John D'Ewes

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William E. Pidgeon (WEP), Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.
William E. Pidgeon artwork is reproduced with the permission of Peter Pidgeon


John D’Ewes was appointed Police Magistrate at Ballarat in January 1854. The diggers believed him be corrupt. D’Ewes left Ballarat immediately after his dismissal, and by the end of 1854 he was in Sydney.[1] He is believed to havecommitted suicide in Paris many years later.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Charles A. Doudiet, watercolour on paper, 1854, watercolour, on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
Digger Hunts from The Revolt at Eureka’ by R. Wenban. Schools Publishing House, 1959.

D’Ewes gave evidence at the Board of Enquiry into the burning of Bentley’s Eureka Hotel. He was dismissed on 20 November 1854, over Bentley’s acquittal. This acquittal greatly angered the diggers, and triggered the burning of James Bentley’s Eureka Hotel. D’Ewes was believed to have owned shares in Bentley's Eureka Hotel. [3]

D'Ewes was a witness examined during the report of the Board appointed to enquire into circumstances connected with the riot at Ballarat, and the burning of James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. [4]

... The report of the Commission appointed by the Lieut.-Governor on the 30th October, to enquire into the circumstances connected with the death of Scobie and the burning of the Eureka Hotel, was published on the 6th inst. It is dated November 17, and bears the signature of the Chairman, Mr. Evelyn Sturt. After setting forth the points to which the Commission was instructed to direct its enquiries, it proceeds to report on each separately, to the following effect
1. That the decision of the Magistrates in discharging Bentley, who was accused of Scobie's murder, was opposed to the evidence and facts elicited; that there was some appearance of a leaning towards the prisoner on the part of Mr. Dewes, the Police Magistrate. The other Magistrates are passed by without censure.
2. That the Magistrates did not act with sufficient promptitude at the burning of the Eureka Hotel.
3. That the complaint against the Commissioners and officers in the Camp at Ballarat has (mentioned in No. 4, with two exceptions) been such as to merit the respect and confidence of the people. ::4. That Mr. Dewes, the Police Commissioner, has laid himself under improper obligations to licensed victuallers by engaging with them in bill transactions to enable him to purchase land; and that Sergeant-Major Milne has received 'hush money' from sly-grogsellers.
5. That no blame attaches to the Coroner, although a more experienced officer might have led to a different verdict.
6. That the present system of settling disputed claims, the employment of the police to apprehend slygrogsellers and unlicensed diggers, and the existence of the license-fee, have been the main causes of discontent. The Commissioners, therefore, recommend the settlement of disputed claims by a Jury of three (or such other number as may be deemed advisable); the employment of detective officers, in plain clothes, to restrain sly-grogselling ; and the abolition of the license-fee.
They conclude by suggesting the passions of an Act empowering the Executive to levy a rate upon any particular district tor the amount of any property destroyed by unlawful proceedings. To this report is appended a minute by His Excellency, dated 20th November, dismissing Mr. Dewes from the public service, and erasing his name from the list of Magistrates. It refers the case of Sergeant Major Milne to the Attorney-General with a view to his prosecution. The last item of news we find from Ballarat is in the second edition of the Argus, 6th December, viz. : — 'Recent news from Ballarat is very encouraging. Order is reported to prevail, the people are returning to their ordinary pursuits, and a strong feeling has been manifested among the miners to support good order and authority.' Connected with the disturbances we may mention a public meeting held in the open air at Melbourne on the 5th instant, and attended by 3,000 persons. 'Resolutions were passed — 1st, Regretting the course pursued by the diggers; 2nd, Asserting the necessity of the laws being supported; 3rd, Fledging the meeting to assist in the preservation of peace.[5]

Post 1854 Experiences

D'Ewes went to British Columbia, Canada where he was arrested for embezzlement. He is thought to have committed suicide in Paris, France in later years.[6]

John D'Ewes wrote China, Australia and the Pacific Island in the Years 1853-1856 published by Richard Bentley, London in 1857. The only chapter on Ballarat is Chapter III.[7]

In The News


Mr J. Russell Thomson died at his residence, Ballarat West, to night, of liver complaint. He was 64 years old Mr Thomson was always greatly liked and esteemed here, his courteous bearing and his integrity commanding for him the respect of all who knew him. He will be remembered by old residents as a member of the firm of Thomson, Walsh and Moore, sharebrokers. He was in Ballarat before the Eureka Affair, and was in the police court when Bentley was charged with the murder of the digger James Scobie, and acquitted by the magistrate Mr Dewes. On that occasion Mr Thompson narrowly escaped committal for daring to urge that Bentley's was a case which should be sent to a jury; but his expression of opinion was popular. At an indignation meeting close to where Scobie was killed, 'Mr.Thomson, with Messrs T.D. Wanliss, P. Lalor, J.W. Gray, W. Corkhill, A.McP. Grant, and Archd. Carmichael were appointed to collect money to defray the cost of a further prosecution of Bentley. In the early days here Mr Thomson amassed a fortune, and has of late lived retired, He still supported mining, but latterly with little success. He has, no relatives in the colony. [8]
A Digger Hunt, University of Ballarat Historical Collection( Cat.No. 4170)
Sir, – My friend Mr. Lavater makes my letter of the 17th inst. the occasion of some warmth. The name Dr. Ewes was a misprint for Dewes or D'Ewes. I never knew before that this officer served at Geelong. The police officer Armstrong, mentioned by Mr. Lavater, left the public service 15 months before the outbreak ; and as early as January or February, 1854, the police – I am speaking of those at Ballarat only – were forbidden to carry any weapon but their baton. What happened at Smythesdale in March, 1854 (see Mr. Cane's letter), I cannot say.
Mr. Bolger, another correspondent, says that at the last "digger hunt" the police carried arms, but he does not explain that this was the time when the diggers were nightly "sniping" the Government camp as admitted by Mr. Lavater, and while they held in forced imprisonment Commissioner Amos, "one of the beloved of the diggers" according to the same authority. The Eureka outbreak from every point of view, was a stupendous folly. It would be well if the whole affair could be forgotten. —
Yours, &c., J. SADLEIR.
June 23.[9]
Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.

See also

Evelyn Sturt

Thomas Milne

James Scobie

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  2. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  3. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  4. Report of the Board appointed to Enquire into Circumstances Connected with the Late Disturbance at Ballarat, John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne, 21 November 1854.
  5. South Australian Register, 11 December 1854.
  6. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  7. Notes, Dorothy Wickham, 2001
  8. Hobart Mercury, 29 May 1886.
  9. The Argus, 24 June 1909.

External links