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Pre 1854

A Mr Spong was on the Sofala Goldfields in the early 1850s and was active in miners' rights.

The special reporter of the Sydney Morning Herald has transmitted full details of the further proceedings of the diggers at the Turon relative to the putting in force of the new regulations framed on the Gold Fields Management Act of the last session. The act came in force on the 1st February, and on the 7th the Commissioners were by it empowered to enforce its provisions by penalties on all persons who had not complied with them. At previous meetings of the Turnoites a memorial to the Governor had been passed and adopted, praying that he would not put in force the arbitrary provisions of the new act, more particularly those charging all persons at the gold fields, indiscriminately, with the license fee of thirty shillings per month, and doubling the fee to aliens.
On Saturday, the 5th, the reply of the Governor to this memorial was received from the Colonial Secretary, to the effect that while the Government was quite willing and desirous to learn whether any of the new regulations were "injurious to the public interests," or " pressed with undue severity on any of the classes of persons engaged at the gold fields," and would if any such were pointed out, recommend to the Legislative Council such a modification of them as might appear desirable, yet the Government was itself quite powerless to prevent the not being put into effect, and were only empowered to frame regulations consistent with it. The reply urged also, that aliens could easily obtain certificates of naturalization at the circuit courts.
On the 7th a large meeting of miners assembled at Sofala, to whom this reply was read, and although parts of it were cheered, the impression at the close was that it was not satisfactory on the whole. A very lengthy protest against the Gold Fields Act was eventually adopted by the meeting (some 1400 persons), on the motion of Mr. Spong. Five persons were then named as a deputation to wait on the Commissioners with this protest, and they immediately did so, a large portion of the assemblage accompanying them to within 200 or 300 yards of the Commissioners* quarters. It may be noted that the three Commissioners, Messrs. Green, Johnston, and M'Lean, were assembled at their quarters, and that an accession to the police force at their command, making the number 30 men, had been openly made in the previous week, but that during these proceedings the police were kept quietly out of sight, although ready. The deputation was courteously received, and told that the commissioners would willingly forward any complaints or memorials not disrespectfully worded, but that if the aot was not obeyed they must do their duty, and enforce it; and they strongly counselled the adoption of the constitutional method of remonstrance. On the return of the deputation to the meeting it was concluded that the payment of the license fee should be resisted, and that the miners should assemble again next morning, to make the enforcement of the act more difficult. The meeting then dispersed.
On the 8th the diggers again assembled, and elected a chairman, but fewer numbers were present. Some advocated their going in a body to the Commissioners' quarters to invite them to take the whole body into custody, as refusing to obey the law. But others deprecated this course, as almost certain to lead to a collision, and advocated the sending a deputation instead.
This course was eventually adopted, and four persons sent as delegates to state that they were resolute not to obey the provisions of the act, and had come to surrender themselves. The four delegates accordingly went to the Commissioners, and did this, and after the Commissioners had in vain tried to dissuade them, a bench of magistrates sat on the spot, and on the plea of guilty of the four delegates they were dealt with as unlicensed diggers, and fined £1 each, but on giving their parole not to escape, were honorably lodged in one of the barrack buildings, and permitted to write to their friends on the opposite side of the river. Meanwhile the meeting was getting impatient, and at length hearing of the actual arrest of the delegates, great excitement followed, concealed arms were produced, and a number set out for the Commissioners' camp at once. But fortunately the Rev. Mr. Piddington, a Wesleyan minister, got on the hustings at the moment, and addressing the meeting on the lamentable effects that must follow an armed collision, he succeeded in calming the excitement, and ultimately a second deputation was appointed to go and see how the first had fared. The second deputation arrived at the camp, and on being readily admitted to see the first delegates, he took back their letter to the meeting, counselling pacific measures, and a passive surrender to the law. On receipt of the letter it was proposed to pay the fine imposed on the first delegates, and in a few minutes the sum was raised, and shortly after it was paid to the bench, and the delegates were released. The delegates then returned to the meeting, and counselling pacific measures, as before, expressing their belief also that the Commissioners would not forcibly carry out the act during the present month, it was resolved to prepare another petition to the Governor, praying him to adopt immediate measures for the repeal of the act. A committee to prepare this petition was appointed, and the miners were again to meet on the 9th to consider it. About 800 licenses had been taken out up to the 8th, and it was hoped that now all danger of any actual outbreak was over, great praise being awarded to the Commissioners for their conciliatory yet firm conduct.
(from the Herald, Feb. 11
February. 8.-Unlike the other diggers in the western district, the Ophirites have very quietly submitted to the regulations published under the New Acts-having, without causing any noticeable trouble to the Commissioner, readily paid the usual license ; and already the same amount of licenses have been taken out in the immediate vicinity of the Ophir as during last month, excepting for the big waterhole, which for the present is abandoned, the amount of gold taken being found unequal to the large outlay of the company. The means and appliances at the command of Sir 0. Gibbes have been found insufficient to master the water, and there still remains a large quantity of water in the hole, where it is expected that gold in payable quantity would be found. Altogether I do not think that Sir Osborne has collected above seven ounces, and the outlay has been very considerable.
The Bathurst Mining Company's operations have also been suspended, although licenses have been taken out, which will be made available to working other claims upon the creek. West's party are working still at the flat at the Junction, and have sunk shafts and dug tunnels of great extent. Mr. Daniells, the manager, is confident from appearances that gold will be got, but whether in profitable quantities it remains to he proved.
The diggers generally are doing tolerably well. A party at the Upper Crossing-place have for some time been averaging a pound a day each man. I have great faith in these diggings.
The Ovens Diggings.By a private letter which was received in Sydney yesterday, dated Reed's Creek, 4th February, instant, we learn that on the preceding day, a policeman shot a man by accident : that thereupon the miners rose en masse, and gave the whole of the police a severe beating. The writer says, that the affray was truly frightful.- Herald, Feb. 12.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Spong occupied a chair at the meeting of the Ballarat Reform League.

11 November 1854, Bakery Hill

On Saturday 11 November 1854 an assembly of more than 10,000 miners met at Bakery Hill and the Ballarat Reform League was formed. [11]

Yesterday we had our monster meeting on Bakery Hill. The proceedings began soon after three o'clock. The usual accompaniments of flags and music were not wanting to add to the effect of the affair. The chair was occupied by Mr Hayes, and Messrs Holyoake, A. Black, Humffray, G. Black, Kennedy, Krew, Burke, Reynolds, and Spong, submitted and supported the following resolutions, all of which were carried unanimously and enthusiastically. 1. That this meeting demands the immediate dismissal of Serjeant-Major Milne, because he is a dangerous and disreputable scoundrel, and one who is a disgrace to any government that employs him, and further, that the authorities who continue to employ such a knave are unworthy of either the confidence or respect of the inhabitants of Ballarat, and that a committee be appointed to make known the demand of this meeting. 2. That this meeting condemns the insolent language used by the Colonial Secretary, the Surveyor-General, the Chief Commissioner for the Gold Fields, and the Chairman of Committees, in 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 mal-practices of the corrupt Camp at Ballarat. 3. That this meeting, having heard read the draft prospectus of "The Ballarat Reform League," approves and adopts the same, and pledges itself to support the committee, in carrying out its principles and attaining its objects — which are the obtaining the full political rights of the people; and 4. That this meeting expresses its utter want of confidence in the political honesty of the government officials in the Legislative Council, and pledges itself to use every constitutional means to have them removed from the offices 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 of paid government officials. The prospectus alluded to in resolution 3, is this :— 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 hitherto been, unrepresented in the Legislative Council of the colony of Victoria, they have been tyrannised over, and it becomes their duty as well as their interest to resist, and if necessary, to remove the irresponsible government 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, be- cause, forsooth, it was made by them or their friends, and admirably suits their selfish ends and narrow-minded views. That 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 the immediate separation of the colony from the parent country, if equal laws and equal rights are dealt out to the whole free community; but that if Queen Victoria continued to act upon the advice of dishonest ministers, and insists upon indirectly dictating obnoxious laws for this colony, under the assumed authority of Royal prerogative, the Reform League will endeavour to supersede such Royal prerogative by asserting that of the people, it being the most Royal of all prerogatives, as the people are the only legitimate source of all political power. The political changes contemplated by the League are — 1. A full and fair representation. 2. Manhood suffrage. 3. No property qualification of members for the Legislative Council. 4. Payment of members; and 5. Short duration of parliament.

Post 1854 Experiences

There is mention of Mr Spong, surveyor, in Tasmania towards the end of the 1850s.

See https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/Southern_Tasmanian_Quartz_Crushing_and_Mining_Company#Notes

See also

Ballarat Reform League

Further Reading


  1. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 16 February 1853
  2. Geelong Advertiser, 14 November 1854

External links

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Caption, Reference.