Bendigo Anti-license Committee

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Most goldfields meetings were held on Saturday afternoon.[1]

(To the Editor of the Bendigo Advertiser.)
Sir,—I have read in your issue of this morning, a very interesting and well written article on the old pioneers of Bendigo and their doings, from the pen of our venerable and much respected old friend Mr. J. N. Macartney. As he has written from the date of 1854 I write as a 53 man to set him right in one mistake he has made. He places our worthy Minister of Mines at the top of the tree, which he has no right to occupy. Mr Burrowes was not known to fame until 1860, when he stood for the borough council and was elected. The men who first stood by the mining community, and gained their right, were Captain Harrison (1852), Captain Brown, Dr. Jones, George Edward Thomson, Mr. Ferris or Fervars, J.E. Wall, Mr Dixon, Captain Baker, Robert Benson, Dr Owens, Wm. Hopkins, E. N. Emmett, W. D. C. Denovan, James Dumphy, and others, all 1853 men. The big anti-license meeting was held in August of that year on the present site of All Saints' Church, at-tended by some 20,000 people. In the same year Mr. Angus Mackay (now the Hon. A. Mackay), E. Harrison, and R. R. Haverfield represented the press at the meetings of the period, and did good service both to the miners and the government.—
Yours, etc.,
19th November, 1881.[2]

MONSTER MEETING. — On Tuesday last a monster meet-ing was held at the Criterion Hotel, at a little after two o'clock. Dr. Wall proposed Mr. Burrall, as Chairman, which being seconded, that gentleman took the chair.
MR BURRALL then rose and addressed the multitude at considerable length in favor, of the object which had brought them together, and after expressing his entire confidence in the uprightness of intention of his Excellency, and his hopes of soon seeing an end to the license system and the gold commission, he called on Mr. Denovan to read the memorial addressed to the Lieutenant-Governor. That gentleman called on all those present to be orderly and assist in keeping order, and read the memorial, the substance of which is given in the Petition to the Legislative Council, founded on it. Mr. Hopkins after dwelling on the services of the committee, and on the importance of the subject, and the enthusiasm with which all entered into the undertaking, proposed: — That the memorial to his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor be adopted, to be pre-sented to his Excellency by a deputation. MR MOWBRAY seconded his resolution, and when other speakers had addressed the meeting, Mr. Denovan read the following petition : To the Honorable the Legislative Council of the Colony of Victoria, in Council assembled. The Petition of the undersigned, inhabitants of the Gold Fields of Bendigo, humbly sheweth— That in the opinion of your petitioners the time has now arrived for the total abolition of the license fee for gold digging, as the experi-ment of making a reduction in it has been ineffectual in removing the evils before complained of. It is still oppressive and unequal in its working, and subjects the working po-pulation to a great amount of tyranny; neces-sitates the keeping up an enormously expensive staff for its enforcement; and has utterly failed as a means of raising a revenue. That your petitioners consider that the Gold Commission should be entirely abolished, on account of its extravagant expense and utter uselessness in any case, the circumstances of the gold fields requiring the existence of no special body of officials, as all the necessary duties can be performed by the ordinary authorities. That the mining population of Victoria, forming a class as intelligent and orderly as any in the colony, have been most unjustly treated by their total exclusion, hitherto, from the rights of free men; and your petitioners, protesting against the merely nominal representation accorded to them under the New Constitution, respectfully claim their right to a voice in the framing and passing of laws vitally affecting their interests, and pray that you Honorable House would take the earliest possible measures for affording them a full and fair share in the representation of the country. That your petitioners are of opinion that the present land system is most pernicious to the best interests of the country, and consider that every inducement should be given to the permanent occupation of the waste lands, believing that this of much greater importance than the immediate raiding of revenue: And your petitioners would earnestly pray that your Honorable House would adopt such measures as may be within your power, to obtain the immediate repeal of the present land system of the colony. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. He would move — 'That the petition, to the Legislative Council be adopted, and that the Anti Gold License Committee be instructed to make the necessary arrangements for procuring signatures to the petition, and for having it duly presented to the Legislative Council as early as possible after the opening of the House. This was the most important meeting they had ever had, for they had the Governor himself up here, enquiring into their wants and wishes, but they must remember that he could not repeal the law he could only ask the Le-gislative Council to do so. After the meeting had been addressed by Dr. Wall and Mr. Dumphy, and others, they were called upon to fall in six deep, and their deputation headed them to wait on the Governor. The meeting then went in procession to the camp, and, on reaching the hill on which stands the residence of the resident commissioner, his Excellency was standing on the summit ready to receive the deputation, the people loudly cheering. On the deputation approaching, all became quiet, and preserved the utmost order, while Mr. Mackay read the memorial to his Excellency. At. the conclusion his Excellency being all the time bareheaded, and attended by the private secretary, Captain Kay, the Sur-veyor-General, Resident Commissioner, and most of the other government officers, stepped forward and said : — 'Men of Bendigo, I arrived on the 22nd of June, and this is the 5th of October, so that I have only been a few months amongst you, and am what would be called,in your parlance, a new chum. I am, therefore, as yet inexperienced in the public affairs of the colony, and I cannot promise to grant you all that you ask of me ; but this I can promise, well and care-fully to consider your petition. I may say that there are points in it which are at present under the consideration of the Government, and some in progress. I cannot promise you all you ask, because I never promise what I may not be able to perform. You ask me to do a very serious thing, to do away with a large portion of the revenue. All must pay for liberty and freedom in some shape: I myself have to pay 10 per cent on my property in England, and I can assure you I dislike it most infernally, but still, I must pay it. Take the man who possesses L100 a year, the tax extends to him, and he must pay it. I may say, when you wish to have the lands thrown open to you, that the Government are doing it as fast as possible.The surveyor-general is working day and night to perform his duties, and I'll take good care he does. We must pay something, but I will endeavour to make the taxes as light as possible; but if I impose a tax which appears to me to be just and neces-sary, I'm the boy that will enforce it. ' Silence was kept during the speech, and at its conclusion a hearty burst of cheers showed that his Excellency had been both heard and attended to by the thousands below. His Excellency having retired, Mr. Denovan again addressed a few words to the diggers, on the kind and straight forward manner in which the Governor had acted, and proposed a vote of thanks to be given to him. Mr. Hopkins, seconded the resolution, when three times three of deafening cheers rung through the Camp, and thrice more for Lady Hotham.
A subscription was then made, and the sum of L.34 17s. 6d. collected. The meeting then adjourned to the Criterion Hotel, to sign the petition to the Legislative Council, many returning home; a large num-ber of signatures were however obtained.[3]

Also See

Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Red Ribbon Rebellion

William Denovan

James Dumphy


  1. Bendigo Independent, 05 May 1894.
  2. Bendigo Advertiser, 26 November 1881.
  3. Mount Alexander mail, 15 September 1854.