Reconsidering White Australia

Class and racism in the 1873 Clunes Riot


From before Federation until the 1960s, immigration laws all but excluded non-European people from settling in Australia. A long-standing academic consensus on where this ‘White Australia’ policy came from, is summed up in half a sentence by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm: ‘Certainly the pressure to ban coloured immigrants, which established the "White California" and "White Australia" policies between the 1880s and 1914, came primarily from the working class...’

This article questions some of the historical arguments behind Hobsbawm’s statement. I hope to contribute to a re-examination of a few long-held beliefs, regarding how the blight of anti-Asian racism became such an entrenched part of Australian national life. (See bibliographical note at the end.)

I have focused on the 1873 riot in Clunes (30 kilometres north of Ballarat), which at that time was a gold mining town of about 3000 people. In December 1873 a crowd of around a thousand people drove off a party of Chinese miners, police, and company directors, who were attempting to break the first major strike in the Clunes mines.

The Clunes riot

In emphasising the working class origins of the ‘White Australia’ policy, Eric Hobsbawm follows a long line of authorities on the subject. Not least among these have been leaders of the Australian Labor Party, who in the past have been keen to paint themselves – and the working class generally – as the most consistent and determined opponents of Chinese and other non-European immigration. One such figure, Labor parliamentarian and former miners’ union leader W.G. Spence, described the Clunes riot in his memoirs along with other measures against the ‘pig-tailed heathens’ from China. In Spence’s account, the Clunes riot is a skirmish in what he portrays as a heroic battle against ‘capitalistic greed and Chinese.’

‘Capitalistic greed’ regarding working hours was what sparked the strike at Clunes in 1873. In early September, management at the South Clunes mine told their workers that new contracts would not be accepted unless they agreed to work a Saturday afternoon shift. A section of the miners struck, and a week later launched the Clunes Miners’ Association with William Blanchard, former miner and current Mayor of Clunes, as president. On Monday 15 September, the management at the neighbouring Lothair mine announced that the contract system was to be abolished, and two extra shifts (Sunday night and Saturday afternoon) introduced. The 110 Lothair miners struck, bringing the total number of strikers to 150.

The outraged response of the miners and their families to management’s violation of Clunes custom, which included the Saturday afternoon off, is well summed up by ‘A Miner’s Wife, One of the Union’, who wrote to the Ballarat Courier. She could name more than a dozen miners who had fallen victim to ‘the foul air of the Clunes mines’. Some impoverished wife and children

have been obliged to leave the district... with bleeding hearts at being torn from the remains of the beloved one who had made this earth their paradise...Directors, not satisfied with the old process of slowly poisoning our husbands, seem determined of making it both wholesale and rapid.

An Old Miner wrote that he had, ‘through foul air’ in the Clunes mines, been ‘laid aside, and many are in their graves’. The Lothair mine, he wrote,

has only one shaft, no means of ventilation, and in case of water breaking in...they have no means of escape...allow me to urge my brother miners not to allow anything to induce them to resume work till some means are set on foot for the preservation of their lives.

At South Clunes, the strike was quickly resolved in favour of the miners. At Lothair, however, the dispute dragged on. The company tried to break the strike by obtaining European miners from Ballarat. An appeal by the Clunes Miners’ Association for Ballarat miners to refuse work was published prominently in the Ballarat Courier. The Ballarat miners didn’t come, either through persuasion or intimidation. By the end of November, the Lothair directors had conceded that the Sunday night shift would not be worked, but refused to give ground on the Saturday afternoon shift. After the failure of negotiations, the Lothair directors convened a meeting of shareholders, who decided to ‘employ Chinese labor at once, in consequence of the refusal of the European miners to work the mine’.

On the afternoon of 8 December, word reached Clunes by telegram that Chinese were coming to break the strike. The bellman was sent to spread the news. Miners at the Port Phillip and New North Clunes mines ‘refused to work the afternoon shift, and operations in these and the co-operative mines were entirely suspended.’ About ‘500 men, members of the Miners Association, had marched around the town, headed by the Clunes Brass Band, and armed with pick-handles, battens, and waddies...’ According to the Courier, ‘nearly the whole male population, and a good many women — to say nothing of the boys...’ were in the streets. John Pascoe, a director of the mine, received some ‘rude jostling’, but ‘a couple of working men’ intervened and he was allowed to withdraw. From passing travellers, it was learnt that the coaches waiting to transport the Chinese would not leave Creswick until very late at night. Meetings of the miners resolved to discontinue work in all mines, and to order some men working at Lothair in defiance of the Miners’ Association to stop work. The town fire bell was rung, and two hundred miners marched to the Lothair claim. The scabs hid in the mine rather than face the crowd at the top of the shaft, some of whom pulled down a nearby building ‘erected for the convenience of the expected Chinamen’.

The Chinese and police finally approached Clunes on the morning of Tuesday 9 December. At least a thousand men, women, and children, almost all armed with sticks, awaited their approach at the toll-gate on the Creswick Road. Word of the preparations must have spread, as the coaches turned off to Tourello to pick up mounted troopers, and approached Clunes from the Ballarat Road. Alerted by mounted scouts the crowd rushed to blockade this route. They erected a ‘formidable barricade’ from drays, timber, stones, ploughs, harrows, and rope, mostly from a nearby building site.

The five coaches were met by ‘a fast and furious storm of stones’. Two policemen ‘dismounted and sprang on to the top of the barricade, Sergeant Larner’s forehead streaming with blood, and presented — the one a carbine, and the other a horse-pistol — to the breasts of the men’. The Ballarat Star reported a more violent scene: the mounted police ‘charged the crowd with their revolvers drawn.’ Sergeant Larner was knocked off one of the coaches by a large stone, and then rushed the barricade, knocking a man down with his revolver while other police drove back the crowd with ‘the muzzles of their rifles.’ Despite these heroics, crowds ‘rushed over the barricades and, surrounding the coaches, struck at them with sticks, threw stones through them at the Chinamen, and drove them far away...’

The men, according to the Courier’s correspondent, ‘were quite taken by surprise at the pluck and activity displayed by the women...during the skirmish.’ According to the Star, the women played a prominent role in smashing the windows of the coaches, ‘and pelted the unfortunate Chinamen.’ Mr Bryant, the manager of Lothair, ‘received a blow with a stone’. Director Pascoe had rocks thrown at him, and needed police protection.

After a further attempt to drive back the crowd, the coaches turned around in defeat. On hearing from police that ‘no further attempt would be made to intrude the Chinamen’, the crowd gave ‘three loud cheers’, and returned the material used for the barricade. The miners, ‘accompanied by troops of women and children proceeded to the residences of several miners who had rendered themselves continuing work...Warnings were given those offending men to leave the town...’ They then marched to Mr Bryant’s home to demand his resignation as mine manager. However, some of the men claimed consideration for Bryant’s family’, and Bryant assured them that ‘he had all along been opposed to bringing Chinamen’. He was allowed to stay.

Later that day between 800 and 1000 people — up to one in three of the town’s population — met to discuss their victory. They voted to express their ‘utter abhorrence at the conduct of those persons, with whom the heavy responsibility rests, in having attempted to subject our prosperous and hitherto irreproachable town to the moral pollution and attendant horrors of a Chinese encampment.’ They also passed votes of thanks to the various mines ‘for agreeing to their men being away during the past two days... The whole force of the association marched through the streets...headed by the band. The assemblage then sang "God save the Queen," and quietly dispersed.’

Like the bread riots described by English historian E.P. Thompson, the Clunes riot was not the work of a lawless, aimless mob. There was obviously a high level of organisation: mounted scouts on the roads, and meetings to decide the course of action. More particularly, there was a high level of civic organisation for example the use of the town fire bell as an alarm. Respect for property, consideration of Bryant’s family, the singing of ‘God Save the Queen’ marked the event as a patriotic gathering of Britons doing no more than upholding their constitutional rights. The march around town headed by the brass band was a regular event in Clunes public life, featuring on fete days for friendly societies.

The question which hangs over the whole affair is how much of the militancy was motivated by racism? The Age, in the course of its successful attempt to push the Lothair dispute to arbitration in January 1874, argued that the miners were keen to prevent ‘any body of men, be they moon-faced opium eating celestials, or sturdy British diggers’ working the strike-bound mine. The Argus also thought the ‘hypocritical and canting’ motion passed after the riot was a cover: ‘The "moral pollution" business was only put forward because [the rioters] felt ashamed of having broken the Queen’s peace in the pursuit of sordid gain.’ One Clunes resident who wrote to the Age, however, recounted the response of some rioters to appeals to desist: ‘We will keep the peace if possible, but we must stop the Chinamen. If the company can get Europeans to fill our places we will submit, but we cannot compete with these Chinamen...’

In the absence of other evidence, it is hard to tell whether this was a rationalisation put on actions the rioters would have carried out anyway, or whether negative views of the Chinese motivated the rioters in the first place. Perhaps, given the emphasis in the public culture of the time on women as protectors of moral virtue, the active involvement of women in the riot might be taken as evidence of opposition to the ‘morally polluting’ Chinese. The participation of women in the march around Clunes the afternoon before the riot was certainly a departure from the norm. A union march earlier in the strike, before the issue of Chinese labour was raised, seems to have been composed solely of men, as appears to have been the custom on such ceremonial occasions.

However, a comparison with women’s involvement in the Broken Hill strikes of the 1880s and onwards shows exactly the same pattern as at Clunes – and at Broken Hill, Chinese labour was not an issue. Women at Broken Hill, like their Clunes counterparts, generally did not participate in the miners’ union marches and mass meetings. However, they were often prominent when it came to picketing (including doing physical violence to would-be strike-breakers), and on rare occasions, around high points of a struggle such as mass pickets, would participate in the union marches as well.

There is one interesting difference, however. In the case of Broken Hill, conservative newspapers savaged ‘the females – they hardly deserve to be called women’ for their participation in the picketing. Of the dozen or so newspapers studied for reports and comments on the Clunes riot, however, only one minor paper expressed any regrets that ‘women, lovely women, should so readily engage in aggressive warfare.’ In contrast, a Castlemaine paper cast the role of women in heroic terms: ‘Who has not read of Frenchwomen working on the ramparts to resist an invading foe, and the Clunes women have emulated them.’ The Bendigo Advertiser, noting that ‘the wives of the miners took a prominent part in the unfortunate affair’, declared: ‘When women are led to take up arms, we may be sure that the cause is one in which it would be utter folly for the adverse party to persist.’

This is the case generally: In the absence of compelling evidence either way, it is impossible to tell if the response at Clunes would have been the same to Chinese as to other strike-breakers. But we can be quite sure that the aftermath of the riot, and in particular the press reporting, would have been completely different. The involvement of Chinese gave newspapers and other ‘respectable’ opinion the option of agreeing with the people of Clunes – and thus of cultivating working class support – despite the townspeople’s involvement in an action that ‘opinion-makers’ would have normally had only condemnation for.

The Age of 11 December condemned the violence in no uncertain terms: ‘A greater disgrace could not have befallen the working men of Victoria, whose grievances have hitherto been adjusted without physical force... Although the Age condemned the riot, it was sympathetic to the anti-Chinese views expressed by the rioters. Having duly condemned ‘opposition to constituted authority’, the Age proceeded next day to make clear its views on the Chinese:

...this community would suffer severely were the mining be worked by an inferior and barely tolerated race...If it be not advisable as a matter of public policy for the capitalist to have resort to a semi-barbarous race when unable to bend his fellow-countrymen to his will, then the police...were wrongfully employed in furnishing aid to the one set of disputants against the other.

Four elements can be discerned here: first (and, in the Age’s case, most vociferous), a condemnation of workers for taking the repulsion of strike breakers into their own hands, rather than leaving matters to their ‘warm friends and assiduous advocates’ such as themselves; second, hostility to the Chinese; third, condemnation of the provocative action of the company; and finally a condemnation of the police for favouring one party. All of these elements are present in the more liberal newspaper leaders. In some goldfields newspapers, the issue was not seen to be the use of strike breakers, but the ‘insult to our race’ of ‘the introduction of Chinese labor’ in any form.

The conservative press ran only the first two arguments identified above, with a heavy emphasis on the first. ‘For the first time in our history’, warned the Argus, ‘rioting has been resorted enforce the demands of labour...employers have as much right to employ Chinese the miners have to strike....’ The Argus was not opposed to anti-Chinese racism—indeed, they agreed that ‘Englishmen should give their own countrymen the refusal of employment before applying to aliens.’ The condemnation was limited to ‘the exorbitant demands of grasping unionists, enforced by violence.’

In Bendigo, Stawell, and Maryborough, local Miners’ Associations organised well-attended meetings in the wake of the riot. Newspaper reports of the Maryborough and Stawell meetings are sketchy, but both approved motions supporting the rioters’ action at Clunes.

The most detailed press reports, which let us judge some of the feeling on the issue, cover the large meeting of the Bendigo Miners’ Association. Association president Robert Clark defended the action of the miners while regretting the law breaking. Noting the ‘well-known fact that Chinamen as a class were very objectionable to a large portion of the population’, Clark read the Age’s negative comments on the Chinese before introducing the speakers. One of these speeches, by a Mr Hattam, illustrates the way in which the issue of the strike being broken was entirely subsumed under the ‘Chinese question’ in the discussion of the riot.

Though starting with the usual disclaimer that he ‘did not intend to incite feelings of hostility or that the law should be broken’, Hattam by the end of his speech was referring to Chinese as ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’. The dissent and applause for Hattam shows he was speaking to a largely sympathetic meeting. He stated that

he would not object to Chinese labor if it was found prudent to employ it — (dissent) — but he objected to the manner in which it had been attempted to be introduced. (Hear, hear.) What right had the Government to try to force Chinese labor upon them?...the people of Clunes objected strongly to it. (Applause.) It was not long ago since a poll tax on Chinamen was in operation. This showed that they...would not suit to mix with Europeans...(Cheers.)...Why should these Mongolians...enjoy the advantages of this colony, which were only intended for Europeans. (Loud applause.)

Opposition to the torrent of racism was slight, and it met a hostile reception from some of the crowd. The Bendigo Advertiser reported on the fate of an interjector during another virulently anti-Chinese speech:

...nothing could be heard but cries of "He’s a capitalist,"..."Put him out," seemed for a moment as if a general fight was about to take place... Mr Matthew Barker came on to the platform...bleeding profusely...[he] stated that the only remark he had made was, "Wasn’t a Chinaman a man and a brother."

Opposition to the anti-Chinese push was also in the minority six months later, in June 1874, when delegates from ten miners’ associations met in Bendigo to form the Amalgamated Miners’ Association (AMA). Along with the adoption of motions on the eight hours system, ventilation of mines, and draft bills relating to mining, there was a ‘lengthy discussion’ of the ‘Chinese Question’. A Clunes delegate, Mr W. Taylor, moved to insert a clause in the rules ‘prohibiting any member thereof working in any mine where Chinese are employed.’ Taylor argued that ‘European labour could not compete with Chinese...[who] morally speaking, were a pest...’ Blanchard agreed with his fellow delegate, as did a series of others who suggested reimposing the 1850s residence tax on Chinese residents.

It seems that the motion in favour of a poll tax was defeated, however, and a number of delegates had reservations about Taylor’s motion:

Some of the members thought that the subject was too difficult...and others believed that the majority of miners would think the terms of the resolution were very arbitrary...

Probably to appease these sentiments, the motion was modified so as not to affect existing claims. Reservations were also expressed by Robert Burrowes, MLA for Sandhurst, at the public meeting following the conference attended by some hundreds of miners. Burrowes declared that he was ‘strongly opposed’ to the AMA decision ‘that Chinese labour should not be admitted to mines...It was unjust oppression of foreigners...He thought that, no matter what the man was, he ought to have fair play.’

Reservations aside, there was clearly a strong sentiment for shutting out the Chinese. And as Andrew Markus points out, ‘even the diluted motion meant that the Association became the first major union to adopt a clause debarring its members from working with Chinese and by implication, debarring Chinese from membership.’

This was the start of a long tradition in the Australian labour movement. It was gold miners with experience in the AMA such as W.G. Spence who went on to form the Australian Shearers Union in 1886, later to become the giant Australian Workers Union. The ASU and AWU continued the policy of the AMA, effectively barring Chinese from joining. A close look at the Clunes riot and its context might help to account for the racist politics of the developing Australian labour movement, as well as that movement’s role in the development of ‘White Australia’.

Histories of ‘White Australia’

Linking cause and effect is always a difficult business in writing history. In the histories of ‘White Australia’, however, few themes appear more regularly than that of colonial governments implementing anti-Chinese measures to appease the racist sentiments of either the working class, or an undifferentiated ‘public’. This theme first comes to prominence in histories of the 1850s gold rushes, which saw the first large-scale immigration of Chinese. Thus Andrew Markus writes that, ‘recognising growing hostility to the Chinese...the colonial authorities felt compelled to move towards adopting special measures.’

A thorough re-examination of the factors leading to anti-Chinese measures in the 1850s is well beyond the scope of this thesis. It is possible, however, by re-examining the secondary sources, without reference to new material from my own research, to at least question the extent to which pressure from below was responsible. After all, it was in Whitehall, not on the goldfields, that the decision was first made to reserve ‘the continent of New Holland as a place where the English race shall be spread from sea to sea unmixed with any lower caste’.

In Victoria’s gold rush period, the first recorded voice raised against the Chinese was not a digger orator holding forth atop a tree stump, but William Westgarth, founder of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, who rose in Victoria’s infant Parliament in January 1853 to ask ‘whether it was the intention of the Government to adopt any measure for the exclusion of such population’, and to ensure they ‘or any other inferior race’ were not ‘chargeable to the State’. Westgarth was speaking before there was any significant influx of Chinese, and a year before the first anti-Chinese violence recorded in the secondary literature. He went on to sit on the commission investigating conditions on the goldfields after the Eureka rebellion. The commission concluded that, though the Chinese were ‘remarkably quiet’ in disposition, members of this ‘pagan and inferior race’ should be restricted from entering the colony.

As far as I can establish, the diggers actually at Eureka did not raise any grievance with the Chinese. Clashes between European and Chinese parties had, however, become a regular feature on the goldfields, as diggers scrambled over the scarce resources of good claims and water. Though there was certainly widespread anti-Chinese sentiment, the precise nature of these clashes is open to interpretation. The goldfields were worked by large numbers of parties of different nationalities, and in the absence of detail it is hard to separate out how many attacks were motivated by racism and how many by the desperate scramble of all against all.

It is also hard to separate out the weight of these clashes relative to other factors leading the Government to pass restrictive legislation in 1855. Cronin, who does not usually downplay the role of the state and politicians in fostering racism, argues that an official desire to ensure ‘racial harmony’ was central to the decision to introduce Chinese protectorates. Under this system, Chinese on the major goldfields were required to live in camps, usually some distance from other diggers, under the control of a Government-appointed protector. The Chinese protectorate system was not a purely benevolent measure, but was also designed, according to Cronin, to ‘prevent the "evils" of racial intermingling and to handicap an economic rival’.

The first law restricting Chinese immigration also came in 1855 – a £10 entry tax and a limit of one Chinese for every ten tons of shipping. Markus records ‘ominous portents of violence’ on the goldfields, ‘anti-Chinese murmurings’ in the cities and ‘calls for legislative action’ from much of the press as the backdrop to this legislation. Murmurings, portents, and calls might usually be considered a fairly weak basis on which to pass a law, but it seems there was more to it than that. In Serle’s account, the alleged ‘irritation of the industrious miner’ by the Chinese, and consequent threat of a serious collision, was only one concern of Governor Hotham. He was also ‘profoundly worried by Chinese immorality’ and thought the Chinese a potential threat to state security. It seems consistent with the evidence in the secondary accounts, though contrary to their arguments, to see the threat of violence as secondary, or even superfluous, gloss to Hotham’s approval of measures against the Chinese.

In this early period, it does not appear uncommon for English diggers to think of Chinese along with other ‘foreigners’ as part of a polyglot mix that was accepted and even talked of with pride on the goldfields. William Rayment was not alone when he wrote that the diggings were ‘truly a wonderful from all nations sit down at the same table and drink from the same bowl...’ An attempt by William Wentworth in NSW to impose an additional tax on foreigners on the goldfields drew vigorous protest from many diggers in late 1852. Before 1857, there are few recorded attempts to mobilise diggers on the Chinese question, and the record shows a split in sentiment. In July 1854 at Bendigo, a large meeting approved a motion calling for restrictions on Chinese immigration, but newspaper accounts show a very large minority supporting the opposing position put by Angus Mackay:

It was the great orator Curran...who had said...No matter under what sun...the man had been devoted on the altar of slavery, the moment he touched British ground his chains fell from him, and he stood confessed in the face of heaven an emancipated freeman". (Great cheering.)

This is a reminder that beliefs in any society are often poorly represented as a consistent view, or a collection of opinions which can be ‘averaged’ and measured on some sliding scale. If the Bendigo meeting was typical, there was a vigorous argument taking place among British immigrants. Trying to make sense of a new situation, they started from premises with which they were familiar: ‘Britishness’ was connected not only with certain rights, with ‘progress’ and with world conquest, but also with a liberal way of dealing with ‘foreigners’ in general and the growing Chinese minority in particular. In the context of this continuing argument, the role of the state in condemning, restricting and confining the Chinese was potentially decisive in determining whether the liberal tradition or racism triumphed. In most accounts, with the partial exception of Cronin, the role of such state action remains largely unexplored.

By 1857, a significant hardening of attitudes against the Chinese had occurred on the goldfields. Markus, along with most historians, sees the residence tax on Chinese, introduced into Parliament in late July 1857, as prompted by the Buckland riot earlier that month. He writes that there was ‘a serious situation at Ararat [see chapter four below] and minor disturbances were occurring in parts of the Bendigo field, Carngham, Linton, Jim Crow, Golden Point, Mt. Blackwood and Campbell’s Creek.’ The dates of newspaper articles cited by Markus show that only the Bendigo disturbances happened in the first part of the year, the others – like the worst disturbance on the Buckland – happened after the end of June.

In fact, as Serle makes clear, the pressure on the Haines Ministry was coming from above as well as below. In December 1856 the Legislative Council rejected mere continuance of existing restrictions on Chinese as ‘tinkering’ with the problem, and in early June – well before the most serious disturbances – had unanimously agreed to set up a Select Committee to frame legislation to ‘prevent the Gold Fields...from becoming the property of the Emperor of China and of the...hordes of Asia.’ The Committee was headed by John Pascoe Fawkner, by this time a solid representative of the Melbourne establishment, and far from a democrat. In a vicious speech, Fawkner expressed his belief that ‘the people in this colony would eventually have to make war on the Chinese...What would become of our gold...? He had been told that the Chinese had been...purchasing girls so young as ten years of age...’ Clearly, important sections of Victoria’s political elite were campaigning against the Chinese for some time before large numbers of racist diggers acted on such prejudices.

This is based on fragments of evidence from secondary sources. But it does seem strange that, while the histories abound with examples of agitation at the bottom of society, helping to push those at the top to into action, the relationship the other way – between anti-Chinese outpourings at the top and racist action at the bottom – is rarely explored.

These events occurred at a time when the Chinese were not just foreigners, but enemy aliens: Britain had launched a war against China in late 1856. The years that followed saw the decay and collapse of the protectorate system from 1859, and the repeal of restrictions in the early 1860s. Thus, according to the histories, ends the first period of widespread anti-Chinese agitation in Victoria.

In histories of ‘White Australia’, the Clunes riot of 1873 is usually recorded at the start of a second wave of agitation that saw new restrictions on Chinese immigration passed in 1881, and led eventually to the systematic exclusion of Chinese and other non-whites. Though the agitation following the Clunes riot did not continue beyond a few months, Andrew Markus points to it as one incident which helped to pressure a key, conservative section of the ruling class into supporting the 1881 restrictions. The Clunes riot – like the 1878 seamen’s strike against Chinese labour – also serves to highlight the role of organised labour, said by one historian to be ‘the greatest single influence on this phase of the anti-Chinese movement.’

The class nature of the agitation surrounding the Clunes riot, and its role in encouraging the 1881 restrictions, will be discussed in the next chapter. There are, however, some more general problems that need tackling.

Where historians stress the ‘bottom-up’ nature of the push against Chinese immigration, a lot rests on explaining why those at the base of society were so determined to exclude Chinese. There is no consensus on this question, with most writers endorsing an eclectic variety of explanations for working class prejudice. One theme, however, recurs: most writers give a prominent role to the supposedly self-evident cultural and physical differences between Chinese and Europeans.

To explain racial prejudice in this way begs the question of why and how certain ‘behaviour, customs, appearance and values’ come to be seen as obviously and significantly different and inferior. British academic, Robert Miles, argues that this problem is inescapable in the whole academic field of ‘race relations,’ defined by Price and others as ‘the way peoples of different racial origins react and behave to one another.’ To define the object of research in this way, argues Miles, is (at least implicitly) to endorse the assumption that races are ‘real’, rather than examining the process whereby certain groups are defined as ‘races’, and categorised as inferior or superior. Thus the racism of the 1850s and later is seen as something that was always there, a ‘universal impulse to human clannishness’ waiting for the conditions to emerge. Miles sets out to study not ‘race relations’, but the ‘racialisation’ of groups and the racism that follows. His focus is not physical (or cultural) difference in itself, but ‘the attribution of significance to certain patterns of, or the imagined assertion of, difference and the use of that process of signification to structure social relationships.’

One ‘obvious difference’ commonly supposed to be a reason for anti-Chinese prejudice may serve as an illustration for the limitations of the ‘race relations’ approach: the different wages paid to Chinese and Europeans. The initial equation of Chinese workers with low wages in Victoria was set up in the 1830s and 1840s by pastoralists. After the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1833, many British colonies turned to other sources of unfree labour, primarily indentured Indian and Chinese ‘coolies’. Evidence to an 1841 inquiry on indentured labour showed at one property that ‘coolies’ cost £18/8s per year in wages and rations, a free man cost £41/18s per year.

This payment of inferior wages to an ‘inferior’ race continued in the period after the gold rushes, though the gap seems to have narrowed. From the figures given by the Department of Mines in 1868, Chinese employed in gold mining were paid between sixty-five and eighty per cent of the rate of unskilled Europeans. In one of the most famous cases, the Australian Steam Navigation company sparked the 1878 seamen’s strike by sacking a European crew and replacing them with Chinese paid only £2/15s per month, instead of the £6/8s paid previously.

Some historians, like Bede Nairn, explain hostility to Chinese as a straightforward recognition that non-whites had ‘no comprehension of union notions of political and social improvement...’ Andrew Markus has done much to dispel such myths, for instance by documenting the Chinese Workers’ Union, which won the closed shop, the fifty-hour week, and wages probably the equal of whites, among Chinese furniture-makers in Melbourne late last century. By this time Chinese workers already had a long history of resistance to low wages, with one correspondent complaining to the Argus in 1853 that the Chinese were ‘sticklers for wages, expecting and demanding the same as Europeans’.

At one level, then, the equation of Chinese with low wages fits the reality of a world where Chinese were paid less. But despite evidence that the Chinese were prepared to fight for better conditions, just like white workers, the myth of the Chinese worker as irredeemably docile stuck. The role of racism in rationalising or justifying social inequalities has been widely noted, so it should not surprise us to find a similar pattern with regard to Chinese. To the extent that Europeans accepted the low wages paid to Chinese as natural, they accepted racism. This is what needs to be explained.

For Burgmann, fear of the poorly paid Chinese competitor was not the cause but the effect of racism. Burgmann is less than satisfactory, however, on where this racism comes from. Though she makes some useful points about the interaction between racist theory and racist practice, her argument that racism ‘is initiated and encouraged by the exploiting class’ is somewhat lacking in depth and detail. The argument spelled out by Burgmann is the Marxist one, that racism benefits the ruling class – that tiny percentage of society that owns and/or controls the ‘means of production’ (the factories, offices and mines), and runs the legal apparatus that renders their control secure. Racism, argues Burgmann, serves to divide the working class, and to divert it from its real enemy. This approach to racism has yielded some valuable insights in various studies of racism elsewhere. The few Marxist histories of Australian racism, however, leave much work undone. Exactly when, how, and why various sections of the ruling class fostered racism; what purpose it served; and how self-conscious they were about its function all remain largely unexamined topics.

The technique of making fairly broad generalisations from one or two more detailed studies is employed by almost all the standard texts that discuss anti-Chinese racism in Australia last century. This tends to gloss over important variations in colonial attitudes to Chinese immigrants. In contrast, a small number of local histories have revealed some interesting material. Cathie May’s study of Cairns and Atherton relates the relative weakness of anti-Chinese sentiment in Cairns to the integration of European and Chinese commercial interests. Sue Walden found a similar pattern in the tin fields of North-East Tasmania where anti-Chinese agitator Mark Ireland found the locals completely uninterested in his campaign in 1886 because: "...The shopkeepers were supplying a good deal of stores to the Chinese, the hotels were supplying grog, and half the people were so mixed up in some way with ground and interests that we got no help... In places we could not get a chairman...’ Studies such as these are of considerable interest to historians trying to explain the genesis of ‘White Australia’. They point to factors such as the social and material conditions and the economic organisation of local communities.Generalities about Chinese morals, sojournism, low wages, or cultural difference are of little value in explaining the relative absence of racism.

In the rest of this thesis, I test some of the generalisations of Verity Burgmann and others against a close reading of the Clunes riot, the lead up to it, and its aftermath. In chapter four particularly, I examine some of the local patterns of European interaction with Chinese people where they lived and worked. Throughout, I have tried to do some of the spadework for a Marxist history of ‘White Australia’ by trying to identify the roles and rationales of people from different social classes in pushing racism.

History, it is said, is written by the victors. It should be clear from the preceding chapter that the Chinese lost out of the Clunes riot. The task of the next two chapters is, by drawing on my own research, to try and explain why.

‘Gentlemen of Correct Judgement’: the Middle Class and racism

One of the striking things about the Clunes riot and its aftermath was the large number of miners who either held racist beliefs or were prepared to go along with them. Where did the rioters get their views of the Chinese as ‘moral pollution’? One readily identifiable source is the press. Mr Hattam told the Bendigo meeting following the riot that the Chinese were ‘a class of men who were a pest, sons of rapine, murder, and plunder...’ As he pointed out, ‘the press of the colony teemed with the vices of this class of men... The Age’s initial condemnation of the rioters was greeted with incredulity by one Clunes resident: ‘from the information circulated through the medium of your journal of Chinese abominations...need you be surprised when fathers, mothers and brothers rush forth to drive back this pestilence?

Newspaper stories of ‘moral pollution’ in Chinese camps were common, both before and after the riot. I have focused here on a spate of virulent articles against ‘Chinese immorality’ in 1870, noted by Weston Bate in his history of Ballarat. At the end of June that year the Courier described the Chinese quarter at Golden Point, in the heart of Ballarat East, as ‘a plague spot...the vices of the Chinese...have exerted an extremely demoralising effect on the surrounding district.’ The Star carried similar articles, condemning the

regular business in the debauchery of children...Opium appears to be the means used to render the children passive victims of the brutal passions of their seducers...The European men and women who haunt the Chinese Camp are bad enough, but there is nothing in European vice comparable to the deep degradation of the Chinese, unless they are maligned by both the police and the press.

Many Ballarat Chinese believed that they were indeed ‘maligned by both the police and the press’. In early July the Star reported that a

christianised Mongolian...called together a large number of residents...and read to them the articles which have lately appeared, translating them into Chinese...It was agreed that steps should be taken to reply...Wah Pow, the interpreter, the Rev. Mr Young, and Sergeant Larner, were blamed...for furnishing the information which was published, and some of the most energetic of the movers threatened to smash Wah Pow’s head...

Storekeeper James Chu A Luke took out a paid advertisement in the Ballarat Star, objecting to ‘girls’ being treated as criminals simply for being found with Chinese men. He pointed to the case of Elizabeth Baker,

about twenty years of age...the evidence...against her was that she was in company with Chinamen in her [married] sister’s house...This girl, for this serious offence, was given over to her father, and removed to a place where it is said there are no Chinamen.

This pattern is repeated in case after case. The Courier reported an instance of how ‘mere children become contaminated by the Chinese’ in early July. An eight year old girl had been found in the camp with ‘a woman reputed to be a prostitute and living with a Chinaman’. Despite the fact that the child’s father had ‘given permission to his daughter to go to the camp’, and that there ‘was no evidence that anything improper had occured’, the magistrate ‘very properly ordered her to be forwarded to the Industrial School for four years.’ A young girl living with her mother in the Chinese camp, with the approval of the father, was too much for the courts and the press, even where nothing ‘improper’ was happening. To note that a woman was ‘reputed to be a prostitute’ and ‘living with a Chinaman’ seemed to be a tautology in the Ballarat press and in the courts of 1870.

It should be no great surprise to find prostitution around the Chinese camp. When the Victoria Police Guide explained in 1888, ‘prostitutes and keepers of brothels...are not generally interfered with...but on no account should they be allowed to reside in localities inhabited by respectable people’, they were following a long-standing practice. In Ballarat both Main Road and Esmond Street, adjoining the Golden Point camp, were established red light areas by the early 1870s.

However, there is no evidence of ‘girls’ being seduced and brutalised by Chinese and opium. A detailed study of police records of Chinese in Victoria last century makes no mention of them being convicted of ‘seducing’ adolescents. Extensive studies of police records in Victoria and Western Australia have shown an extraordinarily low rate of Chinese being brought up on charges of assaulting women, or of rape.

If this is typical of the ‘moral pollution’ found in Chinese camps, the fears articulated in the press can join the long catalogue – stretching from lynch mobs in the US to Hitler’s propaganda against the Jews – of racism taking a sexual form, or of being put in sexual terms in order to mobilise white men.

Two points from the 1870 press campaign against the Ballarat Chinese Camp stand out. First, the real source of concern, especially for the Courier, was not the Chinese as such, but their association with Europeans. Thus the Courier railed not only against the ‘young girls of tender years’ who ‘cohabit with the Chinese’, but against the ‘shop boys and apprentices’, specimens of ‘the Victorian "larrikin,"’, who were ‘to be seen in shoals after dark in Chinatown, whither they are accompanied by girls of the town...’ In 1875, it was likewise the spread of Chinese lotteries among the ‘respectable working men and women’ of Melbourne that prompted a police crackdown.

The other notable feature of this campaign is the crucial role of police in feeding the media sensational anti-Chinese stories. The articles in both the Star and the Courier at the end of June 1870 were based on a guided tour of the Golden Point camp courtesy of Sergeant Larner. Both quoted from a police report compiled by him in late 1868 which talked of Chinese having ‘girls in training from the age of twelve.’ As the Star’s correspondent remarked, after reading Larner’s report ‘one does not start for the camp with favorable impressions.’

This careful exercise in the creation of public opinion by the police seems to have been part of an official push to have the Golden Point camp removed beyond the city boundaries. A year earlier, the Star reported that ‘the subject of the now occupying the attention of the Government, with a view to...the removal of their camps from close contact with the European centres of population...’

However, the picture painted by police files from 1868-69 is hardly one of a European community pushing reluctant officials to act – if anything, quite the reverse seems to be the case. Sergeant Larner’s 1868 report on the Golden Point Chinese was compiled as part of a comprehensive police survey of Chinese on the goldfields, in particular their living conditions, vices, and degree of contact with Europeans. The very fact of such a survey must have flowed from, as well as contributed to the conception that their community was suspect.

It thus seems mistaken to start an account of the second phase of anti-Chinese agitation with the 1873 Clunes riot. There were other forces, higher up in society, hard at work against the Chinese before this, and explaining what motivated them is an important part of explaining what happened at Clunes. While further research is required to account for the move to break up Chinese camps in the late 1860s, the attitudes of Victoria’s ruling elite in the period around 1881, which reintroduced immigration restrictions, have been the subject of some scrutiny.

Andrew Markus has tracked the views of one section of the ruling class on the Chinese during the the 1870s. Leading articles in the conservative Argus show a clear change between the 1873 Clunes riot and 1881. After the riot, the Argus spent most of its energy attacking the rioters for ‘breaching the Queen’s peace’. By 1879, after the seamen’s strike it admonished both ‘employers and employed to be cautious, both as regards the Chinese, and the anti-Chinese agitators’.

But in 1881, for the first time since the gold rushes, the Argus urged the adoption of mild ‘precautionary measures’ to restrict Chinese immigration, to prevent Chinese labour from ever becoming ‘the great political issue of the day’. The evidence clearly supports Markus’ argument that ‘anti-Chinese agitation’, or the fear of such agitation, was vital to a ‘transformation’ of the Argus’ attitude.

It is less than clear, however, who or what the driving force was behind this agitation. Markus follows the inference of the Argus, that the source was ‘our masters the masses’. But Markus’ own finding is that the masses were not exactly flocking to anti-Chinese meetings at this time. The agitation around the seamen’s strike in Victoria in late 1878, (in contrast to NSW and Queensland) was ‘marked by a lack of public support’. In May 1880, 3,000 people attended a rally organised by the cross-class Furniture Manufacturers’ and Employees’ Trade Protection Society. Attempts to follow up on this triumph through an Anti-Chinese League, however, fell flat.

However, Markus records that an anti-Chinese deputation to Victorian Chief Secretary Graham Berry in September 1880 saw him promise to issue a circular to other colonial premiers, ‘pointing out the desirability of joint action’ against the Chinese, which eventually led to the restrictions of 1881. Markus notes: ‘Despite the fact that the Anti-Chinese League could only attract a handful of people to its meetings it won a sympathetic hearing from the radical Premier.’ With Berry, those favouring restrictions on Chinese immigration seemed to be pushing against an open door.

Berry’s precise role in the anti-Chinese agitation would repay further examination. From the Parliamentary debates, it seems that Berry and his Ministry were in fact very prominent agitators themselves, being reponsible for the first really sustained attempt, probably since the gold rushes, for the Government to campaign on an anti-Chinese platform. The liberal Berry administration of 1877-80 had been a controversial one. In January 1878, stung by the rejection of an appropriation Bill, the Berry Ministry dismissed all high-ranking judges, heads of departments, and other well-paid government officials. Victoria’s leading conservative historian of the time, Henry Gyles Turner, described the reaction:

Capital as usual took the earliest alarm, mortgages were called up, property values depreciated with appalling suddeness, buyers held aloof, and many forced sales showed a fall of over 50 per cent. within a few weeks... From all quarters, except the irresponsible mob, tutored to applaud anything that resembled an onslaught upon capital, [Berry] met condemnation.

The constitutional crisis was not settled until May of 1881. In June, R.M. Smith argued in the House that Berry, ‘seeing in the near future the loss of the reform question as a subject for agitation,’ was ‘deliberately casting about for some other question’. Certainly upper house reform had been a mainstay of liberal mobilisations, which was set to become a non-issue. Had Berry found a new target in the Chinese? We can only speculate at this stage, but it seems likely that sections of the ruling class would not have found attacks on the Chinese nearly so offensive as the attacks on the judiciary had been.

At the various anti-Chinese meetings held after the Clunes riot, the ‘agitation’ by the Argus’ ‘masters, the masses’ was given more than a helping hand. A key role, and by far the leading role, was played not by workers, but by various middle class men attached to the Miners’ Associations.

The Miners’ Associations did not limit their membership to miners. Writing from Clunes early in the strike, ‘A Miner’s Wife, One of the Union’ declared that

miners have determined to form a union...they are assisted by every gentleman of correct judgement in the district. Our medical men and tradespeople have contributed both their talent and money, to encourage and extend the fraternity.

The first meeting to set up the Clunes Miners Association was chaired by Christopher Jobson, listed in Niven’s directory of 1875 as a merchant. Another ‘gentleman of correct judgement’, William Blanchard, then accepted an invitation to be president.

Blanchard introduced himself to meetings ‘as a working man, and as one prepared to advocate the cause of the miner. (Hear, hear).’ He had not been a working miner for some years. At the time of the Lothair strike, as most histories record, he ran a fruit shop and was Mayor of Clunes. What primary and secondary sources ignore is that he was also a budding mining capitalist. In 1873, he became a director of a new company opening up the quartz fields of Ballarat East. One of his fellow directors was R.H. Bland, the most prominent capitalist in Clunes and a director of the Lothair mine, the scene of the strike. Ralph Coundon – another major shareholder in Lothair – was also a director of Blanchard’s new company.

The meeting in Clunes on the afternoon of the riot was a crucial point in marking the riot as an event ‘about’ Chinese labour, rather than strike-breaking. The motion condemning the Chinese as ‘moral pollution’ was the first time that the issue became definitively one of race, rather than class. It is of some interest, then, to find that the men recorded as having the greatest say in the matter were not miners themselves.

Opening the meeting, Blanchard referred to ‘the attempt made to introduce a wholesale system of Chinese labor into the Clunes mines, the present being but the thin end of the wedge.’ At this point he was joined on the wagon serving as the stage by one of the trustees of the Clunes Miners’ Association, Mr John Rofe. Rofe was also not a miner, being a full-time official of the Clunes Borough Council, collecting municipal rates. Rofe declared he had spoken to

some hundreds of persons, business people as well as miners, and the almost universal feeling was that of the deepest indignation, not only at the attempted introduction of Chinese labor...but also at the armed constabulary[‘s]...infliction upon them of a moral blight and pestilence...

He then moved the motion which was seconded by Mr H. Rowe, who seems to have been a carpenter, and carried.

While Rofe was not a capitalist, his position was hardly one that would benefit from increased class antagonism. Blanchard, however, had a direct financial interest against inflaming feelings of class, especially if they were directed at the set of capitalists he was attempting to do business with. The only other recorded speaker was local MLA for Creswick, Mr Phillips. He was quite explicit that understanding the riot in racial terms furthered the desirable end of taking the heat out of class conflict. He observed that

whatever might be the opinions held by the different classes of the community as regarded the dispute that existed between the employers...and employed...there was...but one opinion about the introduction of Chinese labor

In his discussion of the aftermath of the Clunes riot, Markus briefly mentions an incident early in 1874 at Haddon, West of Ballarat. The Reform Gold Mining Company had leased one of its shafts to a Chinese party. ‘The Haddon Miners Association raised no objections at first as the shaft was yielding very poor returns, but when the Chinese struck a good lead, the Miners’ Association attempted to force the Chinese from the mine by inducing the engine drivers to strike.’ Along with the Clunes riot, this is cited by Markus as an example of the Chinese issue serving as a ‘convenient weapon for union organisers in the task of uniting miners’.

At first sight, the story seems as simple as that. In March 1874, the Ballarat Courier briefly reported a meeting of about sixty members of the Haddon Miners’ Association. ‘Some severe comments were made on the Chinese mode of living...’ The meeting condemned the Reform Company for ‘re-letting their No. 1 shaft to Chinese.’

According to a police informer, the most prominent speakers at this meeting, as at Clunes, were not miners themselves. One was Elijah H. Binder, the teacher at the Haddon State school; and the other was Charles Thorne, President of the Miners’ Association, who was the Deputy Registrar of Haddon.

This example of the small town middle class helping workers to organise was hardly a selfless one. Both Binder and Thorne seem to have been part owners of the Reform mine, featuring in the only list of shareholders available, from the company’s launch in 1867. Both would stand to benefit if the tribute ageement with the Chinese – under which the company got only 15% of the gold from an increasingly rich claim – was broken. Both Binder and Thorne were only minor shareholders in a widely dispersed ownership in 1867, and we have no way of knowing how substantial their stake was by 1874 – or how many members of the ‘Miners’ Association’, miners and otherwise, shared this financial interest. Still, the events at Haddon now look a little less like an example of ‘union organisers’ ‘uniting miners’, and, perhaps, rather more like the town middle class – or perhaps aspiring capitalists – advancing their own interests by mobilising European miners against Chinese.

The same story recurs at a meeting to establish a Ballarat Miners’ Association, a month after the Clunes riot. The only speaker to dwell on the alleged evils of the Chinese was not a miner, but Major WC Smith – MLA for Ballarat West, a mining capitalist, and a director of Phoenix Foundry.

Smith declared that the Association ‘would embrace not only every working miner, but every speculative miner.’ Unsurprisingly, given his own interests as a mining capitalist, his program for the association focused on things that could unite ‘working miners’ and ‘speculative miners’ – arbitration, opposition to the Upper House, mining on private property, and opposition to Chinese labour – rather than things that could unite ‘working miners’ against ‘speculative miners’ such as hours, wages, and foul air.

At Bendigo the situation is less clear, as it is hard to identify some of the anti-Chinese speakers at the meeting following the riot. However, Robert Clark, the President of the Bendigo Miners’ Association, was also part of this middle class layer. Like his Clunes counterpart Blanchard, Clark was no longer a miner himself. He was a journalist for the Bendigo Independent, a member of the local mining board from 1871, a city councillor from 1872, became Mayor in 1875-6, and was MLA for Sandhurst from 1877. In this last capacity he continued to serve the anti-Chinese cause, organising a petition in late 1880 demanding that a clause be inserted in mining leases to prohibit the employment of Chinese.

All of this raises problems for the conventional understandings of anti-Chinese agitation as the result of pressure from the organised working class. The standard and widely quoted history of anti-abolitionist riots in the US before the civil war shows them mostly organised by ‘gentlemen of property and standing’, with vested interests in Southern slavery. This survey of the meetings around the Clunes riot suggests that a comparable role was played by those ‘gentlemen of correct judgement’ who had rallied to the miners’ cause.

The middle classes on the goldfields were a very disparate group, ranging from shareholding school teachers at one end, to the middle ranking capitalists who dominated Victorian politics at this time, such as Major W.C. Smith and Graham Berry. These members of the small town middle class, especially those trying to gain a toehold in Parliament, needed to hold onto a constituency of workers as well as remain acceptable to the ruling class they were elbowing their way into. Racism against the Chinese, which dovetailed with police activity and the Establishment press, could provide a means to negotiate these shoals.

Of course, we can’t simply read off someone’s politics from their class position. Though a crucial role was played by this layer in fomenting anti-Chinese racism, the only opposition to the attacks on the Chinese comes from this same layer. Matthew Barker, who asked the Bendigo meeting just after the Clunes riot to see the ‘Chinaman’ as ‘a man and a brother’ was probably the manager of a medium sized gold mine. Robert Burrowes, the MLA who lectured the Amalgamated Miners’ Association conference in 1874 on their ‘un-English’ exclusion of the Chinese, was also a mining capitalist.

According to newspaper accounts, Joseph Jones, Mayor of Ballarat and MLA, is the only other voice raised in the meetings against the anti-Chinese outcry. At the Ballarat Miners’ Association meeting in January 1874, he echoed Major Smith’s line on the role of unions, believing that such associations were not ‘machines for assailing the rights of others.’ While he was referring to mining capitalists, he also took the unusual step of extending this line to the Chinese: ‘...if any men banded together for the purpose of assailing the rights of others, no matter what the country or colour...such associations would have his determined hostility. (Cheers.).’

Those whose opinion these men sought to mobilise, have been present in this study only in the cheers and silences recorded by the press of the day. It is to these people that we now turn our attention.

The Working Class and Racism

For the middle and upper classes in post gold rush Victoria, anti-Chinese agitation could be used to deflect working class anger towards safer targets. But why were workers themselves open to these ideas? I argued above that appealing to Chinese physical and cultural characteristics to explain the racism begs more questions than it answers. More concrete evidence about the extent of contact between Chinese and Europeans in their daily lives could help to explain why at least one of the most vicious anti-Chinese speeches at the Bendigo meeting in the aftermath of the Clunes riot was given by a miner, Mr Hattam.

To this end, I have drawn extensively on the diary of Richard Pope, a miner, who arrived as part of the great wave of Cornish emigration in the late 1860s. Pope lived and worked in Ballarat and Bendigo from 1868 until the 1880s in similar conditions to the miners involved in the Clunes riot. His journal could therefore give us some insight into their attitudes and concerns.

In the fifteen years of Pope’s diary from 1868 to 1883 he refers to Chinese people only half a dozen times. They are always seen from a distance; Pope is never overtly racist towards Chinese, but neither does he view them as ‘men and brothers’. Although he shared a common faith with the handful of Chinese Methodists in Victoria, he never prayed with them. Most significantly, he never worked with any Chinese men. This lack of contact did not happen because Pope had a natural aversion to foreigners, but because the social system he inhabited was structured by segregation and discrimination.

Apart from the weather, wages and working conditions form perhaps the most consistent topic of Pope’s diary, and he recorded dissatisfaction with the frequent lay-offs, and harsh working conditions of the Ballarat mines:

The work is very hard and dangerous fatal accidents being of frequent appears to me that a poor man do not improve his position much by emigrating to this country.

By early 1870 Pope, a skilled miner, was reduced to ‘doing the work of horses’, pushing trucks of ore for wages as low as 6/8d a shift. After losing a day’s pay off sick after working in bad air, he resolved ‘not to go in the foul air any more’ and moved with his family to Bendigo in 1870. Though conditions do not seem to have been vastly better, work was consistent and wages were much better than at Ballarat, ranging from a high of £2/10 weekly to the more usual £2/5 standard on the Bendigo field. Despite numerous accidents which cost him lost pay, Pope only had one extended illness – and hence only one long break without pay – during the 1870s. This good health, luck in finding and keeping jobs, and the good wages prevalent on the Bendigo field, meant that Richard and his wife Mary-Ann could buy a new four-room house for their growing family.

Though the word ‘class’ never occurs in Pope’s diary, there is a clear sense of ‘us and them’ in the way he discusses work. Even in small or medium sized mines with twenty or so employed, it was clear who was making the profits: thus Pope recorded a mine’s yield and its ownership in a single entry.

The Pandora had a 947 ounce cake of gold today the result of six weeks crushing. The claim is only divided in 14 shares of which Lansell hold 6.

Millionaire George Lansell was Bendigo’s most prominent mining capitalist. Pope was working at another of his mines in October 1879:

Lansells 222 pay. on receiving which we were informed by the manager that from that date the wages would be £2/2 per week [down from the usual £2/5]

By the next Monday morning he was on strike for the first time since he arrived in Australia – and probably for the first time in his life, given the generally anti-union picture of Cornish miners until the late 1870s.

It was in the course of Pope’s attempts to get his rights as a working miner that he encountered many of the political figures discussed in Chapter Three. His strike pay in 1879 was organised by the Miners’ Association, headed by Robert Clark. Pope was clearly part of the constituency sought by colonial liberals such as Mr Woods, who spoke at an Oddfellows conference attended by Pope in 1879. The Minister for Railways in Berry’s administration, he spoke approvingly of the ‘industrial classes’, upon whose ‘brains, muscle, and enterprise’ the colony depended. This same Woods was remarking a year later: ‘a Chinaman is a mere dumb animal...and never could be anything else.’

In 1877 Richard Pope was scrutineer for his ‘old friend Ian Gray’, who was probably the John Gray who was reported as delivering a blistering anti-Chinese speech at the Bendigo meeting following the Clunes riot.

In Richard Pope’s experience of working and civic life, then, there was no shortage of public figures with strong opinions on the ‘race of Empire’ and on the Chinese, many of whom professed themselves to be the ‘friend of the working man’. Chinese people themselves, however, are notably absent.

Throughout his working career, Pope took an interest in the nationality of his workmates. Thus his mate in January 1871 was ‘a young Irish man Pat Nolan by name’, while his boss ‘is a Norwegian and a surly old daf’. At one point he notes that his new mining mate is ‘Tom Lawley from Worcestorshire’, at another he records that ‘I got a German mate for the time.’ His ‘old American mate’, S Carwon, gave him a job at the North Old Chum mine. When it was found in late December 1875 that ‘my mate the Welshman has not yet finished his Christmas’, Pope’s new mate was ‘a St Austell [Cornish] man named Harry Blight. In 1877 Pope worked briefly with ‘Peter Smith a Spaniard’.

Richard Pope’s ‘mate’ was never Chinese. One vital way in which Pope could have seen some Chinese in a different frame, not as a ‘heathen’ but as a ‘mate’ was thus closed off. When the strike broke out in 1879, it was almost certainly only European workers pitted against their European bosses. In fact, one of the strongest impressions Pope had of the Chinese, of Koories, and of ‘colored men’ in general was their existence on the economic and geographic margins of society.

Pope first records being near a Chinese camp in 1870, which was on ‘an old diggings at Harrisons Hill’. On the Boxing Day holiday in 1875, Pope walked with three of his children to the botanic gardens at White Hills. They went ‘through the small township which has quite a deserted aspect the alluvial diggings which made it such a prosperous busy place having been long since deserted except by a few Chinese fossickers.’

On a train trip between Ararat and Hamilton, Pope noted ‘passing for some distance through a country covered with the mullock heaps of the alluvial gold diggers which have long since been deserted except by the heathen Chinee.’

This pattern, observed by Pope, is also documented in government reports concerning the ‘laborious, economical’ Chinese miners, working ‘shallow gullies and alluvial flats’. Evidence of Chinese and European work patterns is scattered throughout the Mining Surveyors reports. The report from Steiglitz division reflects the pattern, noting that ‘the Chinese, as usual, have been paying themselves well by their patient and plodding industry, coupled with their systematic method of working to great profit the old hills, abandoned by the Europeans...

Another report described many Chinese engaged in systematically stripping ground to a depth of twelve feet and washing the lot. This stereotype, of course, reflected only one aspect of Chinese mining. The Mining Surveyor and Registrar for Ballarat East reported another when he noted that

a party of Chinamen have recently taken up a large claim...on which they have erected a very substantial plant, consisting of an engine of fourteen-horse power, puddling machinery, &c., which engine is driven by one of the party.

They had sunk over a hundred feet without finding gold. Meanwhile on the Clunes creek, Europeans were engaged in the sort of labour-intensive, low-yield ‘patient and plodding industry’ which was meant to characterise the Chinese:

...Captain Davis and party have been engaged stripping and washing the backs of the creek...Matthew Bennett and party are also sluicing the creek...Jorgensen and party have put up a puddling machine on the creek.

However, these are exceptions to the general pattern observed by Richard Pope and borne out by every other source. The Chinese were overwhelmingly to be found in the most marginal sector of mining: working poor, shallow or abandoned ground in a less capital-intensive way. One of the starkest manifestations of this segmentation was the almost complete absence of Chinese from quartz mining, the most dynamic sector of mining from the late 1850s, as the table below illustrates:











Dec 1863





Dec 1868





Dec 1873





Dec 1878





Dec 1883





Dec 1888





Sources: Gold Fields Statistics, 1863; Mining Surveyors and Registrar Reports, quarters ending 31 Dec 1868, 1873, 1878, 1883; Statistical Register of the Population of Victoria, 1888.

All located in Papers Presented to Parliament by Command.


Given that large-scale mining at Clunes was founded on quartz, this virtually guaranteed that the Chinese population there would be tiny. Company mining at Bendigo also took off on quartz reefs in the late 1850s, and Pope (along with most Bendigo miners on wages) seemed to work exclusively in quartz mines.

Quartz mining was the fastest developing and highest yielding method of gold mining from this period on. The glaring absence of Chinese in quartz mining was a major reason why none of the mining ‘mates’ of Pope or his Clunes counterparts was Chinese. The reasons for this non-participation warrant examination.

Here the rationalisations of white contemporaries need to be treated with caution. It was argued that the Chinese, while exhibiting considerable patience in alluvial mines, were incapable of working in the ‘stone hole’ as the quartz mines were called.

But obviously, the stone was just as hard, and just as troublesome to deal with, for Europeans as for Chinese. Further, it is not as if the quartz mines, and the lack of independence the company-owned variety represented, were embraced with open arms by white miners. Europeans typically regretted being forced into ‘the hated quartz mines’, but thousands still did it. Disliking ‘stone holes’, then, hardly seems a sufficient explanation for the Chinese not working quartz.

A more telling point was made by another observer in the 1860s: ‘not being as venturesome as others, a Chinaman prefers safe, though small earning to making a venture as sinking a shaft.’ This is largely the argument adopted by Bon-wai Chou in her recent study of Chinese immigrants. According to Chou, the ‘cultural baggage of the immigrants’ may have contributed just as much as racial discrimination, if not more, to the ‘marginalisation and eventual decline’ of the Chinese in late colonial society. Chou argues the Chinese who came to Victoria ‘were sojourners held together by a single, passionate mission: to make money for a better life for their family at home.’ This ‘sojourning attitude’ and the need to send regular money home had direct implications for the Chinese attitude to quartz mining, according to Chou:

one of the main reasons why the Chinese took more favourably to alluvial mining rather than quartz was because the former returned small but regular earnings. Deep-sinking was avoided not only due to the expense but the uncertainty of return and the long waiting period of up to twelve months.

Markus, following Geoffrey Blainey, also argues that lack of capital kept the Chinese out of quartz mining, though he doesn’t relate it to the sojourning attitude:

The fact that most Chinese lacked the capital to start a mine and that European diggers owned shares, or sat on the boards of the first company mines, ensured that an early precedent for the exclusion of the Chinese was established.

Once this exclusion had been established by precedent, he says, ‘European miners, sensitised to the Chinese question from their previous experiences, were determined to keep the Chinese out.’

This argument runs into trouble on several grounds. First, ‘most Europeans’ similarly did not have the capital to start a mine, this being why they ended up working for bosses who did. The Chinese in Victoria included a fair sprinkling of the storekeepers, publicans, and other small fry, whose European counterparts went on to finance many early quartz mines. Further, it is an enduring myth that all forms of quartz mining required large amounts of capital. Commercial crushing of quartz was available from the 1850s for those without the capital for the powerful engines required to smash the rock. This allowed small parties to work quartz claims close to the surface, for a time at least. As late as 1868, a rough survey of Dicker’s shows small quartz claims outnumbering large companies by about five to one on Bendigo. Even in the Creswick division, dominated by the giant Port Philip works at Clunes, quartz didn’t necessarily require huge capital. The December 1870 returns show four parties in this division were crushing less than one hundred tons each, from depths ranging from sixty feet up to the surface.

A lack of capital can’t explain the almost complete absence of the Chinese in these small parties working the quartz reefs. This absence is more striking when we find that, despite the ‘sojournism’ supposedly shared by all Chinese at this time, Chinese miners had no problem mining quartz at Pine Creek and other Northern Territory goldfields, where by the late 1880s they were in effective control of most quartz mining there. In 1857 Chinese dominated the Adelong field in the Snowy Mountains, which was then the only big quartz field in New South Wales. Though there may have been a cultural aversion to ‘stone holes’, it seems one that the Chinese could overcome.

Though a ‘sojourning attitude’ was clear enough among many Chinese immigrants both in Australia and elsewhere, it seems to overstretch the mark to say that all Chinese wanted to return home, as Bon-wai Chou does. Official Chinese discourse stressed the temporary nature of residence overseas, (though this was changing by 1868) but the reality had been different for centuries for many overseas Chinese in South East Asia. Wong argues that while most of these emigrants ‘might have hoped to return, many did not, for a whole range of different reasons.’ The dearth of sources recording what the Chinese thought themselves has been noted by most historians, and makes generalisations difficult. On the one hand, the Ballarat Su Yap Society in 1854 hoped its members would ‘obtain abundance of gold with which to return to your homes.’ On the other hand, Lowe Kong Meng, Victoria’s most prominent Chinese capitalist, contradicted witnesses arguing this line at the 1857 Select Committee on Chinese Immigration. Many Chinese would stay in or return to Victoria, he argued, if the law did not oppress them.

If the Chinese didn’t choose to stay off quartz wholesale, perhaps they were excluded. Restrictions on the type of mining permitted by Chinese are alluded to in one of the petitions tabled in Parliament in 1857:

We Chinamen who are here get no gold only by washing, headings and tailings, and from old holes abandoned by Europeans, and from which we can but barely make a living. We having only the refuse cannot make as much as Europeans, but with their chances we should not be so poor.

In at least one well-documented case official sanction was crucial to pushing the Chinese out of quartz. In late June 1857 on the Ararat field, a small group of Europeans attacked the Chinese camp. In late July, rumours circulated that the Government was about to expropriate the Chinese, and that Europeans were to be permitted to jump their claims. Paying quartz was easily accessible at forty feet on this field and, since Chinese miners had discovered it, many of the richest claims were in Chinese hands. All of these claims were jumped by European diggers, only to be returned to the Chinese by the Mining Warden.

In early February 1858, however, the new Act to regulate the Chinese on the goldfields came into operation. It included a clause that enabled Europeans to jump claims of Chinese who failed to take out a residence licence, costing £1 every two months. Almost none of the Chinese at Ararat took out licences, either defying the law or remaining ignorant of its provisions. On 3 February, every Chinese claim was jumped, with the Warden now refusing to reinstate the Chinese. Up to seventy Chinese claims, valued at between £1,000 and £1,500, changed hands. Similar jumps, on a smaller scale, occurred on other fields.

It seems plausible that this would make Chinese with capital to invest worry about doing so. However, the Chinese Residence Licence was abolished in 1862, and by 1865 the punitive legislation against the Chinese had been withdrawn. In regulations covering mining claims made under the 1865 Mining Statue, there was nothing explicitly preventing Chinese from applying for quartz or alluvial claims. It seems strange that they didn’t do so: the great drought of 1868-70 meant little free water for washing gold out of soil, and prompted many European diggers to shift from alluvial to quartz mining. But despite dominating much alluvial mining, and thus being disproportionately hit by the drought, the returns continue to show an almost negligible Chinese presence in quartz. Why were only a tiny minority of Chinese involved?

As the granters of licences, the local mining boards and their functionaries deserve a great deal more attention. In Queensland in the early days of the Palmer River rush, before central regulations barring the Chinese from quartz reefs came into force in 1878, local officials acted with the approval of the Government and the backing of racist diggers to exclude Chinese from quartz mining.

From the little we know about the administration of local mining boards in the 1850s, it’s possible this pattern was repeated in Victoria. Cronin cites a ‘Limitation of Chinese’ regulation enforced by mining courts in Castlemaine, which prohibited more than twenty Chinese from ‘working in one body’ and declared that Chinese were to be given only half the area of extended mining claims granted to Europeans. Creswick’s mining court refused to grant any extended claim licences to Chinese. Cronin’s is the only history to record these sorts of racist local regulations, and none of them investigate whether they were continued into the 1860s and 1870s, serving to keep the Chinese out of quartz. The same local Mining Boards still drafted the regulations, however, and Price notes that, even when the last laws restricting Chinese immigration and settlement were removed in Victoria in 1865, Chinese were prohibited from voting for these Boards.

Further evidence on this question could be found by examining how the tiny number of Chinese working quartz in Victoria got to do so. Some were engaged in an extremely marginal role, as at Castlemaine in 1865 where a Chinese party was ‘obtaining possession of quartz tailings from crushing machines, which tailing they submit to a very tedious manipulation in "quicksilver cradles".’ On other occasions, however, it is clear that at least some Chinese were digging quartz from their own claims.

The two occasions I found surveyors discussing this suggest that the Chinese had an alluvial claim where quartz was unexpectedly found. R.L.M. Kitto reported from Fryer’s Creek, near Castlemaine, in 1865: ‘... A Chinaman at New Years’ Flat, named Ti Pang, uncovered a strong lode while working the alluvial soil: gold being visible in small quantities, the Chinaman immediately secured a quartz claim... In 1869 near Kyneton a quartz reef ‘discovered by Chinamen, in or close to the River Coliban, near Russell’s old reef, is being worked...’ This reef was discovered in the classic situation for Chinese working alluvial ground: in or near a water source, near old ground. This is quite consistent with local regulations implemented by all-European boards that attempted – and largely succeeded – in keeping the Chinese off quartz.

The evidence is circumstantial, but it does seem consistent with the theory that one of the reasons Richard Pope and his fellow miners encountered the Chinese in Victoria as aliens and outcasts was because the world they were living in had been profoundly shaped by racism – and that an indispensable part of that shaping was played by various levels of the state.

When we come to examine the living arrangements of Chinese and Europeans we find an even clearer example of this. Apart from a three month stint at Gordon by Richard Pope, none of the family ever lived near any concentration of Chinese people. The Popes’ Ballarat house was in Junction Street, just south of Lake Wendouree in the relatively more prosperous West of Ballarat, well away from the more cosmopolitan, and poorer, Ballarat East which included the main Chinese camps. In Bendigo, the Popes lived at St Just Point, a Cornish enclave which, like the rest of the town, was separated by ‘a comparatively unpopulated zone’ from the main Chinese camp at Iron Bark until as late as 1905. This was the almost universal pattern in the goldfields. A comprehensive 1869 police report showed Chinese camps outside municipal boundaries or separated from townships by around half a mile.

The origins of this pattern lay in the ‘protectorate’ scheme of the late 1850s mentioned in chapter two. As far as I can tell, all of the main Chinese camps referred to in the police reports were established at this time. Local mining boards also regulated Chinese residence, as in Dunolly where ‘no Chinese encampment was permitted within one-fourth of a mile of any township boundary or within two hundred yards of any surveyed line of road.’ Though Chinese dispersed somewhat after the protectorates were abolished in late 1859, the camps remained. The gold rushes had settled somewhat, meaning less movement of population, Chinese storekeepers had concentrated in the camps, poverty kept others in place, and a convention of separation had been established. Probably many Chinese would have decided to live together, as many other ethnic groups did; whether they would have consistently chosen to do this outside the municipal boundaries is another matter. The fact that the Chinese camps were located in this way simply added to their status as aliens and outcasts.

There is only one clear exception to this pattern. It is the place where we find indications that the Clunes dispute could have had a different outcome. The large Chinese camp at Golden Point, in the heart of Ballarat East, was located a short way outside the neatly laid out grid of the town of Ballarat in the 1850s. The diggings around the camp, much to the planners’ surprise, consolidated into the town of Ballarat East, surrounding the Golden Point Chinese camp. By the 1860s, Chinese storekeepers had bought property on Main Street, bordering the camp, further entrenching the Chinese as part of the town rather than a distant appendage to it.

There is no detailed study of exactly what this meant for relations between Europeans and Chinese in Ballarat compared to the rest of the goldfields. What the police, the courts, and the press railed against was sex between European women and Chinese men, and a depressed, unrespectable, racially mixed subculture, as I showed in the previous chapter.

Ballarat East was not a paradise of racial harmony. There are reports in the Star of ‘a portion of the European mining population’ standing making fun of the Chinese when they opened the new Joss-house. Another resident reported Chinese getting beaten up in the streets: ‘they hate the Europeans, and the Europeans hate them.’ Nevertheless, Ballarat East was different from Bendigo, Clunes, and most of the rest of the goldfields in having large numbers of Chinese and Europeans living in close proximity. Perhaps more significantly, Ballarat was also different in its pattern of Chinese employment.

In his 1868 report on the Chinese in Victoria, the Rev. William Young found that at Sandhurst, out of 3,500 Chinese, none worked for European companies. One exception was the Beechworth area, where out of some 7,000 Chinese in the district, one in ten were employed at European claims, getting from £1/16 to £2 each per week. The only other exception was Ballarat where, out of 800 Chinese, over 170 – more than 20% – were reported to be working on European claims, earning £1/10 per week. This picture is confirmed by a look at Dicker’s Mining Record, an invaluable source of detail on mines and their workforces. A role for the Chinese on the European claims, in ‘unskilled’ surface work, seems general in Ballarat.

The Chinese weren’t employed as equals. Their pay was 25% to 45% lower than the Europeans’, and they were only employed in particular low-skilled jobs on the surface. Underground miners such as Richard Pope did not work with Chinese, despite being employed by the same company. For eight months during 1868 and 1869, Pope was one of the 250 men employed at the St George alluvial mine at Sebastopol, but he didn’t work with the nine Chinese men employed on surface works. Though some Chinese were employed in largely self-contained groups, in at least some operations they were required to work more closely with Europeans.

If racism was a ‘bottom-up’ affair, fed by contact between clannish Europeans and exotic Chinese, we would expect Ballarat to be a hotbed of racism at this time. A significant number of Ballarat people worked beside Chinese, lived beside Chinese, slept with Chinese men, or gambled in the Chinese camp. Rather than feeding racism, however, there are three important pieces of evidence that point the other way.

When Matthew Barker stepped on to the platform of the Bendigo meeting following the Clunes riot and declared the Chinese ‘a man and a brother’, he was met with silence. When Robert Burrowes pleaded for toleration of Chinese at the public meeting following the AMA founding conference at Bendigo, he was heard in silence and then argued with. In contrast, when Joseph Jones defended the Chinese after the Clunes riot at the launch of the Ballarat Miners’ Association, he got applause. At the same meeting, support for W.C. Smith’s racist tirade was also strong. But unlike their Bendigo counterparts, it seems that at least some of the Ballarat miners were disposed to an argument that didn’t demonise the Chinese.

The second piece of evidence that contact with the Chinese chipped away at racism in Ballarat comes from before the Clunes riot. On October 25, the Ballarat Courier printed a short news piece on the ongoing Lothair strike:

Yesterday two representatives from the Clunes Miners’ Association visited Ballarat with a view of persuading the Chinese not to engage themselves to the company, a rumor having got abroad that Chinese labor was to be employed in the mine.

We don’t know what was said at this meeting, or who it was organised by. But the fact that the meeting happened at all shows that, before the riot at least, someone in Ballarat saw through the racist equation of ‘Chinese’ on the one hand and ‘scab labour’ on the other. Given the propaganda in the press about the Chinese, an attempt to build such solidarity is remarkable.

The third piece of evidence that contact provided a basis for solidarity rather than racism is that – contrary to many accounts – the Ballarat Chinese heeded the Clunes miners’ call, and did not scab on their strike. The newspaper reports quote various telegrams to the Clunes Miners Association – often in the same report – as saying that there were 80 Chinese coming from Ballarat ‘by way of Creswick’, or that 150 Chinese were coming from Creswick. The papers didn’t place much importance on where the Chinese came from, so the fact that the Ballarat papers reprinted without comment a report from the Creswick Advertiser that ‘the forty-five Mongolians are safely landed’ back in Creswick indicates little. The people who knew most about where the Chinese were brought from were those who organised the strike-breaking operation: Lothair management and the police. In correspondence about who was meant to foot the bill for the Cobb & Co. coaches used at Clunes, both parties repeatedly state that the Chinese came from Creswick.

Obviously, the miners’ union had some friends in the Golden Point camp. They seem not to have had similar friends in the Creswick Chinese camp, the source of the Chinese strikebreakers, which was more segregated from the town. The threat of Chinese strikebreakers had been used to discipline European miners in Creswick in 1872, when discontent flared over the extension of the Saturday night shift by two and a half hours.

A detailed study of the conditions in which miners lived and encountered each other does not lend support to the idea that some natural aversion to the different cultural ways of the Chinese accounts for the acceptance of racism. Rather, it indicates that segregation combined with and often caused by official discrimination helped to perpetuate racist attitudes.

By far the most extensive, and enthusiastic, entry about the Chinese in Pope’s diary comes from the Easter fair of 1878. He writes that:

... the Chinese who were said to be more than 300 in number were arrayed in gorgeous dresses. many carried banners made of rich material and covered with Strange devices. others were playing on Musical instruments of curious forms which omitted the most discordant sounds ... then came a host with fans in great variety and others carrying articles of strange workmanship of which we knew not the use. The heathen Chinee did well...

The ‘heathen Chinee’ might have moved a few notches in Pope’s perception, but sadly this was as close as he – and probably most miners in Victoria – ever got to the Chinese.


Throughout this thesis, I have emphasised the circumstances under which the working class of Clunes, people like Richard and Mary Ann Pope, made their history. They lived in a world that had been shaped by racism. The places in which they worked, prayed, lived and died were segregated along racial lines. Perhaps the only situation on the goldfields where large numbers of Chinese and non-Chinese lived and worked side by side, in Ballarat East, was under constant surveillance and attack, from both the authorities and the press.

This racial division was kept alive and inflamed by the press and by colonial politicians. Trying to make sense of and act in this world, the Popes received praise and help from a middle class layer that, although committed to workers organisations, emphasised ties of race to paper over differences of class.

In such circumstances, it is not to be marvelled at that Pope and so many of his working class contemporaries accepted racism. As Verity Burgmann puts it, the 'brazen rhetoric of racism strikes a chord in working class experience, because racism has already moulded that experience... This reality, created by racist practice, then appears as "proof" of racist ideology.'

Any history of the development of the 'White Australia' policy has to include the role of the working class. I question, however, whether working class racism can be accurately portrayed as anything like its driving force.

Given the segregation of Chinese from European in Victoria at this time, there was little opportunity for the everyday contact which might have broken down racism. Small wonder, it might be thought, that men like W.G. Spence took the views of the Chinese that they did. Spence was a young miner from Creswick at the time of the Clunes riot.. By the time he recounted the riot in his memoirs in 1909, he had decades of experience leading the Australian Workers Union, with its rules barring Chinese membership. He was a Labor member of parliament, and proudly talked of the battle against 'capitalistic greed and the Chinese' as if the two automatically went hand in hand.

However, working class people were not just passively swept along by the world they were in: they acted in it. They rioted to stop Chinese strike-breakers. Many voted for a motion that fixed a racist meaning on their action. Many more applauded racist speeches and supported anti-Chinese politicians. Some, like Spence, went on to actively promote racism through their public lives.

Others took a different course. Mark Anthony was one of these, a miner at Broken Hill who used to come home to Clunes periodically. A youthful Tom Payne followed him around on these visits 'like a fox terrier pup', soaking up his stories of the Industrial Workers of the World, the famous 'Wobblies': the very first organisation with a mass, working class following that tackled racism in Australia head-on. While Spence emphasised Australian nationalism and gradual reform, and railed against the Chinese as 'pig-tailed heathens', the IWW urged workers: 'Lay aside national prejudices, crush race hatred beneath your heel, join in true comradeship with the workers of all lands into One Great Union for, in the words of Karl Marx: "You have nothing to lose but your chains (economic poverty and servitude), and a World to Gain.'

Why these men, growing up in similar towns only a few miles apart, ended up on such different courses, is a story there is no space for here. But this should serve as a reminder: The people of Clunes didn't make their history just as they pleased, in circumstances of their own choosing, in a world of their own making. But they did, in their different ways, make their own history.

Bibliographical note

By far the best published source on the Clunes riot is Andrew Markus, Fear and Hatred: Purifying Australia and California 1850-1901, Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1979, pp. 75-78. Other commonly cited secondary accounts include William Guthrie Spence, Australia Awakens, Sydney, The Worker Trustees, 1909, pp. 48-50; Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, third edition 1978, p. 89. The riot is also described in Eric Rolls, Sojourners: The epic story of China’s centuries-old relationship with Australia, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1992, pp. 181-183; Joe Harris, The Bitter Fight: A Pictorial History of the Australian Labor Movement, St Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1970, p. 38; Bill Hornadge, The Yellow Peril: A Squint at some Australian attitudes towards Orientals, Dubbo, Review Publications, 1971, p. 11. It is also mentioned in Charles A. Price, The Great White Walls are Built: Restrictive immigration to North America and Australasia 1836-1888, Canberra, Australian National University Press, 1974, p. 163. There are three unpublished secondary accounts: G.A. Oddie, ‘The Chinese in Victoria, 1870-1890’, unpublished M.A. thesis, Melbourne University, 1959, pp. 35-38; Andrew Markus, ‘The Burden of Hate: The Australian inter-racial experience, 1850-1901. A comparative study of the Australian mainland colonies and California, with special emphasis on the working-classes’, unpublished PhD thesis, La Trobe University, 1974, pp. 209-215; Particularly useful is F.C. Weickhardt, ‘Clunes. The Chinese Riot. 9 December 1873: The Story of the Clunes Dispute, Compiled from Newspaper Reports of the Period’, Clunes, unpublished manuscript presented to Talbot and Clunes Shire Council, 1973 [copy in possession of the Clunes museum].

Back to opening page