Archibald Forbes

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“An Old Digger” (remarks the Australasian) gives his recollections of the fight at the Eureka Stockade, with the view of correcting the errors of Mr Archibald Forbes, who has written a magazine article on the subject, under the title of “ A Forgotten Rebellion.” The old digger who corrects Mr Forbes errs in the opposite direction, trying to belittle a rising that was of historical value, and dismissing it as the work of “ Tips,” Vandemonians, and vagabonds. “ Tips” was a short name for Tipperary boys. Had the influence which produced the Eureka riot been of purely local origin there would have been no stockade building, no drilling, and no fight. It was the outcome of discontent that prevailed throughout the goldfields, and the Ballarat rioters had behind them the sympathy and support, whatever might be its moral value, of thousands of diggers. The rising was a mad one, and we have no intention of praising it, but there was excuse for It. It occurred during times when we were under a form of government that the people were disgusted with, and the ruling authorities were quite incapable of dealing with a state of things and a time of universal excitement which was past understanding, which took them by surprise, and came altogether against their will. They would rather not have had the great gold rush. They tried to govern the digging population like grandchildren. In regard to the mining licenses, the great cause of irritation was the practice of coming suddenly upon the digger and demanding his papers, and if he had not them in his pocket he was marched off to the logs. No men in these days would stand the exasperating trials the diggers were subjected to for their supposed good. And while the authorities were keen in the chase after miners without licenses they had not always time for checking real crime. Where the old digger describes the things he saw his testimony is valuable, but judgment is prejudiced and his conclusions narrow. For instance, it is interesting to hear how the lemonade seller mounted the stockade and cheered on the rioters, but nonsense to credit him with being the real leader. The real leaders were men like Peter Lalor and Raffaello, afterwards a general under Garibaldi. The reference to the reported schemes for making Victoria a Papal republic is ridiculous, Mr Lalor was never a docile son of the church; no doubt the riff raff element was strongly represented in the rank and file, but it was not a rising of blackguards, and Mr Lalor was no demagogue, as was shown by his subsequent Parliamentary career, which (except during the Berry regime) was for the most part that of a constitutionalist. Neither was there any identity between the conduct of the Ballarat rioters and the policy and practice of the ’Clan-na-Gael or the modern dynamiters. The Ballarat rioters came into the open, and faced the risk like men; they did not plot in dark caverns or send out sneaks to drop an explosive and run, care less how many innocent lives they took.. The Ballarat rioters may have been mad and brutal, but they were not miscreants or cowards, and the “ explanation” the old digger got from the pioneer as to how the verdict of not guilty was arrived at is an answer in itself to all the arguments in his article, viz., that it was a protest against wretched governing.[1]

By An Old Digger
I have just read Archibald Forbe's de-scriptin of the Eureka Stockade outbreak, Under the title of " A Forgotten Rebellion," which is auch a mixture of truth and error that I am induced to set down my recollec-tions of those transactions of which I was an eyewitness.
The very name "A Forgotten Rebellion is a misnomer, as it is frequently alluded to in Australian literature as the conflict in which Victorian liberties were won ; an honourable distinction to which it is no more entitled than are the raids of the Kellygang.
One of the errors into which Mr. Forbes has fallen through misleading information is, that Governor Hotham had concentrated 450 regular soldiers and armed police at Ballarat specially to enforce the collection of the license tax, and generally to maintain, a military despotism. As a matter of fact, not only had the police to carry arms, but thousands of the diggers also did so, in order to keep the lawless desperatoes in check, who would otherwise have converted the colony into a veritable pandemonium ; and the military were required in the principal centres to stiffen the imperfectly organised police. Indeed, a number of the best men were selected from the 40th regiment and employed as mounted police. These were known as the Mounted Fortieth, a detachment of whom fought at the Eureka.
However, to give a proper idea, of the causes that led to the Ballarat outbreak it is necessary to go back a bit further.
The Eureka lead is the northern one of the head branches of the great underground golden river that has made Ballarat so famous. The southern one, which com-mences in One Eye Gully, in the drection of Buninyong, receives the New Chum, Sailor's, Prince Regent, Canadian, and Red Hill leads, and junctions with the Eureka at the Old Gumtree Flat, betwixt Specimen Hill and the Red Streak.
The latter line was the great channel of intercourse with Geelong by which all busi-ness was transacted, and consequently re-ceived a greater share of official and police attention than the Eureka, which, issuing from, the Little Bendigo Ranges, crossed a branch of the Melbourne-road via Warrenheip-very little used-and then continued on through the bush across the upppr part of Specimen Gulley to the Knotty Gumtree, near where the Stockade was pitched, and where the lead come in contact with another branch of the Melbourne-road.
The Eureka line was, thus more sequestered than the Canadian line, which, perhaps, was the reason why it was selected by the Tips, or rowdy Irish, as their headquarters. How-ever that may be, there they settled, and stuck to the lead whether rich or poor. When it was poor they had it almost to themselves, and then woe betide the wight whose interests clashed with theirs ; his were the tender mercies of the shillalah. When the lead was rich and a rush on, then a mob might be raised to keep them in check.
The principal cause of disputes was their propensity for jumping claims. There were two stages in the tenure of a claim. The first was the shepherding stage, in which one man could hold a claim by attending at a certain hour in the morning, and remaining in the shallow hole in the centre a definite period every day. If he failed in this duty his claim was jummpable. The second stage was the active working. When the course of the lead was so well defined that the claim would appear to be on it the shepherd could sell shares and form a party to work it. But in any case if neglected for a day it could be jumped.
A frequent practice of the Tips was to come before the proper hour in the morning, and, taking possession of the hole, keep the shepherd out of it by main force until the commissioner arrived, when they. would stick at nothing to deprive him of his title. Even if the commissioner discredited their evidence and confirmed the shepherd in his claim he was not safe. On one occa-sion Commissioner Amos did so, when one of the Tips struck the successful litigant a terrific blow on the head with a stick, cutting his head open. All Mr. Amos could do was to take out his handkerdhief, and, whilst tying up the sufferer's head, empress the hope that some day they would be able to put a stop to these outrages. On another occasion they had a dispute with two Highlandmen, brothers, named Fraser, and in due course came to blows. The Frasers, arming themselves with pieces of slab, stood back to back, and for some time kept their assailants at bay, giving some of them fearful punishment. At last they got separated, and the Tips, taking them from behind, overpowered and shamefully maltreated them.
The intelligence was quickly sent over the rest of the gold-field, and in a day or two several hundred Highlandmen appeared on the Eureka to try conclusions with the Tips, but that was not their day out : the " tail av me coat" was discretely kept out of sight that day. However, some months before theoutbreak matters on the Eureka were con-siderably ameliorated. There was a big rush on ; the Tips were outnumbered and had to sing small, as the crowd of outsiders who gathered to hear each dispute strengthened the hands of the commissioner, and his honorary guard of a solitary trooper. Among others the Tips tried to jump two claims belonging to our party, but failed egregionsly.
Another case was that of an old man pained Cummins, who kept a shanty, and who marked off a claim in front of his door, which he shepherded. In course of time this claim looked well, and consequently one morning he found a burly Tip in the hole, who threatened all sorts of terrors if the old man dared resume possession. Poor Cum-mins was desolate, but help came from an unexpected quarter. He had a jolly buxom wife, considerably younger than himself, and she, when she heard the trouble, having a kettle of boiling water handy, rushed out to the claim, and poising the kettle on the top log threatened to scald the jumper if he did not clear out. Seeing she meant business, and judging that the diggers would support her if he retaliated, he deemed discretion the better part of valour and cleared. A thirdcase I remember was that of some Lanca-shire men, who had a claim near the site of the Stockade which the Tips tried to jump. In the alteration that followed the pugilistic champion of the Tips, a big, powerful fellow, called one of the Lancashire men a little blackguard, to which the latter replied, "Come down in the basin, and I'll show you what the little blackguard can do." This challenge was joyfully accepted, as, judging by appearance's, the Tip could, asthe French say, eat his opponent without salt. The word was passed round the lead for all available hands to muster and see fair play. This they did, and a strong force of ring keepers was appointed, who, with brandished pick shafts, kept a ring 40 or 50 yards in dia-meter, and the two men stripped-the one big, powerful, and well-set ; the other short and spare, but with arms long and muscular almost as a chimpanzee. The big man never struck anything but thin air ; whilst his op-ponent went round him, as a spectator said, like a cooper round a cask, planting his blows with the force and precision of hammers everywhere, till, to the uproarious delight of the diggers he had his opponent battered, blinded, and bleeding from nose, mouth, and sundry, cuts about the face and body, and glad to give in.
Such were the amenities of the old Eureka. Thus did the diggers maintain or forfeit their rights. None of your Marquis of Queens-berry rules or miserable football barrack-ing, but genuine muscular Christianity. These were the times when you had to keep a keen eye and a civil tongue in your head, a few staunch friends at your back, with a loaded whip and revolver in case of collision with bushranger, and then so fre-quent were robberies under arms that Go-vernor Hotham did not send a soldier or a policeman too many to the gold-fields. And this was the real cause of the Eureka out-break. The Tips were betwixt two fires-the increased number of outside diggers, conse-quent on the rush, cowed them in the first instance, and the increased force of policeowing to the renewal ot license-hunting threatened to check their lawlessness alto-gether when the rush was over. They were thus in an irritated state, and, as Mr. Forbes says of German recruits, they wanted to be "a little shooted."
And there were those on the Eureka then who were quite willing to accommodate them. I myself had the chance of precipi-tating the Eureka fight by some weeks through a dog fight. Our party had an old watchdog, who, getting off the chain one day, tempted some of the Tips to get up a dog fight, which was not a sucoess, because the old dog could not bite and the other knew nothing of fighting. Coming along I inter-fered to take the old dog home, receiving for my trouble a blow that skinned my jaw and sent me to grass. Latter in the day two respectable Irish storekeepers interviewed me, and, representing that my assaulter was sorry for his conduct, begged of me to pass the matter over and not resent it. This I promised to do. Subsequently some of the Highlandmen on the lead interviewed me, and advised me to go for the aggressor and bring on a row, saying, If they tich you, we will rise a mob that will sweep them off the diggins." I did not doubt that they could. But I did not care to raise a fac-tion fight that might cause loss of life, and so I kept my promise to the Irish gentlemen. Such was the turbulent state of the diggings that a trifling cause like that might lead to a sanguinary encounter. The manslaughter of Scobie and the burning of Bentley'a Hotel originated in some abusive epithets applied to a woman.
But to the actual history of the outbreak. It is absurd to say that the miners were in-furiated at the conviction of M'lntyre and the other two for the riot at Bentley's Hotel. The diggers took the matter very coolly indeed ; they considered the ringleaders re-ceived very light sentences.
The Ballarat Reform League sent a deputation to Melbourne headed by Mr. Humffray, who was the popular leader on Ballarat, to demand the release of the ring-leaders, which the Governor refused to do ; he promised an inquiry into and redress of grievances on the gold-fields, and this answer Mr. Humffray and his colleagues brought back to Ballarat. Mr. Humffray was the moral-force trimmer who was hooted, and his subsequent conduct is noted in an extract from the Geelong Advertiser which appeared in The Argus, Decem-ber 4, 1854 :-" We have received reliable information from Ballarat up to yesterday (Friday) afternoon. Humffray and all the other respectable 'moral force ' members of the Reform League have withdrawn their names, and the movement is now headed by some persons hitherto unknown, whose object seems to be less the redress of grievances than the gratification of their evil passions and thirst for plunder, Business was entirely suspended, and every thing looked gloomy."
On the 30th November I was down the main road early in the forenoon, and left on my return to the Eureka before the police came out to search for licenses. I had got as far as the top of Specimen Hill, near the site of Bentley's Hotel, when I met a mob of the Tips running, and all of them provided with arms of some sort ; some had old flint-lock pistols that looked like relics of the Battle of the Boyne, others bowie knives, bill hooks, a few cutlasses, and such-like old-fashioned rubbish ; very few had guns. Seeing one I knew I asked what was up ; he replied, "The traps are out,"and hurried on. I passed on to the Eureka, and subsequently went over to the Black Hill, where two of my mates were putting up a new tent.
Passing the meeting on Bakery Hill I saw Mr. Humffray being led away by some of his friends, in tears. He had delivered the Governor's message that inquiry would be made and grievances redressed, and in vain pleaded with them to have recourse to peaceful agita- tion, and refrain from violence. But the Irsh Tips, the whitewashed Yankees, and the foreigners wanted a revolution, and declared for war. But there were no 12,000 diggers at that meeting ; the number was estimated at 2,000, and half of these at least were peaceably disposed.
A party of the revolutionists was sent down to the Gravel Pits lead to stop all work and enforce a roll up, but the diggers turned out with their pick-shafts, and drove them off the lead. Disgusted with this reception, the self-apppoited liberators of the people retired to the Eureka, where they were sure of a welcome from the Tips.
Arrived there, it was estimated there were 1,500 men on the ground, including residents of the Eureka. They held a public meeting to decide upon their plans. It was proposed to at once storm the Government camp, and the speakers seemed, to think this was as simple an operation as winding up a watch.
Suddenly someone in the crowd called out, "What will you do with the 40,000oz. of diggers' gold in the Treasury at the camp?" 'This was rather a mal a propos question, and was not answered. In fact it required no answer, as every man there knew intuitively what would become of the gold if the camp was successfully stormed. One report from Gee-long states that as soon as the news of the outbreak arrived there all the Vandemonian element-the Denison Pets-left en route for Ballarat, so as to be in at the death. Con-sequently, this question fell amongst them like an iceberg, and froze the last ves-tige of popular enthusiasm in the move-meant. The crowd began to staggle away, and before dark two-thirds of them had left. Quiet, respectable people thought this last douche of common sense had extin-guished the movement, and that in a day or two things would resume their ordinary course, and in this belief I left the Eureka in the morning to assist my mates with their new tent at the Black Hill. In the course of the forenoon I received a message warning me not to come home to the Eureka, as the rioters, were forming a stockade, and pressing peaceably-disposed people into it. One of my mates was impressed and they were on the look-out for me. I consequently avoided my home for the next two days. There were four of us living together, an elderly Scot named Webster, a younger one named Meldrum, a Frenchman named Beauval, who was imressed, and myself. Beauval, or Old Beau, was the son of an emegre, and having been brought up from his boyhood in Limerick had the brogue like a native, which circum-stance stood him in good stead afterwards. I met Webster and others about Ballarat, and learned that the rioters had seized a number of teams carting slabs from Warrenheip, with which they formed the stockade, the horses being converted into chargers for the officers; that they had parties of scouts scouring the outlying camps, and plundering the petty stores of provisions and what ammunition any of them had. These petty stores were distributing agencies for the bakeries, and thus the scouts secured a good haul of bread with very little trouble. One poor widow had just received a few loaves from the baker's cart when the scouts swooped down on her, and left her and her orphans never a crust. This outrage caused intense indignation amongst the diggers who knew of it. It was only these outlying places that were plundered ; the large stores con-centrated along the main road and at Bakery Hill were let severely alone, as, being close together and well provided with firearms, a requisition for bread might meet with something more dis-agreeable than even a stone. Some of the individual diggers, too, when asked for re-volvers proffered the contents, which were hastily declined. This was at Bakery Hill, the debatable ground betwixt authority and rebellion. A deputation from the High-landers, who paraded the Eureka in a futile search for belligerent Tips, interviewed Com-missioner Rede, and offered to raise 400 armed Highlanders to assist the authorities in putting down the outbreak. Mr. Rede received them courteously, told them the authorities held the rioters in the hollow of their hand, and would suppress the disturbance when it suited them, and advised the diggers all to go home, and keep quietly to their tents.
I went up to our claim on Friday evening with my mates to see it anything was wrong there. It was about 200 yards from the Stockade, and we could see the Tips going through the pike drill. Their pikes they compelled a German, who had a forge, to manufacture for them. For reward he got a bullet through the head in the action, of which he died in the course of the day. On Saturday evening, hearing that the movement was subsiding, I ventured home after dark, and found Webster and Meldrum in the tent, who told me that the insurgents appeared to be getting sick of it; that there were about 60 men detained in the Stockade against their will; that the strangers, who numbered about 150, kept up a form of military discipline, but the Tips, who numbered about 800, left the Stockade and went home to their beds at night.
Near midnight we heard a familiar step, and next moment Old Beau made his appear-ance ; his budget of news was exciting. The hotels had got intelligence of Sir Robert Nickle's advance from Melbourne, and proposed sending a force of 300 men to intercept and exterminate it at Ballan, after which, the destruction of the Government at Melbourne would be an easy matter, when a republic would be proclaimed under the protection of his Holiness the Pope !
The Papal Legate was said to he in Melbourne ready to assume the Govern-ment as soon as the few trifling obstacles in the way were removed. These Tips were good Catholics. This may seem incredible. But when you remember that these Tips, who were the backbone of the rebellion, were the same class afterwards known as the savages of Bungaree, and whose compatriots have been for the last generation, supporting the Clan-na-Gael, under the conviction that by dropping a few dynamite bombs down areas, and such-like feats, they could shutter the British Empire, it will not be so incredible. OLd Beau, by virtue of hIs brogue, managed to soother one of the officers into telling him the password for the night, which was "Vinegar Hill." With this secret in his possession he went round amongst his companions in mis-fortune, and gave them all the password so that they might make their escape. When if was thoroughly dark they began to pass out one after the other, and about 50 got clear before any discovery was made ; when an officer going his rounds detected one of them passing through, and, making an in-quiry, stopped the rest. Whether they changed the password there and then I never heard, nor whether any of those detained were killed or wounded : probably at the first alarm they made a strategic movement to the rear and got away. Shortly after midnight we retired to rest on shake-downs on the floor under shelter of the tent logs, as the rioters wore in the habit of firing off their guns about daybreak: to clean them, and the bullets dropped about; anywhere. As I slept in a small tent by myself when the firing began, I thought they were cleaning their guns and lay still, and fell asleep again. My mates heard the troops passing our camp and bolted to the bush, as did many others, in-cluding the Tips. I have no wish to describe the battle-field, which I saw after my mates returned and roused me; only this, that the sight made me wish that the authors of that calamity might be hanged as high as Haman.
Mr. Forbes seems to me to have taken the mythical accounts he received of the rebellion with a very big grain of salt ; yet that does not prevent him from representing the policy qf Captain Thomas as the very reverse of what it really was. So far from having an overwhelming military force, it was really very weak for the duty it had to per-form. The camp was quite open, and was largely composed of tents; the gaol was a large log-house, to the space in front of which there were four avenues, neither ot which was closed by a gate. In fact, the camp could be rushed from every side if there were men determined enough to do it.
If then the authorities marched out to at-tack the rebels in broad daylight they ran the risk of having the weakened guard sur-prised and destroyed by some other body in their absence. Captain Thomas, therefore, selected the time when he could leave the camp unobserved and find only a section of the rioters in the Stockade-the section which he knew to be most dangerous for with all their faults, the Tips were the most re-spectacle. That they were not of much military value is shown by the fact that they could have taken Captain Thomas's infantry in flank and rear in the middle of the action instead of which they bolted to the bush as fast as their legs would carry them. There can he no doubt the defenders of the Stockade counted on the Tips coming to their aid, with their wild Faugh-a-ballagh and massacring the soldiers and police to a man, but they did not. As a matter of fact the most conspicuous bravery was shown by a German itinerant lemonade vendor who jumpel on the top of the Stockade after the first volley and cheered till he fell riddled with balls. I have often wondered whether he and not Lalor was not the leader of the fight. Lalor of course, was commander in chief because the Irish

were in a majority, but these foreigners, who were used to warfare, could not have much respect for their greenhorn commander. And the question is whether they did not shunt him when the pinch came, and take their cue from the gallant Teuton who may have been cheering to encourage the Tips to the charge over the ridge-a charge they could not make and bolt to the bush at the same time. However that may be, there is no question that this lemonade vendor was the hero of the Stockade, and a fighter after Archibald Forbes's own heart.

The acquittal of the ringleaders was a surprise to everyone in the colony, and it was long before I found out the reason of it. About 16 years ago I was in company with one of our oldest colonists and a seafaring man when the conversation turned on the Eureka Stockade, in which the sailor said he was engaged. I remarked it was lucky for the ringleaders that the venue was shifted to Melbourne, as had they been tried at Ballarat the Government might have hanged them all. This the sailor disputed, alleging that the diggers were strongly in their favour. I argued the diggers had no show in the matter as the only persons qualified to sit on a jury were about sixty freeholders in Ballarat West and these men were so terrified of the excesses of the rioters that they were certain to convict. The old colonist listened to us for some time with n amused smile. At last he interjected, "We went into the box sworn to acquit." Then he explained that at that time the Legislative Council was dominated by nominee members and the people had no means of enforcing respect for their wishes nnd therefore the jury determined to acquit all the rioters in defiance of evidence in order to inflict a crushing defeat on the Government. Thus it cameabout that men who morally and legally deserved to be hanged have been honoured as patriots and martyrs.
A great deal has been made of the semi-military despotism of the gold-fields. That was a necessity of the time and circum-stances, and saved its from two worse evils, The one evil was Van Demonianism with its lawless violence, rapine, and murder ; the other was lynch law. It has been a matter of congratulation that we have never had a case of lynch law. But I say we have had all the elements necessary to the evolution of lynch law, excepting one, that ¡s the stern inevitable necessity that has driven our American cousins to resort to it. From thatnecessity we have been saved by the vigorous Executive, otherwise the semi-military de-spotism of the gold-fields.
It is not a little curious that the license tax, which proved so unpopular, was bor-rowed from California. It was supposed in former times that the discovery of gold deposits meant the ruin of the social system of a country, and our colonial administrators were keenly solicitous to avert this danger, and were ready to adopt any measure which Californian experience might suggest. One of these was the diggpr license. A discus-sion took place in the Temperance Boardinghouse at Red Hill, Ballarat, a great resort of Americans, in which one of the disputants maintained that such a tax would not be tolerated for a moment in America, Mr. Dodds, the proprietor, asked him if he was quite sure of that, and on his reiterating his confident assurance, Mr, Dodds walked into his private room and returned with the gold diggers licence which he himself had to take out in California, and for which he paid quite as much as ever Mr. La Trobe asked from the diggers of Victoria. The only difference, I believe, was that the Californian license was for aliens only, American citizens being exempt. Whereas the effete Britishers in Victoria imposed the tax with strict im-partiality on all and sundry.
That I may not appear harsh and un-charitable in the charges I have made against the rioters, I quote the following from The Argus of December 7, 1854 :-"At a meeting held at William's Mart, Bakery Hill, attended by about 1,600 persons, most of whom were miners-proposed by Mr. Donald, a digger ; seconded by Mr. W. Levy-
" 1. That this meeting views with regret the proceedings of the past week, rendering it necessary to nssert the sovereignty of law and order by the sacrifice of so many lives and the proclamation of martial law.'
Proposed by Mr. Mosterd, a digger : seconded by Dr. Wills
" '2. That this meeting considers the late appeal to arms as uncalled for, and pledges itself to use every constitutional means to restore tranquillity and good feeling on the Ballarat gold-fields.'

Several other resolutions were passed, all unanimously ; and Mr. Williams (chairman).

Rev. P. Smith, Mr. Humffray, Mr. Edward Donald, and iMr. Mosterd were appointed a deputation to proceed to the camp, and pre-sent a copy of the resolutions to the represen-tative of the Government for transmission to His Excellency.
The Chairman, on being voted to the chair, begged leave to remind the meeting that he was one of the oldest diggers on Ballarat ; that everyone would see the utility and policy of abstaining from any topic even bordering on politics at the present juncture ; that many had erred in seeking to obtain their rights in an unconstitutional manner. That, in his opinion, they had acted unwisely ; had been led away and deluded. What their punishment would be it was hard to say. That every man of right and honest feeling, every respectable man, not on Ballarat, but in the colony, was arrayed against them. (Hear, hear.) Their grievances would be redressed, for all had grievances in a greater or less degree ; but an appeal to arms was not the right means ot seeking such redress . . . . . He was sure that the meeting present was too intelligent, and had seen too well the inutility of opposing arms to the flag of England, to say nothing of the degradation of forming themselves into bands merely for the sake of plunder. That, however he might consider the step of the Government im-politic in searching for unlicensed diggers at the time they did, nothing could justify the employment of physical force."[2]


  1. Ballarat Star, 09 January 1893.
  2. The Argus, 31 December 1892.

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