Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover,
August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440) and Condemned them to hard labor on the Public Roads of the Colony - A proceeding Your Petitioners maintain to be contrary to the spirit of the British Law which does not recognise the principle of the Subject being a Criminal because he is indebted to the State
That the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is unjust because the successful and unsuccessful Digger are assessed in the same ratio
For these reasons and others which could be enumerated Your Petitioners pray Your Excellency to Grant the following Petition
* First. To direct that the Licence Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month
* Secondly To direct that Monthly or Quarterly Licenses be issued at the option of the Applicants
* Thirdly To direct that new arrivals or invalids be allowed on registering their names at the Commissioners Office fifteen clear days residence on the Gold Fields before the License be enforced
* Fourthly To afford greater facility to Diggers and others resident on the Gold Fields who wish to engage in Agricultural Pursuits for investing their earnings in small allotments of land
* Fifthly To direct that the Penalty of Five Pounds for non-possession of License be reduced to One Pound
* Sixthly To direct that (as the Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony have uniformly developed a love of law and order) the sending of an Armed Force to enforce the License Tax be discontinued.
Your Petitioners would respectfully submit to Your Excellency's consideration in favour of the reduction of the License Fee that many Diggers and other residents on the Gold-fields who are debarred from taking a License under the present System would if the Tax were reduced to Ten Shillings a Month cheerfully comply with the Law so that the License Fund instead of being diminished would be increased
Your Petitioners would also remind your Excellency that a Petition is the only mode by which they can submit their wants to your Excellency's consideration as although they contribute more to the Exchequer that half the Revenue of the Colony they are the largest class of Her Majesty's Subjects in the Colony unrepresented
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.
Red Ribbon Movement Monument in Rosalind Park, Bendigo [detail], 2013.
Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
Once thought to be lost, the Bendigo Goldfields Petition was discovered by chance lying in a pile of papers on a rubbish tip. Some 13 metres in length and bound in green silk, it’s a milestone document in the state’s history.
The petition was signed by over 5000 diggers on the Victorian goldfields in mid-1853. At the time, the signatures represented about one in 12 diggers.
In June 1853 an anti-gold licence association was formed at Bendigo to give voice to the diggers' many grievances about their conditions. The diggers were angry about the mining licence fees imposed by the government and the system by which they were collected.
The petition was signed by miners across the state’s major goldfields and was brought to Melbourne and presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe on 01 August 1853. Most of its demands, including the reduction in the licence fee, were rejected. Eventually the diggers' dissatisfaction erupted, culminating in the Eureka Stockade uprising at Ballarat on 3 December 1854.
Two women signed the petition - Florence Foley and Sarah Williamson.
Dr John Chapman, a Melbourne collector, purchased the petition from its discoverer and presented it to the State Library of Victoria in 1988. Its discovery is particularly valuable for historians and genealogists investigating the history of social and political events during the gold rushes in Victoria.
Signed in or around Ballarat
Jesse Eldridge - John Eldridge - Moses Eldridge - Thomas Clegg
Signed in or around Bendigo
J.H. Abbott - George Aspinall - Thomas Underdown
Signed in or around The Ovens
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Anti-Gold License Association
Red Ribbon Rebellion