Thursday, 24 December 2015

Arresting the arsonists

The burning of the Eureka Hotel marked a precipitous deterioration in the relationship between the Ballarat diggers and the authorities and the unplanned riot showed diggers just how effective their numerical superiority could be. Rede ordered the arrest of the men who led the mob, a difficult task because there was no clear idea how the riot had started or who instigated it. A few people were arrested and all but three were able to provide alibis. An American, Albert Hurd, had also been arrested but he was released despite depositions against him that suggested he played an active role in the destruction of the hotel. Hotham commented on the list of those arrested on suspicion of having been involved in the riot: ‘Read. I Regret to find so few Ringleaders arrested.’ [1] As a result, it was only Andrew McIntyre, Thomas Fletcher and Henry Westerby who were charged, despite contradictory evidence, with causing the riot. [2] This incensed Ballarat’s diggers who felt that the prisoners were being made scapegoats to satisfy the authorities’ desire for retribution.

At the committal of McIntyre and Fletcher on Saturday 21 October, Assistant-Commissioner Johnston said that bail would not be granted and the accused were committed for trial in Geelong on 26 October. Westerby was not committed for trial in Melbourne until a week later. However, the diggers argued that if Bentley could be bailed on a charge of murder, then they could be on a lesser charge.[3] The crowd moved to Bakery Hill for an unplanned meeting where some wanted to destroy the Camp, a situation prevented by the intervention of Henry Holyoake, formerly a London Chartist. Violence was avoided when bail of £500 was negotiated with Camp officials and the crowd then dispersed to the sound of pistol shots that accidentally wounded one man in his side. However, when the delegates went to the Camp again, they found that bail had been increased to £2,000; the Argus commented:

Now, supposing that there were good grounds for the arrangements as they at present exist, why was the promise made at all? The authorities are reduced to the necessity of acknowledging either that, as usual, they are premature in their decisions, or that they have adopted the principle that no faith is to be kept: with the heretics who disbelieve the doctrine of Government irresponsibility, unlimited official power and administrative spotlessness.

Hotham thought that the incident was the result of a few irresponsible troublemakers who temporarily swayed the sensible and law-abiding majority. He recognised that this dangerous minority must be isolated and dealt with firmly and informed Rede to take a strong stance against diggers for riotous behaviour and if they assembled for violent and illegal purposes. Hotham backed this up by reinforcing the strength of the Camp. Additional police arrived on 19 October and were followed shortly afterwards by a further 450 troops of the 40th Regiment and on 25 October a detachment of the 12th Regiment newly arrived from England. [4]

On Sunday 22 October, many of Ballarat’s Catholics met after Mass to protest at the treatment of Father Smyth’s servant and the arrack on the Church. [5] Peter Lalor and Thomas Kennedy stirred up the diggers and it decided that, the following day, Timothy Hayes, their representative would lead a delegation to Commissioner Rede. The delegation found that Constable Lord had already been moved from Ballarat to Melbourne although it wanted the same treatment for Johnston. Led by Hayes and John Manning, many Catholics met on Wednesday 25 October to learn the outcome of the deputation to Rede, and resolved to petition Hotham for a retrial of Gregorius and the removal of Johnston. In Melbourne, however, the whole affair was dismissed by the Chief Commissioner and the Colonial Secretary. Hotham was impressed by the Catholic petition and, although he did not think that Johnston was to blame for the situation, he nonetheless thought that it might be ‘politic’ to move him from Ballarat. This might have calmed the situation but Johnston was not moved and Catholics remained alienated by the actions of the Camp. [6]

[1] PROV, 1189/P Unit 153: J54/12469, dated 6 November 1854. It listed ten men arrested: Manastra Flatow, Samuel Butler, John Balderstone, George McIntosh, Charles Stewart and John Nanderbyle had charges dismissed on 26 and 27 October; Albert Hurd was also committed for trial at Melbourne on 15 November.
[2] Lazarus was present when Fletcher was arrested and at his subsequent trial: SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 25 October 1845, pp. 97-104, 22 November 1854, p. 114.
[3] ‘Ballarat’, Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 25 October 1854, p. 4.
[4] Ballarat Times, 28 October 1854, commented acidly on this: ‘This verdant impastation, parcelled up in red padding, is to vegetate on the hill to the west of the township, commanding a view of the flat, which last summer was used as a cricket ground’. See also, Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 21 October 1854, p. 4.
[5] ‘Ballarat’, Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 25 October 1854, p. 4.
[6] PROV 1189/P Unit 92, J54/12201.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Predicting change 2015-2016

Looking back on 2015, the ‘Ed stone’ seems to sum up the state of British politics during the year…it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Whether it was the  attempt thwarted by the House of Lords to reduce the scale of tax credits or promising a referendum on the EU or the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party ‘by an overwhelming mandate’ (as we are continually and increasingly boringly being told), it has been the year of the political cock-up…yes I know most years are but this has been one of spectacularly bad ideas.  Take tax credits.  If the Chancellor had introduced his changes in a finance bill, then he would still have faced opposition in the Lords but the legislation would have passed as it would have been a ‘money bill’.  Given that he knew the Conservatives no longer had a majority in the Lords, it beggars belief why an individual with the Machiavellian skills of George Osborne tried to get the measure through as a Statutory Instrument…it is true that the Lords normally nodded through secondary legislation but there is no convention saying that they could not reject them…a case of poor advice and vaulting hubris I suspect. 
Jeremy Corbyn

I suspect that many of those who ‘lent’ Jeremy Corbyn their nominations so that there was a left-wing candidate on the ballot paper are kicking themselves now.  No one expected that he would win… I do wish I’d placed £100 on him to win when the odds were 100/1!!!  But clearly it was a case that ‘The Force was with him’ aided by an electoral system where anyone who paid £3, whether they were Labour party supporters or not, could vote in the election.  Having lost the 2015 General Election because of Ed’s perceived left-wing credentials, the Labour Party then took a leap to the left with the beginnings of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of those no longer seen to have the populist purity of the party’s historic principles.  The problem with this is that when Labour has elected leaders with openly oppositionist principles in the past—I’m thinking of George Lansbury in the 1930s, Michael Foot in the 1980s—it had proved electorally disastrous and exposed the ideological divisions within the Party.

Something that is also evident within the Conservative Party over Europe.  Having already enshrined in law that there would be a referendum over future treaty change, under the perceived threat posed by UKIP and his own Euro-sceptics, David Cameron decided that a referendum over changes he proposed to negotiate with the other EU states.  With the continuing crisis over the Euro and the massive migrations of peoples into the EU in the summer and early autumn—neither of which have had a significant impact on the UK—you might have thought that David would be in a strong position.  Well no.  There is no likelihood of changes to the central tenet of the free movement of people within the EU or over discrimination of EU citizens by imposing a four year ban on in-work welfare benefits.  The Prime Minister’s hope was that if he could get agreement on his ‘four points’, he could sell this to an increasingly sceptical public—the poll published today gives 47 per cent in favour of Brexit. 

David Cameron

Jeremy Corbyn and the referendum will remain central political issues throughout 2016.  Although EU Council President Donald Tusk has called for a ‘serious debate with no taboos’ about Mr Cameron's demands, it is clear that unless the ways benefits are paid to British citizens is changed to take account of the ways they operate in many EU countries he will not get agreement across the EU for benefit changes.  This will inevitably weaken what he will achieve and what he will be able to present to the country.  What politicians seem not to acknowledge..and this was something that was evident when I campaigned for a ‘Yes’ vote in 1975 and in my experience has not changed…is that people’s views of the EU are emotional as much and arguably more than political.  The problem for those who want to stay in is that those leading the campaigns have little credence amongst ordinary voters…in fact what you need is a single campaign with a single charismatic leader who can get the message across in straightforward terms…and that is not what is currently the case. 

For Jeremy, the current situation is unsustainable.  Although Labour claimed victory over tax credits and maintaining police numbers, there is little to suggest that the Labour leadership in the Commons had much to do with this.  It was the Conservative minority in the Lords that led to victory over welfare payments and the massacre in France that made reducing police numbers politically unsustainable.  There is little or no opposition in the House of Commons and little evidence that Jeremy had any significant control over his own MPs.  In the short term, this may not matter as the next election is over four years away.  But, there is a strong sense of a rudderless party increasing buffeted by left-wing pressures beyond the hallowed halls and, despite the rhetoric, of increasingly vicious and internecine struggles at constituency level.  To be effective, political parties need to be led, not a discussion group for weighing contrary arguments.  In both the referendum campaign and within the Labour Party, what is needed is effective leadership, something that both currently lack. 

Walking into the middle of the road might seem a good idea at the time…the problem is that you will eventually get hit by vehicles coming from both sides!!

Monday, 14 December 2015


This, the second volume looks at northern England covering Yorkshire and the North-East in Chapter 6, Cheshire, Lancashire and the North-West in Chapter 7 and at Scotland, Wales and Ireland respectively in Chapter 8, 9 and 10. It also includes the synoptic concluding chapter. Newcastle, Sunderland and their industrial and mining communities have been neglected by scholars who often mean Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire when they speak of 'the North'. Yet Chartism in Cumberland, Northumberland and Durham had a stridency and vehemence in 1838 and 1839 that was also evident in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Yorkshire and the North-East is the subject of Chapter 6. Northern England-regarded by most historians as forming the bedrock of Chartism and the heart of industrialisation-was dominated by textiles, iron-making and coal mining, industries that produced a greater sense of class-consciousness and class-conflict and where the human cost of economic change, Disraeli's 'Two Nations', was at its starkest.

Chapter 7 considers Cheshire, Lancashire and the North-West, an area that contained the bulk of cotton manufacture where technological change brought increasing distress to its hand weavers. Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider Chartism in Scotland, Wales and Ireland and the Isle of Man. With its radical traditions and urbanising and industrialising economy, Chartism proved an important force in Scottish politics in the 1830s and 1840s. Wales too has its own political traditions and like Scotland there was also substantial industrial and urban development that allowed a concentration of radical politics particularly in South and West Wales . Unlike Scotland, there was rebellion in Wales at Newport in November 1839-perhaps the best known of all Chartist events-and its failure played an important role in how physical force was regarded in the decade that followed. Unlike the strikes in 1842, whose relationship to the national movement was tangential other than in mid-August, it was the only major direct action that can be regarded as fully 'Chartist' in character. The relationship of Chartism to Ireland was one of bifurcation-there was Chartism in Ireland and there was Chartism among those Irish who had emigrated to the mainland. In Ireland, Chartism found itself in competition for support from middle- and working-classes from Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Association and the later Confederate Clubs associated with 'Young Ireland'. Faced with these mass organisations, it is unsurprising that Chartism's impact was limited and geographically concentrated in a few major towns. On the mainland the Irish impact on Chartism was significantly greater, if only because of Feargus O'Connor's role as the primary leader. It was once assumed that the Irish played a marginal role within Chartism until the late 1840s but we now take a less sanguine view of O'Connell's ability to control the Irish in Britain and a more positive view O'Connor and other Irish national and local leaders. Chartism and Ireland collided in the climactic events of 1848 with Irish Confederate leaders seeing the Chartist agitation as a means through which troops could be held back in Britain while they led what provided to be less a revolution than a skirmish while the often conspiratorial nature of Irish radicalism was evident in the Chartist insurrectionary plans in June, July and August.
The book ends with discussion of people, places, classes and spaces. It considers the question of 'who were the Chartists?' and the difficulties in identifying who they were and why they became Chartists and how far class played a part in this process. It also examines Chartism within its geographical context drawing on points made in the regional chapters. Finally, it looks at the whole question of radical spaces and how these spaces were created and contested.
Publication Date: December 13 2015
ISBN/EAN13: 1517788986 / 9781517788988
Page Count: 424
Related Categories: History / Europe / Great Britain / General

Monday, 7 December 2015

Burning Bentley’s hotel


Johnston believed that an injustice had occurred in the Scobie case and had forwarded a copy of the depositions to William Stawell, the Attorney-General in Melbourne. But even before any official action could be taken, the diggers dealt with the matter in their own way. Word of events at Ballarat was spreading and diggers at Bendigo held a meeting supporting the Ballarat miners. Ill-feeling was still running high when a mass meeting was called for Tuesday 17 October near where Scobie died. [1] Inspector Gordon Evans, who had made inquiries as to the exact object of the meeting commented shortly after the riot: ‘I could not learn from any person that any serious outrage was contemplated’. The meeting began quietly around noon. [2] A Committee for the Prosecution of the Investigation into the Death of James Scobie was elected by diggers and instructed to frame a petition to the Governor and also to campaign for the arrest of Scobie’s murderers. One member of this committee was Peter Lalor who had worked the claim next to Scrobie. He had played no part in previous protest meetings but the murder of his friend overcame his reluctance. The meeting was orderly and Evans later commented:

The speeches…were not in the slightest degree objectionable…and the speakers endeavoured to impress on the people the necessity of preserving peace and order.

Charles Doudiet Burning of Bentley’s Hotel, a sketch

Nonetheless when it broke up around 2.30 pm groups of diggers made their way to Bentley’s hotel and as the crowd grew, its mood became increasingly angry and excitable. The Argus suggested:

What with ill-concealed discontent at the rigid enforcement of the license tax, and what with a variety of wrongs and cruelties unwittingly resulting there from, men’s minds are now in such a state that they are almost ripe for anything…It is thought that the meeting will be stormy in debate and perhaps hasty and unwarranted in its excesses and conclusions. The police will be present in full force. [3]

The Argus later commented:

It is a matter of speculation whether the meeting would have dispersed peaceably had this course not been taken by the authorities. [4]

Rede had not contemplated trouble, despite warnings from Bentley the previous day [5] and was at the Eureka Camp when news of the riot reached him. [6] He quickly joined Evans and Commissioner John Green, to observe proceedings but:

…all the available force of police and mounted troopers were on guard at the Hotel, and made a very injudicious display of their strength. Not only did they follow, but ride through the crowd of people at the meeting; and it is to this display of their strength we attribute the fire and other outbursts and works of indignation. [7]

The crowd clearly angered by the large police presence and by the flight of Bentley to the Camp, threw stones smashing all the hotel’s windows and finally ransacked it without the police intervening. Evans, who witnessed the event, wrote:

He [Bentley] was seen almost immediately and with a yell of rage the diggers pursued him. – He rushed past me in his flight and I think I never saw such a look of terror on a man’s face.

Green had not read the Riot Act when Rede arrived and tried to pacify the people but was the target of a hail of missiles and was shouted down. The Act remained unread. Assistant-Commissioner Gilbert Amos was favourably heard but a cry of ‘fire’ was heard, as smoke appeared from one of the ground floor rooms. The police managed to extinguish it and attempted to establish a cordon round the hotel but without success. [8] The Argus concluded:

Had the people supported them at all, that would have had the effect of stopping the fire, for the simple reason, that the fire was put out several times during the time they were there, in some places, but set fire to in others. [9]

The rear of the hotel was by now ablaze and the fire had spread to adjacent buildings. The majority of the crowd, now swelled to between 8,000 and 10,000, dispersed once the hotel had been turned into ‘a mass of burning embers’. Soldiers and police retired to the Government Camp where, according to the Ballarat Times, ‘it was seriously believed an attack would be made in the night time by the miners’ perhaps to remove Bentley by force’ remarking:

We have never witnessed a more terrible demonstration of popular feeling, never seen an instance when the offended Majesty of a Sovereign people was so powerfully, so tangibly asserted, as on yesterday afternoon at the Eureka Hotel. By this one instance of popular wrath, the Government may see what an offended people could, would, and may do. [10]

The authority of the Camp had been flouted; Rede had made a fool of himself in trying to quieten the crowd; the police had shown themselves to be ineffective and, according to Evans, were ‘laughed at’; and, the military had taken little part in the affair, refused to help put out the flames and then rode away when they thought their presence no longer effective. Although the police had attempted to reassert law and order by arresting two diggers suspected of being responsible for the fire, they were quickly rescued from Evans and his men who returned to the Camp in disarray.

[1] SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 25 October 1845, pp. 95-97. Gordon Evans, Inspector of Police Ballarat to Captain MacMahon, Acting Chief Commissioner of Police Melbourne, 17 October 1854: PROV, 937/P Unit 10, 547/54.

[2] ‘Ballaarat’, Argus, 23 October 1854, p. 5, provides a detailed account of the initially peaceful meeting and the subsequent burning of the hotel. See also, ‘Ballarat’, Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 20 October 1854, p. 4.

[3] Argus, 16 October 1854.

[4] ‘Ballaarat’, Argus, 23 October 1854, p. 5.

[5] Bentley to Dewes, 16 October 1854, PROV 1189/P Unit 92, H54/11605: ‘the great probability would be an attack by the whole mob upon me and the House, particularly if intoxication should exist to any extent.’

[6] For Rede’s account of events see, PROV 1189/P Unit 92, J54/12471.

[7] Ballarat Times, 18 October 1854.

[8] Dewes to John Foster, Colonial Secretary, 17 October 1854, PROV 1189/P Unit 92, H54/11605.

[9] Argus, 18 October 1854.

[10] Ballarat Times, 18 October 1854.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

War or War Plus?

Let’s be clear we are already at war with IS and in bombing in Iraq, as well as killing terrorists, we have already almost certainly killed civilians.  Extending that war to Syria is a logical extension across a border that IS does not recognise.  In doing so we will again kill terrorists in the consequent bombing and again almost certainly civilians.  It makes no military sense to stop at the border especially as Britain is already doing reconnaissance flights over Syria.  Is it, as Liam Fox suggests a  ‘national embarrassment’ for Britain to ‘contract out’ our security to our allies?  It all depends where our national interests lie.  Was it right for David Cameron to call those opposed to intervention in Syria as ‘terrorist sympathisers’ David Cameron, something that has not as yet apologised for?  Certainly not, IS is a despicable regime, something even those opposed to war recognise and the issue for them is not one of appeasing IS but with finding a long-term solution to the problem they pose to democratic institutions in the Middle-East  but also in the West. 


Has the Prime Minister made the case for war?  Barely, I think.  Public opinion, if the poll in today’s Times is to be believed is not behind him—though it must be said considerably more behind him than in 2013.  There are also divisions in both Conservative and Labour parties over the question though it is probable that the numbers are with David in Parliament: he would not have risked a vote unless he was fairly confident of winning.  Bombing won’t defeat IS, something recognised by both sides and that ultimately means that ground troops will ne needed.  It is this issue that concerns MPs on both sides of the argument though it is specifically excluded in today’s motion.  Where will these troops come from?  The Prime Minister banded about the 70,000 local troops available to assault IS but this was certainly a case of smoke and mirrors. There may well be 70,000 combatants opposed to IS in Syria, Iraq and Turkey but they are not a coherent force but merely bands of fighters often with diametrically opposed aims, that could be brought to bear on IS.  An effective attack on IS requires coordinated attacks with air power and ground troops working together to push IS back and currently this does not exist.  We have all seen the consequences of previous western ‘crusades’ against states, such as Iraq and Libya whose leaders we disapproved of…we have removed strong despicable leaders only to see them replaced by strong, despicable terrorist groups.  We’re very good at getting rid of ‘bad’ men but we are appalling at finding a stable replacement…now that’s a real ‘national embarrassment’!

Will extending bombing make Britain safer?  Probably not.  Will bombing destroy rather than simply degrade IS?  Certainly not?  Is there a coherent policy for dealing with IS globally?  There needs to be…lots of words certainly but definitely not.