The Eureka Stockade

The Eureka Stockade “The Eureka Stockade was the culmination of hostilities and frustration on the Australian Goldfields in 1854”. The Colonial Australian society of the 1850’s was the beginning of a new start for many settlers and immigrants; when Gold was discovered in 1851. With the word “Gold” in Australia, ex-convicts, European settlers and Chinese immigrants came to seek riches on the gold fields. The hostilities grew between police officers, diggers. Frustration grew once more when in August 1851 a licence to dig gold was issued.

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The licence was made of paper and very fragile and was easy to wreck. Europeans became jealous of the progress of the Chinese and were annoyed with their language and decided to act. Ex-convicts becoming Police officers treating the diggers crudely. The “Eureka Stockade” was the digger’s rebellion against the gold licence and wrongfully accused. August 1851 an official Gold licence was issued out to all Gold diggers whether they had or had not found gold. The licence cost 30 shillings each month, two years later in 1853 the cost was reduced to pounds every three months.

Unsuccessful diggers could not afford the licence and made claims that the system was unfair. Gold diggers found without a licence where often chased by police captured and fined five pounds, half of the fine going back to the police. Keeping the gold licences in good condition was quite difficult. Gold diggers had to have them at all times. The licence was made out of paper, with diggers taking to everywhere down shafts, showing the police officers and the occasional splash of water on it would eventually wear it away or rip; diggers would have to buy another licence in order not to be found and captured.

In August 1854 Sir Charles Hotham the newly elected Governor discovered that in 30,000 thousand digger were not paying licence tax and ordered for more frequent licence checks in the gold fields. Colonial Australia of the 1850’s on the gold fields was frustrating. Europeans reactions towards the Chinese were antagonistic. The Chinese immigrants spoke different language to the Europeans and their dress style was different; with wide brim hats, loose clothing and a long plait. The Chinese stuck together during this time and started their restaurants serving rice, beans, fish, and cabbage.

In retaliation to this the Europeans were annoyed by the progress being made by the Chinese and resorted to violence. In 1857 a meeting was held on July 4th to forward a motion for the Chinese to be ejected without pointless violence. About a hundred armed men drove the Chinese off the Gold fields. Camp sites were destroyed, robberies happening and in the midst of all this seven Chinese were killed. Europeans who tried to help the Chinese were beaten fiercely. A majority of the police officers were crude and brutal due to the fact that they were ex-convicts and treated miners harshly.

The ex-convict police would often randomly raid the diggers searching for licences. Some police officers like to wreak havoc and make life hard for diggers; not all police were ex-convicts some were good, honest men who tried to hold up the law justly. The cause of the “Eureka Stockade” or the final breaking point for the diggers occurred in 1854 October 8; where James Scobie a well-known digger was murdered near the Eureka hotel. James Scobie was had argued with the hotel owner James Bentley to whom was an ex-convict.

James Bentley was tried and was convicted not guilty, it is written that one of the three member court was friend of James Bentley known as John D’Ewes. The diggers were furious, tensions had built up and the hotel was burned to the ground. November 30th the police were checking for licences the weather was unbearable, stones were thrown, shots were fired, protesters burning licences and diggers swearing allegiance to a republican flag known today as the “Southern Cross”. After three days Rede attacked the diggers around their barricades.

The Eureka stockade was only a small mile stone in the fight fir gold diggers. Although many of their aspirations were achieved; in 1855 the gold licence was replaced by a “Miners right” costing one pound per year. The miner’s right also allowed them the right to vote. Summarising European settlers and immigrants were mistreated by the standing government and each other. The gold was taken way out of proportion and the Eureka stockade achieved a lot for the gold diggers and set new heights in Australian history.


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