Ned Kelly gave forewarning of the scale of his Glenrowan plot, as well as some of the motivation behind it, in the letters he wrote with Joe Byrne at Euroa and Jerilderie. At the time these seemed to be more or less hollow threats, but following the Glenrowan tragedy they are almost chilling in their forewarning.
In the weeks after Stringybark Creek, Ned was desperate to justify his actions as well as dissuade people from attempting to cash in on the reward on his head. To this end he authored a letter to parliamentarian Donald Cameron, who had raised the issue of police incompetence as a talking point.
In the letter, Ned concludes in a peculiar way, no doubt with more than a hint of poetic flourish by Joe Byrne to enhance the text:
I am really astonished to see Members of the Legislative Assembly led astray by such articles as the Police, for while an outlaw reigns their pocket swells Tis double pay and country girls — by concluding as I have no more paper unless I rob for it, if I get justice I will cry a go. For I need no lead or powder to revenge my cause, and if words be louder I will oppose your laws. With no offence (remember your railroads) and a sweet good bye from Edward Kelly, a forced outlaw.— Source: The Cameron Letter (edited)
This flippant reference to “remember your railroads” was almost meaningless in December 1878 but it was enough to make the police take notice according to the later accounts by key figures such as Superintendent Hare.
By the time the outlaws crossed the colonial border into New South Wales in February 1879, the relentless desperation they had endured, combined with the ongoing knock-on effects that were impacting on their family and associates, made Ned Kelly more desperate than ever before.
He now had a cause to be a figurehead for, and he intended to make the police, their spies and the government feel his wrath. He conveyed this with surprising clarity in the Jerilderie letter.
In the letter Kelly states:
Superintendent Smith used to say to my sisters, “see all the men I have out today? I will have as many more tomorrow, and we will blow him into pieces as small as paper that is in our guns.” Detective Ward and Constable Hayes took out their revolvers and threatened to shoot the girls and children in Mrs Skillion’s absence. The greatest ruffians and murderers, no matter how depraved would not be guilty of such a cowardly action, and this sort of cruelty and disgraceful and cowardly conduct to my brothers and sisters, who had no protection, coupled with the conviction of my mother and those men certainly made my blood boil, as I don’t think there is a man born could have the patience to suffer it as long as I did, or ever allow his blood to get cold while such insults as these were unavenged; and yet in every paper that is printed I am called the blackest and coldest blooded murderer ever on record. But if I hear any more of it I will not exactly show them what cold blooded murder is, but wholesale and retail slaughter; something different to shooting three troopers in self defence and robbing a bank.— Source: The Jerilderie Letter (edited)
By June 1880 that desperation had gone to its most extreme length and Ned decided to carry through with his threat. To this end he contrived to lure the bulk of the police that were actively pursuing them into a death trap, including the Native Police from Queensland. By neutralising the police that were after him, Ned clearly assumed that it would result in a de-escalation on the part of the authorities, and therefore relative freedom for himself and his supporters. It was a terrible miscalculation, just like the attempt to rob and disarm the police at Stringybark Creek.