‘The ability to shock bestows a kind of power’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta, London, 2014

1790 – 13 December, Sydney Headquarters: Governor Arthur Phillip – General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench: ‘Infuse universal terror…put ten [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Year, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from Governor Arthur Phillip’s orders of December 1790.

‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

Where lay the threat to Governor Phillip in December 1790? Certainly not with the Bidjigal at Botany Bay cut down by smallpox. If not the Bidjigal who was Phillip ‘enemy’? See: A Clash of Giants – Arthur Phillip & John Macarthur – The Great Pretender

‘For the Sydney people to lose 50% or more of their military capability in a few weeks was a crushing blow’. Stephen Gapps, The Sydney Wars, NewSouth Books, 2018

The previous year (1789) smallpox had killed 50% of Sydney Aborigines leaving the survivors struggling to regroup. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775, Sydney 1789 – Robert Ross and David Collins

1790 – 9  December, Botany Bay: ‘On the 9th of the month, a sergeant of marines, with three convicts…went out on a shooting party…to the north arm of Botany Bay…among them M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the convict of whom Bannelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred)’. Tench. ibid. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

1790 – 10 December, Botany Bay: At 1 am; ‘the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes’. Pemulwuy the Aboriginal warrior speared John M’Entire; ‘he expressed a longing desire not to be left to expire in the woods’. See: A Tethered Goat

1790 – 11 December, Sydney: Tench says the shooting party, with M’Entire in tow, reached Sydney in the early hours of 12 December 1790.

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: ‘I [Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately’ where Governor Phillip issued his General Orders:

‘Put to death ten cut off and bring back the heads of the slain…two prisoners I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in, in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected…and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

Pemulwuy’s spearing of M’Entire was a targeted attack by a known assailant; ‘put ten [10] to death’ was indiscriminate retaliation – destroying the innocent as well as the guilty.

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

Tench proposed; ‘capture 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 [6] be shot’.

1790 – 13 December: Tench ordered his troops, fifty (50) men – two (2) officers with the regulation ratio of non-commissioned to forty (40) private soldiers; ‘be ready to go out tomorrow morning at daylight [14th] with three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners with and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.  See: A Hatchet Job – Heads Off The Bidgigal of Botany Bay

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

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. Don Watson, Story of Australia, 1984

All of ‘Phillip’s people’ had been marooned since 1788. The marines suffered profound lethargy from prolonged semi-starvation, most could barely stand let alone undertake a three (3) days march in full kit under a blazing December sun. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

1790 – 14 December, Sydney:  So it is certain, when the section moved out for Botany Bay on the 14th of December 1790, the majority of its forty (40) rank and file would have been infantrymen of the New South Wales Corps who, in June 1790, arrived from England to relieve the beleaguered marines. See: Dark Matter

The newly arrived foot troops were first contingent of; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry they participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

‘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 latter are much more serious than the former’. Kenneth Hoper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift, Forward, Russell Lincoln Ackoff, I.B. Tauris, 2009.

1792 –  12 December, Sydney: Governor Phillip sailed for home in mid December 1792. Tragically for the First Australians London failed to commission a successor. Captain John Hunter RN, the second governor, would not reach Sydney until September 1795.

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

‘Omission’ 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.

‘Convince them of our superiority’; there is no evidence Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790 were ever countermanded. Extant, they served as a template that went onto govern all future confrontations between the British invaders and Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

1792 – 13 December: The day following Phillip’s departure Major Francis Grose commanding officer of the New South Wales Corps took control of the colony. He dismissed the civil magistrates appointed by Governor Phillip as required by official Letters Patent.

‘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.

Grose, wounded in the American War of Independence 1775-1783, proved a lackadaisical commander. He appointed Lieutenant John Macarthur paymaster.

‘The control of labour was largely vested in his new regimental pay-master, Lieutenant John Macarthur – a central figure in the military mafia which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property-owing elite’. Arthur Phillip, Gentleman, Scholar and Seaman, Dr. Nigel Rigby, Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Dr. Pieter Van der Merwe, British National Maritime Museum, Prof. Emeritius History, Queen Mary, University of London, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018

For the next twenty-five (25) years ‘frontier war, nasty and decidedly lacking in glorycentred on Aboriginal river lands, the Deerrubin – Hawkesbury, Nepean and Grose River systems.

When Major Grose returned to England at the of 1794 Captain William Paterson, another physically and emotionally damaged ‘three bottles a day’ veteran of the American Revolutionary War succeeded him.

By 1794 over four hundred (400) settlers were farming Dharug; ‘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 hundred [200] Aborigines were killed’. Stanley. ibid.

1795 – June, Hawkesbury:  Governor Hunter was still on the high seas when Paterson; ‘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…a well to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protections 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. See: A Worm Hole – Richard Atkins Diary

The troops 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 reached Sydney in late September 1795. Despite John Macarthur’s spirited antagonism directed at him the new governor managed to restore what passed for ‘English civil law’ in New South Wales.

1799 – March, Sydney: Four (4) years later Governor Hunter ordered ‘five [5] European] men changed with the murder of two [2] native boys’.

Lieutenant Neil MacKellar, in command at the Hawkesbury from 1797 to 1799, was called to give evidence in court.

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

1799 – London: While the trial was in progress Hunter was informed of his recall to England. The reasons given were twofold. He had failed to stop the importation of ‘fiery Indian rum’ imported from Bengal and he did not to get along with the military thugs of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.

‘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, Records. ibid.

Teetotaller John Macarthur was prime mover in the importation of rum from Bengal. Rum bought cheaply and, sold at an exorbitant mark-up, generated immense profits for certain officers of the ‘Rum’ Corps and their cronies.

When the ex-convicts who bought their rum went broke the officers who sold it to them were on hand to buy up their farms.

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

Lieutenant John ‘McMafia’ Macarthur was the common denominator in the recall to London of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval Governors, John Hunter, Phillip Gidley King and William Bligh.

And when he returned from a lengthy forced exile in England Macarthur was just in time to add a practised hand in the character assassination of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the first British Governor recruited from military ranks.

1800 – Sydney: Governor Hunter was replaced by Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King, who like Hunter was another First Fleeter returning ‘home’ to Australia. See: Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter

1800-1806: See: The Irish & the English King in Australia.

1806 – August 1806: Governor William Bligh RN arrived in Sydney orders for Governor Phillip Gidley King’s recall. See: Down The Rabbit Hole with King

1808 – 26 January, Sydney: When ‘Bounty’ Bligh made strenuous effort to stem the tsunami of grog he too found himself under attack from Macarthur. On the 20th anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s raising of the Union Jack Governor Bligh was taken arrested by the New South Wales Corps. See: Australia Day Rebellion – Australia Day 1808


 ‘The natives will be made severe examples of whenever any man is wounded by them….and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’. Governor Phillip, cited Tench. ibid

Governor Phillip General Orders of 13th and ‘differing in no respect from the last‘ were repeated on 22 December 1790. The second raid triggered an algorithm for ‘future terror’ that ‘lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth century’. Kercher. ibid.


A map detailing ‘the better documented’ massacres of ‘dissenting Aboriginal’ Australians from the 1790s – to the 1920s was published in 2017


1816 – April, Appin: The first to meet the criteria of fourteen (14) known killed occurred in Macarthur country at Broughton Pass in April 1816. Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s orders of 10 April are eerily similar to those of Governor Arthur Phillip in December 1790.in lock-step with


The ‘The warrior skilled at stirring the enemy proffers the bait’. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin Books, 2009 

See: Mc Intyre – Death of a Sure Thing


1816: Appin:












Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply