The Rum Rebellion II - Personalities of the Rebellion

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John Macarthur.
From: National Archives of Australia

John Macarthur

John Macarthur was born in 1767, and was 41 years old at the time of the Rum Rebellion. His father was a draper, and so he was from humble origins. Macarthur was sensitive about that, and was nicknamed "Jack Bodice".

In 1782, he joined the army. England was at war with just about everyone at that time. He went to the American colonies, but the war there ended before he got to do anything. He went onto half pay, and went to live on a farm.

In 1788, he went back to the army, and also married Elizabeth Veal. In 1789, he volunteered to go to NSW with the army corps (the NSW Corps).

On the voyage out in 1789/90, Macarthur quarrelled with the ship's master, and they duelled. Neither were injured, but Macarthur and his family were put on another ship. Macarthur had a tendency to quarrel, as he wouldn't compromise, especially with people in authority.

He continued to quarrel throughout his career in NSW. He fought a lot with Governor Phillip, and the Governors Hunter and King regarded him as a wild man that they couldn't control. Under King, Macarthur quarrelled (suprise, suprise!) with his commanding officer, Patterson. They duelled, and Patterson was injured. Macarthur was arrested and sent back to England for court martial.

Whilst in England, he showed the wool growers there the wool that he had grown in Australia, and it impresses them. His court martial results in a reprimand, but he convinces the court that Gov. King handled the situation badly, so King is reprimanded as well!

Macarthur leaves the army and went back to NSW. He made a fortune from his wool, as he now had people interested in England as well as in Australia.

When Bligh arrived as Governor, Macarthur welcomed him, representing the free settlers.

Macarthur was popular in the colony, especially with the NSW Corps, and he had leadership qualities.

William Bligh

William Bligh was born on the 9th of December, 1754. He was 54 years old at the time of the Rum Rebellion. Like Macarthur, Bligh was from humble origins, and his father was a Plymouth Customs Officer.

At the age of 7, Bligh went to sea as the servant of an officer. By the age of 16, he was a Midshipman, and by the age of 22, he was the Master of the 'Resolution', which went with James Cook on his third voyage to the Pacific.

In his early 20s, he was ambitious, and obsessively concerned with his good name. He hated criticism. He, too, was sensitive about his humble origins. His first response to anything was always emotional, and on his second response, he might think more about it. He also held important contacts, including Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who sailed with Cook, who became a lifelong supporter and patron of Bligh.

On a trip to the Isle of Mann, Bligh met and married Elizabeth Bentham, who was 26-7 years of age. She was the niece of Duncan Campbell, a convict and ship owner. Through Campbell, Bligh gained more contacts.

Bligh sailed a number of ships to the West Indies. On one trip, he met Fletcher Christian, and they became good friends. Through Christian, Bligh became aware of the problem of feeding the slaves in the West Indies.

Still relatively young, in 1789 Bligh was commissioned to take breadfruit from Tahitti to the West Indies to feed the slaves. The ship he sailed for this was the 'Bounty'. When he attempted to leave the West Indies again, and sail the Pacific along the same route of Cook, they ran into huge storms south of America as it was the wrong season to be travelling that way. Some crew members were lost, but Bligh kept pushing them around Cape Horm. He was forced to turn around and take a longer route.

There was conflict from a very early stage. Former good friend Fletcher Christian led a mutiny, during which Bligh and his loyalists and the breadfruit were thrown overboard with one longboat. The others sailed back to Tahitti.

Bligh made it to the coast of what is now Queensland. He knew about the reef, and was able to get through it. Eventually they got back to the Dutch East Indies, and back to England. The blame in England was put on the mutineers, and many supported Bligh, including Banks.

Banks suggested Bligh for the Governorship of NSW in 1806.

I'll get back to you on this one!

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