française ont été vus et reconnus dans Charlotte Street par les compagnons Mathieu et Charveron. B/A 1508. ou. 1971]) relies mainly on the subject’s own writings and the accounts of anarchist contemporaries. or engaging in other covert action against anarchist suspects. Les compagnons estiment que celui qui a fait le coup ferait bien de ne jamais aller à Londres s'il ne veut être vendu par les mouchards qui se sont infiltrés dans le quartier français de cette ville. and elements of it will remain so for all time. and the reports cover many acts. As is so often the case in histories of anarchism. the London reports appear to be a valuable resource for historians of anarchism.). their significance or insignificance obscured by lack of available context within these documents or elsewhere.) On this question we are left entirely to conjecture. No analytical biography has been written of Malatesta. 21 November 1892 France’s police surveillance operation in London was a secret. 99 —agent ‘Z N° 2. two of which stand out in particular. the police point of view would add a new perspective. however. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893. There are fundamental questions that probably cannot be answered. much of this wealth of detail is not of use. 45 . These documents will prove valuable to whoever eventually fills that void. pp. On suppose que ces agents sont venus à la recherche de l'auteur du dernier attentat.100 For present purposes. The first is whether these agents engaged in activities beyond mere spying.’ 100 The police reports from London would illustrate dimensions of both of these lives that have gone largely unexplored.
whether the code-named functionaries watching London’s anarchist community were technically considered officers of the police department that sent them – the prefecture of police in Paris. Some description of the A.P. The prefecture may have had some representation in London when the attentats began in February 1892. Functionally. we know of several who clearly were assigned from Paris to work in London. The organisation of the papers themselves into three consecutively numbered files is a telling indicator of the trajectory of the era of les attentats. entrusted with information and relationships of the most sensitive nature. Here. pp. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre 1894. The files contain a fair share of reports bearing code-names that appear only once or twice.’ completely fills a carton with one year’s worth of material.’ But certain names predominate. they were intelligence agents in the employ of a political police agency. Whilst there is no confirmation that the ‘correspondants’ (as headquarters most often referred to them.’ covers all agent reports and other documentation from 1895 until sometime after 1911. as they had less and less to report. The differences in volume alone would suggest that this operation was first mounted in earnest during 1893 and 1894. but reports from 102 See supra. a thick file from 1892 and a file roughly twice as thick from 1893. who served from 1879 to 1881.’s files on these agents’ work is in order. too. File B/A 1508. along with some parenthetically labelled ‘occasionnel. and expected to share their analytical opinions as well as the raw information they had gathered. As noted in the introduction to this paper.’ takes up most of a standard-sized archival carton and contains scattered notes from the 1880s onward. 46 . employed full-time by the prefecture. and that the agents on the ground had some intuition that the worst of the scare was over by the end of 1894. and they to each other) were members of the police force. tasked by officers in Paris to investigate specific individuals and topics. we cannot be sure. B/A 1510. but the prefecture’s archives do yield enough clues to provide a substantive answer. and from these and other clues we can cautiously draw some inferences about staffing levels. posting tenures and key moments in the history of the operation. 9-10. there is room to spare in its carton. simply called ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre. B/A 1509.P.102 French police agents are known to have operated in all major European capitals from at least the time of Paris Prefect Louis Andrieux. labelled ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893.
the file contains reports from 1892 as well]. Le résultat sera sûr. ‘Black’ proudly announced in late July 1892 that he was very close to discovering where both men were hiding. to bring his London career to an abrupt halt. on pourrait coopérer avec cette dernière si on lui promettait une récompense : il est certain que d’ici huit jours on aurait les deux individus. ‘Black. Zéro provided two reports on the results of ‘une enquête minutieuse’ into the state of the anarchist movement in Paris during the police crackdown that followed Ravachol’s attacks. he proposed a bold step – bold enough. Le Gouvernement serait-il disposé à donner une certaine somme destinée à être répartie parmi les gens qui prendraient part à l’affaire. Here is what he proposed: La police d’ici est chargée officiellement de la surveillance des anarchistes . d’après une conversation avec un indicateur anglais. ‘Anarchistes. 18-19. 1893’ [sic. when Agent ‘Bob’ filed a few. laquelle n’est pas insensible à l’argent. reports dated 1 and 6 April 1892.P.000 francs pour la capture des deux personnes. filing reports after Ravachol’s attacks. 105 In early April 1892.London are sparse in the archives until June 1892.P. car il y aurait une surveillance spéciale à établir et un personnel à mettre en mouvement ! On a parlé d’une somme de 10. Agent ‘Z N° 2’ was at work in the British capital. (A. if we can attribute his subsequent absence to a hasty recall by alarmed superiors. 10. puisqu’on marchera avec la police d’ici.105 The pseudonym of one agent from this period. pp. somme qui serait payée à la livraison de la marchandise..’ appears only once in the London files – but ‘Black’ managed to leave behind the most spectacular document extant with regard to the surveillance operation. this agent (if we can presume different agents did not share code-names) was a veteran of anti-anarchist surveillance in Paris during the 1880s. on commencerait de suite les 103 Since the files reveal at least one case where an agent changed his pseudonym (when ‘Monte Carlo’ became ‘Jarvis’. p.’ who had been in Paris earlier in the year. in all likelihood. Obviously mindful of the possibility that a British court would deny extradition. The quote is from the latter. 104 See supra. Dans le cas où la somme demandée pour la capture serait ratifiée et arrêtée. Il serait nécessaire de fixer des chiffres afin qu’on puisse traiter.103 As previously mentioned. he was joined by ‘Zéro.104 Within a month. and by August. 47 . At a time of intense French police efforts to bring Meunier and François to justice. it is possible that ‘Bob’ became ‘Z N° 2’ in the summer of 1892. See also supra. B/A 77. see next page). The name of ‘Bob’ ceased to appear within a couple of months.
a bureau chief at the Paris prefecture handed down new orders for the London operation. B/A 1508. following on introductory work done during the prior six months or so: Divers rapports des correspondants Pépin Ego et Zéro ont signalé les tendances internationale des révolutionnaires Anglais et Américains et donnent à entendre que les explosions qui se sont produits en France auraient été préparées ou décidées à l’étranger. For much of that year. en outre des renseignements fournis par les correspondants ci-dessus désignés que les Allemands et les Italiens prendraient une part active dans ces menées anarchistes dirigées contre notre pays.’ with several others pitching in less frequently. In December 1892. The bureau chief goes on to list seven anarchist clubs or entities in London that he wants investigated as soon and as thoroughly as possible.’ 26 July 1892. ou les deux trouves.107 If anarchism was a tightly controlled conspiracy. is discernible.106 François was arrested in October 1892. ‘Monte Carlo’ seems to have handled more than his share of hot potatoes in his first year – seemingly with an aplomb suggesting real talent and experience in clandestine work. A. From 1893 onward. The large increases in London agent activity in the two years following this note would appear to be evidence of a major increase in the resources made available for the London programme. This memorandum seems to be launching a new phase in the surveillance operation. the main correspondents seem to be ‘Monte Carlo’ and ‘Z N° 6. His memorandum is a rarity in the files. then the struggle against anarchism now embodied an element of nationalist anxiety. Anarchism in London had moved up the priority list. there are few documents from Paris spelling out what topics the London agents were expected to investigate.P.P.. 48 . an irregular pattern of rotation of agents. on téléphonerait de façon que la police française puisse agir vivement. in teams that seem to vary in size. Meunier remained on the run until April 1894. Il semble résulter. In July. and the control might be coming from Germany or Italy. at least among top officers at the prefecture. when Superintendent Melville personally seized him at Charing Cross Station. he carefully apprised his superiors of what looks like a tricky issue of family business: 106 Report from ‘Black.recherches et aussitôt l’un ou l’autre.
et contenant des tentatives d’embauchage. A.’ who would contribute seventeen reports in the last ten weeks of the year.P. Lorsqu’on s’en est aperçu et pour donner le change on l’a fait passer sous les yeux de plusieurs anarchistes comme une lettre semblable à celles qui ont été adressées à plusieurs anarchistes de Londres. disappears from the files after a report dated 17 November 1894 and signed ‘Z.109 Near year-end. ‘Z N° 6. B/A 1508. to have more than doubled its regular personnel in the last months of 1894. the same agent had to alert headquarters to a security breach. requiring him to assume a new code-name: A l’avenir je prendrai le pseudonyme de Jarvis au lieu de Monte Carlo. Tels que Capt. Cela a très bien pris. ‘Lapeyre’ was joined by agents ‘Cottance’ and ‘Eureka’ in November.On signale à Londres la présence d’un jeune homme qui aurait été employé à la Préfecture de Police de Paris et dont le père serait encore actuellement chef d’un service de cette administration. as reports in these files have normally been recopied in Paris.6.110 Agent ‘Jarvis’ remained at his post until sometime in 1895. 57. in fact. mais ça ne serait pas au point de vue politique car il a essayé et s’est fait rouler.’ Since an agent called ‘Lapeyre’ had begun filing reports the prior month.. On affirme qu’il enverrait des renseignements à son père.’ meanwhile. On a du en effet décachetez une de vos lettres adressées à mon domicile personnel et on aura pris copie. B/A 1508. 12 December 1892.P.P. Ce jeune homme s’y est marié avec une anglaise et y habite depuis 8 ou 10 mois. 109 See infra. 108 Report by ‘Monte Carlo. though the history of relations between the prefecture and its rival the Sûreté générale might indicate the latter possibility. The operation seems. ‘Eureka’ signalled his arrival in what appears to be a letter written in his own hand – a departure from standard practise. etc.108 We can only presume this last suggestion is meant seriously. as well as ‘A41’ in December. no other originals are found in the cartons: ‘J’ai l’honneur de vous 107 ‘Note pour Monsieur l‘Officier de Paix de la 1ère brigade de recherches’ from ‘Le Chef au Bureau de Cabinet’ ( signature illegible). All would contribute substantial numbers of reports.’ filed in collaboration with ‘Lapeyre.. this probably signals not a name change but a final report from ‘Z N° 6. Il doit donner à la Sûreté. he filed seventy reports in 1894. p. Lapeyre. not sarcastically. 49 . A.’ 8 July 1893.P.
A. And other means were available in some cases. through some sort of courier system – whether under diplomatic cover or not is uncertain. B/A 1508. 5 November 1894. and often began with some variation on the formula: ‘Les compagnons résidant à Londres sont plus calmes que jamais…. B/A 1510. ‘officier de la brigade des recherches’ (as described in L’Eclair. 2 December 1892.’ 112 Report by ‘Jacques.’ requests ‘Z N° 2. 114 Report by ‘Z N° 2. The London operatives reported to their bosses in various ways. F… deviendra nécessaire à Londres..P. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre 1894.’ 3 September 1892.P. B/A 1508.. Report from ‘Eureka.P.P. with appropriate precautions: ‘Prière de donner un langage de convention. The level of observational detail in many of the reports suggests that the author was present at the event being described – not so hard to achieve. but primarily. Fedée.P. but the prefecture seems likely to have downsized if not eliminated its London operation at some point before the outbreak of war in 1914. in a story mentioning that he was visiting London). By 1907. A. it seems..’112 Some sporadic reporting by various hands continued until at least 1911. B/A 1509.P. F…’ may have been M. A. One agent mentioned he would be sending certain papers ‘par les prochains courriers. Articles in the anarchist press regularly referred to Fedée as Melville’s French counterpart.’ (1899-1904) and ‘Jacques’ (1903-07?). given that many anarchist meetings were public events.’ from whom reports can be found through at least 1897.’ 113 Report by ‘Y.’ 27 July 1893. as mentioned in this message: ‘Ce renseignement 110 111 Report headed ‘Monte Carlo’ but signed ‘Jarvis.’ London. A. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre.’114 The success of these agents in infiltrating anarchist groups and gatherings is evident in the sheer volume of information gathered and sent back to Paris. But there is also mention of informers subcontracted by the agents – indicateurs rather than correspondants.’111 This report marked the beginning of a long posting for ‘Eureka..’ 5 December 1893.’113 The security breach that imperilled ‘Monte Carlo’ suggests that some communications may have also moved by ordinary post.informer qui je suis arrivé à Londres vendredi matin et je me suis occupé du renseignement Edgar Wallington que je vous envoie ci inclus et qui m’a pris jusqu’aujourd’hui pour le parfaire.P.’ 22 April 1907. Other agents of long tenure include ‘Bornibus. A. ou prévenir de la même façon pour que l’on sache où l’on pourrait le rencontrer sans rien compromettre.3. Jacques appears to have been working as a sole operative in London. ‘M.. tended to be very brief.P.P. B/A 1508.P. 50 . Messages arrived from him less and less frequently.’ ‘si l’on avait à télégraphier d’urgence et pour le cas où la présence de M.
eds. A. Details on Pini from Jean Maitron. A.P..P.P. 117 Report by ‘Z N° 6. led all too often to blinkered analysis. 119 Report by ‘Z N° 6.’118 One of these mentions leaves the impression of an agent peeking at documents surreptitiously (though it does not make clear under what circumstances he was at Malatesta’s desk): ‘On a vu sur le bureau de Malatesta hier une lettre venant de Buenos Ayres et écrite en Français. Report by ‘Z N° 6.P. E la personne dont je vous ai parlé (l’indicateur fourni par moi à M.P. as well as personal disgust with anarchist values.P. p. In fact. A report from Agent ‘Léon. Some.P. B/A 1508.avait été envoyé par la 3ième Brigade à M.’ 23 August 1893. A.. 51 .’ 119 Less impressive than the volume of information assembled is its general quality. 18-19. A. B/A 1508. A....’117 ‘Capt a reçu une lettre récemment sur la suscription de laquelle était mis le mot de « mouchard »…. vol.’115 There are also intriguing signs that at least one agent had found a way to gain access to mail sent between the compagnons. the degree to which these qualities are evident in the agents’ prose is one clue pointing toward their having some official affiliation with the prefecture: these are the attitudes of committed cops who view their work as a mission. 1971). 14 (Paris. 120 See supra.. Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier international. On n’a pu la lire parce que quelqu’un est arrivé. in particular the longer-serving agents.’ filed after the Italian Caserio stabbed President Carnot to death in June 1894.’ 14 April 1893. shows how a taste for conspiracy theories and a distaste for political nonconformists could send an agent down entirely the wrong investigative path: 115 116 Report by ‘Eureka. but the number of references of this kind in reports from ‘Z N° 6’ suggests he had some other means of access to correspondence: ‘Gustave Mathieu a écrit une lettre à Malato dans laquelle il le prie de parler pour lui à Rochefort…. pp. and Georges Haupt. Fedée).’ 5 November 1894. 273. 118 Report by ‘Z N° 6. B/A 1509.’ 6 Mars 1893. B/A 1508. but naïve overenthusiasm (as when ‘Zéro’ triumphantly announced the end of the ‘era of explosions’ in early April 1892120) and conspiratorial obsessions.’ 29 August 1893.P.P.P. especially in the interpretations and analyses rendered by the agents. ‘Z N° 6’ told Paris in August 1893: ‘Pini a écrit deux lettres a Parmeggiani…’ – Pini being an Italian sentenced to twenty years’ forced labour in 1890 by a French court for a series of thefts.116 Parmeggiani (a well-known London anarchist) may have told others after receiving letters from the bagne. certainly provided useful intelligence at times. B/A 1508.
P. dont vient d’être victime M..P. B/A 1509. le Président de la République. qui frappe sûrement la victime désignée d’avance. les groupes de Londres entretiennent des relations constantes. A. montre en effet quelque répugnance à se servir de la bombe . à Rome. Il n’y a pas lieu de douter que ce nouveau crime a été prémédité à Londres. l’oracle des réfugiés. on ne parle plus que de vengeance et tous sont heureux que Vaillant ait été exécuté. Crispi. Perhaps this should not surprise: intelligence agents always have an interest in enemy morale. 26 June 1894. as it did so readily in the first days after 11 September 2001. killing twenty – the single deadliest anarchist attack on record – expresses the defiance of the compagnons. both as an indicator of what the other side may do in the next battle and as the terrain of psychological warfare operations that can exploit weaknesses in morale. when determination to punish those who committed a mass murder merged with consideration of a ‘war on terror. but a surprisingly large proportion of their information has to do with the anarchists’ spirits and state of mind. il y a toujours une porte de salut ! »122 The grim allusion to the bombing of an opera house in Barcelona three months earlier.121 The London agents reported on a wide variety of topics.’) A despatch from ‘Jarvis’ after London learned that Auguste Vaillant had gone to the guillotine is an example of this focus on morale in the anarchist community: Comme on vous l’a dit hier. ainsi qu’il est dit plus haut. Au moins dans ces endroits là. Il est probable qu’il a fait partager cette manière de voir aux propagandistes par le fait restes sur le Continent et avec lesquels. (The military analogy comes naturally here. Malatesta qui est dans cette ville. Chose très drôle. 52 . but there is also a hint here of the twentieth-century totalitarian habit of viewing the individual as expendable in the interest of the cause (as 121 Report from ‘Leon. ou n’importe quel théâtre . suivant de prés celui qui a été. L’attentat. prouve combien ce renseignement était exact. imitons-les ! L’Opéra nous tend les bras. dirige contre M.’ London. « Puisque les Espagnols nous ont montré le chemin. Ils se disent entre eux. il préfère le poignard.Dans de précédentes correspondances on a signale à plusieurs reprises que les groupes anarchistes de Londres étaient en relations fréquents avec les groupes d’Italie. parmi les principaux qu’on a vus hier. on dirait qu’ils se sont donné le mot.
123 Twice in 1893 Emile Pouget. B/A 1508.’ detailing a quarrel of accusation and counter-claim that seems to have gone on for more than a month amidst one clique. 128 Report by ‘Monte Carlo. A. 124 Reports by ‘Z N° 2.P.’ 15 March 1893. 126 Report by ‘France’ (datelined Paris). A. A. les compagnons le désertent ..P. A.. A. where (then as now) a bewildering array of entities policed the nation. B/A 1508.. 127 Report by ‘Monte Carlo. C’est le lieu de rendez-vous des indicateurs de bas étage.P.P. editor of the lively newspaper Le Père Peinard. B/A 1508.P. ‘Monte Carlo’ reported encountering someone believed to be working for the Sûreté générale128 – the prefecture’s main institutional rival in France. Report by ‘Z N° 2.’ 125 A second example is worth noting because of the mention (not found elsewhere) of Belgian police in London and the suggestion that a hierarchy of sorts existed among the ranks of informers: ‘Le club Daubenspeck a la réputation à Londres d’être au service de la police française et même la police belge. and by ‘Z N° 6.P.’127 There were even suspicions of the presence of competing French agents in London. on y rencontre trop de mouchards. in the latter case causing disruption to the daily routine of members by keeping them away from their meeting places: ‘Le club Autonomie est beaucoup moins fréquenté .P. the agents repeatedly took note – with some satisfaction.’ 126 A mouchard might.P.’ 30 May 1893.’ undated (apparently February 1893).124 Suspicion sometimes fell on anarchist clubs. of course. is recorded as having sent letters from Paris accusing various compagnons of being informers. ‘La question « mouchards » est toujours à l’ordre du jour.. one suspects – of anxiety and tension within the anarchist camp about informers in its midst.P. In the course of reporting on anarchist morale.P. B/A 1508. 125 Report by ‘Z N° 6. Not only the Belgians but also the Germans were reported to have operatives in town: ‘Monte Carlo’ alerted his superiors in July 1893 to ‘les agissements d’un individu supposé être le chef de police Allemand détaché dans cette ville pour surveiller anarchistes et socialistes.. 3 February 1894. A. 53 .P. A.’ 9 July 1893. B/A 1509. ‘Z N° 6’ revealed the same 122 123 Report by ‘Jarvis.’ 7 February 1894.. some communists involved in the defence of the Rosenbergs are said to have preferred their glorious deaths to an acquittal).’ 11 July 1893.. work for either the Special Branch or the Paris prefecture – or someone else. B/A 1509.’ 12 January 1893.P.P.for instance in the Cold War’s Rosenberg spy case. B/A 1508. each fiercely guarding its sphere of authority.P.’ reports ‘Z N° 2.
despatched to London to search for Gustave Mathieu.130 None of this ought to have been entirely surprising to the long-suffering prefect in Paris: some years earlier. Le Gaulois.’ The story told how a Sûreté inspector. p. Encouraged by the bonhomie. — l’inspecteur lui-même !’ The Sûreté man went straight to the station. had tried to make a few friends at a bar known to be an anarchist hangout. B/A 1508. an agent from the Sûreté had been discovered as an infiltrator in the prefecture. Over dessert. A. the visitor started making enquiries about Mathieu – punctuated with the occasional cry of ‘A bas les mouchards !’ as a means of making himself welcome. 54 .’ 28 November 1893. 18 February 1894. 68. and caught the next train to Folkestone.P. they did not let on. Vers la naissance de la police moderne (Paris. 1993). He spent days in the company of his newfound chums. the story concludes.suspicion: ‘La surveillance est très active de la part de la police anglaise et aussi par quelque agents français envoyés par la Sûreté… ?’129 The mystery was presumably solved not long afterward.P. one of the anarchist raised a toast: ‘à la « police française » et au frangin X…. Le préfet Lépine. Although the inspector was ‘tout de suite « flairé »’ by the assembled revolutionaries. Ellipsis in original. when the Paris daily Le Gaulois ran an item headed ‘mésaventures d’un policier.131 129 130 Report by ‘Z N° 6. 131 Jean-Marc Berlière.. and finally one night they all went to dinner.
in plain English. by doing utterly unlawful things. Le Mouvement anarchiste en France (Paris.’ becoming ‘the dominant libertarian attitude’ throughout the areas of continental Europe where anarchism qua anarchism had flourished earlier in the decade. looking back. Police powers may be thus defined.R. there was a failed attempt on King Humbert I in 1897. when delegates from Europe’s powers convened in Rome for an urgent. the immediate 132 London.). in France and then across Europe. 45/10254/X36450. would see 1894 as the end of the era of ‘attentats individuels. Home Office minute. harsh repressions there. 132 —Robert Anderson. say emphatically that in recent years the Police have succeeded only by straining the law. presaging a later assassin’s successful attack in 1900.’ Hereafter. 12 December 1898 One of the problems of fighting a ‘war on terror’ lies in determining when the war is over. Britain and France. Finally there was the murder of Empress Elisabeth on 10 September 1898 in Geneva. & our practical powers seriously impaired. 133 Jean Maitron. anarchist terror was not extinct throughout Europe – there were numerous incidents in Spain. at intervals.’ George Woodcock noted.To Check the Conspiracy I w d. or. at least. cited by number only. vol.’ after which the anarchists moved on to other means of effecting social change.O. p. and Jean Maitron. France had not seen any repeat of the orgy of violence that played out in 1892-94. 261. 134 Granted. and ‘during the following years it spread beyond France. 1975). Public Record Office (P. had arguably already achieved victory in their antianarchist struggles. to check this conspiracy.O. The fear of a wave of destruction in England had never materialised – either because of the work of Melville’s men or as a coincidence to it.133 The individualists were drawn toward common action. and then the killing in 1897 of Premier Antonio Canovas del Castillo. ‘It was through the increasing participation of French anarchists in the trade-union movement during the 1890s that the doctrine of anarcho-syndicalism developed. H. 55 . By 1898. top-secret conference on how they might jointly fight anarchist violence. ‘International Action for the suppression of anarchism – 1892-1902. & my serious fear is that if new legislation affecting it is passed. 1. In Italy.
Issues of cross-border policing. A little detective work. Still. 298. The tentative 134 George Woodcock. The anarchist ‘conspiracy. that group support was completely gone by 1898. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (New York. had entirely evaporated by the time Europe’s regimes gathered in an unprecedented initiative meant to stamp it out. police officials and political leaders within Britain and France commenting on the conference. though this authoritarian initiative was no more successful in overcoming British and French resistance. 56 . As noted in the introduction. were trying to achieve a form of unity that has eluded the European Union until the present day. the granting or refusal of political asylum – a century of further experience and a half-century of formal European integration have still not yielded pan-European agreement on such sensitive matters. 135 It is easy to see in retrospect that this multilateral initiative could never have enjoyed much success. is the intramural correspondence of diplomats. The multilateral initiatives attempted in the 1890s set too great a geopolitical task for themselves. The sovereign states of Europe.’ which never reached a level of cohesion to be worthy of the name. 1962). conducted among these papers discussing detective work.impetus for the Rome conference. to the limited extent that ‘propaganda by the deed’ had ever enjoyed the qualified approval of significant numbers of anarchists as a tactic of their struggle. and our knowledge of the French surveillance operation in London inevitably colours perceptions of these deliberations. p. The workings of the Rome conference and the reasons for its failure are interesting in themselves. can yield insights into who in each government may have been ‘in the loop’ about the antianarchist enterprise in London and how that knowledge may have influenced their approach to the issues of statecraft under discussion at the Rome meeting. Much of this material concerns international police cooperation. More revealing. So are the subsequent efforts of Russia and Germany to bind Europe’s nations in a secret anti-anarchist protocol in 1904. though. the conference accomplished almost none of its goals. which had little experience of joint action toward any goal other than the military defeat of other sovereign states. the harmonisation of criminal codes and sentences. the control of borders. the maintenance of public order. But an examination of those efforts can yield insights into some of the dynamics of multi-national cooperation on high-stakes ‘homeland security’ issues.
1898: projet de conférence relative aux mesures à prendre contre les anarchistes.A. sous l’œil indifférent de la police. 18 September 1898.conclusions that can be drawn regarding those questions – and they can only be highly speculative answers – lead to a more disturbing and equally unanswerable question: To what extent did faits accomplis such as the Special Branch’s self-assigned collaboration with French police agents in London play a role in the shaping of British policy on the international stage? A few days after the Italian Luccheni stabbed the empress to death in Switzerland. vol. to ask about the possibility of Britain’s 135 136 See supra. insisted that something must be done about Swiss coddling of anarchists: ‘Il est urgent … que la Suisse cède aux justes demandes de l’Europe et ne serve plus de refuge à de véritables malfaiteurs qui peuvent. Série C . Archives du Ministère des Affaires étrangères (A.M. counselled Canevaro to work toward a pan-European conference rather than simply a coalition intended to pressure the Swiss. after consulting with Kaiser Wilhelm II. ‘Anarchistes sept.E. 1876-1907. préparer les crimes les plus abominables. M. the French embassy in London reported that the chargés d’affaires of Italy and Austria-Hungary had met with the prime minister. 1898. On 30 September.M. p. Lord Salisbury.137 The Italians duly made plans for the gathering. At this point the French foreign ministry – deeply embroiled at that very moment in the bitter and ill-chosen confrontation with Britain over Fashoda – set about carefully gauging the possibilities of British cooperation with the proposed conference. Admiral Canevaro. inviting not only diplomats but also senior police officials.’ (Hereafter: ‘A. “Anarchistes sept. Emperor Franz-Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. Paris.dec.. ‘Correspondance politique et commerciale. . the Italian government made diplomatic contact with other European nations to propose that they look into joint action – not just against anarchists but against Switzerland.).Administrative. 13.dec.”’) 57 . Blondel of French Embassy at Rome to Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé. however. Perhaps because of the prevailing tensions between the two countries. 87. the ministry had to obtain some of its information at second-hand.’ Canevaro was determined to put a halt to the ‘trop indulgente hospitalité’ of the Swiss. Employing what might linguistically be called ‘the European we’ – rhetorically presenting his argument as Europe’s cause. .A. in a manner that other parties would echo in coming months –Italy’s foreign minister.136 Within a few days.E.
324.140 On 20 October. Salisbury was also doing his best to deflate expectations. 140 Richard Bach Jensen. A. A. St.’138 Internally.. 1898. Salisbury reported to the Queen that ‘in obedience to your Majesty’s commands’ he had met with the Metropolitan Police Chief. The diplomat from Austria-Hungary was reported to have come away with the impression that ‘sans opposer un refus péremptoire à la proposition italienne. P.. because it is impossible to define an anarchist. He explained to a Foreign Office undersecretary that Britain could not gracefully avoid attending the conference altogether.’ Journal of Contemporary History 16 (1981). 58 .attendance.’ 139 Salisbury to F. To each.’ he wrote. She obviously took the murder of royals and heads of state personally. to discuss possible measures that states could take against anarchism.M. The comment that followed is one of several to be found in which Salisbury might conceivably have had in mind the Special Branch’s special relationship with the French police – if he knew about it: ‘Improved police arrangements hardly require the deliberations of a congress to sanction them.A. was ‘strongly against any international action being taken against the anarchists as such.dec. 1898. ‘The International Anti-Anarchist Conference of 1898 and the Origins of Interpol.M. Bradford.E. 12 October 1898. le Cabinet anglais chercherait à faire traîner les choses en longueur et à se dérober à toute obligation qui pourrait être interprétée comme entraînant une modification à la ligne de conduite suivie jusqu’à ce jour dans le Royaume-Uni.dec.R.E.’ 138 M. Geoffray of French Embassy at London to Foreign Ministry.. Sir Edward Bradford. he said.A. ‘Anarchistes sept. However. John of Foreign Office. Devereux [ ?] of French Embassy at Vienna to Foreign Ministry. H. p.’139 Salisbury’s concession that attending the conference would be inevitable may have been influenced by the wishes of Queen Victoria. ‘[n]ever before had European statesmen and monarchs been assassinated in such rapid succession’ as they were between 1894 and 1898. . 22 September 1898. As one historian discussing the conference has noted. Salisbury repeated the usual lines about the adequacy of existing British law and the impossibility of repudiating the right of asylum.R. . 30 September 1898.O. ‘Anarchistes sept.’ The chief saw little future in the idea 137 M. ‘we should do so with no very sanguine hope of arriving at any important result. and from her perspective there was no reason to see the slaying of the empress as an isolated incident. meanwhile.O. 45/10254/X36450.
either. supported to an extent by Italy. and the foreign ministry’s reaction shows an awareness a quasi-alliance of absolutist monarchies might set the tone for the conference. Sir Peter Currie. comme l’ont demandé quelques-uns. ed.’ Suggesting model legal codes might be acceptable. The Letters of Queen Victoria. French foreign ministry officials pored over a draft agenda furnished by the Italian government. vol. Ce serait mauvais en soi et aussi dangereux. Salisbury wrote again to the Queen.. First of all.’ As for the monarchies’ various ideas of codifying rules regarding expulsion. Renault clearly felt they missed the point – police cooperation ought to happen at ground level: ‘Ce qui est essentiel. etc. Renault advised that France’s delegates exercise ‘une très grande prudence dans leurs déclarations et dans leurs votes. The Letters of Queen Victoria (London. c’est une entente sérieuse entre les polices des divers pays pour la surveillance des anarchistes. to make clear at the outset that Britain faced ‘difficulties which no other Government is likely to share in an equal degree’ regarding any restrictions on free expression (as long as no incitement 141 142 George Earle Buckle. extradition and mutual notification of the movements of anarchist suspects. parce qu’on ne manquerait pas de parler d’une Sainte Alliance contre la liberté de la presse etc. pp. 3. Lord Salisbury instructed the ranking British delegate. Cette entente n’a pas à être constatée par des conventions en forme solennellement délibérées.142 British misgivings about the conference were being mirrored on the other side of the Channel. confirming that the Cabinet had approved sending delegates to the conference. Germany and Austria-Hungary had loosely adopted a common programme for the conference. At the beginning of November.’143 As the conference was about to open at the end of November. p. Renault laid out reservations strikingly similar to those of the British side. In a seven-page commentary. On ne peut songer à élaborer une législation internationale en cette matière. but ‘il ne peut s’agir d’arriver à des conclusions formelles de la conférence que chaque gouvernement aurait ensuite à observer. 294-95.141 A week later. It would emerge long afterward that Russia. 1932). 299. ministry staff member L. Spain and Turkey. the whole idea that a conference could produce standards for the entire continent to follow was worrisome. 59 . however.of allowing expulsion of aliens from the country.
1870-1900 [Revolution and Reaction: The Repression of the Italian Anarchists. 146 Peter Olaf Reinhard van der Mark. vetoing Foreign Minister Delcassé’s preferred candidate.. 1912). p. A letter from Sir Howard Vincent.E. ‘Anarchistes sept. however. L. such as Monaco. had occupied themselves in endeavouring to arrive at a theoretical definition of the term “anarchism. ‘There is also a serious difficulty. 24 November 1898. 1997). this meeting may have accomplished more than any of the official sessions did. in formal or official shapes.A.’144 The conference lasted nearly a month.M. A week later the same paper. Luxemburg. 6 November 1898. but rather the contrary. the French representative was a certain M. Puybaraud of the 60 147 148 . and Roumania made up in oratory what they lack in importance. 388. Renault of Foreign Ministry.H. Journal des débats.” in which the representatives of minor States. of intercommunication and combined action with foreign police authorities. Vincent represented Britain. They 143 Note by M.’ 144 Salisbury to Currie.to crime was involved) and any prospect of expelling individuals from the U. As an opportunity for relationship-building and the exchange of tactical ideas. A British Digest of International Law. 28 November 1898.. Interior Minister Charles Dupuy had named the Sûreté’s Viguié to represent the French police at the conference.D. gives a sense of why the deliberations took so long: ‘Nothing. attributing to the meeting a unanimity of purpose its delegates could only have wished for. ed. cited in S. the French anarchist weekly Le Temps nouveaux mocked the pledge of secrecy promised by delegates to ‘cette internationale de mouchards’ (31 December 1898). as the Italian anarchist press had published its agenda a week before it began146 and the French Chamber of Deputies had openly debated France’s participation147 – a truly secret cell of police experts convened on 12 December. M. Viguié of the Sûreté. 1965). dec. predicted that the police ‘mafia’ would cause trouble soon: ‘Attendez-nous à une avalanche d’agents provocateurs’ (7 January 1899). reporting back to Lord Salisbury after arriving late in Rome. other than ourselves. After the conference ended.’145 Within the ‘secret’ conference – it was only nominally so. p. part VI: ‘The Individual in International Law’ (London. Servia. p.K. 145 Vincent to Salisbury.148 and more than a dozen other police officials took part. A. Revolutie en reactie : de repressie van de Italiaanseanarchisten. ‘as regards the question of any recognition. How. as the fifty-three delegates. 303. reprinted in Clive Parry. The prime minister then turned again to the topic of police cooperation.’ he wrote. 1870-1900] (Groningen. The Life of Sir Howard Vincent (London. 71. 1898. was lost by the delay. Jeyes and F. 8 December 1898.
‘[c]onfidential information was then exchanged upon several points’ – and then went on to devote the rest of his account to just one of those points.met ‘round a small table. Back in London.’ and agreed at the outset that there would be no formal speeches. It looks suspiciously like an effort to lobby Lord Salisbury for stronger support of a Continental style of policing in Britain. liberal side in enough Paris prefecture. Vincent reported back on the impression among the Continental police chiefs that London had become a place ‘in whose dark corners the discontented.O. to complain of expulsions from Continental countries in its direction. in the coming decade. 45/10254/X36450. may assemble for revolutionary and criminal plotting in small and secret gatherings. 1898. A. euphonistically [sic] termed domestic or fraternal. all persons being excluded from the room except those concerned.O. and which result in the hypnotising of weak and ill-balanced minds. all those whom poverty has made miserable and who have lost the moral strength for further struggle. the outcast.’ would be better qualified to address anarchist issues. HO 45/10254/X36450. 61 .E.’150 Given what we now know of Vincent’s own history of dealings with the Italian police – something that looks very much like the prehistory of Melville’s dealings with the French – the objectivity of this statement is cast into doubt. though little improvement would obtain in these procedures and Britain would continue. ‘chargé de la surveillance des anarchistes sur toute l’entendre de notre territoire.A. no minutes taken.’ 149 150 Report dated 17 December 1898... 13 November 1898. P.149 We cannot know whether the unofficial police alliance between Britain and France came up for discussion at this gathering. sent to Salisbury with a recommendation to forward it to Robert Anderson). the exiled.dec. and no written report drawn up on the meeting (though Vincent proceeded to render a detailed report. There was discussion of improving communications so that a receiving country could have notice that an ‘expulsé’ was on his or her way. Home Office archives.R. . Dupuy to Delcassé.’ Public Record Office. on the grounds that Viguié. The conference would probably not lead to any definitive action on Britain’s part – Currie had already been on the losing. Anderson was following the Rome proceedings with mounting anxiety.M. Vincent wrote that after a brief procedural dialogue. the procedures used by various countries in expelling unwanted foreigners. H. ‘Report by Sir Howard Vincent on Meetings held by Chiefs of Police attending Anti-Anarchist Conference. ‘Anarchistes sept.
’ As regards anarchism. considering the secrecy that had to be maintained if surveillance was to continue. p. 278. with only ten votes opposed on a second reading – was motivated in part by concern about preserving the secrecy of the government’s clandestine ‘workings. Kamm.D. The Special Branch continued to operate in a shadowy world in which its task was to provide information without having to answer questions relating to the means by which it was obtained. His confession of ‘utterly unlawful’ activity (cited at the beginning of this chapter) came in this context. ‘The Home Office. 274. 1880-1914. political surveillance was carried on by methods which were not illegal because there was no legal regulation against which they could be judged. Kamm goes on to argue that the passage of the Official Secrets Act of 1911 – put through quickly before a small audience in Commons. and there is every reason to believe he wanted the anarchists to be aware of what he was doing. Public Order and Civil Liberties. Here were delegates from all the major nations of Europe. thesis. University of Cambridge. if not more so. meeting specifically to discuss the control of anarchists and seeking to make it easier for their police to do so – and Britain’s political police were worried the result might upset the way they were doing business at that moment. ‘The Home Office. the question ultimately becomes not ‘why weren’t the people informed?’ but rather ‘why didn’t the people do anything?’ 152 62 . secrecy was not necessarily the goal. 1880-1914’ (unpublished Ph.resolution votes that Britain’s eventual abstention from the conference’s final communiqué was a foregone conclusion. All this fit into the institutional culture of the Home Office at that time. in the 1890s.’ p.’151 Thus.152 151 Richard Kamm. The reason was simple. 1986). As is so often the case. But there was enough talk in the wind of codifying police authority against anarchism to disturb Anderson. and they had no desire to see Parliament impose one on them. ‘The preferred course’ when questions of legal authority arose (according to one observer) ‘was usually to allow officials and police officers to act as they saw fit within powers which were not precisely defined in law. That was a lever of control in itself. if British law can ever be simple: there was no law to prevent what they were doing at that moment. The objections of a London police boss to legislation that might seem to increase the authority of his forces seems puzzling. Melville’s activities were covered thoroughly enough in the press for any interested party to have a sense of their import. The informal measures which the authorities relied on to maintain order were as important in this area as in others. however. Public Order and Civil Liberties. or not written in any statute. on its face.
A governmental entity whose prime concern becomes keeping its core functions from public view. ceases to become an ordinary component of a democratic government – as understood in 1898 or 2002.It’s not that simple. 63 . In 1898. or even the desire. and avoiding public scrutiny of its methods (as distinct from whatever sensitive intelligence it may handle). at law in Britain or in any democracy. but. The Rome conference demonstrated a version of that internal contradiction. at the sufferance of some form of observation from parliamentarians or others acting in the name of the electorate. at least officially. of course. writ large on the European diplomatic stage. democratic governments have permitted such entities to exist. to devise a coherent relationship between the Special Branch and the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom. nobody within the British government had the political clout. In recent times.
Suffolk. discussions in London of international police cooperation evinced a concern over central control that is not found in files from a decade earlier. at London. on the retirement of Bradford.O. in 1901. pp. After Anderson was asked to retire from the helm of C. 1987). p. The Origins of the Vigilant State: The London Metropolitan Police Special Branch Before the First World War (Woodbridge. Public Record Office (P.’ incitements and underhanded tactics like those of which the 153 154 See supra. we cannot be sure the British system did not regulate itself. A French source as far back as 1893 does tell us that Melville was not permitted to render special services for the Russian government. and for that reason it was ‘essential that the govt.I.154 It is possible that a series of personnel changes involving the Metropolitan Police between 1901 and 1903 signalled a quiet effort at reform.’ a Home Office bureaucrat commented in 1906.Afterword The history of British and French police campaigns against anarchist terror furnishes a number of cautionary tales about the way secret organizations can drift away from the structures of democratic accountability.O.D. 64 . However. as well as the police should know what is going on’ in any liaison between British and Continental police. 143. H.). That very month. they also are largely silent about any steps their superiors may have taken to prevent rogue behaviour. ‘An imprudent policeman might land us in a most awkward political situation. 43-45. Henry took his place and spent two years at the helm of secret police operations before being elevated to the chief’s job in March 1903. If the available records do not tell us how much nod-and-wink approval the unauthorised activities of men like Melville and Anderson received from various political administrations.’ 5 December 1906. cited in Bernard Porter. veteran police executive Edward R.R. after Melville and Anderson had left the scene. Minute by ‘Chalmers. 144/757/118516. he wrote a memorandum setting out a dim view of the activities of an Italian police agent who had been granted official permission to watch over anarchists in London. But there are a few clues. He made a comment that confirms either his ignorance of the Special Branch’s long-running relations with foreign police or his desire to appear ignorant of it: ‘if other Governments should follow the example set by the Italians and locate their agents here.153 At the other end of our story’s chronological spectrum.
Melville explains his departure in his M.157 If Henry engineered a quiet purge of the Special Branch. and Bernard Porter discovered that his successor.O.’ 156 P.D. The Origins of the Vigilant State.O. 1903. he notes with disdain. followed by Melville in November.’ The item is numbered A49463/37. 158 London. 1917. ‘Home Office Register.R.O. 144/545/A55176. 46/139.I.’ The Home Office.). Police-Metropolitan.5 memoir by noting that the War Office happened to approach him just as he attained tenure for a police pension.’155 On 11 July 1903.. Kell's senior detective. it really did need intelligence help. p. Patrick Quinn.R. ‘Memoir of William Melville. If the War Office did not know of his reputation at all. Melville was granted unprecedented powers to conduct surveillance on individuals anywhere in Britain – and his response was that those powers needed to be vastly expanded.I. 149. H.V. ask approval. ‘International Anarchists.’158 This was a man charged with protecting his country from any clandestine intrigues that foreign 155 Memorandum by Henry.’ 156 In the same register. a communication from Henry was registered at the Home Office. 1893-1905.. ‘declined to move in the matter.. But by Melville’s own account he departed within mere weeks of his first contact with the War Office.I. 16 March 1903. however. staff alterations . was rushed into the position of Superintendent without sitting the usual written examination.O. He writes in his memoir: ‘from 1905 to 1907 I submitted reports outlining a scheme of surveillance on all suspected foreigners around the country. 1/8. the retirements of four long-serving C. If it did know.D. it only calls further into question the authority vested in Melville immediately afterward. H. to (so it has been credibly claimed) a series of dirty tricks against miners’ union leader Arthur Scargill during the crippling strike of the mid-1980s.R. K. headed ‘C. P. the corresponding file does not appear to have survived. officers are recorded between June and October 2003. Public Record Office (P.’ 65 ..Italian agent was suspected might befall the anarchists more often – ‘and the police would have to reckon with men rendered desperate through their relations with the agents of other Governments located in their midst. then the earliest stirrings of British intelligence involved a tolerance of rogue activity that would taint the Secret Service on occasion for generations to come – from the leaking of the Zinoviev letter in 1924 in a successful effort to scupper a Labour prime minister. 157 Porter.O.
to put it more generally. 66 . As a key figure in each institution.powers might try to mount on its territory – and as a policeman he had facilitated such intrigues. in the secret world of twentieth-century clandestine activity by governments that claim to prize democracy. Melville embodied both virtues and flaws that were to emerge in British policing and counterintelligence – or. We now know that this man was the direct link between the Special Branch that battled the anarchists and the Security Service as we know it today.
‘International Action for the suppression of anarchism – 1892-1902. 46/139. 144/270/A58394.O.’ B/A 1509. Nov to Dec 1893’ H.’ Public Record Office.O..D. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre 1894. Police-Metropolitan. 1893’ (sic. the file contains reports from 1892 as well) B/A 1132. ‘Anarchistes.’ H. 1896’ H. ‘Correspondence with War Office about activities of ‘M’ and Mr Long. 45/10254/X36450. London F.dec. 1895’ H. 87. L. 881/6427.Bibliography Manuscript sources Archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre jusqu’en 1893. 144/545/A55176.O. ‘Anarchistes en Angleterre. ‘Foreign Anarchists coming to UK – 1892-1900’ 67 .O. 18761907. . No. dynamite. ‘General & Spain: Corres. 1815-1896. 1894’ H. ‘Ravachol’ B/A 1508. grèves’ ‘Correspondance politique et commerciale. ‘Home Office Register. 1893-1905’ H.’ H. 3/130.’ c.O. Paris ‘Angleterre – Affaires diverses politiques. ‘Difficulty of dealing with conspiracy in organising dynamite plots at home and abroad.O. 144/587/B2840C. Paris B/A 77.O. 1026 suggesting form of legislation. vol. Kew. 58 : ‘1892 – Anarchistes. ‘Anarchistes sept. ‘Anarchist publications intended for distribution abroad. 144/259/A55860. 1898: projet de conférence relative aux mesures à prendre contre les anarchistes’ Archives de la Préfecture de police. ‘International Anarchists. Série C .O.’ B/A 1510. ‘Arrest and trial of Italian Anarchists. 144/258/A55684. 1903.. Anarchism.Administrative. 1905-1906’ H.O.O. Proposed International Action against.
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