Across the Earth and the Solar System, British interests -- and civilization itself -- are threatened:
--- bomb-throwing anarchists terrorize the Continent
--- Irish nationalists assassinate persons without fear of detection or conviction
--- secret treaties are arranged between Foreign Powers
--- the spies and agents of unfriendly governments skulk about our cities and ports
--- massive criminal conspiracies aim at slavery, extortion, and worse
--- secret Orders work to overthrow or undermine proper governments
--- strange inventions and alien menaces are brought forth by evil or ignorant persons.
In response to these and other threats, Her Majesty's Government can too often respond only by consular or military methods. Unfortunately, the covert and malign nature of these threats makes diplomatic negotiation impossible; and a warlike response would often be too late -- let alone foolish if directed at a threat hiding, wormlike and invisible, within a major Power. The Continental governments, by and large, employ Secret Services, and large bodies of police agents, to root out crime, disaffection, and espionage. Their methods are often distasteful but effective, including the interception of private posts, subornation of servants, and operation of houses of ill repute to gather information from indescretion. In some cases, illicit methods beyond even the laws of such countries are employed -- e.g., murder, beatings, and blackmail -- and ignored by the ministers of government. Great Britain has, rightly enough, a horror of such clandestine and unconstitutional power in any hands; in fact, our Government has no permanent staff of spies or covert agents of any kind. In time of war, some military or naval officers have temporarily taken to such work, on a more or less amateur basis, and often to good effect -- but no regular plan has been made to continue such practice.
However, some influential persons recently came to the decision that Great Britain, and all of Anglo-Saxon Civilisation, is at stake if there exists no means of gathering pertinent and timely intelligence on these matters of great import; further, in many cases the proper action to be taken is extrajudicial, sub rosa, or even unsanctionable.
In times such as these, even gentlemen must not refuse such distasteful tasks as continued peace, liberty, and prosperity require. These tasks require an organization of prudent persons recruited by discreet methods; various covert but reliable means of communicating instructions and informations between this organization and the authorities; and a central registry, or archive, of the intelligence produced by the organization, where it can be analyzed for possible use.
To provide a meeting-place and home for this group, a club has been formed -- the Explorers' Club, founded in January of 1887. A dozen or so reliable, retired, and no-longer-exploratory persons agreed to act as directors of this club; a discreet and reliable staff were engaged; a moderate endowment was provided; and a building at 14 Charles Street, near Berkeley Square, was leased for 99 years on very good terms from the Duke of Westminster. This building was chosen for having several entrances and exits not obviously connected to the club. A good library, dining hall, eight members' bedrooms, etc. have been provided, along with a few less ordinary features. Telegraphic and pneumatic connections between the club and several other places will allow of communication between the "operative" members and the authorities.
The Explorers' Club has been presented as being for "gentlemen and ladies who have made journeys of exploration and discovery, at least 500 miles distant from London." The directors ensure that no-one whose presence would hinder the true, operative functions is admitted to membership. In fact, as persons with the bravery, capabilities, and energy to undertake travels in unexplored lands may be useful, the club is a recruiting-station for further "operative" members. The Explorers' Club has bylaws, a charter and organization similar to many other London establishments, but the "operative" members within the club organize themselves purely informally.
The interpretation and archiving of informations uncovered by the society is conducted by a few persons well-suited, by their intelligence, postion, discretion, and loyalty, to such tasks. The members of the directors' committee are:
Dr. Benjamin Westphail, African explorer and hunter
Sir John and Lady Celia Emsworth, Asian explorers
Major Simon Trothill, RE (ret'd), mountaineer
Mr. Julius A. Grand, American explorer famous for his Venusian journeys
Mr. Jonathan S. Salvator, Arctic explorer
... and half a dozen other superannuated pioneers.
As the club operates entirely without formal warrant, authority, or official sanction, if any of its members are exposed as spies or agents the Cabinet will disavow any knowledge of its activities. In fact, the "operative" members should not expect that anyone particular in Government may even know of the club's true purpose -- such knowledge will be kept quite close. The "operative" members cannot expect, and should not be led to expect, any assistance in breaking the laws of this, or any friendly country; neither can they expect forbearance or pardon from Her Majesty's government or judiciary if apprehended in criminal acts.