Posts Tagged ‘Bligh’


Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

‘Until, the year 1823 the government of New South Wales was vested entirely in the Governor who worked under the control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department….He was an autocrat, wielding the widest powers, amenable to no criticism but than of the Minister [13,000 miles (21,000 km) away] in England’. Professor Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1953

Captain Arthur Phillip RN, Britain’s first commissioned Governor of Australia ‘broken in health’ after five (5) traumatic years of service, returned to England.

Phillip, accompanied by Bennalong and Yemmerrawannie two (2) Aboriginal warriors, departed Sydney for London in the Atlantic at the end 1792. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

Whitehall due to a ‘policy of drift’ failed to commission a second governor.

‘For the length of the interregnum the British Government was greatly at fault’. J.J. Achmutty, John Hunter, Australian Dictionary of Biography See: A Black Hole the First Interregnum December 1792-September 1795

London – 1789:  William Wyndham Grenville, a young cousin of Prime Minister Pitt, replaced Lord Sydney as Home Secretary in June 1789. In mid-October the London Gazette informed the public reinforcements were to be sent to New South Wales.

‘War Office: A Corps. of Foot for New South Wales Major Francis Grose from the Half-Pay of the late 96th Regiment, is appointed to be the Major Commandant’https://www.the

Whitehall – January 1790: ‘I am commanded to signify to you the King’s pleasure that directions be immediately given for the embarkation of the Corps raised for service in New South Wales and commanded by Major Grose’. Right Hon.W.W. Grenville to Secretary of War, London, 20 January 1790

1790 – 1 JANUARY @ SYDNEY 

‘No communication  whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787…The misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted even by those who have suffered under it’. Sydney’s First Four Years, Marine Captain Watkin Tench, ed. F.L. Firtzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

The previous year a look-out had be erected ;’on a high bluff, called South-head, at the entrance of the harbour…every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, die we sweep the horizon, in the hope of seeing a sail’. 

Norfolk Island – March 1790: Creeping starvation forced Governor Phillip evacuate 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island. He took the opportunity of ridding himself of Major Robert Ross the troublesome commander of the Sydney Garrison.

‘No one in the colony caused Phillip more trouble than Major Ross. Of all Phillip’s problems, including the terrible famine of 1789 and 1790, probably none was so harassing as the persistent antagonism, both covert and open, which Ross pursued against him’.  John Moore, The First Fleet Marines, 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1986

HMS Supply after landing marines, convicts and supplies would return to Sydney with Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN. King was a trusted confrere who had served under Phillip in the recent American war 1775-1783.

China: HMS Sirius the fleet’s flagship, largest of the two (2) king’s ships, was to sail onto China and arrange an urgent rescue mission.

Sydney – March: ‘A further retrenchment of our ration…four pounds of flour, two and a half of salt pork, and one and a half of rice per week’. Tench. ibid.

In foul weather, on the 19th of March, Sirius had swung on her anchor, hit a submerged reef, and sank. All souls landed safely. The crew one hundred and sixty (160) Royal Navy personnel were now marooned on the island along the evacuees.

Sydney – 6 April 1790: ‘I saw captain Ball [Supply] make an extraordinary motion with his hand, which too plainly indicated that something disastrous had happened…we learned, that the Sirius had been wrecked on Norfolk Island’.

The following day Governor Phillip called a meeting-in-council;  ‘at the present [weekly] ration…2 pounds [salted] pork until 2d July, 2 ½ pounds flour 20 August, 2 pounds rice 1 October’. 

The decision was taken to send HMS Supply to Batavia for relief supplies.

Indonesia – 17 April 1790:  HMS Supply sailed for Jakarta. Captain Ball RN was to purchase tons of supplies.and charter a Dutch ship to bring them to Sydney.  Ball would return to Sydney with as much food and medicines as Supply could carry.

Tench says; ‘all hopes were now concentrated in the little Supply’.  In more ways than one. Aboard was Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King who was to make his way to England ‘by whatever means’ and deliver Governor Phillip’s despatches.

Some had been written after HMS Sirius’s epic voyage of circumnavigation to and from Africa (October 1788 – May 1789). Together with a covert letter requesting; ‘a regiment…six hundred[enforcers] to guard the settlement effectually against the  ferocious incursions of the natives’. Anon. Historical Records of New South Wales

‘Happily Captain Hunter, and every other person belonging to her [Sirius] was saved’.

Unhappily for Governor Phillip Captain Hunter, with all the details of his extraordinary voyage via Drake’s Passage and Cape Horn, was stranded on Norfolk Island.

Whitehall:  Phillip’s aim was to have Gidley King, who had sailed with him in HMS Europa to attack Monte Video (January 1783,) add weight and confirm the enormous benefits that could be derived from securing the Sydney settlement as a strategic military and naval base.  See Proximity not Distance Drove the Invasion of New Holland.

Sydney – May 1790: ‘Without distinction… a further reduction in our ration….to every child of more than 18 months old…and every grown person, two pounds of pork, two and a half pounds of half flour, two pounds of rice, or a quart of pease


‘The great change came in the arrival 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 elite’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Merwe, Glyn Williams, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Pacific Explorations, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London 2018 

1790 – June, Sydney: The first contingent of enforcers – one hundred and fifteen (115)  of Foot, the New South Wales Corps, -seventeen (17) officers and ninety-eight (98) rank and file arrived at Sydney in June 1790 aboard Neptune, Scarborough, Suprize, the death ships of Britain’s Grim Armada the second fleet.

‘The slave trade’ declared Marine Captain Hill who sailed in the Suprize in a letter written to William Wilberforce England’s prominent anti-slavery advocate ‘is merciful compared with what I have seen in this fleet’. See: Britain’s Grim Armada, The Dead and the Living Dead.

Major Francis Grose, their commanding officer remained in England to recruit members to meet establishment requirements. He would not arrive in Sydney until February 1792.

Meantime at Sydney Lieutenant Macarthur, a junior officer took advantage of long-standing dissension among his fellow officers and moved swiftly  to fill the power vacuum created by Grose’s absence. See: The Switch 1790 – Context – War With France 1793-1815

1792 – February, Sydney: Major Grose arrived aboard Pitt in February 1792 with an additional two hundred (200) troops; ‘a proportion of the rank and file were drawn from the Savoy military prison’. Brian Fitzpatrick, The Australian People 1788-1945, Melbourne University Press, 1951

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

1792 – 13 December, Sydney: The day after Governor Phillip’s departure (12 December 1792), Major Grose assumed the ‘widest powers…vested entirely in the Governor’.

Although Whitehall, albeit belatedly – February 1794 –  had appointed Captain John Hunter RN Australia’s second governor,  ‘inexplicably’ this hero of the ‘First Fleet’ would not reach Sydney until September 1795.

‘Until 1795 racketeering officers conducted the government of the settlement, and the New South Wales Corps, a regiment of army derelicts and delinquents raised for this special service, relieved the [Sydney garrison] marines’. Fitzpatrick. ibid.

1792 – 1795: Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples whose land Britain invaded in 1788 were abandoned to ‘a rogue military outfit’ the aptly named New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.

1792 – 14 December: ‘Major Grose, by virtue of his military status, assumed the command, as Lieutenant-Governor. It does not appear that Grose’s antecedents had qualified him in any way for the performance of gubernatorial functions. He had been trained from his youth to arms and was essentially and only a soldier’. Bladen. op.cit.

1794 – December, England:  Major Grose, wounded in the War of American Independence (1775-83), unable to bear the heat of another long Sydney summer, departed for England at the end of 1794.

Power passed to Captain William Paterson Grose’s second-in-command also a wounded veteran of America’s Revolutionary War.

There were plans to use the corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Phillipines, but nothing eventuated and the Corps’ first experience of war came in January 1795 on the Hawkesbury River north-west of Sydney’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

While Governor Hunter was still on the high seas Captain Paterson took a military decision that compounded difficulties on the Hawkesbury – Deerubbun – River. He moved against the local Dharug Aborigines sending a detachment of sixty-six (66) troops and two (2) officers to the river. See: A Worm Hole – Richard Atkin’s Diary & The First Black Hole 1792-1795


‘No one who knows anything about the history of the New South Wales Corps will deny the pernicious system of spirit traffic was universal, and that as already stated, enormous profits were made by the [Rum Corps] officers in defiance of repeated orders’. Bladen. ibid.

1795 -September: The colony of New South Wales remained under absolute ‘autocratic’ military rule until Governor John Hunter RN arrived in last quarter of 1795.

‘It was a great misfortune that this period of military rule occurred; because in the course of it the colony was brought to degradation by drink, corruption, and general iniquity, which required years to mitigate’. Ernest Scott. ibid

Lieutenant John Macarthur, clever ambitious and chief ‘racketeer’ who, in June 1790, arrived with first contingent of the New South Wales Corps was ‘the power behind the military throne’.

Teetotaller Macarthur’s power lay with ‘the pernicious system of spirit traffic’.

Rum from India oiled every wheel and made ‘certain officers’ very rich. At his instigation some fellow officers pooled their monies and bought shares valued at £200. The enterprise raised £4000. Visiting ships were chartered to sail to Bengal and buy the rum

‘Rum afforded the best and speediest means of maddening the brain and sickening the stomach…The men got to their third nip before they fell upon each other screaming, yelling and punching the living daylights out of each other’.

It seemed that Smokey rum was made up from the foulest, rankest, colonial tobacco that could be found shoved into a rum barrel – filled to the top with rum – sealed and left to ferment’. Wayne Kelly, Booze Built Australia, 1994.

Officers formed cartels, pledged not to under-cut each other, they operated as both wholesale retail merchants. Rum as currency enabled the military ‘aristocracy’ maintain a stranglehold over the whole of the colony’s commercial dealings

‘Every commodity arriving in port they bought cheaply and sold at extortionate prices’. H.V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion, A Study of the overthrow of Governor Bligh by John Macarthur and the New South Wales Corps, Angus and Robertson, 1944

1795 – September: Fuelled by grog – greed and guns – ruled the colony until Governor John Hunter RN arrived in Sydney in the last quarter of 1795.

In 1800 Hunter was recalled to London and replaced by Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN. See: Alice – Down The Rabbit Hole With Hunter

Following a duel in which Macarthur severely wounded Colonel William Paterson, his commanding officer, Governor Gidley King sent him to England for censure.

However due to misadventure – shipwreck and loss of documents – the case against Macarthur collapsed from lack of evidence. A relieved Macarthur resigned his commission, sought friends in high places and successfully undermined Governor King who too was recalled to London. See: Alice – Down the Rabbit Hole with King

In order to diversify from, cattle and cropping to sheep grazing and wool production, Lord ‘Plantations’ Camden handed Macarthur a large grant – 5000 acres of Aboriginal land.

‘New South Wales had now proved to be the grave-yard of the ambitions both of Hunter and King he [Joseph] Banks knew that both Hunter and King had failed to repel the attacks of the officers and rum traffickers and that the new governor must be a man of sterner fibre’. H.V. Evatt. ibid.

Banks convinced government Captain Bligh RN, hero or anti-hero of the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, had credentials to be a strong administrator and possessed the ability to rein in an out of control military.

1805 – May, Soho Square: London: There was however another reason for Bank’s advocacy of Bligh to be Britain’s fourth ‘autocratic naval governor’ of Australia. 

Sir Joseph Banks a wealthy botanist with the ear of government played no small part in Bounty Bligh’s appointment. Keeper of the ‘King’s Flock’ at Kew, Banks had an obsessive interest in preserving the integrity of the ‘royal’ flock’s blood-line.

With an aristocrat’s instinctive distrust of the up-start Macarthur he needed the cantankerous Bligh, then a frequent carping caller on Bank’s at his London home, to keep a sharp eye on Macarthur. And Macarthur knew it.

1806 –  8 August, Sydney: Governor William Bligh RN, full of confidence and enthusiasm, arrived in Sydney aboard Lady Madeline Sinclair accompanied by HMS Porpoise, with an equally cantankerous Captain Short at the helm.

Bligh could not have conceived that cold blustery winter’s morning, the military opposition that plagued Governor Phillip and triumphed over Hunter and King (2nd and 3rd naval governors) would – within 18 months – overthrow and imprison him. See: Coup-ee

‘One of Bligh’s first official acts was to publish a Government and General Order prohibiting under heavy penalties the use of spirits as a means of exchange. The publication of this order is in itself a proof that neither Hunter nor King had been able to enforce obedience to the general orders’. Bladen. ibid.

Alcohol was the colony’s only currency, all work was paid for with rum. Everything bought or sold was exchanged for rum. When Governor  Bligh moved to stop its importation he threatened the wealth and power of the military ‘mafia‘.


Military power was the most decisive fact about the early settlements; it was the frame within which everything else happened’. R. Connell and T.H. Irving, Class Structure in Australian History, Documents, Narrative and Argument, 1987

At the beginning of 1808 officers of the New South Wales Corps, egged on by ex-officer Macarthur, now a powerful, preening man-about-town proud of his 5000 acres, resorted to mutiny.

1808 – 26 January, Sydney: At Macarthur’s instigation Governor Bligh was seized and held prisoner in Government House. See: Australia Day Rebellion – 26 January 1808.

Macarthur was the common denominator in the downfall of Governors Hunter, King and Bligh.






Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

‘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.

Sydney Cove – 1792, 12 December: 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.

Whitehall: Though Phillip recommended Lieutenant Gidley King RN replace him as Governor government  failed to commission an immediate successor exposing the First Australians to the brutality of British infantry troops.

‘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…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, 1986, Kangaroo Press, 1986

Sydney  – 1790 June: First contingent of infantry, the infamous New South Wales Corps, had arrived in June 1790 aboard the second fleet Britain’s Grim Armada’. See: Dancing With Slavers – A Second Fleet

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.

For the length of the interregnum the British government was greatly at fault’. Hunter, J.J. Auchmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography

Major Francis Grose the Corps’ commander remained in London to recruit and satisfy establishment requirements. There was intense dissension within officer ranks. Lieutenant John Macarthur, a junior officer, moved swiftly to fill the command vacuum. See: A Black Hole: The First Interregnum 1792-1795

London – 1794, 6 February,: Eventually Captain John Hunter RN,  hero of the ‘First Fleet’ expeditionary force, was ‘commission[ed] as captain-general and governor-in-chief’ at the beginning of February 1794 [but] did not sail until 25 February 1795′.

Sydney – 1795, September 7: Governor John Hunter RN arrived 7 September 1795 and assumed office four days later.   (more…)


Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors and the military. In 1792 the military power was significantly strengthened when Phillip, due to ill health, returned to England’. John McMahon, Not A Rum Rebellion But A Military Insurrection. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, 2006.

1770:  Without consent of its First Peoples, Lieutenant James Cook RN, in the name of George III of England, laid claim to the entire eastern portion of a territory, known then as New Holland now Australia; ‘from the Northern extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape’. See: A Cracker-Jack Opinion – No Sweat

‘In the beginning, the population of New South Wales was entirely official or criminal’. H.V. Evatt, Rum Rebellion, 1978. 



Monday, January 11th, 2016

‘The first European settlements, from Port Jackson in 1788 [Tasmania 1803], Moreton Bay, Swan River and Adelaide during the next fifty years were intensive…This meant a complete undermining of the Aborigines’ way of life’. Professor A.P. Elkin, the Australian Aborigines, Epilogue, 5th edition, 1973

1792 – December: Governor Arthur Phillip RN returned to England after a five (5) year tenure as Britain’s first commissioned governor of New South Wales.

Whitehall failed to appoint a successor. As a result, by default, the immense power invested in Arthur Phillip, said to be unique in Britain’s long history of colonisation, fell to the military.



Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

On 17th March 1790, a small paragraph appeared in the Times announcing that William Bligh, fresh from his remarkable voyage across the Pacific, was expected in London later that afternoon. He had arrived in Portsmouth three days earlier’. John Toohey, Captain Bligh’s Portable Nightmare, 1998

1790 –  March, Portsmouth: Captain William Bligh RN arrived in England on the 14th March 1790 eager to give testimony to the Admiralty  putting his side of the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story. (more…)


Sunday, January 25th, 2009

‘You cannot overrate the solicitude of H.M. Government on the subject of the Aborigines of New Holland. It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race without the deepest commiseration. Still it is impossible that H.M. Government should forget that the original aggression was ours’. Lord John Russell to Sir George Gipps, Dispatch, 21 December 1838, Historical Records of Australia, Series, Vol XX.

1808 – 26 January, Sydney: On the 20th anniversary of Britain’s ‘original aggression’, the invasion of New Holland and raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip RN on 26 January 1788, Major George Johnston, Commanding Officer of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps, marched on Government House and arrested Governor William Bligh RN described as; ‘a man of sterner fibre’.