Samuel Montagu Addresses Parliament

On Tuesday the 13th of November, 1888, with the Jack the Ripper murders causing panic in the East End of London, the local M.P., Mr. Samuel Montagu, addressed a committee in the House of Commons, pondering why an official reward had not been sanctioned for information that might lead to the apprehension of the perpetrator of the crimes.

Hansard, the official record of Parliament, recorded the points that Samuel Montagu made:-


Mr. Montagu said, he would not occupy the time of the Committee more than a very few minutes in referring to the organization of the police in his constituency, and in mentioning what passed between the police authorities and himself about a couple of months ago.

On the 9th of September he read the account of the fourth or fifth terrible murder which had taken place in his constituency, and he thought the time had arrived when a reward should be offered for the discovery of the criminal.


On Monday the 10th of September he came to town, saw the Inspector of Police at the Leman Street Station, and asked him whether the Government intended to offer a reward?

The Inspector replied that he did not know whether they did or not.

He (Mr. Montagu) then said he believed the Home Secretary was absent from town at the time, and that some delay might arise in offering a reward.


He, therefore, desired that the police should offer a £100 reward at his own expense, but through the agency of the police.

The Inspector promised to submit his proposal to the Commissioner of Police, and asked him to put the offer down in writing.

On the 17th of September he received a letter from Whitehall Place, stating that the Commissioner of Police had laid the offer before the Secretary of State, who did not consider it advisable that any reward should be offered in the case.

On the 18th of September, there having been some delay in his receiving the reply, he wrote to the Commissioner a letter, in which he said that the opinion of the Secretary of State that no reward should be offered for the discovery of the Whitechapel murderer was not in accord with the general feeling on the subject.

A portrait of Sir Charles Warren.
Sir Charles Warren, The Metropolitan Police Commissioner. 


He stated that the argument advanced by some that the possible increase in the amount of the reward might prevent prompt discovery did not apply in his case; but, nevertheless, had the decision of the Home Secretary been promptly obtained, he should not have interfered in the matter.

He also stated in the letter that, under the circumstances, it was too late to withdraw his offer, and in case information was received which led to the conviction of the murderer he must pay the £100 to the person entitled to receive it, and that it remained for the police to decide whether notices of reward should be posted in Whitechapel by the police at his expense.

He likewise stated in his communication that when he made his proposal, he was not aware that the Government had ceased to offer rewards in cases of murder.

A portrait of Sir Henry Matthews.
Sir Henry Matthews. The Home Secretary.


He particularly wished to call the attention of the Committee to two points.

The first was that the Commissioner of Police did not evidently very much object to the reward being offered, otherwise he would have refused the offer at once, and so stopped his (Mr. Montagu’s) action.

Instead of doing that, however, he submitted the offer to the Home Secretary.

It would be interesting to know whether the Commissioner was in favour of offering a reward, and differed from the Home Secretary on that question.


The second point was that the police persistently refused to post up notices at his expense, although shortly before, in the case of a man who was shot, they did post up notices offering a reward of £100 which was privately offered.

Now, although he did not agree with the policy of the Home Secretary in regard to offering rewards, had the refusal reached him promptly he certainly should not have intervened in the matter.


He still held the opinion that in such a case of horrible crimes committed, so far, with impunity, some divergence from the general rule in regard to rewards should be made.

If a Government reward, accompanied by the qualifying pardon which had been published, had been promptly offered, there might have been some information received which would have led to the detection of the criminal.

There was no doubt that this wild beast had a lair, and that someone must see him go to and from it.


Let him remind the Committee that since he had offered the reward his action had been justified by the offer of the Corporation of the City of London of a reward of £500, and also by the offer by two staunch supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, gentlemen who represented Divisions of the Tower Hamlets, of rewards.

That was his reply to the reflections upon him and others who had offered rewards which were conveyed in the answer of the Home Secretary yesterday.

He certainly did not consider the strong remarks contained in the answer of the right hon. Gentleman were entirely justified.


One word he had to say about the organization of the police in his district of Whitechapel.

The residents of Whitechapel and Spitalfields felt that they had not sufficient police protection.

They thought that in a district where poor people abounded in greater proportion, and in, perhaps, greater wretchedness than elsewhere in England, adequate provision should be made for police protection there.

They recognized the fact that the poverty in that district did result in vice and crime, and that although the police in Whitechapel were said to do their work very well, their number was certainly limited.


He had the best authority for stating that trade, owing to the scare which the recent murders had caused, had been terribly depressed.

In some cases the receipts of prominent tradesmen in Whitechapel did not now approach one-half of the sum they reached at the same period last year, which was not a prosperous year.

As a matter of fact, many people did not care now to go into the streets after dark.


Some weeks ago he presented a Petition to the Home Secretary signed by the most respectable tradesmen of his constituency, asking for increased police protection for the district.

He had received no definite reply as to what the Home Secretary intended to do; all he had received was a simple acknowledgment of the receipt of the Petition.

East London very rarely appealed for outside help, but when it was a question of life and death, and also of the success of the trade of the district, he trusted that the appeal made by his constituents would not be made in vain.