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:
- A full and fair representation.
- Manhood suffrage.
- No property qualification of members for the Legislative Council.
- Payment of members.
- 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.