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New South Wales Miner's Right

Date: 1850
Overall: 105 x 226 mm, 0.003 kg (0.003 kg)
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Hordern House
Object Name: License
Object No: 00015149
Place Manufactured:Australia
Related Place:New South Wales,

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    This miner's right was issued in New South Wales at a cost of 10 shillings. The piece of paper gave the miner permission to dig for gold and entitled them to work a claim of 8 feet square, 2.4 m on each side. Government troops regularly undertook inspections and diggers found without a license during the regular 'license hunts' were jailed until they could pay the heavy fines. The sale of Miner's rights provided the Colony with much needed funds for administering the goldfields.
    SignificanceThis example of a miner's right highlights the administration of the Australian gold rush during the 1850s. It is representative of the tension between miners and the colonial government which resulted in the conflict at the Eureka Stockade in Victoria.
    HistoryGold was found in New South Wales as early as 1823 yet authorities initially suppressed the fact, fearing that a gold rush would damage the fledgling wool growing economy. The gold rush began in 1851 as thousands of miners descended on Victoria and New South Wales in the hope of finding their fortune. In an attempt to organize the mass of people flooding into the region the government established a system of licenses to finance the administration of the diggings. Any miner who wanted to prospect for gold were required to pay for a monthly license and were bound to follow set rules, including attending Sunday church services and carrying their licenses at all times. License inspections were regularly carried out and those found without were fined or even jailed if they had previous convictions.

    The government's administration of the gold rush caused resentment amongst the miners. The predominant criticism was the costly license fees which were viewed as an exorbitant tax and unfair in light of the uncertainty of returns. Other problems included the government inspectors who were seen as harsh and oppressive when conducting their extensive license hunts. Political issues of the time including land policy and voting rights also fueled the growing tension.

    This resentment eventually culminated in the Eureka stockade at Ballarat, Victoria in 1854. On 3 December violence erupted as miners exchanged fire with troops during a 20-minute battle that killed 25 miners and one soldier. Government troops stormed the miners' stockade with diggers defending themselves with revolvers and rifles. As a result of the conflict the Miners' license was abolished and replaced by an annual £1 fee called a Miner's Right.

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    Web title: New South Wales Miner's Right

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