Sydney Cove – 1790 June 1 : ‘We had now been [thirty-six] months from England in which long period …we had been entirely cut off, no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth.

Here on the summit of the hill, every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon, in hope of seeing a sail…at every fleeting speck which arose from the bosom of the sea, the heart bounded’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardige, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961


Sydney – 1790, June 3: ‘Great change came with the  Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps.[among them] Lieutenant John Macarthur  – a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property owning elite’. Nigel Rigby, Peter Van Der Merwe & Glyn Williams, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, 2018


Sydney Headquarters – 1790,  December 13:  ‘The governor pitched upon me [Tench] to execute the…command…those natives who reside  near the head of Botany Bay….put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain [and] two [2] prisoners to  execute in the most most public and exemplary manner’. His Excellency Governor Arthur Phillip Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench


‘The misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Tench. ibid.

1790 – 3 June:  The Lady Juliana with ‘London on her stern’ brought an end to the unspeakable ‘misery and horror’ of prolonged semi-starvation, profound isolation and mind-bending uncertainty, for a thousand (1000) English men, women and children of the ‘First Fleet’ marooned since 1788. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 – June 1790

A convict transport, first of four (4) ships of the second fleet,  Lady Juliana brought twenty-six (226)  women prisoners, eight (8) free children and  letters from home.

However it was news of Paris in flames, of  street barricades and, rioting mobs storming the Bastille to free its prisoners, that rang the loudest bells – alarm for some, hope for others.

By the end of June 1790 Neptune, Suprize and Scarborough, the fleet’s death ships reached Sydney with the first contingent of infantry and over a thousand (1000) mainly male prisoners.

Rather than relieving pressure on the settlement the second fleet –  Britain’s first true convict transportation fleet – sealed the fate of a free peoples,  Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: A Grim Armada – The Dead and the Living Dead

‘Oh, if you had seen the shocking sight of the poor creatures who came out of these three [3] ships, it would make your heart bleed; they were almost dead; few could stand and they were obliged to sling them as you would goods, and hoist them out of the ship, they were so feeble’. Letter of convict women from Lady Juliana, dated 24 July, 1790, cited Bank’s Papers, A 78, Mitchell Library, Sydney.


????Insert London Gazette

‘British troops…fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire, and for the first half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788 – 1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986. ibid.

The infantry were sent from England to consolidate Britain’s invasion of New Holland and relieve Sydney’s ‘troubled’ marine garrison who, along with the English men women and children of the ‘First Fleet, had been marooned ‘on the shores of this vast ocean’ since January 1788 .

Six (6) months later, December 1790 Governor Phillip gave Captain Tench orders, ‘put ten [10 to death…bring in the heads of the slain’.

‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1998

Can we know what drove Governor Arthur Phillip’s ferocity? Yes we can.

‘Mischief’‘certain officers’ of the New South Wales Corps, led by a junior officer Lieutenant John Macarthur, were circling the tents. See: An Ugly War: Britain Versus The Other


‘The tremendous monster [a stranded whale] who had occasioned the unhappy catastrophe [Phillip’s wounding] just recorded was fated to be the cause of further mischief to us’. Tench. ibid.

Manly Beach – 1790:  In September 1790, just three (3) months after the second fleet arrived, Governor Phillip was speared by Willamarin an Aboriginal warrior from the Broken Bay area.


 Tench’s Sydney’s First Four Years ed. L. F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Roberson, 1961 informs this narrative unless otherwise indicated

Whiehall: William Wyndham Grenville young and ambitious, a cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt, replaced Lord Sydney as Home  Secretary in mid 1789.

Grenville awarded  contracts for the carriage of one thousand (1000) mainly male  prisoners in three (3) vessels Neptune, Scarborough and Suprize  to the lowest bidder.

Camden, Calvert and King,  a London firm of Atlantic slave traders were issued regular ‘slave contracts’ whereby contractors were paid per body boarded.

Deaths in transit were a bonus ‘earlier in the  voyage they die[d] greater the profit.

One thousand and thirty-eighty ‘1038 [mainly male] convicts embarked at Plymouth; 237 died on the voyage, 486 landed sick, of these 124 died in hospital at Sydney Cove’. Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Fergusion, Glasgow, 1959

Overcrowded,  locked below decks fed reduced rations prisoners were chained two (2) together by a short rigid bolt the length of A4 paper.

‘The irons used upon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. The contractors had been in the Guinea trade, and had put on board the same shackles used by them in that trade.

Prisoners] could not extend either leg from the other more than an inch or two at most; thus fettered, it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both their legs being broken’. Captain William Hill, Sydney Cove, July 28, 1790, extract, letter to William Wilberforce, Historical Records of New South Wales.  

The death rate on the passage was reckoned at 25%. Of those convicts landed alive 15% died within weeks of disembarking.

‘They died ten [10] or twelve [12] [a day] when they first landed. She heard the Governor, standing by, say that to transport men and women like this was ‘murthering them’. op. cit.

Captain Hill sailed in Suprize a ship ‘unfit…to be sent so great a distance…the most trifling gale…the convicts were considerably above their waists in water….the slave trade is merciful compared with what I have seen in this fleet.’

Wilberforce dubbed ‘God’s Politician’,  a close friend of  Prime Minister Pitt,  was a leading advocate in the growing anti-slavery movement.

Many brutalised survivors were permanently damaged in mind, body and spirit. Without doubt the coming of the second fleet increased distress in the settlement and, on many levels, exacerbated the woes that plagued Governor Phillip.

Well documented open hostility surfaced quickly between the old lags of the First Fleet’ and the new-comers. Phillip perceived danger in such widespread unrest.

It could destroy the hard-won success he achieved in securing New Holland for Britain. News of the French Revolution had made that success ever more relevant both strategically and politically.

‘New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength in India’. ?????  Anon. Historical Records.


UUUUUUUU La Fayette Square

‘La Fayette’s role in the American Revolution  was different from the way he portrayed it in his autobiographical Memoirs, it was more complex,  more intertwined with other characters, and more intriguing than either his book, or the standard histories have depicted’. Patrick Villiers, translation Larrie D. Ferreiro, Essays in the American Revolution – a World War, David K. Allison, Larrie D. Ferriro, Smithsonian , 2015

Britain’s loss of her thirteen (13) ‘New World’ colonies was due largely to the massive amount of support, both monetary and military,  France showered on George Washington’s Patriot home-spun rebels.

La Fayette Square or Park with White House     ZZZZZ

‘The final battles of the American Revolution were fought not in North America but in India, another theater where Britain and France were vying for political dominance.’ Essays – Eds. British Global Ambitions and Indian Identity. Op. cit.

Post the American War of Independence (1775-1783) New Holland beckoned. See: Proximity not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

Military and naval domination over the the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans would secure Britain alternate strategic and supply routes to and from India, Africa, China and the Pacific Coast of South and Central America.

‘I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales. Should any disturbance (which God forbid) should happen in the East Indies, they might be transported tither before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter’. Anon. to Evan Nepean, Historical Records of New South Wales


‘There were plans to use the corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Philippines, but noting eventuated and the corps’ their first experience of war came in January 1795 on the Hawkesbury river north-west of Sydney’. Stanley. ibid.


‘Britain rebuilt its economy and its navy. A new oceanic empire in Asia and the Pacific developed after the voyages of Captain James Cook which was sponsored by George III and Joseph Banks of the Royal Society.’ Andrew Lambert. Essays in the American Revolution. ibid.

Governor Phillip’s part in securing Britain’s ‘new oceanic empire’ lay in fending off ‘certain officers’ of the New South Wales Corps.

With laser accuracy the near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can be plotted from Governor Phillip’s General Orders of 13 December 1790.


Phillip’s highly-charged orders put no limit on brutality.

They were to be implemented ‘whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’ [by] ‘twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry [who]…fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788 – 1870. ibid.

‘An Ugly War’ the only war for which Australia has no stomach. See: Lieutenant William Dawes – The Shock of the New South Wales Corps and the ‘Eternal Flame’


1816 – April 10, Sydney – Governor Macquarie: ‘I have this day ordered three [3] separate military detachments to march into the interior and remote parts of the colony, for the purpose of punishing hostile natives by clearing the country of them entirely, and drive them across the mountains.

‘In the event of the natives making the smallest show of resistance – or refusing to surrender when called upon so to do – the officers commanding the [three] military parties have been authorised to fire on them to compel them to surrender, hanging up on trees the bodies of such natives as may be killed on such occasions, in order to strike the greater terror into the survivors’. Governor Macquarie, Diary, 10 April, 1816

‘Drive them across the mountains’ ;.three (3) predatory raids to ‘clear the country of them entirely’; maximum clearing of Aborigines from the Hawkeskbury, Nepean and Grose agricultural districts.

To achieve their mission Macquarie’s troops spent twenty-three (23) days in the field attacking, wounding, killing and beheading.

Captain James Wallis, allocated an area around Appin, set off from Liverpool with a detachment to attack a known men’s hunting camp.

OOOOOOOO1816 – April 16,  Appin:  In an unequal battle, fourteen (14) Dharawal men were killed; ‘to strike the greater terror’ three (3) warriors were beheaded and as ordered their  ‘bodies hang[ed] up on trees’.


1816 – April 17: Having murdered the tribe’s men the women and children were ripe for annihilation. Captain Wallis ordered his section move onto the home camp at Broughton Pass arriving in the early hours of 17 April, 1816

‘A few of my men heard a child cry I [Wallis] formed line ranks…I regret to say some had been shot and others met their fate while rushing in despair over the precipice…In the end only five [5] of the Dharawal could be counted’. Captain Wallis, Journal, 1816, National Archives.



Combined operations; ‘drive them across the mountains’.



ZZZZZZZZZ‘ Haawkesbury …… Appin



England -1787 May 13 : A large squadron of eleven (11) ships, with an overwhelmingly male complement of 1500 souls (1300 men, 200 women, 40 + children) under command of Captain Arthur Phillip RN known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, departed Portsmouth  on 13 May 1787 to sail 13,000 miles (21,000 km) across the globe’s ‘imperfectly  explored oceans’ to Botany Bay, New Holland now Australia.

Botany Bay – 1788 January 20: All ‘First Fleet’ males, 245 marines,  580 convicts  fed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies’, were available for combat. After a voyage of eight (8) months by way of Spanish Teneriffe, Portuguese Rio de Janeiro and Dutch Cape Town, the fleet arrived at Botany Bay between 18 to 20 January 1788.  See:Apollo 11 Fly Me To The Moon

Port Jackson -January 21:  Wide open difficult to defend; ‘His Excellency proceeded in a boat to examine the opening, to which Mr. [James]Cook had given the name of Port Jackson [April 1770] on an idea that a shelter for shipping within it might be found’ . 

Botany Bay – January 23: ‘The boat returned on the evening of the 23rd, with such an account of the harbour and advantages attending the place, that it was determined the evacuation of Botany Bay should commence the next morning’.

January 24: ‘Another sail La Boussole and L’Astrolabe two (2) French ships under command of Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse. Bad weather and the Sirius cannon forced the French sail south to seek shelter and safety at Sutherland.

‘…he [Phillip] ordered a party to be sent to Point Sutherland to hoist English colours. He also stipulated that the move to Port Jackson be kept secret, and that no one was to go on board the French ships. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines, 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1986

Sydney Cove – January 25: Phillip had selected a ‘snug’ deep-water cove for permanent settlement but had not raised ‘English Colours’ there. New Holland was up for grabs. Despite increasingly foul weather he boarded HMS Supply arriving as night fell.

‘In the meantime he [Phillip] thought it wise to delay the fleet’s departure till the following day’. Moore. op.cit.

Sydney Cove  – January 26:  Phillip was rowed ashore at daylight to raise the Union Jack of Queen Anne and claim British Sovereignty over New Holland  ‘from Cape York…to South Cape’. The remaining English ships made a dangerous exit from Botany Bay to anchor at sunset  alongside Supply. See: Only Men? Aside from seagulls how many white birds were on the ground at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788 – None

Botany Bay:  HMS Sirius had been last to leave.  Captain John Hunter RN stayed to steer La Perouse to safe anchorage anchor at the spot known today as Frenchman’s Cove

‘Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commission and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th of February’.

Port Jackson:  Over the following fortnight convicts supervised by marines laid out a parade ground, dug fire-pits, latrines and erected tests.

February 6:  In a lengthy exercise between 6am and 6 pm the fleet’s 221 women and children were rowed ashore. See Brokeback Mountain.

February 7-  Proclamation Day:  ‘On that day all the officers of the guard of guard took post in the marine battalion, was drawn up and marched off the parade, with music playing and colours flying, to an adjoining ground, which had been cleared for the occasion, whereon the convicts were assembled to hear His Majesty’s commission read, appointing His Excellency Arthur Phillip Esq. Governor and Captain General in and over the territory of New South Wales, and its dependencies’.     

Norfolk Island – February 14:  Governor Phillip King ordered his long-time confrere Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, one of very few who knew what Botany Bay was all about, sail to Norfolk Island to stymie La Perouse who, without doubt and for the same reasons as Britain, had every intention of claiming Norfolk Island for France.

MMMMMMJanuary 1790




Portsmouth- 1790, 12 January: ‘A fine westerly wind enable[d] the [second fleet] ships sail down the channel under clear skies’. Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Armada, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1993.

1790 –  At long last more ships had been ‘taken up for Botany Bay’.  




But for ‘certain officers’ the complete lack of ‘defensive fortifications’ shook them to the core. Here there was nothing to suggest the military role nor any sign of the rumoured silver and gold, that had lured some of them to New Holland. VVVVVVV




1790 – June, Sydney: Despite the arrival of Justinian, a fully laden stores-ship from England, food was still not plentiful.

Protein foods were especially scarce and the ration progressively scaled down. Phillip, with another one thousand (1000) stomachs to fill, responded by increasing numbers of official hunting and fishing parties that, from 1788, had been essential to survival.


1790 – Friday, 9 December: One such party set off for Botany Bay to hunt kangaroo on 9 December 1790. The group included John Mc Intyre, Governor Phillip’s own game-keeper, a convict known to be hated by local Aborigines.

Saturday, 10 December, Botany Bay:  In the dead of night; ‘a rustling noise in the bushes’ woke the hunters. ‘Two natives with spears…one [Pemulway] launched his spear at M, Entire, and lodged it in his left side…’I am a dead man’.

At dawn the party began retracing its steps towards Sydney where Mc Intyre died some weeks later.


1790 – 12 December: ‘ Put ten to [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners to execute in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’. General Orders, Governor Phillip to Marine Captain Watkin Tench.

Phillip a wily commander with his back to the wall had sacrificed McIntyre in order to change the settlement’s dangerous dynamic. See: April Fools Day – The Hulks Act of 1776

To create a diversion he gave the guys with the guns something to do; ‘infuse universal terror…bring back the heads of the slain’. See: An Ugly War: Britain Versus The Other

Pemulway’s spearing of Mc Intyre had been a targeted attack. Philip’s ‘put ten [10] todeath’ was both indiscriminate and disproportionate.

‘On its face the object of the hunting party  was to take the lives of the innocent instead of the guilty.’  Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip, Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

Collective punishment – ‘on the face of it’. There is no other ‘face take[ing] the lives of the innocent instead of the guilty’ was then as now,according to the ‘rules and disciplines of law’ illegal.

Captain Tench registered shock; ‘here the governor stopped, and addressed himself to me said, if I could propose any alteration of the orders under which I was to act’.

Tench proposed; ‘capture [of] six [6]…a part should be set aside for retaliation; and the rest, at a proper time, liberated, after seeing the fate of their comrades. This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding, if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number be shot’.

T>>>>>>>>o that end Tench instructed his troops; ‘be ready to go out tomorrow morning at daylight…with three [3] days provision, ropes to bind our prisoners with and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.>>>>>>>>

The detachment consisted of fifty (50) men – ten (10) officers and the regulation ratio of non-commissioned men to forty (40) other ranks.

For Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples the make-up of this detachment is of utmost importance. By December 1790 marines of the ‘troubled’ garrison, marooned since 1788, were incapable of sustained effort.

Malnourished, suffering profound lethargy from prolonged semi-starvation, most marines could barely stand let alone undertake a three (3) day march in full kit under a blazing December sun.

It is certain, when the section moved out for Botany Bay, the majority of its forty (40) privates would have been infantry troops of the New South Wales Corps.

The first of ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry [who] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Stanley. ibid.

1790 – Wednesday, 14 December: ‘At 4 o’clock in the morning of the 14th we marched…by nine o’clock this terrific procession reached the peninsula at the head of Botany Bay’.

1790 – Saturday, 17 December: Three (3) days later Tench’s exhausted troops returned to Sydney with no heads or the prisoners that Phillip intended; ‘to execute in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’.

‘An extravagant charade…the expedition served only as a melodramatic show of force’.  Pembroke. ibid

 ‘A charade’ – nothing could be further from the truth. This was not the first time Governor Phillip had sniffed rebellion and snuffed it out. See: Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and the ‘Eternal Flame’

Earlier, on 27th February 1788 one (1) month after disembarking in Sydney Cove, Phillip had stamped his authority with the sadistic hanging of Thomas Barrett. See: A Vicious Circle – the Hangman’s Noose

Barrett was a potential leader of men with connections among the military. He was one (1) of very few ‘First Fleet’ convicts who could read read. He wrote a fine hand and engraved  colonial Australia’s most prized colonial artefact the Botany Bay Medallion.

But to Arthur Phillip the charismatic Barrett represented danger and had to be eliminated and quickly. Barrett’s dramatic execution, the first act in a grotesque pantomime played out over three (3) days, was calculated to ‘instil universal terror’. See From Here To Eternity

PPPPPPPPPPWhy? Governor Phillip knew Britain had a strategic vision for New Holland; ‘stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales…when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon, Historical Records

And Britain had an economic vision; ‘an empire…in the south which time will render much superior to that lost in the west [America]’. Anon. ibid.PPPPPPPPPPp

But in this endeavour Phillip was without naval support. One hundred and sixty (160) of his Royal Naval confreres, crew of the wrecked HMS Sirius, were stranded on Norfolk Island. In March 1790 Sirius had hit a submerged reef and sank.

1790 – mid April, Jakarta: HMS Supply sailed to Batavia, modern day Jakarta,t o buy food and medicines and charter a larger vessel to bring tons of supply to Sydney. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

1790 – 14 October, Sydney: In October, after a six (6) months absence, she returned having lost many crewmen who died of malaria. There were now far too few naval personnel to successfully defend their commander.

‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Kercher. ibid.

Governor Arthur Phillip RN adrift in a sea of hostile military men had a single objective; maintain strategic and economic control over New South Wales a‘superior’ out-post of empire.

No Captain in the Royal Navy would surrender his ship to the enemy. But who was the enemy?


Phillip’s orders of 13th December 1790 were made in response to a very real challenge to his position as Supreme Commander.

The first raid had failed the blood was up and the

To shore up his authority Phillip ordered a second assault that; ‘differed[ed] in no respect from the last’.

‘Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me.

Infuse universal terror…the orders under which I [Tench] was commanded to act…if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number be shot…differing in no respect from the last’.

Yet there was an important change in tactics that bear Governor Phillip’s imprint. Tench went about ‘the business’ in a very different way.

‘In order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design…we feigned that our preparations were directed against…(Wileemarin) the man who [in September 1790] had wounded the governor was the object of the punishment’.

1790 – Thursday, 22 December, Botany Bay: ‘A little before sun-set on the evening of the 22d, we marched, Lieutenant Abbot, and ensign Prentice, of the New South Wales corps, were the two [2] officers under my command and with three [3] serjeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates, completed the detachment’.

1790 – Friday 23 December: A seasonal ‘Christmas’ tidal surge flooded the Cooks River flats; ‘we were suddenly stopped by a creek, about sixty [60] yards wide‘. Firm ground became muddy swamp cutting the detachment into two (2) sections.

1790 – Saturday, 24 December: Weary troops in sodden uniforms, straggled into Sydney Town on Christmas Eve with no prisoners or heads. Another ‘dramatic show of force’ again all evidence is to the contrary.

1790 – December:  Who can doubt Arthur Phillip an astute operator known for his insight, failed to recognise a dangerous enemy in John Macarthur, a junior Lieutenant of the New South Wales Corps?

In this Arthur Philip proved prophet. Macarthur ambitious, arrogant was a stand-out trouble-maker who truly earned his nickname ‘The Perturbator’.

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors and the military’. Not a Rum Rebellion but a Military Insurrection, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, John McMahon, 2006

Lieutenant John Macarthur was pivotal to the recall of Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval governors, John Hunter, Phillip Gidley King and William Bligh. He returned from a forced exile in England  and lent a practised hand in the character assassination of Governor Lachlan Macquarie the first commissioned governor recruited from military ranks.


1790 – December, Botany Bay: ‘ A charade’ or ‘ melodramatic show of force’ ? Neither, when Governor, Captain-General Arthur Phillip RN, issued his general orders in December 1790 all evidence points to him quashing rebellion within military ranks. An algorithm

Arthur Phillip’s rules of engagement placed no limits on brutality they acted as an algorithm; ‘universal terrorwhenever any future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’.

There is no evidence Governor Phillip’s orders were ever countermanded. Extant, they served as a template that went onto govern all future confrontations between the First Nations’ Peoples.

‘Twenty-five regiments of British infantry [who] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, A Remote Garrison. ibid.

When the first of these infantry troops arrived with the second fleet in June 1790 Major Francis Grose, their commanding officer, was not with them. He remained in England to recruit sufficient men to meet establishment requirements.

1792 – 14 February, Sydney: Major Grose arrived in Sydney on 14th February 1792 aboard Pitt a convict transport. But by then Macarthur, ever the opportunist, had taken advantage of Grose’s absence to establish and wield power over certain officers of the New South Wales Corps.

1792 – 12 December: The Home Office finally agreed to Governor Phillip’s many requests for repatriation. On 12th December 1792, after five (5) years at Sydney, he sailed for England in the Atlantic taking Bennalong and, Yemmerrawannie a young warrior, with him.

‘There are two kinds of error; those of commission, doing something that should not be done, and those of omission, not doing something that should be done. the later are much more serious than the former’. Kenneth Hopper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift, Foreward, Russell Lincolm Ackoff, I.B. Tauris, 2009

Tragically for the First Australians London failed to commission a governor to succeed Governor Phillip. The second governor, Captain John Hunter RN, would not reach Sydney until September 1795.

‘For the length of the interregnum [1792-1795] the British government was greatly at fault’. Australian Dictionary of Biography, John Hunter. J.J. Achmuty

‘Omission, not doing something that should be done’; by default the immense power invested in Arthur Phillip as Governor of New South Wales, said to be unique in Britain’s long history of empire building, devolved to the military.

1792 – 13 December, Sydney:  Immediately on Phillip’s departure Major Francis Grose took command of the Sydney settlement and introduced absolute military rule.

Major Grose, by virtue of his military status, assumed the command as Lieutenant Governor. He had been trained from his youth to arms and was essentially and only a soldier.

He had not been many hours in charge before he introduced into the Government of the colony the same system, and very much the  same form, which prevailed in his regiment. From this period, the ascendancy of the military dates. They became an aristocracy’. Journal, Royal Australian Historical Society, M. Bladen, Vol. 1

With dire consequences for the First Nations’ Peoples the dominance of military power coincided with ‘the spread of agriculture’. 

‘Twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry [who served] in the colonies between 1790 and 1870…participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, A Remote Garrison, the British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press 1986

For the next twenty-five (25) years Britain’s ‘frontier war, nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’ centred on Aboriginal river lands, the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Grose River systems.

The frontier…extended to almost everywhere there was good water and grass‘. C.D. Rowley, The Destruction of Aboriginal Society, Pelican Books, 1986

1794 – December, Sydney: Major Grose weak-willed, wounded in the American War (1775-1783) found the harsh conditions and Sydney’s intense summer heat impossible to endure and returned to England at the end of 1794.

Captain William Paterson, physically and emotionally damaged, a veteran of the American War, assumed the role of military dictator.

1794 – December: At the time of Grose’s departure over four hundred (400) settlers were farming ‘thirty miles along the banks on both sides of the [Hawkesbury] River it has been estimated that between 1794 and 1800 at least twenty-six [26] Whites and up to two [200] Aborigines were killed’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison. ibid.

The Hawkesbury River lands were Dharug lands. Settlers denied them access to their hunting grounds, watering holes and yam fields. To feed their hungry families, the Dharug mounted hit and run raids, spearing, making off with sheep and stealing corn, a poor substitute for yam.


Governor Hunter RN was still on the high seas when Captain Paterson, despite reservations, found it necessary to activate Phillip’s rules of engagement; ‘whenever any future breach of good conduct of their side, shall render it necessary’ and moved against the Dharug.

1795 – June: ‘I therefore sent a detachment of  two [2] subalterns and sixty [60] privates of the New South Wales to the river…to destroy as many as they could… as well to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protection of the settlers.

It gives me concern to have been forced to destroy any of these people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the settlers who went out there’. Captain William Paterson to Right Hon. Henry Dundas, 15 June, 1795, Historical Records of Australia.

The troops Captain Paterson deployed to the Hawkesbury saw limited skirmishes escalate to ‘open warfare accelerating destruction of the Dharug  whose spears, guts and guile could not match the increased fire-power.

1795 – SEPTEMBER: Governor John Hunter RN, Britain’s second commissioned Governor, reached Sydney in late September 1795. Despite spirited resistance directed at him by Lieutenant John Macarthur, Hunter restored what passed for ‘English civil law’ in New South Wales.

1799 – March, Sydney: Four (4) years later in 1799, Governor Hunter had ‘five [5 European] men charged with the murder of  two [2] natives boys’. Lieutenant Neill Mac Kellar, in command at the Hawkesbury from 1797 to 1799, was called to give evidence.

‘Under questioning he [MacKellar] stated that the orders issued [1795] for the destruction of Aboriginal whenever encountered, after they had committed outrages, had not been countermanded during his command at the Hawkesbury nor to his knowledge since’. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Neill MacKellar, Brigadier M. Austin.

1799 London: While the trial was in progress Whitehall responded to Lieutenant Macarthur’s malicious white-anting by ordering Governor Hunter’s recall to England.

Hunter’s sin? He attempted, as Whitehall had instructed, to stop the importation of ‘fiery Indian rum’ from Bengal.

<<<<<<<<‘The traffic in spirits was commenced by the officers and was destined to be the chief factor which savaged the undercurrent of public life for twenty-five years after the  departure of Governor Phillip’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia. <<<<<<

Teetotaler John Mac arthur was prime mover in the importation of rum. Bought cheaply, sold at exorbitant mark-up, rum generated immense profits for certain officers of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps and their cronies.

A tsunami of rum caused widespread lawlessness throughout the colony. When Captain William Paterson sent a detachment of troops to the Hawkesbury in June 1795 he was in no doubt local Dharug Aborigines ‘had been cruelly treated’ by drunken ex-criminals.

1810 – 1 January, Sydney: Lieutenant-Colonel Lachlan Macquarie  took up his commission as Britain’s fifth Governor of Australia on New Years Day 1810.

Macquarie, the first governor to be drawn from military ranks  brought insurance, a regiment of Highlanders the 73rd Black Watch, troops he commanded previously. Now under Colonel Maurice O’Connell their Irish commander, the Scots were only too willing, to take on rebellious English soldiers.

1810:  High on Governor  Macquarie’s list of instructions from Westminster was scrutiny of corrupt land grants, issued to the military by the military, during two (2) years of anarchy that followed the ‘Rum Rebellion’ of 1808.

1811: Macquarie visited Dharawal country on the Grose River. The area reminded his wife Elizabeth of her birth place in Scotland’s rugged West Highlands. Soon after this visit Macquarie made the  first of a multitude of  ‘lawful’ grants of Aboriginal land during his tenure (1810-1821).

‘As the spread of agriculture disrupted their ancient economy, the Aborigines were forced to take some of the settlers’ crops and spear their stock. Reprisals by the Whites led to guerilla warfare of a large part of the Cumberland Plain’. The Aborigines of the Sydney District before 1788, Peter Turbet, 2001

1811 – Appin:  William Broughton, a civil official of the ‘First Fleet’, received one thousand (1,000) acres of Dharawal land. More land grants followed; forty (40) acres to ex-convicts, up to one hundred and fifty (150) acres to soldier-settlers.

These holdings sprawled across the Dharawal landscape. Trees were felled, ground cleared, fences erected, dwellings built, crops planted, sheep and cattle grazed.

‘The natives’ challenged the take-over of their lands and, fought to protect their resources. Their actions were deemed to fit Arthur Phillip’s criteria ‘future bad conduct’.


The frontier…extended to almost everywhere there was good water and grass’. C.D. Rowley, The Destruction of Aboriginal Society. ibid.

But Australia; ‘a land of drought and flooding rain’ dictated static European-style cultivation introduced in 1788 delivered, will always deliver, erratic and unpredictable outcomes.

1814: So when in 1814 severe drought entered the equation crops failed, cattle died and starving settlers despaired. Starving ‘natives became extremely troublesome’ and clashes between black and white intensified.

Governor Macquarie, a Jekyll and Hyde character when it came to ‘the natives’ offered substantial rewards for the capture and delivery of Aboriginal ‘outlaws’ dead or alive.








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