The importance of agitations, disturbances and events on the Australian goldfields is becoming more evident now, as new comparative information and global connections are uncovered. The formation of the Red Ribbon Movement and the Ballarat Reform League that ultimately led to the Eureka Affair, are particularly important, not only on a parochial level but on a national and international scale.
1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition
Around 5,000 names have been added to the Eureka Wiki. These are from the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition, signed by men (and two women) on the Victorian goldfields in mid-1853. Some have been easy to read, while others are almost impossible to decipher.
From 1851 near Castlemaine agitations erupted on the Victorian goldfields. There was unrest at the Ovens, Bendigo, Ballarat and other diggings. I wrote Bendigo Goldfields Petition to examine the agitations that culminated in December 1854 at the Eureka Lead in Ballarat East. Rather than isolated local events these agitations were part of a global effort by men and women in a quest for equality, liberty and freedom.
Eureka - 3 December 1854
On 29 November 1854 the second ‘Monster Meeting’ was held on Bakery Hill, Ballarat East. This was only four days before the battle at the Eureka Stockade. A flag with white stars on a dark blue background was flown on an eighty foot pole at Bakery Hill. After Peter Lalor took the orator's stump, he urged the miners to burn their licences in protest of the high taxes the government was imposing on them. The diggers knelt, and with heads uncovered pointed to the Eureka Flag, the Flag of the Southern Cross, and solemnly swore the Diggers' Oath.
We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.
Information about Eureka including pre and post Eureka (with commemorative information for each year), plus 1000s of biographies and commentaries, can be found on the Eurekapedia Wiki.This platform was created by Clare Gervasoni and Dorothy Wickham, kindly hosted by the Ballarat Reform League Incorporated, with assistance from the Vera Moore Foundation. It comprises over 7,351 pages with 1000s of references. Launched in 2014 it has attracted over 10 million views, showing its popularity amongst researchers, historians, and educators.
Often known as the Ballarat Reform League Charter this handwritten document consists of four pages. The original document was presented to Governor Hotham on 27 November 1854, six days before the Eureka Stockade battle.
The original has not survived, and its format is unknown. The surviving copy is a clerk's copy of the original Charter, and is held by the Public Records Office, Victoria. The Charter is handwritten on watermarked government blue paper, folded into four foolscap-sized pages containing the text of the Charter. The copy was created for administrative purposes by the Governor's office at the time it was received by Governor Hotham. It has markings on it indicating it was created by the Governor's office and that it was the copy read by Governor Hotham.
The Ballarat Reform League Charter was democratic in tone, likened to the American Declaration of Independence of 4 July 1776, and the People's Charter drawn up by British Chartists in May 1838.
The Ballarat Reform League Charter was adopted by over 10,000 miners and storekeepers on Bakery Hill on the Ballarat goldfields on 11 November 1854, establishing its authority to represent the opinion of the majority of the adult population of Ballarat.
On 3 December 1855, the first anniversary of the battle of Eureka, Raffaello Carboni sat at the Diggers' burial site in the Ballarat Old Cemetery giving readings from his book Eureka Stockade. Printed by J.P. Atkinson and Co., the book was 126 pages in length and had green printed wrappers. He sold copies to passers by.
The Age editorial ran a piece about Eureka.
When peace shall lie once more regained, and there shall be time for deliberate judgement, the citizens will reckon with the Government. Meantime, they will not pledge themselves to support it; and they will not organize themselves into bodies for the purpose of filling the place of that expensive military force, which should never have been sent out of Melbourne. [We] do not sympathise with revolt; but neither do [we] sympathise with injustice and coercion. [We] will not fight for the diggers nor will [we] fight for the Government.
The Age, 5 December 1855.