Edward Browne

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Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover, August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440) and Condemned them to hard labor on the Public Roads of the Colony - A proceeding Your Petitioners maintain to be contrary to the spirit of the British Law which does not recognise the principle of the Subject being a Criminal because he is indebted to the State
That the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is unjust because the successful and unsuccessful Digger are assessed in the same ratio
For these reasons and others which could be enumerated Your Petitioners pray Your Excellency to Grant the following Petition
* First. To direct that the Licence Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month
* Secondly To direct that Monthly or Quarterly Licenses be issued at the option of the Applicants
* Thirdly To direct that new arrivals or invalids be allowed on registering their names at the Commissioners Office fifteen clear days residence on the Gold Fields before the License be enforced
* Fourthly To afford greater facility to Diggers and others resident on the Gold Fields who wish to engage in Agricultural Pursuits for investing their earnings in small allotments of land
* Fifthly To direct that the Penalty of Five Pounds for non-possession of License be reduced to One Pound
* Sixthly To direct that (as the Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony have uniformly developed a love of law and order) the sending of an Armed Force to enforce the License Tax be discontinued.
Your Petitioners would respectfully submit to Your Excellency's consideration in favour of the reduction of the License Fee that many Diggers and other residents on the Gold-fields who are debarred from taking a License under the present System would if the Tax were reduced to Ten Shillings a Month cheerfully comply with the Law so that the License Fund instead of being diminished would be increased
Your Petitioners would also remind your Excellency that a Petition is the only mode by which they can submit their wants to your Excellency's consideration as although they contribute more to the Exchequer that half the Revenue of the Colony they are the largest class of Her Majesty's Subjects in the Colony unrepresented
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.
Red Ribbon Movement Monument in Rosalind Park, Bendigo [detail], 2013. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


Edward George Browne was an Irishman who sailed to Australia from the United States of America. According to George Thomson,

Brown was by birth an Irishman, having been born at Bandon near Cork, had been fairly educated, and was a good Latin and a tolerable Greek scholar. He had been thrown early in life upon society without either trade and profession; all pursuits of a steady character were distasteful to him ... When quite a youth he landed upon the American shores ... Subsequently he drifted into Texas, at that time a wild region ... Ultimately the discovery of gold in Australia drew him to these shores ... He knew nothing of the goldfields grievances; but it was enough for him that they could be made the basis of an agitation of which he hoped to be leader and director ... He had no fixed principles of any kind, or business capacity for organization of any kind. He was always declamatory, never logical; his speeches were appeals to the passions of his auditors rather than to their reason ... with the crowd he had some influence, with the committee scarcely any. His imperious and dictatorial manner disgusted the men who formed that body.[1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

Edward Browne signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition. Agitation of the Victorian goldfields started with the Forest Creek Monster Meeting in 1851, but what became known as the Red Ribbon Movement was centred around the Bendigo goldfields in 1853. The Anti-Gold License Association was formed at Bendigo in June 1853, led by George Thomson, Dr D.G. Jones and 'Captain' Edward Browne. The association focused its attention on the 30 shillings monthly licence fee miners were required to pay to the government. They drew up a petition outlining digger grievances and called for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by diggers at Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander (Harcourt) and other diggings. The 13 metre long petition was presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe in Melbourne on the 01 August 1853, but their call for a reduction in monthly licence fees and land reform for diggers was rejected. The diggers dissatisfaction erupted into the Red Ribbon Rebellion where agitators wore red ribbons on their hats symbolising their defiance of the law and prohibitive licence fees.

Edward George Browne was a spokesman for the Bendigo Anti-Gold License Association. While visiting Ballarat he urged diggers to petition for government for a reduction in license fees.[2]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also

Bendigo Goldfields Petition


Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Thomson, Leaves from the diary of an old Bendigonian of 1853, pp. 35-6; A. C. Messner, Rethinking Red-Ribbon Protest: Bendigo 1853-4, 2000, accessed by Dorothy Wickham 13 July 2020, https://rune.une.edu.au/web/bitstream/1959.11/15176/6/open/SOURCE08.pdf.
  2. Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

External links

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