Mr Editor—We regret very much to see the continued advertisements by your contemporaries of the specified rate of wages, for the future working of these mines. We hereby wish to inform the Directors, that we feel justified in declaring that we cannot entertain a thought of again retaking our Pitches or Bargains, unless the Directors shall see meet to grant us our former rate of wages.
We are, Sir, Your obedient servants, The Miners of the Burra Burra Mines.
1st November, 1848.
Mr Editor—I have noticed in the ‘South Australian’ a letter, dated October 17, concerning some Dray-Lawyers who are said to be busily inciting the carters to strike against the gentlemen shareholders of the Burra Burra Mine. I can tell those gentlemen we are determined to strike, whether it be for good or for harm. In the first place, we wish to have an alteration at the Port, because we do not mean for the time to come to allow their officers there to tell us, that if we do not stack the ore where they want it, we shall not receive our cart-notes; or if we do not, that we shall not be loaded again at the mine. They likewise tell us, that it we do not take back loads at one pound five shillings per ton, we shall not get another load down from the Burra. I have been told by some fifty or from that to one hundred men, that they have been told the same at the Port; and some of them continue to load under false names on this account.
The Burra Burra officers tell the gentlemen bullock drivers in plain terms, after fleecing them of ten shillings per hundred weight for copper ore said to be lost on the road, that their services are not wanted—that there are plenty to do their work without them. Now, then, I ask, What would the Burra Hurra people have been but for the poor slaving bullock-drivers? I think some of them would have remained counter-jumpers still. How have they used Chace, who sold his all to work for work for (sic) them? Now, they say, that the draymen, by striking, make matters a great deal worse; but the Dray Lawyers will show them that they wish make matters much better, and know how. We mean to tell them, in plain terms, that we intend to draw no more ore at 120 lbs. the cwt., instead of 112 lbs. No, no; we do not mean to have any more extra eight pounds to each cwt. If we cart again, we mean to have the fair thing—112. I say it is no wonder that our bullocks knock up and our drays break down. This over-weight I consider a dead robbery. A certain Editor says the proprietors can well afford not to raise another ton of ore for the next twelve months; and the bullock-drivers say they don’t care if they don’t raise another ounce for the next ten years, if they don’t reduce the weight and raise the price. The same sapient Editor goes on to say that a strike would be a great deal worse for the draymen themselves, because they will more speedily lose the whole of the cartage of ore from the northern mines. The ball-punchers smile at this, and say it’s all fudge. The same wise Editor mentions a road to Gulf St. Vincent, which it is expected will save one-third of the cartage. He mentions, too, a tram-road over the worst parts of the road; in this way, he says, the whole of the cartage may be done in the summer months by half the present force—and that force the property of the Company. Let them provide that force, I say, and they will soon find that £3 will not pay for every pair of rails the length of my dray. As to “putting up a sawmill in a dense gum forest to be found in a convenient position;” for my part, I have travelled South Australia over, without seeing any such a forest.
I know that on the line alluded to, there is nothing but a dense pine forest through which the road will have to be cut, and in that country there are dense sands also, over which the best eight bullocks in the colony will not draw one ton ten hundred, when it comes to be cut by dray tracks. The water is so scarce, that I would not undertake to walk from Skilligolee Creek to the Gulf for £20. ”The Intelligent Settler” I had a mind to take no notice of, because I think him a downright fool, as every other person of common sense must think, when he talks of a tram-road through the Murray scrub (sixty miles, to my knowledge, without a drop of water), and covered with a dense scrub and hungry sand that a crow would not not (sic) live on. As for his scheme of the “flat-bottomed boats,” it is absurd, and it marks him for a downright madman when he talks of changing for the sea-mouth of the Murray, a canal to be dug from “the Goolwa” to “the Knob.” He would not find there a stiff, sturdy soil, but quite a sandy one, that would require piling, planking, and puddling. Reedy Creek mine is but twelve miles from the Murray river; why don’t those proprietors talk of adopting such plans? No! no! they know it is “no go.” Who can say “The Intelligent Settler” understands the subject he treats of? I condemn both him and his plan, because there is neither sense nor judgment in it, and he does not know nor understand the nature of the intervening country, or of the river itself. I wish him to understand that there is one of the Dray Lawyers who knows the country and the river he talks about, and has travelled more miles through the Murray scrub than “The Intelligent Settler” has travelled yards, perhaps.
One word to my brother whips. Stick to your text, lads! Don’t be frightened by a talk about tram-roads, fiat-bottomed boats, or canals. It is all “bounce.” Remember your plighted words, and stick to them. Stop at home, and show the Burra Company you are independent of them. Remember, your Captain’s flag is flying at the Sod Hut. All you that have horses, stop at home; and you that have none, come under the flag and let us show the colony that we are determined to salt our bullocks down, and, if necessary, to eat them, horns, hoofs, and all, rather than submit to “work for nothing and board ourselves.”
I remain, Mr Editor, and my Brother Whips, Your humble servant, DRAY-LAWYER
Sod Hut Hill, 27 Oct., 1848.
Mr Editor—I have just seen it stated that Chase the Dray-Lawyer is a discarded servant. It is true that I have not drawn copper ore from the Burra for the last two months, and for what reason? Simply because I would not take two tons of goods to the Burra in the middle of the winter, at £2 per ton, at a time when £8 per ton or £9 per ton could be obtained. At the very time I refused to take the load alluded to, for the Company, I had a load upon my dray for the Belvidere mine at £4 per ton (for a distance of sixty-two miles only). The “Lawyer’s Quill-driver,” that was, had the impudence to tell me, a “Dray-Lawyer,” that unless I would work for what he thought fit to give me, I should not work for his Company at all; and that he would send word to the Burra to that effect. I can assure you, Gentlemen, he did not forget to do as he had threatened. I delivered my load at the Belvidere, and proceeded to the Burra; my mates persuaded me to get a load under a false name, which I did, there being a stranger at “the Steal-Trap.” As soon as I drove off the trap, however, I made myself kuown. The stranger said he was not aware of who I was, or I should not have had my load. I told him to make it known to Mr Burr and the officers of the mine. I then saw Mr Burr, and he told me I had obtained my load in a very underhand manner, which I freely admitted; but told him that I never intended to take it off the mine under those pretenes (sic), as some fifty or sixty others had done. My object was to show my pluck, and then to throw off the load, and so I told Mr Burr. He then said there was no occasion for any such thing ; that, as I had it loaded, I could take it, but that I was not to return in expectation of obtaining another load, for there were express orders from “the Ring-tailed Rover” to that effect. Mr Burr told me that I should have studied my own interest and preferred a permanent employment to any uncertain thing; but I thought differently. I knew that there were some thousands of tons of ore at the Burra that was not worth half-a-crown per ton, if it continued there; and my motto is, “Work where you get best paid.” However, I arrived in due time with my load at the Little Para, where I saw some of the Directors and Barney McNasty with them. When he made bold to ask me my name. I declined to answer, and he then turned to the Directors and said, “This is the chap I told you of, who obained (sic) his load under false pretences; but I’ll take d____d good care he shall not be paid for it.” I told them “if the next day proved fine, I would take the load to the Port whether I got paid or not, for I knew they wanted a little money to balance their [?] knives with.” However, I got paid, Jemmy Dash[about] not being there. After this I loaded at the Port [with] potatoes, for Mr Lucas, at Bagot’s Mine, at two pou[nds] ten shillings per ton; after which I proceeded to [the] Burra, where I got saluted in the following terms: Chase, what do you want here? Copper, was [my] answer; to this the “steal-trap” man replied, you’ll [not] be loaded here! You have done us, once, but you’ll [do] us no more; you may return as you came. Now, Gentlemen, I think I can sue the Company for the expense of that journey, for reasons which you can see perhaps [as] well as I. However, I went to the “Princess Royal” Mine for a load, and took thence 1 ton, 15 cwt., 1 qt., and 3 lbs., of copper ore; with which I arrived in due time at the Little Para, where, as luck would have it, I again saw Jemmy Dashabout and the Directors, returning from the Burra, just after the strike. I told Jemmy that I thought there were strange doings at the Mine. How is that, Chace? asked Jemmy. Why, said I, they hunted me off the mine; they would not allow me to approach “the steal-trap” within some hundred yards, let alone giving me a load of copper. Jemmy then looked rather down, and said, who did so? My answer was, the officers at the Mine, by your orders, and you cannot deny that you sent them. He asked, What did you do then? I came away without it, was my reply. Is it possible you came down without a load? asked Jemmy. No, said I, I went to the “Princess Royal” Mine. Where I got my load now, I can get another. Jemmy replied, “Well, Chace, I consider you have been punished sufficiently; hold your tongue, go to your work, I will settle all little differences, and you shall be loaded again the same as ever.” What my answer was I well remember. I told them “that I had been badly used, and I would work for them no more.” On what authority then does the Editor say I am “a discarded servant?” If I am a discarded servant, I discarded myself. I wish that for the time to come, the Directors would place some steady man at “the steal-trap,” one who would pay attention to his duty and not keep gentlemen bullock drivers waiting, some of them, two or three hours, before they can get weighed, as I can testify. They have so kept me and others too, many a time, and when we have happened to say a word about it they have set up their bristles like fighting monkeys and coming it strong have asked, Do you think we have nothing to do but to wait on you? Mr Bamboozle is as great a band at this as he is at judging logs and slabs. Only fancy, Gentlemen, a quill-driver laying down the law about logs and slabs. This same quill-driver knows as much about logs and slabs as Cardinal Richelieu.
Now, the thing I wish my backbiters to know, is, that I am the Captain of the Burra-road, and being held in great esteem by the gentlemen bullock drivers my testimony in such matters goes a long way, as the number of drays loaded at the Burra, lately, sufficiently shows, and within one week from this date, none will pass the line laid down.
I reman, Mr Editor, and my Brother Whips, Your humble servant, DRAY-LAWYER.
Sod Hut Hill, Oct. 27, 1848.
Sir—By the last papers I have here, I find that my assertion in my previous letter to you as to the increased prices of the articles of consumption at the Burra Burra Mines being 40 per cent. over Adelaide prices are attempted to be contradicted. Meat and butter are the same as at Adelaide; but take the whole cost of living, the price is 40 per cent. above Adelaide prices. I state this authoritatively. Every article, except dairy produce and butchers’ meat, has to be brought 100 miles by land. This alone must of necessity raise the price, and most consumable articles are highly damageable and perishable from the summer’s heat and winter’s rains; and must and do receive a large deterioration in quality and quantity from being weather-wasted. Hence the increased cost.
The last news that we got here was, that the Burra Directors (brave and honourable men!) had commenced nine (9) separate actions against you for defamation, &c. At first I laughed at it as a good practical joke to frighten us. I would not believe that they (the Directors) could betray so little, so very little knowledge of the world, as to think that the country would allow, that one board or body of men should, for one alleged libel, enter nine separate actions! Bah! The stupidity of the thing makes one sick. The very fact of nine actions being raised, on one ground, would make every juryman in the country cry “Not Guilty,” and every woman cry “Shame!” on that ground alone.
So the Directors think that they, great men, will imitate another great man, and do in law as he did in battle—precipitate upon one point, shock after shoek (sic), to make sure of destroying it; and instead of one Director measuring himself in an action-at-law with you, Sir—the nine, the noble nine, must have at you all at once, aud not even show the magnanimity of boys at school; for even there, in my boyish days, it was one down and another come on.
The venerable Bede tells of one Saxon that kept the pass of the river “Rother,” who, single-handed, slew sixteen Romans. I blush for the chivalry of our times, that these men should call themselves Saxons, and so ingloriously imitate their fathers, that the fight must now be, not 1 to 16, but nine to one. Well did Burke say—
“The days of chivalry have gone by.”
Never fear, Sir. The “Teamsters'” will bet 10 to 1 on you, and if these brave men will come to me at the “Sod Hut,” I’ll give them a good breakfast first, and then a d____d good hiding afterwards.
Nine to one; is that English fashion? It is not justice that tbey want, but vengeance. But all passion in excess defeats itself. It is the malignity of the Devil that causes him to overshoot his mark. And do the Directors think that it is the temper of Englishmen to see any one man crushed by the aggregation of malice and wealth? Was there ever an instance of a government obtaining a verdict from a jury whenever two actions were instituted for one offence? No; and do the Burra Directors think they will get it by multiplying their actions into nine? Pshaw! The stupidity of the thing is worse than its malice. It is as Talleyrand said of a stupendous folly—
“A blunder worse than a crime.”
The “Teamster” said “you should not stick for a pull or a pound any day of the week.” Mine is ready, and I dare say that my 500 brother whips will be equally ready to defend their defender.
The last news we heard was, that the Directors had pre-determined not to give us the advance asked for carting ore, &c. Now we have asked this thing civilly; but we mean very coolly to make them do it. To shew (sic) them that we have not been groggy on our board days, we have already exhibited the data up on which our claim is based, and we will now show them the facts upon which our resolution is founded.
1st.—We know that they cannot help themselves, because their ships at the Port are already on demurrage.
2nd. That they cannot do without having the ore brought down, because their account is overdrawn some £40,000 to £50,000, and this too is the statement of one of their wise men, made confidentially to a hundred persons. Query, was the confidential communication made to depress the shares, that the wise man might buy in at £100 what he had sold out at £200? How honest in a Director to reveal the state of the Company’s account in order to operate to his private advantage! How eminent the morality of the godly man! It is paying the tithes of mint and cummin; putting pence into a missionary box, and devouring widows’ houses. Lord Cochrane was kicked out of the navy for being supposed to have done a similar thing in the British funds; and are not Burra Shares our Australian C[onso]ls?
Now then, Messieurs Directors, will you give the drivers the advance we want? Ay or no. Will you give us the honest day’s pay for the honest day’s work?
The “Teamster” will shew (sic) you that he can drive his pen as well as his team, and when he chooses to lay on, he can make you wince at every stroke, and if you want breaking in, he will give you butt aud lash until you draw true and pull straight. So then you say you will not grant us the £3 10s. for the summer and £4 for the winter. Ay, you will not. Now listen while I tell you a story. A certain monk discovered that antimony was very good for pigs; and he argued that what was good for a pig, must be good for a monk. He supped and died. Take care that antimony does not equally poison your prosperity.
You will not give us the advance, eh? Then how will you pay the next dividend without the ore at ship? Unless you ship, you cannot draw against the bill of lading; if you do it by borrowed money, you will do it by pursuing the usual prelude to bankruptcy; if you don’t do it, you will stultify yourselves; by having declared that you did not care for the miners, for that you could continue to pay the same magnificient dividends for two years to come, without raising more ore. Can you do without the Teamsters? I leave you on the sharp horns of the dilemma.