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- The Eureka Stockade - 4/34 -
City of London, had my rattling 'Jenny Lind' (the cradle) at a water-hole down the Eureka Gully. Must stop my work to show my licence. 'All right.'
I had then to go a quarter of a mile up the hill to my hole, and fetch the washing stuff. There again--"Got your licence?" "All serene, governor." On crossing the holes, up to the knees in mullock, and loaded like a dromedary, "Got your licence?" was again the cheer-up from a third trooper or trap. Now, what answer would you have given, sir?
I assert, as a matter of fact, that I was often compelled to produce my licence twice at each and the same licence hunt. Any one who knows me personally, will readily believe that the accursed game worried me to death.
Jam Non Estis Hospites Et Advenoe
It is to the purpose to say a few words more on the licence-hunting, and have done with it. Light your pipe, good reader, you have to blow hard.
Our red-tape, generally obtuse and arrogant, this once got rid of the usual conceit in all things, and had to acknowledge that the digger who remained quietly at his work, always possessed his licence. Hence the troopers were despatched like bloodhounds, in all directions, to beat the bush; and the traps who had a more confined scent, creeped and crawled among the holes, and sneaked into the sly-grog tents round about, in search of the swarming unlicensed game. In a word, it was a regular hunt. Any one who in Old England went fox-hunting, can understand pretty well, the detestable sport we had then on the goldfields of Victoria. Did any trooper succeed in catching any of the 'vagabonds' in the bush, he would by the threat of his sword, confine him round a big gum-tree; and when all the successful troopers had done the same feat, they took their prisoners down the gully, where was the grand depot, because the traps were generally more successful. The commissioner would then pick up one pound, two pounds, or five pounds, in the way of bail, from any digger that could afford it, or had friends to do so, and then order the whole pack of the penniless and friendless to the lock-up in the camp. I am a living eye-witness, and challenge contradiction.
This job of explaining a licence-hunt is really so disgusting to me, that I prefer to close it with the following document from my subsequently gaol-bird mate, then reporter of the 'Ballaarat Times':--
Police Court, Tuesday, October 24th.
HUNTING THE DIGGER.--Five of these fellows were fined in the mitigated trifle of 5 pounds, for being without licences. The nicest thing imaginable is to see one of these clumsy fellows with great beards, shaggy hair, and oh! such nasty rough hands, stand before a fine gentleman on the bench with hands of shiny whiteness, and the colour of whose cambric rivals the Alpine snow. There the clumsy fellow stands, faltering out an awkward apology, "my licence is only just expired, sir--I've only been one day from town, sir--I have no money, sir, for I had to borrow half a bag of flour the other day, for my wife and children." Ahem, says his worship, the law makes no distinctions--fined 5 pounds. Now our reporter enjoys this exceedingly, for he is sometimes scarce of news; and from a strange aberration of intellect, with which, poor fellow, he is afflicted, has sometimes, no news at all for us; but he is sure of not being dead beat at any time, for digger-hunting is a standing case at the police office, and our reporter is growing so precocious with long practice, that he can tell the number of diggers fined every morning, without going to that sanctuary at all.--'Ballaarat Times', Saturday, October 28, 1854.
Salvum Fac Populum Tuum Domine.
The more the pity--I have not done yet with the accursed gold licence. I must prevail on myself to keep cooler and in good temper.
Two questions will certainly be put to me:-
1st. Did the camp officials give out the licence to the digger at the place of his work, whenever required, without compelling him to leave off work, and renew his licence at the camp?
2nd. It was only one day in each month that there was a search for licences, was it not? Why therefore did not the diggers make it a half-holiday on the old ground, that "all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy."
The first question is a foolish one, from any fellow-colonist who knows our silver and gold lace; and is a wicked one, from any digger who was on Ballaarat at the time.
'Fellah' gave the proper answer through the 'Ballaarat Times', October 14th;--here it is:--
To the Editor of the 'Ballaarat Times', October 14, 1854.
Permit me to call your attention to the miserable accommodation provided for the miner, who may have occasion to go to the Camp to take out a licence. Surely, with the thousands of pounds that have been expended in government buildings, a little better accommodation might be afforded to the well disposed digger, who is willing to pay the odious tax demanded of him by government, and not be compelled to stand in the rain or sun, or treated as if the 'distinguished government official' feared that the digger was a thing that would contaminate him by a closer proximity; so the 'fellah' is kept by a wooden rail from approaching within a couple of yards of the tent. In consequence, many persons mistaking the licence-office for the commissioner's water-closet, a placard has been placed over the door.
I am, Sir, yours &c.,
Who had to walk a few miles to pay away the money he had worked hard for, and was kept a few hours standing by a rail--not sitting on a rail, Mary.
Now I mean to tackle in right earnest with the second question, provided I can keep in sufficiently good temper.
On the morning of Thursday, the 22nd June, in the year of Grace, One thousand eight hundred and fifty-four, His Excellency SIR CHARLES HOTHAM, Knight Commander of the Most Noble Military Order of the Bath, landed on the shores of this fair province, as its Lieutenant-Governor, the chosen and commissioned representative of Her Most Gracious Majesty, the QUEEN! Never (writes the Melbourne historian of that day) never in the history of public ovations, was welcome more hearty, never did stranger meet with warmer welcome, on the threshold of a new home:
VICTORIA WELCOMES VICTORIA'S CHOICE, was the Melbourne proclamation.
The following is transcribed from my diary:-
"Saturday, August 26th, 1854: His Excellency dashed in among us 'vagabonds' on a sudden, at about five o'clock p.m., and inspected a shaft immediately behind the Ballaarat Dining Rooms, Gravel-pits. A mob soon collected round the hole; we were respectful, and there was no 'joeing.' On His Excellency's return to the camp, the miners busily employed themselves in laying down slabs to facilitate his progress. I was among the zealous ones who improvised this shabby foot-path. What a lack! we were all of us as cheerful as fighting-cocks.--A crab-hole being in the way, our Big-Larry actually pounced on Lady Hotham, and lifting her up in his arms, eloped with her ladyship safely across, amid hearty peals of laughter, however colonial they may have been.--Now Big Larry kept the crowd from annoying the couple, by properly laying about him with a switch all along the road.
"His Excellency was hailed with three-times-three, and was proclaimed on the Camp, now invaded by some five hundred blue shirts, the 'Diggers' Charley.'
"His Excellency addressed us miners as follows:-
"Diggers I feel delighted with your reception--I shall not neglect your interests and welfare--again I thank you.
"It was a short but smart speech we had heard elsewhere, he was not fond of 'twaddle,' which I suppose meant 'bosh.' After giving three hearty cheers, old Briton's style to 'Charley,' the crowd dispersed to drink a nobbler to his health and success. I do so this very moment. Eureka, under my snug tent on the hill, August 26, 1854. C.R."
Within six short months, five thousand citizens of Melbourne, receive the name of this applauded ruler with a loud and prolonged outburst of indignation!
Some twenty Ballaarat miners lie in the grave, weltering in their gore! double that number are bleeding from bayonet wounds; thirteen more have the rope round their necks, and two more of their leading men are priced four hundred pounds for their body or carcase.
'Tout cela, n'est pas precisement comme chez nous, pas vrai?'
Please, give me a dozen puffs at my black-stump, and then I will proceed to the next chapter.
Sufficit Diei Sua Vexatio.
Either this chapter must be very short, or I had better give it up without starting it at all.
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