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Signatures of Chinese gold diggers on the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Chinese signatures appear on the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition.

On the first of August 1853 George Thomson, D.G. Jones and an Irish-born American, ‘Captain’ Edward Brown presented the Bendigo Goldfields Petition to Lieutenant Governor Charles Joseph LaTrobe. Signed by around 5,000 miners from Bendigo, Castlemaine, McIvor and other Victorian Goldfields, it is an important political document in the history of Victoria. George Edward Thomson, Chartist and leader of the Red Ribbon Movement, wrote that: ‘Political deliberation is the poor man’s right arm. It brought the Magna Carta to the barons, Catholic emancipation to the Irish and triumphal repeal of the Corn Laws for the people of England. Surely it would bring democracy to the gold diggers of Victoria’. Drawn up in 1853, the Bendigo Goldfields Petition was amongst the earliest organised expressions of dissatisfaction with the conditions of the Victorian goldfields. It came out of the meetings of the Anti-Gold Licence Association formed in Bendigo. Chinese diggers were known to participate in the meetings, ‘their vanguard being preceded by a “long pole with small bells hanging on it”.’