« EelmineJätka »
I have no reason to believe that any class of the numerous bodies of foreigners, who have hitherto intermingled freely with the mining population, are otherwise minded. I have never intimated distrust in them, and have always evinced a disposition to treat all, as long as they conducted themselves in accordance with the laws to which they had made themselves subject, with perfect impartiality. And here I may state that I am represented in the published report above alluded to, to have stated that, “if I found that the Petition laid before me was signed by Germans and aliens, it would militate against its force with me;" this does not convey the truth. What I said was in reply to an insinuation from one of the deputation, that invidious acts of the Government agents were calculated to excite discontent among the foreigners. I expressed my doubt if that were the case, and I observed that from the first, the Government of this Colony had placed the foreigners upon precisely the same footing as the native born subjects of Her Majesty; and that viewing this undoubted fact, and (in the case of the numerous Germans particularly), contrasting the perfect personal liberty which all enjoyed here with the political restraints of the countries from which they had emigrated, I should be surprised to find any large number of signatures of those classes attached to any document expressing discontent.
13. Adverting to the general statements made in the preamble to the Petition, not hitherto touched upon, I have to make the following remarks:-On referring to the Chief Gold Commissioner, as to the observations in the third paragraph, I have ascertained that, while it may be admitted that instances of extraordinary individual success may not be so frequent as in the earlier workings of the Gold Field, there are reasons to be adduced why this may be the case.
The great energy shown by the first miners is not now so frequently exhibited, nor is the same opportunity, perhaps, afforded; for now, whenever a spot of extraordinary richness is found, there are at all times numbers ready at hand to set in and fully occupy the whole ground, so that of late no single party could hope to open many claims upon it. To bear out the assertion, that the Gold Fields are failing and the people proportionately impoverished, reference is made to the quantity of gold brought down being less in proportion to the numbers engaged on the Gold Fields than was the case formerly. But this is not a fair criterion to go by, inasmuch as the number of actual miners does not bear the same proportion to the population that it did some months ago. A far larger number being now engaged otherwise than in mining; a far larger proportion of females and children are now on the ground; and it is probable, that full one-third of the whole adult male population is occupied in other pursuits.
14. With regard to the general allegations made against the Police, and other authorities on the ground, I can only repeat, as I have done on former occasions when appealed to, that I have been most anxious that the administration of the law, and the necessary control over the Gold Fields for the public security, should be carried on without undue severity, or reasonable cause of complaint.
The injustice of general and sweeping charges is evident, and their inutility equally so. Causes of complaint in particular cases may arise, but in no instance whatever has an appeal been made to me in a form which would admit of enquiry, but every attention has been paid to it, and in no single instance, where misconduct has been proved, has the offence been passed over.
15. With regard to the broad assertion, that unlicensed miners have been chained to trees, and condemned to hard labour on the public roads of the Colony, I am satisfied by the result of the enquiry I have made, that the statement will not stand the test of investigation.
If it be shown, that any unlicensed miner has been so treated, it will be found that he has not been in custody solely for unlicensed mining, but on some more serious charge; and that in the absence of a proper lock-up on the first occupation of a new field, it has been necessary to secure his person in the only manner which was at hand.
I am assured that no such illegal sentence has been passed, still less carried out, as that of condemning the non-possessors of licenses to hard labour on the public roads. But in many cases it is known, that individuals who have been sentenced to imprisonment, in default of payment of a fine for working without a license, have been permitted at their own request, and as an indulgence, to earn the amount of the fines inflicted by labouring on the camp works; and for every day so employed, the fullest amount of wages has been allowed, according to the rates given at the camp.
16. The deputation stated to me, that hundreds of instances could be cited, to prove the general assertion, of a disposition on the part of the officials to act despotically and to exercise cruelty. These I requested might be formally brought under my notice. This has not been done up to the present date.
But as they have since given publicity to certain of them, with sufficient clearness to allow them to be identified, I have been enabled at once to inquire into the fact.
In Simpson's case I am informed that the defendant was fined under the Act for the prevention of Obscene Language, after most aggravating conduct on his part towards the constabulary, and that he did not attempt to deny the charge.
The case of the Blacksmith, who is represented as rescued from the Police, has also been enquired into. It is found that he never was legally in custody, and it might have been well to mention, that the authorities of Bendigo had already, long before the representations thus made public, dismissed the Sergeant for exceeding his authority.
When other similar cases come to be enquired into, I am justified in the belief, that in many of them it will be found that the whole truth has not been stated; but I would repeat, that in every instance in which investigation may be asked, it will be granted, with every disposition to discover the truth.
I believe that it is the wish of the officers entrusted with the government of the Gold Fields to act rightly, and repress and punish official misconduct amongst subordinates to the utmost. They can have, it must be recollected, no interests distinct from the general well-being of the community.
17. I would here take occasion to express my regret at seeing any attempt made to introduce distinctions between the mining and other classes of the colonists. There are few of the latter who, though not actually mining for gold, are not directly o indirectly connected with or dependent upon the prosperity of the former. There is a constant interchange of interests, and even of position, between the several classes; and far from magnifying one interest above another, as I have been represented to have done, I have never considered that the interests of any class were such as could not be reconciled with those of others; and as far as my ability and power went have sought to unite and harmonize all.
18. In conversation with the Deputation, I pointed to the measures of the Government as a proof of its due appreciation of the just claims of the mining class to attention and protection; and the members of the Deputation expressly admitted that such a disposition had been evinced.
The Deputation informed me that the sole object which they personally had in view in moving in the matter, was the Public Good. I differ from them, however, in their estimate of the means and machinery by which the public good and social prosperity are to be secured.
I am no enemy to free and honest discussion of any subject of public interest; am ready to give due consideration to any memorial addressed to me, whether signed by many or by few; but I do not think public advantage is to be promoted by loose and intemperate discussion of questions of importance, or by an agitation, which, however plausibly defended, may be shown to be, in sober fact, questionable or uncalled for; still less, by incitement to the adoption of a course of conduct on the part of any portion of the community, which must at once infuse doubt, and possible distress, amongst every class of individuals connected with the Gold Fields; interpose a check alike to our present public and private prosperity, and be hailed by the disorderly throughout the Colony as a special movement in their favour.
will not doubt but in the opinions here expressed, I shall be seconded by those of a very great majority of the licensed occupants of the Gold Districts; and I look to their principle and good sense, to yield that obedience to the laws of the country, and support to the authorities charged with administering them, which both may claim from all professing themselves loyal subjects.
C. J. LATROBE.
Enclosure 4 in No. 14.
COPY OF RESOLUTIONS passed at a Meeting of Gold Diggers, held at the Protestant
1st. Proposed by Dr. Owen.
"That this meeting of the citizens of Melbourne, convened by the Right Worshipful the Mayor, views with alarm and regret the fast spreading disaffection of the gold mining community towards the existing Government; and that it has been demonstrated to this meeting, that this disaffection is caused by the residents at the Gold Fields being denied their political and social rights."
2nd Proposed by Mr. Martin.
"That, seeing the paramount prosperity of the Colony is identified with the advancement of the interest of the gold mining population, this meeting pledges itself to assist the movement now being made to reduce the gold miner's License Tax, and to enfranchise the residents on the Gold Fields."
Encl. 4 in No. 14.
Encl. 5 in No. 14.
Encl. 6 in No. 14.
Encl. 7 in No. 14.
Enclosure 5 in No. 14.
COPY OF RESOLUTIONS arrived at, at a Meeting of Gold Miners held at Sandhurst (Bendigo), on the 20th August, with a view to the reduction of the License Fee.
Ist. "That the diggers should meet at the same place, on Saturday, the 27th instant, and then tender the authorities ten shillings as the License Fee, which, if they would not receive, they might adopt the alternative, and take them into custody; and that every man should write in large letters on his tent No License taken here.""
2nd. "That a selection from this committee form part of a deputation, with some volunteers from the meeting, not to exceed thirty, to wait upon the Commissioners and tender them the sum of ten shillings per man, in the name of the meeting."
Enclosure 6 in No. 14.
COPY OF A RESOLUTION passed at a Meeting of Gold Miners, held at Sandhurst (Bendigo), on the 27th August 1853.
Moved by Mr. Alfred Connor:
"That this meeting pledges itself on no account to compromise with the Government respecting the ten shilling License Fee; and likewise, that as a proof of every man adopting the resolution, he should wear in his hat a tuft of red cloth or ribbon."
The following Resolutions were read by a delegate from the Goulburn Diggings, where they had been unanimously adopted.
1st. "That in consequence of the diminished yield of gold, and the high price of provisions, the sum of ten shillings be offered as License Fee.'
2nd. "That, should this sum be refused, it is the determination of the diggers to pay no more, it having been already intimated to the Governor and Legislative Council, the reason this amount is considered sufficient."
3rd. It was also resolved, "that should the usual sum of thirty shillings be demanded, the diggers are determined not to comply, but surrender in a body, and abide the consequences attendant thereon."
4th. Also, "that should it come to the knowledge of the Committee that any of the diggers pay the sum of thirty shillings, such parties shall have twenty-four hours' notice to leave the diggings."
Enclosure 7 in No. 14.
Office of Chief Commissioner of Gold Fields,
IN consequence of the agitation which existed on the Gold Fields, I considered it desirable to proceed to Castlemaine and Sandhurst, and ascertain as far as possible the state of feeling among the miners and residents there.
2. I arrived at Castlemaine on the 19th ultimo, where I found meetings had been recently held, not, however, for the sole purpose of discussing the question of License Fees, but convened by Mr. Jackson, and sundry persons (who had made themselves conspicuous in the case of McMahon and others), to endeavour to justify their own proceedings to the public; at these meetings mention was made of the License Fee, but the allusions to it were casual, and no general disposition prevailed against it.
3. General good order pervaded this Gold Field, and I found several works on the roads and bridges either completed or in progress to a large extent, which would not have been called for, except for the benefit of the population of the Gold Fields.
4. As evidence that the people are disposed to support the authorities and to repress disorder, I may report that on the Saturday previous to my arrival, a person had galloped through Castlemaine, stating that he had left Bendigo after witnessing a tumult in which a gold commissioner and some police had been killed, and the Government camp taken possession of by a mob. A number of persons immediately waited on the resident Commissioner and requested that he would enroll them as special constables, and take measures to secure that Gold Field from any such scene as had been reported to have occurred at Bendigo, assuring him of their readiness to act as he might think proper to direct. Captain Bull, believing that it would tend to create alarm if measures were taken on such doubtful authority, mounted his horse and tracked the author of the report, whom he found at Campbell's Creek, and who on being questioned acknowledged the report to be utterly unfounded, and wantonly put forth by him. I can only regret that there were no means of punishing this individual.
5. From Castlemaine I proceeded to Sandhurst on the 21st, and found the same degree of good order apparent. The senior Assistant Commissioner in charge acquainted me, that meetings convened by Dr. Jones, a Captain Brown, and Mr. Thompson, had been held at various parts of this Gold Field; that they had been numerously attended; and the principal question under discussion was the reduction of the License Fee. He had himself, in company with Mr. Assistant Commissioner Dowling, been present for
a short time at the meeting held on the previous Saturday at View Point. He stated the number of people present at two thousand, whose conduct was very orderly. No strong arguments were advanced in his hearing on the subject of reducing the License Fee; one speaker stating his sole object in agitating the question was to save himself twenty shillings per month.
6. The question which the conveners of these meetings proposed should be discussed, namely, a reduction in the sum to be paid for the privileges granted to the holders of a license, was of course one in which every resident of the Gold Fields took an interest, and it is not surprising that numbers were thus drawn together, but it by no means follows, that all who attended these meetings were opposed to the present amount of the License Fee; and from the reports of the officers on the Gold Fields, and the result of my own inquiries, I do not believe the majority of residents coincide with the views of Messrs. Jones, Brown, and Thompson. Even on the Gold Fields, these persons have in some instances signally failed to disturb the public on the subject.
At Castlemaine they called a meeting, which was but thinly attended, and the points hardly listened to. At Barker's Creek, where a good many persons are residing, they could obtain no hearing; this I mention on the authority of the police ordered to watch the proceedings.
7. I proceeded to McIvor on the 23rd July, and found that the people were apparently but little disposed to excitement as respects the License Fee, or general government of the Gold Fields. A meeting had been held, at which Captain Harrison proceeded to harangue the people, but was very soon almost left alone.
At the time of my visit, the minds of the multitude were chiefly absorbed with the attack on the private escort, which had occurred three days previous to my visit.
And I believe the public fully appreciated the activity displayed by the gold commissioners and the police in pursuit of the robbers. I think Mr. Jones and other delegates would have found few supporters in this place.
8. I had hoped by visiting the Gold Fields to have personally met Messrs. Jones, Brown, and Thompson, and to have learned what their position was amongst the people. But I did not see any of those persons, nor could I obtain positive information as to their character and pursuits. I have been informed, however, that Messrs. Thompson and Brown kept stores at the White Hills at Sandhurst.
9. Having obtained a copy of the petition prepared for presentation to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, I beg leave to add the following remarks upon the same.
With reference to paragraph 3, it must be admitted that instances of extraordinary individual success are not so frequent now as in the earlier workings of the Gold Fields, but the energy displayed by the first miners is not now so much exhibited. Again, if a spot is found of remarkable richness, there are at all times numbers ready at hand to set into and fully occupy the whole locality, so that no one party can in these times sink many claims upon it.
To corroborate the assertions, that the Gold Fields are failing and the people proportionably impoverished, reference is constantly made to the quantity of gold brought down being less in proportion than formerly to the number of persons engaged on the Gold Fields. But this is not a strict criterion to go by, inasmuch as the number of actual miners does not bear the same proportion to the total amount of population that it did some months ago. At that time, nine-tenths of the population were actually mining. Now trades and other pursuits occupy, perhaps, one-third of the whole adult male population.
In reference to the 4th paragraph, I have to state that the licensing tents are pitched at each Commissioner's camp, and if any gathering of the miners takes place at any distance from each camp, tents are pitched for the special purpose of issuing licenses, or a Commissioner gives notice, that he will be at a store or other convenient place to issue licenses to the people in the neighbourhood. Besides this, it is well known that one man attends at the licensing tent to obtain licenses for twenty others, or more perhaps, so that personal application is not necessary.
With regard to paragraph 8, directions have been given that the collection of the License Fee, or rather the search for unlicensed diggers, shall be conducted with as little display of force as possible.
That the custom of sending out the police armed ever did prevail, arose from the prevalence of fire-arms being carried by the miners themselves.
With reference to paragraph 9, the complaint that unlicensed miners have been chained to trees and condemned to hard labour on the public roads of the Colony, I believe I am warranted in stating, that if any unlicensed miner has been so secured, he has not been in custuly solely for unlicensed mining, but on some more serious charge, and in the absence of a lock-up house it has been necessary to handcuff prisoners to a chain, the end of which has been fastened to a ring-bolt in a tree or post standing in or near a tent used as a lock-up. No such illegal sentence has been passed, much less carried out, as condemning the non-possessors of licenses to hard labour on the public roads; but in many cases, where prisoners have been sentenced to imprisonment in default of payment
Encl. 8 in No. 14.
of fine for working without a license, the delinquents have been permitted, at their own
As to the prayer of the petitioners that the License Fee be reduced, I am of opinion
To the issue of a monthly or quarterly license, at the option of the applicant, as far as the Government is concerned I can discover no great objection; but as licenses are frequently lost, and when, according to the present system, the loser has had to take out another, great demur has been shown in paying a second fee of thirty shillings. The loss of a quarterly license or four pounds ten shillings would be harder still; but if this (replacing the license) were not strictly enforced, and the granting of certificates to the losers real or supposed, were authorised to be granted to secure them from molestation, a door would thus be opened for an extremely large amount of fraud.
As to any exemption from license being allowed to newly arrived persons, I conceive it would not be expedient to grant it. With reference to the reduction of the penalty, it is not, I must observe, imperative on the magistrate under the present Act to inflict a fine of five pounds for unlicensed mining, a penalty of one shilling may be awarded, and the petitioners can hardly deny that deliberate evasions of the payment of the License Fee are common, and for which the fine of five pounds is not too much.
With reference to the petition, that registration at the Commissioner's be a passport to strangers and invalids, the same objection would exist against this arrangement, as to that of certifying to the loss of a license. No invalid would be dragged out of his bed to the police court for being unlicensed, and the certificate or affidavit of any respectable medical man would be taken most completely by the magistrate as a sufficient reason for withholding judgment or not inflicting any penalty.
In conclusion I have only to mention, that statements have been put forth by the petitioners which would not stand the test of truth if submitted to the slightest examination. I am satisfied that no instances of oppression, or even of official mismanagement, have been exhibited, without the offending parties having been brought under censure or punished by removal from office, and reparation made for any injury occasioned by official neglect or misconduct. Disappointment naturally produces discontent in the mass, and were not a livelihood to be procured with a comparative degree of easiness, there is no doubt that no public measures would annihilate a spirit of complaint or dissatisfaction. No stronger proof of the general prosperity and richness of the Gold Fields can be adduced, than by referring to the fact, that so much contentment, and so little distress prevails among a multitude, of whom the previous life and experience of great numbers would seem to render them wholly unfit to encounter the hardships, or undergo the labour, incident to the rough career on which they had in many cases staked their fortune.
The Hon. the Colonial Secretary.
I have, &c.
Chief Commissioner of the Gold Fields.
Enclosure 8 in No. 14.
Resident Commissioner's Office, Sandhurst,
In the forenoon parties of miners assembled to the north of this station, and passed in procession with banners and one or two musicians; when immediately opposite the camp a few shouts and cheers were given, and several pistols, perhaps fifty or sixty, discharged in the air; about two thousand persons formed the procession.
Shortly after the assembly of the people at View Point, Messrs. Thompson and Brown, with a third person, came to the License Office as delegates from the meeting, accompanied by a small body of miners, it is said thirty, and stated that in accordance with the resolutions previously carried, they came to tender ten shillings for their licenses. I was present at the office to receive these persons, to whom I returned the only reply it was in my power to give; and after some conversation on various questions which have been agitated here they retired to rejoin the main body of the meeting, who had been requested by the leaders of the meeting not to approach within the camp fence, which injunction they observed.
The usual speeches prevailed at the meeting, which was besides addressed by Mr. Emmett, and although the previous speaker (Dr. Owens) had deprecated that gentleman's appointment as a nominee member of the Legislative Council, he was listened to without interruption, or any sign of disapprobation.