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Sir Charles Warren's Resignation

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  • Sir Charles Warren's Resignation

    Hi All,

    It is generally believed that Sir Charles Warren did not resign because of any deficiencies in the Metropolitan Police handling of the Whitechapel Murders but, rather, because of a critical article he wrote for the November edition of Murray's Magazine which hit the news-stands on Saturday 28th October. This is based on the understanding that Warren resigned on 8th November, the day before the Millers Court murder.

    Personally I don't believe the magazine article itself was the prime cause of his resignation, mainly because too many people knew about it beforehand and its publication would not have come as a surprise. Also, under rules laid down in 1879 it would have been easy to lawfully prevent its publication.

    Who knew what, and when?

    The Star, 19th October 1888, knew about Warren's article—

    Warren Takes Up the Pen.
    The forthcoming number of Murray's Magazine will contain an article upon the police of the metropolis by Sir Charles Warren.

    And the New York World got a sneak preview on 24th October. The earliest report I can find is in the Auburn [NY] Bulletin, 25th October 1888, but the cutting is barely readable. The following word-for-word report is from the Galveston Daily News, 26th October 1888—

    It's hard to know exactly when on 8th November Warren tendered his resignation, for in answer to a question in the House of Commons that day Home Secretary Henry Matthews explained how Sir Charles had not been aware of the rule precluding officers from publishing works relating to the Department [Home Office] without permission, adding—

    "I have accordingly drawn his attention to it, and have requested him to comply with it in future."

    As far as Henry Matthews was concerned the Murray's Magazine article was a matter of reprimand, not resignation. Warren's tenure as Commissioner was secure. This is borne out by a letter sent to Sir Charles Warren on 8th November—

Mr. Secretary Matthews directs me to state that his attention has been called to an article signed by you in this month's number of Murray's Magazine, relating to the management and discipline of the Metropolitan Police force. He desires me to forward to you the enclosed copy of a Home Office circular, which was duly communicated to the Commissioner of Police in 1879, and to state that the directions in that circular were intended to apply to the Metropolitan Police and to every officer in the force from the commissioner downwards. I am accordingly to request that in the future the terms of this order may be strictly complied with.

    I am, Sir, your obedient servant, (Signed) "E. LEIGH PEBERTON."

    Warren replied the same day. His letter concluded—

    " . . . I desire to say that I entirely decline to accept these instructions with regard to the Commissioner of Police, and I have again to place my resignation in the hands of her Majesty's Government.

    I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, (Signed) CHAS. WARREN."

    Warren may have felt he held the strong suit, for as Henry Matthews told parliament—

    "There have been previous differences occasioning the tendering of his resignation."

    But on 10th November 1888 Henry Matthews accepted his resignation by letter—

    "Sir - I beg to acknowledge your letter of the 8th inst. In that letter, after contending that the Secretary of State has not the power, under statute, of issuing orders for the Metropolitan Police, you decline to accept his instructions that the commissioner and all officers of the force should comply with the Home Office minute of May 27, 1879, by which officers attached to the Home Department were enjoined not to publish any work relating to the department without the previous sanction of the Secretary of State, and you place your resignation in the hands of her Majesty's Government. In my judgement the claim thus put forward by you, as Commissioner of Police, to disregard the instructions of the Secretary of State is altogether inadmissible, and accordingly I have only to accept your resignation. At the same time I am glad to acknowledge the services which you have rendered to her Majesty's Government during the course of your administration of the police force."

    And in the House of Commons, 13th November 1888, Henry Matthews added—

    "The Government accepted the resignation of Sir Chas. Warren on the ground stated in the correspondence I have read, and on no other ground. The failure of the police to discover recent crimes in the metropolis and the differences of opinion between Sir Chas. Warren and Mr. Monro had nothing to do with the action of the Government in parting with an officer so distinguished and so zealous in the discharge of his office as Sir Charles Warren has been."

    It's interesting that Matthews didn't accept Warren's resignation on 9th November. Instead, he waited a day. So maybe Millers Court was the straw which finally broke the camel's back, turning a matter for reprimand into one of resignation.

    In answer to the question of whether he had in fact resigned because of the last Whitechapel murder Warren told the New York Herald, 13th November 1888—

    "No . . . I sent in my resignation before the Kelly murder, on the 8th of this month, and immediately after Mr. Matthews' statement in the House of Commons in reference to my article in Murray's Magazine. The resignation was accepted yesterday. That article was perfectly innocuous and could not do any harm."

    I would suggest that Warren resigned on 9th November, and that as a courtesy the government's acceptance was treated as a response to his letter of the 8th, allowing him to resume his military career with an unblemished record. Warren would have agreed in a heartbeat. He was only 48 years old, and a professional slur would have dashed any hopes of a future career. Better to be seen having resigned for standing on principle and speaking his mind rather than because of shortcomings in his leadership skills.


    Last edited by Simon Wood; June 7, 2009, 05:03 PM. Reason: corrections

  • #2
    Thanks very, very much Simon for this thread.

    Hopefully, SPE & Mr. B can chime in here with their views on the issues raised as well as other more well versed on issues concerning politicos and Sir Charles Warren.
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    • #3
      Note the wording of the London news cable: "It is intended as a defense of his incompetency and of his failure to apprehend the Whitechapel Murderer." Incompetency & failure.

      Warren's authorship of an article seems to have been a terrific opportunity for everybody to dump on him, and they did.
      Maybe it was just the final straw?