The Charter of the Ballarat Reform League 11/11

Today, 11/11/11, is an important day for many reasons.  One of those being that it was on this day in 1854 that the Ballaarat Reform League was officially born and their Charter publically adopted.  This group played a significant role in the events that became the precursors to the Eureka Stockade.

Often the League is forgotten in the wake of the much more dramatic Stockade, but their presence and intended purpose is very important.  Those who formed the League took their inspiration from the British Chartist movement, which some had been directly involved in before coming to Victoria.  The Chartist movement was a step by the new working-class, born out of the Industrial Revolution, to improve their rights and representation.

The demands of the Ballarat Reform League closely mirrored those of the British Chartists.  The demands in the Charter of the Ballarat Reform League were as follows:

  1. A full and fair representation.
  2. Manhood suffrage.
  3. No property qualification of members for the Legislative Council.
  4. Payment of members.
  5. Short duration of Parliament.

The digitised version of the original Charter (with transcript) can be found on the Culture Victoria website.  The essence of the League’s argument was:
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.

In the midst of the Victorian gold rush, the anger towards this lack of democratic rights was felt strongly by the miners who were obliged to buy the expensive gold licences.  They viewed the licences as a most unfair example of taxation without representation.  Their anger led them on their now famous march towards democratic rights.

More information about the Ballarat Reform League can be found on eGold.

5 responses to “The Charter of the Ballarat Reform League 11/11

  1. The Ballarat Reform League’s charter was very similar to the People’s Charter of 1838 developed by a combination of politicians and reformers in the industrial midlands of England. They had six principles:
    1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
    2. The secret ballot
    3. No property qualification for members of Parliament.
    4. Payment of members.
    5. Equal Constituencies.
    6. Annual parliaments.
    1 and 2 were aimed at broadening the franchise and protecting people from intimidation in the exercise fo their right to vote. 3 and 4 were aimed at removing the barriers for working people being able to represent their constituency in the Parliament without having to seek patronage or to sacrifice their income. 5 and 6 were aimed at making representation fairer by having electorates of similar population size across the country and more frequent elections to prevent corruption.
    Today, 1 has been broadened in Australia to all people over 18 regardless of gender. 2-5 are a part of our democratic life. 6 is the most difficult to comprehend today–can you imagine annual Parliaments? It seems many Australians are cynical about having elections before they are due, the short-termism they generate, their cost, and the way political parties use them to ‘pork-barrel’ electors.
    Tim Sullivan

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