St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne

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To the Right Worshipful the Mayor of Melbourne... [from] the undersigned Inhabitants of Melbourne considering the Unsettled State of a portion of the Diggings, and the necessity measures for the Better PROTECTION OF THE CITY, and upholding the cause of Law and Order, hereby request your Worship to convene A PUBLIC MEETING... John Ferres, Government Printer, 05 December 1854. State Library of Victoria Collection (H141396).


St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral is located on the corner of Flinders and Swanton Streets, Melbourne. On 05 December a loyalist meeting was organised by the Mayor to show support to the Governor and the actions of his officials. The Crowd of over 4,000 displayed hostility to the attack on the digers and Mayor John T. Smith quickly closed the meeting. On the following day the State Treason Trials started.


In December 1854 there was shock and outrage among the general community in Melbourne on learning of the government’s actions and the lives lost at Eureka. The reaction in Melbourne turned the diggers’ defeat into a victory.

An official meeting on the 5th December in support of Lieutenant Governor Charles Hotham was taken over and resolutions were passed condemning the Government and calling for the immediate dismissal of Colonial Secretary Foster. On the same day the Legislative Council met and passed a motion, unanimously, approving the conduct of the troops. This great public meeting was said to be the biggest in the Colony at that time.

On the 6th December a second meeting meeting of 6,000 gathered at St Paul’s Church and protested the actions of the government and the Ballarat authorities. The attack by the troops was described as illegal and murderous. One speaker described the day (6th December) as a ‘proud day for Victoria … the beginning of the history of the colony’. This meeting marked the emergence, at last, of the popular democratic movement. Hotham had placed 300 police, 100 gaol warders, 100 volunteers and all available marines in neighbouring streets and government buildings in case of riots. The meeting concluded with three cheers for the diggers, three cheers for Dr Owens (a speaker and editor), three cheers for Sir Charles Hotham, and three groans for the troopers.[1]

Meanwhile the diggers were seething with resentment.

A large meeting in 7th December

An immense meeting of citizens was held on the ground opposite St. Paul's Church, yesterday afternoon (Thursday, 7th), for the avowed object of proecting constitutional liberty. On the platform were Mr. Fawkner, M.L.C., Mr. Cope, barrister, Mr. H. Langlands, Mr. Frencham, Mr. B. Hibbart, Mr. Blair, Mr. Cathie, Mr. Bryce Ross, Dr. Milton, Dr. Owens, and other gentlemen.
On the motion of Dr. Embling, the chair was token by H. Langlands, Esq., who was loudly cheered by the immense assemblage of persons on the ground.
Mr. D. Blair proposed the 1st resolution, which was seconded by Mr. Fawkner, supported by Dr. Owens, mid carried unanimously.
That the constitutional agitation at Ballaarat has assumed its present form consequence of the coercion of a military force, professedly imported for the defence of the colony against foreign aggression; and that matters would not have been precipitated to their present issue, but for the harsh and imprudent recommencement of digger-hunting during a period of excitement.
The next resolution was moved by Mr. Fulton, seconded by Mr. Cope, and supported by Mr Frencham, and was also carried unanimously.
That the citizens of Melbourne, while disapproving of the physical resistance offered by the diggers to the Government, cannot, without betraying the interests of liberty, loud their support to the measures of the Government till they have obtained a guarantee that steps will at once be taken to place the colony in genural, and the goldfields in particular, on such a footing, that a military despotism will no long be required.
The third resolution, which was as follows, was moved by Mr. J. M. Grant, seconded by Captain Harrison, and supported by Mr. Cathie.
That Messrs. O'shanassy, Westgarth, Fawkner, Strachan, Henry Cooke, Thomas Fulton, and Dr. Owen, be appointed by that meeting a commission to mediate between the Government and the diggers, for restoration of peace, the withdrawal of the military from the diggings, and the security of the colony.
The Chairman put the resolution to the meeting but when Mr. Fawkner's name was read there were many marks of disapprobation. It was then decided to take the names seriatim. When Mr. Fawkner's name was again mentoned, this aprobation was repeated.
Ds. Embling and Owen and Mr. Hibbard addressed a few words to the meeting in praise of Mr. Fawkner, and his name was aferwards received with acclamation. The name of Mr. Cathie was added to the list by the expressed wish of many of those present.
The Chairman put the resolution to the meeting with the additional name, and it was carried nem. con.
Dr Owens said that he had been told that they dare not have such a meeting, and be responsible for the peace of the city; but they had done so. They would then go home quietly and orderly.
They had done their duty, and waited for the Governement to do theirs. He proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman.
Mr Grant seconded the motion, which was Carried.
The Chairman acknowledged the complements in suitable terms.
Three cheers were then given for liberty, three cheers for the diggers, three cheers for Dr. Owens three cheers for Sir Charles Hotham, and three groans for the troopers.
The meeting then broke up, having occupied occupied about three hours.
The Argus, from which we summarise the proceedings, does not give estimate of the numbers who attended the meeting but a gentleman who has arrived by the Governor-General and who was prestent, informs us that the assembly numbered about ten thousand souls. The aversion was evinced to the placing the name of Mr Fawkner in the commission appears to have arisen from that gentleman in his speech having repudiated all idea of a resort on the part of the peopleto physical foree, and from his having endevoured to excilpate, and the Government by attributing the grievances of the digger to the operation of the squatting influence in the Council.
At the Treason Trials on 23 February, the jury of Melbourne citizens, acquitted all the diggers and they became popular heroes. Before long the licence fee was abolished and diggers were given the vote.[2]

Further Reading

Ian Macfarlane, Eureka From the Official Records, Public Record Office, 1995

Also See


Thomas Embling

John Pascoe Fawkner

Augustus Greeves

George Harrison

John Hodgson

William Miller

Francis Murphy

William Nicholson

John O'Shannessy

John T. Smith

John Steavenson

  1. Sydney Empire, 13 December 1854.
  2. Sydney Empire, 13 December 1854.