[Editor: An article about the Lambing Flat riots. Published in The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, 2 February 1861.]
We have been kindly favoured by a gentleman who has just returned from Lambing Flat with a copy of the “Prologue to the Miner,” from which we take the following important information:—
It having become rumoured amongst the mining community on the Burragong for some time past, that the Chinese intended assembling on that gold-field, all armed, and in such numbers, that they could make a determined stand against any European force that could reasonably be brought against them, and that their intention was to make it a Chinese territory, several respectable miners issued a notice calling for a meeting on Sunday last, to take into their serious consideration the best means of nipping the Mongolians’ friendly intentions in the bud. From the shoals of sons “of the flowery land” that were daily pouring into every part of the mines, the idea that only at first assumed the character of a rumour, took all the appearance of a positive fact, and since Government had hitherto been so dilatory in giving them proper protection, since they made them subservient to Kiandra’s rise or fall they felt that they were in a measure bound to protect themselves, and consequently such a gathering as has scarcely been seen in these colonies assembled on Sunday afternoon, near the Golden Point, Lambing Flat, fully determined to settle the matter then and for ever.
The meeting was originally announced for 12 o’clock, but as it was found impossible for the Stoney Creek diggers to arrive in time, a postponement to 3 o’clock was found necessary. About 2 o’clock they arrived accompanied by a brass band playing martial airs, with the Union Jack on either side floating over them. The only arms they had were sticks, looking like shovel and pick handles. There were about fifteen hundred diggers assembled. A chairman was appointed and the business proceeded.
Mr. Stewart, on coming forward, was assailed by a perfect volley of cheers. He said — Mr. Chairman, gentlemen, and fellow-miners. — Before I go into the business for which we have met, I wish to state that had it not been for some treachery on the part of a person unknown to me, who pulled our notices down, we should have had six times the gathering here to-day. (A voice — “It was the Commissioner,” and loud cries of “There he is.” Commissioner or no Commissioner, it was an unconstitutional act, but it matters little now since we are sufficiently numerous to do what we want to do. (Vehement cheering.) Well, Mr. Chairman, gentleman, and fellow-miners, — a meeting has been called this day — and proud I am to see you have so nobly responded to it. (Hear, hear.) We have assembled for the purpose of discussing a very important and serious question. (Loud applause.) I presume you are all aware what that question is. (Cries, of “Yes, yes; go on.”) The question is — shall the Burrangong Gold-Field (as you have no doubt seen the notices) become a Chinese territory or an European diggings. (Shouts of “European diggings” and “Down with the pig-tails.”) The question is really becoming so serious that it is now intolerable. (Hear, hear.) To my own certain knowledge there cannot be less than fifteen or sixteen hundred on the Lambing Flat and its vicinity, and the greater number, if not all of them have arrived within the last fortnight. (Cries of “Down with them.”) I also have it from reliable authority that the Chinese are on the road to these diggings in thousands. (Cries of “stop them,” “turn them back.”) Now, gentlemen, shall the Chinese monopolize the gold-field that we have prospected and developed? — (Cries of “No, no; down with them”) — and shall we as men and British subjects stand tamely and allow the bread to be plucked from the mouths of ourselves, our wives, and children by those pig-tailed, moon-faced barbarians — (Shouts of “Down with the pig-tails;” “drive them before us”) — men who would not spend one farthing in the colony could they possibly avoid it — men did I say! — (Oh, my phophetic soul, my comrades!) — monkeys I ought to have said. (Laughter and cheers.) No, gentlemen. Were it possible for them to get what they daily consume from China, and to be able to avoid all connection with British or Foreign traffic, they would glory in being able to do so. (Cheers.) Now gentlemen, you see what they expend in the colony, and the benefit derived from them is compulsory, which plainly signifies that they cannot help themselves. (Hear, hear.) It is a well-known fact that not one Chinaman out of five thousand when he accumulates what he considers a sufficiency in his own country, but verifies the words of a well-known song written by the celebrated Charles Thatcher — “And blow ’em says I, scores arrive every day, They get all they can, then hook it away.”
The Speaker then referred to the Chinese being allowed to stand side by side in a court of justice with the European whose life trembled in the balance of a Chinaman’s oath; and shewed that the mock-forms in which they made their attestations were proved to be a complete piece of humbug. Mr. Stewart concluded a very exciting speech by saying it doesn’t require a second sight to see into the future. It is quite evident to all what the result will be, if we do not take some measures to stop this gross outrage upon our rights. (Hear, hear.) Then, men and fellow-miners, let us assert our rights before God and man — in the clear face of day — like free-born Britons — and prevent ourselves from being trampled to the dust like dogs, (Great confusion.) But gentlemen I would strongly advise you to keep within the bounds of the law, and commit no breach of the peace. (Cheers from the Commissioner and numbers in the crowd.)
Several other speakers endeavoured to be heard, but an overpowering majority were bent on instant action. Scouts immediately started up the creek and in every direction, and arriving at their destination, a sight that baffles description presented itself. On the opposite side of the track one or two tents were in flame, which was generally believed to have been the work of the Chinese themselves. Along the bed of the creek one mass of celestial life seemed to agitate it with all the marks of haste in its movements, carrying such burdens that even Chinamen might grow weary with. The banks on either side were lined with Europeans who hurried China’s browned sons on by occasional remarks and strong intimations, the band playing the whole time. Up the steep on to the flat they came like the flowings of a never-ceasing river. Not less than from two to three thousand could have come up in single file and marched along silently in the direction the European pointed out. One sick Chinaman was found, who was permitted to remain, with one of his countrymen to attend him, and one of the best huts offered as a residence. When the others had all cleared out of the creek, the band turned the tide in the direction of the township, through which they escorted the whole of the Mongolians till they came on to Blackguard Gully, where a similar scene was gone through. Here a tent or two was burned and another sick Chinaman protected, and the whole mass drifted away from the diggings, according to the directions of the Europeans, who shortly after returned to the Flat, when the proceedings were supposed to have terminated.
Both the miners and the Commissioner and his force cannot be too highly spoken of in this serious affair, the former for their peaceable and orderly bearing, and the latter for the absence of that rigid and extreme authority that at a time like this, tends more to create a breach of the peace than any thing else.
The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (Bathurst, NSW), 2 February 1861, p. 2
air = melody, short melodious song, tune
celestial = of or relating to China or Chinese people (the “Celestial kingdom” is an archaic name for China) (may also refer to: of or relating to the sky or outer space; of or relating to heaven; something from Heaven; something which is regarded as heavenly, or very good)
dilatory = slow to act, unhurried; tardy; procrastinate; act in a manner which is intended to cause delay
the flowery land = an archaic name for China (China was called “Hua” by the Han people; however, “hua” can also mean “flower”, and therefore, arising from an assumption that the two terms were the same, China came to be referred to as “the flowery land”)
Kiandra = a gold mining town (incidentally, said to be the birthplace of Australian skiing), situated in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales; mining in the area ended around 1905 and Kiandra was abandoned (what remains of it is situated within the Kosciuszko National Park)
Mongolian = of or relating to the racial classification “Mongoloid” (also known as the “Asian”, “Oriental”, or “Yellow” race); someone from a Mongolian racial background (may also mean: of or relating to Mongolia; the Mongols)
Oh, my prophetic soul = a line from Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 5), by William Shakespeare, where Hamlet says “O my prophetic soul! My uncle?” during his conversation with a ghost
Old spelling in the original text:
[Editor: Changed “12 oclock” to “12 o’clock”, “no; down with them”” to “no; down with them”)” (added closing bracket), “phophetic” to “prophetic”, “says, I scores” to “says I, scores”, “strongly advice you” to “strongly advise you”, “law no, and commit breach” to “law, and commit no breach”.]
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