Ballarat Reform League Charter

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"Re Meeting held at Bakery Hill in the presence of about 10,000 men on Saturday November 11th the following were adopted as the principles and objectives of the "Ballarat Reform League" (also known as the Ballarat Reform League Charter), p.1, 27 November 1854, PROV, VPRS4066/PO, Unit 1, A1

At a Meeting held on Bakery Hill in the presence of about ten thousand men on Saturday November 11th, 1854 the following were adopted as the principles and objects of the “Ballarat Reform League”
That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.
That, being as the people have been hitherto, unrepresented in the Legislative Council of the Colony of Victoria, they have been tyrannised over, and it becomes their duty as well as interest to resist, and if necessary to remove the irresponsible power which so tyrannises over them.
That this Colony has hitherto been governed by paid Officials, upon the false assumption that law is greater than justice because, forsooth, it was made by them and their friends, and admirably suits their selfish ends and narrow minded views. It is the object of the “League” to place the power in the hands of responsible representatives of the people to frame wholesome laws and carry on an honest Government.
That it is not the wish of the “League” to effect an immediate separation of this Colony from the parent country, if equal laws and equal rights are dealt out to the whole free community. But that if Queen Victoria continues to act upon the ill advice of the dishonest ministers and insists upon indirectly dictating obnoxious laws for the Colony
"Re Meeting held at Bakery Hill in the presence of about 10,000 men on Saturday November 11th the following were adopted as the principles and objectives of the "Ballarat Reform League" (also known as the Ballarat Reform League Charter), p.2, 27 November 1854, PROV, VPRS4066/PO, Unit 1, A1

under the assumed authority of the Royal Prerogative the Reform League will endeavour to supersede such Royal Prerogative by asserting that of the People which is the most Royal of all Prerogatives, as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power.
Political changes contemplated by the Reform League :
1. A full and fair representation
2. Manhood suffrage
3. No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.
4. Payment of Members
5. Short duration of Parliament
Immediate objects of the Reform League An immediate change in the management of the Gold Fields, by disbanding the Commissioners.
The total abolition of the Diggers’ and Storekeepers licence tax, and a thorough and organised agitation of the Gold Fields and the Towns.
That to carry out the forgoing objects there should be a large tent erected in which to meet and conduct the business of the Reform League. Cards of membership will be issued in a few days and Ballarat divided into districts.
At the same Meeting the following among other resolutions were passed
That this Meeting condemns the insolent language used by the Colonial Secretary, Surveyor General, the Chief Commissioner of the Gold Fields, and the Chairman
"Re Meeting held at Bakery Hill in the presence of about 10,000 men on Saturday November 11th the following were adopted as the principles and objectives of the "Ballarat Reform League" (also known as the Ballarat Reform League Charter), p.3, 27 November 1854, PROV, VPRS4066/PO, Unit 1, A1

of Committees, for their unwarrantable assertions respecting the veracity of the Diggers and the respectability of the representatives of the public press on the gold fields, and their sneering contempt at an appeal for an investigation into the malpractices of the corrupt Camp at Ballarat.
That this meeting having heard read the draft Prospectus of the Ballarat Reform League approve of and adopt the same, and hereby pledge themselves to support the Committee in carrying out its principles and attaining its objects – which are the full political rights of the people.
That this meeting expresses its utter want of confidence in the political honesty of the Government Officials in the Legislative Council, and pledge themselves to use every constitutional means to have them removed from the office they disgrace. That this meeting also expresses its disapprobation of the mode in which the Board of Enquiry was appointed. That it ought to have been composed of independent gentlemen and not paid officials.
"Re Meeting held at Bakery Hill in the presence of about 10,000 men on Saturday November 11th the following were adopted as the principles and objectives of the "Ballarat Reform League" (also known as the Ballarat Reform League Charter), p.4, 27 November 1854, PROV, VPRS4066/PO, Unit 1, A1

69
27 Nov. 1854 Resolutions passed at a Public Meeting on Bakery Hill Ballarat.

Background

The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a four-page handwritten manifesto of democratic principles and demands[1], adopted on 11 November 1854. [2] and presented by a deputation to Governor Charles Hotham on 27 November 1854, but it was dismissed prompting the Eureka Stockade.[3] The Charter, written by members of the Ballarat Reform League and representing the aspirations and demands of the mining community of Ballarat, was instrumental in the campaigns for democratic reform in the Colony of Victoria. The Charter is resonant with universal democratic values, drawn from Chartist and other international democratic movements of its time. The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a central feature of the Eureka Stockade story, one of the most significant and influential events in Australia’s political and social history.[4]

The Charter is handwritten on watermarked government blue paper, folded into four foolscap-sized pages containing the text of the charter adopted by over 10,000 miners and storekeepers on Bakery Hill on the Ballarat goldfields on 11 November 1854, establishing its authority to represent the opinion of the majority of the adult population of Ballarat. The Southern Cross flag, designed and adopted by the Ballarat Reform League, was flown for the first time at this meeting. The Charter was presented to Governor Charles Hotham on 27 November by representatives of this meeting, who also demanded the release of three prisoners arrested for burning James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. This is a clerk's copy of the original Charter, held by the Public Records Office, Victoria. The original has not survived, and its format is unknown. The copy was created for administrative purposes by the Governor's office at the time it was received by Governor Hotham. It has markings on it indicating it was created by the Governor's office and that it was the copy read by Governor Hotham.[5]

Transcript

At a Meeting held on Bakery Hill in the presence of about ten thousand men on Saturday November 11th, 1854 the following were adopted as the principles and objects of the Ballarat Reform League

That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey – that taxation without representation is tyranny.
That, being as the people have been hitherto, unrepresented in the Legislative Council of the Colony of Victoria, they have been tyrannised over, and it becomes their duty as well as interest to resist, and if necessary to remove the irresponsible power which so tyrannises over them.
That this Colony has hitherto been governed by paid Officials, upon the false assumption that law is greater than justice because, forsooth, it was made by them and their friends, and admirably suits their selfish ends and narrow minded views. It is the object of the “League” to place the power in the hands of responsible representatives of the people to frame wholesome laws and carry on an honest Government.
That it is not the wish of the “League” to effect an immediate separation of this Colony from the parent country, if equal laws and equal rights are dealt out to the whole free community. But that if Queen Victoria continues to act upon the ill advice of the dishonest ministers and insists upon indirectly dictating obnoxious laws for the Colony.

(end of page 1)

under the assumed authority of the Royal Prerogative the Reform League will endeavour to supersede such Royal Prerogative by asserting that of the People which is the most Royal of all Prerogatives, as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power.

Political changes contemplated by the Reform League :

1. A full and fair representation
2. Manhood suffrage
3. No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council.(?)
4. Payment of Members
5. Short duration of Parliament

Immediate objects of the Reform League An immediate change in the management of the Gold Fields, by disbanding the Commissioners.

The total abolition of the Diggers’ and Storekeepers licence tax, and a thorough and organised agitation of the Gold Fields and the Towns.
That to carry out the forgoing objects there should be a large tent erected in which to meet and conduct the business of the Reform League. Cards of membership will be issued in a few days and Ballarat divided into districts.

At the same Meeting the following among other resolutions were passed

That this Meeting condemns the insolent language used by the Colonial Secretary, the Surveyor General, the Chief Commissioner of the Gold Fields, and the Chairman

(end of page 2)

of Committees, for their unwarrantable assertions respecting the veracity of the Diggers and the respectability of the representatives of the public press on the gold fields, and their sneering contempt at an appeal for an investigation into the malpractices of the corrupt Camp at Ballarat.
That this meeting having heard read the draft Prospectus of the Ballarat Reform League approve of and adopt the same, and hereby pledge themselves to support the Committee in carrying out its principles and attaining its objects – which are the full political rights of the people.
That this meeting expresses its’ utter want of confidence in the political honesty of the Government Officials in the Legislative Council, and pledge themselves to use every constitutional means to have them removed from the office they disgrace. That this meeting also expresses its disapprobation of the mode in which the Board of Enquiry was appointed. That it ought to have been composed of independent gentlemen and not paid officials.

(end of page 3)

Heritage Listings

The Ballarat Reform League Charter is the first document in the history of Australia to promote participatory democracy. That document has been entered into the UNESCO Memory of the World database, which aims to collect the most important documents in the history of mankind.


Australian Memory of the World Program

The Australian Memory of the World Project believes the Charter of the Ballarat Reform League is important because it has instrumental historical significance for the events it records in gold rush Victoria, the Australian history of democratic Chartism which it incorporates, and the subsequent development of democratic representation in Victoria to which it contributed.[6]


UNESCO Memory of the World

UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992. Impetus came originally from a growing awareness of the parlous state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world. ... Significant collections worldwide have suffered a variety of fates. Looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered ... but sometimes rediscovered.[7]

Presentation to Parliament for Eureka 150

Exactly 150 years since the Ballarat Reform League presented their Charter for ratification to over 10,000 miners on Bakery Hill on 11 November 1854, the Mayor of Ballarat, Councillor David Vendy, presented a framed copy of the four page Charter to the Victorian Parliament. The historic presentation, which received bipartisan support form all sides of government concluded with Premier Steve Bracks stating the charter "Was ahead of its time. The Ballarat Reform League Charter is a landmark document in the history of our nation. It is our Declaration of Independence. Our Magna Carter. And a cornerstone of Australian democracy. [8]

The Eureka Flag flew on the Victorian Parliament house on 11 November 2004 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charter's ratification. [9]

Important Documents in History

"The ideals underpinning the Eureka uprising may be traced back as early as the Magna Carta of 1215 – meaning ‘The Great Charter’ – which began as a list of grievances recorded by the free men of England against the despotic rule of King John. The document has since become an international symbol of liberty and its sentiments were echoed in later landmark documents, including the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and importantly, the Ballarat Reform League Charter (1854), which epitomises the Eureka rebellion. The events at Eureka were also influenced by the ideas and experiences that gold seekers from all over the world brought with them to the central Victorian goldfields, leading them to challenge the unfair system they found themselves in. Some of these people had witnessed the revolutionary wave that swept across Europe in 1848, where social unrest, political instability and revolt had spurred socio-political movements seeking to create better societies. These diverse and daring ideas about freedom, utopian societies and law and order that many gold migrants brought with them, helped create the environment within which the Eureka rebellion thrived."[10]


The Magna Carta Issued by King John of England who reigned 1199 to 1216, the Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the world. The Domesday Book had been created in England before the Magna Carta, but the Domesday was more or less a census of the lands that had been conquered by the Normans from France. The Magna Carta however was established and for the first time, the idea that everyone was subject to the law, even the King and his followers. The Magna Carta was established in 1215 as a practical solution to the political crisis faced by King John. It remains the cornerstone of the British Constitution. Fundamental values put forward in the Magna Carta resonate with democratic principles today. The 39th Clause gave all 'free men' the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of the democratic principles put forward in the Magna Carta are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and Bill of Rights (1791), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).[11]


American Declaration of Independence


Magna Carta

Page from the Magna Carta, Salisbury Cathedral, Photograph: Dorothy Wickham 2016
This Cathedral, Salisbury is the home of one of the copies of the Magna Carta,
Photograph: Dorothy Wickham 2016

Also See

Ballarat Reform League

Chartism

Education

Eureka Timeline

Eureka 150

Other Sites

Australian Memory of the World Program - http://www.amw.org.au/content/ballarat-reform-league-charter-0

Culture Victoria - http://www.cv.vic.gov.au/stories/eureka-stories/10345/ballarat-reform-league-charter/

Public Record Office Victoria - http://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/index.php/Eureka_Stockade:Ballarat_Reform_League_Charter

References

  1. http://eurekaschildren.org.au/about.html, accessed 13 July 2013.
  2. Ballarat Courier, 11 November 2004.
  3. Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.
  4. http://eurekaschildren.org.au/about.html, accessed 13 July 2013.
  5. http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/13970/download-report, accessed 09 June 2017.
  6. http://www.amw.org.au/content/ballarat-reform-league-charter-0, downloaded 08 March 2013.
  7. https://en.unesco.org/programme/mow, accessed Tuesday 11 August at 8.37am
  8. Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.
  9. Ballarat Courier, 12 November 2004.
  10. https://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-05/Eureka%20Centre%20and%20Eureka%20Stockade%20Memorial%20Park%20Final%20Interpretation%20Plan_print%20version.pdf, accessed 11 August 2020
  11. https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-an-introduction, accessed 11 August 2020