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3-086 (Original)

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author,male,Hotham,un addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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It is now my painful duty to acquaint you that matters have since assumed an aspect for which I was not then prepared; no sooner was the verdict promulgated, than professional agitators repaired to "Ballarat"; public meetings were called at which speeches were made, vying with each other in inflammatory declamation, and resolutions passed, which were to be presented to me by the delegates. For the particulars of my conversation with the delegates on the 27th of November, I refer you to the accompanying report, the accuracy of which may he relied on, in consequence of notes having been taken by the Government shorthand writer.
You will observe the conversation commenced by Mr. Black declaring that he was empowered by the diggers to demand the release of the prisoners; and although the delegates endeavoured to explain away and soften down the word, the fact remained that they were acting under instructions, and made use of the word, because they were enjoined to do so. [61]
Short of relinquishing my authority as Her Majesty's representative, I deemed it my duty to spare no effort to conciliate, and I would particularly draw your attention to one of my expressions, - "Well, send your petition, and let me see it; I can give no other reply," - to prove that I was prepared to make every sacrifice to avoid bloodshed, but as the surest way to prevent a conflict is to arm in time, so I assembled a force of 430 military and police at Ballarat, and requested the Major General to entrust the command to Captain Thomas, of the 40th Regiment, and who on previous occasions had shown that he possessed the skill and ability required for the emergency. A detachment of the 12th Regiment, which had been forwarded in vans from Melbourne, was commanded by an officer unacquainted with the locality; he omitted to take the precaution of forming his men before entering the diggings, and the miners seizing the opportunity, overturned one waggon, maltreated the drivers and some of the soldiers, and gained possession of a box of ammunition; the disorder and confusion being terminated by the arrival of a body of mounted police, who galloped to the rescue.
On the 29th November; a mass meeting was held, and the people were addressed by the usual orators, a magistrate and two witnesses attending in compliance with my instructions. The principal topics of discussion were, the reception I had given to the delegates and the injustice of the licence fee. On the first I am led to believe that the delegates spoke with moderation and fairness, but when called upon to follow the example of the speaker, and burn the licences, a large number did as they were desired; on the whole, however, the meeting went off quietly.
On the following day, the 30th November, the Resident Commissioner directed a commissioner to take with him the usual force, and apprehend unlicenced miners; the results will be best comprehended by a perusal of Mr. Rede's Despatch; - suffice to say that a riot ensued, the Riot Act was read, the military tailed in, and shots exchanged, but without any loss of life resulting therefrom.
The aspect of affairs now became serious; the disaffected miners formed themselves into corps, elected their leaders, and commenced drilling; they possessed themselves of all the arms and ammunition which were within their reach, they established patrols, and placed parties on the high roads leading to Melbourne and Geelong; searched all carts and drays for weapons, coerced the well affected, issued orders, signed by the secretary to the commander-in-chief of diggers under arms, despatched emissaries to the other diggings to excite the miners, and held a meeting, whereat the Australian flag of independence was solemnly consecrated, and vows proffered for its defence. [62]
All cause for doubt as to their real intention from this moment disappeared; by the most energetic measures must order be restored, and property maintained; a riot was rapidly growing into a revolution, and the professional agitator giving place to the man of physical force.
I received the Despatch on the morning of the 1st of December; at 6 p.m. of that day the remaining companies of the 12th and 40th Regiments, with two field pieces and two howitzers - the latter being manned by the seamen of H.M.S. "Electra" and "Fantome," under the command of Lieutenants Burnaby and Keene, were on their march to Ballarat, and Major General Sir Robert Nickle had assumed the command in person; my instructions were repeated to the authorities at Ballarat to act with temper, caution, and judgment, but to enforce the law. I further added my satisfaction at the conduct they had evinced under peculiarly trying circumstances.
Hearing that several foreigners had taken an active part, the consuls of the different foreign nations issued a proclamation warning their respective citizens against participating in such unlawful proceedings; in the meantime authority was at an end on the gold field; the Government camp was placed in a state of defence, the officers confined to it, and every preparation made to repel a general attack which was threatened by the insurgents. Mr. Amos, a gold commissioner residing three miles from the Government camp, was made prisoner, and brought before the insurgent authorities; he found that they had encompassed a large space of ground with a stockade, had sentinels mounted, and were amenable to military leaders.
On the 4th of December information reached me, that a successful attack had been made upon the stockade of the insurgents, that thirty had been killed, and a large number wounded, whilst the loss on the part of the military and police amounted to three privates killed, Captain Wise of the 40th Regiment - since dead - dangerously wounded, Lieutenant Paul of the 12th Regiment, severely wounded, and eleven privates of the 12th and 40th Regiments wounded.