French gold digging expedition
This page provides the story from the officers of the expedition as to the events that took place. It’s taken from an advertisement placed by the officers in the NSW paper Empire in January 1856.
Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850-1875), Wednesday 9 January 1856, page 6
To the Editor of the Empire. ‘
SIR-We beg of you to give place in your paper to the accompanying extracts from the report we are about to forward to the Shareholders of the Company of the French Engineers in Paris. This report is signed by, those-who have hitherto executed the work, as the readers will perceive, near the junction of Winburndale and Cheshire Creek. Your compliance-with our request will much oblige. ‘ *
The undersigned, Superintendents, (Manager,) and Workmen of the French Company of Engineers, believe it to be their duty with respect to the public whose confidence has been granted to an enterprise undertaken solely with a view (as clearly indicate its Rules “les statute,”) of establishing au Auriferous Exploration in Australia; to give publicity to the following details.
The readers will remember that in the beginning of .July, 1854, a fraction of the employed left Bordeaux for this colony by the ship Bengal. A Director, Mons. Ponsard, and Under Director, M. De Launay, and an under clerk, M. Mora, arrived in Sydney with orders from the Director-in-Chief to form in that city, a Commercial Bureau, a thing never mentioned in the Rules or Les statute of the Company, and when the shares had been purchased solely with a view to the Exploration of Gold Mines.
The 22nd September following, Mons. Riviere, partner of M. Cazeuer, the chief Director, embarked with us at Liverpool. The machine and a large quantity of materials necessary for the exploration followed nearly at the same period.
The 23rd December, 42 days after the arrival of the first expedition, we landed in Sydney. The commercial counter was already installed there, and fitted up in the most costly and elegant style, Charlotte-place, No. 4. It was there, M. Ponsard received us, and after some airs of petty importance with respect to his – titles of authority, he showed to the Parisian partner who came with us, a legal Act which placed him as Director of the urines, under the order of Mon9. Ponsard, Director of the Counter or_ Firm in Sydney. We were the bearers bf several” letters from the head Director in Paris, requesting that we should be well received and intimating to him an order to send us to the mines, ‘with all the materials for commencing the work as soon as possible ; but after the perusal of these. Official Letters, M. Ponsard informed us, that in order to preserve the Company, he -should not follow the orders received from Paris from the Chief Director, that ho had just commenced a magnificent affair, which would’ bring him enormous advantages, that. The Gold Mines were nothing in comparison, that trade was everything I that ho was going for the second time to exposé his life by returning to Franco, in order to explain the state of the case to M. Cnzeuer (the head of the Company,) and the fact is, that ho did take his passage on board the Argo, and set off for Paris without visiting the Mines 1 promising to us his speedy return.
M. Riviere, the partner of M. Cazener was employed in the offices. with a salary of 250 francs (about £10) per month, lodged and boarded, but we were scattered without moans of any kind, condemned to seek any kind of work in order to exist, and it was very difficult from want of knowledge of the language for us to obtain employment. From time to time, nevertheless, we managed to get work; during this period the machine and all the rest of the objects brought out remained in consignment.
This strange position continued up to the 30th of June, when M. De Launay, being Director in the absence of M. Ponsard, received the sum of 25,000 francs (about £1000); he immediately freed the machine, got together all that remained and enabled us to take the road to the mines.
It should here be mentioned that towards the close of the period above stated, Messrs. Riviero and Mora visited the mines for the purpose of choosing a spot propitious for an auriferous exploration, and whilst thus engaged M. De Launay sent them information respecting the arrangements he had just concluded, at the same time giving an order for M. Mora’s return to his place in the oliï cos in Sydney, in obedience to which he arrived there the evening before the departure of the party expedited by M. De Launay.
M. Mora made every effort in his power to prevent this departure, as also to got back a sum of £100 which had been confided to one of us charged with the material, baggage, icc, but all his ; protestations were useless. The party left Sydney on the 17th of July, yet even then, though M. Riviere had remained three months at the mines, he did not know where to place the machine I Now he was obliged in spite of himself to give us a destination; we say “in spite of himself,” the reason will be obvious to the renders long before the conclusion of this faithful though sad narrative. But a most outrageous revocation, the result of base and vile intrigues, deprived M. De Launny of powers which, according to superior orders, the under clerk Mora was invested with. This M. Mora’s first step was to appraise ns officially of his new dignity as well as the downfall of his superior.
At nine or ten miles from Bathurst, near the junction of Cheshire and Winburndale Creeks, there exists an auriferous surface of immense extent and great thickness. There is an excellent spring near, and the water never fails; this is the spot definitively fixed on for the exploration.
We now beg the attention. of the readers, (it would be then needless to ask their sympathy) whilst we place before their eyes the fate which has been our lot, the cruel circumstances which hare, as it were, enveloped our existences in p net, from which we were without power to set them free, on this very spot. As the only resource to escape with honour from the toils spread around us we invoke the publicity of the Press.
Hard work and rude labour was now our daily task; it was necessary to prepare the ground – to put together an enormous piece of machinery, and to construct a bridge; but impatient to compensate by prompt exertion the length of time that had been wasted, the whole party worked with courage. Three weeks sufficed. The machine or engine joffriand ; the noauège or circus; the pumps were all ready for use. Horses were now wanting j the question very naturally presented itself, why are -we kept waiting? Why are horses not procured, and the exploration carried on with activity? M. Mora now wrote several private letters to M. Riviere, -who was very exact in reply.
The sum furnished by M. De Launay was spent and money was urgently required, we expected in a few days to receive a remittance from Sydney and to commence at last our operations, hut day after day, week after week passed and brought them nothing! Every question put to the Director (M. Riviera) received this invariable reply: I expect and wait for funds from Sydney. Some workmen engaged here, tired of waiting for their wages lost patience, and summoned Mons. Riviere before the court of Bathurst, which condemned him to pay their wages; pushed to this extremity, he made a demand on M. Mora, who forwarded to him £10 for the payment of this condemnation.
After this trial which ought to have roused – every sentiment of duty and of honour, M. Riviere returned to Winburndale Creek, where he lived in a state of perfect satisfaction and easy indifference, instead of knowing his own responsibility, inquiring into the employment which had been made of the sum of £1000 (25,000 francs) sent from Paris.
The news now reached the miners of a visit from an inspector. Great rejoicing in the hope of awaking finally from our lethargy; but alas t great also was oar deception; for when the open carriages in which he travelled, stopped before our tents, it contained M. Mora, who had taken this long journey for no other purpose than to exhort us to be patient 1 , In one and the same day M. Mora made the following replies to the divers questions addressed to him on the subject of the funds sent, to Paris. To one he said-”I do not know what has become of those funds. , I shall not remain in Sydney any longer, but shall come and rejoin you soon” to another person, ” I have a great deal of money in the banks, but I cannot draw from it, not having received the duplicates from Paris”-and te a third, M. Mora’s reply was couched in these words:-”if the engine at any .time should be sold by auction, I have friends who would furnish me with the funds requisite to purchase it, and I would then make it, work on my own: account.” After the departure, of our inspector, we communicated to each other his different answers to the same queries and we were not much puzzled to comprehend, that they deceived us 1, nevertheless Mons. Riviere went into Bathurst on the pretext of buying horses, but in truth simply to accompany the Inspector and have a mutual understanding; on his return he informed us that he came without money and without horses. Two or three weeks passed after this event, each day rendering the position more serious, the trades people, finding their bills were not regularly paid, would not continue to supply us. We have been without bread four or five days, yet our director Mons. Riviere cares not, moves not in our behalf, and whilst we are hungry, he secures money to take him to Sydney, where according to their agreement, the other director waits for him with impatience in order to’ make a great speculation ! . The commercial counter is dissolved, but our clever directors must have trade for themselves, no-matter at what price. The auriferous exploration displeases them, this is sufficiently evident, consequently any new promise concerning us would ‘. only be a new imposture. We know from very good authority their intentions and the cordial understanding which exists between them, nothing there- fore remains for us, but a faint hope that’ Mons. Riñere may yet be recalled to better sentiments.’ Pressed by want, no longer able to pay even our licenses, the moment appeared favourable to make him understand his responsibility, reasonable complaints, just ‘ threats, nothing was omitted. He promised everything when amongst our party, said that Mons, Mora had deceived him, adding “I will go down to Sydney, never fear, I shall do my duty!” Who could imagine that this was nothing but hypocrisy? a ruse recommended to him by Mons. Mora, the letters received from Sydney since his departure, or rather his flight, will sufficiently prove it. We are then left here at present (as M. Riviere, the Director, himself admits in writing) without money, and without bread, also (a thing which must have escaped his memory) without means to pay the licenses of the Company, a policeman might come mid commit us to jail for three months. This is the conduct pursued towards those who without receiving their salaries, or even the least assistance, have devoted themselves ‘ to the work unselfishly, in the hope that all these sacrifices would como in aid of the Company and finally insure the success of the enterprise ; that hope has proved fallacious I and to-day nothing remains for us, except to exposé the guilty, and to separate ourselves from them, and prove to those whose brothers and sons are fighting ‘ side by side with ours before Sebastopol, that men of ” integrity ore the same in both countries, and that the well-known device of the gallant Francis the 1st of France is adopted by. his unfortunate countrymen in Australia-” Tout est perdu, fors l’honneur ! ! !”
In order to render this evident, undeniable, it is our intention to place the facts before the Court in Bathurst, and to render the circumstances as public as possible. In short, those who have remained to the last on the spot chosen by the Director for the enterprise are now obliged to take the place of the shareholders; there is also a loud voice in each heart which will be heard; that voice says-”You have suffered, you tire hungry, and they laugh at you II”
May an honest and generous public forgive the publication of these unworthy proceedings. Our own pen ? trembles for the honour of the French name, so scandalously disgraced before the friendly nation, so intimately connected with our own at the present eventful epoch, and cruel are the sensations under which we labour whilst tracing such ignominy, such shameful facts, but they are here nearly all well-known. The evil is with out remedy, and as we have already said, we believe it to be our imperious duty to unveil to the world of Australia such a tissue of iniquity. We think also’ of our ” Fatherland, ‘ though so far away, of that dear Franco which we shall one day see again we trust without a blush of shame, whatever may be our lot or our sufferings !
LEPAGE, BARD, VERVANT, PAUL BLAIS,
December 12th, 1855