1790: ‘On 14 December [1790] a troop of over 50 men departed for Botany Bay armed with muskets, hatchets for beheading and bags for carrying the heads. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Spy Governor, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

Governor Phillip’s orders of 14 December 1790 ‘differing in no respect from the last’ were repeated on 22 December 1790 with the same intent ‘catch, kill, behead‘ – a diversion. See: Arthur’s Algorithm

Marine Captain Watkin Tench to whom the orders were given, tells of Governor Phillip’s ‘fixed determination to repeat [them] whenever any future breach of good conduct on their [Aborigines’] part render it necessary’ they served as a template for; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry’ who served in Australia between June 1790 and September 1870. 

1792 – 12 December, Sydney: Governor Arthur Phillip RN, after five (5) traumatic years as Britain’s first Governor of New South Wales and repeated requests for repatriation, sailed home to England in the Atlantic on 12 December 1792. See: M’Entire – Death of a Sure Thing 

London failed to commission an immediate successor. 

1794 – February 6 London: ‘His [Hunter’s] commission as captain-general and governor-in-chief was dated 6 February 1794 [he] did not sail until 25 February 1795′.

1795 – September 7, Sydney: ‘[Hunter] arrived 7 September 1795 and assumed office four days later. For the length of the interregnum the British government was greatly at fault.’ Hunter, J.J. Auchmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography

‘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.

By default between December 1792 and September 1795 ; ‘the plentitude of power’ Britain vested in its naval governors fell into the hands of the military, exposing the First Australians to the brutality of British infantry.

[Who] ‘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.

Twenty- five [25] regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between [June] 1790 and 1870 they participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, 1986, Kangaroo Press, 1986

1790 – June, Sydney: The first contingent of British infantry – the New South Wales Corps – arrived in June 1790 aboard ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’. See: Dancing With Slavers – A Second Fleet

Major Grose their commander remained in London to recruit. Lieutenant John Macarthur, a junior officer, moved to fill the command vacuum.

‘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

Initially that ‘disputation’ was played out between Governor Phillip and Marine Major Robert Ross commander of the Sydney Garrison. In March 1790 Phillip rid himself of Ross by transferring him to Norfolk Island as Lieutenant-Governor there.

Phillip had but a short reprieve. From June 1790 John Macarthur more than adequately replaced Major Ross in the role. More than that Macarthur became the common denominator in the downfall of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors, three (3) ‘autocratic naval governors’.

Governor, Captain John Hunter RN (1795-1800) See: Alice – Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter

Governor, Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN (1800-06) See: Alice – Down the Rabbit Hole with King

Governor, Captain William William ‘Bounty’ Bligh RN (1806-8) See: Australia Day Rebellion – 26 January 1808


1792 – February, Sydney: Seven (7) months before Governor Phillip departed the colony Major Francis Grose arrived on 14th of February 1792 and took command of the New South Wales Corps.

Grose could barely conceal his contempt for the ailing Phillip but bided his time.

‘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.

1792 – 13 December, Sydney: The day following Governor Phillip’s departure Major Grose abolished all ‘civil’ magistrates replacing them with officers of the New South Wales Corps and the colony fell under absolute military rule.

‘Grose must had realized that in superceding 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

By the time Grose took command teetotaller Lieutenant Macarthur had organised his brother officers pool their monies to form trading cartels and import cheap ‘fiery Indian rum’ from Bengal.

They sold the rum to starving ex-convict settlers at sky-high prices making ‘certain officers’ very wealthy.

Major Grose was a disinterested ruler he gave the day to day running of the colony to Macarthur by appointing him Inspector of Works. Macarthur consolidated his power by giving or withholding favours, most non-commissioned and commissioned officers fell quickly into line.

1794 – December, England: Major Grose, wounded in America’s War of Independence (1775-1783), found Sydney’s intense summer heat and draining humidity unbearable. He returned to England in December1794 and 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 guerilla warfare over a large part of the Cumberland Plain’. Peter Turbet, The First Frontier, The Occupation of the Sydney Region 1788-1816, Rosenberg, 2011

Criminals ‘on expiry of sentence’ had their villainy rewarded with grants of Aboriginal land; thirty (30) acres, plus twenty (20) for a wife or de facto plus ten (10) acres for each child. Officers and NCOs with larger parcels were assigned a number of serving convicts to work their land.

English-style static agriculture, always tied to water sources, meant more and more river land was taken up and confrontations between black and white escalated.

Some prisoners exacted revenge on savage overseers by destroying crops or stealing stock. Trusted prisoners, permitted to roam more or less freely, often came into conflict with local Aborigines.

‘As if’ Dr Stanley rightly asserts; ‘the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’.

1794 – February, Prospect: 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.

Governor Phillip’s algorithm; ‘kill, catch, behead…whenever any future breach of good conduct on their [Aborigines’] part render it necessary’.

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

Fences erected to contain stock denied Darug Aboriginals owners of the land access to traditional foods especially yam fields and they struggled to feed their families.

1795 – 15 June, Hawkesbury River: The gun – Captain Paterson, like Grose a veteran of the American war, had but one answer for the troubles on the Hawkesbury.

1795 – 15 June, Hawkesbury River: Paterson 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

The Hawkesbury, awash with rum, guns and white settlers with an overwhelming sense of entitlement, was a ‘lawless’ place. See: A Worm – Hole Richard Atkin’s Diary

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. op.cit.

GOVEROR HUNTER RN: 1795 – 1800

1795 September, Sydney: Governor John Hunter RN hero of the ‘First Fleet’ arrived on the Reliance in early September 1795 and four (4) days later took up his commission as Britain’s second Governor of New South Wales bringing an end to the lengthy interregnum December 1792 to September 1795.

‘From 1788…continuous disputation between…autocratic uniformed naval governors and the military’. McMahon. ibid.

Macarthur took the lead role in bringing down Governor Hunter. Captain John Hunter, a hero of Governor Phillip’s administration, failed to the stop the importation of rum or control a rogue military outfit and was recalled to London. See: Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter

GOVERNOR KING RN: 1800 – 1806

Phillip Gidley King another ‘First Fleeter’ succeeded Governor Hunter. Initially King, as he strove to bring law and order to ‘an unruly outpost of Empire’ had more success than Hunter in staring down the military. See: Irish & the English King in Australia

When Governor King took up his commission the colony was a hotbed of jealous tittle-tattle, back-stabbing, double-dealing and snide, sniggering gossip.

Macarthur turned his pernicious attention onto King who reacted to Macarthur’s vicious undermining by sending him to England for censure.

In England Macarthur resigned his commission, sought friends in high places and deftly turned the tables on Governor King who too, as result of Macarthur’s white-anting, was recalled to England. See: Down the Rabbit Hole with King

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

In his satchel a grant for 5000 acres of land issued by Lord ‘Plantations’ Camden and a promise of 5000 more if he succeeded establishing for Britain’s benefit an Australian sheep and wool industry.


Government sought to consolidate Britain’s sovereignty over New South Wales and selected Captain William Bligh RN of ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ fame or infamy to replace Governor Gidley King RN.

Whitehall, influenced by Sir Joseph Banks, was certain Bligh’s bombastic ‘martinet’ style and blistering ‘quarter-deck’ language, could restore law and order to an out of control colony and bring a rogue military outfit to heel.

1806 – August, Sydney: Governor Bligh arrived aboard Lady Sinclair in early August 1806 by then John Macarthur had perfected his bullying skills.

When Bligh like his predecessors Hunter and King attempted to stop the rivers of gold flowing from sales of ‘fiery Indian rum’ Macarthur took careful aim; within eighteen (18) months Bligh was under lock and key a prisoner of the military. See: Coup-ee

1808 – 26 January, Government House: On 26 January 1808, 20th anniversary of Governor Phillip’s hoisting the Union Jack at Sydney Cove in 1788, troops led by Captain George Johnston of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps, marched up Bridge Street and breached Government House.

A battering-ram smashed the entrance door, Captain Governor William Bligh RN was seized at gun-point. A cannon mounted in the grounds was made ready and crewed to mow down any who tried to intervene on Bligh’s behalf. See: Australia Day Rebellion 26 January 1808

1809 – February, Sydney: Throughout 1808 Governor Bligh and Mary, his recently widowed daughter, remained prisoners of the military in Government House. In 1809 both were confined for a short time at the George Street barracks from where, by way of deception, Bligh talked his way to freedom.

1809 – 22 February, Tasmania: To gain freedom Bligh promised to sail immediately to England. However once in command of HMS Porpoise he set course for Van Diemens Land now Tasmania. See: Sydney to Hobart with Governor Bligh – Imagine

1809 – 29 March, England: Mr John Macarthur, who supplied the fine wines that fuelled the Australia Day rebellion, together with Major George Johnston who led his troops against Governor Bligh, sailed for England in the Admiral Gambier at the end of March 1809 to answer for their pivotal roles in the ‘Rum Rebellion’ .


Following the military insurrection governance of ‘The Distracted Settlement’ was now in the dubious hands of brutal Major Joseph Foveaux and Colonel William Paterson who earlier, in 1801, Macarthur wounded with a shot from his duelling pistol.

Paterson a veteran of the American War never fully recovered from that wounding and by 1809 was a shell of a man with a ‘two-bottle-a-day’ habit.


1810 – 1 January, Sydney: Colonel Macquarie, Britain’s fifth Governor of Australia, the first 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 commanded previously.

The Black Watch in full battle kit lined the decks of HMS Hindostan and HMS Dromedary as to the skirl of pipes perhaps ‘When blue bonnets came over the border’ the two (2) warships sailed slowly up Sydney Harbour leaving Foveaux and Paterson in no doubt, under Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice O’Connell, the Regiment’s Irish commander, his feared Scots would be only too willing to take on the rebellious New South Wales Corps.

During Governor Macquarie’s tenure 1810-1821 convict transportation continued apace. To feed an ever-increasing white population more and more Aboriginal land was taken and given over to cropping and grazing.

1811 – Appin: In 1811 Aboriginal land beyond Cowpastures, along the Cataract and Grose Rivers, was added to the rapid expansion of farming along the Hawkesbury and Nepean River systems. One area Macquarie named Appin after his wife Elizabeth’s Scottish birthplace.

‘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

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

1815 – New South Wales: As well as more convicts Australia needed navvies, shepherds, farm labourers, whalers and sealers. Macquarie insisted Britain send males not females

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

Britain introduced forced migration combined with assisted and ‘bounty’ schemes to get rid of her ‘undesirables’. The population of Sydney and its environs had a ratio of 6:1 – one (1) women for every six (6) men by 1820. See: G for Gender

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

An expanding white population centred on the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Grose River systems in ‘a land of drought and flooding rains’ was subject to the scourge of cyclic natural disasters. Severe drought, torrential rains, plagues of flying-foxes, locusts and caterpillar saw crops fail, stock drown or die from lack of feed.

Britain stole New Holland an island continent, its peoples’ freedoms, their culture and when they resisted killed them. Aborigines killed the invaders and stole their sheep and corn.

As if the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’. Stanley. ibid.

1816 – April: Governor Lachlan Macquarie; ‘fire on them…to strike the greater terror…hang the bodies up on trees’.

Governor Phillip’s war; ‘nasty and decidedly lacking in glory…British troops helped to to determine the civilisation which would replace the culture of the Australian Aborigines’. Stanley ibid.

1790 – December: Governor Arthur Phillip; ‘infuse universal terror…whenever any future breach of good conduct on their part render it necessary’. See: Arthur’s AlgorithmOpen Sesame

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

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

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.

1816 – 16 April: The detachment appears to have engaged the Dharawal tribe in two (2) separate actions. Captain Wallis dealt first with a hunting party of Dharawal men who were attacked and killed.

The women, children and old people awaiting their return were now easy prey; ‘a few of my men heard a child cry’.

1816 – 17 April, Appin: The detachment reached the home camp in the early hours of 17th April 1816.

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 corpses were; ‘hung up on trees’ headless but not anonymous.

‘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…Cannabaygals’s skull was described in Sir George Mackenzie’s 1820 book, Illustrations of Phrenology’. Turbet, The First Frontier. ibid.

The heads of Cannabaygala and Dunell were taken to Sydney boiled and their skulls exported to the Anatomy Department of Edinburgh University, Scotland.

Both skulls ‘returned to Australia in the early 1990s’ according to Peter Turbet.

2017 – Canberra, Australia: At present – 2017 – the remains of Dharawal warriors Cannabaygal and Dunnell are held at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.


1817 – 30 September, Sydney: John Macarthur returned to Camden at the end of September 1817 after more than eight (8) years of exile in England. After assessing the way the wind blew, Macarthur hitched his star to Commissioner Thomas Bigge, sent from London to spy on Governor Macquarie.

Macarthur added his own particular brand of vitriol to the process of denigration. London censored Governor Macquarie, not for killing and beheading the First Nations’ Peoples, but for erecting beautiful buildings and attempting to straighten Sydney’s crooked streets.

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