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small sleeping-room for the gentlemen, and myself to share the bed and
apartment of the temporary mistress. This was vastly superior to
gipsying in the dirty streets, so we lost no time in securing our new
berths; and ere very long, with appetites undiminished by these petty
anxieties, we did ample justice to the dinner which our really kindly
hostess quickly placed before us.

The first night on shore after so long a voyage could scarcely seem
otherwise than strange, one missed the eternal rocking at which so many
grumble on board ship. Dogs (Melbourne is full of them) kept up an
incessant barking; revolvers were cracking in all directions till
daybreak, giving one a pleasant idea of the state of society. The next
few days were busy ones for all, though rather dismal to me, as I was
confined almost entirely indoors, owing to the awful state of the
streets; for in the colonies, at this season of the year, one may go out
prepared for fine weather, with blue sky above, and dry underfoot, and
in less than an hour, should a _colonial_ shower come on, be unable to
cross some of the streets without a plank being placed from the middle
of the road to the pathway, or the alternative of walking in water up to
the knees.

Our party, on returning to the ship the day after our arrival, witnessed
the French-leave-taking of all her crew, who, during the absence of the
Captain, jumped overboard, and were quickly picked up and landed by the
various boats about. This desertion of the ships by the sailors is an
every-day occurrence; the diggings themselves, or the large amount they
could obtain for the run home from another master, offer too many
temptations. Consequently, our passengers had the amusement of hauling
up from the hold their different goods and chattels; and so great was
the confusion, that fully a week elapsed before they were all got to
shore. Meanwhile, we were getting initiated into colonial prices - money
did, indeed, take to itself wings and fly away. Fire-arms were at a
premium; one instance will suffice - my brother sold a six-barrelled
revolver for which he had given sixty shillings at Baker's, in Fleet
Street, for sixteen pounds, and the parting with it at that price was
looked upon as a great favour. Imagine boots, and they were very
second-rate ones, at four pounds a pair. One of our between-deck
passengers who had speculated with a small capital of forty pounds in
boots and cutlery, told me afterwards that he had disposed of them the
same evening he landed at a net profit of ninety pounds - no trifling
addition to a poor man's purse. Labour was at a very high price,
carpenters, boot and shoe makers, tailors, wheelwrights, joiners,
smiths, glaziers, and, in fact, all useful trades, were earning from
twenty to thirty shillings a day - the very men working on the roads
could get eleven shillings per diem, and many a gentleman in this
disarranged state of affairs, was glad to fling old habits aside and
turn his hand to whatever came readiest. I knew one in particular, whose
brother is at this moment serving as a Colonel in the army in India, a
man more fitted for a gay London life than a residence in the Colonies.
The diggings were too dirty and uncivilized for his taste, his capital
was quickly dwindling away beneath the expenses of the comfortable life
he led at one of the best hotels in town, so he turned to what as a boy
he had learnt as an amusement, and obtained an addition to his income,
of more than four hundred pounds a year as house carpenter. In the
morning you might see him trudging off to his work, and before night
might meet him at some ball or soirée among the elite of Melbourne.

I shall not attempt an elaborate description of the town of Melbourne,
or its neighbouring villages. The town is very well laid out; the
streets (which are all straight, running parallel with and across one
another) are very wide, but are incomplete, not lighted, and many are
unpaved. Owing to the want of lamps, few, except when full moon, dare
stir out after dark. Some of the shops are very fair; but the goods all
partake too largely of the flash order, for the purpose of suiting the
tastes of successful diggers, their wives, and families; it is ludicrous
to see them in the shops - men who before the gold-mines were discovered
toiled hard for their daily bread taking off half-a-dozen thick gold
rings from their fingers, and trying to pull on to their rough,
well-hardened hands the best white kids, to be worn at some wedding
party, whilst the wife, proud of the novel ornament, descants on the
folly of hiding them beneath such useless articles as gloves.

The walking inhabitants are of themselves a study; glance into the
streets - all nations, classes, and costumes are represented there.
Chinamen, with pigtails and loose trousers; aborigines, with a solitary
blanket flung over them; Vandemonian pick-pockets, with cunning eyes and
light fingers - all, in fact, from the successful digger in his blue
serge shirt, and with green veil still hanging round his wideawake, to
the fashionably attired, newly-arrived "gent" from London, who stares
round him in amazement and disgust. You may see, and hear too, some
thoroughly colonial scenes in the streets. Once, in the middle of the
day, when passing up Elizabeth Street, I heard the unmistakable sound of
a mob behind, and as it was gaining upon me, I turned into the enclosed
ground in front of the Roman Catholic Cathedral to keep out of the way
of the crowd. A man had been taken up for horse-stealing, and a rare
ruffianly set of both sexes were following the prisoner and the two
policemen who had him in charge. "If but six of ye were of my mind,"
shouted one, "it's this moment you'd release him." The crowd took the
hint, and to it they set with right good will, yelling, swearing, and
pushing with awful violence. The owner of the stolen horse got up a
counter demonstration, and every few yards the procession was delayed by
a trial of strength between the two parties. Ultimately, the police
conquered; but this is not always the case, and often lives are lost and
limbs broken in the struggle, so weak is the force maintained by the
colonial government for the preservation of order.


Of the history of the discovery of gold in Australia I believe few are
ignorant. The first supposed discovery took place some sixty years ago
at Port Jackson. A convict made known to Governor Phillip the existence
of an auriferous region near Sydney, and on the locality being examined
particles of real gold-dust were found. Every one was astonished, and
several other spots were tried without success. Suspicion was now
excited, and the affair underwent a thorough examination, which elicited
the following facts: The convict, in the hope of obtaining his pardon as
a reward, had filed a guinea and some brass buttons, which, judicially
mixed, made a tolerable pile of gold-dust, and this he carefully
distributed over a small tract of sandy land. In lieu of the expected
freedom, his ingenuity was rewarded with close confinement and other
punishments. Thus ended the first idea of a gold-field in these

Suddenly, in 1851, at the time that the approaching opening of the
Crystal Palace was the principal subject of attention in England, the
colonies of Australia were in a state of far greater excitement; as the
news spread like wildfire, far and wide, that gold was really there. To
Edward Hammon Hargreaves be given the honour of this discovery. This
gentleman was an old Australian settler, just returned from a trip to
California, where he had been struck by the similarity of the geological
formation of the mountain ranges in his adopted country to that of the
Sacramento district. On his return he immediately searched for the
precious metal; Ophir, the Turon, and Bathurst well repaid his labour.
Thus commenced the gold-diggings of New South Wales.

The good people of Victoria were rather jealous of the importance given
by these events to the other colony. Committees were formed and rewards
were offered for the discovery of a gold-field in Victoria. The
announcement of the Clunes diggings in July 1851 was the result; they
were situated on a tributary of the Lodden. On 8 September those of
Ballarat, and on the 10th those of Mount Alexander completely satisfied
the most sceptical as to the vast mineral wealth of the colony. Bendigo
soon was heard of, and gully after gully successfully attracted the
attention of the public by the display of their golden treasures.


+Source.+ - The Gold Digger (Rev. David Mackenzie, M.A.), pp. 28-31

The excitement produced throughout the colonies, but especially in
Sydney and Melbourne, by the publication of the gold discovery, may be
inferred from the following facts: In one week upwards of 2,000 persons
were counted on the road to the Bathurst diggings, and only eleven
coming down. Hundreds of men, of all classes and conditions, threw up
their situations, and leaving their wives and families behind them,
started for the diggings. Whole crews ran away from their ships, which
were left to rot in our harbours, the men having willingly forfeited all
their wages, clothes, etc. Within one week the prices of the following
goods rose twenty-five per cent. in Sydney: flour, tea, sugar, rice,
tobacco, warm clothing, and boots. Throughout all the towns nothing was
saleable but provisions and diggers' tools and clothing. Every man who
could handle a pick or spade was off, or preparing to be off, for the
gold-fields. The roads were crowded with travellers, carriages, gigs,
drays, carts, and wheelbarrows; mixed up in one confused assemblage
might be seen magistrates, lawyers, physicians, clerks, tradesmen, and

The building of houses, bridges, etc., was suspended for want of
tradesmen, nearly all of them having gone to the diggings. Many houses
might be seen half-finished for want of men to proceed with the work,
though the owners or contractors were offering enormously high wages to
any that would complete the work. The fields were left unsown, flocks of
sheep were deserted by their shepherds. With one stockholder who has
twenty thousand sheep, there remained only two men. Masters were seen
driving their own drays; and ladies of respectability and ample means
were obliged to cook the family dinner. Servants and apprentices were
off in a body; and even the very "devils" bolted from the newspaper
offices; in short, the yellow fever seized on all classes of society. In
twenty-four hours prices of provisions doubled at Bathurst and the
neighbouring places. In all our steamers and trading vessels the rate of
passage was raised, in consequence of the necessary increase in the
wages of seamen. All the trades held their meetings, at which a new
tariff of charges was agreed upon; and even the publicans raised at
least twenty-five per cent. the prices of their wines, beer, and

Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand poured upon our shores shiploads of
adventurers, attracted by the golden news; and South Australia is now
almost drained of its labouring population, one of the consequences of
which is that the shares in the famous Burra Burra copper mines there
have fallen from £230 to £45, a fall which has entailed ruin on

In walking along the streets of Sydney or Melbourne you hear nothing
talked about but gold; you see nothing exhibited in shop windows but
specimens of gold, or some article of equipment for the gold-digger. In
every society gold is the interminable topic of conversation; and
throughout the colonies the only newspapers now read are those which
contain intelligence from our golden fields.

Soon after the discovery the Government of New South Wales, seeing that
it could not prevent the community from digging for gold on Crown lands,
quietly made virtue of necessity, and merely sought to legalize and
regulate the diggings by the following announcement, published in the
"Official Gazette":


Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney, _23rd May, 1851._

Licenses to Dig and Search for Gold.

With reference to the Proclamation issued on the 22nd May instant,
declaring the rights of the Crown in respect to Gold found in its
natural place of deposit within the territory of New South Wales, His
Excellency the Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, has
been pleased to establish the following Provisional Regulations, under
which Licenses may be obtained, to search for, and remove the same:

1. From and after the first day of June next, no person will be
permitted to dig, search for, or remove gold on or from any land,
whether public or private, without first taking out and paying for a
License in the form annexed.

2. For the present, and pending further proof of the extent of the
Gold-field, the License fee has been fixed at £1 10_s._ per month, to be
paid in advance; but it is to be understood that the rate is subject to
future adjustment, as circumstances may render expedient.

3. The Licenses can be obtained on the spot, from the Commissioner who
has been appointed by His Excellency the Governor, to carry these
regulations into effect, and who is authorized to receive the fee
payable thereon.

4. No person will be eligible to obtain a License, or the renewal of a
License, unless he shall produce a certificate of discharge from his
last service, or prove to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that he
is not a person improperly absent from hired service.

5. Rules, adjusting the extent and position of land to be covered by
each License and for the prevention of confusion, and the interference
of one License with another will be the subject of early regulation.

6. With reference to lands alienated by the Crown, in fee simple, the
Commissioner will not be authorized for the present to issue Licenses
under the regulations to any persons but the proprietors, or persons
authorized by them in writing to apply for the same.

By his Excellency's command,



+Source.+ - The Golden Colony (G.H. Wathen, 1855), pp. 49-53, 78-81

Even on the spot it is often very difficult to learn when, by whom, and
in what manner, a new gold district is first discovered. When the yield
of an old working begins to fail, the diggers throw out small
"prospecting" parties of twos and threes, to explore promising
localities. These "prospectors" may occasionally make important
discoveries; but far more frequently they are the result of chance, or
of the desultory efforts of shepherds and other servants of the settlers
resident in the particular locality. It sometimes happens that a digging
party, travelling from one district to another, camp for a night in a
valley which they may think looks very promising. Being delayed here,
perhaps, by the loss of their horse, or some other accident, they sink a
pit or "hole" in a "likely spot." At length some one strikes a rich
deposit. If so, it cannot long remain a secret. A few dozens or scores
are shortly at work on the adjacent ground; and if these too are
successful the news spreads like wild-fire, and within a week all the
roads and tracks leading to the spot are covered with diggers and their
carts, on the way to the new Dorado - the _newest_ being always by report
the _best_ and richest. In a few days the hills around the new working
are dotted over with white tents, the forest around them quickly
disappears, being felled for firewood. Government, on hearing of the
discovery, sends down a Commissioner with a body of horse and foot
police. These establish a camp on some central elevated position, and an
irregular wide street of tents springs up like magic in the valley
below. There are stores, large and small; butchers' shops; doctors'
little tents; and innumerable refreshment booths, where, under the guise
of selling lemonade and home-made beer, an extensive illicit trade is
carried on in vile, adulterated, and often poisonous spirits. The
blacksmith is always one of the first on the ground, and presently
extemporises a forge out of a few loose stones or turf-sods. Flags are
flying from the stores and shops, and give gaiety to the scene. The
Union Jack floats proudly above the Government camp on the hill, and
military sentinels are on duty before the gold-tent.

As the diggers reach the spot they pitch their tents on the lower slopes
of the hills or in the green flats. At night their watch-fires gleam far
and wide, and from a neighbouring height the place has the appearance of
a large town illuminated. A new goldfield is the favourite resort of
horse stealers, thieves, and miscreants of all kinds, who, lost in the
crowd and confusion, here find ample opportunities for carrying on their
nefarious practices. Their common haunts are the "sly grog-shops" which
spring up like weeds on all sides. Here they rendezvous, and concoct
those deeds of darkness which have given the colony such an unenviable

Horses are stolen and ridden off to Melbourne, Geelong, or to the
nearest goldfield and sold by auction. The roads leading to the new
diggings become infested with bushrangers; stories of being "stuck up"
(or robbed) are more and more frequent; till at length a cartload of
ruffians, heavily handcuffed, is seen moving towards the Government Camp
well guarded by mounted troopers. These are the bushrangers who have
been hunted down and just captured by the troopers. And now for a time
the roads are safe.

No life can be more independent and free than that of the Australian
digger; no travelling more agreeable than summer travelling in the Bush;
carrying about with you in your cart your tent, your larder, and all
your domestic appointments. In choosing a halting place for the night
you have the whole country open to you - no walls or hedges to shut you
in to a dusty turnpike road. You drink from the clear running creek; the
soft green turf is your carpet; your tent your bedroom. Your horse duly
hobbled, enjoys the fresh pasturage around. The nearest fallen tree
supplies you with fuel for your evening fire.

One of the most fruitful sources of discontent was the method of
collecting the gold revenue. When the first discoveries were made at
Ballarat, the Melbourne Government, following the example of that at
Sydney, issued regulations by which all miners were required to procure
a monthly license to dig for gold, and to pay 30_s._ for the same. But
how was this tax to be enforced among a migratory population, living in
tents scattered through a forest? The mode adopted was, to send out
armed bands of police, who, coming down suddenly on a gully or flat,
spread themselves over it demanding of everyone his license. A few
mounted troopers formed part of the force to cut off defaulters who
might attempt to fly. All who could not produce their license were
captured and marched off, probably some miles, to the nearest
magistrates, and, after some detention, were either fined £5, or
imprisoned for a month. Such a system naturally led to great discontent
and irritation. At some of the goldfields a curious plan was hit upon
for evading these inquisitorial visits. No sooner was a party of police
seen approaching than the diggers raised the cry of "Joe! Joe!" The cry
was taken up, and presently the whole length of the gully rang with the
shouts "Joe! Joe! Joe!" and of course all defaulters instantly made off
for the depths of the forest.

The dissatisfaction was exasperated by the method of collecting the
license fee. The collector did not call on the tax payer, but the latter
had to seek the collector. The digger was compelled to walk from his own
gully to the Commissioner's Camp - distant, perhaps, several miles - and
then often wait for hours under a fierce sun while a crowd of others,
who had arrived before him, were paying their 30_s._, or weighing their
half ounce of gold. Greater facilities were indeed subsequently offered
for the payment of the fee, but the mode of enforcing it continued the
same. The diggers complained loudly and unceasingly of these harsh and
un-English measures. "First you tax our labour," said they, "and then
you collect your tax at the point of the bayonet." The dislike of the
system was universal; disputes were frequent, and collisions between the
police and diggers sometimes occurred.

Another of the diggers' grievances was the extreme insecurity of life
and property on the mines. While the police force were snugly housed at
headquarters, in a peaceable and orderly neighbourhood, the populous and
remote gullies were the nightly scenes of deeds of robbery and violence.
Every evening men were knocked down and brutally treated or "stuck up"
and robbed. Every night horses were stolen, tents broken into, and
"holes" plundered of gold by the "night fossickers" - miscreants who
watched for the richest "holes" during the day, marked them, and
plundered them at night. In October 1852 at a place called Moonlight
Flat (near Forest Creek), these desperadoes had become so numerous and
shameless, and their outrages so frequent, that the miners rose _en
masse_ against them. A public meeting was convened; blue-shirted diggers
made stirring appeals to their auditory; a deputation was appointed to
proceed instantly to Melbourne to remonstrate with the Government, and
to implore it to adopt energetic measures for extirpating the "hordes of
ruffians" that infested their neighbourhood, and the persons of many of
whom were well known there.


+Source.+ - The Golden Colony (G.H. Wathen, 1855), pp. 138, 143-150

The combination of convictism in Tasmania and gold in Victoria and
New South Wales produced bushranging on a large scale. Convicts now
had a chance of living well if they escaped, and many took
advantage of the opportunity.

If the Australian roads in winter may be well likened to those English
roads of 200 years ago, out of which the King's Coach had to be dug by
the rustics, so may the Australian Bushranger be regarded as the
legitimate representative of the traditionary highwayman who levied toll
at Highgate, or stopped the post-boy and captured the mailbags in Epping
Forest. The real, living bushranger is, however, more of a ruffian and
less of a hero than our ideal highwayman; for time, like distance,
softens down the harsh and the coarse, and gives dignity to the ignoble.

Never, perhaps, did a country offer so tempting a field to the public
robber as Victoria did during the first year or two after the gold
discovery. The interior was wild and uninhabited, abounding with lonely
forests. Travellers were numerous, and mostly carried money or gold; for
none were poor. The roadside public-houses were daily the scenes of
drunken revelry. The police were few and untrained; and the mixed and
scattered population at the several diggings offered a ready asylum in
case of pursuit. Add to all this that, separated from Victoria by a mere
strait, was the depot for the most accomplished villains of Great
Britain, and it needed no prophet to foresee that the roads of the new
gold country would very soon be swarming with thieves and desperadoes.

It is no uncommon occurrence in the Australian Colonies for a large
number of shearers or others collected in the hut in the country to be
"stuck up," that is, subdued and bound, by two or three determined
bushrangers. Fifteen or sixteen strong active men may be thus treated,
and have been, frequently. At first, one is ready to conclude either
that they must have a private understanding with the robbers or else be
the veriest poltroons. I thought so myself till I had an account of one
of these affairs from a man who had been one of a large party thus
"stuck up" by two very notorious bushrangers, the life and death of
whom, would furnish materials for a romance. Their names were Dalton
and Kelly, and they will long be famous in the annals of daring and
outrage in Van Diemen's Land.

Dalton was a stout, powerful man, and about thirty years of age at the
time of the rencontre I am about to describe. His accomplice Kelly, was
about twenty-three years old. They were both prisoners of the Crown in
Van Diemen's Land. Dalton was transported at an early age, and had for a
time been confined in the "Ocean Hell" of Norfolk Island, the gaol of
the double-damned convict; but was afterwards taken back to Van Diemen's
Land. From the same informant I learned some particulars of their
escape. They were confined in a penal establishment on a strait or an
arm of the sea, wide enough, it was thought, to preclude the possibility

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