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The Jerilderie Letter

The Jerilderie Letter is a handwritten document dictated by Ned Kelly to fellow Kelly gang member Joe Byrne. It was written over a period of a few months, and Kelly’s intention was for the letter to be published in the press.   

The 56-page letter chronicles the careers of Ned Kelly and his fellow gang members from 1870 onwards, including a description of the fatal shooting of three police officers at Stringybark Creek, Victoria, in 1878. He argued that there were important personal and political reasons behind the gang’s actions. 

In the letter, Kelly claimed he shot the police in self-defence. He also cites cases of alleged police corruption, expresses pro-Irish and anti-English sentiments, and demands justice for his family and other poor Irish settlers. He describes how he and his family were the victims of racial and class-based persecution at the hands of the police and the ‘squattocracy’ who controlled the most fertile farming land and parts of the government. 

The letter is accompanied by an undated note stating, ‘This is the document given to me by Ned Kelly when the Bank at Jerilderie was stuck up in Feby. 1879’. 

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