|Born||Henry Erle Seekamp
|Died||19 July 1864 (aged 35)
|Known for||Seditious libel|
Henry Erle Seekamp (1829 - 19 July 1864) was the journalist, editor and owner of the Ballarat Times at the time of the Eureka Stockade in 1854. The newspaper was fiercely pro digger and was used to print the Ballarat Reform League charter and many of the flyers for the monster mass meetings on the Ballarat Goldfields, in Victoria, Australia.
Seekamp was born in England in 1829, and is reputed to have achieved an Arts bachelor's degree from an unknown University. He arrived in Ballarat in 1853 and tried prospecting and must have met with some success as he was able to buy printing equipment and pay the cost of its freight to Ballarat. In December 1853 he married Dublin widow, Clara Maria Duvall.
Governor Sir Charles Hotham, shortly after his appointment, pronounced publicly that 'all power proceeds from the people' and at Ballarat, he told the miners: '...I shall not neglect your interests.' But by September 1854 Seekamp was suggesting that despite protestations of giving the diggers a fair go, Hotham had secretly ordered the police to invigorate the search for unlicensed miners. (Ballarat Times, 30 September 1854)
In increasing strident editorial tone the 4 page weekly broadsheet newspaper criticised the Government and supported the diggers movement. On the Ballarat Reform Movement Seekamp wrote:
- "This league is nothing more or less than the germ of Australian independence. The die is cast, and fate has cast upon the movement its indelible signature. No power on earth can now restrain the united might and headlong strides for freedom of the people of this country ... The League has undertaken a mighty task, fit only for a great people – that of changing the dynasty of the country." (Ballarat Times 18 November 1854)
After the massacre at the Eureka Stockade on 3 December 1854, Seekamp was arrested in his office the following day and charged with sedition, for a series of articles that appeared in the Ballarat Times. Many of these articles were written by George Lang, the son of the prominent republican and Presbyterian Minister of Sydney - the Reverend John Dunmore Lang. The Chief Justice, Sir William à Beckett, effectively told the jury that it must find Seekamp guilty. He was tried and convicted of seditious libel by a Melbourne jury on 23 January 1855 and, after a series of appeals, sentenced to six months imprisonment on 23 March. He was released from prison on 28 June 1855, precisely three months early.
During his imprisonment his wife took over the editorial duties on the newspaper, and won support for her outspokenness. He returned to Ballarat after he was released and continued to edit the ´Ballarat Times´. Seekamp was present at the 2nd anniversary celebrations of the Eureka Stockade that were held in 1856.
In 1856 Seekamp wrote a review in the Ballarat Times of Lola Montez and her erotic Spider Dance and in a notorious incident Montez chased him with a whip. Shortly after Clara and Henry Seekamp moved to Queensland. He died at the Clermont gold diggings in Queensland on 19 July 1864.
Later in life Clara commented on the importance of her husband: "If Peter Lalor was the sword of the movement, my husband was the pen".
He died at the age of 35.
- Eureka Stockade
- Australian sedition law
- Kirkpatrick, Rod (Dec 2004). "Eureka and the editor: A reappraisal 150 years on". Australian Journalism Review. 26 (2): 31–42. ISSN 0810-2686.