Anarchist J. A. Andrews on "The Handbook of Anarchy."


Anarchist J. A. Andrews on "The Handbook of Anarchy."

From The Bulletin, Vol. 14. No. 768 (3 Nov 1894)

“The Handbook of Anarchy.”

Editor Bulletin,— l ask you, in the interests of liberty, to print the following notes on the prosecutions which sent me to gaol. First, as to the legal aspect. 1. The summons charged me with not having the name and place of abode of the printer on first and last leaves of a book, “The Handbook of Anarchy.” I was the printer, and the only failure to complete technical requirements, as per Act of Geo. IV., lay in not having my place of abode on the front as well as the back. I stated myself in court as the printer.

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2. The Act is obsolete, inasmuch as the publication known as MOORE'S ALMANAC was brought under the notice of the authorities, some years ago, in Bear’s case, in support of the contention that the Act was obsolete. It was decided that the Act was in force, nevertheless this publication was not subsequently interfered with on account of deficient imprint, and now appears with no imprint at all, though it is under State patronage. Also, most of the publications of the N.S.W. Govt. Printer since then fail to comply with the requirements of the Act; thus fixing definitely that the Act ceased to be valid immediately after Bear’s case. It is not in the prerogative of the Government to make laws and break them. This being a merely civil no indictment could lie against the heads of a Government for causing or suffering it to be violated in the name of the State; and their doing so amounts to a release by the State (which “can do no wrong,” even if it tries) of the obligation, by acknowledgment of obsoleteness.

3. The pamphlet was not stitched or wired, but pasted, so that the different leaves could not be separated without destroying the substance of the paper, thus constituting it a single sheet, and, therefore, under the Act, even if the latter were still valid, exempt from the obligation of having two imprints.

4. There was a substantial compliance with the Act, as the preamble states clearly that it is directed against anonymous publications—“the evils arising from the printing of books by persons unknown.” Here the name of the author, printer and publisher was set forth three times, and not merely on a cover or fly-leaf, but in the body of the work, so as to be quite inseparable without destroying the reading matter.

Secondly, as to the proceedings in court.—5. I had come forward, thinking I was called as a witness, to assume the responsibility in the case of Robinson, who was before the court, when he was sent back, and I was asked to plead to the charge. My intention had been not to appear to the summons, considering that the Act being obsolete no offence was disclosed. I was about to explain, when the magistrate, who, I am informed, was Mr. Whittingdale Johnson, called to me, “Now, then, plead guilty or not guilty; we don’t want any anarchist speech here!” I said; “I am not going to make an ‘anarchist speech’ at the present juncture, but to take a preliminary technical objection—” He interrupted me, calling out several times, “You have no right to publish sedition; you must expect to be punished for publishing sedition; you publish sedition and you will be punished for it.” I said, “You had better read the book before talking about it; and I am not charged with publishing sedition, but with a purely technical breach of an old Act of George IV., which is ignored by Government publications, clearly showing, in my opinion, that this part of it at least is obsolete.” He interrupted me again, ordering me to plead guilty or not guilty. I continued: “Therefore, I claim that the summons discloses no offence, and—” but before I could explain how I came to seem to have “appeared,” he interrupted: “I decide that point against you at once.” From this out I could not get a dozen words in edgeways for his cries of “You will be punished for publishing sedition,” “You have no right to publish sedition,” &c., till he varied the performance by saying, “ Fined £20.”

6. I applied to have a case reserved for the Supreme Court upon points that I wished to set forth, whereupon he said, “I won’t take any notice of you; you have no right to publish sedition.”

7. I then said, “I give notice of appeal to the Supreme Court, to which end I apply for a stay of proceedings to enable that appeal to be prosecuted.” He said, “I won’t take any notice of you; you must consult your legal representative.” I said, “You can see that I have no legal representative; I am conducting my own case.” He said, “I can’t help that; you have no right to publish sedition.”

8. W. H. K. Robinson and Charles Wolfe were in turn brought forward, talked at by the magistrate and fined without any evidence being given against them, and practically without the opportunity of calling evidence in defence.

9. The magistrate then, turning again to me, exclaimed, “It’s a very difficult case; a very difficult case! But you have no right to publish sedition!”

10. Once imprisoned I had no facilities for an appeal without legal assistance, which I was not in a position to obtain, nor could I appeal at all, not having already instructed a solicitor to that effect, without applying to the governor of the gaol for permission to apply to the Comptroller-General of Prisons for permission to apply to the Minister for Justice for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. This rigmarole was too much for me, and I declined to avail myself of the Governor’s permission to ask for permission to ask for permission to appeal pursuant to notice, especially seeing that it would have been a matter of impossibility to get in the appeal in time under such conditions.

11. Thus, as it appears to me, without even a valid legal pretext for a prosecution, I and my companions were sent to prison with the mere form of trial and practically forbidden to appeal to a more competent tribunal.

12. The sentence once served, no appeal or motion to quash will lie, yet, by reason of the alleged conviction as legitimising the imprisonment, we are debarred for life from our civil right of visiting any of our friends who are or who may be imprisoned—according, at least, to the gaol regulations.

13. Is not such persecution the surest way to breed Anarchy?


Photo of J. A. Andrews