|Fig.1: A "Canvas Town" south of Melbourne, where you |
could find all the amenties of the big city, like a butcher,
a doctor, and at least 57 liquor stores.
The silt really hit the pan in October 1854 when a young Scottish miner named James Scobie was murdered in a hotel in the central Victorian town of Eureka. The hotel's proprietor was acquitted of the crime, even though several other patrons saw him and Scobie in a heated argument about the £7 bottles of Fanta in the mini-fridge. Thousands of miners came to Eureka to protest the decision, and eventually got a little carried away and ended up burning down the hotel. Several were arrested, and reinforcements from the Victorian colonial guard were called in to keep the peace (aka: boss around the miners about their permits even more). The miners were fed up with this treatment, and over 10,000 showed up outside Eureka to form the Ballarat Reform League as a forum to grumble grumble the day away. One of their founding resolutions proclaimed "that it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny." Sure sounds familiar...
|Fig.2: The Ballarat Reform League swearing |
allegiance to the new flag, which was followed
by a giant game of "Duck, Duck, Goose."
And here is where any comparison between the American Revolution and the Eureka Rebellion ends. While the war in America waged for over eight years and had its ups and downs for both sides, the Battle of the Eureka Stockade lasted ten minutes and was even more one-sided than the "Truffle Shuffle" kid on a seesaw. Only about 150 miners were ready and willing to fight, and this wouldn't have been enough to stop the Lollipop Guild, let alone a British-trained colonial military force. Twenty-two rebels were killed, while the British troops allowed for six of their own to get shot "just to be sporting." Peter Lalor was hit in the left arm, which would need to be amputated (unfortunate for him, since that was his drinkin' arm). All other miners who put up a fight were rounded up and sent to a government camp to await trial. It was pretty much a dud as far as actual rebellions go, with my fight to wear crazy-colored socks to the workplace being way more successful.
|Fig.3: "Guys, quit it! This suddenly stopped being fun!"|
|Fig.4: Yeah, the Eureka Flag is a |
little bit blah, but at least it doesn't
have something as silly as a maple
leaf on it!
But whether the Eureka Rebellion caused anything to change in 19th century Australia, it has been revered as a pivotal moment in that nation's history nonetheless: there's a monument and a museum dedicated to it on the alleged battlesite, there are commemorative postage stamps for it every ten-year anniversary, there are calls for Australia to shake off the British monarchy and change the flag to the Southern Cross one used by the rebels (fig.4), and a 1949 movie called Eureka Stockade showcased the Australian film industry's biggest star: Chips Rafferty. That's like the best name ever. I would start a rebellion just so a guy named Chips Rafferty would play me. No doubt! So maybe the Eureka Rebellion wasn't as conclusive or as evenly matched as the American Revolution, but it may have produced similar results: freedom, democracy, a nice bedtime story to tell the kids. And isn't that what rebelling against the government is all about? I think so...I think so...