Mr. Black began, in plain and straightforward language, to make a truthful statement of the exasperated feelings of the diggers, courageously censuring the conduct of the Commissioner in his licence-hunt of the morning, reminding him of the determination with which the diggers had passed the resolutions at the monster meeting of yesterday. “To say the least, it was very imprudent of you, Mr. Rede, to challenge the diggers at the point of the bayonet. Englishmen will not put up with your shooting down any of our mates, because he has not got a licence.”
Mr. Rede: “Now Mr. Black, how can you say that I ever gave such an order as to shoot down any digger for his not having a licence?” and he proceeded to give his version of the occurrence. Master Johnson wanted a little play, and rode licence-hunting; was met with impertinent shouts of “Joe, Joe,” and reported a riot. Daddy Rede must share in the favourite game, and rode to crack the riot act. The red-coats turned out. The diggers mobbed together among the holes, and several shots were fired at the traps. The conclusion: Three of the ringleaders of the mob had been pounced upon, and were safe in chokey.
Mr. Black manfully vindicated the diggers, by observing how they had been insulted; that Britons hated to be bullied by the soldiery, and concluded by stating our first “demand.”
Mr. Rede, startled at our presumption, breathed out “Demand! — First of all, I object to the word, because, myself, I am only responsible to government, and must obey them only: and secondly, were those men taken prisoners because they had not licences? Not at all. This is the way in which the honest among the diggers are misled. Any bad character gets up a false report: it soon finds it way in certain newspapers, and the Camp officials are held up as the cause of all the mischief.”
Mr. Black would not swallow such a perfidious insinuation.
Mr. Rede continued: “Now, Mr. Black, look at the case how it really stands. Those men are charged with rioting; they will be brought before the magistrate, and it is out of my power to interfere with the course of justice.”
Mr. Hackett spoke his approbation to the Commissioner.
Mr. Black: “Will you accept bail for them to any amount you please to mention?”
A consultation ensued between Rede and Hackett. Bail would be accepted for two of the prisoners. Father Smyth would bring the required sureties tomorrow morning.
Mr. Black proceeded to our second demand.
Mr. Rede took that for a full stop; and launched into declamation: “What do you think, gentlemen, Sir Charles Hotham would say to me, if I were to give such a pledge? Why Sir Charles Hotham would have at once to appoint another Resident Commissioner in my place!” and concluded with the eternal cant of all silver and gold lace, “I have a dooty to perform, I know my duty, I must nolens volens adhere to it.”
In vain Mr. Black entered the pathetic; and expostulated with the Commissioner, who had it in his power to prevent bloodshed.
Mr. Rede: “It is all nonsense to make me believe that the present agitation is intended solely to abolish the licence. Do you really wish to make me believe that the diggers of Ballaarat won’t pay any longer two pounds for three months? The licence is a mere cloak to cover a democratic revolution.”
Mr. Black acknowledged that the licence fee, and especially the disreputable mode of collecting it at the point of the bayonet, were not the only grievances the diggers complained of. They wanted to be represented in the Legislative Council; they wanted to “unlock the lands.”
Carboni Raffaello, who had yet not opened his mouth, said: “Mr. Rede, I beg you would allow me to state, that the immediate object of the diggers taking up arms, was to resist any further licence-hunting. I speak for the foreign diggers whom I here represent. We object to the Austrian rule under the British flag. If you would pledge yourself not to come out any more for the licence, until you have communicated with Son Excellence, I would give you my pledge. . . . — (I meant to say, that I was willing to pledge myself, and try if possible to assuage the excitement, and wait till ‘our Charley’ had sent up a decided answer. . . .”) — but I was instantly interrupted by Father Smyth who addressed me imperatively: “Give no pledge: sir, you have no power to do so.”
This interruption, which I perfectly recollect, and the circumstance that on our going and returning, the said Father Smyth continually kept on a sotto voce conversation with Mr. Black only, were, and are still, mysteries to me.
Mr. Rede, who had not failed to remark the abruptness with which Father Smyth had cut me short; joined both his hands, and with the stretched forefinger tapping me on both hands, which were clenched as in prayer, addressed to me these identical remarkable words, “My dear fellow, the licence is a mere watchword of the day, and they make a cat’s-paw of you.”
Mr. Black undertook my defence: the words above stuck in my throat, though.
Mr. Hackett, on being consulted, assented that Mr. Rede could promise us to take into consideration the present excited feelings of the diggers, and use his best judgment as to a further search for licences on the morrow.
Mr. Rede: “Yes, yes; but, understand me, gentlemen. I give no pledge.”
The usual ceremonies being over, Sub-inspector Taylor kindly escorted us to the bridge, gave the pass-word, and we were allowed to go — just as any one else will go in this land, who puts his confidence in red-tape — disappointed.
Raffaello Carboni. The Eureka Stockade: The Consequence of Some Pirates Wanting on Quarter-Deck a Rebellion, Public Library of South Australia, Adelaide, 1962 [facsimile of the 1855 edition], pages 54-56
cat’s-paw = a person unwittingly used by someone else for their own ends; a dupe or a tool; the phrase is derived from the fable “The Monkey and the Cat” adapted by the French author Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695)
dooty = duty
*invanum laboravimus = (Latin) “false read circulated” (*rough translation)
nolens volens = “willing or unwilling” (“willy-nilly”); from the Latin “nolens” (“unwilling”) and “volens” (“willing”) [the term appears in Book 7 of Historia Expeditionis Hierosolymitanae (“History of the Expedition to Jerusalem”) by Albert of Aix (circa. 1120)] [Carboni uses the phrase “nolens volens” in chapters XLII (42) and LI (51)]
“Albert Of Aix: Historia Hierosolymitanae Expeditionis: Liber VII”, The Latin Library (accessed 9 January 2013)
“Albert of Aix”, Encyclopædia Britannica (accessed 9 January 2013)