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- The Eureka Stockade - 3/34 -
Eureka was advancing fast to glory. Each day, and not seldom twice a day, the gutter gammoned and humbugged all us 'vagabonds' so deucedly, that the rush to secure a claim "dead on it" rose to the standard of 'Eureka style,' that is, 'Ring, ring,' was the yell from some hundred human dogs, and soon hill and flat poured out all spare hands to thicken the "ring."
By this time, two covies--one of them generally an Irishman had stripped to their middle, and were "shaping" for a round or two. A broken nose, with the desired accomplishment of a pair of black eyes, and in all cases, when manageable, a good smash in the regions either of the teeth, or of the ribs--both, if possible, preferred--was supposed to improve the transaction so much, that, what with the tooth dropping, or the rib cracking, or both, as aforesaid, it was considered 'settled.' Thus originated the special title of 'rowdy mob,' or Tipperary, in reference to the Irish. Let us have the title clear.
The 'shepherding,' that is the squatting by one man women and children had not got hold of this 'Dolce far niente' yet--the ground allotted by law to four men; and the astuteness of our primitive shepherds having found it cheap and profitable to have each claim visibly separated from the other by some twenty-feet wall, which was mutually agreed upon by themselves alone, to call it 'spare ground,' was now a grown-up institution. Hence, whenever the gutter, 120 feet below, took it into its head to bestir and hook it, the faithful shepherds would not rest until they were sure to snore in peace a foot and a half under ground from the surface, and six score feet from 'bang on the gutter.'
This Ballaarat dodge would have been innocent enough, were it not for 'Young Ireland,' who, having fixed headquarters on the Eureka, was therefore accused of monopolising the concern. Now, suppose Paddy wanted to relish a 'tip,' that is, a drop of gin on the sly, then Scotty, who had just gulped down his 'toddy,' which was a drop of auld whisky, would take upon himself the selfish trouble to sink six inches more in Paddy's hole, which feat was called 'jumping;' and thus, broken noses, and other accomplishments, as aforesaid, grew in proportion to tips, and 'toddy' drunk on the sly.
I frequently saw horrid scenes of blood; but I was now an old chum and therefore knew what was what in colonial life.
I had a Cameleon for a neighbour, who, in the garb of an Irishman, flung his three half-shovels out of a hole on the hill punctually every morning, and that was his work before breakfast. Then, a red shirt on his back, and a red cap on his head, he would, in the subsequent hour, give evidence of his scorning to be lazy by putting down some three inches deeper another hole below in the gully. 'Full stop;' he must have a 'blow,' but the d----d things--his matches--had got damp, and so in a rage he must hasten to his tent to light the pipe; that is, to put on the Yankee garb and complete his forenoon work in a third hole of his, whose depth and shape recommended him as a first rate grave-digger.
And what has all this bosh to do with the Eureka Stockade?
Fiat Fustitia, Ruat Coelum.
As an old Ballaarat hand, I hereby assert, that much of the odium of the mining community against red-tape, arose from the accursed practice of jumping.
One fact from the 'stubborn-things' store. The Eureka gutter was fast progressing down hill towards the Eureka gully. A party of Britishers had two claims; the one, on the slope of the hill, was bottomed on heavy gold; the other, some four claims from it, and parallel with the range, was some ninety feet deep, and was worked by day only, by three men: a fourth man would now and then bring a set of trimmed slabs from the first hole aforesaid, where he was the principal 'chips.' There was a Judas Iscariot among the party. One fine morning, a hole was bottomed down the gully, and proved a scheisser. A rush, Eureka style, was the conseqence; and it was pretended now that the gutter would keep with the ranges, towards the Catholic church.
A party of Yankees, with revolvers and Mexican knives--the garb of 'bouncers' in those days--jumped the second hole of the Britishers, dismantled the windlass, and Godamn'd as fast as the Britishers cursed in the colonial style. The excitement was awful. Commissioner Rede was fetched to settle the dispute. An absurd and unjust regulation was then the law; no party was allowed to have an interest in two claims at one and the same time, which was called 'owning two claims.' The Yankees carried the day. I, a living witness, do assert that, from that day, there was a 'down' on the name of Rede.
For the commissioners, this jumping business was by no means an agreeable job. They were fetched to the spot: a mob would soon collect round the disputed claim; and for 'fair play,' it required the wisdom of Solomon, because the parties concerned set the same price on their dispute, as the two harlots on the living child.
I. The conflicting evidence, in consequence of hard swearing, prompted by gold-thirst, the most horrible demon that depraves the human heart, even a naturally honest heart.--II. The incomprehensible, unsettled, impracticable ordinances for the abominable management of the gold-fields; which ordinances, left to the discretion--that is, the caprice; and to the good sense--that is, the motto, 'odi profanum vulgus et arceo;' and to the best judgment--that is the proverbial incapability of all aristocractical red-tape, HOW TO RULE US VAGABONDS. Both those reasons, I say, must make even the most hardened bibber of Toorak small-beer acknowledge and confess, that the perfidious mistake at head-quarters was, their persisting to make the following Belgravian 'billet-doux' the 'sine qua non' recommendation for gold-lace on Ballaarat (at the time):--
"To the Victorian Board of Small Beer,
"Toorak (somewhere in Australasia, i.e., Australia Felix--inquire from the natives, reported to be of blackskin, at the southern end of the globe.)
"Belgravia, First year of the royal projecting the Great Exhibition, Hyde Park.
"LADY STARVESEMPSTRESS, great-grand-niece of His Grace the Duke Of CURRY-POWDER, begs to introduce to FORTYSHILLING TAKEHIMAWAY, Esquire, of Toorak, see address, her brother-in-law, POLLIPUSS, WATERLOOBOLTER, tenth son of the venerable Prebendary of North and South Palaver, Canon of St. Sebastopol in the east, and Rector of Allblessedfools, West End--URGENT."
In justice, however, to Master Waterloobolter, candidate for gold-lace, it must not be omitted that he is a Piccadilly young sprat, and so at Julien's giant 'bal-masque', was ever gracious to the lady of his love.
"Miss Smartdeuce, may I beg the honour of your hand for the next waltz? surely after a round or two you will relish your champagne."
"Yes," with a smothered "dear," was the sigh-drawn reply.
Who has the power to roar the command, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no further," to the flood of tears from forlorn Smartdeuce, when her soft Waterloobolter bolted for the gold-fields of Australia Felix.
To be serious. How could any candid mind otherwise explain the honest boldness of eight out of nine members of the first Local Court, Ballaarat, who, one and all, I do not say dared, but I say called upon their fellow miners to come forward to a public meeting on the old spot, Bakery-hill. September, Saturday, 30th, 1855. Said members had already settled at that time 201 disputes, and given their judgement, involving some half a million sterling altogether, for all what they knew, and yet not one miner rose one finger against them, when they imperatively desired to know whether they had done their duty and still possessed the confidence of their fellow diggers! They (said members) are practical men, of our own adopted class, elected by ourselves from among ourselves, to sit as arbitrators of our disputes, and our representatives at the Local Court. That's the key, for any future Brougham, for the history of the Local Courts on the gold-fields.
It has fallen to my lot, however, to put the Eureka Stockade on record; and, from the following 'Joe' chapter must begin any proper history of that disgracefully memorable event.
Abyssus, Abyssum Invocat.
"Joe, Joe!" No one in the world can properly understand and describe this shouting of "Joe," unless he were on this El Dorado of Ballaarat at the time.
It was a horrible day, plagued by the hot winds. A blast of the hurricane winding through gravel pits whirled towards the Eureka this shouting of "Joe." It was the howl of a wolf for the shepherds, who bolted at once towards the bush: it was the yell of bull-dogs for the fossikers who floundered among the deep holes, and thus dodged the hounds: it was a scarecrow for the miners, who now scrambled down to the deep, and left a licensed mate or two at the windlass. By this time, a regiment of troopers, in full gallop, had besieged the whole Eureka, and the traps under their protection ventured among the holes. An attempt to give an idea of such disgusting and contemptible campaigns for the search of licences is really odious to an honest man. Some of the traps were civil enough; aye, they felt the shame of their duty; but there were among them devils at heart, who enjoyed the fun, because their cupidity could not bear the sight of the zig-zag uninterrupted muster of piles of rich-looking washing stuff, and the envy which blinded their eyes prevented them from taking into account the overwhelming number of shicers close by, round about, all along. Hence they looked upon the ragged muddy blue shirt as an object of their contempt.
Are diggers dogs or savages, that they are to be hunted on the diggings, commanded, in Pellissier's African style, to come out of their holes, and summoned from their tents by these hounds of the executive? Is the garb of a digger a mark of inferiority? 'In sudore vultus lue vesceris panem'* is then an infamy now-a-days!
[* In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread.]
Give us facts, and spare us your bosh, says my good reader.--Very well.
I, CARBONII RAFFAELLO, da Roma, and late of No. 4, Castle-court, Cornhill,
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