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The Anti-Chinese Movement

The Argus reported the dispatch of fifty mounted policemen to Sandhurst, ‘in consequence of exaggerated reports respecting the Anti-Chinese agitation’.

10 July 1854
Published Source
Australian National Dictionary Centre, The Gold Rushes and Australian English: a resource for researchers, teachers and students, Australian National University, 2005, http://www.anu.edu.au/andc/res/aus_words/gold/index.php. Details
This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.


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BENDIGO. (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.) Sandhurst, July 10th, 1854. THE ANTI-CHINESE MOVEMENT.—Considerable surprise was caused by the arrival on Friday last, of fifty mounted policemen from Melbourne, forwarded, I understand, in consequence of exaggerated reports respecting the Anti-Chinese agitation. As will be seen by the accompanying report of the monster meeting there was to be, there was no necessity whatever for this display; and indeed, the appearance of this reinforcement of troopers had only the effect of exasperating the diggers. They will return to town immediately, having performed the same feat as the king who, with all his valiant men, walked up the hill, and then walked down again. By the report of the meeting, it will be observed that .... [i]n reference to the Chinese, there is evidently a strong feeling of opposition to them on the part of the diggers, but they are ashamed of their former belligerent display, and merely challenge the attention of Government to the influx of these foreigners, a matter which may prove to be of importance. A large portion of the diggers manifested their dissatisfaction with Mr. Denovan’s conduct, but they would not consent to have their former champion condemned. As the report is lengthy, I reserve other matters of interest till next post. PUBLIC MEETING. About three o’clock on Saturday afternoon the monster-meeting, called by Mr. W.D.C. Denovan by placard, for the purpose of organising a system of prospecting, and also for discussing the Chinese immigration question was held in front of the Criterion Hotel. Truth obliges me to say that it was not by any means a monster meeting, there being only about a thousand persons present. There was a very large attendance of the influential classes of Bendigo, including an uncommon array of officials. The speakers addressed the meeting from the balcony of the hotel, on which a large number of gentlemen were assembled. [Here a chair is appointed and several motions regarding the prospecting for new goldfields in the region are put and debated.] The meeting was then declared at an end so far as concerned the subject of prospecting. On the motion of Mr. MACKAY, seconded by Mr. DENOVAN, Mr. Burall was again placed in the chair, so that the Chinese question might be considered. Mr. DENOVAN, who was received with great cheering, stood forward and said that, after having conferred with many of his friends on this subject, it was not his intention to bring forward any proposition on the present occasion respecting the Chinese. A hearty meeting had just taken place, in which all parties had united and taken up the subject of prospecting, and he did not wish to go into the Chinese question to destroy that good feeling which then existed. A considerable amount of abuse had been lavished on him through the press, and he had been described as urging them on to a breach of the peace. He objected to the Chinese, not on account of their wastefulness of water, and encroachments upon claims, but because he disapproved of thousands of these people being poured into the colony in the present reckless manner, and he would object to this even if they were his own countrymen. (CHEERS.) The authorities should be called upon to stop the Immigrations altogether, or so to graduate it that the resident population would not be injured by it. (At this part of the proceedings great confusion was caused by some person on the balcony blowing a horn and shouting "Advertiser ," but this was soon put an end to.) Mr. Denovan proceeded to say that the blowing of the horn reminded him of the days of the Bastile, when the sound of the drum was employed to stifle the cries of the victims. (CHEERS.) No doubt parties whose sores he might lay open would be glad to interrupt him by a horn. It was known that many on the diggings could hardly support themselves, and he would ask how could the district support so many thousands of Chinese? The influx of these foreigners ought to be checked, so as not to interfere with the vested interests of the colonists. (CHEERS .) Were they (the European population of the diggings) to have the advantages which they sought in this colony taken away from them by the influx of hordes of Chinese brought here by squatters and merchants? With the excess of population they were threatened with, how were they to keep provisions from going up to a famine price? Thousands of Chinese were here, and thousands were coming. He contended that he had maintained his position in spite of all the petty scribbling and charges that had been made against him. (CHEERS AND CONFUSION.) The digging population had a right to be first considered in the matter. His conduct had been called unmanly because he had recommended that the Chinese should be driven off the diggings. Now, without admitting the truth of that charge, he would ask, Had not the English made war upon China, and devastated an independent country, and shot down the natives? Mr. Denovan in the same way alluded to the African war, and to the war in India. Why was now such an interest felt for these Chinese? What talismanic influence had turned the scale in their favor? Because certain interested parties had encouraged their immigration to reduce the price of wages, which their presence had already done. (CHEERS.) He would say no more at present until he heard what was said against him; but he would urge on that meeting and the Government the necessity of checking the immigration of the Chinese. (GREAT CHEERING .) Mr. Mackay then came forward and said that, as he was about to address them on this subject, he trusted that they would give him a patient hearing, although he might have to enunciate sentiments opposed to the opinions entertained by some of them. Mr. Denovan in his placard had stated that he would give fair play to his opponents, but he would appeal to the meeting themselves for a fair and impartial hearing. (HEAR, HEAR.) Only a few months had elapsed since he had been a digger himself, and he therefore claimed their fellow feeling. Mr. D. took credit to himself for having been connected with the anti-gold-license movement of last year, but he would claim their sympathy on the same grounds, having been one of the committee which last year carried on a similar agitation at the Ovens. He was therefore associated with the diggers in feelings and sentiments, and he did not know how soon he might take to the pick and shovel again. Must it not have struck them that Mr. D. sung a very different tune to-day from what he had sung on the former occasion? (CHEERS.) He was glad that the question was to be fairly discussed as the people always benefitted by free and open discussion, and only suffered when public opinion was suppressed. It was the great orator Curran, he believed, a countryman of many preent, who had said in one of his eloquent orations that "liberty was commensurate with and inseparable from British soil. No matter under what sun, or with what ceremonies the man had been devoted on the altar of slavery, the moment he touched British ground his chains fell from around him, and he stood confessed in the face of heaven an emancipated freeman." (GREAT CHEERING .) Were they Englishmen? Did they wish to carry out those eternal principles of freedom associated with the British language and name? Did they wish, in the eyes of mankind, to be identified with and to support that freedom of opinion and extension of public liberty which had distinguished the British from every nation in the world? (CHEERS.) If so, were they to ignore those principles by an unprovoked attack upon these foreigners! If they turned out the Chinese, what was to hinder them from carrying out the principle further, and turn out the Americans; and eventually the English from turning out the Irish and Scotch? (CHEERS.) At the former meeting Mr. D. had proposed to drive out the Chinese on the 4th of July,—Now, whatever he might think of the intellect of the man who proposed such a breach of the peace, if he had stuck to his purpose, he (Mr. M.) would have at least admired and respected him for his consistency. But he was very much surprised to hear the man who spoke so boldly at the former meeting, sing so small on this occasion. When he was associated with the diggers they acted differently from this. What they said they meant, and what they meant they did. But in what a contemptible position were they now placed, having bound themselves to an act which they shrunk from performing. But what could be expected from a man who proposed a violation of the law? When they returned to their homes, and common sense resumed its sway, they would see the folly and the wickedness of the outrage they were asked to commit. In their hearing Mr. D. had proposed committing a breach of the peace, and he could testify that the report which appeared in the Advertiser was correct, as he took notes on the occasion. (CHEERS, HISSES, AND GREAT CONFUSION.) He appealed to them whether this was not true. (GREAT CHEERING, AND CRIES OF "HOW MUCH ARE YOU PAID FOR IT? ["]) He was independent of Mr. Denovan, of the Camp, or any party on the diggings, and he appealed to them whether the correspondent of the Argus, for the last few months, had not acted impartially, and taken the authorities to task when they deserved it. (GREAT CHEERING.) Mr. Denovan, when before the police magistrate, had denied the correctness of the report, or that he intended to take any measures against the Chinese. Now what did they think of the man who could so grossly prevaricate? Was he qualified to be a leader of the diggers? (CRIES OF "NO, NO," AND CHEERS .) This gingerbread hero, Mr. Denovan! (LAUGHTER AND CONFUSION .) If they had cause of complaint against the Chinese, why not have petitioned the Government first? Mr. Denovan said that the Chinese lowered the price of labor, and that they had been imported by squatters and capitalists for that purpose. Now, that was not the case with the greater number of the Chinese on the gold-fields, who had paid their passage to this country. He was aware that in New South Wales and even in Victoria, Chinese had been introduced to supply the demand for labor; but in that case the blame was not attributable to them, but to the men who had brought them; and would they wreak their vengeance upon the heads of these unoffending men? Where the revenue of the colony was employed for the introduction of foreigners—Coolies and Chinese—into the country, the people had good right to complain, as was the case now in New South Wales, where there was considerable agitation on the subject of Coolie immigration. But of what else were the Chinese accused? Wasting the water and encroaching upon the claims of other diggers. But was not this the fault of the Commissioners, who should have instructed the Chinese, ignorant as they were of our language and customs? But suppose they were to blame, would the diggers not ptoportion the punishment to the offence? If a man picked a pocket, they did not hang him; and if Mr. Denovan came there and talked nonsense they would not duck him in a water hole. (GREAT CONFUSION .) He would now conclude by reading the resolution and appealing to the common sense of the meeting to support it. That this meeting asserts the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, among the diggers, and emphatically condemns the proposal of Mr. Denovan to commit a breach of the peace by driving the Chinese off the gold-fields; but as the Chinese may have rendered themselves obnoxious to the diggers through their ignorance of our language and customs, the authorities should use their utmost exertions to prevent the mischievous and exasperating conduct of these foreigners. Dr. ROCHE, who was received with great cheering, seconded the resolution. In a lengthy, able, and humorous speech, he appealed to the diggers to refrain from violence towards the Chinese, who were the weaker party, and to employ constitutional means for the redress of their grievances. The authroities were ready and willing to pay every attention to their just complaints. Mr. DENOVAN then came forward amidst cheering, and again addressing the meeting contending that no answer had been given to his objections to the immigration of the Chinese into the colony. The country was suffering from a superabundant population, and the influx of the Chinese would have the effect of aggravating this evil. He would move an amendment, That this meeting views with alarm the large influx of Chinese into the country, and calls on the Government to take measures to stop this immigration, or so to graduate it as not to interfere with the interests of the resident population. (CHEERS .) Mr. ARMSTRONG seconded the amendment. Mr. MACKAY had no objection to the amendment, which did not materially differ from his resolution, but he would press that portion of the latter condemnatory of Mr. Denovan. The amendment was then put, and afterwards the resolution, and as the show of hands was greater for the former, it was declared carried amidst great cheering and confusion. Mr. DENOVAN thanked the meeting for supporting his views, the confusion still continuing. Dr. ROCHE, having got a hearing, explained that the meeting by negativing the resolution had undone what they did in carrying the amendment. He agreed with the amendment, but he wished them to give expression to an opinion against resorting to violence. He therefore appealed to them to do so, and all who were for resorting to constitutional means of redress, and who objected to any violence being used towards the Chinese, would hold up their hands. This appeal was unanimously responded to, amidst enthusiastic cheering, and the meeting then quietly separated about dusk. Argus,15 July 1854