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Cradle Of Australian Democracy
Famous Eureka Stockade
Historic Stand Recalled
4 view of the memorial erected by citizens of Australia on the spot where the miners fought and died.
EIGHTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATED
Nearly three years ago representatives of the Australian Workers' Union met in the historic city of Ballarat — the Cradle of Australia's Democracy — to cele brate the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of their great organisation. Although many very interesting features of the jubilee celebrations were subsequently placed on record, none was more inspiring than the impressive pilgrimage which was made by the delegates and their distinguished industrial visitors to Hie famous Eureka Stockade, where, in 1 854, the diggers of Ballarat made their great stand for freedom and democracy, when both were trampled underfoot by an uncompromising administration which was as brutal in its methods as it was cruel and unjust in its demands.
THE Battlefleld °* Eureka, where some twenty-lour men of cdl nortionalHioa laid down their live* for Individual freedom and economic Justice, and what* many more were severely wounded, is, and has boon for many years, a hallowed spot for the descendants of those gedtaat men, and for all other true lovers of Democracy. And each year, as the 3rd of De cember comes round, industrial pil grims within teach gather on an ap propriate day to celebrate that great hisrorical event, and to contemplate what it has meant to the generations which have followed in the attain ment of a better and a more equit able state of society, and a higher standard of communal existence. PILGRIMAGES ORGANISED This year the Victorian branch of the A.L.P., which has for some time sponsored and organised these pil grimages, fixed December 10 as the most convenient date, and on Sunday last, by road and by rail, hundreds flocked to that gentle sunlit slope on the outskirts of the famous Garden City to place this year's tribute on the shrine that has been erected there in memory of our pioneers and the noble work they accomplished. On the previous Sunday, in New castle, a Eureka Stockade commemo ration took place under the auspices of the Trades and Labor Council, and an inspiring resolution was carried re cording the pride and admiration of those present of the sacrifices made by the martyrs of the Eureka Stock ade at Ballarat in 1654. The resolution stated that the Eureka Stockade was the protest of the Australian people against the in justices of the semi-military dictator ship of the time. The sacrifices, it was stressed, led to the foundation of Parliamentary Government and democracy in Aus tralia, and those present pledged themselves to carry out the traditions of Eureka and to uphold the civil lib erty and the citizen rights of the Australian people. WHAT LED TO THE STOCKADE The conditions which led up to the tight of Eureka arose mainly from the actions taken by the Administra tion in supervising the various gold fields. To meet the expense of secur ing order and to restrain unauthor ised mining on waste Crown land, a local Act of January, 1852, imposed on all diggers a licence fee of 30 shil lings per month, the penalty for min ing without a.licence being £6 for the first offence and afterwards imprison ment for terms up to six months. Clause 7 of this Act appropriated half the recovered penalties to the use of the informer or prosecutor-^a pro vocative and irritating provision. In December, 1863, an amending Act re duced the fee to £1 per month, but did not alter the diggers' great grievance — that they could be imprisoned for not having the actual licence on them, though their possession of one could be proved from the official record. They were, too, unrepresented in Par liament, though in 1854 the population on the Ballarat goldfielda was esti mated at 20,000. DEM AND~FOR HEAVY FEES Sir Charles Hotham, who reached Victoria in June, 1854, was alarmed at the depleted state of the Treasury and the growing expense of goldfields ad ministration, and ordered the police to
redouble their exertions in collecting he fees. To miners barely making rations the payment of £12 per annum was impossible, and there is no doubt mndreds did endeavour to evade pay ment, but the innocent suffered with he guilty. The police, too, had been largely recruited from Tasmania, and many were ex-eonvicte who had risen » be Jail-warders: some, in addition to their venality, showed a rough bru tality. These grievances were com mon to all the Victorian fields, and i»ad under Latrobe'e administration produced riots at Beechworth and Oastlemaine, bat Ballarat, always the most domestic of the goidfields, was renowned for its peaceful progressive ness and quietness. DEATH OF JAMBS SCOBIE On the night of October 6, however, el miner named James Scobie was killed at the Eureka Hotel, near Bal larat, and the murdered man's brother accused the proprietor (Bentley. a rasmanian ex-convict) of the murder. Bentley was brought up before a magistrate, whb was alleged to be financially under his thumb, and he was discharged. The miners were in dignant; a meeting was called and a demand made for a fresh prosecution. 3?he meeting itself was orderly, but towards the end of proceedings a cry was raised that the police (who had been ordered to protect the hotel) were trying to disperse the meeting, and the miners, becoming furious, swept aside the police, smashed the windows and furniture, and burned the building. The police arrested three men- who could not be proved to have been ring leaders or active in the riot, and they were sentenced to three, four, and six months' imprisonment, INDIGNATION MEETING At an indignation meeting held on November 11 on Bakery Hill, the Bal larat Reform League was formed, with J. B. Humffray (a Welshman) as its first secretary, and Peter Lalor, Frederic Vern (a Hanoverian), Raf faello (an Italian teacher, of lan guages), Timothy Hayes (an Irish man),, and George Black, a welledu cated Englishman, as prominent members. A deputation of three men waited on Governor Hotham to demand the release of the prisoners, but he refused and had already sent additional troops to Ballarat, which gave considerable offence by marching through the town with fixed bayonets and by. other ex asperating conduct. On November 29 Black, Humffray, and Kennedy reported to a msss meeting held at Bakery Hill the re sult of their deputation to the Governor, and Vern proposed a burn ing of the obnoxious licenses, which was carried out forthwith. Next day the police carried out a specially vicious and vigorous licence-hunt, and when the troops marched back to camp, the diggers hastened to a con ference with the leading spirits of the Reform' League. LALOR ELECTED LEADER Peter Lalor was elected leader, and under a blue flag adorned with the stars of the Southern Cross the as sembled diggers swore 'to stand truly by each other and fight to de fend our rights and liberties.' An area of about an acre on the present Eureka site was hastily en closed with a pallisade and a deputa tion was sent to the military camp demanding the release of the morn ing's prisoners and the cessation of license-hunting. The Commissioner
flatly refused the request, saying that the agitation was 'only a cloak to cotct s democratic revolution.' On December 1 the occupants of the stockade were hard at work by 5 a.m. drilling and improving the barrier, and a German blacksmith was fashioning pike-heads. But neither food nor ammunition was available within the stockade, and many men left it in search of these commodities, so that by the evening of the 2nd not more than 200 remained within. STOCKADE RUSHED Spies informed the Commissioner of the situation and about 4.30 a.m. on Sunday morning (December' 8) s troop of 276 men was marched silently to the stockade. Of those within about 50 had rifles; there was also a troop of Californian diggers armed with revolvers and another of Irishmen with pikes. Many of them were asleep when the signal gun was fired and a storming party of 64 'rushed' the stockade. In the first volleys several men fell on both sides, but the line of advanc ing bayonets, flanked on both sides by cavalry and mounted police, was too much for the diggers. They turned to seek shelter and all was over. Of the military force Captain Wise and four private soldiers were killed, and about a dozen injured. Sixteen miners were killed, and at least eight others died of their wounds, 114 pri soners were taken, and Lalor, badly wounded, managed to escape; so did Black and Vern, though the Govern
ment offered £500 for the apprehen sion of Vern, and £200 each for Black and Lalor. MARTIAL LAW PROCLAIMED Ballarat was put under martial law at once. On the 5th Sir Robert Nickle arrived with reinforcements. He blamed the rebels, but listened to the miners' grievances, and his just and conciliatory treatment had a soothing effect on the population — as did his announcement that the Governor had appointed a commission to enquire into their wrongs. .On the 9th the ban of martial law was withdrawn, though the miners declared they pre ferred it to police rule. The trials began in February, 1856, and two men were acquitted without needing to defend themselves. The Attorney-General postponed the rest of the trials until March, but without effect — all the men appeared, pleaded, listened to the charges, and were also acquitted without being called on for a defence. When th? last prisoner walked free, the rewards for the cap ture of the missing men were with drawn. ROYAL COMMISSION APPOINTED While the diggers' grievances were undoubtedly great and the severity of the police administration was offi cially condemned by a Royal Com mission appointed by Hotham to en quire into the whole trouble, it is also certain that some of the League's leaders had in view far more titan a mere redress of grievances. Lalor, Humffray, and Black were probably inspired solely by indigna
tion, many others hoped to make the movement a political one, and how far they were successful subsequent his tory has amply demonstrated. REBEL LEADERS HONOURED All that the miners fought for on that stark Sunday morning in *54 pn the dim-lit slopes of Eureka was soon promptly written into the Statute Books of our country and the 'rebel'' leaders almost without exception were subsequently elevated to the highest positions at the disposal of a grate ful community. Peter Lalor himself was not o»!y selected to represent Ids eoaair? in Parliament but Parliament itself be stowed upon, him the ^exalted fssftiMi of Sneaker— a position he held with dignity and success for sun? years, tin failing health forced his : retire* meat upon which occasion ParHanent voted him £4000 In recognition of his outstanding services to the land of his adoption. PRISONERS OF 1891 Lalor*s experiences were almost identical with those of some ?f Jgur own union prisoners of 1891. Wil liam Hamilton, who served three years in St. Helena on account of his as sociation with Hie great shearing strike of 1691, was subsequently ele vated to the position of president of the Legislative Council, and one of his mates, George Taylor, who served a similar sentence in the same Jail afterwards migrated to Western Am- . tralia where be became Colonial Sea* retary and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.