[Editor: An article regarding some of the problems on the Ballarat goldfields (just prior to the Eureka Rebellion). Published in The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 14 November 1854.]
(From our Correspondent.)
If matters fall out as ill as they promise, we are likely to have call for plenty more of what, under the circumstances, will be scoffed at as anonymous scribbling. But what is to be done? If public men will insist on giving public scandal by dabbling in dirty work, and if a select committee of those who feel themselves aggrieved are ill-mannered enough to go on prying into little pet secrets that don’t concern them at all, why, all I can say is, that the Colonial Secretary and the Chief Commissioner of gold fields will ere long have many occasions for shewing off their logic and power of abuse.
To all appearance everything is as quiet and orderly as usual. The great majority of diggers are going on with their work as if nothing of importance was stirring amongst them.
The monster meeting which has been nominated for to-morrow is expected to be larger than any that has gone before. It will certainly not be less free in discussion and reproof.
Since the late disturbance, the camp have cultivated as few occasions as possible of hunting up unlicensed miners.
The new hotel, the ex-Eureka, is newly completed. Standing as it does, almost on the ruins of the former one, and certainly having risen out of them, it is to go by the name of the Phoenix.
In these days of discontent and depression, the Geelong people will be glad to hear that Eureka is going ahead rapidly. Some of the claims are turning out quite as richly as the best on the Gravel Pits’ line, which is saying as much for them as any reasonable man could hope, and more than he had grounds for anticipating. A claim, now being washed-up, has yielded as much as 50lbs. weight in a single tub; and though this of course was the result of the choice pickings of perhaps two or three days, still the main bulk of the washing-stuff promises to turn out more than commonly rich. Great numbers have been flocking to Eureka within the last fortnight, and something like half a mile of shepherding is going on ahead of the claims last bottomed on the line. But it has mostly happened that, as these diggings are “rushed” when they are richest, so they are poorest by the time it comes to the rushers’ turn to prove their luck.
Further information from the Creek (Creswick’s) confirms the report that was lately in circulation here regarding that field. At present some 13,00 diggers are at work, and we of Ballarat must look out, or Creswick’s Creek will tell up in the Escorts fully as well as ourselves.
At the Creek as much as 2 lbs. per tub is nothing unusual. So that taking our rebellious disposition and our prospects together, we may safely prophecy that this district will, during the summer, command no inconsiderable degree of public attention.
On Friday night the Americans resident here had a meeting in the Adelphi Theatre, to consider the propriety of inviting Mr Tarleton, the American Consul, to pay a visit to Ballarat. It was decided that such an invitation should be forwarded to that gentleman, and that a supper, in a style of unequalled magnificence, to be followed by a benefit at the Adelphi, be the order of the evening. I believe that Mr Youngson, late Vice-Consul at Geelong, is included in the invite. Yesterday we had our monster meeting on Bakery Hill. The proceedings began soon after three o’clock. The usual accompaniments of flags and music were not wanting to add to the effect of the affair. The chair was occupied by Mr Hayes, and Messrs Holyoake, A. Black, Humffray, G. Black, Kennedy, Krew, Burke, Reynolds, and Spong, submitted and supported the following resolutions, all of which were carried unanimously and enthusiastically.
1. That this meeting demands the immediate dismissal of Serjeant-Major Milne, because he is a dangerous and disreputable scoundrel, and one who is a disgrace to any government that employs him, and further, that the authorities who continue to employ such a knave are unworthy of either the confidence or respect of the inhabitants of Ballarat, and that a committee be appointed to make known the demand of this meeting.
2. That this meeting condemns the insolent language used by the Colonial Secretary, the Surveyor-General, the Chief Commissioner for the Gold Fields, and the Chairman of Committees, in their unwarrantable assertions respecting the veracity of the diggers, and the respectability of the representatives of the public press on the gold-fields, and their sneering contempt at an appeal for an investigation into the mal-practices of the corrupt Camp at Ballarat.
3. That this meeting, having heard read the draft prospectus of “The Ballarat Reform League,” approves and adopts the same, and pledges itself to support the committee, in carrying out its principles and attaining its objects — which are the obtaining the full political rights of the people; and
4. That this meeting expresses its utter want of confidence in the political honesty of the government officials in the Legislative Council, and pledges itself to use every constitutional means to have them removed from the offices they disgrace. That this meeting also expresses its disapprobation of the mode in which the board of Enquiry was appointed — that it ought to have been composed of independent gentlemen, and not of paid government officials.
The prospectus alluded to in resolution 3, is this:— “Principles and objects of the Ballarat Reform League — That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey. That taxation without representation is tyranny.”
That being, as the people have hitherto been, unrepresented in the Legislative Council of the colony of Victoria, they have been tyrannised over, and it becomes their duty as well as their interest to resist, and if necessary, to remove the irresponsible government which so tyrannises over them. That this colony has hitherto been governed by paid officials upon the false assumption that law is greater than justice, because, forsooth, it was made by them or their friends, and admirably suits their selfish ends and narrow-minded views. That it is the object of the League to place the power in the hands of responsible representatives of the people; to frame wholesome laws and carry on an honest Government.
That it is not the wish of the League to effect the immediate separation of the colony from the parent country, if equal laws and equal rights are dealt out to the whole free community; but that if Queen Victoria continued to act upon the advice of dishonest ministers, and insists upon indirectly dictating obnoxious laws for this colony, under the assumed authority of Royal prerogative, the Reform League will endeavour to supersede such Royal prerogative by asserting that of the people, it being the most Royal of all prerogatives, as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power.
The political changes contemplated by the League are —
1. A full and fair representation.
2. Manhood suffrage.
3. No property qualification of members for the Legislative Council.
4. Payment of members; and
5. Short duration of parliament.
The immediate objects of the League are — a complete change in the management of the gold fields by disbanding the gold commission; the total abolition of the diggers’ and storekeepers’ licence-tax, and a thorough agitation of the gold fields and the towns. That, to carry out the foregoing objects, there should be a large tent erected, in which to meet and conduct the business of the Reform League. Cards of membership are to be issued in a few days, and Ballarat to be divided into districts.”
Such are the prospectus and resolutions approved of on Saturday by some 7,000 diggers. With but few exceptions, the tone of the speakers at the meeting was moral force; in fact, the majority are determined on a perfectly constitutional agitation.
To-day there have been two other sectional meetings — one German and the other Irish — both of which bodies are about to appoint a Corresponding Committee, to act in concert with the general one, to ensure unity of aim. The movement is therefore, from its very systematic organisation, assuming an important position, evidently manifesting a deep determination to carry out the objects for which it was originated.
The Board of Inquiry has, I believe, closed its sittings here, and its report is anxiously waited for by his Excellency before the pending trials. Macintyre and Fletcher go down by to-morrow’s conveyances, with most of their witnesses. Mr Hood, out on bail, is in town already, and so is “Yorkey,” still in charge.
Mr Dewes is up here, and still signs his name as “police magistrate”; it is somewhat difficult to reconcile this fact with Mr Foster’s explanation.
There are still warrants in the hands of the police for parties implicated in the Hotel burning, notwithstanding the promise long since made to the contrary. I find that it is attempted to deny that this promise was given, but it is no use denying it. It was given. It is equally useless to deny that there is an ill feeling in the Camp between the police and soldiers; it has manifested itself on more than one occasion, and if left to themselves we would soon have practical illustrations of the fable regarding “Kilkenny cats.”
The Camp sentries are, as usual, calling the hours. ’Tis now Monday morning, for I hear, “Past two — all’s well.” Perhaps it is so — perhaps not.
The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Geelong, Vic.), 14 November 1854, p. 5
Also published in:
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 16 November 1854, p. 6
[Editor: Changed “wasted for” to “waited for”. Placed a closing quotation mark after “police magistrate”.]