[Editor: This letter, regarding the Miner’s Right, and voting rights for miners, was published in The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 12 June 1855.]
The elective franchise and Miners’ Right.
(Per favor of the Age.)
To the Mining and other License-paying residents on the Gold-fields,
Fellow Colonists, — Allow me to direct your attention to our present position with reference to the above important subject.
You are doubtless aware of the great concession in our favor lately made by “the powers that are.” But are you acquainted with their real tendency, I fear not.
On the 24th of March, 1844, the then Governor C. J. La Trobe, forwarded to England for the consideration of the Home Government, an “Act to extend the Elective Franchise,” which provides, in brief, that any man, who shall in consideration of any payment to the public revenue, be authorised to occupy or mine for the space of twelve months in any portion of the waste lands of the Crown in this colony, shall, being duly registered as an elector for any district, be entitled to vote at the election of a member of the Legislative Council for that district. Provided that no man shall be entitled to be registered as an elector unless he shall have occupied or mined under such authority as aforesaid for the period of three calendar months previous to such registration.”
This, omitting technicalities, is the purport of the Act quoted, which was sanctioned by the Home Government and received in due form the Royal assent, a fact officially notified to our Legislative Council on the 18th May last.
As an embodiment of a great principle, this is a boon indeed; but how is it proposed to be carried into effect?
Another act has been passed, creating several new electoral districts on the gold-fields, the fifth clause of which provides that “the lists of all persons qualified to vote in the said newly-created electoral districts, shall be made out between the first day of August and the 28th day of August, 1855,” a date at which, by the provisions of the first named act, it is impossible for us to obtain those political privileges which both the Victorian Council and the Imperial Government have declared to be our right.
For the new licenses and Miners’ Rights have not yet been issued (under the old system, few took out a yearly license), and only eleven weeks and a fraction intervene between this present date and the latest possible day for registration.
So that, at the ensuing elections, not one in a hundred will have a voice in choosing their representatives.
Brother diggers and fellow-storekeepers (for I have long resided amongst you in either capacity), is this fair play? Or is it not rather a political fraud — a covert scheme to nullify the vaunted concession of a free people’s most cherished privilege? Against it let us one and all protest, and demand that our acknowledged elective rights be not wrested from us, when just within our grasp, by this paltry subterfuge. It may be said that the date is an oversight. I, for one, doubt it; but if so, let those who blundered correct it. Shall a whole community still suffer for the errors of a few?
In either case, we must bestir ourselves, and that quickly, or the opportunity will be lost to us for many years of obtaining a fair voice in the representation.
Yours in all honor,
Forest Creek, May 8, 1855.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 12 June 1855, p. 6
boon = something which is beneficial, helpful or useful; a blessing, a godsend; (archaic) a favour or request; (archaic) bountiful, generous, kind, pleasant; a close or special companion or friend; convivial, jovial, merry (regarding a companion or friend)
C. J. La Trobe = Charles Joseph La Trobe, Superintendent of the Port Phillip District (Victoria) 1839-1851 and Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria 1851-1854; he was born in London (England) in 1801, arrived in Australia in 1839, returned to England in 1854, and died in Litlington (Sussex, England) in 1875
See: 1) Jill Eastwood, “Charles Joseph La Trobe (1801–1875)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography
2) “Charles La Trobe”, Wikipedia
3) “Charles Joseph La Trobe – Later Life”, The C J La Trobe Society
Crown = the governing power of a land operating under a constitutional monarchy, which is said to govern on behalf of the Crown (i.e. on behalf of the ruling monarch); may refer to the government or elements acting on the behalf of government (e.g. a legal prosecuting service operating in the name of “the Crown”); monarchical, regal, or imperial power; a monarch (King or Queen), an emperor
Home Government = in an historical Australian context, the British government
Imperial Government = in the context of early Australia, the British government
[Editor: Changed “into effect.” to “into effect?”. Added a closing double quotation mark after “August, 1855,”.]