Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/86

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

large body of police, supported by the 12th and 40th regiments of the line, skirmishers in advance and cavalry on the flanks, advanced from the Government Camp on the diggers to demand the production of their licenses, knowing full well that those precious pieces of paper had been committed to the flames on the previous day. Not expecting this sudden attack, the diggers were unprepared for effective resistance. They retired as the troops advanced, rallying occasionally and receiving the enemy with a mingled fire of stones and bullets. The result of that day's work was open war between the gold-fields' population and the Crown. No sooner had the police and the military returned with a number of prisoners to the Government Camp, than the diggers assembled en masse on their old meeting-ground, Bakery Hill, appointed a council of war, and elected Peter Lalor (son of the late member for the Queen's County, and brother of the present member) as their commander-in-chief.

Up to this point, the diggers would seem to have had no designs of a revolutionary character. Their sole object was to secure a redress of their grievances and the abolition of an intolerable system of vulgar official tyranny. Now, however, when they found themselves treated as outlaws, the movement assumed a wider significance; a declaration of independence based on the American model was drawn up and signed, and a new silken flag—the Southern Cross—five silver stars forming a cross on a blue ground—was unfurled to the breeze. Beneath this diggers' standard, Lalor, as commander-in-chief, took his stand and administered the following oath to his men: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." It was in that portion of the gold-