‘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


‘A knowledge of the position of the military and their immediate friends occupied from 1792-1810, affords a key to the whole history of the colony; and without this knowledge many important transactions, affecting the civil, social and political interests of the community would appear almost incomprehensible’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation Vol. 1 to 1800, Facsimile Edition, 1981.


‘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 Hopper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift, Forward Professor Russell Lincoln Ackoff, I.B. Tauris, New York,


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


‘His [Hunter’s] commission as captain-general and governor-in-chief was dated 6 February 1794 [he] did not sail until 25 February 1795…arrived [Sydney] 7 September 1795 and assumed office four days later’. Auchmuty. op.cit.


Following repeated requests for repatriation Governor Arthur Phillip RN received approval to return to England.

Sydney – 1792, December 12: Phillip departed Sydney for England at the end of 1792 in the Atlantic taking Bennalong and Yemmerrawannie a younger warrior  with him.

By default after Governor Phillip’s departure ‘the plenitude of power’ Britain vested in its naval governors fell into the hands of the military exposing the First Australians to the brutality of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps. See:  Arthur’s Algorithm – Infuse Universal Terror – Open Sesame 

Shortly after reaching England Phillip resigned Governorship of New South Wales. His successor, the First Fleet’s courageous Captain John Hunter RN, was not commissioned until 6th of February 1794. See Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland.


London Gazette Extract

Sydney – 1790 June: The first contingent of the New South Wales Corps, sent to replace the ‘First Fleet’ marines, arrived in June 1790 with ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ – the second fleet.

Major Grose their commander remained in London. Lieutenant John Macarthur a ruthless, manipulative junior officer fuelled by personal ambition, seized the initiative and filled the power vacuum.

Macarthur proved to be the common denominator in the downfall of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval governors Captain John Hunter  RN (1795-1800) Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN (1800-06) and Captain William Bligh RN (1806-8).

Later still (1817) Macarthur returned to Sydney from a second period of enforced  exile in England.  He added  his well honed vitriol to aid Thomas Bigge the Commissioner sent from London to bring down the ‘big-spender’ Governor Lachlan Macquarie.


1792 – February, Sydney: Major Francis Grose arrived in the colony on Valentine’s Day 1792 to assume command of the New South Wales Corp.

His ship Pitt, a transport of a larger third fleet,  whose ships over a period,  brought approximately two thousand (2000) mainly male convicts.

Pitt herself carried about four hundred (400) male convicts. A Navy Board Report dated 25 June 1791 provides an insight into the conditions they endured.

‘In the prison space of a cube six [6] feet is all that is allowed to eight [8] men, and should the 391 men be placed in the prison every berth or space of 18 inches would be occupied, if a sickness should happen, a sick and a person in health must touch each other’.  Commissioner of the Navy, cited Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships, Brown, Son & Ferguson, Ltd. Glasgow 1959

Two hundred and fifteen (215) infantry troops accompanied Major Grose, bringing  the New South Wales Corps up to establishment strength.

Grose, a wounded veteran of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), barely concealed his contempt for the ailing Governor Phillip but bided his time.

1792 – 13 December, Sydney: Grose made his move  the day after Governor Phillip departed. He abolished all ‘civil’ magistrates replacing them with his officers.

‘Grose must had realized that in superseding the magistrates he was making an alteration in judicial government which was contrary to the Royal Instructions expressed both in Phillip’s Commission and the Letters Patent establishing the Courts of Law.’ William Foster, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol 51, part 3, 1948

To the extreme detriment of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples the colony fell under the absolute power of military dictatorship.


‘It is absolutely necessary, in order to understand the social, civil and political condition of the colonists at this period, and for many years afterwards, to keep steadily in view the abolition of civil authority and the substitution in its stead of what was at first virtually a military despotism, but which afterwards became a petty oligarchy’. Samuel Bennett ibid.

Meantime teetotaller Macarthur had organised his brother officers pool their monies. They formed trading cartels to import ‘fiery Indian rum’ from Bengal.

Rum bought cheaply was sold to starving distressed ex-convicts for exorbitant profit.

Major Grose proved a lackadaisical ruler. He appointed Lieutenant Macarthur Inspector of Works a position that handed him the day to day running of the colony.

Vindictive Macarthur consolidated his power by giving or withholding favours. Most officers and the non-commissioned fell quickly into line.

1794 – December, England: Major Grose,found Sydney’s intense summer heat unbearable. He returned to England in December1794. Governance of the colony passed to Captain William Paterson his second-in-command.


‘As the spread of agriculture disrupted their ancient economy…the strain on traditional food resources must have been immense, forcing Aborigines onto the farms of settlers. Aborigines were forced to take some of the settlers’ crops and spear their stock’. Reprisals by the Whites led to guerrilla warfare over a large part of the Cumberland Plain’. Peter Turbet, The First Frontier, The Occupation of the Sydney Region 1788-1816, Rosenberg, 2011

In Australia, a land of ‘drought and flooding rain’ English-style static agriculture, tied to water sources, meant crops and stock were always at risk from cyclic extremes of weather.

To every [First Fleet] non-commissioned officer an allotment of 130 acres of land if single and of 150 acres if married. To every private soldier an allotment of 80 acres if single and of 100 acres if married, and also an allotment of 10 acres for every child, whether of a non-commissioned officer or of a private soldier’. Historical Records of New South Wales, cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Sydney 1788-92, Allen & Unwin, 1999 

To encourage criminals remain in the colony ‘on expiry of sentence’ their  villainy was rewarded with grants of Aboriginal land.

Some serving prisoners exacted revenge on savage ex-convict overseers by destroying crops or stealing their stock. Others, armed and permitted to roam more or less freely, often came into conflict with local Aborigines.

Confrontations between black and white escalated as more river land was fenced off. ‘As if’ Dr Stanley so rightly asserts; ‘the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’.


‘In America [War of Independence], the officers had grants of land in proportion to their rank; but those of the marines who are now here, and have borne every hardship, have no such thing, neither is there an intention of giving each their portion’. Captain William Hill, to Samuel Waltham, Woodstock, Gloucester. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol 1.

This letter is believed to have been forwarded to the Admiralty.

According to Hill; ‘no arrangements were made for granting lands to [First Fleet] officers who wished to settle [caused] great disquiet of every individual in the colony’.

It must be noted many ‘First Fleet’ officers, Phillip, White, Dawes, Hunter, Tench, among them, served Britain well during America’s Revolutionary War against the ‘motherland’.

But if Captain Hill was critical of withholding land from ‘First Fleet’ officers, he made little comment when Aboriginal families were driven from their ancient holdings.


‘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, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1899-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

The Rules of Engagement Governor Phillip issued to Marine Captain Watkin Tench on 13 of December 1790; ‘infuse universal terrormy fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach good conduct on their [Aborigines’] part, shall render it necessary’ served as a template for those ‘twenty-five British regiments’.

1794 – February, Prospect:  Such ‘necess[ity]’ took place at Prospect in February 1794.

‘The Watchmen claimed to have killed three [3] Darug…they returned to Toongabbie with the head of one [1] of the slain’. Peter Turbet, ibid.

1795 – Hawkesbury River: By 1795 settlers, ex-convicts and military land-owners, had established farming settlements; ‘thirty (30) miles’ along both sides of the Hawkesbury – Deerubbun River.

Fences to contain stock denied Darug Aboriginals access to traditional food, especially yam their main winter crop and they struggled to feed their families.

‘A lawless place’ the Hawkesbury awash with rum, guns and settlers with an overwhelming sense of entitlement to THEIR LAND – a reality unthinkable in their own homeland.

Captain Paterson wrote in dispatches;It gives me concern to have been forced to destroy any of these [Darug] people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the first settlers who went out there’. Historical Records New South Wales op. cit.

1795 – 15 June, Hawkesbury River: Paterson, despite reservations, sent a detachment of; ‘two subalterns and sixty privates of the New South Wales Corps to the river, as well as to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protection of the settlers’. Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. 1

1795 – September, Sydney:  Governor John Hunter RN hero of the ‘First Fleet’ arrived in September of 1795 aboard the Reliance bringing the lengthy interregnum December 1792 -September 1795 to an end.


‘No one in the colony caused Phillip more trouble than Major Ross. Of all Phillip’s problems, including those of the terrible famine of 1789 and 1790, probably none was so harassing as the persistent antagonism’. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1987.

That vehement ‘disputation’ had initially been played out between Governor Arthur Phillip and Major Robert Ross Commander of the Sydney Marine Garrison.

In March 1790 Phillip had rid himself of Major Ross by appointing him Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island. But Phillip’s reprieve was short-lived.

Soon after John Macarthur’s arrival in June 1790 he took up the ‘harassing’ role in spades. He went on to take the lead role in bringing down Phillip’s successor Governor John Hunter Britain’s second commissioned governor of New South Wales.

In 1800 Governor Hunter (1795-1800) was recalled to London in disgrace. See: Alice: Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter.  


‘The original motive for the white settlement of Van Diemens Land was political rather than economic. The British wanted to prevent the French from establishing a colony. They achieved this in September 1803 when a colony of forty-nine (49) people was established at Risdon Cove’. Bruce Elder, Blood on the Wattle, 1998.

In the early 1800s numbers of French ships ‘appeared in and about Australian waters’ seeking repairs, water and provisions.

Macarthur, the attack-dog, had by now turned his pernicious attention onto Governor King RN and nothing, certainly not the French, would deter him.

Governor King was hospitable entertaining French Officers at Government House.  All the time, being in no doubt as in 1788, France England’s arch-enemy, was intent on establishing a physical presence in Australia as a jumping-off point to India and Asia. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

1803 – Risdon Cove, Tasmania: Lieutenants John Bowen RN, twenty-five (25) convicts and Lieutenant William Moore, with twenty-five (25) rank and file of the New South Wales Corps, were sent by Governor King to southern Tasmania to establish a settlement at Risden Cove on the Derwent River. See: A War Grave – Tasmania.


When King took up his commission in 1800, under Macarthur’s influence, the colony had become  a hotbed of jealous tittle-tattle, back-stabbing, double-dealing, the snide sniggering gossip of Shakespeare’s ‘pipes’.

In a duel between Macarthur  and Colonel Paterson his commanding officer in August 1801, the young teetotaller’s steady hand had delivered a wound from which the older man would never fully recover.

Now (1804) King, having stymied French ambition in southern Tasmania, turned his attention to the island’s far north. Paterson requested he be allowed to lead an expedition there.

Paterson established two (2) northern settlements – George Town and Yorktown – on the Tamar River thereby securing the whole of Tasmania for the British Empire.

Governor King sent Macarthur to England for court-martialHe prepared depositions against Macarthur entrusting them with Lieutenant Mackellar his aide-de-camp. But en-route to England Mackellar’s ship was wrecked and the Governor’s case against Macarthur collapsed from lack of evidence.

Macarthur used his time in England well. Resigning his commission he sought friends in high places and deftly turned the tables on Governor King who was recalled to England. See: Down The Rabbit Hole with Governor King

1805 – Sydney: Macarthur now a powerful business-man with patronage returned to Sydney from England in mid 1805 aboard Argo his own ship.

In Macarthur’s satchel a grant for 5000 acres of land, authorised by Lord ‘Plantations’ Camden, with a promise of 5000 more if he succeeded in establishing an Australian sheep and wool industry.

§1806-1808 GOVERNOR BLIGH §

Sir Joseph Banks had botanical and literary connections with Colonel Paterson and, an aristocrat’s distrust of the upstart Macarthur dabbling in wool.

Banks a fellow of The Royal Society  was charged with preserving the integrity of the ‘King’s flock’ at Kew.

He influenced Whitehall to select Captain William Bligh RN of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame or infamy to replace Governor Gidley King RN to rule New South Wales.

Government was certain Bligh’s bombastic ‘martinent’ style and blistering ‘quarter-deck’ language, would bring to heel a rogue military outfit and restore law and order to an out of control colony.

But as history attests within eighteen (18) months Bligh had failed in both endeavours.


1806 – August, Sydney: Governor Bligh, accompanied by Mary Putland his recently married daughter, arrived aboard Lady Sinclair in early August 1806.

Macarthur had by then perfected his bully-boy skills. He took careful aim when Bligh, like his predecessors Hunter and King, attempted to stop the rivers of gold flowing from importing ‘fiery Indian rum’.

1808 – 26 January, Government House: In January 1808, on the 20th anniversary of Governor Phillip’s hoisting the Union Jack at Sydney  Cove, Captain George Johnston, commander of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps, rode at the head of a column of his troops marching up Bridge Street to breach Government House.

A battering-ram smashed the entrance door and Governor Bligh was seized at gun-point. A cannon mounted in the grounds was made ready to mow down any dissenters.

For a year Bligh and Mary, now recently widowed, remained prisoners in Government House.

At the beginning of the following year, in a threatening move,  father and daughter were taken from Government House and confined at the Corps’ barracks in George Street.

1809 – February, Sydney:  From there, by deception, Bligh talked his way to freedom by pledging to sail immediately for England. However Cunning Bligh boarded HMS Porpoise  but did not set a course for England as promised.

Instead he began a blockade of the harbour. He bailed up incoming and outgoing vessels and threatened to open fire and shell Sydney Town into submission.

For some reason he thought better of the action and departed for Hobart. See: Imagine: Nine Months and Six Days With Bligh  



Following the rebellion ‘The Distracted Settlement’ was left in dubious hands of brutal Major Joseph Foveaux.

Asthmatic Foveaux  had recently returned from sick-leave in England. In an effort to distance himself from the rebellion, he requested Colonel Paterson return from Tasmania to take up nominal command at Sydney.

By 1809 he was a shell of a man with a ‘two-bottle-a-day’ habit. Nevertheless, after some reluctance Paterson and his long-suffering wife,  returned to Sydney to take up official residence at Parramatta.

Paterson never fully recover from Macarthur’s shot. He died on the return voyage from Sydney to England and Mrs Paterson later married Major Grose.

1809 – 29 March, England:  The now Mr John Macarthur, who had not attended the 1808 commemorative dinner, but did supply the fine wines that fuelled the Australia Day rebellion, together with Major George Johnston whose troops seized Governor Bligh, sailed for England at the end of March 1809 to answer for their pivotal roles in the ‘Rum Rebellion’.


1810 – 1 January, Sydney: Macquarie, the first governor raised from military ranks, took up his commission on the first day of January 1810. Macquarie brought insurance. A Scots regiment – the 73rd – troops he had commanded previously.

Highlanders in full battle-order lined the decks of HMS Hindostan and HMS Dromedary as they sailed slowly up Sydney Harbour, to the skirl of pipes, perhaps ‘When blue bonnets came over the border’.

The scene left Major Joseph Foveaux and Colonel Paterson in no doubt, under Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice O’Connel their Irish commander, the Black Watch were only too willing to take on the rebellious New South Wales Corps.


‘The settlement of these lands had been partly precipitated by the disastrous floods along the Hawkesbury in 1809…the first in May, had destroyed practically all the previous harvest and the second in August had destroyed the growing crop’. Peter Laut, Agricultural Geography, Vol. 2. Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1968

Macquarie named one such area south-west of Sydney Appin after his wife Elizabeth’s Highland birthplace.

1811 – Appin:  In 1811,beyond Cowpastures along the Cataract and Grose Rivers, land was taken up adjacent to John and Elizabeth Macarthur’s Camden holdings.

During Macquarie’s tenure 1810-1821 convict transportation continued apace. To feed an ever-increasing English population Aboriginal land was fenced off ‘parcel by parcel’ and given over to cropping and grazing.

1815 – England:  Push factors; following the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), in addition to pressure exerted by a natural increase in population, an avalanche of traumatised soldiers and sailors were thrown onto the scrapheap of the unemployed and unemployable.

1815 – New South Wales:  Pull factors ; Australia needed more convicts, navvies, shepherds, farm labourers, sealers and whalers. So Macquarie insisted Britain send men not women.

About this time Britain introduced forced migration combined with assisted and ‘bounty’ schemes aimed at getting rid of ‘undesirables’.

‘Deserving’ paupers were swept from appalling workhouses while the ‘undeserving poor’ were scooped up from under bridges, out of sleazy alley-ways, off filthy streets and shipped to New South Wales.

By 1820 the population of New South Wales had a gender ratio of 6:1 – one (1) white woman for every six (6) white men. See: G for Genocide

Britain stole the land, resources, language and culture of Australia’s First Peoples. To survive in their own country they stole the invaders’ sheep , cattle and corn.

Meantime the expanding white population, strung out along the Hawkesbury, Nepean, and Grose Rivers, suffered the scourge of cyclic natural disasters.

Severe drought was followed by torrential rains, plagues of flying-foxes, locusts and caterpillar. Crops failed, stock drowned or died from lack of feed.

§  Governor Lachlan Macquarie – infuse universal terror’  §

1816 – 10 April, Sydney: ‘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 driving 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 military 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 Lachlan Macquarie Diary, 10 April, 1816

Towards the First Australians Macquarie adopted a Jekyll and Hyde stance.  Steeped as he was in the internecine intricacies of Scottish clan dynamics, Macquarie knew instinctively how to manipulate alliances and ignite enmities. He played favourites setting one group against another

Macquarie’s’ punishing hostile natives’ response of the 10th of April 1816 came directly from Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790; ‘to strike the greater terror…if six [6] cannot be taken…let that number [6] be shot…bring in the heads of the slain’.

Macquarie appointed Captain James Wallis lead the raid on the Dharawal at Appin. In terms of body-count, of the three (3) forays carried out by the 46th South Devons, the Wallis raid was the most successful.

1816 – April, Appin: ‘The Massacre of men, women and children of the Dharawal Nation occurred near here [Appin] on 17th April, 1816. Fourteen were counted this day, but the real number will never be known’. The Appin Massacre Monument, Cataract Dam, Citied in Turbet, The First Frontier. Ibid.

Appin Massacre Memorial plaque

Appin Massacre Memorial

1816 – 16 April: The detachment appears to have engaged the Dharawal in two (2) separate actions.

Wallis’ troops dealt first with a hunting party of Dharawal men. They were attacked and killed.

‘A few of my men heard a child cry’.

The women, children and the old waiting at the home camp, were easy prey. The Wallis detachment reached them in the early hours of 17th April.

1816 – 17 April:  ‘I formed 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] Dharawal could be counted’. Captain James Wallis, Reel 6045, New South Wales State Archives, St Marys

‘To strike the greater terror’ two (2) headless Dharawal corpses were; ‘hung up on trees’.

‘He [Wallis] ordered Lieutenant Parker to hang the corpses of Cannabaygala and Dunell on a prominent hill near Lachlan Vale…strung up just north of Wilton Road’. Turbet, The First Frontier. ibid.

Headless but not anonymous.

‘Cannabaygala’s skull was described in Sir George Mackenzie’s 1820 book, Illustrations of Phrenology’. 

The two (2) heads were taken to Sydney for boiling down and the skulls, together with that of an unnamed girl or woman, exported to the Anatomy Department of Edinburgh University, Scotland.

According to Peter Turbet Cannabaygal and Dunnell ‘returned to Australia in the early 1990s’.

2018 – Canberra, Australia: At present their remains are held at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.


In September 1817 John Macarthur, after a lengthy exile in England, returned to Australia. He lent a practised hand to Commissioner Bigge sent from England to investigate Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s wrong-doings.

But not for killing the First Australians. Macquarie was  vilified for his perceived extravagances. He straightened streets and erected fine buildings.

Commissioner Bigge was particularly offended by Macquarie’s stables, now the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.  See: ‘Terror’ Arthur Phillip & John Macarthur – The Elephant In The Room 

Post Script

The French did not give up easily. ‘It is known in 1810, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, a planned invasion of Sydney was nullified by the British fleet’s capture of Mauritius before Napoleon’s orders could be carried out’.




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