On the first anniversary of the burning down of the Eureka Hotel
, 1855, Carboni was selling his self-published book, "The Eureka Stockade". Partly to record the heroism of his mates, partly to record the injustice of the tax collectors and traps (troopers) as well as to exonerate himself from the false charges and false witnesses that were brought against him.
It is unusual an historic event has such a fresh recollection of events and people as Carboni's book offers. Carboni's extravagant and dramatic use of language aside, it becomes obvious that a constant theme in his recollections is a mounting injustice. Carboni didn't care for Republicanism or Chartism, but his coin from his battle in Italy were government tyranny. The minefields of Ballarat in 1854 offered that in spades.
Raffaello Carboni was born in Urbino, Italy in 1820. He studied to be a priest before obtaining employment as a bank clerk. He later went and fought the Austrians in the north of Italy, collecting three wounds for his troubles. He was a political exile in Berlin, Paris and then London before heading out to create his fortune on the Victorian goldfields in 1852. He began prospecting in Ballarat, Bendigo and Maldon. 1854 found him in Ballarat again, right in the centre of the increasing tensions between the goldfield's administration and the diggers.
Carboni called himself a man of letters and sent regular letters off his friend, the Registrar General of the colony, W.H. Archer. Carboni had aspirations of being a great literary figure, though none of his later works would achieve the fame nor the historical value of his eye-witness account of Eureka. Australian history is fortunate, that Carboni decided to record the event through the eyes of the diggers so quickly.
The License Hunt
The goldfields had a cultural and power barrier between the Camp and the diggings. The Camp was the administrative buildings, officers quarters, police station and various other buildings and tents of the goldfield's administration. The diggings were a collection of holes and diggers searching for the fortunes in gold.
With the budget crush of the Victorian colony and the wealth that Melbourne saw coming out of the gold rushes, the government decided to charge a mining license
. The manner with which this tax was collected quickly moved from taxation to extortion, and even tyranny. Carboni describes the process of a tax hunt;
[If] any trooper succeed in catching any of the 'vagabonds' in the bush, he would by the threat of his sword, confine him round a big gum-tree; and when all the successful troopers had done the same feat, they took their prisoners down the gully, where was the grand depot, because the traps were generally more successful. The Commissioner would then pick up one pound, two pounds, or five pounds, in the way of bail, from any digger that could afford it, or had friends to do so, and then order the whole pack of the penniless and friendless to the lock-up in the Camp.
Charles Hotham became Governor in June of 1854, taking over from Governor LaTrobe who had discarded the Bendigo miners petition to cancel the mining license. The diggers were initially joyous with the hope of a new Governor repealing the tax, but their hopes were quickly dashed;
Up to the middle of September, 1854, the search for licenses happened once a month on the Gravel Pits, owing to the near neighbourhood of the Cap. Now, license hunting became the order of the day. Twice a week on every line; and the more the diggers felt annoyed at it, the more our Camp officials persisted in goading us, to render our yoke palatable by habit.
I assert, as an eye-witness and a sufferer, that both in October and November, when the weather allowed it, the Camp rode out for the hunt every alternate day.
The increased frequency was not the only issue, Carboni wrote that many objected to the tax because they could not afford it. They were not getting rich fossicking for gold. The miners thought it unjust that they could get locked up at the Camp for the crime of having no luck. They worked hard fossicking and often dug a hole only to have nothing of value in it. A "Shicer" as Carboni calls it, from the German "Schiesser". Meaning a mine with no gold in it.
Carboni also asks in the book; where did all this collected tax money go. Carboni certainly didn't see it going to the goldfields. He writes in the sotto voice of the Victorian Government;
Sum total .- Screw out of the diggers as much as circumstances will admit; they have plenty of money for getting drunk, and making beasts of themselves, the brutes.
It is highly likely he is voicing the collective opinion of the diggers on the goldfields through his use of sotto voice
The Loss of Faith In the Commissioners and Justice System
A constant through his book is the constant and increasing injustice, also the lack of any means to redress their grievances other than to defend themselves with arms. James Scobie was murdered
at the Eureka Hotel after a night of drinking. The inquest into Scobie's death was contemptuous toward the rule of law, the Coroner, David Williams interrupted often, and even allowed James Bentley to question a witness. The depositions of Bentley, Mooney and Farrell were contradicted by other witnesses. The jury acquitted based on lack of evidence.
This was seen as unjust by the diggers, and a blatant example of the arbitrary nature of justice on the goldfields. It was also proof of the corruption of the Commissioners over-seeing the goldfields. The miners created committees to study the affair themselves. Eventually pressure resulted in the murder being revisited by a Judicial Inquiry headed by Commissioner Robert Rede. The jury found Bentley, Mooney and Farrell guilty of manslaughter.
This convinced the diggers that the Commission was corrupt and they had no voice on the goldfields, the miners were only good to be shaken down for money by the Commissioners and harassed by troopers.
The license hunts had also become completely arbitrary as well. Carboni writes;
There was a license hunt; the servant of the Reverend P Smyth, the priest of the Catholic Church, ... went to a neighbouring tent to visit a sick man. While inside, a trooper comes galloping up at the tent-door, and shouts out, "Come out here, you d--d wretches! there's a good many like you on the diggings." The man came outside, and was asked if "he's got a license?" The servant, who is a native of Armenia, answers, in imperfect English, that he is a servant of the priest.
The trooper says, "Damn you and the priest." and forthwith dismounts for the purpose of dragging Johannes M'Gregorius, the servant, along with him. The servant remonstrates by saying he is a disabled man, unable to walk over the diggings. This infuriates the trooper; he strikes and knocks down the poor disabled foreigner, drags him about, tears his shirt -- in short, inflicting such injuries on the poor fellow, that all the diggers present cried out "Shame! Shame!".
Smyth hears of what happened and offered a 5 pound note as bail. The next morning M'Gregorius is charged with assaulting the trooper, but a reliable witness steps forward stating the the trooper was the one who struck M'Gregorius. The Commissioner still extorted 5 pounds from M'Gregorius with a fine.
Government was tyrannical, despotic, corrupt and revelling in its power over the miners. It is no wonder the diggers were moved to start making claims as to their rights.
Republicanism, Chartism and Tyranny
Carboni was not interested in Republicanism, early on in the book he recounts going to an early meeting of the miners at Bakery Hill;
I spoke a few words which merited me a compliment from the practitioner, who also honoured me with a private piece of information - 'Nous allons bientot avoir la Republique Australienne! Signore' 'Quelle farce! repondis je!'
There was obviously Republicans on the goldfields, given that the nationalities there included American, French, Irish, there is no doubt really. Carboni was also not interested in Chartism, he mocks the wider political claims of the Ballaarat Reform League - Carboni's comments are in italics;
1. A full and fair representation Don't you wish you may get it?
2. Manhood suffrage Thanks to the Eureka Boys it costs now one-pound. Cheap!
3. No property qualification of Members for the Legislative Council. The identical thing for 'starring' on stumps to a fellow's heart's content.
4. Payment of Members That's the accommodation!
5. Short duration of Parliament Increase the chances of accommodation, that's it
What was the freight per ton, of this sort of worn out twaddle imported from Old England?
Ironically this was the greatest success of the Eureka Stockade episode, it focused the public on the wider issues that the public had been wanting for a while. The Victorian Government, and later the NSW Government gave into public pressure and implemented these very demands.
Where Carboni was in his element was tyranny - his hated Austrian rule. Carboni knew it well, and had the flowery verbage to impart his disdain for tyranny.
'We must meet as in old Europe - old style - improved by far in the south - for the redress of grievances inflicted upon us, not by crowned heads, but by blockheads, aristocratical incapables, who never did a day's work in their life. I hate the oppressor, let him wear a red, blue, white or black coat' - and here certainly I tackled in right earnest with our silver and gold lace on Ballarat, and called on my fellow diggers, irrespective of nationality, religion, and colour, to salute the 'Southern Cross' as the refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth - The applause was universal, and accordingly I received my full reward:
Prison and Chains! Old style.
Carboni was arrested at the Stockade after the troopers and constables raided it at the crack of dawn on December 3rd. He spent four months gaoled, before being tried. Carboni was one of the thirteen that were tried for treason
, and unanimously acquitted by the jury, despite a biased judge and several false witnesses against him.
Peter Lalor's Speech
Carboni was a witness to the raid on the Eureka Stockade, but he was also a witness to Peter Lalor's November 30th speech on the stump at Bakery Hill.
Peter Lalor, our Commander-in-chief, was on the stump, holding with his left hand the muzzle of his rifle, butt-end rested on his foot. A gesture of his right hand, signified what he meant when he said; "It is my duty now to swear you in, and to take with you the oath to be faithful to the Southern Cross. Hear me with attention. The man who, after this solemn oath does not stand by our standard, is a coward at heart."
"I order all persons who do not intend to take the oath, to leave the meeting at once."
"Let all divisions under arms 'fall in' in their round the flag-staff"
The movement was made accordingly. Some five hundred armed diggers advanced in real sober earnestness, the captains of each division making the military salute to Lalor, who now knelt down, the head uncovered, and with the right hand pointing to the standard exclaimed in a firm measured tone:-
"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties."
An universal well rounded amen, was the determined reply, some five hundred right hands stretched towards our flag.
This is the power of Eureka. Lalor has indelibly and irrevocably entwined rights and liberties for Australians with the southern cross. And the consensus is, Australians don't mind it one bit.
. Great works indeed.
I am an Australian living in the United States as a permanent resident.
I am a software developer by trade and mostly work in Java and jump between middleware and front end.
I originally worked in the New York area of the United States in telecommunications before moving to Washington DC and
working in a mix of telecommunications, energy and ITS. I started my own software company before heading out to
Arizona and working with Shutterfly. Since then I have joined a startup in the Phoenix area and am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I do a lot of photography which I post on this website, but also on flickr. I have a photo-journalistic website which lists
the modernist and contemporary restaurants in phoenix. I have a site on the Australian Flying Corps [AFC]
which has been around since the 1990s and which I unfortunately
lost the .org URL to during a life event; however, it is under the www.australianflyingcorps.com
The AFC website has gone through several iterations since the 90s and the two most recent are Australian Flying Corps Archives(2004-2002)
Australian Flying Corps Archives(2002-1999)
which are good places to start.