James Egan Wall

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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


Dr James Egan Wall was a speaker at the Bendigo Anti-license Committee monster meeting.

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

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.

James Wall was examined by the 1855 Goldfields Commission.

Post 1854 Experiences


After a painful illness of about three months duration, one of the oldest residents of Sandhurst, and a colonist of forty years standing, has passed away. Mr. James Egan Wall arrived in New South Wales about the year 1843, and being connected with pastoral pursuits in that colony was frequently called upon to exercise his medical knowledge and skill in aid of sick persons and in cases of accident in the remote bush; and although not a duly quali-fied medical practitioner, his profession being that of a chemist, obtained the title of doctor, commonly given in the early days to any man capable of relieving suffering. This his pharmaceutical education enabled Mr. Wall to do, and his services were often sought after in districts in which surgical aid was very difficult of attainment. Very shortly after the discovery of gold in Vic-toria Mr. Wall left the sister colony, and cast in his lot with the early pioneers of Bendigo. He took a prominent part in all the public movements on this goldfield whilst what is now the City of Sandhurst was a mere hamlet of tents. In those times he was recognised as a leading local politician, and it would be unjust to refuse him credit for having worked energetically for the assertion of the rights of the early population, and for the establishment of many useful institutions which have had a very beneficial effect as regards the progress of the district. His attempts to practice as a medical man were strongly opposed by local members of the faculty, and his perseverance on them brought him into many difficulties.
We need not allude to an event which led to his imprisonment for a considerable period. There can he no doubt it proved his own death blow, and, if he was guilty of wrong-doing he has paid the penalty. Let us draw the curtain therefore. The man is dead, and common charity for-bids that we should dwell upon the errors which ended his career. He was a man of great energy, with much kindness in his disposition, and in fact one always ready to do a fellow creature a good turn. He died yesterday at his residence at the White Hills, where he has lived almost ever since his arrival in the district, at the age of about seventy years.[1]


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 Legislative 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 number of signatures were however obtained.[2]

See also

James Dumphy

Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Monuments Project

Further Reading


  1. Bendigo Advertiser, 10 March 1883
  2. Mount Alexander Mail, 15 September 1854.

External links


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