[Editor: This untitled article, regarding the hanging of Ned Kelly, and related moral viewpoints on the Kelly Outbreak, was published in The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 12 November 1880.]
[The ignorant and misguided criminal, Edward Kelly]
The ignorant and misguided criminal, Edward Kelly, perished on the scaffold in Melbourne yesterday, in spite of all efforts made by his friends and sympathisers to save him from his doom. He appears to have died as he had lived, in vain and almost nonchalant disregard of all the higher instincts of humanity. His last exclamation, “Such is life” — a colloquialism that is used frequently in connection with the most trivial worldly affairs — appears to have been dictated, if it were not indeed his last effort at bravado, by a cool indifference for his fate in this world or the next.
Neither remorse nor repentance characterised his last days or hours, despite the fullness of the catalogue of his crimes. Apparently, like the stern mosstrooper of Scott’s poetic fiction, he died “hoping nothing, fearing nothing, and believing nothing.” The world is well rid of a scoundrel who, untrained to good, made his own standard of right and wrong, and chose a life of desperate criminality instead of the better course for which he was mentally fitted and, but for his evil environments from childhood and the excessive vanity he possessed, might have followed.
Society can afford to look with pity and contempt on the loose-minded few who sought to rescue so deeply dyed a murderer from the punishment he justly deserved. It is in the very nature of things that villainy must have admirers, for the world is not yet regenerate, but, thank goodness, public opinion, however much it may vary on minor points of decency, has not yet sunk to the deplorable depths of approving the respite of a trebly-guilty murderer. People may be found to compliment and bear witness to the respectability of sympathy with scoundrelism, but in the opinion of right-minded folk such sympathy is not very far removed from scoundrelism itself, and bearing that complexion, the existence of any such feeling is deplorable in the extreme.
With the ignoble death of the chief scoundrel in the gang of cruel murderers who for so long outraged and defied society, the duty of the ministers of justice does not stop. As the crimes of the gang were wicked, and the sympathy they received wide-spread, so unquestionably must the retribution be. The murderers themselves have gone to their eternal doom, and the manes of their innocent victims are appeased, but there are others with whom society has yet to reckon. But for the sympathy, encouragement, and actual assistance given to the villanous gang, they would not have been enabled for a single month to have escaped justice, half their crimes would have been left uncommitted, and the community would have been saved an enormous expenditure. Punishment must now fall as fully and justly as possible upon the accessories of the gang. No idle fears as to the consequences should intervene, but without further ado the police authorities should bring to justice one and all of the friends of the gang who rendered themselves amenable to the law by actual aid and encouragement to the criminals. It is not possible to apply the lash to the backs of that section of the community, more especially in the infested districts, who secretly rejoiced over the infamous doings of the gang; the more is the pity. But to the actual accessories the arm of the law can reach, and it should be moved, with no uncertain force. A start, we are happy to say, has been made in this direction by the arrest of Mrs Jones, of the Glenrowan hotel, where three of the outlaws met their doom. It is notoriously spoken of that the house kept by this woman was the actual headquarters of the bushrangers, and that they repeatedly were harboured there. A second hotelkeeper in the township is alleged also to have been on intimate terms with the outlaws, and on the day of the outrage at Glenrowan gave them active sympathy. The blacksmith who made the armour, and many others whose conduct is well-known to have been adverse to the police, should also receive their deserts, in which case a blow will be struck at sympathy with crime which will for ever prevent any such detestable doings as many of the inhabitants of the district were guilty of during the time the outlaws were running free.
The Ballarat Star (Ballarat, Vic.), 12 November 1880, p. 2
like the stern mosstrooper of Scott’s poetic fiction, he died “hoping nothing, fearing nothing, and believing nothing” = a reference to a passage in Old Mortality (1816), by Walter Scott (1771-1832), where Francis Stuart, known as Bothwell, is killed by John Balfour:
“Die, wretch! — die!” said Balfour, redoubling the thrust with better aim; and, setting his foot on Bothwell’s body as he fell, he a third time transfixed him with his sword. — “Die, bloodthirsty dog! die as thou hast lived! — die, like the beasts that perish — hoping nothing — believing nothing”
“And FEARING nothing!” said Bothwell, collecting the last effort of respiration to utter these desperate words, and expiring as soon as they were spoken.
See: 1) Sir Walter Scott, “Old Mortality”, London: Collins’ Clear-Type Press, [circa 1910], p. 227 (see p. 62 regarding Bothwell’s name)
2) “Old Mortality”, Wikipedia
manes = (in the ancient Roman religion) the spirits, souls, or shades of the dead, especially referring to the souls of one’s revered or deified dead ancestors (can be capitalised: Manes)
See: “Manes”, Wikipedia
mosstrooper = a raider, marauder, or bandit who operated in the border region of England and Scotland in the mid-17th century; many of the marauders were ex-soldiers or ex-troopers of Scottish armies, and the type of country they operated in was swamp-land, known as bogs or mosses, hence the name (also spelt: moss-trooper, moss trooper)
See: “Moss-trooper”, Wikipedia
regenerate = to create anew, reconstruct, recreate, renew, revitalise, especially in an improved or more successful manner; to be born again in a religious sense, to undergo a religious or spiritual rebirth
See: “Regeneration (theology)”, Wikipedia
Scott = Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish poet and novelist
See: “Walter Scott”, Wikipedia
[Editor: Changed “mosstroper” to “mosstrooper”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]