|The Age Wednesday 10 January 1855 p. 5.|
To the Editor of the Age.
Sir,—The late tragedy of blood at Ballarat has created a terrible sensation throughout the Australian colonies. I am not going beyond the truth in saying that in general there is but one feeling regarding the chief perpetrators of the deed, and that is of hatred and execration. The insult offered to the people of these colonies shall never be forgotten nor washed out, from their memories, and but for their strong love of peace and order, a most dire revenge would have been taken.
A more flagrant wrong, a more violent exercise of unlimited and irresponsible authority, a more daring piece of base injustice and absolute tyranny could not have been perpetrated than the recent whole- sale military and police butchery of the industrious citizens of Ballarat. Three years of misrule on the part of our rulers passed over without one act of violence by the people; again and again were strong incentives to a breach of the peace furnished them, but with a dignified forbearance and respect for authority and law worthy of them as good citizens, they replied to these, repeated acts, of provocative violence committed against their social, and personal liberties with a silence and sacrifice and good conduct which failed not to command respect in the breast of every honorable man.
Hundreds of miners on the various gold-fields, have been dragged from their work all over the diggings by the officers of the law to prison—because they have become debtors to the State—respectable men have been treated, over and over again in a manner disgraceful to any civilized Government. Our gold-fields' law administration has been the scene of the grossest corruption, the most wanton cruelty, often characterized by a malignity of purpose not to be misunderstood, a bold display of power unchecked, and of the most exasperating and insulting nature.
The victims have been made to tremble, and turn pale in the presence of their merciless judges, not a word allowed to be uttered in self-defence—even a look was sufficient to condtmn them, and send them to prison to be fed on bread and water with hard labor for a certain number of days, and if they dared to complain or make a noise; the gag was put in their mouths to stifle their cries. Men have looked on and wondered if they were in Russia, or within the regions of Satanic influence, or thougt it was all a dream—a fantasy. Scarcely a day has passed during the whole history of the Victorian gold-fields administration, but what could tell a tale of sorrow to many a digger's family.
Scores of industrious peaceable citizens have been treated as aliens and criminals, their feelings outraged—their religion cast in their faces—the place of their birth made a condem- nation against them. Vandemonian constables have been called in, and sworn to their identity as felons, where proof to the contrary existed. In fact, Mr Editor, it is impossible to give a true picture, the pen fails to do it, suffice it to say, that the residents on the Gold-fields have, for three long years submitted to a continual vio- lence scarcely credible by those, who are strangers to our circumstances and peculiar laws, and altogether foreign to the common usages of civilized society.
It is not to be wondered at that the boiler should , at length burst—that an explosion should take place. Amongst our mining popu- lation are high minded, intelligent; reflecting men, from all parts of the world. Many of these have had to submit to insult and degrada- tion—the victims of arbitrary power. As a natural consequence, their proud spirits, which were untainted with crime or dishonor, have been aroused into activity. The sleeping, but not dead, spirit of universal liberty, firmly im- planted by divine power in the soul of every man, has been awakened, and, therefore, the late agitations and the yet coming powerful organization of the oppress- ed and down-trodden people of the gold fields have sprung into living action—have become a startling and ominous reality—a problem which will exhaust the faculties and resources of our imbecile and blood-stained Government.
Sir Charles Hotham, with the advice of his Executive, has by his ill-judged and violent acts roused a spirit of open antagonism, to the present admininistration which I am pretty certain is not yet ended. Blood has been shed ; a number of Australians have been killed for defending a new faith, (politically speaking it is so). Repeated, incessant, imprudent acts of hostility on the part of the Government have driven them to adopt new ideas, and to give their, lives with enthusiasm on behalf of their new-born political creed.
The Eureka massacre will be handed down from father to son. This birth in blood of a new nation will hot, cannot die. Australia must pass through the fiery ordeal. Australia must have martyrs, but her progress onwards is certain. Those who have stained their souls with the blood of her sons will yet live to see my words a reality. The spirit of the age proclaims it, thousands of hearts throughout the boundaries of'Australia feel it, mourn it, and believe it, and all the power of thanes and despots shall not be able to stem the torrent of progress to such a consummation.
There, over those pallid bodies on which is stamped the finger of death, has the eternal vow been taken, neither persecutions nor revilings shall frighten or deter the followers of this new faith from going forward. The spirits of these dead men are with us ; it was beside their graves that the immortal vow was registered, and it will be from the monument to be erected over their sleeping bodies, that the great flag of human freedom shall float triumphantly over the ramparts of fallen despotism. Speak living history of the world ! Shall it not be so !
Mr. Editor, I have written this letter to assist the Commission of Enquiry in coming to a proper verdict. That body must have been well aware that so far as individual cases of complaint against officials were concerned, they would not get one half of the evidence. Man revolts against playing the part of an informer, but it was not because they could not have done so, but merely from an aversion to be informers. I have therefore written this letter to give publicity and expression to the system under which we have labored, so that all might rightly understand our position. I appeal to the people of the gold fields if I have not spoken the truth, and by their decision I will abide.
I remain, Sir, yours most respectfully,
Bendigo, 8th Jan., 1855.