The Eureka stockade

The Eureka stockade: a chronology

1851 Licensing system introduced by Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe. Miners required to pay 30 shillings per month for the right to mine for g old: no representation in the Legislative Council; no ready access to land for small settlers.
December 1851 Mass meeting of miners at Mount Alexander (Castlemaine) condemns the license fee as ‘an illegal taxation’.
1852-53 Unrest continues to simmer throughout the gold fields. In 1853, miners on Bendigo gold fields deliver petition t o La Trobe.
December 1853 License fee reduced to £1 per month, £2 per quarter, or £8 per year.
1854 La Trobe initiates legislation to extend the franchise to miners with a twelve-month (£8) license: Act passed by Legislative Council, but Royal Assent delayed.
June 1854 Sir Charles Hotham replaces La Trobe as Governor: immediately cuts government spending and orders rigorous enforcement of licensing system.
October 1854 James Scobie, a miner, killed in a fight. Four men – including James Bentley, owner of Eureka Hotel and friend of magistrate John d’Ewes – arrested for the murder, but discharged by a court consisting of d’Ewes, Resident Gold Fields Commissioner Robert Rede and Assistant Commissioner James Johnstone. Johnstone dissents from the verdict.Meeting of several thousand miners condemns the court’s decision. Breakaway mob burns Bentley’s hotel: several arrested.Servant to Catholic priest Patrick Smith harrassed by police.
11 November 1854 Formation of Ballarat Reform League.
27 November 1854 Hotham refuses to release rioters arrested during burning of Bentley’s hotel, but agrees to appoint a miners’ representative to Legislative Council.
28 November 1854 Group of Irish miners skirmishes with military reinforcements arriving from Melbourne.
29 November 1854 Licenses burnt at mass meeting on Bakery Hill.
30 November 1854 License check ordered. Stones thrown at police. Several miners arrested. Several hundred miners swear by the flag of the Southern Cross to ‘fight to uphold our rights and liberties’. Peter Lalor elected leader. Stockade built.
1-2 December 1854 Numbers inside stockade dwindle as miners leave to collect food and ammunition. By evening of 2 December about 200 remain.
3 December 1854 Combined force of mounted and foot police, infantry and cavalry attacks stockade shortly before dawn. After a battle lasting about 20 minutes, the miners are defeated. Approximately 30 deaths and over 100 arrests.
6 December 1854 Martial Law proclaimed.
7 December 1854 Commission to enquire into the gold fields appointed.
8-11 December 1854 Committal proceedings for the ‘rioters’ arrested during the attack on the stockade: only 13 are committed for trial.
9 December 1854 Martial Law lifted.
11-18 December 1854 Warrants issued for the arrest of leaders of the uprising not apprehended during the attack on the stockade. Lalor successfully avoids capture.
February-March 1855 Trials of the 13 ‘rioters’: all acquitted.Henry Seekamp, editor of the Ballarat times, convicted of seditious libel and sentenced to six months imprisonment.Report of Gold Fields Commission recommends replacement of licence fee with an export duty on gold, issuing of a £1 annual ‘miner’s right’ constituting the miner’s title deed to his claim, and the opening of Crown land to small holders. Recommendatio ns promptly adopted by government.Hotham resigns as Governor.