Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

The Eureka

The Eureka.

"Boy, thou hadst a father," said Justice Shallow to Master Slender, and it was another way of saying that there were strong men before Agammemnon. "Alone I did it" is too apt to be the exclamation of Young Victoria on viewing his cloud-capt towers and gorgeous palaces—yea, the great globe itself

We have before us a remarkable photograph of Strutt's drawing, which represents the Victorian Parliament in St. Patrick's Hall. The portraits are recognisable of Sir James Palmer, O'Shanassy, Miller, Hodgson, and numerous others. We find a strange attraction in the picture.

A course of reading which interested us deeply was all throughout the debates of the old Legislative Council, from 1851 to 1856. The dominating calibre of O'Shanassy soon asserte4 itself He and Fawkner, the founder of Melbourne, led the Democrats. Mr., afterwards Sir James, M'Culloch, who became the Radical leader, entered the Council as a Government Nominee, which indicated devotion to the Conservative interest.

In the most trying crisis of its history, Victoria was governed, for these five years, by only one Legislative Chamber. It never required any more. The old Council was two-thirds Representative and one-third Nominee. Yet the newspapers affirmed that the so-called Representatives were half of them virtual Nominees. The territory was arbitrarily districted out, so that half the Representatives were elected by the people and the rest by the sheep and bullocks.

The other Sunday we made a pilgrimage to the Eureka Stockade, that is to say, the site of it, at Ballarat. Here is the spot where the knell was sounded of the feudal system in Victoria, aye Australia. Here the tocsin of liberty clanged out. This is the only sacred ground of all our continent

We thought the spell still lingered over it, surrounded as it is by deserted gold holes for the clear space of three-quarters of a mile. A square bluestone memorial is just put up there, with four immense 95-pounder cannons upon it What the thing means we are at a loss to imagine. Does it signalise the triumph of the soldiery or of the people?

The whole scene of the Eureka strife rushed upon our imagination. The waste around recalls a cemetery, covered with mounds of turned-up clay, upon which not a blade of vegetation will grow. There is not a meal for a sheep in the square, or page 42 round, mile. Looking into deep holes we wondered who dug them.

Thirty-one years ago this was an arena of busy life, a human beehive. All over the Eureka was a sea of tents. The Stockade had been built, our national zareba, to defend the patriotic diggers against the English soldiery. We are here on a Sunday. The battle was on a delicious Sunday morn, December 3rd, 1854.

Ballarat was all in a fume of excitement. We gaze to-day over at the Queen City afar off, so beautiful with its eminences and houses, poppet-heads, hills turned inside out in gravel, and broad Sturt-street in Ballarat West up the ascent in the far distance, the strip of foliage down its middle. We fancy we can faintly hear the carillon from the bells of the Town Hall tower.

Presto! It is old Ballarat, dingy, brown, with more tents than houses. The grim miners, in the Eureka Stockade, look to their guns and revolvers, and up at their Australian national flag of the Southern Cross, fluttering in the breeze overhead.

"Steady boys!" shouts the General, Peter Lalor, now Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. "The soldiers are coming I" "Hurrah!"

But the Fortieth Regiment of English red coats gives its hoarse hurrah too, and swarms over the logs, amid the crackle of musketry, and in the white smoke. The affair is over in a few minutes. The Australian flag is torn down with insult, trampled under foot, and carried back in mock triumph through Ballarat. Numerous men are killed and wounded on both sides. The soldiers are said to have used their bayonets with merciless cruelty. It was as bitter as the strife between the Guards and Arabs at Abuklea.

Then ensued the trial of the patriots at the Supreme Court. They were acquitted, amidst shouts which marked the birth of the Australian nation. All that is worth having sprang from the Eureka. It gave birth to the Land Convention and to the Corner in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, which, from a cloud the size of a man's hand, spread till Democracy ruled Victoria, the spear-head of Australia.