The Murders And The Maniacs

Justice was the weekly newspaper of the Social Democratic Foundation, an organisation which had been established in 1884, and one which had been actively involved in the Trafalgar Square political meetings and unrest of 1886 and 1887.

As a result of the events surrounding Bloody Sunday, November 13th, 1887, the organisation had turned its wrath on Sir Charles Warren, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, whom they saw as effectively running a military force dedicated to quashing the rights of the ordinary working people of the United Kingdom in general, and of the people of London in particular.

The Jack the Ripper murders, and the police’s inability to bring the perpetrator to justice, presented the Social Democratic Foundation with the perfect opportunity to attack Warren and his officers, and, on Saturday, 6th October, 1888, the newspaper published the following article, which had been written by the Federation’s founder Henry Mayers Hyndman (1842- 1921), which pulled no punches when it came to his utter contempt for Sir Charles Warren and his “militarised” police force.

Mt Hyndeman.
Henry Hyndman. From The Illustrated London News, 13th February 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board and The Mary Evans Picture Library.


Half-a-dozen poor women, driven into prostituting themselves in order to keep body and soul together, have had their throats cut and have then been hideously mutilated by some bloodthirsty lunatic in the Whitechapel district.

The bloodshed and the butchery have horrified the whole country, and in the district where the murders were done the sensations of terror and anger are about equally felt even by those who run no risk.

That the murderer should, at the time of writing, be still at large, and able if he wishes it to carry on his frightful work, lends, of course, additional horror to the crimes he has already committed.


Yet is there not hypocrisy of the meanest kind in all this wringing of the hands and cries for vengeance against the assassin which we now see and hear? Is not the sensation caused out of all proportion to what has been done?

The very people who are now most vehement in their denunciations of this almost certainly demented murderer don’t turn a hair when hundreds or even thousands of women of the same class as his victims rot to death with syphilis in a Lock Hospital.


Nevertheless, so far as the poor creatures themselves are concerned, they are far better off than many of their sisters of the same class whom they leave behind them.

Who cares, too, how many young girls have their jaws eaten out of their heads by phosphorus, in order that matches should be sold cheaper and shareholders should get a higher percentage for their investment?

Not even a fraction of those of the non-producing classes who are harrowing up their feelings so pleasantly with the details of the unlicensed dissections at the East End of London.

Some appear to think, in spite of all previous lessons to the contrary effect, that these murders may draw serious attention to the conditions which force poor working women to degrade their sex for a few pence; that the shudders sent through society by this butchery will rouse the confiscating classes to doing their duty; that the fear of what in a period of trouble might happen to their own woman-kind will lead the masters of our legislative machinery to take some steps to palliate existing wretchedness and to cope with existing misery.

We have no such hope.

All this hysterical cant will die down, as it has died down time after time before, and men, women and children will be left in precisely the same conditions of life as those which render these murders possible.

If the economical causes which force women to prostitute themselves were removed “society” – the society of the profitmonger and rackrenter – would be shaken to its foundations!

And what, after all, are a few murders to such a wholesale horror as that!


None the less, however, these murders and the impunity of the murderer teach a plain lesson as to the police.

They are paid to protect the public and to detect crime.

Instead of this, they batter in the heads of their real paymasters, the working people, with truncheons, let murder after murder pass undetected in our midst and fail to render assistance at the right moment, even when citizens try to protect themselves.

Police wrestle with a protester in Trafalgar Square.
The Bloody Sunday Riots In Trafalgar Square, 1887.


If the Whitechapel murderer rids Londoners of Sir Charles Warren, he will undoubtedly deprive Social-Democrats of a most useful ally.

Nothing has ever done more to rouse the working men of London to the necessity of combination and forcible action in a revolutionary sense than the present Chief Commissioner’s reckless and cowardly brutality.

If the assassin of Whitechapel is cranky on the uterus or has gone daft on the purity question the South African filibuster is certainly clean “off his head” at the prospect of the anniversary of the French Revolution.

He sees, in his waking nightmare, visions of an English Princess de Lamballe paraded in fragments through the streets and his own sinister visage grinning at him from the top of a pole.

Therefore he has militarised the constables into a state of suppressed mutiny, has rendered them quite incapable of any effective work, other than that of maiming peaceful citizens, and has turned public opinion so completely against his men that no human being now thinks of helping a policeman under any circumstances whatever.

If that isn’t doing our work for us we should like to be told where we could find abler or more effective coadjutors than Warren and his chief assistants. Their sole aim is not to prevent crime but to check the free expression of public opinion.

A cartoon showing Sir Charles Warren With Mr Puncg.
Mr Punch With Sir Charles Warren


The combined maniacs of Scotland Yard, consequently, are far more dangerous to the confiscating classes than the solitary maniac of Whitechapel.

More power to them!

Warren’s police administration is a perpetual object lesson to the workers of Great Britain as to what a military police means, alike in regard to incompetence and tyranny.

There is only one way in which we can be relieved from the frightful scenes in Whitechapel and the monstrous abuses of Scotland Yard.


The great body of the inhabitants of London must claim and exercise full collective control over the economical and social conditions in which they live, as well as over the police whom they pay to maintain order in the public streets.

Only when Londoners have roused themselves to claim their rights and to do their duties as free and equal citizens of the greatest metropolis in the world – only when they have resolved that as an organised democratic community they will secure for all the means of leading a wholesome, decent life by their own labour – only then will the assassins of Whitechapel and the maniacs of Scotland Yard be both deprived of their opportunities for murder.”