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The Australian National University

The licensing system

The Lead-up to the Eureka Stockade

Argus 18 August 1851, 2/3-4: [EDITORIAL]:


THE following Proclamation was issued in a Supplement to the Government Gazette, on Saturday, with reference to the search for gold, which is now raging throughout the Colony.


By His Excellency Charles Joseph La Trobe, Esquire,
Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Victoria, and it Dependencies
&c., &c., &c.

Whereas by Law, all Mines of Gold, and all Gold in its natural place of deposit, within the Colony of Victoria, whether on the Lands of the Queen or any of Her Majesty’s subjects, belong to the Crown; And whereas information has been received by the Government that Gold exists upon and in the soil of the Colony, and that certain persons have commenced, or are about to commence, searching and digging for the same, for their own use, without leave or other authority from her Majesty: Now, I, Charles Joseph La Trobe, Esquire, the Lieutenant Governor aforesaid, on behalf of Her Majesty, do hereby publicly notify and declare, that all persons who shall take from any Lands within the said Colony, any Gold, Metal or Ore containing Gold, or who within any of the Waste Lands which have not yet been alienated by the Crown, shall dig for and disturb the soil in search for such Gold, Metal or Ore without having been duly authorised in that behalf, by Her Majesty’s Colonial Government, will be prosecuted, both Criminally and Civilly, as the Law allows: And I further notify and declare that such Regulations as upon further information, may be found expedient, will be speedily prepared and published[,] setting forth the terms on which Licenses will be issued for this purpose, on the payment of a reasonable fee.

Given under my Hand and Seal, at the Government Office, Melbourne, this fifteenth day of August, in the Year of Our Lord, One thousand eight hundred and fifty-one, and in the fifteenth year of Her Majesty’s Reign.

By His Excellency’s Command,

Although quite agreeing with the policy of the Government in placing the pursuit of gold-digging under rigid supervision, at as early a stage as possible, and before evils have crept in which it would be very difficult to eradicate when once established, we doubt the expediency of any very strong measures, calculated, in the present position of the gold question, to repress or check discovery.

Under any circumstances, we believe that the prompt development of so important an addition to our exports ought not to be discouraged; but most particularly so, when the exciting intelligence from adjacent colonies is calculated, without some strong counteracting influences, to drain off a very considerable portion of our labouring population. If gold is to be found, and in sufficient quantities to yield a high return for labour, it is surely better to find it here, and employ here such section of the working classes as affect this peculiar branch of occupation, than to let them rush off headlong to Ophir or Turon.

The course of the Government has hitherto been quite repressive enough. Two years ago we told them that there was plenty of gold at the Pyrenees, and so far from following up the discovery, the gold mines of the colony have been a sealed book. And now, that private enterprise has done what we doubt the Government never would have done, we really think that enterprise should have fair play. In spite of the flying reports of any great success in particular instances, we believe that the great bulk of the parties now employed in gold-digging, are making very far from extravagant wages; and if the above proclamation should be followed up by the demand of a license fee of any, but a very reasonable amount, we fear that a check would be given to the active search now going on, which might close the earthy casket which contains our treasures for many a year to come.

The same power which can impose a license fee at all, can increase it upon occasion; and we trust sincerely that it may be fixed, in the first instance, at a rate so moderate, as not to drive away our labourers from our own possibly rich gold grounds to the certainly rich diggings of an adjacent colony.

Argus 23 August 1851, 2/4-5

[A. from the Geelong correspondent]:

In society, the father of a large family generally shows an anxious desire to forward the views of his children by encouraging them in any honest enterprise they may choose to select, as the road by which they will reach the goal of their ambition—riches; and on a young man’s starting on his own account with a praiseworthy determination to push his fortune, not only his father and friends, but strangers will also assist him in his endeavours—some will advance money, others give goods, and another class will assist him with good advice; and so long as he conducts himself properly, and manages his business profitably, so long will he enjoy the assistance and protection of his friend[?s].

The same rules that regulate these matters in a trading society, ought to be adopted by a Government that has the interests of the people in view over whom it rules, and if adopted, they cannot fail to obtain for the Executive, the appellation of a good and liberal Government.

Unfortunately, there a few exceptions to every rule, and we occasionally, although, thank God! rarely, see people endeavouring to crush others, who appear to be desirous of pushing on; and instances have occurred where a man’s relatives and friends have knowingly and wilfully hindered his progress, and when he was almost in reach of unlimited wealth, made him a beggar, admired their own cunning and duplicity in doing so, and enjoyed (if it can be termed so) the riches he had sacrificed so much to obtain. Governments, like individuals, are not infallible, and they too often evince a proneness to retard the progress of their people, and by acts of tyranny and oppression earn for themselves the name of a bad Government.

Such appears to be the name that the New Executive of Victoria are anxious to obtain, judging from the proclamation relative to the working of our new-found gold fields.

A few days since, we can hardly yet say weeks, gold was found to exist; at the same time hundreds of our population were emigrating to the gold fields of Sydney. This news prevented many from starting thither that had arranged for doing so, and caused others to turn back who were on their way. Great numbers have sold off their stock in-trade—others have thrown up good situations, and all who had it have laid out a considerable sum of money to equip themselves for their expedition.

The Government takes no notice of what is going on, it does not give the slightest hint that any restriction on gold digging will be hastily issued, until some four or five hundred people are at work, and, all at once, like a thunderbolt, it says, that within a few days licenses will be issued, and all are to be prevented from "prospecting" even, without first paying this shameful imposition. I can call it nothing else, if it be but 1s per month, if exacted immediately.

The Government should, at least, allow those parties who have made a sacrifice to try their fortunes in the gold-field some little time, and not exact a license before they have earned one shilling perhaps of a £10 outlay. Had the Government given notice that within two months instead of days, measures would be taken to protect the rights of the Crown, and regulate the diggings, people would have been afforded time for consideration, and had an opportunity of proving whether they could afford to pay a license; and to what amount, and if not, they might return, and those who yet waited for information, would have had the benefit of such from experienced adventurers.

As it is, however, if the Government intend to do what they state, many people will be driven from the mines without being allowed to make a fair trial, and consequently will lose their money. Others will continue to pick up the gold in spite of the Government, in localities that will be kept private, and the whole population will look with disgust and disdain on such arbitrary proceedings.

But the individual loss will be as nothing compared to the loss the colony will suffer by such an ill advised proceeding. Those who would willingly have worked here will be driven off to the Bathurst gold fields; the gold that might possibly in a few weeks have been found as plentifully here as at the Turon, will lie for years in its secluded bed; the colony may go to ruin.

If the Government acts wisely, it will demand payment of no licenses till the 1st October at least; if things are no more prosperous then than now, it will issue licenses at a merely nominal price, say 2s 6d, until such time as the diggings are proved to be so profitable that people can afford to pay the demand required.

What does it matter if a few individual instances of success be enumerated, so long as the average is a losing speculation: is the colony to be ruined, because the jealous disposition of the Government is roused by one or two individuals having made £100 gold digging, without paying it, its oppressive and unjust demands? I hope not.


THE DIGGINGS. It was our intention to have made some remarks upon the absurd step on the part of the Government, in putting down the spirit of mineral discovery now rife in the community; but it is so ably treated by our Geelong correspondent, that we may safely leave it in his hands. At the same time, we must say that we never saw anything more thoroughly illustrative of the contrast of the energy of the people of the colony, with the clumsy impracticability of its rulers, than the present position of the gold question.

The public, knowing the steady drain going on towards Bathurst amongst the most useful classes of society, are bestirring themselves by offering large rewards and otherwise, to forward and stimulate discovery. The Government, which ought to take the lead, is doing all it can to check the same discovery. The people say, "Find us a gold mine, and here are two hundred guineas." The Government says, "Give me thirty shillings before you even begin to look!" The same thirty shillings would carry a man half-way to Bathurst, where every one knows that there is gold; while here we have yet to learn that any one of our diggings is remunerative to the parties employed; and no man must even "search for" another, without first parting with a little of his hard cash to our most paternal and progressive Executive!

Victoria may be depopulated; but thank Providence no man shall look for gold "illegally!"

Geelong Advertiser 26 August 1851, 2/2:

THE GOLD LICENSES. BUNINYONG, MONDAY MORNING, AUGUST 25. Thirty shillings a month, for twenty-six days work, payable in advance, is the impost demanded by Our Victorian Czar. Eighteen pounds sterling per annum, per head, is the merciless prospective exaction on an enterprise scarcely fourteen days old. It is a juggernaut tax to crush the poor, and if attempted against the richer, and more powerful parts of the community, would be fatal to the domination that is, and La Trobism, in one twelvemonth, would be spoken of in the past tense. Why should a lawful occupation, promising so much, be strangled in its birth? I say unhesitatingly, fearlessly, and conscientiously, that there has not been a more gross attempt at injustice, since the days of Wat Tyler, it is an insult to common sense, and if passed bye, by the journals of Port Phillip, without strict comment it will be an indelible stain upon them. If such a thing as this tax be tolerated, it will be the first step to liberticide, for liberty cannot be where the foundation of all wealth is trammelled. The poor man has a right to demand why this tax is to be levied, and why he in this particular department of industry is picked out to bear such an enormous burden as eighteen pounds a year taxation. Is it because he is a hard working animal, whose back is supposed to bear any weight that his master may choose to put upon it until he sink like the ass in the fable? Is it because his enterprise has opened up a new source of employment and wealth, that he is to be taxed six hundred fold more than others, who may have happened to do nothing, or worse? Or is it the assertion of a claim, coeval with the "Divine Right of King’s" Epoch, to things that would have remained deep buried in the bowels of our mother earth for centuries to come, but for the indomitable perseverance of these toiling men, who are to be cursed with a heavy tax, in return for the blessings they have proffered, a tax not levied for the exigencies of the commonwealth, but founded on a mildewed and spotted remnant of the feudal period. What have we to do here with a Duchy of Cornwall, and its nest of sinecures, of which the greatest simpleton in every administration, is made, Chancellor, as an exposition of the system—psha! the contemplation of such an attempt makes right honest men shudder.

Again, I say, where springs the right to fix a tax of eighteen pounds on the gold-digger? Tell me not that it is a "prerogative," for that is simply a subversion of our boasted right to representation—the mere act of a Czar of Russia. I cannot comprehend this fiat of His Excellency for I am lost in the contemplation of its vast enormity.

I am filled with regret, for if the tax be attempted to be enforced, it will not be paid—the men cannot afford it, there has been no time to realise, the majority have laid out their whole means in preparations for the work they have engaged upon—many have been unsuccessful, up to the present time, and though they were crushed with as little compunction as the quartz they are working, it would not squeeze thirty shillings a month out of them. The inevitable effect then will be to stop the diggings—if that be the end sought, the means employed are the best that could be devised—the Government will stultify industry, retard prosperity, rough-ride private enterprise, and turn into a laughing stock our illusory ideas of a Free Trade.

His Excellency and the Executive, are the Cemetery of the Gold Diggings—a funereal company which made industry dig its own grave—and then buried it beneath a mound of broken quartz, surmounted by the unmonumental inscription,—"Here lies industry killed by unjust Taxation." Henceforth let him who extinguished a legitimate industry, dye his snow-white plume to a funereal hue, and wear it droopingly.


Geelong Advertiser 29 August 1851, 2/1-3:

[from A.C., the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer correspondent at Buninyong]:

I was at the "Diggins" listening to the many complaints as I went round from cradle to cradle. The Intelligencer had furnished the diggers with the Government Proclamation No. 2, imposing the License Fees. The subject had been warmly discussed, and it was resolved to hold a public meeting that very night. It was a novel and exciting scene. At the entrance of every tent was a blazing fire, which every now and then shot up a lurid flame, disclosing for a moment the the [sic] dark figures hovering round it; then sinking it would leave the bush in darker obscurity than ever. About eight o’clock there was an unusual stillness, when from one of the central tents came a voice convening all the gold diggers together. From tent to tent the cry was taken up until it went the whole round of the encampment. A gun was then fired, and within a few minutes from forty to fifty as picturesque-looking individuals as ever ornamented canvas, assembled round a large watchfire, kindled beneath the gloomy stringy-bark trees. The Proclamation of His Excellency was then read from the Intelligencer by fire-light, and was listened to with the profoundest attention. One by one it was commented upon, calmly and dispassionately, but with strong earnestness; under the canopy of heaven in the dead silence of the bush, with the pale stars looking down upon them, did these men weigh and ponder upon the act of the Government. One man said that he was a free man, and a hard-working man, willing to pay his fair share to the Government, but he could not and would not pay thirty shillings a month for a LICENSE TO GET A HONEST LIVELIHOOD by his labor. He was much applauded, and several said that he spoke their feelings, and they would act in the same way. Another said that he worked very hard, and he could not get his rations by gold digging, "and how," said he, "can it be expected that I can pay a shilling a day to the Commissioner? It’s a burning shame to expect it." "It’s more than the squatter pays for twenty square miles," said a third. "But you are a poor man," retorted a fourth. "They’ll drive us to Bathurst [in New South Wales]," said another, "and then let Port Phillip look out for laborers. I spent every halfpenny I had in fitting myself out for the diggings, and now I am to be taxed before I have been here a week, or had an opportunity of getting any of it back again." "You should have gone to California, Jim; the Yankees don’t do it in this here fashion." "This is Port Phillip, d’ye see?" rejoined another. "What’s the use of Separation?" said another. "Here is a specimen of independent government! I should like to know what right the Government has to tax us eighteen pounds a-year before the Council sits? What’s the use of voting in members if the Government can do as they like; they’ll make it six-and-thirty pounds next; of course they will, if they see their advantage in it; there’s no two ways about that; I’ll ding my cradle first!" "That’ll only be serving yourself out," replied another. "I propose that we get up a memorial to Mr. La Trobe, and that we all sign it." "That’s my opinion," said a stout man, pushing forward; "a gentleman advised to do that to-day, and to get some respectable inhabitants to put their names to it, and a magistrate to sanction it." "That’s no use at all," said another; "we meet here to-night round our own fire; we are honest men, and we want our rights and nothing more. Let us act for ourselves, and pass resolutions, and not waste our time in sending memorials that’ll just be laid aside, and there’s an end of ’em. I propose, first, that we elect a chairman, and then let any man propose his resolution, and put it to the meeting; that’s the way to do business. (Bravo! that’s the way to do business, and no mistake.) We don’t want to fly in the face of the Government, but if the Government don’t act honestly, let us show them up through the Press to the people, who, he was sure, would see them righted." And so one after another delivered his sentiments. I never was more struck with a scene in my life, and something whispers to me that it will be an important one. It is a solemn protest of labor against oppression—an outburst of light, reason, and right, against the infliction of an effete objectionable royal claim, brought forward to crush a new branch of industry, whose birth was heralded by large rewards, and whose death will be laid at the door of the Government. The first effect of the manifesto has been to disperse the diggers from the Buninyong gold-field. They were willing to work at a present loss for a prospective gain; but they have expressed an unanimous resolution not to persevere with works requiring a great outlay of labour, to make them profitable for a government, before the worker and toiler could receive one farthing of compensation for his time and trouble.

Let the "blue shirts" and "cabbage-trees" have fair play. They are the "pioneers" of the day—the advanced guards of enterprise, working in the damp and chill, and exposed to every hardship: they have sacrificed their "household gods," and given up all for a life of toil in the wilderness: their mission is for the development of the mineral resources of the colony, to which they were instigated by the Press and the People: they interfere with no rights, clash with no interests, impede no progress, injure none, great or small;—but, on the contrary, they stand out in bold relief in the front of society, and proclaim abroad that they won a harvest from barrenness, and riches from poverty! that they wrenched gold, by labor, from rocks—a wealth which but for them would never have been heard of; for it is to hard working, not to scientific men that the gold discovery is attributable; and their reward is " PROHIBITION " and PROSCRIPTION , and a trampling underfoot of the rights of labor. It is "taxation without representation"—an imperial edict to raise an indefinite sum, by an absolute and unexplained levy, to be applied, Heaven only knows how or where. What is a five per cent. taxed burgess compared to one of these men, paying £18 per annum? In this edict is a gross innovation: a principle is involved here, and the sooner it is nipped in the bud the better will it be for all classes.

Another meeting of the diggers was held last night, when the following resolutions were submitted, and carried nem. con.:—

  1. That it is the opinion of this meeting that the determination on the part of the Executive Council to impose a fee of 30s. per month per man for a license to search or dig for gold, at the present time, is both impolitic and illiberal, and is calculated to check, if not altogether to stop, the research which is now being made to open up the mineral resources of the colony.
  2. That the individuals composing this meeting have been led, by highly coloured representations, to expend a considerable sum of money in order to furnish a proper outfit to enable them to pursue their researches for gold in the neighbourhood of Buninyong; that they have prosecuted for several consecutive days such research, but that though gold has been discovered in the locality, it is found to be distributed in such minute particles that it will not pay for the labour in working it.
  3. That it is the opinion of this meeting, under the circumstances of the case, that an indulgence of some little time should be granted by the Executive Council to the searchers for gold in and around Buninyong, before they be called upon to pay so exorbitant a fee.
  4. That it is the resolve of this meeting, should the Government persist in imposing the fee, to vacate their present ground, and proceed at once to Bathurst, or to some other place in the adjoining colony, where the mines are much more remunerative than is the one in Buninyong.

A desire was then expressed that the resolutions should be inserted in the Geelong papers; three tremendous cheers were given for the Press, which were re-echoed from the surrounding forest; the men retired to their tents, and I mounted horse, and rode slowly through the deep gloom to Buninyong, pondering on the way, the strange scene I had witnessed, and the stranger vicissitudes to which human life is subjected. Here, a month ago, was but bush and forest; and to night, for the first time since Australia rose from the bosom of the ocean, were men strong in their sense of right, lifting up a protest against an impending wrong, and protesting against the government. Human progress in Port Phillip—like her vegetation is rapid—let the government beware, lest like her timber, it prove rotten at the core, whilst it carries a healthy exterior.

Argus 4 September 1851, 3/1: [from Anderson’s Creek, Victoria Diggings: a parody]:

Mr. Commissioner Fenwick arrived to-day, and has issued cards authorising the bearer thereof to dig for, prospect, and expect in any and every direction they please.

This being the day on which the licenses were to be issued, some disappointed wag has amused himself by nailing the following proclamation on a gum tree near the Government tents, at the commencement of the diggings.


In consequence of it having been represented to His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, that divers persons seriously afflicted with the Yellow Fever, are sojourning at Anderson’s Creek, on the Yarra, Notice is hereby given that his Excellency, with the advice of the Executive Council, will cause to be holden, at the Government Tents, Anderson’s Creek, on Wednesday, 3rd September, a Medical Commission, consisting of J. Sullivan, Esq., C.S., Drs. Greeves, Thomas, and Howitt, for the purpose of determining whether the parties alluded to are of sound mind and in such condition as is consistent for the security of themselves and the public to be at large. It is further notified that all such persons who do not voluntarily attend the above court of inquiry to be holden as above notified, and are found practising the following antics, more particularly described below under the head of "Symptoms," will be at once apprehended and removed to the Lunatic Asylum, Yarra Bend.{"}


1st.—Rising early and proceeding to the creek, pulling the stones about, and washing the sand and gravel, then placing it in a box, resembling a cradle, imagining the stones and mud to be a child of earth with golden hair, rocking the child to sleep; then taking the mud and gravel out, and putting it into an expecting dish, mixing it with water and shaking it, all the time looking at the slush with the fondest solicitation for its safety, ultimately throwing it away with disgust, and assuming the appearance of intense disappointment.

2nd.—Repeating the above strange proceedings, day after day.

3rd.—Troubled sleep at night with frightful dreams of being pelted by Midas with lumps of gold, upwards of 106lbs. weight, and being unable to pick them up, or of smaller nuggets sticking anywhere, but in your breeches pocket.

By Command
Colonial Secretary.

Argus 25 September 1851, 2/4:


The full amount of the gold licenses, nay more than the full amount of them, has been exacted; and once more the representative of royalty, (I beg her Majesty’s pardon, for casting so base a slur on her fair name) has unfurled the banner of oppression, and calls on his myrmidons to rally round him, and support him in his attempt to establish a Reign of Terror.

The full amount of half a month’s license, is exacted from the pioneers of colonial prosperity, for nine days’ work , including two Sabbaths. Regulations are promulgated that the license to search for gold is to be at the rate of one shilling per day: the Commissioner upsets these regulations, and on his own responsibility, raises the sum to nearly 1s 6d per diem. The licenses bear date the 21st September, (that is, if the report of the Advertiser’s correspondent be correct), they terminate on the 30th of the same month, and must again be renewed; consequently, the Government have swindled the diggers out of six shillings per head. Nor is this the worst of it. Let it be known throughout the colony; make it public to the world at large, that Mr. La Trobe, who, in connexion with the Moravian Missions, and other religious bodies, has assumed the character of a good Christian, actually tolerates and sanctions the issue of licenses to dig for gold on the Sabbath-day!!! Sunday, 21st September, 1851.

Can faith be placed in the sincerity of any such man? First, the diggers are robbed of a share of their gains, and then the Sabbath-day is chosen for the robbery; on the principle, possibly, of "The better day, the better deed."

The merchants and tradesmen pay for their goods on delivery. The Government demands the payment, and tells its customers, that they must wait its convenience for delivery. Protection was asked for the diggers: payment for protection is demanded, before the value is given, or likely to be so. The Government act in all matters in direct opposition to the known principles of fair trading.

But, notwithstanding all that could be said against such a monstrous injustice, the exaction of a license is absolutely necessary; it is not the license, but the amount paid for it, that I object to, and especially at the present time. It may be easily imagined into what dreadful confusion the diggers would get; what fearful crimes would be committed by some of them, if left to administer their self-made laws and regulations. Judge Lynch would reign as triumphantly at Ballarat as he does in California; that now damned, doomed, black spot on the map of America, whose banner should be of blood, with the practical emblem of skull and crossbones in the centre. A country boasting of freedom, becoming a nation of human butchers, converting their own streets and dwellings into human shambles. California has now become a bye-word among the civilised nations of the earth,—a thing to be spit upon, and so will Victoria, or any other gold-producing country that is badly governed. Let us, therefore, as willingly protect the Government in all prudent measures, as we would the diggers. But the prudence of such measures as exacting the full amount of license at the present time is preposterous. If the Government requires a sum of £1000, or £10,000 to preserve peace, order, and security at the diggings, by all means let them raise it; but if the sum of £1000 is found to be sufficient to defray the expenses incidental to the diggings, let the Government not impose the sum of £1000 0s 0 1/4d. In the course of time, perhaps a more favourable opportunity for exacting a Royalty might present itself, but at present such an imposition is impolitic, unjust, and disgraceful. I do not by any means approve of this Royalty being claimed by the Crown at any time, unless the colony receives the benefit of it, that is to say, unless the Royalty fee be appropriated to purposes connected with the welfare of the colony.

Mr La Trobe has always been particularly unfortunate in linking himself and the interests of the colony with bad advisers. A man possessed of no mind himself, he has hitherto been ready to confer honorable and responsible appointments on individuals assuming to be gentlemen, and of listening to them, but who are in reality useless foppish whipper snappers; a set of aristocrats reared on a democratic dung-heap; men devoid of common sense, and lost and dead to every sense but that which proclaims their own ignorance, and persuades them that they still are men in form, if not in mind. What would any community of freemen who were working hard for a living think to hear a puppy of an officer talk about "irons,{’} and handcuffing those who did not pay for the privilege of being allowed to work!

Against such outrages the diggers have appealed to the people. Will the people answer them?

Argus 30 September 1851, 2/4:

(From the Geelong Advertiser.)

The first escort from the diggings arrived in Geelong yesterday. It consisted of an officer of the Mounted Police, two troopers, and two of the Native Police, and was accompanied by the Gold Commissioner. It left the diggings on Saturday morning; and although information was given, none of the diggers availed themselves personally of the advantage of the escort. They were, we presume, too well occupied, and few of them have yet made arrangements, for sending their gold to a town agent. The officer of the police brought a few parcels, but the great bulk of the gold brought down is the property of the Government—the produce of the license-fees.

On Saturday night, two brothers named Cavenagh, arrived in Geelong, with sixty pounds weight of gold (value £2300), the produce of four weeks’ working. The party actually AVERAGED £100 PER DAY!

Up to the time when the escort left, the greatest harmony prevailed. The diggers were, with a few exceptions, well contented to pay the license fee. In fact, licenses were applied for almost as quickly as they could be issued.

The commissioner, the police, and the diggers are on better terms than on their first acquaintance. We trust the former have learnt forbearance; and the latter no doubt feel the advantage of order and subordination. The officials, when they first went on the ground, did not know with whom they had to deal. They supposed that the diggers were a crowd of runaway scoundrels, that required to be overawed, instead of a gathering of the most sober and industrious of our townsmen, that were willing to conform to the laws, and pay their fair share of taxation, provided they were treated with consideration.

Geelong Advertiser 7 October 1851, 2/2-3: [from the Geelong Advertiser correspondent, A.C.]:

BALLARAT DIGGINGS. BUNINYONG, MONDAY MORNING [after an enumeration of some Buninyong gold-yields] I do not give this as a guide—but mention them as instances occurring of good yields afforded by the procuration of good sites, and not to be expected by every new comer, who ought to take his chance, and prospect for himself, which he would have been compelled to do, but for the interference of government who seem to think that their duty consists, in concentrating the largest numbers of individuals on the least possible space, a proceeding greatly facilitated by the cupidity of many who care not on whose interests they are billetted, provided they make a gain of it—a feeling generating fast—because fostered by the officials who prefer ease and patronage to repression of wrong, and deem the gathering of the licenses, as the "be-all and end all" of their occupation, irrespective of the duties that they are called upon to perform—and paid for by the PUBLIC.

I perceive that my statements of the conduct of the Officials employed here have been called in question by the Daily News. I am proud of your reply to the attack on my veracity—and beg to state that I am always prepared to produce evidence of the truth of my assertions, and to maintain them IN ANY WAY against those who may impugn them. Every word that I asserted of Captain Dana is true, from his observations to his attack on a defenceless boy—I never castigated the Commissioner himself half so much as he deserved, and am prepared to bring forward instances to prove that he endeavoured to excite ill feelings, where none existed—and beg leave now to retract the favorable opinion I expressed of Mr. Armstrong in my last letter. I accuse him of partiality—if not worse; and gross injustice; irregularity, and perversion of the wording of the original license, and threat of intimidation.

"And now impugn it whoso list."

I can point to instances, where he (Armstrong) has placed parties on the ground occupied by another, who paid the license for it, and threatened, in case of "bother," that he would place parties in the other "hole" if he found it vacant. Will D’Arcy Boursiquot, after pirating my letter, answer that? It is the acme of meanness, to bate down the price of that which gives the only value to his paper—a trick of a veritable huckster. Instead of calling into question my veracity—let him, like the Geelong Advertiser appoint a person on whom he can rely to furnish him with accurate information—AND PAY HIM for it.

Again, I state that a party waited upon me, and stated, that after taking out a license for eight square feet a stranger came, and insisted on working in the same place, on which my informant applied to the Commissioner for redress—who told him that he could not interfere in such matters, and that it would be better to give up half the hole to the second claimant. Now of what use is the license after this? what is it paid for? Certainly not for protection.

Ever anxious to grasp—the government never gives—it offers, plus license, to grant escort at one per cent, but will not be held responsible for loss of that which they take insurance for.


Geelong Advertiser 17 October 1851, 2/1:

BALLARAT DIGGINGS. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1851 The Commissioner paid the place a visit, and intimated to the diggers, who have hitherto been allowed to work without interference that he would, in a few days require the payment of license money.

The entire populace is disposed to be quiet and peaceble [sic], but there is a strong under-current of dissatisfaction; and should any outbreak occur, the Commissioner and his force will be found utterly inefficient to quell it. The danger is increased from the prevalence of sly grog selling on the ground, (if indeed such a term can be applicable to the open violation of the law:) A local newspaper would be the best peacemaker; for where wrongs cannot find utterance, they are sure to rankle in the breast, and to burst forth at last in a dangerous explosion.

The authorities, however, while they tolerate sly-grog-selling, seem determined to throw every obstacle in the way of the establishment of a press, even to interfering with the erection of a tent as a publishing office. While Prime Ministers and Lord Chancellors acknowledge their obligations to the Press, the Gold Commissioner and his Sub must either imagine that they are infallible, and above profiting by advice, or feel that their conduct is so corrupt that it will not bear inspection.

Instances of gross partiality are daily occurring. Mr. Suter, of Portland, took out a license, and had excavated his claim to the depth of 15 feet, where he had just come upon the gold. He left a man in charge of the hole, for a short time, and in his absence, Mr. Frank Stephen, (of "Plenty" gammon notoriety,) took possession of it, under the authority of the Commissioner, or Sub-Commissioner, and went to work to reap the harvest of another’s labour. Mr. Suter being fonder of peace and quietness than of gold, submitted to the dictum of the authorities. This is a specimen of the Commissioner’s Lynch-law, and there is too much fear (though not in this case), that the example will be followed.

Geelong Advertiser 30 October 1851, 2/1-3:

Thursday Morning, October 30.

THE GOLD LICENSES. The letter which appeared in our Tuesday’s paper, signed "A Miner," brings the subject of gold licenses again prominently before the public. The evasion of the terms of the license by the Government officers at Ballarat, forcibly recalls the remark of Talleyrand, that "words were invented to conceal ideas," and the Port Phillip Government deeply appreciating the wisdom of the saying, seems determined to perpetuate it by its acts. The Gold License, on the face of it is distinct enough, and had the Government officers done their duty in accordance with it, they would have avoided much confusion, and saved as much writing. The Gold License professes to give a right of protection to the holder, but it does not: it is a Joseph Adeyism, neither more nor less, and Joseph La Trobe like his prototype, pockets money under false pretences. The gold-digger is victimised, under the idea that he is protected; he is led to believe that if he pays thirty shillings it will be "something to his advantage," and accepting the promise, he pays, and paying he is done. "What is your name?" asks the Commissioner of John Brown, after John has elbowed his way through a crowd of applicants, and has been shoved back once or twice by an armed policeman pressing his musket-barrel on John’s sternum. John tells the Commissioner his Christian and surname, pays his half ounce of ‘dust,’ and in return receives a strip of paper—partly printed—partly manuscript, which specifies that John Brown is entitled to eight square feet of ground within an area bounded by the Loddon, which eight square feet is to be assigned by the aforesaid Commissioner, who, unfortunately for John, is too busy then, and too forgetful afterwards, to pay any more attention to the matter. John’s gold is weighed, the paper is proffered, and he is hurried out of the tent—a licensed gold digger, entitled to dig anywhere, and away he hastens with pick, spade, and crow-bar, to commence his golden search. Smith, Jones, and Robinson join him, each of whom holds a license like John, entitling them to eight square feet each, which they measure out themselves, because there is no government officer to do it for them; the Commissioner is too busy receiving the Dust, to give any equivalent for it; and the Sub Commissioner can’t be bothered with such a set of fellows; and the Captain of the Police wonders what the "Hell" the fellows came there at all for? and then Brown, Smith, Jones and Robinson wonder what they paid the license for? the mutinous rascals! to trouble their heads with what concerns the government alone,—what next? Well the four jog on pretty comfortably, and after some three or four days hard work, hit on a good yield, and sore tired retire to their huts to dream of a golden future. Walking one fine morning, Brown, Smith, Jones and Robinson, find a mob, perhaps two mobs, hard at work on the ground that they have paid licenses for. The mobs refuse to quit, they have as much right there as anybody else, say they—and turn us out who can? Brown hurries to the Commissioner, who is still busy taking Dust, and lays his complaint, and begs the Commissioner to measure out the ground, so that he may be satisfied that all was right. Mr Commissioner replies that he is no surveyor. Brown claims protection—the Commissioner promises to send the police, but the police never came, and Brown, Jones, Smith and Robinson submit to what they can’t help, and make a virtue of necessity, and are robbed of that for which they paid a month’s protection. So ends Joseph Adeyism Latrobeism the first, and our readers will see the wisdom of the saying at the commencement of this article, that words were invented to conceal ideas.

Brown, Smith, Jones and Robinson, have their ground reduced to eight feet square, for which they have paid six pounds, although the license specifies the same area for thirty shillings. The government has falsified its own acts, broken its engagements, and allowed force to ride rough justice, and published to the gold digging community its passiveness in witnessing wrong doing, and it powerlessness, or inertness to do good. But Brown and Co work on—hundreds and thousands arrive on the ground—the government forgets that bulk occupies space, and permits fifty to locate where there is hardly room for one, and cooly [sic] buttoning up its swag pockets, thinks it has done its duty by doing nothing except receiving the license fees.

One morning Brown has a head ache, Smith has gone to Boninyong for provisions, Jones to Geelong with the gold, and to settle some domestic affairs, and Robinson is off to the Colac to take his wife some money. Ground is valuable just then—much labour has laid bare the treasures of the earth, and gold may be picked out with a knife point. A gentleman, a new arrival, looks down the hole, and fancies that much labour might be saved if he took possession of it, and as it was known to yield well it would be a remunerative spec at the same time, [sic] Promptitude is the soul of action, and down the gentleman drops to work, thinking that economy is no disgrace even if it has a dash of Jack Sheppardism in it. Alas poor Brown and Co.! where are your licenses now, and your labour? labour! the poor man’s capital! Brown has a spirit left yet, and complains to the Sub Commissioner, who is well cognisant of the whole transaction, and the Sub Commissioner threatens Brown with irons if he makes a disturbance. Brown is cheated first by the government, then snubbed, and ultimately threatened with a "felon’s" punishment, by a "whipper snapper" who feeds on the wrongs that he inflicts. Brown appeals from the government back to the people. How blind of the government to encourage a democracy; and the people pledge themselves to replace Brown in his rights the next morning, and then at the last moment a tardy justice is administered, when force was about to assume its place.

On one side of the invaded property stand the blue shirts—on the other, the blue surtout and epaulettes; eight feet square separates them. The Sub-Commissioner persists—the Commissioner over-rules him, and the Government retreats.

These facts are well known; the infraction of the terms of the licenses began with Day, were attempted on Holmes, and proved successful with Toyer and Suter.

What then is a Gold License? If it be not what is specified in black and white, on the face of it, it is an imposture, and the sooner it is altered, the more it will redound to the credit of the Government. But it is the height of folly to attempt to legalise an infraction of a right, by attempting to over-ride it by a pretentious by-law, unheard of, and unpublished, until the threat of inflicting it made known its existence, when it popped into being, like a clumsy Minerva self-born of a wooden Jupiter.

What is a Gold License? It is a receipt for money paid, for which no value is given; an invention to publish world-wide a government’s vacillations; an incitement to Lynch law, under the authority of the Lion and the Unicorn.

Geelong Advertiser 4 November 1851, 2/3.

GEELONG MEMS. —Prospecting is supposed by many to be a pleasant walk in company with a Tin Dish, Colander, and Trowel. Gold is supposed to be found by sticking the trowel into a mound of earth, and transferring a portion thereof to the tin dish, in which it is kneaded like dough for a damper, stirred until it becomes mud, then swilled, and strained until it becomes silt, which is poked about and peered into, circled and shaken, and then shot into creek, or water hole. Then tin dish, colander and trowel again, until the knees ache from stooping, and the small of the back is pained from being bent, the neck cricked, and a determination of the blood to the head is followed by an inclination to pitch forward. Prospecting in kid gloves, dress coats, patent leather boots, and strapped trowsers, is generally unsuccessful—from some unexplained causes, even though it be attended with science; whilst in the other hand, blue shirts, moleskins, pick, spade, and hard labour, generally obtain a favourable result. ANTS have turned gold diggers, one of them was caught in the felonious act of carrying away a small nugget. The ant was probably taking it to its uncle. The chamois leathern bags, about the size of a watch pocket, which the government vends at Ballarat at one shilling each, are not the pockets in which the gold is originally found, but where it is put afterwards. Neither are the "shammy" fobs, government securities. The fob shilling may be considered as a premium charged on those who invest in the one per cent, irresponsible funds. Lord Eldon, who was a very close fisted lachrymose old gentleman, was called Old Bags—not because he sat upon the wool sack, but because he was prone to fill his bags, not in the vulgar acceptation of that term as connected with gluttony, but from his desire to bag the precious metal on every occasion which presented itself. From the same propensity, and practice of our government, it is suggested to raise His Excellency to the same rank—by the same title of Old Bags. A gold digger makes a very impertinent query—he wishes to be informed whether we have a work by the celebrated novelist James, entitled the "Commissioner;" or, "De Lunatico Inquirendo?" In case of action, and the escort being defeated, the plaintiffs would have to pay damages.

Geelong Advertiser 21 November 1851, 2/1-3


The present system of Gold Licensing requires a revision; it is faulty in itself, uncertain in its operation, and oppressive to those on whom it is exacted, while at the same time it returns less to the Territorial Revenue than otherwise it would do under proper management. The license should be extended over a greater space of time, and the quantity of ground allotted be at least double that specified in the license, and more than all, the letter and spirit of the license should be maintained in strictest integrity. If the Government divaricate they will be deceived in return; that is but a natural result. They HAVE divaricated, and they ARE deceived.

Granting to the Government that the exigency of the time when gold discoveries burst upon them, demands consideration, and according to them full credit for the servile copy they made of the Sydney regulations, it may be asked without presumption, that a revision of these regulations be entered upon, now that the emergency calling them into existence has passed. There is breathing time now, and I think I can demonstrate a few of the evils existing, which have crept in gradually, and which seem to be daily on the increase.

Whence the idea of a monthly license sprung, or why the price of that was fixed at thirty shillings, are questions to be answered only by the elevated and astute minds of those who govern us. All that is known at present of the matter is, that an edict went forth from the Representative of Her Majesty, "that all gold diggers were to be taxed." And they were taxed accordingly. If the simplicity of the operation were the only quality to be regarded, it would command profound admiration, whilst it would be termed disloyal to question the right or policy of any man with such irresponsible authority, which to ignorant and untutored minds like the most of us[,] seems to be subversive of representative institutions; but as it has a mark of the "Right Divine" with it, and is given with the impress of the Lion and Unicorn, no loyal subject would for a moment lift his voice to deny it, and so taking it in full constitutional faith, the "edict" stands—like that of the Medes and Persians, or Whigs and Tories, their modern descendants—unalterable.

A monthly liecense is a monthly absurdity; it increases trouble and diminishes receipts; it harasses the Govern[ment] and annoys the digger; involves great loss of time and creates annoyance. To avoid all this, it would be better to issue tri-monthly licenses for double the area at present allowed, with the same privileges as at present granted, for half the sum now charged. A certain fixity would then be conferred, a larger scope be allowed to individual enterprise, less time would be lost in shifting about; people would not be huddled together in such indiscriminate confusion, there would be room for roads, pathways, and water-frontage, and men thus working with greater facility and comfort, and having their respective claims distinctly marked out, and protection afforded to maintain them inviolate, would all cheerfully pay, and the Government be more than repaid the diminution in the price of the licenses, by the numbers taken out, and be spared the ungracious and tiring duty of making a daily surveillance of the Gold Field to ascertain if "unlicensees" be at work, which at present is almost impossible. The Government must be aware that a large proportion do not pay licenses, and yet avoid detection; and the difficulty of gathering them will increase just in proportion as the gold diggers scatter themselves over the country, whither it will require more than the force at the disposal of the Government to track them—and this dispersion is accelerated by the crude method with which the licenses are enforced, but which a tri-monthly license, producible on demand to the owner of the run, or police of the district, on which parties might sit down, would be in a great measure obviated. These notions may be crude; if so, they will be more acceptable with the Government.

The gold-digging community deserves every credit, as good loyal subjects[;] but as peaceable citizens contributing largely to the revenue of the colony, contributing proportionally far more than any other class of the community[,] they have much to complain of—the Government has over-ruled the letter and the spirit of the proclamation, it has deserted from the terms of the license, rendering it a dead letter to suit its own purpose, but a powerful spirit to exact. When held by the Government, the license is of prime necessity—when held by the digger it is almost a nullity. The Government forgets its promise, when payment is made, or rather deliberately breaks it, and instead of allotting eight feet square for thirty shillings, to one man, they confine parties of four and five to that space, and exact a license from each one, just the same as though it were a righteous act, and yet it is a desecration of justice.

Again, it may be remarked, that although the loyalty and good feeling of the people may induce them to submit in one case, it is not to be argued that they will do so in all. They accept the terms of a proclamation, which is broken, and they only murmur, or, perhaps, one or two may resist, and despite of being threatened with irons, ultimately succeed in their resistance, and maintain their rights intact—but then there was a proclamation to prepare them for something—an edict published in the Government Gazette. Surely, for uniformity of proceeding, that which was necessary for one is necessary for another, and when it was intended to levy a gold digging tax on tents and huts of all descriptions erected on the field, a public notification of the fact, in due form, ought to have been promulgated before its attempted enforcement, by the Commissioner or Sub, at pistol point. It may be constitutional, and in accordance with British custom for a tax collected [?tax collector] to walk up, book in hand, followed by two armed policemen, and demand thirty shillings, which, on the "ipse dixit" of the "official", supported by his armed retainers, the party accosted must pay, although he has never heard that such payment was to be demanded until the application is made. With due submission to the "powers that be," such proceeding savours more of Turpin than of ordinary tax collecting. Doubtless, like all other Government proceedings, it is perfectly correct—and like all other novelties, will wear off by repetition. At first glance it looks very peculiar, and brusque, but may be suited to the inhabitants of this colony.

The tax is an universal one, embracing all ages, without distinction of sex. As an allustration of iys working, the following may be adduced. A party from Geelong, left here for town, leaving an old man to take care of the hut{,} the official and the police pay the old man a domiciliary visit, and demand thirty shillings: the old man explains and expostulates, but without avail—the money must be paid, or of course "the irons" would be put in requisition. "It would not be very creditable," said the old man, ["]to {"}iron me,{"} I am nearly eighty, and never offended against the laws, it would not be creditable to you, gentlemen, to put me in irons.["] Then replied the officials, "if the thirty shillings be not paid by to-morrow, at ten o’clock, we will pull down the hut from over your head." Before that period arrived, the parties from Geelong came and started for Mount Alexander. Now, I would submit, if this be not exercising power to the extreme of tension—and when similar conduct is exercised towards women and children, and were the huts torn down by the hands of the Sub-Commissioner himself, it is time to make a humble comment upon it. Remonstrances have been made on more than one occasion, but the Government turn a deaf ear.

Geelong Advertiser 25 November 1851, 2/3-4:

With regard to the futire regulations of the gold field, I perceive that the Council is no wiser than the masses, and Dr. Murphy is in as great a dilemma as every body else about the "licenses." It is a conundrum that every body asks, and nobody can answer. The levy is not authorised by the land regulations; then by what authority, we reiterate, is it levied at all? Involving, as it certainly does, the vital principle of taxation, there ought not to be any subterfuge resorted to by the Government to avoid a direct reply, in explanation{,} For a Government to plead that "it was taken by surprise," is merely to plead incompetency. The plea is as damaging to a Government as it would be to a General. To state that it has followed in the footsteps of Sydney is mere servility, and the whole of the explanations lumped together does not amount to the shadow of an answer, even less justification; and for any member of the Legislative Council to rest content, with such cobbling-clumsy excuses, shows that he must be soul dead to the principles of Government, and to the importance of the gold question. The only information evoked was the awkward avowal by the Colonial Secretary, that Government would raise the "license fees," but feared an outbreak, for which politic observation the executive must owe him deep obligations, for his gratuitous expose [exposé] of its own weakness and incapacity.

The Sydney proclamation specified that the licenses were to be levied for the purposes of Police protection. The Victoria proclamation specified that the licenses were to be levied for the purposes of Territorial Revenue. The representatives of the people know nothing about it, whether it be legal or not, whilst to the ordinary mind it looks very like the feudal "subsidy" levied by the Plantagenets and Tudors, at the will of the governing powers, and the bands of armed men employed in its collection enforces this view of the matter, by their strong resemblance to the armed retainers of the feudal times, whilst to complete the picture, the Colonial Secretary gives the finishing touch, by stating the wishes of the Government to enforce still further, but restrained by fear of some Jack Cade or Wat Tyler outbreak.

Such a state of affairs is not only unsatisfactory—it is unsafe. As a free people we have all a right to know why we are taxed, and how that tax is to be applied. Having representative institutions, taxation should come through them, and them only, and be dispersed by the same medium. The gold fields are increasing in importance hourly, and yet the public are not vouchsafed a sparklet of information with regard to them, but are turned out by the government to play at "Blind-man’s buff," and grope for information on the most vital question that ever sprung up in Victoria. The gold will be the predominant interest—thousands will flock to this colony—a moving population will spread over hills and valleys, creek and ravine—every nook and corner will be explored, and some time NEXT YEAR the people of Victoria will be presented with the views entertained NOW by our government.

Geelong Advertiser 1 December 1851, 2/5-6:

(From the Correspondent of the "Argus.")

November 27th.

There is a general belief here that Government intend either to raise the licenses to £10 per month, or cease issuing licenses. If such is the case, it will be necessary to have a strong force here, for four out of every five appear determined, even at the expence [sic] of a scuffle, to resist the imposition, and those who do not speak of powder and ball, declare that they will not assist in getting the crops in. They state they will not be forced to it, though I believe most of those who understand reaping intend to suspend digging voluntarily for a month or two, as soon as they have worked out their present claims. There have been some hundreds returned to Melbourne during the week, some very fortunate, but the generality give the usual answer, "I can’t complain."

Argus 2 January 1852, 2/3-4: [EDITORIAL]:

THE GOLD AND THE GOVERNMENT. The position at this moment occupied by the Executive of this Colony, particularly in reference to the newly discovered gold fields, is so peculiar, that we are not surprised at the ablest and most active minds in the community allowing themselves to be occupied by it. And it is not to be wondered at, that the columns of the local journals daily teem with opinions and suggestions on the subject. Some little good may, we think, be done by a condensed review of the real position of this question at the present moment, and we will therefore enter upon it as dispassionately and in as temperate a tone, as very considerable and very well-grounded indignation will admit of.

It is almost unnecessary to recapitulate the first proceedings of the Government, from the moment when Gold was supposed to abound upon our lands. Childish and humiliating as they were, they have been quite sufficiently impressed upon the minds of a people, who are, in bulk, as intelligent and able as any in the world; and who, therefore, can easily take the measure of a Government, which is daily showing that it has but very slender claims to any intelligence or ability at all. Suffice it to say, that on the 18th August, at the very time when this community was all alarm lest its strength and sinew should be drawn off in an exhausting stream to Bathurst; when we were hovering on the very threshold of our discoveries; and when the best energies of all were required to arrive at a conviction whether we shared any portion of the Australian gold fields; a notice was put forth, warning all parties that they must take out a 30s license before they presumed to dig, remove, or even "search for" the precious metal in Victoria. This fine specimen of monstrous obstructiveness, if insisted upon, might probably have locked up our treasures for years, as they had already been locked up since the beginning of 1849, when their existence was first announced to the world through these columns; and we might, by this time, have been placed in the debilitated condition of our sister colony to the West.

The common sense of the community, however, came to the rescue of the infatuation of its rulers, and the regulation was quietly ignored; the Government assuming the dignified position, that the proclamation was not to be looked upon as anything; that the claim of a license fee was "only its fun," and that people might dig, search, &c., as they pleased, unharmed, unquestioned, and untaxed.

A month after, gold burst upon us in profusion, and the officers of the Executive, judiciously selecting a Sunday for the issue of the first licenses, began to enforce the regulations till then held in abeyance, and which any wise Government would then have first promulgated.

The plot thickened. Tens of diggers became hundreds; hundreds became thousands; thousands became tens of thousands. The wonders of Ballarat were thrown into the shade by the still greater wonders of Mount Alexander; and with the exception of a little occasional grumbling and growling between some of the diggers and a Commissioner or two, all went on pretty well; the "firm and judicious" Executive for once adopting a correct course, and avoiding doing wrong by doing nothing.

The plot thickened; and the truth dawned upon the public, that the great bulk of the adult male population of the Colony had suddenly changed its character; betaken itself to a new pursuit; and constituted the gold digging fraternity at Mount Alexander. Nor was it the adult male population of this Colony alone. That body was increased in number, and its component parts modified in a very remarkable degree, by extensive importations from adjacent Colonies, principally Van Diemen’s Land; and consisting partly, if not mainly, of a class which can neither be adequately imagined nor described.

This gold-digging fraternity, this thriving young giant of a community, sprang into existence almost instantaneously. Like the gourd of Jonah, it rose up in a night; but unlike that gourd, it was found in all health and vigour in the morning. The Government stared, and reflected, and stared again. As Frankenstein tremblingly watched the monster he had presumptuously framed, and found out by slow conviction that he had created a power, over which in the creation he had ceased to have control; so looked towards Mount Alexander, the "firm and judicious"; and monster as he saw, he still saw that while it had the strength of the wild creation of the man-maker, it had its wits about it, its intellect was at least equally developed with its physical power.

The "firm and judicious" looked and doubted. The monster was large, and had an air about him of quiet self-confidence, which it was not worth while to irritate. One of the mouth-pieces in the Council was authorised to say, that any interference was dangerous; that no increase to the license fee could be ventured upon. A few days after, this dangerous interference was adopted by the very same gentleman; the increase to the license fee was to be ventured upon, under authority of the very same hand. The monster growled, and the "firm and judicious" suddenly came to the discovery, that the demand for a three pound license was "only his fun" again, and that it would not be insisted upon.

Having thus taught the monster the secret of his strength, the next most injudicious thing in the world,, was to raise his temper; and this was wisely entrusted to another mouth-piece in the Council; who intimated that the monster was a rogue and vagabond, given to unlawful digging, obscene language and gambling, and hawking without a license, and thereupon requested powers to send this wicked monster to gaol.

Here, again, the common sense of the community rushed to the rescue, and prevented Frankenstein and his manufacture from coming to fisticuffs. And thus the matter stands as far as the Government is concerned. The following manifesto is the last emanation of Executive wisdom, and the public waits patiently but with some curiosity for its interpretation, and to see whether this edict is to have the force of law, or whether the Government is to let it go forth to the world once more, that it is "only its fun."

Colonial Secretary’s Office, Melbourne,
December 13th, 1851.

Measures being now under the consideration of Government, which have for their object the substitution, as soon as circumstances permit, of other regulations in lieu of those now in force, based upon the principle of a Royalty leviable upon the amount actually raised, under which gold may be lawfully removed from its natural place of deposit—His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, hereby causes it to be notified, that no alteration will for the present be made in the amount of the License Fee as levied under the Government Notice of the 18th August, 1851; and that the Government Notice of the 1st inst., is hereby rescinded.

By His Excellency’s command,

Let us next see what the public has been doing with this question in the meantime, and how the Government and the public, and the monster, as part of the public, are now situated relatively to each other.

Argus 2 January 1852, 2/4:


In looking over the resolutions passed at the late public meeting of the gold diggers on the Flagstaff-hill, I am rather surprised to find the following—"That this meeting resolves to pay no license, or other impost on the gold, until a final adjustment of the license question takes place." Such a resolution I must denounce as downright folly: the diggers have entrusted their case to the hands of the wrong men. No friend to the Colony, whether he were inimical to the present Government or not, could think of advancing such a sentiment as this resolution embodies. It will, if persisted in, be the very means of promoting anarchy and confusion; it will also be the means of placing that old monster Lynch in his chair of justice! It is quite impossible to expect that any "final adjustment" of this vexed question can take place soon; it is likewise impossible at present to guess at the recommendations of the Home Government. The licensing system even at thirty-shillings is vexatious and bad. The attempt to increase the license to £3 was worse still; but the idea that the diggers are to pay nothing, is the most absurd and the worst of all.

I am inclined to hope that this ridiculous resolution may have been drawn up under the excitement caused by the late conduct of the Government on the £3 license and Vagrant Act questions, and that the smallest consideration will point out to the framers of it, that it is foolish, and more likely to injure than benefit their cause. If it should be persisted in, however, it will be advisable for the sensible portion of the digging community to record their opinion of it, and to appoint delegates possessed of a little more common sense and patience than those who have originated such an absurd resolution as this is.

Argus 7 January 1852, 2/4:


Monday, 5th January, 1852.

One gentleman described to me the following scenes at the diggings.

A man working in a pit is accosted by a mounted trooper, who inquires whether he has a license? "No," says the digger; "I have no money to pay for it."—"Then you must not work," says the trooper.—"Then I must starve," replies the digger.—"I can’t help that."—"No, but I can; and here goes: when I get some gold, I’ll buy my license."—"Oh!" says the trooper, "I must take you to Melbourne if you continue to dig without a license."—"Just what I want," says the digger, "for I can’t take myself there. You will have to keep me on the road, and that’s more than I could do." The policeman looked stupid, but he, naturally enough, thought that the fellow was pretty well punished where he was, and rode away, declining the task of taking him to Melbourne. As soon as he was fairly gone, the digger showed a fine lot of nuggets, and crowed over "doing the trap."

On another occasion, a black trooper comes round for the purpose of mustering the licensed diggers. The darky rides up full gallop to the first pit, and commences his questions as follows—receiving the answers I have placed to them.

Good morning diggers, you carry license?—Oh, yes, we have all got licenses here.—Make a light. Let me see him?—The first holds up a new one pound note, with the engraved side folded inwards.—That’ll do, says Blacky: where’s yours Sar?—The second digger holds up to the intelligent darky, a copy of the agreement between the members of the party.—Young fellow, where your license?—In my pocket.—Well, show him to me.—The young fellow shows this dark discriminating Government officer a receipt for a black mare he had purchased; and the black guard is satisfied. But there is a fourth digger in the pit. And to him the "firm and judicious" black gentleman addresses himself.—Hey, show me license.—I’ve got no license.—Then you must come out of that hole, says the trooper. The digger here drew from his pocket a little nugget, and holding it up between his finger and thumb, showed it to the policeman, who grinned and replied, "merrijig you, no good license, best fellow that one, you give him to me, me pull away directly." The digger throws the poor soldier (on three pence a day) his nugget, and he gallops off to another party, to be again deceived and cheated, or otherwise bribed.

Argus 7 January 1852, 2/6:


The commercial article in the Times of the 19th September, contains the following passage with reference to the Australian Gold Fields. We have italicised two passages as showing how nearly the opinion of the Thunderer coincides with that expressed by the colonists themselves:—

Advices nine days later from the Australian Gold region, were received to-day by the Overland Mail. They reach to the 11th of June, and are highly interesting. The probabilities with regard to the extent and richness of the mines appear thus far to be fully maintained, and there was no diminution of the general excitement. At the same time many persons were disposed to hope that the disturbance to the regular and important pursuits of the country may, through a variety of causes, be rendered less severe than was at first apprehended. A characteristic proclamation issued by the Governor, three weeks before the date of the present advices, to the effect that "all persons who shall dig for and disturb the soil in search of gold, metal, or ore, without having been duly authorised in that behalf by Her Majesty’s Colonial Government, will be prosecuted both criminally and civilly as the law allows," appears to have met with the utter disregard which, under the circumstances, it was calculated to invite.

Geelong Advertiser 2 October 1852, 2/1-2: [from the Geelong Advertiser correspondent, A.C.]:


Eureka, Monday.

An export duty on gold is a tax on the gold digger to the amount of that export duty in additation to the capitation tax of thirty shillings paid by him monthly. Its is a tax on the produce of the gold digger’s labor superadded to a direct personal tax levied only on the class to which the gold digger belongs. Eighteen pounds a year per head for the privilege of digging on crown lands is not deemed sufficient, and a mulct of tenpence in the pound additional is to be resolved upon. Is there a townsman, whether he be a merchant or a huckster, in Geelong or Melbourne who pays in the ratio of a gold digging party? Is there a banker or a landowner, a capitalist or man deriving an income from fixed property—I ask is there one man, whatever his vocation in this our colonial society may be, who pays a poll tax, or any direct tax, or any tax at all equal to that paid by a gold digger? Why then an export duty of 2s. 6d. per ounce on gold? Surely in this age of Free Trade—in the advent of representative institutions—we are not going to tax labor the heaviest, and then impose a heavy tax on its produce as an improvement. Let taxation be direct or indirect and equally diffused, but do not make a class taxation, and combining the two modes throw the onus entirely on the gold diggers.

This Gold Export Duty is a property tax to be paid by the gold digger. Every ounce produced must pay the impost. The gold broker will not pay it, the merchant will not pay it, the digger must, not ostensibly perhaps but certainly in a deteriorated price. It is a misnomer to term it an export duty, it is an internal tax; overtly, an export duty that will never be paid by exporters; covertly, a gold excise—a sweating and clipping measure, leaving every gold bag minus tenpence in the pound. This is a "shake bag" legislation, a thing that could never be except with a class unrepresented, and a thing that would not be attempted—so transparent is the fallacy—were there one gold digger’s voice to be heard in the Legislative Council, for common sense would rend it in twain, and blow it like the figment of a cobweb to the winds of heaven.

Let us suppose, independent of the price of outfit, loss of time on the road, and cost of travelling, a party of five on the diggings, who, after erecting a hut or tent, prospecting and sinking, divide at the end of a month, being successful, ten ounces of gold each. They will have to pay

Five Licenses at £1 10s. each £7 10 0
Escort Duty, 50 ounces at 71/2d £1 11 3
Export Duty of ditto, at 2s. 6d. £6 5 0
  £15 6 3

An amount of direct tax paid to government—one-half for a chance of doing something, and the other merely for the realization, and in nine cases out of ten, the party will have to pay two months’ licenses for the whole of them, or £15 before they obtain the above quantity of gold; so that I shall be considerably under a fair estimate if I state £23 as the amount of impost paid to government by a party of five before they gain £30, of which £15 hard cash will probably be paid before one glittering speck blesses the eyes of the adventurers. Why, Sir, here is nineteen per cent taxes levied on the digger—on the successful digger—cramping him even him by the exorbitant exaction, and annihilating those who but for the tax might have gained a livelihood.

Legislation is made at the digger; but is the digger the only party who has benefitted by the gold discovery? Through whose hands have the quantities gone? Who have reaped the profits, varying from 55s. to the present price? Have not storekeepers, drapers, in fact, every trade done well? Are they taxed? Is the land owner to pay because his property has been centriplied in value? yet surely he and others ought to supply their quota to swell the revenue, which is to be appropriated for the benefit of all classes. Fair play to all; and if there be a property tax inflicted on the producer additional to a poll tax[,] let there be a property tax levied on those who are making handsome profits out of him. Gold digging may not be what it has been, nor as permanent as it is prosperous; and should it be checked whilst or after a vast immigration from the home country and elsewhere, a convulsion in the labor market would result, labor would fall, land follow, and the market be glutted with goods at a nominal price, and our legislators, like the old woman in the story, might hold up their hands and whimper out lamentations that they had killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. Sir, an export duty on gold is a "humbug," neither more nor less, a fossicking of half crowns from the digger’s pockets, a two and sixpenny larceny authorised and forced, like a ball down a horse’s throat, into a digger’s gullet whilst his tongue is held fast by the operators. Poor old horse!


[We agree with our esteemed correspondent, that 2s. 6d. per oz. is too heavy an export duty; but we arrive at the conclusion from very different premises. We cannot see that the imposts upon gold seeking are TAXES UPON LABOR ; they are rather charges for the enjoyment of a privilege.— ED. G.A.]

Geelong Advertiser 8 October 1852, Supplement, 1/1:

(Per favour of the Geelong Advertiser.)

SIR, Considering that not one half of the diggers here see the papers, it is not surprising that no public meeting or other means have been taken to show the state of disgust and indignation which exists relative to the proposed gold export duty, which, if carried, will press heavier upon the diggers than the much talked of £3 licences. One can hardly suppose that honorable members of Council will allow such an exorbitant tax to pass into law.

I remain, Sir,
Your obedient servant,

Geelong Advertiser 13 November 1852, 2/2:

THE EXPORT DUTY. — "How much did the hole turn out, Sam?"

"Oh, torabul fair; 430 ounces a man."

"Ah, 430! That’s 430 half-crowns you’ll have to pay hexport dooty, eh?"

"Shall I though? Catch me at it, old feller! There’s no tax on colonial manufactures, is there[?] Well. I finds I can get my swag melted and made into golden flat irons and hammer heads for about a bob an ounce, so I shall save eighteen pence, and send home the stuff as specimens of Wictorian hindustry!"

Geelong Advertiser 21 January 1853, 2/2:


Almost every Government Gazette notifies a fresh batch of Gold Commissioners, or Assistant Commissioners. Where do they come from? Where do they go to? and what are their uses? Their origin is [as] mysterious as the annual swims of herrings down the Barwon and Yarra, or the white bait in the Thames, and like herring and white bait these Commissioners and Subs are easily caught, and as suddenly disappear, but are not quite so palateable [sic]. To say that they all go to the Gold Fields is not a satisfactory solution of the second question,—there cannot be sufficient consumption amongst the Gold Diggings for so many delicacies—the market must be overstocked by these constant weekly additions—are they lost in "transit,"—do they leak out? perhaps by exposure—or are they warehoused until wanted? The government ought to look to it, for if there be truth in the doctrine of supply and demand, there must be a great glut up-country, and Commissioners and Assistants may be expected to come down with a run like the flour at Bendigo, and be worth less than the cost of carriage. Thirdly and lastly—"What are their uses?" It is not fair to expect much for a time, because the start with a blemish, "being gazetted" at the outset. They must be supernumeraries, engaged in looking over the shoulders of those who are looking over the shoulders of others—a sort of super-superior. It takes one Commissioner to sign a license—one Commissioner to watch him, and an Assistant Commissioner to watch the watcher. But then there must be enough already toperform these onerous functions, and the supply is apparently unexhaustible [sic]. It is useless to rack our brains. We give it up, and don’t believe if the "Comms" or "Subs" were asked they could tell themselves.


[H]e has as little claim to the title of a "good" man, as he has to that of great one. In private life, we believe that he is amiable enough. Beyond that, he is and always has been, weak, shifty, truckling to the Home authorities, treacherous, insincere, a betrayer of the people, the contemner of real merit, the patron of the negligent, the incapable, and the corrupt. His career, now shortly coming to a close, has been throughout that of a weak, bad man; and the name he will leave behind him in Victoria is one before which any one but himself would quail.— ED. A.

Argus 11 February 1853, 5/6:

Per favor of the Argus.

GENTLEMEN, MINERS, AND GOLD DIGGERS GENERALLY,—I am a foreigner, and have not a perfect knowledge of the English language, and must beg your indulgence for my style. I am an old man, a father, and a grandfather, and I left my own fine country with my children, that they might better their fortunes in a colony enjoying the boasted freedom of Great Britain. But I now discover that the Colonists shall be marched in prisoner-troops, and shall be abused and ill-treated, and shot down like the wild wolf at the discretion of the constables, who are most ignorant, most base, most villainous. I know that it is not so in England; but here if a man shall not have paid his monthly tax, or shall reply to the abuse of a constable, it will be so.

I have seen it with my own eyes.

My grandson was very much indeed abused, and taken from his work for the whole day, which was a very great loss to us, because he had not his license paper in his pocket, and they would not allow him to go to the tent, which was quite close, to fetch it. So he was marched, at the point of the bayonet, to the camp of the Government, and after waiting many hours was fined; his father following, but was not allowed to speak to him, and received much exasperating speech from the constables.

I can tell you as many things, much worse than this, that would fill the Argus. Two neighbours, Englishmen, very quit [sic] and respectable miners, were dragged from their beds in the night, and handcuffed together without any cause. A respectable elderly person, on the same night, was dragged forcibly from his wife’s side in their bed. There could not be more quiet people in this world, and no charge has been brought against them, and they do not know the cause of such an outrage.

Some friends sit together in the tent of a respectable person, and enjoy the song and the guitar in the evening. Suddenly the tent is glittering with bayonets, and the friends are prisoners, and their bottle of brandy taken from them. The case was dismissed in the morning, for they were all sober, and never sold grog. The party of friends were much insulted by the constables. One constable broke open a letter for a storekeeper before his eyes, when the storekeeper is a free man, and has not broken the laws; but this was said for the constable, that it was part of his duty when he was to search the drays.

But one poor unfortunate miner was running to his tent on his own hurry, when the constables were at a distance. He had the tax paper all right in his pocket, but a constable caitiff fired at him, and wounded him in the arm badly.

I do not see these things in the Argus. Why is not a paper here for Bendigo diggers? I hear that the same things are done at the other Diggings likewise, and I am struck with wonder and sorrow! Gentlemen miners from England, from France, from Germany, from America, how call you these things in your native countries?

Miners—my daughter, and grand-daughters who understand the English language, were standing by my side, when the lowest and basest words were used by a party of these ignoble constables, and such that they never heard before on the diggings, even in crowds of labouring men.

These constables, are they the savages of Great Britain, captured to do the duties which their decent countrymen shudder at?

British miners! you should expostulate with your Government, you should demand an asylum for these dangerous barbarians, and bestow the power they abuse, and the livery they disgrace, on civilised men and Christians.

I am,
Gentlemen Miners,
January 31st, 1853.

Argus 13 June 1853, 5/4:


June 4, 1853.

The weather during the last few days has been unusually severe: sleet, snow, and rain have fallen almost uninterruptedly, the roads are in the most disgraceful condition, and the effort to reach the post office and the [Government] camp is a task to be overcome with difficulty, and only to be accomplished by wading through several running streams, and plunging into bogs innumerable. Happy is he who possesses a pair of long sea-boots, as without them there is no safety! The manner in which the prisoners at the [Government] camp are treated, calls for enquiry. I am informed they are compelled to lie upon the floor of their cells, without either blankets or bedding of any description, unless they should be so fortunate as to possess friends to provide them with these necessaries during this severe weather. I wonder whether one of the Commissioners would like to pass one night in this way, even though he had imbibed his pint of brandy. For my own part, I find that with half a dozen blankets over me, I am not at all too warm. During the last few days of each month the diggers congregate in great numbers at the license tent, where they are frequently kept waiting many hours before they can procure a license, owing to there being one person only to issue them. There is generally much crowding and pressing to gain admission to the tent: two or three of the police were engaged in keeping order. A few days since, one of these had a loaded musket, capped, with the trigger at full cock, with which he was poking and pushing the diggers, and even stamping the butt upon their toes. Another was acting in a similar manner, with the trigger resting upon the percussion can. Had one of these muskets exploded, and a digger been shot, of course it would have been attributed to accident. Probably, the accidental shooting of a digger, as reported in one of your late journals was occasioned by similar negligence. The question as to whether professional men and storekeepers at the diggings are required to take out diggers’ licenses, has been raised before the Commissioner, who has admitted his inability to decide the question, but has referred to the Attorney-General for a decision upon the point; in the meantime, the majority of the storekeepers and professional men at these diggings have refused to take out licenses for the present month, and are even prepared, should the opinion of the Attorney-General prove to be against them, to try an appeal from the magistrates’ decision to the Supreme Court. The propriety of calling a meeting of the entire body of diggers has been much canvassed of late, with a view to their universally refusing to take out licenses, unless the roads are put into an efficient state of repair, accommodation provided for the destitute sick, and effective police protection afforded.

Argus 27 June 1853, 3/4-5:


Forest Creek, June 23rd, 1853.

A great deal of dissatisfaction and numberless complaints have come under my notice within the last few weeks, in reference to the undue severity and tyrannical conduct of the police, when in search of unlicensed persons. No. 1 of the regulations appended to the license sets forth that "every licensed person must always have his license with him, ready to be produced whenever demanded by a Commissioner or persons acting under his instructions; otherwise he is liable to be proceeded against as an unlicensed person." This rule, in particular, is the one which causes the greatest amount of complaint. Should a person, although in possession of his license, by any means be unfortunate enough not to have it on his person, he is immediately walked off, and, however near he may be to his dwelling, he is not allowed to go for it. An instance of this nature, and I must certainly say, it appears to me rather too much of a good thing, occurred on Monday last. A storekeeper, named Dale, at Golden Point, was employed at the door of his store on Monday last, when he was asked for his license; he pointed it to the constable, hanging on a nail inside his store; immediately after another constable came up, and again asked him for his license, but when told he had not that piece of paper upon his person, but could produce it in the store, the constable would not consent to let him in, and insisted upon his being marched off. Mr. Dale begged to have his coat, he being without one, which was also refused. In the meantime, Mrs. Dale brought out the required coat and license. Mr. Dale appealed to Inspector Evans, representing the conduct of the constables in very strong terms and promised that the thing should not rest there. Mr. Evans discharged Mr. Dale from custody. This is one of numerous instances of a similar nature. And again, servants in charge of property are very often similarly treated, and property left to the mercy of the weather, although the parties very often hold the required license, as a letter from a Mr. Day, a butcher, will explain. The felon-like treatment of the police towards unlicensed persons, is loudly complained of; but not to trespass upon your space, I refer your readers to the following remarks furnished me by a very respectable resident at Campbell’s Creek (a distance of five miles from this office) of what occurred there on Monday last. I think it but just to give occasionally the information as furnished to me, to show the state of the public mind, and what the tyrannical conduct of the authorities will eventually lead to. My informant says—

Considerable excitement was created at Campbell’s Creek, on Monday the 29th inst., by the arbitrary and reckless conduct of the Inspector of Police. Nearly every person walking on the Queen’s highroad was stopped, and a license demanded; tents were entered, and the inmates dragged out, if not in possession of licenses, as if they were the vilest criminals; all the stores were called at, and the storekeepers required, in the most insulting manner, to produce their licenses. In one case, a schoolmaster teaching his scholars, was taken from his school; men were taken from their employment; diggers who had licenses at their tents, were taken in custody; and Englishmen marched along the highway in charge of the mounted police, exposed to the gaze of the populace. Amongst those thus marched prisoners, was a nephew of Mr. Campbell, of Campbell’s station. The diggers and storekeepers are greatly exasperated. Here and there, little knots of diggers may be heard murmuring that in California this state of things would soon be altered, and that in a summary way. It is a pity that the unfortunate people who intend leaving the shores of England for this police-ridden country, should be left in ignorance of the treatment they will receive on arrival.

It may not be known to the Melbourne public, or to the British public, that if a man have no license, and is unable to pay the fine of three or five pounds, he is thrust into a small cell for fourteen days or a month, in company with felons of the vilest description: thieves, horse-stealers, lags, and murderers; amidst filth, vermin, and stench, destitute of a bed, obliged to lie on the ground, and compelled to listen to the most obscene and diabolical language,—scarcely ever being permitted to breathe the pure air of heaven, and all this, because the poor but honest Englishman is unable to pay thirty shillings for a license,—a sum which many hundreds do not obtain in a month by digging.

The sentiments of this writer, I can confidently assert, are re-echoed by almost every feeling individual. It must be remembered that at the present time there are not so many fortunate miners as some months back, and consequently there are many who have not the wherewith to purchase food, much more the possibility of procuring a license. Numbers of new arrivals also, who arrive here, are not immediately in a position to hand over their thirty shillings for a license. Such complaints are not so prevalent on the Sydney diggings, the reason being that the law is administered with a lenient hand. It is now many a month since such a strict search was instituted for unlicensed diggers, and when the thing really does take place, it is carried out with unbecoming severity. If a regular system were adopted, of a thorough search once every month, thousands of pounds would be added yearly to the revenue.

Argus 29 June 1853, 3/7:


To the Editor of the Argus.

Sir,—Feeling aggrieved at a certain transaction of a party of constables headed by Inspector Evans, I wish to bring the matter before the public; and no other method appears to me to answer the end, as by obtaining a space in your valuable and widely-circulated journal.

I am a butcher, residing on Forest Creek, and have in my employ several men. On Thursday last, about noon, Inspector Evans, with a strong body of foot police, were in search for unlicensed diggers. They reached as far as my place, and on a hill immediately at the back they fell in with one of my servants, a butcher, who was at the time tending some sheep. They asked him for his license, which he had not upon him, but requested the constable to come to his master’s place, about a hundred yards off, where he would produce it; he having left it behind him. They refused, and insisted upon his going with them. He told them he could not leave his sheep, but if they would be good enough to allow him to put the sheep in the yard he would not object. They refused even this request; and left the sheep at the mercy of the waves. When passing my place the man called out to bring his license, and although it was produced, still he was taken off, and the creek being high at the time, was compelled, together with about two dozen others, to wade through the water, which was knee deep, and obliged to pass the remainder of the day and night in wet clothes.

On Saturday morning this man was fined ten shillings for not having his license ready to produce when demanded, although it was produced but a very few minutes after.

The hardship of punishing a man so severely for the simple crime of not having his license in his pocket, and to be dragged off like a felon to the watchhouse, with the threat of the bayonet ringing in his ear, is not the only grievance I complain of; but also, as it has often happened, a servant in charge of property is liable to be taken off and his charge left to the care of itself, with often a loss to the employer, as in my case, for I found that two of the sheep were missing when brought home. Having stated to the magistrate at the time of the examination, that I had sustained a loss by this man being taken from his charge, I was told that the only steps I could take, would be a civil action. This is always the case: every thing must be redressed by civil action; but as I am not fond of throwing good money after bad, I must decline acting accordingly.

Whilst on the subject of licenses, I wish to inquire how I should act in the following case. I am the owner of land in the township of Castlemaine, and may choose to reside on the same: no license is required in such cases. Now, should I be stopped on the high road by the police, and a license demanded, what protection have I? If I say I am the owner of land on which I reside, the police answer—"We know nothing about that; you must come with us before the magistrate." If I demur, the police officer immediately says—"Handcuff him." And thus I am at any time liable to be seized. What protection, and what redress have I? If something be not devised, and that speedily, to allay the alarm and agitation, it will no doubt remedy itself by an extensive emigration from the tyrannical and inhospitable colony of Victoria, to some more hospitable land, where Englishmen will be treated as they deserve.

I am, Sir, your obliged servant,

Argus 30 July 1853, 4/4-5:


July 23rd.

All Bendigo is on the lull. She has of late been so convulsed that parties now want to draw breath. The pulse of the great centre (the heart) of the gold-fields has been quickened by the agitators in favor of the reduction of the license-tax, and now that the delegates are gone to Melbourne, the gold-mining community will patiently await the return of those gentlemen. If the reply of the Government is unfavorable, what then? Will there be a fight?—"that’s the rub." Will a weak Government attempt at the last moment to turn round and redeem its past errors by exhibiting the lion’s prowess?

There can be no doubt as to the determination of a large amount of the gold-diggers to resist the license-fee; many do so now covertly. It is said that there are hundreds who are prepared to do so openly. Let not the Government then be deceived by misrepresentations from any quarter; the injuries done to the gold-mining community, and more especially the diggers, are too deep in character, and they have been too often perpetrated, to be easily blotted out.

I am called to make these remarks by the appearance, at Bendigo, of several officers, high in the confidence of the Government. The Attorney-General has visited the unsettled district. He has perhaps come to see if any of the agitators have outstepped, as the Government have done, the boundaries of the Constitution. If the learned Attorney’s liver is out of order (some of his mates are very bilious), a ride to Bendigo through mud and dirt, over the road which he himself designated as a ploughed field, would really do him good. No one would begrudge the first law-officer of Victoria a little recreation, either for pleasure or for health’s-sake; but if he thinks that by a flying visit to Bendigo and the Mount, he can ascertain the real state of public opinion, then his activity will be lost to the State.

The Attorney-General, the Chief Commissioner, and Captain Bull, the tria juncta in uno, have held a Court of Inquiry on the Diggers’ Petition at Bendigo. If the chief of the gold-fields was really equal to his position, what need of his legal friend’s assistance? and if not able to do his duty, why retain him in office? Will the Government Gamaliels unravel this knotty point?

Immediately on the arrival of the Chief Commissioner and the Attorney-General, several storekeepers and others from the Bendigo and its neighborhood, were summoned to deliberate on the Diggers’ Petition, to ascertain, I presume, the truth of the allegations therein contained. The petition itself quietly expressed public opinion here. and there are thousands who say that the document does not go far enough; but I think that the Council of the Anti-Gold-License Society act wisely in leading the diggers gradually from their present impotent position to one of strength, which will enable them to do battle in the Council Chamber of the colony for those rights which their conduct has entitled them to. The war between the Government and the largest, most wealthy, and most intelligent class in the community must not be a petty one. Let the struggle be characterised by calmness and reason on the popular side, and by cool deliberation on the part of the ruling powers. The diggers must be enfranchised; nothing less ought to satisfy them; less should not be offered them. They will then have their avowed organs through which to give utterance to their grievances. The gold-fields will then no longer be the scenes for those well-founded appeals, on the part of the diggers, against the tyrannies of the hordes of petty "Geslers," that ride roughshod over the liberties of the miner. The misconduct of such persons as may hereafter attempt to do so, can be brought by such means before the first tribunal of the colony, and instant dismissal would ensue.

The Government, in their efforts to do the best they can with bad materials, seems to build up and destroy with admirable confusion. No sooner does an officer misconduct himself on one field than he is removed to another. Of what use is this? Does the public service gain by it? I think not. Inefficiency, in whatsoever position placed, is still the same: impotency cannot gain strength by being transplanted—unless, indeed, the mind, like the body, can improve by change of air.

There is confusion in the camp. Many of the constables are leaving, and report says that they are the best men who do so, as they are getting disgusted with the public service, and no wonder, cunning and trickery are the ingredients patronised by the Bendigo magistrates. That which exhibits itself in John Bull’s character, that manly independence which earned for him the cognomen, is not prized in these quarters. The "trap," par excellence, sucking and sycophantish, is the man for the magistrates of the gold-fields. The whole system is rotten, and it seems questionable whether it is possible to infuse new elements into it, such as will counteract the evils in this conglomerate, or whether it would not be preferable in the Government’s sweeping away the whole heap.

Doubtless the delegates will call the attention of the Lieutenant-Governor to the state of the roads, more especially those on the Bendigo: they are scandalous, and perhaps a stronger argument against the 30s. license-tax could not be offered than a correct model of the road between View Point and the White Hills would present to the eye. Huge chasms that foretell danger to life and limb are found in the centre of the roads, and while the heavy drays rattle down them, the drivers have strange forebodings as to whether their teams will ever rise again. If the execrations of these men could effect a change, there has been spur enough applied; but these things having failed, appeal after appeal through the columns of the press having had the same effect, are the good people of Bendigo unreasonable in selecting persons as their representatives, for the purpose of having a little talk with the Governor personally?

Some of the friends of the new society are busily engaged in "pouring oil on the troubled waters," or, in other words, they are beseeching the people to have patience until the return of the delegates. It is to be hoped that those gentlemen have not raised a storm that they cannot lull.

Argus 15 August 1853, 5/3:


(Before His Honor Mr. Acting Chief Justice Barry.)


Before the following jury:—W. Beaver (foreman), W. Foreman, E. Clayton, J.J. Davis, A. Decker, J. Ellis, J. Tracey, James Evans, W. Crow, W. Dunn, W. Gipson, W. Adams.

Joseph Gallaher was placed at the bar, and pleaded not guilty to an information, charging him with altering and uttering a certain gold license, with intent to defraud.

MR. P. THOMSON defended the prisoner.

From the evidence adduced it appeared, that on the 8th July last, a Serjeant Richards went up to the prisoner, who is a gold-digger, residing on the Bendigo, and asked him for his license. Prisoner put his hand into his pocket, saying "I have one, but I am afraid you will have a job to read it, as it is wet, crumpled, and torn." Richards then took the license, and found it altered for the month of July, being originally intended for June—the letters ne being altered to ly. Richards asked the prisoner how he got that license, it being a forgery, he replied that having given his mate the money to get him a license he had brought him the one produced. He was taken into custody.

MR. THOMSON made a defence, urging that although the prisoner had altered the document in question, it did not follow that he was aware of the forgery. He also would impress upon the jury the fact that the prisoner could not write, and could very easily be imposed upon.

His Honor having summed up, the jury brought in a verduict of not guilty, and the prisoner was discharged.


Before the following jury:—R.H. Evans (foreman), Messrs. Thomas Fowler, John George, R. Fitz, J. Eastwood, R. Guymer, S. Inkred, G. Fox, J. Faulkner, W. Guymere, M. Edagr, R. Gates.

James Williams was placed at the bar, and pleaded not guilty to an information charging him with altering and uttering a certain gold license with intent to defraud.

MR. P. THOMSON defended the prisoner.

The prisoner James Williams is a gold-digger, residing at Bendigo. On the 13th of July last, Starkey, a constable in the police force, asked the prisoner for his license, upon which he handed the one produced. On perusal it was found that the license purported to be for July, being originally intended for June. The constable asked the prisoner his name, he replied James Williams, whereas the license ws issued to a man named Cantwell, from whom the prisoner bought it.

MR. THOMSON , in defence, urged that the prisoner could not write, and therefore was not aware that the license was altered.

HIS HONOR having summed up, the jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of not guilty, and the prisoner was discharged.

Argus 22 October 1853, 5/2-3:

12th October, 1853.

His Honor Mr Justice Barry took his seat at half-past nine o’clock this morning, when G. Barry and E. Urquhart, Esquires, were sworn in magistrates of the territory.


Before the following jury:—J. Jones (foreman), S. Harvey, W. Hope, C. Jenkins, G. Gawler, T. Little, J. Hartley, C. Johnson, J. Livingston, G. Johnston, T. Irvin, J. Jamieson.

George Pitt pleaded not guilty to an information charging him with altering and uttering a cert in gold-license, with intent to defraud Her Majesty’s revenue.

Mr P. Thomson appeared for the prisoner.

The prisoner was a gold-digger at the Bendigo. On the 9th June last Sergeant Evans, of the foot police, was in search of unlicensed diggers, when he came to the prisoner and requested to see his license. The prisoner produced the one handed into court, being an altered gold-digger’s license from the month of April to the month of June for George Pitt. The constable asked the prisoner his name, which he gave as George Pitt.

For the defence it was set up that the prisoner could neither read nor write, and having sent for his license for the month of June, the one produced was the one brought him, and which he tendered to the constable, being ignorant of its being a forgery.

Verdict—Not guilty. Discharged.

Argus 27 October 1853, 4/6:


October 21st, 1853.

The frogs prayed to Jupiter for a king. The autocrat of the gods threw them a log, which, being of no use, he next gave them a stork, who forthwith proceeded to gobble up his unfortunate subjects. The gold-diggers, in like manner, prayed to that amiable, patronage-loving and model Governor, Mr. La Trobe, for police protection, and he in return has given them a Gold Commission, which, like the stork in the fable, contrives to eat up nearly the whole of the revenue derived from the gold fields; whilst as regards police protection they are almost as badly off as before. It would appear as if the daily additions to that useless and pampered body of nondescripts, usually to be found in the Camps at the different gold-fields, were for their own protection alone. To enumerate the various descriptions of celestial officials to be found in these Camps, what with resident magistrates ignorant of their duties, resident commissioners, assistant commissioners, inspectors of police, inspectors of detectives, lieutenants, storekeepers, clerks, troopers, cadets, police detectives, gaolers, architects, doctors, &c, &c., would produce a list as varied as when Mathews, in order to escape from the income-tax, made his ludicrous appeal to the York Commissioners, and enumerated the different descriptions of wigs he was compelled to make use of. The similitude between the wigs and officials is, however, greater than would at first sight appear, they being all more ornamental than useful. It is greatly to be desired that the "Hume" [?] of the Council will, when the Estimates come to be considered, move that the sums placed upon those Estimates for the management of the gold-fields be reduced by three-fourths, that five out of six of the officials employed be recommended to dig for gold in lieu of wasting their invaluable time by the "dolchi far niente" style, at present so fashionable amongst them; also that the more useful subordinates be increased in number and better paid than at present; and should a greater staff be required for the preservation of order, let all the respectable diggers and storekeepers be sworn in as special constables, and all difficulty about the reduction of the license-fee will be at once at an end, and a far more efficient system organised. And that I am not advocating a system which would not act well, is sufficiently proved by the fact, that two storekeepers—Messrs. Fraser and Spittle—last Sunday succeeded in capturing, and in safely conveying to the Camp, the man who a few days previously had committed the deliberate robbery in open day at the tent of the Chinese butcher, at Eureka. The man turns out to be a most noted character. "Tommy Day" and the captors were followed to the Camp, nearly two miles distant, by a large body of the man’s companions, who would have attempted a rescue, but for the threats of the captors to shoot the first man who attempted to interfere, or the prisoner himself, should he attempt to escape. For the entire distance not a policeman could be seen. Once, however, arrived at the Camp, they were surrounded by a number of the cadets, whose remarks tended greatly to show how lucky we vagabonds ought to consider ourselves, to be permitted to enjoy the supreme privilege of being our own policemen, at the trifling and insignificant charge of half a million! only half a million annually for the invaluable services of the gold and silver laced gentlemen, to whom this communication is chiefly dedicated, by their most devoted admirer,

At Balaarat.

Argus 11 August 1854, 3/4:


The Gold Commission.—Mr. Chief Commissioner Wright is at present on a visit to this district, and rumor states that our Commissioners are putting the house in order for the anticipated rigorous inspection of a department of the public service whose expensiveness has notoriously been out of all proportion to its utility. Sir Charles Hotham will find no department in which reform and retrenchment are more needed, and in which they can be more easily carried into effect, than the Gold Commission. It may be very hard for young men who have basked in the delight of gold lace, good pay, and nothing to do, to find themselves reduced to their own resources for a livelihood; but with a very moderate degree of foresight they might have anticipated that to this complexion they must have come at last, and the public interest must of course override all personal considerations.

Geelong Advertiser 10 October 1854, 5/3-4. Letter to the Editor.


To the Editor of the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer.

SIR,— Permit me to call your attention to the recent harsh proceedings adopted here for the recovery of the diggers’ license tax.

Since the visit of Sir Charles Hotham an unusual degree of severity has been exercised towards the more unfortunate of the mining population, and why, I cannot imagine, unless, as the officials here are known for neglect in thief catching, they are anxious to show their utility in digger hunting, and to endeavour to prove a case for the continuance of the office of gold commissioner.

The diggings, for some days past, have indeed been vigorously "patrolled" by a large and armed military police force, with carbine, broad sword, and holster pistols, well mounted too, (making allowance for the small cost), and accompanied by the additional "protection" in the shape of foot police, with batons only visible. Now, a very new chum would see in this a great amount of zeal in the pursuit of the gangs of vagabonds who steal our horses, poison our dogs, and prowl around our tents at midnight, to take life and property, or both, but we know the truth. It is to enjoy the now common sport of digger hunting. Almost daily these "armed bands," headed by the valiant and renowned Cornet Spriggins, parade the ground, and demand if the toiling and honest creator of colonial wealth is possessed of a license. I know that a license fee must be paid. "The court awards it," but, Sir, is it to be endured, in a possession of the British Crown, that an armed police force may "bail up," and require the production of your badge in all places and at all times. And here I may, I hope, reasonably ask how you manage in town?

We are ignorant and "wandering tribes," not much acquainted with civilised life up here. Does a military police parade your public ways, and ask you if you have paid your taxes? They do not so in England. If the law were humane, just, and discriminating, we could not, we ought not, to complain; and, if administered in a proper mode, it would be cheerfully borne. But poverty stretches its gaunt and withered hand on the diggings, as elsewhere, however many may be apt to believe and endeavour to prove the contrary. The unlicensed digger is, in nine cases out of ten, compelled, by sheer absolute need, to be without a license, and to expose himself to the chance of being heavily fined, or imprisoned, with common felons; and if he should still continue poor, he must, for the next offence, be still more inhumanly punished. I cannot tell by whose sage council the tax is enforced in so barbarous a manner, but whichever way it may be, it is a disgrace to a civilised government and demands, and should have, instant redress. Not content, as formerly, with asking for the license outside tents, they now enter them, and also the stores, and search so far as they dare, which is with the door in the rear. Two days ago a policeman came inside the store, and, looking round, said, "good day," and retired. At a loss to understand this mode of business, I enquired, and found that the fellow, under direction of the commissioners, actually came in search for diggers supposed to be stowed away. Such a very polite mode certainly deserves attention; and when I am visited again, I shall assist in the search in kicking the intruder out, if I can do so, "and the law on my side." Worse than this, these men in gold and silver lace, and armed from head to heel, have taken the aged and sick from their tents. The spectacle is presented to us of a wife taking round, for signature, a petition for the release of her husband from gaol, by reason of his poverty and ill health when captured by the valour of the men in arms. An old, and, as I know, very poor man, was lately sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for the heinous offence of having a license in a wrong name, which was current at the time, and had been made over to him by a party who had gone to town. It was an offence against law—but what a barbarous sentence—thrust into gaol with men under committal for felony. If discrimination cannot be used; if the successful are to pay the same as the unsuccessful; then the time has arrived for the total abolition of this most oppressive and inhumanly-collected tax, and, with it, the gold-lace, conceit, and broadcloth. The police might then be well spared from the camp, for we have (for what purpose who shall say) a regular body of infantry. At present the entire police duty appears to be digger-hunting, while the diggings are left, as Sturges Bourne wished to leave the poor, "to their own resources," for protection from violence and plunder.

I have already trespassed, at some length, on your space, but the subject is important, and my only desire, in addressing you, is to induce some more influential pen to enlist in the cause of the oppressed digger of whose interest no notice is taken in the maiden speech of the new Lieutenant-Governor, at which we should wonder did we not know that Johnny Foster is still Colonial Secretary. I enclose my name and address, and am, Sir,

Yours, &c.

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