Ballarat Reform League Charter

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Eugene von Guerard, Vom publick haus zu Ballarat, 1854, pencil.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, Gift of Mrs Martell, 1938.
The Revolt at Eureka’ cover by R. Wenban. Schools Publishing House, 1959.

Background

The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a four-page handwritten manifesto of democratic principles and demands[1], adopted on 11 November 1854. [2] and presented by a deputation to Governor Charles Hotham on 27 November 1854, but it was dismissed prompting the Eureka Stockade.[3] The Charter, written by members of the Ballarat Reform League and representing the aspirations and demands of the mining community of Ballarat, was instrumental in the campaigns for democratic reform in the Colony of Victoria. The Charter is resonant with universal democratic values, drawn from Chartist and other international democratic movements of its time. The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a central feature of the Eureka Stockade story, one of the most significant and influential events in Australia’s political and social history.[4]

Transcript

At a Meeting held on Bakery Hill in the presence of about ten thousand men on Saturday November 11th, 1854 the following were adopted as the principles and objects of the Ballarat Reform League

That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.
That, being as the people have been hitherto, unrepresented in the Legislative Council of the Colony of Victoria, they have been tyrannised over, and it becomes their duty as well as interest to resist, and if necessary to remove the irresponsible power which so tyrannises over them.
That this Colony has hitherto been governed by paid Officials, upon the false assumption that law is greater than justice because, forsooth, it was made by them and their friends, and admirably suits their selfish ends and narrow minded views. It is the object of the “League” to place the power in the hands of responsible representatives of the people to frame wholesome laws and carry on an honest Government.
That it is not the wish of the “League” to effect an immediate separation of this Colony from the parent country, if equal laws and equal rights are dealt out to the whole free community. But that if Queen Victoria continues to act upon the ill advice of the dishonest ministers and insists upon indirectly dictating obnoxious laws for the Colony.

(end of page 1)

under the assumed authority of the Royal Prerogative the Reform League will endeavour to supersede such Royal Prerogative by asserting that of the People which is the most Royal of all Prerogatives, as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power.

Political changes contemplated by the Reform League :

1. A full and fair representation
2. Manhood suffrage
3. No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.(?)
4. Payment of Members
5. Short duration of Parliament

Immediate objects of the Reform League An immediate change in the management of the Gold Fields, by disbanding the Commissioners.

The total abolition of the Diggers’ and Storekeepers licence tax, and a thorough and organised agitation of the Gold Fields and the Towns.
That to carry out the forgoing objects there should be a large tent erected in which to meet and conduct the business of the Reform League. Cards of membership will be issued in a few days and Ballarat divided into districts.

At the same Meeting the following among other resolutions were passed

That this Meeting condemns the insolent language used by the Colonial Secretary, the Surveyor General, the Chief Commissioner of the Gold Fields, and the Chairman

(end of page 2)

of Committees, for their unwarrantable assertions respecting the veracity of the Diggers and the respectability of the representatives of the public press on the gold fields, and their sneering contempt at an appeal for an investigation into the malpractices of the corrupt Camp at Ballarat.
That this meeting having heard read the draft Prospectus of the Ballarat Reform League approve of and adopt the same, and hereby pledge themselves to support the Committee in carrying out its principles and attaining its objects – which are the full political rights of the people.
That this meeting expresses its’ utter want of confidence in the political honesty of the Government Officials in the Legislative Council, and pledge themselves to use every constitutional means to have them removed from the office they disgrace. That this meeting also expresses its disapprobation of the mode in which the Board of Enquiry was appointed. That it ought to have been composed of independent gentlemen and not paid officials.

(end of page 3)

Heritage Listings

Australian Memory of the World Program

The Australian Memory of the World Project believes the Charter of the Ballarat Reform League is impartant because it has instrumental historical significance for the events it records in goldrush Victoria, the Australian history of democratic Chartism which it incorporates, and the subsequent development of democratic representation in Victoria to which it contributed.[5]


Presentation to Parliament for Eureka 150

Exactly 150 years since the Ballarat Reform League presented their Charter for ratification to over 10,000 miners on Bakery Hill on 11 November 1854, the Mayor of Ballarat, Councillor David Vendy, presented a framed copy of the four page Charter to the Victorian Parliament. The historic presentation, which received bipartisan support form all sides of government concluded with Premier Steve Bracks stating the charter "Was ahead of its time. The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a landmark document in the history of our nation. it is our Declaration of Independence. Our Magna Carter. And a cornerstone of Australian democracy."<Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.</ref>

The Eureka Flag flew on the Victorian Parliament house on 11 November 2004 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charter's ratification. [6]

Also See

Ballarat Reform League

Chartism

Education

Eureka Timeline

Eureka 150

Other Sites

Australian Memory of the World Program - http://www.amw.org.au/content/ballarat-reform-league-charter-0

Culture Victoria - http://www.cv.vic.gov.au/stories/eureka-stories/10345/ballarat-reform-league-charter/

Public Record Office Victoria - http://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/index.php/Eureka_Stockade:Ballarat_Reform_League_Charter

References

  1. http://eurekaschildren.org.au/about.html, accessed 13 July 2013.
  2. Ballarat Courier, 11 November 2004.
  3. Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.
  4. http://eurekaschildren.org.au/about.html, accessed 13 July 2013.
  5. http://www.amw.org.au/content/ballarat-reform-league-charter-0, downloaded 08 March 2013.
  6. Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.