- Unusual display of armed men marching through our street at dead of night
The government sent military and police forces to Ballarat to quell the disturbances perpetrated by a growing number of dissatisfied diggers.
- 28 November 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.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
Tuesday, 28th November, 1854.
A number of military arrived here last night, by the Shandon steamer [from Melbourne], and after refreshing themselves, being reinforced by the company of the 40th stationed here, and by the mounted police, and being provided with about twenty horse-carts, started en route for Ballaarat, about twelve o’clock at night. The reason of this unusual display of armed men marching through our streets at dead of night, appears to be an apprehension of fresh disturbances at Ballaarat. The latest and most reliable intelligence from that locality points to a rapidly-extending dissatisfaction among the diggers generally to the very questionable motives that actuate a few of their leading men at these monster meetings, and to the almost certain collision, at an early period, between them and the Government. The rapidly-extending dissatisfaction has been too long existing, and its causes are too well known to require further notice just now. But it would seem that a new reason for increasing this dissatisfaction is to be brought before the monster meeting to-morrow, at which the outbreak is contemplated; and as the minds of the people are sufficiently inflamed already, this fresh and most unjust argument ought to be denounced at once. If the population of Ballaarat wish to enlist the sympathies of their brother diggers, and the colonists in general, and if they desire to have justice to themselves, they must set the example of acting justly, or at least they must shew that they can act with reason and justice. According to my information, it would appear that the deputation who waited upon Sir Charles Hotham to "demand"—as our local papers have it—the release of the three rioters, M’Intyre, Fletcher, and Westerby, are to be there to deliver their report of His Excellency’s reply to their demand. That reply being adverse to the wishes of the people who sent them, is expected to lead to some serious demonstration of popular feeling. Should this be the case, the Ballaarat people who are guilty of such an act must stand before the public as the destroyers of law and order; encouragers of crime; promoters of anarchy, and in every respect worse than the very bad Government they have had so much cause to complain of. On what grounds could Sir Charles Hotham have liberated these men, without at the same time releasing Bentley and his associates, and many other criminals? There are some reasons for believing that one of the three men was really innocent of the offence, but he was tried fairly, in a court of justice, convicted by an impartial jury, and sentenced by a judge, against whom the only ground of complaint I have yet heard in regard to the case was, that he inflicted too lenient a sentence. The general opinion was, that the rioters would be imprisoned for thre, or at least two years. The fact of the rioters being excited by the misconduct of the Government officials was no excuse for their destroying private property, and thereby injuring men who were strangers to them, and in no way connected either with Government or the crime of Bentley. But it was certainly a strong reason for not inflicting upon them the extreme punishment allowed by the law; and the very jury that tried them did not forget this claim upon their sympathy; and any one who will attempt to say that the judge who sentenced them did not act upon the recommendation of the jury, must have a very faint idea indeed of the crime of arson, and of all the horrors that would attend the general introduction of so atrocious a crime amongst us. Still, in spite of all this, there would be no harm done by the diggers fairly and temperately urging the Lieutenant-Governor to release their prisoner comrades; but to meet his refusal to such request with any further violence, and to defy the laws, must only stamp them as a set of foolish men, and must lead eventually to delaying the attainment of that great boon for which we ought all to be unanimously contending—the right to govern ourselves.
The motives that actuate some of the gentlemen who take the lead at Ballaarat are supposed by many to be very doubtful; and the ability of others to lead the people over whom they have assumed this responsibility clear of difficulties is very freely questioned. It is generally conceded that the majority of these leaders are acting to the best of their judgment for the good of the diggers, and for the future happiness of themselves and their families. But it is also hinted that there are a few wild adventurers, who have neither character nor property to lose, who miss no opportunity of pouring the oil of their ambition on to the crackling faggots lighted up by their more temperate fellows. As to the ability of some of those whose good intentions are not called in question, I am afraid they too often forget, in directing their friends to an object to be gained, to point out the dangers and obstacles that lie in the way; and it is not till they have proceeded too far to recede with credit to themselves, that they find the road they have chosen to be impracticable.
It is most sincerely to be hoped that no collision of a serious nature may occur; but to prevent this, as well as to check the evils attending one, should it take place, much will depend upon the men sent up by the Government in charge of the military and police. They must be possessed of firmness, determination, and ability, so as to be able to avert an impending danger, or clear themselves of one in which they get involved, without comprimising the character of the Government, or unnecessarily irritating the feelings of the people.
Argus, 29 November 1854
Created: 16 October 2006, Last modified: 13 February 2007