[Editor: This foreword, by Gerald C. Stanley, is from The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers (5th edition, 1946) by J. J. Kenneally.]
By Gerald C. Stanley, J.P.
For fifty years the Australian public has waited for an impartial record of the Kelly Gang and its exploits. This is given for the first time in “The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers.” Almost all the books written on the Kelly Gang have borne the impress of crass prejudice and gross libels on the Kellys and their relatives.
Mr. Kenneally has not entered the field as a partisan. He merely records facts — facts almost entirely taken from police sources — facts attested by police officers on oath. This is the source from which Mr. Kenneally draws his most damning indictment against the police of the day, and the source, too, from which he draws evidence that the Kellys, prior to the fight in the Wombat Ranges, were harried and harassed by the police, until they could no longer feel that they were, to use the words of a highly-placed police official, “being treated with equal justice.” Then, too, we have to consider the unfortunate indiscretion of the learned Judge Barry in his vicious promise to give Ned Kelly fifteen years for an alleged crime for which Kelly had not then even been apprehended. This flagrant and incomprehensible outrage on all decent conceptions of justice remains, in the final analysis, not merely a classic example of judicial barbarity, but the originating cause of the Kelly outbreak. Ned Kelly decided to fight rather than surrender to fifteen years’ gaol for a crime for which he was already “convicted” by a judge, although he had not then been arrested nor had he been tried.
In all previously published accounts of the Kellys’ exploits they are grotesquely represented as brutal criminals, whose blood lust could be sated only by an almost daily murder; whereas, in actuality, they differed very little from other young men of their day, and their conduct was the very antithesis of bloodthirsty. Subject to continual police persecution, blamed for every petty crime committed in the district, their mother thrown into gaol for an alleged assault on a police officer subsequently dismissed from the service for misconduct, it is small wonder that these high-spirited youths, nursing a fierce resentment of the injustice they had suffered, should, mistaken as they may have been, as a last resource gave battle to their persecutors.
Whilst they were prepared to engage the police and their agents in open warfare, they were determined not to sully their names with any crime against their civilian neighbours. During their long career as bushrangers, apart from their open enemies, they offered violence to no man and insult to no woman. The Kellys’ conduct contrasts very favourably in this regard with the outrageous behaviour of Sergeant Steele at Glenrowan, when he fired upon a fleeing mother with a baby in her arms. The Kellys were merely in revolt against persecution, not against Society as reflected by the laws of the State.
As Peter Lalor and his diggers found it necessary to give armed resistance to police tyranny in Ballarat, so Ned Kelly and his followers found themselves faced with a similar alternative. For his part in shooting down the armed forces of tyranny at Ballarat Peter Lalor was soon after acclaimed the popular hero of his day. For a somewhat similar resistance to persecution Ned Kelly was hanged, but, now that time has dispelled the mists of prejudice from the scenes of the Kellys’ activities, their names are coming to be held in far higher respect than those of their official persecutors.
By his long residence in the Kelly country, and by his personal knowledge of the friends and enemies of the bushrangers alike, Mr. Kenneally is peculiarly fitted for the work he has undertaken. In a brief time the last of the actors in this great drama will have passed to their final rest, and it is fortunate that their valuable collaboration should have been utilised by Mr. Kenneally in the production of his history, which must in the future be regarded as the most authoritative work on these remarkable Australian bushrangers.
GERALD C. STANLEY, J.P.
J. J. Kenneally, The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and Their Pursuers, Melbourne: J. Roy Stevens, 5th edition, 1946 [first published 1929], pages 6-8