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Hummfray, John Basson (1824 - 1891)


A key figure in the Eureka rebellion, John Basson Hummfray is best remembered as a goldfields politician. After a liberal education in Wales he was articled to a solicitor but abandoned his studies and in 1853 went to the Victorian diggings – a common destination for many of his contemporaries.

Humffray soon settled at Ballarat and made his first public speech in November 1854. He saw the diggers' grievances as symptomatic of an essentially unrepresentative political system that he demanded be reformed by moral suasion. As secretary of the Ballarat Reform League, Humffray worked tirelessly to bring the diggers' needs before the governor, the public and an official inquiry. When advocates of physical force became influential in the league, he withdrew his membership after having pleaded, before a sullen and armed crowd, for a reversion to constitutional agitation. Humffray dissociated himself from the Eureka rebellion but soon resumed his 'moral force' campaign. His popularity was little impaired by this deviation and he was elected the first of three miners' representatives. He appeared before the commission of inquiry into discontent on the goldfields, citing maladministration, lack of political representation and difficulty in obtaining land as the diggers' grievances.

Keir Reeves

Serle, Geoffrey, The golden age: a history of the colony of Victoria, 1851-1861, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1963. Details