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- The Eureka Stockade - 5/34 -
Up to the middle of September, 1854, the search for licences happened once a month; at most twice: perhaps once a week on the Gravel Pits, owing to the near neighbourhood of the Camp. Now, licence-hunting became the order of the day. Twice a week on every line; and the more the diggers felt annoyed at it, the more our Camp officials persisted in goading us, to render our yoke palatable by habit. I assert, as an eye-witness and a sufferer, that both in October and November, when the weather allowed it, the Camp rode out for the hunt every alternate day. True, one day they would hunt their game on Gravel-pits, another day, they pounced on the foxes of the Eureka; and a third day, on the Red-hill: but, though working on different leads, are we not all fellow diggers? Did not several of us meet again in the evening, under the same tent, belonging to the same party? It is useless to ask further questions.
Towards the latter end of October and the beginning of November we had such a set of scoundrels camped among us, in the shape of troopers and traps, that I had better shut up this chapter at once, or else whirl the whole manuscript bang down a shicer.
"Hold hard, though, take your time, old man: don't let your Roman blood hurry you off like the hurricane, and thus damage the merits of your case. Answer this question first," says my good reader.
"If it be a fair one, I will."
"Was, then, the obnoxious mode of collecting the tax the sole cause of discontent: or was the tax itself (two pounds for three months) objected to at the same time?"
"I think the practical miner, who had been hard at work night and day, for the last four or six months, and, after all, had just bottomed a shicer, objected to the tax itself, because he could not possibly afford to pay it. And was it not atrocious to confine this man in the lousy lock-up at the Camp, because he had no luck?"
Allow me, now, in return, to put a very important question, of the old Roman stamp, 'Cui bono?' that is, Where did our licence money go to? That's a nut which will be positively cracked by-and-bye.
Ubi Caro, Ibi Vultures.
One morning, I woke all on a sudden.--What's up? A troop of horse galloping exactly towards my tent, and I could hear the tramping of a band of traps. I got out of the stretcher, and hastened out of my tent. All the neighbours, in night-caps and unmentionables, were groping round the tents, to inquire what was the matter. It was not yet day-light. There was a sly-grog seller at the top of the hill; close to his store he had a small tent, crammed with brandy cases and other grog, newly come up from town. There must have been a spy, who had scented such valuable game.
The Commissioner asked the storekeeper, who by this time was at the door of his store: "Whose tent is that?" indicating the small one in question.
"I don't know," was the answer.
"Who lives in it? who owns it? is anybody in?" asked the Commissioner.
"An old man owns it, but he is gone to town on business, and left it to the care of his mate who is on the nightshift," replied the storekeeper.
"I won't peck up that chaff of yours, sir. Halloo! who is in? Open the tent;" shouted the Commissioner.
"I say, cut down this tent, and we'll see who is in;" was the order of the Commissioner to two ruffianly looking troopers.
No sooner said than done; and the little tent was ripped up by their swords. A government cart was, of course, ready in the gully below, and in less than five minutes the whole stock of grog, some two hundred pounds sterling worth, or five hundred pounds worth in nobblers, was carted up to the Camp, before the teeth of some hundreds of diggers, who had now collected round about. We cried "Shame! shame!" sulkily enough, but we did not interfere; first, because the store had already annoyed us often enough during the long winter nights; second, because the plunderers were such Vandemonian-looking traps and troopers, that we were not encouraged to say much, because it would have been of no use.
As soon, however, as the sun was up, and all hands were going to work, the occurrence not only increased the discontent that had been brewing fast enough already, but it rose to excitement; and such a state of exasperated feelings, however vented in the shouting of 'Joe,' did certainly not prepare the Eureka boys to submit with patience to a licence-hunt in the course of the day.
First and foremost: it is impossible to prevent the sale of spirits on the diggings; and not any laws, fines, or punishment the government may impose on the dealers or consumers can have an effect towards putting a stop to sly-grog selling. A miner working, as during the past winter, in wet and cold, must and will have his nobbler occasionally; and very necessary, too, I think. No matter what the cost, he will have it; and it cannot be dispensed with, if he wish to preserve his health: he won't go to the Charley Napier Hotel, when he can get his nobbler near-handy, and thereby give a lift to Pat or Scotty.
Secondly: I hereby assert that the breed of spies in this colony prospered by this sly-grog selling. "We want money," says some of the 'paternals' at Toorak.
"Oh! well, then," replies another at Ballaarat, "come down on a few storekeepers and unlicensed miners and raise the wind. We can manage a thousand or two that way. Let the blood-hounds on the scent, and it is done."
And so a scoundrel, in the disguise of an honest man, takes with him another worse devil than himself, and goes round like a roaring lion, seeking what he may devour.
If I had half the fifty pounds fine inflicted on sly-grog sellers, and five pounds fine on unlicensed diggers, raised on Ballaarat at this time, I think my fellow-colonists would bow their heads before me. Great works!
Thirdly: An act of silver and gold lace humanity was going the rounds of our holes, above and below.
A person is found in an insensible state, caused by loss of blood, having fallen, by accident, on a broken bottle and cut an artery in his head. He is conveyed to the Camp hospital.
After some few hours, because he raves from loss of blood, and at a time when he requires the closest attention, he is unceremoniously carried into the common lock-up, and there left, it is said, for ten hours, lying on the floor, without any attention being paid to his condition by the hospital authorities, and then it was only by repeated representations of his sinking state, to other officials, that he was conveyed to the hospital, where he expired in two hours afterwards!
"Jim; the miners of Ballaarat demand an investigation."
"And they must have it, Joe."
Such was the scene in those days, performed at every shaft, in Gravel-pits, as well as on the Eureka.
Flagitur Vulcano Si Fulmina Parata.
Here is a short resume of events which led to the popular demonstration on Tuesday, October 17th, 1854.
Two men, old friends, named Scobie and Martin, after many years separation, happened to meet each other in Ballaarat. Joy at the meeting, led them to indulge in a wee drop for 'Auld lang Syne.' In this state of happy feeling, they call at the Eureka Hotel, on their way home, intending to have a finishing glass. They knock at the door, and are refused admittance, very properly, on account of their drunkenness. They leave, and proceed on their way, not, perhaps without the usual colonial salutations. At about fifty yards from the hotel, they hear a noise behind them, and retrace their steps. They are met by persons, unknown, who inflict blows on them, which render one insensible and the other lifeless.
A coroner's inquest was held on the body, the verdict of which was, "that deceased had died from injuries inflicted by persons unknown;" but public feeling seemed to point to Mr. Bentley, the proprietor of the Eureka Hotel; who, together with his wife and another party, were charged with the murder, tried at the police court, and acquitted.
The friends of deceased, considering that both the inquest and the trial were unfairly conducted, agreed to meet on Tuesday, October 17th, on the spot where the man was murdered, and devise measures to discover the guilty parties, and to bring them to justice.
Accordingly, at an early hour, the hill on which is situated the Eureka Hotel was thronged by thousands; so great was the excitement.
THOMAS KENNEDY, was naturally enough the lion of the day. A thick head, bold, but bald, the consequence perhaps not of his dissipation; but of his worry in by gone days. His merit consists in the possession of the chartist slang; hence his cleverness in spinning, a yarn never to the purpose, but blathered with long phrases and bubbling with cant. He took up the cause of the diggers, not so much for the evaporation of his gaseous heroism, as eternally to hammer on the unfortunate death of his country-man Scobie, for the sake of 'auld lang syne.'
When pressed by the example of others to burn his license, at the subsequent monster meeting, he had none to burn, because he had a wife and four children dependent on him for support, and therefore I do not know what to say further.
These and other resolutions were carried unanimously:-
"That this meeting, not being satisfied with the manner in which the
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