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The Lighter Side of My Official Life
by Sir Robert Anderson, 1910.
Full text below.


CHAPTER VIII

Sir A. Liddell's friendship and his death - Dishonourable treatment - Appeal to Sir W. Harcourt :his generosity and kindness - The Criminal Investigation Department created in 1878 under Howard Vincent - Succeeded by Mr. Monro under Sir C. Warren - Bickerings with the Home Office - Personal notes - The Police Pension Act.

ON a previous page I have told how largely my decision to remain at the Home Office was influenced by the personality of the Under Secretary of State ; and Sir Adolphus Liddell's death in June, 1885, was a cruel blow to me. Before I moved from the Irish Office to Whitehall, in April, 1868, I had already gained his friendship, and for the next seventeen years I was as free of his room as if I had been the house cat. And during all those years his friendship for me never flagged, never altered, and I never had a tiff with him.

Yes, on one occasion I made him angry; and that once he spoke to me in a way that wounded me. Fearing lest a king might arise to whom Joseph might be unknown, I asked him to write a minute, putting on record his estimate of my services and my claims on Government. Himself the soul of honour, he indignantly resented the suggestion that any Secretary of State would act dishonourably toward a public servant ; and when I pressed my appeal, he lost his temper with me. But after the change of Government in February, 1886, my fears of dishonourable treatment were fully realised by the action of Mr. Childers and the new permanent Under Secretary. It was intimated to me that, apart from my Prison Commission appointment, my services were no longer required, and that, as I had been paid for those services, I had no further claims on Government. Although my feeling of indignation at such treatment exceeded my sense of the pecuniary loss it involved, I decided to make a personal appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deliver me out of the hands of my own chief.

When I called at the Treasury Sir William Harcourt received me at once, as he had been used to do in his Home Office days, and I shall never forget his kind words and generous sym pathy when I told him of my trouble. He then and there wrote a letter to Childers about me, which he most kindly allowed me to read. But his help did not end there. Having "the power of the purse," he saved me from the money loss which the scandalous action of the Home Secretary would have entailed on me. It was with confidence that I appealed to him. Owing to influences at which I have already hinted, I was " in his black books " during his last weeks at the Home Office, and I saw him very seldom. But some time after he left Whitehall, I had a kind note, asking me to call at Grafton Street. He received me as cordially as of old, and told me in plain words that, since leaving office, he had heard things which led him to appreciate more highly the advice and help I had given him, and the policy I had always advocated. In a word, had he been my equal he could not have made a more gracious amende for his unfair treatment of me. I sometimes forgive an injury, but I never forget a kindness ; is it strange that, ignoring his faults, I remember his noble qualities and cherish his memory?

Mr. Childers' tenure of the Home Office was happily brief, and when Mr. Matthews succeeded him in the following August, I found myself once more holding confidential relations with the department. For, in undertaking the oversight of Secret Service work, Mr. Monro, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, stipulated upon having my assistance. This arrangement, moreover, drew me into still closer touch with Scotland Yard, and was no doubt one of the many elements which led to my appointment as head of the Criminal Investigation Department in 1888.

That department was created in 1878 as the result of an inquiry by a Home Office Committee, appointed in consequence of certain abuses and irregularities which had come to light in a recent criminal trial. Till then the detective department of the Metropolitan Police, which had been founded in a humble way in 1842, was merely a branch of the Commissioner's office. This system was possible in Sir Richard Mayne's time,' for Mayne was a man whose energy equalled his capacity, and he was at home in every branch of police work. But the policeman element was wanting in the personality of his successor. For though Sir Edmund Henderson was a man of marked ability, the success of his administration as Commissioner of Police was due mainly to the respect and confidence he inspired. He never took to the details of police work, and least of all to thief-catching.

I have told how the Home Office refused to make a scapegoat of Mayne at the time of the Clerkenwell explosion fiasco ; but Childers was a man of a different type from Gathorne Hardy, and one of his first official acts as Home Secretary was to call the Commissioner of Police to account for the West End riot of February 8, 1886, when a mob collected in Trafalgar Square and made its way to Hyde Park, breaking windows and looting shops en route. Henderson resigned, and Sir Charles Warren was appointed in his place.

The first arrangements made upon the report of the Departmental Committee of 1877 ignored some of its principal recommendations., The scheme was that the detective branch should be a separate department under an Assistant Com missioner, who should hold rank next to the Chief Commissioner, and have charge of the whole Force in his absence. But when the Criminal Investigation Department was first constituted, it was placed under a "Director," who had neither a statutory position nor disciplinary powers. And the fact that this arrangement did not break down within a twelvemonth is a notable testimony to the personality of my friend Howard Vincent. I do not know another man who could have made it succeed. It was not till Vincent left Scotland Yard that statutory authority was obtained to appoint a third Assistant Commissioner ; and under the Metropolitan Police Act, 1884, Mr. Monro was appointed to take charge of the detective department. His appointment marked an epoch in Police administration in London ; but the good which ought to have resulted from it was largely hindered by the bickerings which, after a time, began between him and the Chief Commissioner. And those bickerings were aggravated by Sir Charles Warren's relations with the Home Office. As several of the men concerned are still with us, I cannot speak freely on this subject. But this much I may say, that if Sir Adolphus Liddell had been still in office, and the influence of Whitehall had savoured of a plaister rather than of a blister, the course of events would have been different. The result was that Mr. Monro resigned. But London's loss was my gain, for I succeeded to the office.

Mr. Monro's place was not easily filled, and the matter was dealt with by a Committee of the Cabinet. The Departmental Committee of 1877 stipulated that the head of the detective department should be a criminal lawyer ; and the obvious importance of this was now recognised. Mr. Monro had given valuable assistance to the Irish Government in relation to political crime ; and Mr. A. J. Balfour, who was then Chief Secretary, urged that his successor should be qualified to render similar service. Of course it was essential to have a man who would work harmoniously with the Chief Commissioner, and Sir Charles Warren had said more than once that " if Anderson were at Scotland Yard all would go smoothly." On an earlier page I have spoken of my capacity for imposing on people who don't know me ; and here was another proof of it, for Sir Charles and I were practically strangers. The names and claims of a number of men were duly considered ; and by a process of " negative induction," it appeared that I was the only man who possessed all the necessary qualifications. Sir Charles Warren's appointment to the head of the Force was a risky experiment. The Police cannot tolerate military discipline, and this was their first experience of a military Chief Com missioner. For it is no disparagement of Sir Edmund Henderson to say that he was more of a civilian than a soldier ; and, moreover, he came to Scotland Yard from Whitehall, where he had been at the head of the Prison Department. The effect was precisely what might have been anticipated. I speak with knowledge such as few others possessed, and I can say with definiteness that there was a dangerous want of sympathy between the Commissioner and the rank and file; and Sir Charles Warren was not the man to make things smoother in such a case. There is no doubt that sedition was smouldering throughout the Force, and serious trouble might have resulted. But a change of sentiment was brought about in a most unlooked-for way. When, with his proverbial boldness, Sir Charles Warren stood forward to defend the Force against the unjust strictures of the Home Office upon the action of the police on the occasion of the Trafalgar Square riots of November, 1887, his faults were condoned ; and by the time that I became his colleague, ten months later, his popularity with the uniformed Force was established.

I may here say at once that, though I was warned by many, including officers who had served under him in South Africa, that " I could never get on with Warren," my relations with Sir Charles were always easy and pleasant. During all my official life I never failed to " get on" with any man, no matter what his moods, if only he was honourable and straight. I was told that he had a dog-like nature. But I am of that breed myself. I always found him perfectly frank and open, and he treated me as a colleague, leaving me quite unfettered in the control of my department ; and when his imperious temper could no longer brook the nagging Home Office ways of that period, and he decided to resign his office, I felt sincere regret at his going. But no one may justly charge me with fickleness and duplicity if I add that my regret gave place to feelings of pleasure when the unexpected followed, and Mr. Monro came back to Scotland Yard as Chief Commissioner.

My satisfaction with the new appointment was by no means based on personal grounds only. If we had been left together for half a dozen years, his administration would have made a permanent mark upon the criminal statistics of the Metropolis.

Sir Richard Mayne was thoroughly sympathetic toward detective police work, but he had no proper staff. And during the first ten years of the " C.I.D." the Chief Commissioners were men who were out of touch with work of that kind. But now at last we had a thoroughly efficient detective Force, and a Chief Commissioner who had himself clone much to make it what it was, and who had both acquaintance and sympathy with its duties. He told me, indeed more than once, that he sometimes wished himself back in his old chair. And I traded upon this at first by referring specially difficult cases to him. But this he vetoed, telling me plainly that he was not going to do my work for me. But he added in his genial way that the oftener I came to him as a friend to talk over my cases the better he would be pleased.

But it was not to be. His predecessor had been driven out by the Home Office, and he soon yielded to the same influence. I am anticipating events, for I have something to say about my first year at Scotland Yard; but I wish to deal once for all with these personal elements. If Sir Adolphus Liddell had still been Under Secretary of State, Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro would have been friends. And with Liddell at Whitehall there would have been no fatal friction between the Commissioner of Police and the Home Secretary. In each case there were two sides to the quarrel. That is a matter of course. But, to repeat my inelegant simile, where a plaister is needed the effect of a blister is intolerable ; and but for the blister Mr. Matthews and Mr. Monro might have made bon ménage, as the French phrase it. With his many excellent qualities Godfrey Lushington's intervention provocative, as Under Secretary were b and his manner was irritating.

To show how grotesquely Mr. Monro was misjudged at Whitehall, I may mention that when he summoned the Superintendents to a private conference on the Police Pension Bill he was suspected of a design to foment sedition, and an appeal was made to me confidentially to watch the proceedings.

It is chiefly by the Pension Act that he will be remembered in the Force. Under that statute a police officer can claim a pension after twenty-five years' service ; and after twenty-six years he can retire on a full pension of two-thirds of his pay, Formerly a medical certificate was necessary to enable an officer to retire on pension before the ordinary Civil Service age limit was reached. But experience proved that, after twenty-five years of ordinary police duty on the streets, a man might be practically worn out, though organically sound. And on this fact the new scheme was framed. But owing, it may be, to special vigour, or to having been employed on special duties, many a constable is perfectly fit after twenty-five or twenty-six years' service ; and in the higher ranks the duties, though of course more responsible, are generally less wearing. It was assumed, however, that the serious financial sacrifice involved in resigning from the Force (and any one can judge what it means to lose a third of his income) would be sufficient to deter officers from making an undue use of their pension rights. And if that assumption has been falsified, it is not those who framed the measure who should be held responsible for the inordinate charges which, in its operation, it has imposed upon the ratepayers of the Metropolis and the public purse.*

*The amount of these charges may be estimated from the statistics given in the report for 1907. Of the 17,907 officers serving at the end of that year, there were only 85 under the Tank of Superintendent who had more than twenty-six years' service. And the proportion of those who stampede after twenty-five years may be gauged from the fact that the corresponding number of those who had served more than twenty-five years was only 219, about one in eighty of the Force.