Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/104

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

in Bendigo at the time that the diggers of Ballarat were in armed rebellion, it was not the Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Hotham, who was to be thanked, but the newly-appointed resident magistrate, Captain McLachlan, who arrived just in the nick of time, and, with the shrewdness of the Scotchman, took in the situation at a glance. He saw the imperative necessity of conciliating the exasperated diggers, and, by his first administrative act, he won their confidence and appeased their indignation. That act was the instant dismissal of a number of the black sheep amongst the police force—scoundrels who had been transported from the mother country for their crimes, and, by a strange irony of destiny, were afterwards placed in a position of authority which enabled them to tyrannise at will over men of birth, breeding, education, and honesty, to whom their touch was contamination and their very presence an insult. This in itself was one great stride in the direction of reform, and Captain McLachlan followed it up with a distinct and deliberate refusal to carry out the governor's instructions to collect the diggers' license-fees at the point of the bayonet. By this disobedience he jeopardised his position and rendered himself amenable to a court-martial, but he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had saved Bendigo from the bloodshed and loss of life that resulted from obeying the governor's instructions at Ballarat. When affairs cooled down a little, and the diggers were granted those rights that should never have been denied them, every one admitted that the captain was in the right and the governor stupidly in the wrong. So far from suffering any official degradation for declining to enforce an order by the representative of the Queen, which he knew meant precipitating a civil war, he was continued in his office and applauded on all sides for