Monro Returns In Triumph

Following the resignation of the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, in early November, 1888, the process got underway to select a successor.

On Saturday, 1st December, 1888, the newspapers carried the news that Warren’s successor had been chosen, and that it was to be none over than James Monro, the former head of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard, who had resigned his position at the end of August, 1888, following several well-publicised disagreements with Sir Charles Warren.

A portrait of James Monro.
James Monro. From The Illustrated London News, 8th December 1888. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The Manchester Courier, on Saturday 1st December, 1888, provided a brief synopsis of the career of new police chief up to that point:-

“The Queen has (says The Times) approved of the appointment of Mr. Monro, C.B., to the Chief commissionership of the Metropolitan Police.

Mr. Monro, who has been appointed Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was, until recently, one of the Assistant Commissioners of Police, but he resigned that post in consequence of differences with Sir Charles Warren.

Since his resignation, Mr. Monro has acted as adviser to the Home Secretary in matters connected with the Criminal Investigation Department.


Mr. Monro was appointed to her Majesty’s Bengal Civil Service in 1857.

In the course of his Indian service, Mr. Monro held both judicial and executive appointments, filling the posts of magistrate and collector, secretary to the Board of Revenue, District and Sessions Judge.

Subsequently, he became Inspector-general of Police in Bengal, that force numbering upwards of 20,000 men, under European officers, until, five years afterwards, he was appointed Commissioner of the Presidency Division.

On several occasions, Mr. Monro received the thanks of the Bengal Government for his services.


In 1884, Mr. Monro retired from the Bengal Service on being ‘appointed by Sir William Harcourt – then Home Secretary – to succeed Mr. Howard Vincent as Director Criminal Investigations.

Mr. Monro was made a C.B. in the present year.”


The next day, Sunday, 2nd December, 1888, George Sims, writing in his “Mustard and Cress” column in The Referee, treated his readers to a more tongue-in-cheek view of the new Commissioner:-

“Monro is not a good name for the jokists or the comic poets. Henderson rather bothered these gentry, and it must have been after an enormous expenditure of thought, which might have been devoted to a better cause, that one burst out:-

“For beer she wished to send her son,
The pubs were closed by Henderson.”

When Colonel Henderson was rioted out of office, and Sir Charles Warren came from the Soudan to take his place, a few feeble attempts were made to say that his appointment was Warren-ted by the circumstances, and slanting allusions were made to the home of the rabbit ; but as a peg on which to hang the jocund jape Sir Charles was as dismal a failure as his predecessor.


Now comes Mr. Monro, and again the would-be wag receives a facer.

Very late on the night of the appointment, a Conservative member, who had dined well, remarked to another, “We Mon-ro in the same boat with him,” but the coldness with which the attempt was received caused the other members to put on their overcoats.

It is not a name for the jester to juggle with, and the appointment is therefore looked upon with great dissatisfaction by the ever-increasing army of Great Britons who jest at all things, human and divine.


One thing is certain, and that is that a hearty support will be given to the new Commissioner by the friends of law and order, no matter what their political opinions may be.

Mr. Monro has a most difficult task before him. He succeeds to office at a time when the East-end Terror is in full swing and the West-end Terror is due according to the almanac, and, unfortunately, he takes the command of a force which has become, to a certain extent, discontented and disorganised.

It is an open secret that between the late First Commissioner and the present there were grave differences of opinion as to the internal management of the police force.

The new role will, therefore, be marked by a command of “Right about face,” and that is in itself an experiment.


The task that’s before you’s a big one, we know, Mr. Monro.
There’s the square to defend from Burns, Graham, and Co., Mr. Monro.
Strong signs of fresh mischief the Socialists show, Mr. Monro.
Over justice the Ripper continues to crow, Mr. Monro.
And the London detective is clumsy and slow, Mr. Monro.
Too much time upon drill the policemen bestow, Mr. Monro.
If you’d strengthen the force that has fallen so low, Mr. Monro,
And give us a little more quid for our quo, Mr. Monro,
Then his bat in the air will John Bull for you throw, Mr. Monro.
And we’ll all be your friends, and you won’t have a foe, Mr. Monro,
And a deep debt of gratitude London will owe To Mr. Monro.


The Whitechapel murderer, having been arrested all over the metropolis and in several provincial towns, is now putting in an appearance in various foreign countries, and also in the United States of America.


He has been identified abroad as a Russian with a religious mania, which takes the form of murdering Magdalenes in order that their souls may go to heaven, and the latest New York advices to hand prove – or attempt to prove – that he is a butcher, whose mind is affected by the changes of the moon, and who has been much impressed by reading the book of Ezekiel, c. xxiii., v. 26, 20, 88, 84, 48, 47, and 48.

The chapter refers to the vicious lives of the sisters Aholah and Aholibah, and verse 25 is the key to the situation:- “And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal furiously with thee: they shall take away thy nose and thine ears, and thy remnant shall fall by the sword.” Verse 48 sums up the case: “Thus will I cause lewdness to cease out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness.”

This theory, which for purposes of reference may be called “the Ezekiel theory,” is probably as near the mark as any of the “guesses at truth” which have been so plentiful of late.


A new murder is confidently anticipated by the Vigilance Committee for this (Saturday) night, and extraordinary precautions have been taken to prevent the man who has taken the Book of Ezekiel too literally walking off again.

It would be strange if the accession of Mr. Monro to power were to be signalised by such a universally popular achievement as the arrest of Jack the Ripper.

From information which has reached me, I venture to prophesy that such will be the case.


The “Russian” theory of the atrocities is worth thinking out.

The Russians are a sensitive and excitable race, and mental exaltation is not only very common, but it usually borders on insanity.

We all have seen how political fanaticism will drive a Nihilist to the commission of murder; but it is not so generally known that religious fervour drives some sects to the most horrible self-mutilation.

The Russians are very apt to rush into extremes, and they seem to have an idea that social and eternal salvation can only be obtained by means most repugnant to civilised and well-balanced minds.

It is, therefore, not impossible that the man Vassaili, who, about sixteen years ago, murdered a number of women in Paris, and who is reported to have been released from a lunatics asylum last January, may again have thought it his duty to work out the eternal salvation of the wretched East-end women.”

A photograph of George Sims.
George Sims.


A week later, on Saturday, 8th December, 1888, The Shipley Times And Express had this to say about James Monro and the task that now confronted him:-

“The scape-goat having gone, with all his sins into the wilderness, the new Chief Commissioner of Police enters upon the scene in the person of Mr. Monro, who, having resigned in consequence of differences with Sir Charles Warren, now returns to Scotland-yard in triumph.


If he fancies that it is a bed of roses which is spread for him, he will be mistaken. But he probably understands all about that.

A gentleman in the front rank of superintendents assures me that Scotiand-yard, from the Chief Commissioner down to the lowest grade of policeman, is fully aware that it will never satisfy the public.

Of course, if the Whitechapel murderer should be captured between this and Christmas, then Mr. Monro will begin with flying colours. And it is unfortunate for him that the public expects this result.


They argue that Sir Charles Warren’s forte was military organisation, and that he devoted too much of his time to drilling his men, and dragooning the public.

Mr. Monro’s strong point, on the other hand, has been criminal investigation. He will, at any rate, have a fair trial, and the mere change may help to remove the undoubted soreness of feeling which has been gathering against the force generally.

Sir Charles Warren, on Saturday, issued a dignified and hearty general order as his last. It was one of thanks and farewell.

A Punch Cartoon showing Sir Charles Warren.
A Punch Cartoon Lampooning Warren


The new appointment, if it does not create enthusiasm, is not at all unpopular; and the objection that Mr. Monro is lame, and cannot ride on horseback, is a childish morsel of hypercriticism. He has plenty of assistants who can figure in the saddle on State occasions, and he can do all out-of-door work by deputy.

The Chief Commissioner of Metropolitan Police requires experience and brains; not a pair of spurs.”