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The Parkes Letter

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In February 1879 the Kelly Gang crossed the border into New South Wales.

The reward on their heads was £4000 and having been declared outlaws by an act of parliament, they could be shot dead without challenge.

Having successfully robbed the bank at Euroa and made Victoria’s police the target of much derision from the press, the gang decided to take the flashness out of the NSW police as well.

The Kelly Gang performed an incredible raid on the township of Jerilderie over the course of a weekend.

They locked up the police, scoped the town in stolen police uniforms, then took the townsfolk as prisoners while they robbed the bank.

The plot was executed almost perfectly, except that Ned Kelly’s attempt to apprehend the newspaper editor, Gill, to make him publish a letter he had dictated to Joe Byrne (largely based on the one he had earlier sent to Donald Cameron M.P.) had been thwarted by the man’s fleeing town at the sight of the outlaws in the bank.

Letter writing was a key part of Ned’s public relations campaign to soften his image.

He wanted his version of events published so that the public would have a different perspective on events than the one pushed by the press.

He believed, quite inexplicably, that he could both state his interpretation of crimes associated with him, as well as graphic insults and threats against his enemies, and come away with people seeing him as the victim.

It was not altogether unheard of for bushrangers to write to the press to state their opinions or try to clear their name.

Both Frank Gardiner and

John Peisley had done so in the 1860s.

The key difference was in the brevity of their correspondence, whereas Ned’s letter spanned 50+ pages.

In response to the Jerilderie affair, Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of

New South Wales, doubled the reward for the gang to £8000.

This was an incredible sum, equivalent to over $1000,000 in modern Australian decimal currency.

This, naturally, raised eyebrows and seemingly prompted Ned Kelly to pen a letter, mocking the

New South Wales government and police force.

March 14, 1879

To Sir Henry Parkes

Premier N S W

My dear Sir Henry Parkes

I find by the newspapers that you have been very liberal in offering a reward for the Kelly gang or any one of them Now Sir Henry the man that takes I Captain E. Kelly will have to be a plucky man for I do not intend to be taken alive. And as I would as soon die in NSW as Victoria I will give you or any other person who wishes to take me a fair chance to try your pluck. I am at present not very far from Bathurst (in fact I have been in the town of Bathurst and have taken a peep at the bank) Now I tell you candidly that I intend to rob Bathurst and particularly the bank. So now you are warned of course I will not say what time I and the gentlemen that follows in my train will visit the City of the plains. But one thing you can count on is that I will pay it a visit. Now, Sir Henry, I tell you that highway robbery is only in its infancy for the white population is been driven out of the labour market by an inundation of mongolians and when the white man is driven to desperation there will be desperate times. I present my respects to the Sydney police

yours E. Kelly

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1 Comments

  • hasan

    hasan

    10:15 AM, 28-04-2022

    He was brave man to write letters to prime minister

    0 Reply

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