"It was a revolution - small in size, but great politically; it was a strike against injustice and oppression...It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle. It adds an honourable page to history; the people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at the Eureka Stockade." Mark Twain, 1897 The Eureka Stockade, otherwise known as the Eureka Rebellion, was a short lived battle during 1854, in which a few hundred disgruntled miners revolted against the petty and mostly corrupt officialdom. Conditions on the gold fields, unfair laws, racism, anti-British attitudes and the miner’s license, played a huge part in causing the Eureka Rebellion to take place. The miners’ eventually grew tired of the unfair laws and living conditions, so they built the Eureka Stockade and gathered firearms, in an attempt to fight for their rights and liberties. During the early morning of December 3rd 1854, the authorities launched an attack on the stockade. The miners’ fought back fervently, but their basic weapons and determination was no match for the military’s vast numbers and fierce weaponry. Even though the revolt itself was a military failure, the miners’ rebellion led to personal and political benefits for many Australians. The Eureka Stockade was a bloody but essential part of Australian history. It played a vital role in the development of democracy and personal identity within Australia.
The rebellion was caused by a number of issues within the gold fields. The miners were suffering from a number of injustices. They had no political rights; they were not allowed to vote in elections nor were they entitled to a representative in the Legislative Council, and they were treated unjustly by the blatantly brutal and corrupt government officials. However, their main grievance was the excessive and overpriced gold mining license, which cost thirty shillings each month to renew. Most of the miners’ found it nearly impossible to pay the ridiculously priced mining fee and still meet the cost of living, on the scarce and barely sufficient amount of money they had.
The miners’ were required to carry their licenses with them at all times, if they were found without their license they could be fined or imprisoned. The dreaded “License Hunts” were soon brought in. License Hunts gave police the liberty to check a miner’s license at random. Those found without a license were liable to severe fines and unjust imprisonment and punishment. Most of the police were unsatisfactory, as many of them were ex-convicts and guards; because of this many of the officers were inclined to violence and brutality during a License Hunt. The officers’ brutality and unjust behaviour further infuriated the miners and made the Ballarat Gold-Fields’ police subject to much hatred.
Corrupt Officialdom was a heady problem on the gold fields. In one instance, a group of men beat a drunken Scottish digger to death, the group included local publican James Bentley. James was a friend of the local magistrate; because of this he and the other three men escaped persecution. The miners were appalled. A group of three miners went to Bentley’s hotel and burnt it to the ground in defiance. It was not too soon after that the men were charged with arson.
On the 11th of November 1854, ten thousand miners met to demand the release of the three men, the right for all males to vote and the abolition of the miners license; this meeting led to the formation of the Ballarat Reform League. Several of the Reform League leaders had also been involved with the Chartist movement in England.
On the 29th of November of that same year, twelve thousand people at Bakery Hill watched as the Southern Cross flag, otherwise known as the Eureka Flag, was unveiled for the first time. The flag became the symbol of their struggle; the miners burned their licenses and fired shots into the air under the flag in an act of triumph and defiance. The next...
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