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- The Eureka Stockade - 10/34 -
of this life.
However desponding and humiliating may be, as it really is, the sad reflection, that at the enormous distance of sixteen thousand miles from dear homes and dearer friends, people should be called upon to assemble, NOT to thank God Almighty for any special mercy, or rejoice over the first good harvest or vintage on this golden land; but melancholy is it to say, for the old purpose, as in olden times in the old country, 'FOR THE REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES;' and so yesterday we had a monster meeting on Bakery-hill, and I was the delegate of upwards of one thousand foreigners, or 'aliens,' according to the superlative wisdom of your Legislative Council.
The Camp was prepared to stand for the Colonial Secretary Foster! Yes; you may judge of the conduct of some officers sent to protect the Camp by the following:--
On Tuesday Evening (November 28th), about eight o'clock, the Twelfth Regiment arrived from Melbourne. The expert cleverness of the officer in command, made the soldiers, riding in carts drawn by three horses each, cross the line exactly at the going-a-head end of the Eureka. An injudicious triumphant riding, that by God's mercy alone, was not turned into a vast funeral.
From my tent, I soon heard the distant cries of 'Joe!' increasing in vehemence at each second. The poor soldiers were pelted with mud, stones, old stumps, and broken bottles. The hubbub was going on pretty desperate westward of the Hill and WE had hard work to preserve the peace; but at the upper end of the Hill, the game was going on upon a far more desperate scale. It appears that a party of Gravel-pits men had been in the bush for the purpose. They stopped a cart, pulled the soldiers out, robbed them of their ammunition and bayonets; in short, it was a hell of a row. All of us camping on the Hill were talking about this cowardly attack, when a detachment of said soldiers came up again, and the officer, a regular incapable, that is, a bully, with drawn sword began to swear at us, and called all of us a pack of scoundrels. He was, however, soon put to rights, by the whole of us then present offering ourselves to look out for the missing soldiers; and eventually, one of them was discovered in a deserted tent, another was found in a hole lower down the Warrenheip Gully, and so on. This disgraceful occurrence, coupled with the firing of guns and pistols, kept up the whole of the night, did not give us cheering hopes for the next day.
The Monster Meeting.
Bakery-hill, Wednesday, November 29th.
"All the diggings round about were deserted, and swelled the meeting, the greatest I ever witnessed in this Colony. At two o'clock there were about ten thousand men present! The Report of the Deputation appointed by the League to wait upon his Excellency, relative to the release of the three prisoners, M`Intyre, Fletcher, and Yorkie, was listened to with great anxiety."
George Black was the man of the day, and was received by the people with three hearty cheers.
From his outward appearance, one would take him for a parson, a Christian one, I mean; not a prebendary or a bishop. His English is elegant, and conscious of having received an education, and being born a gentleman, he never prostitutes his tongue to colonial phraseology. His reading must have been sober from his youth, for in conversation he indulges in neither cant nor romance; though, in addressing the people, he may use a touch of declamation stronger than argument. From the paleness of his cheeks, and the dryness of his lips, you might see that the spirit was indeed willing, though the flesh was weak. The clearness of his eyes, the sharpness of his nose, the liveliness of his forehead, lend to his countenance a decided expression of his belief in the resurrection of life. His principles are settled, not so much because that is required for the happiness of a good conscience, but because the old serpent has crammed the ways of man with so many deceits in this world of vanity and vexation of spirit, that a heart of the honesty of George Black, cannot possibly have any sympathy with the crooked ways of rogues and vagabonds; and so he is afflicted at their number and audacity, especially in this Colony. His disposition of mind makes him enthusiastic for the virtuous, his benevolent heart prevents him from proceeding to extremities with the vicious. Hence the Diggers' Advocate, of which he was the editor, though conducted with ability, failed, because he thought that gold-diggers interested themselves with true religion, as laid down in Saint James' Catholic Epistle; but he made a greater mistake in not taking into consideration that men, though digging for gold, do still pretend to some religious denomination or other. However, let him now address the Monster Meeting.
Divide Et Impera.
"Mr. Black explained the results of his mission by stating, that the Deputation was received by the Governor with much courtesy and urbanity, and that personally his Excellency had no objection to grant the public prayer. He further stated, that so far as he had an opportunity of judging of the Governor's disposition, his Excellency was in favour of the people, but that he was so surrounded by injudicious advisers, as to leave him entirely impotent in state matters. The great objection his Excellency seemed to entertain against the Deputation's claim, was what is termed want of courtesy in wording--for it must be understood that the Committee sent, not to petition and pray, but demand the release of the state prisoners; and the word demand was said to operate more against the Deputation than the very object of their mission. Upon hearing all these reasons, it was proposed to adopt the form of a memorial, and petition the Governor; but this proposition was furiously scouted, on the ground that it did not comport with the dignity of the League, first to demand and afterwards to pray.
"Kennedy, along with the music of his rubbing the nails of the right hand against those of the left, blathered away in a masterly style for the benefit of the League.
"It was evident that there was a 'split' among the three Delegates; yet Mr. Humffray, who had been received by His Excellency, in an interview as a private digger, found favour among the assembly. J. B. Humffray plainly explained, and calmly made us understand, that Sir Charles was with us, and was determined to put an end to our grievances; and that he had appointed to this effect, a Commission of Inquiry, of popular men well known to us, and His Excellency had made up his mind to 'act accordingly.' The feverish excitement was subdued, and three hearty cheers were given for the New Chum Governor, amid the discharging of several guns and pistols."
I must here interrupt the meeting, drop the letter, and hereby assert:-
lst. Peter Lalor and myself, had never addressed any of the meetings, before this monster one.
2nd. Having made up my mind to return to Rome, the following Christmas, in accordance with my brother's desire; I had to attend to my work; hence, I had never taken any part in the agitation and to my knowledge, Peter Lalor neither.
3rd. I never was present at the Star Hotel and therefore, personally I know nothing of the boisterous Committee of the vaunting Reform League held there.
Corolarium.--I am not dead yet!
L'Union Fait La Force.
We had better proceed with the meeting first, and with the letter afterwards.
Peter Lalor proposed the following resolution:-
"That a meeting of the members of the Reform League be called at the Adelphi Theatre, on next Sunday, at 2 o'clock, to elect a Central Committee; and that each forty members have the power to elect one member for the Central Committee."
Being an old acquaintance of Peter, I supported the above resolution. He gave me his hand and pulled me up on the platform, from among the multitude. The whole of that Wednesday morning, my tent on the Eureka had been a regular Babel. Foreigners from all quarters of the globe and of the diggings, came to inquire from me what was the matter concerning so much excitement as then prevailed on Ballaarat. I translated for them the news from our 'Ballaarat Times', or from The 'Geelong Advertiser's' clever correspondent. Thus, and thus alone, I became honourably their delegate, and subsequently interpreter to Lalor, the Commander-in-Chief; and I hereby express the hope that in time, Peter Lalor, though mutilated, may find at Toorak, a little more credit for his testimony than did that infernal spy, Goodenough. Anyhow, for the present, 'Le Pere Duprat', a well-known old hand, and respected French miner on Ballaarat, who was with me within the Eureka Stockade, and whose proposed plan for the defence, I interpreted to Lalor, is a living witness to the above. We must, however, attend to our Monster Meeting.
Heu Mihi! Sermo Meus, Veritas.
My friends had requested me to come forward at the meeting, and here is
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