Vern’s last letter [15 January 1855]

[Editor: A letter from Frederick Vern, one of the leading figures in the Eureka Rebellion. Published in The Age, 15 January 1855.]

Vern’s last letter

The following letter — the last written in these colonies by the now celebrated Vern — has been sent to us for publication. Our readers may rely on its authenticity.

Ship —— Sydney Heads,
Dec. 24th, 1854.

Farewell to thee, Australia! A few moments more, and then Australia, land of my adoption, adieu! adieu!

Thy rocky shores
Fade o’er the waters blue.

The ship that bears me to exile has spread her wings; but Australia, and you my late companions in arms, I cannot leave you without bidding you (it may be my last) farewell. I part from you, perhaps for ever; but wherever fickle fortune may banish me to, your memory will help to beguile the dreary hours of exile; and I hope that a name once so familiar to you, now an outlaw from injustice and tyranny, may be kindly remembered by you.

Remember, for the sake of the blood-bought liberties of mankind, the noble and brave men now laid low in a warrior’s grave; place o’er their tomb a monument, a reward for their heroic self-sacrifice, a just tribute to their memory.

Oh, that a kind fate had laid me low in their midst, and given me a final resting-place, Australia, in thy bosom. But no! Fate denied me a warrior’s death, a patriot’s grave, and decreed that I should languish in banishment. Banished — for what? For having dared to hope that Australians were not made to wear the chains of slavery; for having dared to teach a people their rights, as freemen; for having dared to denounce Victoria’s perfect, liberal, squatocratic, Fosterian government; and finally, for having dared, when driven to it, to take up arms in sheer self-defence.

There was a time when I fought for freedom’s cause, under a banner made and wrought by English ladies, when the British Parliament applauded us and the British nation sympathised with us.

Australia ! the hour will come, the hour is close at hand, when, under thy peerless, cloudless sky, will float a banner as pure and spotless as the firmament above thee; and when a stalwart, sturdy race of freemen shall tread thy fertile fields and downy plains, thy flowery meadows and wood-clad mountains; then, and not till then, Australia will find a place in the deathless pages of her history, to recount the heroic stand the men of Ballaarat made in vindication of their rights and liberties; and when the tree of liberty shall have spread its branches far and near, then history will trace its roots to the blood-moistened seeds sown at Ballaarat.

Victoria ! thy future is bright and noble; thou art destined to lead the van of Australia’s progress; for the past, has taught thee a lesson never to be forgotten. The past has taught thee what a mere handful of men will risk, and what they can accomplish, for liberty and outraged humanity; but the past has taught a lesson far more useful — it has taught thee that in order to make a movement successful, the cause must be a national and not a local one; it has taught thee that in unity alone lies strength, and success; it has taught thee that if arms must decide thy fate, thou must calmly and deliberately look forward, and prepare for a solemn day; and when that has come, the past will teach you that you must put your trust in God and your own right arms, and not in designing men bent only on creating dissension for their own self-aggrandisement. The past has taught you that you must be unanimous at home before you can be successfull abroad; and thus taught by the melancholy experience of the past, I confidently predict a Bunker’s Hill or an Alma as the issue of your next insurrection; nor is it very improbable that such an event will shortly occur, — the Criminal Influx Bill and the Royal Prerogative, the land question, the rapid falling off of the Gold Fields, and the decided popularity of Sir Charles and his administration, are destined to hasten such an event.

Unite then. Farewell, Australians !

Yours truly, and for ever.

C. H. F. de la VERN.

The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), Monday, 15 January 1855, page 5 (6th column)

Also published in:
The Courier (Hobart, Tas.), Wednesday 7 February 1855, page 2

Editor’s notes:
The phrase “Unite then”, at the end of the letter, possibly should have been rendered as “Until then”, although it is hard to say without seeing the original letter itself.

[Editor: Corrected “Dee. 24th” to “Dec. 24th”.]

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