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Miner's Right, for the colony of Victoria, No 75

Date: 29 June 1857
Dimensions:
Overall: 170 x 220 mm
Medium: Ink on parchment / vellum
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: License
Object No: 00030876
Place Manufactured:Victoria

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    Description
    This miner's right was issued to William Fittale senior and was number 75 in the colony of Victoria, Australia. Every miner needed a valid license to prospect for gold. This right entitled a miner to work a claim 8 feet square, 2.4 m on each side. Government troops carried out frequent license inspections and those found without a right were liable to fines or imprisonment if they held prior convictions.
    SignificanceThis is a very fine example of a miner's right that is in very good condition. It highlights the riots of the Eureka stockade and the changes to miners’ fees and the administration of the gold rush.
    HistoryGold was found in New South Wales as early as 1823 yet authorities initially suppressed the fact fearing a gold rush would damage the fledgling wool growing economy. The gold rush began in 1851 with thousands of miners descending 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 was required to pay 30 shillings a month for a license and was bound to follow set rules, such as attending Sunday church services and carrying their license on them at all times. License inspections were regularly carried out and those found without were fined or jailed if they had a number of convictions.

    The government's administration of the gold rush raised resentment amongst the miners. The predominant criticism was the costly license fee, which was seen as an exorbitant tax and unfair in view of the uncertainty of returns. The government inspectors were also viewed as overly harsh and oppressive when conducting the extensive license hunts. The tension was further fuelled by political issues such as land policy and voting rights in the colony.

    This resentment eventually culminated in the Eureka stockade at Ballarat in 1854. On 3 December violence erupted as miners exchanged fire with troops during a 20-minute battle that resulted in the deaths of 25 miners and one soldier. The government troops stormed the miners' stockade with diggers defending themselves with revolvers and rifles. As a result of the conflict the Miners' license fee was abolished and replaced by an annual £1 fee called a Miner's Right. The Eureka stockade has been immortalised in Australian folk history and is a favourite topic of poets, novelists, journalists and filmmakers.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Miner's right for the colony of Victoria, No 75

    Primary title: Miner's Right, for the colony of Victoria, No 75

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