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Doings of Frank Gardiner (1862)

Goulburn Herald Wednesday 30 April 1862 - Editorial

THE doings of Gardiner, the bushranger, have created a great amount of interest not only in his own neighbourhood, but throughout the entire colony. His long career of robbery, the different distant places at which he is said to be found in quick succession, the musical accomplishments possessed by some of his companions, if not by himself, his horseman- ship, his entirely abstaining from anything like brutality in his dealings with those whom he has robbed, his supposed intimacy with the editor or late editor of one of the journals published on the gold-fields, and the certainty that while following his lawless courses he was for a short time a regular subscriber to another paper, paying his subscription in advance and receiving his copy through the post-office--these and many other facts, with the numerous tales, which may or may not be true, and which have been spread with great industry, have all tended to raise his fame to a pitch compared with which that of Peisley sinks into insignificance, and which has probably never been equalled since the old penal days of the colony, when " the brave O'Donoghue and the valiant Johnny Troy" had peans composed in their honor and sung aloud by the many enthusiastic admirers who burned to emulate their valiant deeds and their lawless career, and who were prevented only by the force of those circumstances, of which all men are said to be slaves--the circumstances in their particular case consisting of bayonets and leg-irons. It is impossible to take up a single copy of the Burrangong Courier or the Lachlan Mirror, without meeting with Gardiner's name at least a dozen times. The result, on the whole, is that this bushranger is looked upon as a hero by all whose inclinations. are in unison with his own, and almost with sympathy by many others, who, though neither lawless in their nets nor inclinations, yet admire his daring, and are amused by the recital of his deeds. In fact, Gardiner is in himself, " an institution;" and when he shall at last be captured--or in other words, when this institution shall be over thrown--it will create in the Burrangong and Lachlan districts a similar degree of interest to that felt in Europe on the occasion of the celebrated coup d'etat perpetrated by Louis Napoleon some years ago.

Until Sir William Denison's idea of a network of railways all over the face of the colony shall have been realised, we shall prob- ably have bushrangers among us. The bush- ranger then, like Punch's Italian brigands, may for once he seen looking with woebegone visage at the rapidly flitting train, while the passengers greet his appearance with ironical cheers, and hang out placards bearing such suggestive inscriptions as " I cannot stop: call again to-morrow." He will then, but not till then, betake himself to some other means of getting his livelihood, probably sinking quietly down into the burglar and the prowling thief. In the meantime we must be content to hear of bushrangers and of bushranging.

But are we to be compelled always to hear of the same bushranger? Are similar outrages, performed by the same man in the same tract of country, to continue, until, in green old age, "frosty but kindly," the lusty winter of Gardiner is brought to a peaceful close, under the shade of some luxuriant gum-tree, or in the friendly farm-house of one of his admiring and grieving friends? We have a queer way out here in New South Wales of vindicating the majesty of the law. We have amongst us a man who does more to preserve the property and protect the persons of her Majesty's lieges than can be accomplished by the whole body of our police backed by the bayonets of a troop of soldiers, and we requite him by locking him up in gaol for two years. We have amongst us another man who has distinguished himself by a thousand acts of robbery; and " we leave him alone in his glory."

When it is borne in mind that Gardiner has hitherto confined his operations to one particular tract of country, there can be little difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that the police force, as at present constituted, is singularly inefficient. And when the rural appointments, recently made under the new act are remembered, it will not be surprising that this should be so. The retention of the commandants of the western and southern patrol were more matters of course--the government could not do otherwise than retain them. But among the now appointments, those of Captain Battye, and of Messrs. Singleton, O'Neill, and Hogg are perhaps the only ones that have met with public approval. We have among the superintendents one gentleman whose selection is pretty generally said to have been owing to his parliamentary sup- port of the ministry and the dread that a refusal might render him an active opponent. We have another who is scarcely more than a lad, and a hot-headed one to boot, but who happens to be the son of the inspector-general. The other superintendents have never done anything by which the public can judge of their fitness or their unfitness for the offices assigned to them ; but their names have not since become known in connexion with the capture of any offenders. Among the inspectors we have, first, Captain Battye, of whom mention than already been made ; then a billiard-playing, poetasting baronet, who on the strength of his title has risen rapidly from being an ordinary trooper to his present position, but who has distinguished himself only, by committing an assault in a public-house; and finally, a lot of men of whom nothing is known, any more than of the superintendents. Among the sub-inspectors we have two former chief-constables and a detective officer who have done good service in their late position, and who are not too old to justify the supposition that they will be useful for many years to come. But again, of the rest of these officers nothing is known. These remarks, of course, apply only to the rural districts. The appointment of the two sub-inspectors attached to the metropolitan division is judicious enough.

It is, perhaps, little use to complain that unknown men have been appointed ; but it is necessary to show to those officials that as their selection cannot be justified by their past history, the public will look to their future acts as the means of approving or condemning their appointments and the judgment of those who have appointed them. Men like Single- ton and the others who have been named, may direct us to their past career to show that they are fitted for the posts to which they have been called. But it behoves the majority, who cannot do this, to prove by their increased vigilance and activity that the confidence of the government has not been misplaced ; that public expectation shall not be disappointed ; that they can do something to earn the public money beside sitting up all night betting, playing, and fighting in a billiard-room ; and that some value is to be given for the increased cost entailed on the country by the now police not.

The capture of Gardiner will be a step towards proving this, only inasmuch as his continuance at liberty is a proof of the reverse. So long as his present career shall continue, the natural conclusion is that so far as the western and south-western divisions are con- cened, our police organization is at least as ineffective as before. When it shall be brought to a close, the force will have a fair start, and an opportunity of showing, by the peace and order they maintain, and the crime they bring to punishment, that they fullfil the purpose for which they are supported. But if they delay too long, the opportunity of obtaining this fair start will be lost. An adverse judgment will have been universally come to, and any future endeavors to estab- lish for themselves a favorable prestige will have to be made under the greatest possible difficulty.


From the Goulburn Herald Wednesday 30 April 1862 p. 2.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory