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Reactions to the Stockade battle flooded in to the government from all quarters. The above are a selection of documents commenting on the Stockade itself and the State Trials that followed.
Public Opinion Divided
The documents listed below highlight some of the other tensions that existed within the new Colony of Victoria in the time leading up to and including the Eureka Stockade. Four of the documents Hotham included as enclosures to his lengthy despatch no. 162, are reports to England on the stockade and its immediate aftermath, expressing support for the Governor’s policy and measures. These are balanced by a variety of communications from people on the goldfields, and interestingly, in Melbourne, condemning the attack.
Particular anxiety was expressed about whether the uprising was caused by ‘foreigners’. It is never specified how or why these foreigners would act to stir up unrest, but it is practically a tenet of belief that they are up to no good. Even Lieutenant Governor Hotham, in his response to J.W. Lindsay’s letter, is happy to subscribe to this idea. Deflecting blame is always a useful strategy when under pressure, which may explain why Hotham made great effort to point out the number of Irish and other ‘foreign’ nationals in his despatches.
Of course, balanced against these accusations is the simple fact that the goldfields attracted workers from a wide range of countries. The Victorian authorities seemed to have had little trouble with the idea of foreigners digging up minerals from Crown land, as long as they obeyed the laws of the colony and agreed to pay its taxes. The US Consul’s correspondence with Hotham on the subject of American nationals involved with the stockade is among the records listed below. The Belgian Consul also wrote to Hotham in early December offering support.
This laissez-faire approach to the licensing system was eventually discontinued. Hotham’s despatch no. 47 of 1855 discusses the findings of the Commssion into the administration of the goldfields, and the recommendation it made to replace the mining licence with an export tax. Following a discusson of the likely revenue impact of these rearrangements, Hotham introduced a tax of up to ten pounds on single Chinese men arriving in the colony, ostensibly to discourage Chinese men arriving without family.