An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural
and an AUSTRALIAN REPUBLIC
Do NOT be
Stockade had nothing to do with a republic, or the Labor Party, but everything
to do with the ultimate 'Supremacy of Law and Justice' under 'The Crown'.
Greek for “I have found it”, made famous by Archimedes and adopted by the
State of California as its motto. When gold was found near Ballarat in the newly
formed Colony of Victoria, the finders no doubt shouted “Eureka” and thus
the new goldfields and the township and pub were appropriately named.
had only discovered Ballarat in 1837. It was a blacksmith, Thomas Hiscock, who
first found gold in the district in 1851, which led to the first field being
established at a place called Poverty Point. By the end of that year the
sparsely populated area was flooded with 2,000 miners. The way in which most
Governments in the world sought to control mining and prevent chaos was to
appoint a Gold Commissioner and to issue licences to prospective miners.
of licences was not a problem. The magnitude of the fee levied of one and a half
pounds per month was. Although following petitioning, the then Lieutenant
Governor La Trobe reduced the fee to one pound a month or two pounds for three
months, it was still considered to be too high and together with other issues
led to the first and only armed insurrection ever to be held in Australia.
years, despite the high licence fee, there were around 20,000 gold prospectors,
around one quarter of whom were of Chinese origin with most of the others being
migrants from various parts of the British Empire and the United States of
alone, 9,926 kilograms of gold were transported to Melbourne, a massive amount
that made many miners extremely wealthy. However, given the huge number of
miners individually scraping for gold, the surface workings quickly ran out and
expensive machinery was required to sink shafts. The natural progression was the
establishment of mining companies that could provide the technology required and
by 1865 there were some 300 mining companies in the area. It was these companies
that helped to mine the massive quantity of 77,700 kilograms of gold sent to
Melbourne during the three years commencing in 1854.
influx of people to the Ballarat area, all seeking to make their fortunes,
created grave problems in keeping law and order, particularly at a time when
thirty eight out of Melbourne’s forty police officers, resigned and rushed to
make their fortunes on the gold fields.
It was reported in the Argus of 1851 that...
of this progress was the shutting out of the individual miners most of whom were
in any event in 1854 making insufficient to even feed and properly clothe
The loss of
infrastructure manpower created an unprecedented inflation which meant that
those miners who were unsuccessful, who were regrettably becoming the majority,
could not afford to feed themselves or to pay the licence fees and consequently
turned to crime targeting the successful miners and mining companies and
particularly the gold runs to Melbourne. Drunkenness on the goldfields increased
alarmingly with the average consumption of alcohol in the State increasing to
2.8 gallons per head per year.
been created a Colony in 1851 and the 50,000 established inhabitants, petitioned
for protection and it was incumbent on the Government and the Parliament to
afford their citizens protection from the massive influx of immigrants.
Furthermore the goldfields were attracting agricultural and industrial labour
making it almost impossible to manage the State and to provide the essential
services necessary for its survival.
unfortunate consequence of the departure of the qualified police force and the
recruitment of virtually anyone who applied resulted in a poorly trained and
corrupt force which itself tended to rob and brutalise the miners.
formed themselves into the Ballarat Reform League, the three leaders of which,
G. E. Thomson, a Dr. Jones and ‘Captain’ Edward Brown (an Irish-born
American) drafted a petition, which set out the grievances and pleadings based
around the licence fees, and expanded franchise and law and order issues.
five thousand miners and others signed the petition that was presented to the
Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe.
Joseph La Trobe had been Superintendent of the Port Phillip District from 1839
and became Victoria’s first Lieutenant Governor in 1851. It is obvious that he
was sympathetic to the plight of the miners but his hands were tied by the
Colonial Parliament which was dominated by Victorian landholders. Against their
wishes, La Trobe utilised a part of the licence fees to employ police and to
provide other essential services for the security of the miners.
their unrest was greatly aggravated when one of them was murdered by a publican
who, because of his friendship with local officials, was not committed for trial
in spite of his obvious guilt. In retaliation the miners burned the publican’s
Hotel ‘Eureka’ to the ground.
of the tent township of Eureka comprised a multitude of nationalities, religions
and political leanings. All combined to protest at the high licence fees they
were required to pay. Some wanted a peaceful protest but a few, predominantly
English hating Irish and Americans, advocated the sort of uprising that led to
the creation of the United States of America. It is said that there were some
400 Americans in Ballarat, one of which, a Captain James McGill, formed the 200
strong American ‘Independent Californian Rangers’!
On the 2nd
December out of the tens of thousands of miners in Ballarat, only one thousand
gathered in protest at what was termed a ‘higgledy-piggledy’ stockade which
had just been erected a few days before, however at 4 am on the morning of the
3rd December 1854, when the police and troops attacked fewer than two hundred
miners remained most of whom were armed with crude sticks and pikes plus some
weapons stolen the night before. These inexperienced remnants of the protesting
miners were quickly overcome with twenty-two miners and five soldiers killed.
who had been left to lead the insurrection was a newcomer, Peter Lalor. Born in
Ireland, Lalor had studied civil engineering at Trinity College but due to the
potato famine migrated to Australia with his brother in 1852 and after a short
period of labouring went into a partnership with another Irishman to establish a
wine, spirits and provision-merchandising firm. However in 1853 Lalor left
Melbourne and in 1854 staked a claim on the Eureka fields.
Lalor was wounded he managed to escape. He eventually lost an arm. Of the miners
who were captured or who surrendered, thirteen were committed to trial for high
treason, however twelve were acquitted and no action was taken against the
remaining one. However the reward placed on Lalor’s head was repealed in March
1855 following the report of the Commission which met after the insurrection,
and in November of that year Lalor was elected unopposed to represent the miners
in the Legislative Council of Victoria.
Lalor stood for the Legislative Assembly and by an ironic twist of fate became
Commissioner for Customs in 1875 and in 1880 was elected Speaker of the
Parliament, a position he held until his death in America nine years later.
It is very
easy today with hindsight to blame the Colonial Government but the fact was that
people flocked to the area motivated by the desire to make their fortune and
when they failed to find gold their greed was such that instead of moving
elsewhere to find work, they stayed on the fields and blamed not themselves or
bad luck, but the Government!
history, written mainly from the side of the unions, portrays a vastly different
scenario indeed with the Governor and the authorities depicted as ogres and the
miners as the totally innocent victims whereas neither is the case.
In 1852 the
Rev John Dunmore Lang published his ‘Freedom and Independence for the Golden
Lands of Australia’ an argument for an independent Australian republic.
Obviously some miners would have read this, but the matter of a republic was
never a part of their campaign. Rather it was a stand against what they believed
were injustices against them perpetuated by the squattocracy. Today we condemn
the Victorian establishment of the time, but one must remember that these were
pioneers of the new Colony who had worked long and hard to eke out an existence
for their future. An existence that they found was threatened by the huge influx
December 2004 was the sesquicentenary of the Eureka insurgency and we found the
six State Governments, all ruled by Republican Labor, inappropriately spending
taxpayers’ moneys on celebrating Australia’s first and only armed uprising.
Unsurprisingly the Labor Government of Victoria have even appointed a Minister
for Eureka, none other than the Victorian Arts Minister Mary Delahunty with a
Eureka program funded to the tune of $1.9 million!
participated in Eureka would be shocked to see how their stand has been hijacked
by Labor’s “celebration”, not of the principles of Eureka, which is the
ultimate triumph of law and justice, but instead the dying embers of their breed
of socialism and republicanism, both of which are totally alien to the original
aims of the Eureka miners whose loyalty to the Crown was absolute and is made
clear from the opening words of their petition, “That your petitioners are
the Loyal and Devoted Subjects of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria the
Sovereign Ruler of this Colony one of the dependencies of the British Crown.”
Ballarat 110 klms north west of Melbourne is Victoria's largest inland city
still boasting a statue of Queen Victoria at the front of the Town Hall!
Flag is based on the Southern Cross and was designed by some miners under
which they swore their final oath… “We swear by the Southern Cross to
stand truly by one another and to fight to defend our rights and liberties.”
has nothing whatsoever to do with a republic or the Labor Party but was rather
an appeal for British law and British justice to be implemented in their case. A
law and a justice originally denied to them and abused against them by
Australians in positions of authority, but eventually granted to them by the
Labor Prime Minister from 1945 to 1949 more succinctly expressed what Eureka and
what the Eureka Flag was all about in the
context of our Westminster system of democracy under The Crown when he said, “If
an idea is worth fighting for, no matter the penalty, fight for the right… and
truth and justice will prevail.”
NSW Premier Robert Carr’s comment in 1999 that Eureka was a “protest without consequence” is typical socialist jargon.
The story of the Eureka Stockade is a sad reflection on the injustices meted out, particularly to itinerants, in the mid nineteenth century but it is also an example of British justice and reform which was being entrenched into all Australian Colonies long before 1854, for not only did the jury system acquit twelve of those accused of High Treason, the Commission established by the Victorian Government following the insurgency granted most of the reforms sought by the miners.
The sad fact
is that had the Government been more responsive to the miners’ pleas when
first presented, the loss of life and the tragedy suffered would never have
Scullin, Labor Prime Minister of Australia from 1929-1931 and Sir Henry Bolte,
Victoria’s longest serving Premier, were born of working class parents in the
Both paternal and maternal grandparents of Sir Robert Menzies were migrant miners in the fields of Ballarat. That within a couple of generations their grandson could have risen to become Australia’s greatest Prime Minister ever and that most of our political leaders and other great achievers have come from ordinary hard-working backgrounds, is the sort of thing that we should be celebrating rather than a tragic incident which arose out of chaos and man’s greed for gold.
Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870