Goldfields Involvement, 1854
Gregorius was a servant at St Alipius church. On 10 October 1854 Gregorius was visiting friends when he was arrested for not having a Gold License. As a priest's servant he was not required to obtain a licence. The following letters from the Chief Secretary's Correspondence held at Public Record Office Victoria provide an insight to the event. In these letters he is referred to as Johannes McGregor.
VPRS 1189 Unit 92 File J54/ 13.201 K 11.998
To the Honourable the Colonial Secretary,
We the undersigned, the Committee of Deputation, appointed as such by the aggregate Catholic body at Ballarat, do most respectfully beg leave to submit the appended Resolutions for the information of the honourable the Colonial Secretary. While we leave to himself to take what steps he may think proper to have the law of the land vindicated and the feelings of an offended people recognised, we cannot, but, in justice to our cause and for the information of the Government, state what are the wishes and what the impressions of the people whom we represent.
The Catholics of Ballarat are a large and influential body, comprising inhabitants of every recognised country under heaven, and especially of that land, whose children are proverbially devoted to their faith, and sensitive even to jealousy of the respect due to their pastors. Now, their impression is that a marked insult has been offered to their Pastor in the person of his servant, as uncalled for as it is persisted in. the history of the matter is brief – The servant our Priest has been shamefully maltreated by a trooper, and that for not having a license from which he was legally exempt. In addition to this certain unmentionable expressions are used by the trooper in reference to the Priest. Towards the conclusion of the scene Mr Commissioner Johnson, rides up: the concurrent testimony of a crowd assures him of the facts of the occurrence; he is made aware of the aggrieved party being the Priests servant, yet he does that which both ignores the privilege of exemption to the servant, and casts an imputation on the Priest, in the person of his servant, of defrauding the public revenue. It may be said, that bail was exacted for the appearance of the servant next morning at court, solely on the ground of his being charged with obstructing the police in the discharge of their duties. But in answer to this we appeal to three facts; first, that Mr Johnson never mentioned this; secondly, those who witnessed and heard the particulars we under a different impression; and thirdly, the servant was tried next morning and fined five pounds for not having a license. ‘Tis true, that this sentence was subsequently revoked, but this we look upon as an aggravation, as being at once unjust and illegal. Against this decision we have appealed and have demanded a rehearing of the case, and have been met by the answer that the Ballarat Bench is legally incapable of entering on the matter anew. The impression, then, among the people, is, that they have been insulted; and that this insult stands against them on the public records of the country.
The Catholics at Ballarat, actuated by a laudable desire to have the law vindicated, and the ends of justice obtained, have resolved to appeal to the Government and to lay this appeal before the Honourable the Colonial Secretary. They simply ask that the case be again reheard and if the evidence addressed be such as to warrant a reversion of the sentence, that be done as publickly [sic] as the occasion requires. And furthermore, if the evidence on the case inculpate both the trooper and Mr Commissioner Johnson, that the one meet that punishment which the law assigns, and the other be at least removed for the gold-commissioner-department of this place.
In conclusion, we beg leave to observe that the constitutional means taken to obtain a redress of the wrong here complained of, evinces our respect for the law, and merit for us its protection. Honoured Sir, we have the honour to subscribe ourselves
Your obedient servants
A copy of the Resolutions passed and adopted by the Roman Catholics’ of Ballarat, at a meeting convened and held at the Catholic Chapel on Wednesday the 25th inst.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of the meeting that the decision of the Ballarat Bench, was wrong, in the case of James Lord versus Johannes McGregory, for an alleged assault, and do call upon the Government to institute an enquiry with, and a rehearing of the case.
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this meeting the at the conduct of Mr Commissioner Johnson towards the Reverend Father Patrick Smyth, has been calculated to awaken the highest feelings of indignation in the breast of his devoted flock, and they do call upon the Government to institute an inquiry into his character, and do desire to have him at once removed from Ballarat.
Timothy Hayes Chairman
The above resolutions are the ones referred to in the next page, containing an authentic copy of what it states to be. Timothy Hayes
A copy of a paper read and adopted at the same meeting.
“Ballarat. October 25th 1854”
“To the Honourable the Colonial Secretary etc Melbourne.”
“We are authorised by the unanimous approbation of a public meeting, convened this day at Ballarat, to forward to his Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, for his consideration the following statement and resolutions, adopted and carried at this meeting.” – “Whereas, that Johannes McGregor, the servant of the Rev. Mr Smyth, Catholic Pastor, Ballarat, has been most shamefully, and in a most unwarranted and cruel manner, maltreated and trampled upon by a trooper, named, James Lord, while demanding a license from him, from what he was legally exempt as being the Priests servant: and that Mr Commissioner Johnson, and the Ballarat Bench, to shield and protect the unjustifiable conduct of the trooper have outraged the laws of the land, as well as the best feelings of humanity, by fining the Rev. Mr Smyth the sim of five pounds Stirling, for an alleged case of assault, on the part of his servant towards the trooper, the execution of duty; and as in the opinion of this meeting the foregoing fine and decision are unjust and illegal, as also that the conduct of Mr Commissioner Johnson has highly incensed not only the Roman Catholics of Ballarat, but has rendered himself obnoxious t the digging community by his ungentlemanly and overbearing demeanour; and that at a former meeting held on Sunday, the 22nd inst, resolutions had been passed, demanding of the Ballarat Bench to reconsider their judgement, to which the Bench replied that they had not power to reconsider the case without further information from higher authority, the meeting here assembled therefore request that his Excellency, the Lieutenant Governor, will please to take into consideration the subjoined resolutions, and cause immediate enquiry to be made into the conduct of the officers immediately concerned in the matter.”
The Resident Commissioner Ballaarat to
The Chief Commissioner of the Gold Fields Melbourne –
Forwarding a report on the case of a servant of the Roman Catholic Priest and enclosing a letter from Mr Commissioner Johnston.
Resident Commissioner’s Office
Ballaarat 26th October 1854
Hearing on Friday last the 20th instant that here was to be a meeting on the following Sunday to take into consideration the treatment received by a servant of the Catholic Priest from a mounted Constable (Lord), I made enquiries into the affair by calling on Mr Smith[sic], the Catholic Priest and questioning Mr Johnston who was out with the Police on the subject. The Priest said he did not wish to press the charge, and promised that he would keep the people so late at Chapel that they would not have time to assemble.
2. I spoke to Capt. McMahon on the subject and requested him to investigate the circumstance which he promised to do. He sent the Trooper to Melbourne.
3. On Monday a deputation waited on Mr Sturt and myself requesting the case might be reheard. This being impossible they were told they had better lay the case before The Honourable The Colonial Secretary which I believe they intend doing. The real grievance seems to be a hasty and improper expression on the part of the Trooper, who is reported to have said “I don’t care a damm for you or the Priest.”
4. How far the Trooper otherwise exceeded his authority, or how far the man, who is an Armenian, and speaks little English, resisted, I am unable to learn but it seems the people have an idea that the decision of the Bench is informal, the man having been first fined £5. for being without a license and the £5 bail paid Mr Johnson went into court. The £5 forfeited for not having a license was taken as a fine.
5. I can find no depositions on the subject and in the Record Books Johannes McGregurey stands as having bail forfeited for not having a license.
6. I am but this morning informed that another Meeting is to be held this afternoon on the same subject.
I have the honor to be
Sir Your most obedient servt. (Signed) Robert Rede Resident Commissioner
Copy Camp. Ballaarat 25th October 1854
I have the honor to report to you the particulars relative to the apprehension and punishment of a Servant belonging to the Roman Catholic Priest at this place. About three weeks ago I was out with the Police in search of unlicensed miners and while standing at the foot of the Black Hill, a digger, told me that he thought there was a row on the Gravel Pit Hill. I turned round and saw a crowd collected on the hill near to the Catholic Chapel. I immediately rode up and found a man sitting on the ground with his shirt torn and talking in a very excited manner, and also a mounted constable who told me that the man was his prisoner and that he was trying to bring him before me. After the crowd which had collected had become quiet, I asked the constable to explain to me what had recurred. He told me that he had gone up to a tent where he found two men and asked them to show their licenses. They both said they had none. He told them in that case he must bring them before the Commissioner. One of the men came quietly but the other said “I will be you damned first. I won’t go and was going to enter into the tent again, when he (the Constable) seized him by the shirt collar. The man struggled with him and tried to get away, and during the struggle either the horses chest had come against him and shoved him down or the man has thrown himself down. Having ascertained from the Catholic Priest (who had come up at the same time as I did) that the man was his servant I told him that he did not require a license, but I did not suppose the constable knew he was exempted , and as the constable complained that the man has resisted him in the execution of duty, I told him he must answer to that charge, but instead of keeping him as a prisoner, told him to lodge £5 bail and to appear at the Police Court on the following Monday. When going into Court the next morning I heard that the man had been charged with being on the Gold Fields without a license and had been fined £5. However I explained to Mr Dawes the Police Magistrate that I had laid no such charge against the man and he accordingly dismissed the case. The man was then brought up for resisting the constable and Mr Dawes fined him £5 as the charge was fully proved.
I have the honor to be
Your most obedient servant (Signed) J Johnston Assist Commissioner
Post 1854 Experiences
Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- VPRS 1189, Unit 92, File J54/ 13.201, K 11.998, transcribed by Christine Stancliffe