Eureka Stockade Day: Australia’s 160th anniversary of democratic rebellion remembered
December 3rd is a significant date on Australia’s national calendar.
Exactly 160 years ago in 1854 the day fell decisively on a Sunday, the Sabbath, when lay miners (“diggers”) on the Ballaarat goldfields made a sacrificial stand against the English colonial authority to achieve rights of democracy and justice. They stood against the old order of patronage and privilege.
The 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion became a rebellion by lay miners across the Ballaarat goldfields in then colonial Victoria, who revolted against the autocratic English authority. The rebellion directly led to the birth of Australia’s democracy. It was one of the most crucial trigger events in the course of Australian history, yet sadly, few Australian school curricula teach this to young Australians anymore.
Origins of our “Eureka”
“Eureka” comes originally from the Greek word meaning “I have found it!”, and is famous as the exclamation of Archimedes on discovering a method to measure the amount of alloy in the golden crown of King Hiero of Syracuse, due to the displacement of water.
In the colony of Victoria, alluvial (surface) gold had been discovered by prospector Thomas Hiscock in 1851 at the locality of Buninyong, situated about 10km south of now the regional city of Ballaarat. Like with other gold rushes (NSW and California), a flood of lay prospectors ensued to the area with tales of easy riches to be had.
The Eureka (gold) Lead, purportedly named by Dr Timothy Doyle after the Greek meaning, was discovered in 1852 and proved to be a considerably richer gold lead in what is now Ballaarat East. The find certainly was a Eureka moment. When Lieutenant-Governor, Charles La Trobe visited the site he watched five men uncover 136 ounces of gold in one day. The Eureka Lead opened up at Little Bendigo at a depth of four feet to a depth of 120 feet where the Eureka Stockade Rebellion occurred.
The prospectors became lay miners and over time colloquially became referred to as “Diggers”. By 1853 there were about 60,000 diggers digging up the countryside and living in calico tent cities.
Their families soon joined them, leaving behind the then still timber-clad colonial town of Melbourne rather deserted.
Incitement of the Eureka Stockade Rebellion
The discovery of Gold in Victoria had a dramatic affect on Victoria. The town of Melbourne had lost most of its workforce to what become historically known as the “Victorian Gold Rush” and with it most of its tax revenue. So the colonial government had quickly decided to tax the absentee workforce who had become the diggers.
From September 1851, Victoria’s Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe proclaimed English Crown rights upon all mining proceeds as well as a mandatory gold license fee be charged at one pound sterling per miner. For the time, it was a severe impost and unaffordable for most diggers and the English license fee was instantly resented.
Compounding the social tension on the goldfields, almost all of the police (troopers) were drawn conveniently for the government from emancipated ex-convicts. Troopers were ordered to collect (hunt) the license fees from the diggers in the various goldfields. This fueled disrespect and resentment between the diggers and the troopers. The troopers were regarded as an illegitimate authority.
Still La Trobe ordered the troopers to carry out oppressive license hunts with increasing frequency and intimidation towards the diggers, most of whom had found little or none of the promised gold riches.
Public protest rallies by diggers were held on the goldfields around Ballaarat at various times through the three years from 1851 to 1853. They opposed the high gold license fee, the government’s oppressive policies and its strict liquor licensing laws. The diggers went further than protesting. They demanded the right to vote and the right to buy land instead of just paying an annual license fee. Essentially, these were grassroots calls for basic democracy.
In December 1851, the government even threatened to triple the gold license fee from £1 to £3 a month. Diggers became so agitated that they began to gather up arms.
Changes to the Goldfields Act in 1853 regulated gold license searches could occur at any time which further incensed the diggers. Shortly afterwards in Bendigo in June 1853, the Anti-Gold License Association was formed to give voice to the diggers’ many grievances about their conditions and centred on the exorbitant gold license fee. The Anti-Gold License Association was effectively Australia’s first trade union of sorts. It staved off an armed clash with the English colonial authority, for a while.
In August 1853, a petition was drawn up articulating diggers’ grievances, the need for improved law and order, and the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by over 30,000 diggers and was brought down to Melbourne and presented to Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe himself.
But after many complaints about the license issues, the troubles continued. Into 1854, the government increased license hunts to twice a week. Bendigo diggers responded with threats of armed rebellion.
Tensions came to a head when around midnight of October 6 drunken Scottish digger, James Scobie, was bashed to death at the nearby Bentley Hotel by the hotel keeper James Bentley and his two employees. A quick inquest the next day by Police Magistrate John Dewes, found insufficient evidence to try James Bentley.
But the diggers were incensed. It was local knowledge that there was a nefarious association between Bentley and Dewes. Dewes had a financial association with Bentley had ensured that Bentley obtained the liquor licence for the Eureka Hotel without the usual red tape. Dewes was known to be corrupt.
Dewes, to get his mate Bentley off the hook for murder, displayed a biased attitude throughout the inquest. It was this corruptible and autocratic manner in which the authorities dealt with dispatching justice in the goldfields that began a chain of events culminating in the Eureka Stockade.
The diggers accused the government of letting James Bentley off with murder.
Angry protests by the diggers also erupted when troopers arrested Johann Gregorious, a disabled man-servant of the local priest for not holding a gold license, even though the servant was not a digger. After the charge was dropped, Gregorious was charged by the troopers with a trumped-up assault charge.
On October 15, a meeting of diggers resolved to petition the Governor for a retrial of Johann Gregorious and to remove the Gold Fields Commissioner Robert Rede from Ballaarat. The English colonial authority ignored the diggers’ pleas.
Two days later, on October 17, an indignation meeting was held close to the spot where Scobie was killed. At this meeting a committee was appointed, of which Irish activist Peter Fintan Lalor was one.
A mob of angry diggers massed in the streets around the around Bentley’s hotel protesting Bentley’s acquittal by a corrupt magistrate. The angry diggers wanted justice for the Scobie’s murder.
A youth threw a stone at the lamp in front of the building, breaking the glass. That act of violence, was the spark. With cries of “Down with the house” and “Burn it.”, the angry mob stormed the hotel and set fire to it. The angry mob rioted and burnt down Bentley’s Hotel. A small group of soldiers were unable to suppress the riot.
Not coincidentally, £15,000 was stolen in a bank robbery of the Bank of Victoria on nearby Bakery Hill the following week. Perhaps this made Bakery Hill infamous against authority.
Due to the deteriorating civil order on the goldfields, military reinforcements were dispatched from Melbourne. Arrests were made of three diggers who were accused of burning down the hotel. Bentley was charged with murdering Scobie and was eventually sentenced for manslaughter.
On Saturday, 11 November 1854 a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 diggers gathered at Bakery Hill, directly opposite the government encampment. They agreed to form the Ballarat Reform League. Many of the leaders had links with the rebellious Chartist movement in Britain in the 1840s. They elected a seven man committee to represent them in their negotiations with the government over Bentley and the licensing fees. Effectively the league was a political arm of an ensuing rebellion.
The League passed resolutions affirming the right of the people to full representation, manhood suffrage, the abolition of the property qualification for members, payment of members, short Parliaments, and the abolition of the Gold Commission and abolition of the diggers’ licenses.
In setting its goals, the Ballarat Reform League used the British Chartist movement’s principles. The meeting passed a resolution “that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny”.
The meeting also resolved to secede from the United Kingdom if the situation did not improve.
However, Commissioner Rede, rather than hear diggers’ grievances, increased the police presence in the gold fields and summoned reinforcements from Melbourne.
On November 28, the reinforcements marching from Melbourne were attacked by a crowd of armed diggers.
The following day, November 29, at Bakery Hill a meeting took place of more than 10,000 ‘diggers’ who heard from Peter Lalor of the Ballaarat Reform League delegation that negotiation with Governor Rede had failed. This is said to be the first public meeting that Peter Lalor addressed.
One of the resolutions passed at the meeting declared the license fee to be an unjustifiable imposition.
A new “insurgent flag ” (The Eureka Flag) was hoisted on the platform. It represented the Southern Cross constellation. A bonfire was soon kindled and the licences burnt. At this meeting, the rebellion was formally inaugurated
At Bakery Hill on November 29 Captain Henry Ross unfurled the blue and white Southern Cross Flag for the first time, symbolically as an Australian flag of independence from England. Ross was a Canadian gold miner who had commissioned the design and fabrication of the original Eureka Flag.
Captain Ross led a march from Bakery Hill to Eureka Stockade, behind him followed about 1,000 diggers, some armed with rifles, many only armed with picks and shovels. Captain Ross was given the command of a division of diggers by a meeting of the 7 captains of the rebellion who met at Eureka that afternoon to organise the defence of Eureka.
Later that afternoon Captain Ross raised the flag on the temporary flagpole that had been erected at Bakery Hill. Sword in hand, his division gathered at the foot of the flagstaff, the sun going down behind them. Peter Lalor jumped onto a stump and asked those around him to take an oath to the Southern Cross. He pointed his right hand towards the Southern Cross and delivered the Diggers’ Oath:
“We swear by the southern cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties. Amen!”
The Eureka Flag known became known as the “digger’s flag” and also as “the Southern Cross flag”. Diggers congregated around the Eureka Flag flagstaff and gold licences were publicly burned in protest against the English colonial authority.
That day Commissioner Rede ordered a license hunt, but many diggers refused to show their license and threw rocks at the troopers. The troopers responded firing shots over the heads of the diggers and called in military support. Eight defaulters were arrested.
On December 1, again at Bakery Hill, diggers elected a small militant group to lead them into their fight. Lalor becomes their leader and immediately called for volunteers to form a militia.
Lalor rallied hundreds of volunteer diggers into a military structure – into brigades with appointed captains, including Captain Henry Ross.
English Governor Rede read out the riot act from the military encampment close by.
The Eureka Stockade
On December 2, 1854, Peter Lalor ordered the seven captains of the diggers’ militia to construct a defensive stockade (barricade) at a site on the goldfields over the Eureka Lead itself. It was to serve as a symbolic fort for the diggers’ defence.
The stockade itself was ramshackle and hastily constructed over two days using available materials – basically mining timbers and overturned carts forming a defensive circle. The structure was never meant to be a military stockade or fortress.
In the words of Lalor: “it was nothing more than an enclosure to keep our own men together, and was never erected with an eye to military defence”. Lalor had already outlined a plan whereby, “if the government forces come to attack us, we should meet them on the Gravel Pits, and if compelled, we should retreat by the heights to the old Canadian Gully, and there we shall make our final stand”.
Lalor called for an arsenal of muskets, pistols and any other weapons the diggers could muster. At one stage 1,500 of 17,280 men in Ballaarat were involved.
Being lay miners scraping to make ends meet in a tent camp set up in a remote goldfield, the rebel diggers were poorly resourced and untrained for such a battle against the larger and superior English military. It was always going to be a token last ditch stand against the arrogant Governor’s abuse of his authority over impoverished but citizen diggers.
By the beginning of December, the police contingent at Ballaarat had been joined and surpassed in number by soldiers from British Army garrisons in Victoria, including detachments from the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot and 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot.
Once the Stockade was completed, the rebel digger assembled inside. Lalor asked them to swear the Eureka Oath under The Eureka Flag.
During 2 December, the peak rebel force trained in and around the stockade. A further two hundred Americans, the Independent Californian Rangers, under the leadership of James McGill, arrived about 4pm. The Americans were armed with revolvers and Mexican knives and possessed horses.
In a fateful decision, McGill decided to take most of the Californian Rangers away from the stockade to intercept rumoured British reinforcements coming from Melbourne.
On the Saturday night before Sunday the Sabbath, many diggers left the stockade for their own tents after the traditional Saturday night carousing, with the assumption that the Queen’s military forces would not be sent to attack on the Sabbath (Sunday).
Neither food nor ammunition was available within the stockade, so that by the evening of the 2nd after a very hot day, only about 150 remained within. Of them only 50 diggers had rifles; there was also a troop of Californian diggers armed with revolvers and another of Irishmen with pikes.
Governor Rede’s spies observed this and reported back.
The Battle of Eureka Stockade
The Battle of the Eureka Stockade, by which the rebellion is popularly known, was fought between the diggers and the English forces in a surprise attack by the English military from 3am on Sunday the Sabbath December 3, 1854.
At 3 am on Sunday, 3 December, a party of 276 soldiers and troopers under the command of Captain John W. Thomas approached the Eureka Stockade silently and took up their positions. Many were mounted on horseback.
There is no agreement as to which side fired first. Arguably it was the English military signal gun that was first fired. Many of the diggers were asleep when the first storming party of 64 ‘rushed’ the stockade.
In the first volleys several men fell on both sides, but the line of advancing bayonets, flanked on both sides by cavalry and mounted police, was too much for the diggers. The battle was fierce, brief, and terribly one-sided.
Early in the battle ‘Captain’ Henry Ross was shot dead. He was targeted under instructions from the Governor. The ramshackle army of diggers was hopelessly outclassed by a military regiment and was routed in about twenty minutes.
During the height of the battle, Lalor was shot in his left arm, took refuge under some timber and was smuggled out of the stockade and hidden. His arm was later amputated.
Stories tell how women ran forward and threw themselves over the injured to prevent further indiscriminate killing. The Commission of Inquiry would later say that it was “a needless as well as a ruthless sacrifice of human life indiscriminate of innocent or guilty, and after all resistance had disappeared”.
Twenty two diggers were killed and five soldiers. According to Lalor’s report, fourteen diggers (mostly Irish) died inside the stockade and an additional eight died later from injuries they sustained. A further dozen were wounded but recovered. At least one woman lost her life in the attack.
Three months after the Eureka Stockade, Peter Lalor wrote:
“As the inhuman brutalities practised by the troops are so well-known, it is unnecessary for me to repeat them. There were 34 digger casualties of which 22 died. The unusual proportion of the killed to the wounded, is owing to the butchery of the military and troopers after the surrender.”
One hundred and fourteen diggers, some wounded, were marched off to the Government camp about 2km away, where they were kept in an overcrowded lock-up, before being moved to a more spacious barn on Monday morning.
Martial law was imposed, and all armed resistance collapsed. News of the battle spread quickly to Melbourne and other gold field regions, turning a perceived Government military victory in repressing a minor insurrection into a public relations disaster.
Thousands of people in Melbourne turned out to condemn the authorities, in defiance of their mayor and some Legislative Councillors, who tried to rally support for the government. Many people voiced their support for the diggers’ requested reforms.
Although Lalor’s diggers lost the battle, they eventually got the reforms they fought for. Miners were given licences for one pound a year. They were also given the right to vote, and finally diggers who were in prison for treason were freed.
The diggers also helped introduce reforms in government. Because so many were from Europe or America, where conditions were better, they refused to live in a post convict society where Government was by the dictatorship of a British Governor. The diggers helped native-born Australians along the road to democratic reforms.
There is so much more that the diggers did for ordinary Australians. Even though they didn’t own land or come from high society, they changed so much for us for the better.
Australia’s 1854 Birth of Democracy
There are many elements to the legend of Eureka: a struggle for democratic representation, a fight against arbitrary laws and injustice, an early thought of an independent Australia, a fight against alien immigration, a statement by men who made their own living by honest labour for proper return on their work, the strident articulation of a newly forming national identity.
Many Australians with divergent political views have pointed to Eureka as a symbolic moment in the Nation’s story. That shows its power in the folk memory.
Today, Eureka Stockade has a special place for those who stand up for a people’s Australia against the globalist ethos which would wipe the Continent of the nation, replacing it with a workhouse owned by foreign powers and populated from the Third World and serviced by labour armies of veritable slaves.
Eureka Stockade is certainly celebrated by Australia First as a symbol of resistance against the alien future our leaders are mapping out for us. The sacrifice of the heroic dead of Eureka remind us that our own identity, independence and freedom are matters sacrifice.
Our party also inherits the efforts of earlier nationalists from the 1970’s who deliberately took up the Eureka Stockade Rebellion’s Flag of Stars or ‘Eureka Flag’ as the symbolic representation of their movement. They gave the Flag its true meaning. The Australia First Party today proudly flies the Eureka Flag as its party banner. In that way we consecrate the sacrifice of the heroes at Eureka Stockade and affirm the Diggers’ Oath.
The diggers’ “rebellion” on the Ballaarat gold fields of 1854 left the Nation a powerful legacy seeding the Australian identity and a symbol of patriotic struggle bathed in blood.
The Eureka Stockade incident and its Southern Cross Flag were elements in the nineteenth century fight to define who the Australians were in the then environment of imperial control of the continent.
Eureka was not a fight on a foreign battlefield; it was a fight on our own soil for freedom and independence. In this new century, these aspects of our national spirit still offer a beacon.
Today, the freedoms won by past struggles – from our working conditions, to our culture,
heritage and European derived identity – all the values that make for our Australian way of
life – are being undermined by authoritarian internationalist forces in the service of Global
Capitalism. These forces organise against our Nation and People in the same way the
Colonial Authority organised against the working people of Ballaarat in 1854.
Yet a rebellious spirit is on the march in Australia today as Australians mobilise to reclaim
their national future.
Australia’s national celebration of Eureka
The men of Eureka were not a riotous mob, but had formed the Ballaarat Reform League on 11th November 1854, which submitted their complaints to authority in an orderly fashion through democratically decided resolutions, appeals and formal deputations.
The diggers’ grievances related to restrictive license fees, and the police methods of enforcing the licence system. They were also disturbed by the presence of Chinese “coolie labour”; wanted access to land, and sought the vote and representation in government. But in the face of an authoritarian administration serving colonial interests, they were driven to militant means to attain their rights as free men.
The incident was not a class type struggle as between capital and labour. It was a struggle for freedom and independence of all – tradesmen, labourers, storekeepers, other business people, civil servants, squatters, teachers, etc, all united in the search for gold, and the future they sought.
This was the first time on our continent that men from the old nations of Europe joined
together with an Australian mindset and under a uniquely Australian flag. This is the reality as understood from our history – in stark contrast to the lying propaganda of Traitor Class internationalists and Australia-hating multicultists.
In confirmation of solidarity, hundreds of the diggers swore an oath: “We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by one another and to fight to defend our rights and liberties”.
The stockaders and bystanders continuing to be brutalised after surrender. Our Cross of the South was trampled in the dirt of Bakery Hill.
But at the price of the diggers’ blood, although the true spirit of their demands was never
accepted, the reforms they sought later came to be implemented, and the incident passed
into our folklore tradition as “the finest thing in Australian history”.
Australia’s nativist movement, from the 1850’s onwards, celebrated the Eureka Stockade as an inspiration for the character and identity of Australians – European, democratic, independent, mateship, disliking of authority, determination, just returns from labour.
The Eureka Flag or Southern Cross Flag was subsequently taken up in the quest for independence and freedom from colonialism in the struggle to build “the Great Southern Nation”.
In our history it has been acclaimed as “the Australian flag”, “the safeguard of Australian nationality”, “the symbol of Australian liberty and unity”, and “the emblem of White Australia”.
A Eureka-like flag was carried in the 1861 incident at Lambing Flat [Young, NSW] when gold diggers rose against “the Chinese plague”. The diggers drew up what they assumed was the Eureka Flag, albeit a variation applicable to their localised cause.
Again in 1878 the Eureka Flag was raised during the Sydney maritime strike against Chinese labour.
In 1891 the shearers of Queensland flew the “flag of blue and silver stars” in their fight against poverty by an overseas-induced depression, taking to arms to defend their cause.
In these new times this Southern Cross Flag remains above all, an Australia First flag, to be raised high in our struggle for the survival of our Australian national identity and culture.
And it is being raised in the struggle to eject from political power the Traitor Class of liberal cosmopolitan internationalists with their globalist doctrines of foreign dictates and financial control, multiculturalism and alien mass immigration, doctrines that compromise a future for our Australian nationality.
The Eureka Flag reflects the spirit of Australians still – freedom, identity, democracy, independence – the same values advanced by Australia First.
On the commemoration of Eureka, Native Australians can proudly reflect not only on the sacrifices of the stockaders, but also the achievements of all our pioneering and settling peoples who have built, advanced, and defended our European civilisation.
Australia First charges all patriotic Australians not only to commemorate the day with pride, but to rally to the continuing struggle to achieve true political, economic, and cultural independence for the Australian People.
Eureka Stockade Anniversary
A Celebration of Australia’s Cultural Heritage
On this day Australia First commemorates the diggers of Ballarat and their sacrifice in
making a stand for democracy and justice against an old order of patronage and privilege.