Brigandage. The brigand is supposed to derive his name from the O. Fr. brigan, which is a form of the Ital. brigante, an irregular or partisan soldier. There can be no doubt as to the origin of the word "bandit," which has the same meaning. In Italy, which is not unjustly considered the home of the most accomplished European brigands, a bandito was a man declared outlaw by proclamation, or bando, called in Scotland "a decree of horning" because it was delivered by a blast of a horn at the town cross. The brigand, therefore, is the outlaw who conducts warfare after the manner of an irregular or partisan soldier by skirmishes and surprises, who makes the war support itself by plunder, by extorting blackmail, by capturing prisoners and holding them to ransom, who enforces his demands by violence, and kills the prisoners who cannot pay. In certain conditions the brigand has not been a mere malefactor. "It is you who are the thieves" - "I Ladroni, siete voi," - was the defence of the Calabrian who was tried as a brigand by a French court-martial during the reign of Murat in Naples. Brigandage may be, and not infrequently has been, the last resource of a people subject to invasion.

The Calabrians who fought for Ferdinand of Naples, and the Spanish irregular levies, which maintained the national resistance against the French from 1808 to 1814, were called brigands by their enemies. In the Balkan peninsula, under Turkish rule, the brigands (called klephts by the Greeks and hayduks or haydutzi by the Slavs) had some claim to believe themselves the representatives of their people against oppressors. The only approach to an attempt to maintain order was the permission given to part of the population to carry arms in order to repress the klephts. They were hence called "armatoli." As a matter of fact the armatole were rather the allies than the enemies of the klephts. The invader who reduces a nation to anarchy, and then suffers from the disorder he creates, always calls his opponents brigands. It is a natural consequence of such a war, but a very disastrous one, for the people who have to have recourse to these methods of defence, that the brigand acquires some measure of honourable prestige from his temporary association with patriotism and honest men.

The patriot band attracts the brigand proper, who is not averse to continue his old courses under an honourable pretext. "Viva Fernando y vamos robando" (Long life to Ferdinand, and let us go robbing) has been said by not unfair critics to have been the maxim of many Spanish guerrilleros. Italy and Spain suffered for a long time from the disorder developed out of the popular resistance to the French. Numbers of the guerrilleros of both countries, who in normal conditions might have been honest, had acquired a preference for living on the country, and for occasional booty, which they could not resign when the enemy had retired. Their countrymen had to work for a second deliverance from their late defenders. In the East the brigand has had a freer scope, and has even founded kingdoms. David's following in the cave of Adullam was such material as brigands are made of. "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men." Nadir Shah of Persia began in just such a cave of Adullam, and lived to plunder Delhi with a host of Persians and Afghans.

The conditions which favour the development of brigandage may be easily summed up. They are first bad administration, and then, in a less degree, the possession of convenient hiding-places. A country of mountain and forest is favourable to the brigand. The highlands of Scotland supplied a safe refuge to the "gentlemen reavers," who carried off the cattle of the Sassenach landlords. The Apennines, the mountains of Calabria, the Sierras of Spain, were the homes of the Italian "banditos" and the Spanish "bandoleros" (banished men) and "salteadores" (raiders). The forests of England gave cover to the outlaws whose very much flattered portrait is to be found in the ballads of Robin Hood. The "maquis," i.e. the bush of Corsica, and its hills, have helped the Corsican brigand, as the bush of Australia covered the bushranger. But neither forest thicket nor mountain is a lasting protection against a good police, used with intelligence by the government, and supported by the law-abiding part of the community.

The great haunts of brigands in Europe have been central and southern Italy and the worst-administered parts of Spain, except those which fell into the hands of the Turks. "Whenever numerous troops of banditti, multiplied by success and impunity, publicly defy, instead of eluding, the justice of their country, we may safely infer that the excessive weakness of the government is felt and abused by the lowest ranks of the community," is the judgment passed by Gibbon on the disorders of Sicily in the reign of the emperor Gallienus. This weakness has not always been a sign of real feebleness in the government. England was vigorously ruled in the reign of William III., when "a fraternity of plunderers, thirty in number according to the lowest estimate, squatted near Waltham Cross under the shades of Epping Forest, and built themselves huts, from which they sallied forth with sword and pistol to bid passengers stand." It was not because the state was weak that the Gubbings (so called in contempt from the trimmings and refuse of fish) infested Devonshire for a generation from their headquarters near Brent Tor, on the edge of Dartmoor. It was because England had not provided herself with a competent rural police.

In relatively unsettled parts of the United States there has been a considerable amount of a certain kind of brigandage. In early days the travel routes to the far West were infested by highwaymen, who, however, seldom united into bands, and such outlaws, when captured, were often dealt with in an extra-legal manner, e.g. by "vigilance committees." The Mexican brigand Cortina made incursions into Texas before the Civil War. In Canada the mounted police have kept brigandage down, and in Mexico the "Rurales" have made an end of the brigands. Such curable evils as the highwaymen of England, and their like in the States, are not to be compared with the "écorcheurs," or Skinners, of France in the 15th century, or the "Chauffeurs" of the revolutionary epoch. The first were large bands of discharged mercenary soldiers who pillaged the country. The second were ruffians who forced their victims to pay ransom by holding their feet in fires. Both flourished because the government was for the time disorganized by foreign invasion or by revolution. These were far more terrible evils than the licence of criminals, who are encouraged by a fair prospect of impunity because there is no permanent force always at hand to check them, and to bring them promptly to justice.