Battle of the Eureka Stockade
December 3, 1854: The Battle of the Eureka Stockade takes place. The event is also known as the Eureka Rebellion and it got its start in the Ballarat Reform League which formed on November 11, 1854. Gold miners in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia were in revolt over what they considered to be unfair practices by the British government. During the Victorian gold rush, the authorities imposed a law demanding miners obtain a Miner’s License which miners felt was a tax without proper representation. They took as stance at Eureka Lead and built a stockade during the conflict. The Colonial forces of Australia met the miners and were victorious at the site.
James Scobie had been murdered on October 7, 1854 at the Eureka hotel. James Bentley, the hotel proprietor was the leading suspect in the murder of the Scottish gold miner, but a corrupt magistrate acquitted Bentley. Ten days later, somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 miners showed up at the hotel to protest the death of Scobie and Bentley’s acquittal. They rioted and burned down the hotel. A more proper trial was eventually held and Bentley (posthumously) and three others were found guilty of murder, but the locals were already enraged by the lack of protection from a government in disarray. They formed the Ballarat Reform League under the chairmanship of John Humffray.
Their major goal was representation in the government which produced the laws and collected taxes which were exacted upon them. The League attempted to negotiated with the Commissioner and Governor of Victoria. They were seeking redress both on the specific case of Scobie’s death and the general goal of representative government. Instead of listening to the negotiators, the Commissioner increased police presence in Ballarat. The miners decided to march to Melbourne to seek redress and were attacked along the way. They had no more success in the capital than they had locally.
The disaffected miners finally rebelled and on this day, a confrontation between them and the Victoria police took place. The miners took a “Eureka oath” in which they promised each other to encamp themselves around a flag and to resist further license hunts and harassment by authorities. The rebels numbers 120 while the police had about 275 men. The rebels suffered between 22 and 60 dead with more injured and the rest of the camp detained. The police lost six men. While they did win the day, the battle led to the passing of the Electoral Act of 1856 in which it was mandated full white male suffrage for elections of the lower house of Victorian parliament be granted. Some consider this revolt to be the birth of democracy in Australia.
To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain. – Louis L’Amour
The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy. – Charles de Montesquieu
Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. – Plato
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. – Abraham Lincoln
Also on this day: Bhopal – In 1984, the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India emits a huge cloud of noxious gases.
No More Beach Parties – In 1982, Times Beach, Missouri was found to be toxic.
Have a Heart – In 1967, the first heart transplant was performed.
Neon – In 1910, the Paris Motor Show Opened with some new sign display.