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Title: Mutiny; and the Trial of Lt. Col. Johnston
Author: Ned Overton (as editor)
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1300731h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: February 2013
Date most recently February January 2013

Produced by: Ned Overton

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Editor's Note:

This book is derived from parts of three separate works:

1. Historical Records of Australia, Vol. VI., Aug. 1806-Dec. 1808 INTRODUCTION. by Frederick Watson, Jan, 1916, [pp. v-xxxvii].

2. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 7 [Bligh-Macquarie, 1808-11] INTRODUCTION. by F. M. Bladen, 1901, [pp. xxix to lx].

3. Appendix to "History of New South Wales From its First Discovery to the Present Time (1811)" by G Paterson. Paterson's work was compiled from [earlier] publications—Tench, Phillip's Voyage, Hunter, Collins, Labillardiere's voyage, Tuckey's Port Phillip—with plentiful extracts from the Trial of Colonel Johnston for deposing Governor Bligh." [Barton, 1889]. These extracts were derived from a book of J. Bartrum's notes, viz. {here}:

"Proceedings of a General Court-Martial held at Chelsea Hospital, which commenced on Tuesday, May 7, 1811, and continued by Adjournment to Wednesday, 5th of June following, for the Trial of Lieut.-Col. Geo. Johnston, Major of the 102nd Regiment, late the New South Wales Corps, on a Charge of Mutiny, Exhibited against him by the Crown, for deposing on the 26th of January, 1808, William Bligh, Esq. F.R.S., Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of New South Wales. Taken in short hand by Mr. Bartrum, of Clements' Inn, who attended on behalf of Governor Bligh, by permission of the Court."

The Bartrum work occupies 409 pages, together with 75 pages of Appendix, as against 92 similarly-sized pages in Paterson. The witnesses for both sides, some of which were omitted from Paterson's abstract, are listed in the present Contents page.

The trial was held over twelve days in 1811. The prosecution took six days: 7th to 11th and 20th May; and the defence also took six days: 23rd to 25th, 27th, and 30th to 31st May. Summing up by both sides took place on 5th June, 1811.

The question and answer parts of the trial have been rearranged and reformatted to more closely conform to present-day court transcripts.

For the sake of uniformity, John Macarthur's surname is given throughout as "Macarthur". He spelled his surname "M'Arthur" for most of his life and his name is so spelled in Source 3 and in Bartrum.

Many of the illustrations here are found in "Historical Records of New South Wales", Vol. 6 [King-Bligh, 1806, 07, 08], edited by F. M. Bladen, 1898].

Title page of the volume from which Paterson's trial abstract was made.




F. Watson, G. Paterson, J. Bartrum and F. M. Bladen.

Edited by Ned Overton.


(Source: Watson)





(Sources: Watson; Bladen])




(Sources: Paterson; Bartrum)





Opening Speech.

Examination of Bligh.

SECOND DAY—Examination of Bligh (continued..)

THIRD DAY—Cross-examination of Bligh.

FOURTH DAY—Witnesses for the Crown.


Lieut. Col. Johnston's Defence.

Witnesses for the Defence.



[Sources: Paterson; Watson; Bladen.]





[Source: Bartrum.]

John Palmer

Robert Campbell and Francis Oakes

William Gore

Rev. Fulton and Mr. Williamson

John Gray

Isaac Champion

Martin Mason

Nicholas Divine

Charles Walker

Other Crown witnesses included:

Edmund Griffin
James Williamson
George Sutter
John Dunn
James Dowse Harris, and
Thomas Tait.

From the New South Wales Corps, Serjeants:

William Bremlow and
Robert Hall

and Privates:

John Gillard
Robert Davis
William Hutton, and
Thomas Finnegan.

[Source: Bartrum.]

Richard Atkins

John Macarthur

Lts. Finucane, Kemp and Minchin

John Blaxland

Lt. Kent

David Mann

Serj.-Maj. Whittle

Other Defence witnesses included:

Charles Grimes
Lieut. William Ellison
John Harris
Edward Abbott
Christopher Blaxland
Admiral John Hunter.

From the New South Wales Corps, Serjeant-Major:

James Cox

and Privates:

John Sutherland and
Richard Mason.


Captain Bligh

Lt. Col. Johnston

Plan shewing Locality of Governor Bligh's Farm

Plan of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales, October, 1807, by order of Governor Bligh

John Macarthur

Petition for Bligh's Arrest [Macarthur's handwriting]

Petition of Thanks to Johnston, 27th January, 1808

Title Page of Paterson's History of New South Wales

Rear-Admiral William Bligh

Lt. Col. George Johnston

John Macarthur

Cartoon illustrating the arrest of Governor Bligh


[Source: Watson]


AROUND the story of the life of William Bligh and of his administration of the government of New South Wales, more romance and misrepresentation have gathered than around the story of any other governor of the colony. The distortion of facts has been due in part to bitter party animosities, already prevalent in the colony, and in part to new antagonisms created by the determined, somewhat tactless action of a rugged, irascible nature. Throughout his life, Bligh possessed in a remarkable degree the faculty of making bitter and vindictive enemies. In the words of George Caley, he was "a man whom nature has intended to be the subject of abuse."

Prior to accepting the government of New South Wales, Bligh had spent his life in the navy. He was accustomed to the stern realities of service on the quarter-deck of a ship of the line. He was used to the rough manners of the navy and to the forceful and virile speech of the period. At that time, the press gang and its methods had full swing; stern measures were necessary to repress the opposition of men impressed; floggings were frequent; the seamen had long been restless, and this feeling had culminated in the mutiny at the Nore; human life was thought little of; men were punished severely for small offences; commissions were readily obtainable by purchase. Life generally was stern and hard. Men served their country in naval, military, and civil capacities with a keen intensity; but at the same time they sought with eagerness the emoluments and perquisites of office.

The birth and parentage of William Bligh are obscure. His own statement is not definite. He said* that he was born about 1753, probably at Tinten or Tynten in the parish of St. Tudy, Cornwall, and was the son of Charles and Margaret Bligh. Other accounts** affirm that his birth took place at Plymouth on the 9th of September, 1754, and that he was the son of John Bligh, of Tretawne in the parish of St. Kew, Cornwall.

[* See R. Polwhele's "Biographical Sketches in Cornwall", ii. 19.]

[** cf. Maclean's "Deanery of Trigg Minor."]

On the 1st of July, 1762, he entered the navy as captain's servant to John Storr on the Monmouth, a ship of 60 guns, and in that capacity served seven months and three weeks. After his discharge his career is not known, until he shipped as A.B. on the Hunter on the 27th of July, 1770. He was made midshipman on the same ship on the 5th of February following, and was transferred as midshipman to the Crescent on the 22nd of September, 1771, and to the Ranger on the 2nd of September, 1774. From the Ranger he was discharged on the 17th of March, 1776, and on the 1st of July in the same year was appointed master of the sloop Resolution, under Captain James Cook, for his third and last voyage of discovery. Bligh, in his previous career, must have distinguished himself, for Cook selected him for this expedition, and thought that he "could be usefully employed in constructing charts." After the death of Cook and the return of the Resolution to England, the crew were paid off on the 24th of October, 1780. Under Admiral Parker, Bligh was present at the battle off the Doggerbank on the 5th of August, 1781. On the 5th of October following, he received his commission as fifth lieutenant on the Berwick, and was transferred to a similar rank in the Princess Amelia on the 30th of December. On the 20th of March, 1782, he was commissioned as sixth lieutenant on the Cambridge, and fought under Lord Howe at Gibraltar.

On the 14th of January, 1783, Bligh was placed on the half-pay list and obtained permission to seek employment in merchant vessels. During the next four years he sailed several voyages to different parts of the world. In a ship called the Britannia, he sailed for Jamaica under employment to a Mr. Campbell, a West Indian merchant. Fletcher Christian, afterwards leader of the Bounty mutineers, was a member of the Britannia's crew. Bligh rated him as a gunner, but gave instructions that he should be regarded as an officer. In the words of Edward Lamb, second in command of the Britannia, Christian was very indifferent in his duties, but Bligh treated him as a brother, was "blind to his faults, and had him to dine and sup every other day in the cabin."

Bligh returned from the West Indies on the 6th of August, 1787. During his absence, an expedition was organised with the object of transplanting bread-fruit and other trees and plants from the island of Otaheite to the West Indies. Sir Joseph Banks, who, for reasons unknown, had become a great patron of Bligh, had secured for him the command of this expedition. Accordingly, Bligh was appointed lieutenant and commander of the Bounty, an armed storeship of 215 tons, with a complement of forty-five men. Bligh's final instructions were issued on the 20th of November, and he sailed from Spithead on the 23rd of December, 1787. On the 26th of October, 1788, the Bounty anchored in Matavai bay, Otaheite. She remained there until the 25th of December, when she was removed to the neighbouring harbour of Toahroah. After securing the desired bread-fruit trees, Bligh sailed on the return voyage on the 4th of April, 1789. Twenty-four days later, when near Tofoa in the Friendly Islands, twenty-five of the crew, under the leadership of Fletcher Christian, the master's mate, mutinied and seized the ship.

Bligh and eighteen companions, provided with scanty provisions, were cast adrift by the mutineers in the ship's launch. In this open boat he successfully accomplished a daring voyage of about 3,600 miles to Koepang in Timor, without charts and through little known seas. At Timor, he purchased a small schooner and sailed for Batavia. From Java, he travelled viâ the Cape of Good Hope to England, and arrived at Portsmouth on the 14th of March, 1790. In November of the same year, he was tried and honourably acquitted by a court martial on the loss of the Bounty.

The story of Bligh's wonderful voyage in an open boat, the subsequent discovery of the survivor and descendants of the mutineers on Pitcairn Island under romantic and idyllic conditions. and the false use of the circumstances of the mutiny made by Bligh's enemies to damage his reputation have all tended to give an undue prominence to this minor episode in the history of the navy. It has been frequently asserted that the mutiny was due to the severity and harsh measures adopted by Bligh in his command, but probably no more unjust charge could have been made. Sworn testimonies * are extant which are directly contradictory to this assertion. It is recorded that though, when things went wrong, Bligh frequently damned his men, "he was never angry with a man the next minute"; that he was not fond of flogging, and that "some deserved hanging who had only a dozen"; and that he was a father to every person on the ship. Christian received many special favours from Bligh. He was given the use of Bligh's cabin and liquor; he was taught navigation and drawing; he was asked to dine every third day with Bligh.

[* These are contained in the "Answer", published in 1792 by Bligh in reply to Edward Christian's criticism.]

The actual causes of the mutiny were undoubtedly the attractions to the toil-hardened sailors of a life of indolence and sensuality at Otaheite. In his reports, Bligh mentioned these as the cause of the mutiny. The amours of the staff and crew of the Endeavour, when captain Cook visited the same island in 1769, are well known, and a mutiny was narrowly averted on that ship, the men having the same motives as Christian and his colleagues. Christian was twenty-four years of age, and, according to Lamb's testimony, during the voyage of the Britannia he had shown that he "was then one of the most foolish young men I ever knew in regard to the sex." In a spurious account ** of Christian's travels, published in 1796, the cause of the mutiny is indicated. It is stated that Bligh, on his arrival at Otaheite, ordered the crew to be examined for venereal disease, as "the ladies in this happy island are known not to be the most reserved in granting their favours. . . . . . . The women at Otaheite are not only constitutionally votaries of Venus, but join to the charms of person such a happy cheerfulness of temper and such engaging manners that their allurements are perfectly irresistible." In the same book, testimony in Bligh's favour is given: "At the same time, it is but justice that I [Christian] should acquit Captain Bligh in the most unequivocal manner of having contributed in the smallest degree to the promotion of our conspiracy by any harsh or ungentleman-like conduct on his part. So far from it that few officers in the service, I am persuaded, can in this respect be found superior to him, or produce stronger claims upon the gratitude and attachment of the men whom they are appointed to command."

[** "The Voyages and Travels of Fletcher Christian", etc., London, H. D. Symonds, 1796.]

After his return to England, the crew of the Bounty was paid off on the 22nd of October, 1790, and Bligh was put on the half-pay list with the rank of commander. Three weeks later he was given the command of the Falcon, and on the 15th of December he was promoted to the rank of captain. On the 7th of January, 1791, he was again placed on the half-pay list. In the meantime, a second expedition to obtain the bread-fruit trees from Otaheite was organised. The ship Providence, of 24 guns, and the brig Assistant, as a tender, were selected, and Bligh was appointed to the command on the 16th of April, 1791. The fact that Bligh was selected a second time for such a command indicates that the Admiralty did not consider that his conduct had contributed towards the mutiny. Bligh sailed from England on the 2nd of August, 1791. He was successful in securing the bread-fruit trees, and after landing some at Jamaica and some at St. Vincent's, he returned to England on the 4th of August, and the Providence was paid off on the 6th of September, 1793. For his services in successfully transplanting the bread-fruit trees, Bligh was awarded the gold medal of the Society of Arts.

Captain Bligh

During Bligh's absence eleven of the Bounty mutineers had been brought to England and tried by court martial on the 12th to 18th of September, 1792. At this time strong efforts were made by the friends of the mutineers to vilify Bligh's character. Edward Christian, brother of the mutineer, wrote many letters to the press alleging cruelty and harshness against Bligh in his command, but at the court martial no evidence in proof of this was tendered. Christian wrote a commentary on the court martial, and this provoked a rejoinder from Bligh in a pamphlet * which he published.

[* "An Answer to certain assertions", etc., by Captain Wm. Bligh, London, 1792.]

Similar allegations were made against Bligh in his second voyage. Matthew Flinders, who sailed as midshipman on the Providence, stated that Bligh's harshness caused discontent. The facts were that during the voyage from Otaheite a shortage of water occurred; as the bread-fruit trees were the primary object of the expedition, Bligh put the men on a short allowance in order that the plants might be watered. Someone secretly watered the plants with salt water, and Bligh threatened to flog the ship's company. This incident is certainly insufficient to justify the statement that Bligh's harshness caused any permanent discontent. In a letter to the Times, dated 16th July, 1794, Edward Harwood, the surgeon during the voyage, wrote: "Captain Bligh's general conduct during the late expedition, which was crowned with the most ample success, his affability to his officers and humane attention to his men gained him their high esteem and admiration, and must eventually dissipate any unfavourable opinion hastily adopted in his absence." This opinion is confirmed by a notice in the Kentish Register, dated 6th September, 1793, which reported the paying off of the crew of the Providence: "The high estimation in which Captain Bligh was deservedly held by the whole crew was conspicuous to all present. He was cheered on quitting the ship to attend the Commissioner, and at the dock gates the men drew up and repeated the parting acclamation."

The adverse criticism to which Bligh was subjected appears to have had some influence on Lord Chatham, for he showed some diffidence in receiving Bligh at the Admiralty. This feeling must have been of short duration, for in 1794 Bligh was in service ** off Ushant in command of the Warrior, of 74 guns. On the 30th of April, 1795, he was commissioned as captain of the Calcutta, and was employed in the North Sea with Admiral Duncan's squadron. On the 7th of January, 1796, he was given the command of the Director, of 64 guns. In this ship he was present first at the mutiny of the Nore in 1797, where he distinguished himself by his intrepidity and resourcefulness, and later in the year at the battle of Camperdown. In that engagement, the Director was in the larboard division of Vice-Admiral Onslow's squadron, and first silenced and then boarded the Vryheid, flagship of Admiral de Winter.

[** This service is not recorded at the Admiralty. Between the 6th of September, 1793, and the 30th of April, 1795, Bligh's name is on the half-pay list. It has been generally accepted on Bligh's own statement.]

On the 3rd of July, 1800, the Director was paid off, and Bligh placed on the half-pay list. In the following September he was occupied in surveying the Irish coasts. On the 13th of March, 1801, he was given the command of the Glatton, on the 12th of April of the Monarch, and on the 8th of May of the Irresistible. In the Glatton, he was present in the action off Copenhagen, and for his services on that occasion was personally thanked by Lord Nelson.

On the 21st of May, 1801, Bligh was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In the following year, Bligh was again put on the half-pay list when the Irresistible was paid off on the 28th of May. On the 2nd of May, 1804, he was appointed to the command of the Warrior, and was detailed for service in the channel. Whilst in command of this ship, Bligh was tried by court martial on charges preferred by his lieutenant. The latter had been ordered on deck when suffering from an injury to the foot. Bligh was acquitted by the court, but was cautioned to be more careful in the use of his words.

Whilst in command of the Warrior, Bligh was offered and accepted the government of New South Wales. The offer was conveyed to him by Sir Joseph Banks in a letter, dated 15th March, 1805. The fact that the salary attached to the governorship was increased from £1,000 to £2,000 per annum proves that it was the desire of the government to induce officers of a higher rank to accept the office. In his letter to Bligh, Sir Joseph Banks stated: "In conversation, I was this day asked if I knew a man proper to be sent out in his [Governor King's] stead—one who has integrity unimpeached, a mind capable of providing its own resources in difficulties without leaning on others for advice, firm in discipline, civil in deportment, and not subject to whimper and whine when severity of discipline is wanted to meet emergencies. I immediately answered: As this man must be chosen from among the post captains, I know of no one but Captain Bligh who will suit." Banks was not blind to the faults of his friends, for example the irascibility of Governor King. But he sincerely held the highest opinion of Bligh. What Bligh's enemies called unnecessary harshness was regarded by Banks as necessary "severity of discipline."

Bligh had been inured to the stern realities of exploring in unknown seas during his voyage under Captain James Cook and in the two expeditions under his own leadership. His long experience on the quarter-decks amidst the hardships of naval warfare had hardened him. In consequence, Bligh was a strict disciplinarian, and unfortunately had acquired an exaggerated coarseness of speech, which rebuffed an importunate petitioner, made him a man of few friends, and gave his enemies an opportunity to cavil. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and a man of varied and considerable attainments, if it is possible to judge from the books he requisitioned for use at the government house in Sydney. Apart from the standard legal, geographical, and historical works, these included such varied books as Malthus on Population, Fontana on Venoms and Poisons, Dickson's System of Agriculture, Cooper's complete Distiller, Emmerson's Mechanics, Kiel's Astronomy, and a work on experimental researches in permanent dyes. The appointment of Bligh to the government of New South Wales placed a martinet in command of a colony whose inhabitants, during the thirteen years since the departure of Governor Phillip, had developed habits of unbridled license. Governor Hunter had attempted to stem the torrent, and had failed. Governor King had announced drastic reforms which he had proved unable to carry out. Governor Bligh was sent out with instructions to curb the will of a people who had become emboldened by their previous success, and his failure was perhaps almost inevitable. It was impossible for the efforts of any governor to be crowned with success until the disturbing elements, the New South Wales Corps and its partisans, were removed.

Bligh sailed from England on board the transport Sinclair in February, 1806, under the convoy of H.M.S. Porpoise, commanded by Joseph Short. During the voyage many disputes arose between Short and Bligh, and Bligh's participation in them was criticised adversely by the secretary of state.* On an examination of the evidence given at the inquiries ** held in Sydney in connection with Short's conduct, it is clear that his command was irregular and that he was a difficult man to work with. It is probable that in the disputes with Bligh, his superior officer, Short was in the wrong, notwithstanding the criticism of the secretary of state.

[* See page 80.]      [** See page 44 et seq. and page 65 et seq.]


GEORGE JOHNSTON was born at Annandale, Dumfrieshire, Scotland, on the 19th of March, 1764. On the 6th of March, 1776, he obtained a commission as second lieutenant of the 45th company of marines. During the years 1777 and 1778, he was stationed at New York and Halifax. On the 27th of April, 1778, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in the 91st company. In the years 1779 and 1780, he was employed recruiting in England. In 1781, he was despatched to the East Indies, and remained there until December, 1785. During this period he served on board H.M. ships Sultan and Worcester, and on four occasions was in action with the French fleet. In one engagement, he was severely wounded. He served under Earl Percy, who, after succeeding to the dukedom of Northumberland, became a patron of Johnston. In January, 1786, he obtained leave of absence for six months, and on resuming duty was attached to headquarters. Towards the end of the year, he was transferred as first lieutenant to the detachment of marines intended to form the garrison for the settlement at Botany Bay. In December, he embarked on board the Lady Penrhyn, a transport in the first fleet. When Governor Phillip examined Port Jackson in January, 1788, it is claimed that Johnston was the first man to land in that harbour. During the first twelve months of the settlement, Johnston acted as adjutant of orders to Governor Phillip. After the death of captain Shea, on the 2nd of February, 1789, he received the command of the vacant company as captain-lieutenant. In 1790, he was in command of the marines on detached duty at Norfolk Island. In 1791, the detachment of marines was relieved by the New South Wales Corps, and at the same time was given the option of being discharged or of remaining in the colony. Many availed themselves of the privilege, and were enlisted in an auxiliary or fifth company in the corps. Johnston, who had returned from Norfolk Island with the marines, took command of this company, and a commission as captain was issued to him on the 25th of September, 1792. He was one of the first land-owners from the class of officers, and was granted 100 acres at Annandale by lieutenant-governor Grose on the 12th of February, 1793. In January, 1796, he was nominated by Governor Hunter to relieve Philip Gidley King in the command at Norfolk Island, but owing to ill-health he was unable to fulfil this duty. In the following September he was appointed aide-de-camp to the governor. In 1800, Johnston received his brevet rank as major. In the same year he was placed under arrest by lieutenant-colonel Paterson on charges of "paying spirits to a serjeant as part of his pay at an improper price, contempt, and disobedience of orders." He protested against trial by court martial in the colony, and his objection was upheld by Governor Hunter, who, in consequence, ordered him to England under arrest. He sailed in October, 1800, on H.M.S. Buffalo. In England his trial was quashed.* He returned to the colony on the 14th of December, 1801, on board the transport Minorca, but it was not until the 17th of October, 1802, that he was released from arrest and his reconciliation with lieutenant-colonel Paterson was announced.**

[* See page 270, volume III.]      [** See page 322, volume IV.]

Lt. Col. George Johnston
State Library of Victoria pic 0-1994726

In January, 1803, Johnston took the temporary command of the New South Wales Corps during the illness of lieutenant-colonel Paterson. At this time inquiries and courts martial were being held in connection with certain libellous pipes about Governor King which had been circulated. These involved the governor in serious disputes with the military. During a court martial on Anthony Fenn Kemp, of which Johnston was president, John Harris, the judge-advocate and prosecutor, was charged with "scandalous infamous behaviour" in disclosing the votes of members at previous courts martial. Thereupon the court martial on Kemp was adjourned, and the trial of Harris demanded by Johnston.*** The results of this action seriously interfered with the administration of the colony, and a bitter correspondence **** ensued. Johnston demanded the appointment of a judge-advocate in place of Harris. This request was strongly resisted by King, but he ultimately gave way "to Secure the Peace of the Colony by the Criminal Courts not continuing suspended for want of Members to compose it and on no other consideration." This conflict between the military and King has a remarkable similarity to the final dispute between the military and Bligh. The action taken by Johnston was extremely doubtful. The papers that are available do not demonstrate how far his action was due to his personal initiative, how far to the instigation of a party behind him, as the papers in his actions against Bligh do.

[*** See page 177, volume IV.]      [**** See page 177 et seq., volume IV.]

In March, 1804, Johnston commanded the military sent in pursuit of the convicts who had risen in rebellion at Castle Hill. He acted with great courage and daring when he encountered the rebels at Vinegar Hill, and completely routed them. When lieutenant-colonel Paterson was detailed for the command of the settlement at Port Dalrymple, in 1804, the command of the New South Wales Corps devolved on Johnston, and he retained it until the arrival of lieutenant-colonel Foveaux, on the 28th of July, 1808. On the 1st of January, 1806, he received his commission as major.


GOVERNOR BLIGH arrived off Port Jackson on the 6th of August, 1806, and made his official landing at 11 a.m. on the 8th. He assumed the government on the 13th, and his commission as captain-general and governor-in-chief was read with full ceremony in front of government house at noon on that day.

Plan of the Town of Sydney in New South Wales, October, 1807, by order of Governor Bligh

Bligh resided in Sydney as governor-elect for four days, and during that time he took the extraordinary action * of accepting land grants from the retiring governor, Philip Gidley King. On the 10th of August, 1806, three grants were given by King to Bligh. The first, "for a private residence near Sydney", consisted of 240 acres to be known by the name of Camperdown. This land adjoined the Grose Farm on the south side of the Parramatta-road, and now forms the suburb of Camperdown. The second "for a private residence near Parramatta" comprised 105 acres, to be known by the name of Mount Betham. It lay on the north side of the river at the town of Parramatta. The third, "for a private residence between Sydney and Hawkesbury", comprised 1,000 acres, to be known as Copenhagen, and lay on the south-western side of the Hawkesbury road in the neighbourhood of Rouse hill. The subsequent history of the grant at Parramatta illustrates the opinion held on these transactions. After Bligh's death, these lands were inherited by his six daughters as co-heiresses. In 1840, the validity of the grants was questioned, and a suit for impeachment was threatened. Action was avoided by the surrender to the crown of the grant at Parramatta on condition that legal proceedings with a view to the impeachment of all three grants should be abandoned. This surrender was completed on the 24th of February, 1841, by Sir Maurice O'Connell, who had married Mrs. Mary Putland, one of Bligh's daughters. The acceptance of a compromise by the crown, instead of full impeachment of all three grants, indicates that there was an element of doubt as to the validity of the grants. At the same time it seems strange that there should have been a delay of so many years before any definite action was taken.

The grant of 790 acres to be known as "Thanks" to Mrs. Anna Josepha King, the wife of Governor King, by Governor Bligh on the 1st of January, 1807, has been discussed in a previous volume.*

[* See page xv, volume IV.]

Soon after his assumption of the government, Bligh had experience of the party feeling current in the colony. On the 14th of August, 1806, an address ** of welcome was presented to him, signed by George Johnston for the military, Richard Atkins for the civil, and John Macarthur for the free inhabitants. Bligh accepted this address in good faith, but in the following month addresses *** were presented to him from the free inhabitants at Sydney and the Hawkesbury. In these addresses the validity of Macarthur's signature was repudiated, the Sydney settlers stating "had we deputed anyone, John Macarthur would not have been chosen by us, we considering him an unfit person to step forward upon such an occasion, as we may chiefly attribute the rise in the price of mutton to his withholding the large flock of wethers he now has to make such price as he may choose to demand."

[** See page 566.]      [*** See pages 568 and 570.]

Philip Gidley King sailed from Port Jackson in H.M.S. Buffalo on the 10th of February, 1807. During these first six months of his administration Bligh attempted no reforms, but devoted himself to the task of acquiring a full acquaintance with the general condition of the colony. He called for reports on the public buildings, on the administration of the commissariat, and on the state of agriculture and the colony generally. Through no fault of his own, however, Bligh encountered opposition from the commencement of his administration. Within a fortnight of his arrival Bligh was presented with private letters written by under secretary Cooke, stating the intentions of Lord Camden to authorise grants of 600 acres to Joseph Short, commander of H.M.S. Porpoise, and of 1,000 acres to John Townson, a retired captain of the N.S.W. Corps. As neither Governor King nor himself had received "any authority according to the tenor of Mr. Cooke's letter", Bligh refused to make the grants, and on the 26th of August, 1806, wrote to the secretary of state for instructions. At the same time he authorised the applicants "to look out for the respective tracts they would approve of", which would be granted to them when he "received directions to locate the same." The neglect of the department to give orders to Bligh was unfortunate for Joseph Short, as he had brought out a considerable investment to be utilised on his anticipated grant.

During these first six months Bligh experienced considerable difficulty in the naval administration owing to the conduct of Short, which necessitated the holding of two courts of inquiry.* These resulted in Short being sent to England under arrest for trial by court martial on charges preferred by his lieutenant. At the time of the court martial Bligh's refusal to give Short a land grant, a refusal which was perfectly justified, although it entailed considerable loss to Short, was utilised by Bligh's enemies to vilify his administration.

[* See page 44 et seq. and page 65 et seq.]

Although Bligh's administration and character were represented falsely on many occasions, the exchange of land grants with Governor King and the development of Bligh's farm at the Hawkesbury admit fairly of adverse criticism. On the 1st of January, 1807, Bligh purchased some land at the Hawkesbury.** Andrew Thompson acted as Bligh's overseer. If the evidence of Thompson in a sworn deposition *** can be relied upon, Bligh erected buildings on his farm of the value of £1,000 at the cost of the crown; he employed twenty to thirty convicts victualled by the crown; he drew on the public stores at the Hawkesbury for articles for his private use; he stocked his farm by drawing animals heavy with young from the public herds, and after the young were born the mothers were returned without their progeny. Bligh and Thompson **** assert that the undertaking was of the nature of an experimental farm designed to demonstrate the value of industry and good management under conditions prevalent in the colony. If this was so, the experiment was valueless, for Bligh gave himself concessions far in excess of those proposed for settlers,***** and Thompson admitted this in the statement ****** "that a common Farmer, who has to pay for everything, would by no means have such profits." Thompson asserted that the live stock and articles drawn from the public herds and stores were to be paid for in the produce of the farm. At that time very extended credits were given to settlers by government. As Bligh purchased his farm in January, 1807, and he was deposed in January, 1808, it is clear that the average duration of his credit did not exceed six months, and this was not excessive. Because Bligh had paid nothing into the public stores in return for goods and stock delivered before January, 1808, it is unfair to assume that he did not intend to pay anything. It is not possible, therefore, to accept the charge put forward by the insurrectionaries that Bligh was guilty of conversion of public property to private uses. At the same time it was a grave error of judgment and utterly indefensible for a governor to engage in farming, which secured a pecuniary profit to himself in his private capacity, when the success of the enterprise was dependent largely on concessions granted by himself in his official capacity.

[** See note 106.]      [*** See page 359.]      [**** See page 366.]

[***** See page 168.]      [****** See page 367.]

Plan shewing Locality of Governor Bligh's Farm

On the 14th of February, 1807, Governor Bligh initiated his first big reform by the publication of a general order which prohibited absolutely "the exchange of spirits or other liquors as payment for grain, animal food, labour, wearing apparel or any other commodity whatever." Severe penalties were ordered for offences against this regulation; for a prisoner, the punishment was 100 lashes and hard labour for twelve months; for a settler, free by servitude, pardon, or emancipation, deprivation of all indulgences from the crown, imprisonment for three months, and a fine of £20; for all other persons, deprivation of all indulgences from the crown and a fine of £50. This regulation was the first indirect cause which led to the deposition of Bligh. Although a wise and salutary measure, it operated adversely against the pecuniary interests of all classes of the community. John Macarthur and William Minchin admitted in their evidence at the court martial on George Johnston that everyone in the colony, officials, military, and all others, trafficked in spirits by necessity for want of a proper currency. Spirits were imported at a few shillings per gallon, and were bartered at 100 to 200 per cent. profit. Imported spirits were distributed according to the rank and influence of the individual, and it is clear that the senior officials and most favoured individuals reaped the greater profit. The colonists in general lacked the public spirit that should have won support for this well-advised reform, while pecuniary loss provoked opposition that was active though secret. Lieutenant-colonel Foveaux stated * that the result of the restrictions was to make "the gentleman and the Man of character, who would blush at being detected in an illicit transaction, the tributaries of the daring and unprincipled Smuggler and distiller." This testimony from Foveaux, who was an open antagonist of Bligh, indicates the peculiar attitude of many colonists who were opposed to Bligh. Although unwilling to commit a breach of the regulations openly, they connived at and participated in the profits of an illicit traffic. As in the case of the abolition of slavery by the British Parliament, and in the case of the prohibition of Kanaka labour on the Queensland sugar plantations, the pecuniary interest of the individual had been injured in the endeavour to procure the welfare of the community at large.

[* See page 642.]


ON the 9th of March, 1807, the ship Dart, belonging to John Macarthur and Messrs. Hulletts, of London, arrived in Port Jackson. In her two stills were imported; one had been sent out to the order of captain Abbott, and the second had been consigned to John Macarthur by his agent, who acted also for Abbott. The second still had been sent out without Macarthur's foreknowledge. Bligh ordered these stills into the public stores to be returned to England. This action produced no opposition, although it had important consequences at a later date.

The first open and active opposition to Bligh was shown by John Macarthur. It arose out of a verdict given by Bligh sitting in the court of appeal. It had been the practice in giving promissory notes to express payment in some form of barter, owing to the lack of specie. Wheat notes were given as follows: the sterling value of the note was divided by the current selling price of a bushel of wheat, and the note made out for the corresponding number of bushels. The value of wheat naturally fluctuated. At the Hawkesbury, it had been fixed at 9s. 3d. per bushel by general order in January, 1806. Owing to the severe losses by floods in March, 1806, the government price offered in the December following was 13s. 9d. In June, 1807, private sales were transacted at 28s. Macarthur held a wheat note given by Andrew Thompson at prices current before the flood. On this note, Macarthur sued in the civil court for the specific performance of the contract on the basis of the bushels of wheat expressed. The court gave the decision that the note was an expression of value and not of quantity of produce. Against this verdict Macarthur appealed in July, 1807, and Bligh dismissed the appeal without hearing the appellant. By this decision, Macarthur was compelled to accept a reduction in the number of bushels expressed in the note pro rata with the increased price of wheat between the dates on which the bill was drawn and on which it was liquidated. Thereafter, Macarthur ceased to visit at government house. The governor showed no resentment of this action, and subsequently called on Macarthur when he was reported to be ill.

John Macarthur

In July, 1807, D'Arcy Wentworth, an assistant surgeon, was tried by a court martial for contempt and disobedience of orders on the complaint of captain Abbott. The court, under the presidency of major Johnston, found him guilty and sentenced him to be publicly reprimanded. On the 23rd of July, Wentworth was ordered to return to his duties, but two days later was suspended from office by orders of the governor. Wentworth immediately made application to Bligh for the reasons of his suspension; and when these were refused he sought permission to visit England, but this request was also refused. Bligh had caused a private inquiry * into the conduct of Wentworth, and he transmitted the charges to England without giving Wentworth the opportunity of making any reply. This action of Bligh was manifestly unjust. The court martial had been instigated by one of the military party, and it is probable that Bligh's inquiries arose out of the trial. However, the military party, after the arrest of Bligh, took up Wentworth's cause, when he was tried and honourably acquitted by court martial.** Wentworth's suspension provoked his bitter hostility to Bligh.

[* See page 188.]      [** See page 446 et seq.]

In the meantime, Bligh had been making inquiries into the land tenures in the town of Sydney. He submitted a lengthy report on the subject in his despatch, dated 31st October, 1807. Bligh noted irregularities in many of the leases,*** and on the 23rd of July issued a general order directing six named persons to quit and remove their houses from lands adjoining government house on or before the 1st of November following. These persons had received permissive occupancies from Governor King. Amongst other leases adversely commented on in his despatch there was a lease to John Macarthur, near St. Phillip's church. This lease was dated 1st January, 1806, but Bligh asserted **** that it was given after the 12th of July, 1806, which statement is probably correct.***** It is very likely that this and other leases were given by King as a placebo to some of his active opponents. Bligh prevented Macarthur taking possession of the lease, as it encroached on the church lands.

[*** See note 38.]      [**** See page 424.]      [***** See note 128.]

In October, 1807, Bligh was again in open conflict with Macarthur. Bligh gave orders that the complete stills, which had been imported in the Dart, should be shipped on the Duke of Portland for their return to England. After their arrival the coppers had been removed to Macarthur's house to unpack the sundries which they contained, and had not been returned to the public store. When he heard of Bligh's orders, Macarthur endeavoured to obtain permission to sell the complete stills to some ship going to India or China, or, if this was objected to, to retain the copper only for domestic use. These requests were ignored. After some petty objections raised by Macarthur, the coppers were removed from the house of Garnham Blaxcell, Macarthur's partner, under the superintendence of Robert Campbell, junior, acting by the orders of the naval officer, but without the consent of Macarthur. Macarthur at once brought an action * against Campbell, junior, for wrongful seizure of his property, and secured a majority verdict in his favour on the ground that Campbell, junior, held no official status. The vindictive words used by Macarthur in his address to the court indicate that it was a malicious prosecution directed at Bligh. The deportation of the stills was justified fully, and the only error was committed by the naval officer when he directed his nephew, R. Campbell, junior, to remove the coppers, instead of personally superintending.

[* See page 174.]

In the more important of his official acts, Bligh had been in the right. But in smaller matters he had acted unwisely, and his conduct had caused offence. By this time, there had developed, especially amongst the military, a feeling of rancour and bitterness. This was due to small causes, to his coarseness of speech, to the directness of his remarks, and to his disregard for the feelings of others. Major Johnston, in October, 1807, wrote to the military secretary of the Duke of York, and asked him to intervene between the governor and the commanding officer of the military. Johnston complained of Bligh's "interfering in the interior management of the Corps by selecting and ordering both officers and men on various duties without my knowledge; his abusing and confining the soldiers without the smallest provocation and without ever consulting me as their commanding officer; and again, his casting the most unreserved and opprobrious censure on the Corps at different times in company at Government House." Johnston was of a pacific nature, but it is clear that he was antagonised by the manners which Bligh had learnt on the quarter-deck.

Prior to the arrival of the schooner Parramatta, at the end of November, Bligh had acquired an unenviable position. John Macarthur and D'Arcy Wentworth were his open enemies; George Johnston, John Harris, William Minchin, and the military generally were in covert antagonism to him; many of the merchants were opposed to him owing to restriction of their trade. On the other hand, the middle and lower orders of settlers were warmly attached to him on account of his actions for their relief after the Hawkesbury floods. In the meantime Bligh's enemies in England had not been idle. The opposition commenced by the friends of the mutineers of the Bounty had been continued. In Bligh's absence, many calumnies had been circulated, just as had happened under the administration of governors Hunter and King. Short had obtained a hearing, and his reports had gained credence to Bligh's prejudice. Bligh was accused of selling provisions at high prices for his own emolument during the scarcity in the colony. An agitation for Bligh's recall was commenced, and Francis Grose, who had become a general, was suggested openly as his successor. As the appointment of Grose would have thrown the colony entirely into the hands of the military, it is highly probable that the agitation was originated by the friends of the military party in New South Wales. The opinion held in the office of the secretary of state is unknown, but the extent of the agitation may be gathered by the fact that the Morning Herald on the 1st of February, 1808, actually announced the recall of Bligh. This was incorrect.


[Sources: Watson; Bladen]


IN June, 1807, the schooner Parramatta, which belonged to John Macarthur and Messrs. Hulletts, of London, had cleared for Otaheite. John Hoare, a convict for life, secreted himself on board her, and at Otaheite escaped in the General Wellesley to India. By the port regulations, the master of every vessel at Port Jackson had to give security, himself in £800 and two inhabitants in £50 each, not to carry off any person without the governor's sanction. Macarthur and his partner, Garnham Blaxcell, were the bondsmen for the Parramatta. When the schooner returned in November, 1807, the naval officer sued for the amount of the bond in the civil court, and it was decided that the bond was forfeited. An appeal against this verdict was entered. In the meantime the naval officer refused to allow the vessel to be entered, retained the ship's papers, and placed two police officers on board in charge. Macarthur deeply resented this, and on the 7th of December notified * the master and crew of the schooner that he had abandoned her, and that they were no longer to expect pay or provisions. Seven days later the master and crew came on shore, and made affidavits ** at the judge-advocate's office that they had left the ship on account of Macarthur's action. These affidavits were necessary, as it was contrary to the port regulations for seamen to remain on shore in Sydney. Up to this moment Macarthur was wholly in the wrong, and deliberately set the law at defiance. The decision of the civil court for the forfeiture of the bonds was given on a question of fact. The naval officer was justified in holding the schooner until the penalties were liquidated. The lodging of an appeal could have had only the object of delay. No fact justified Macarthur in abandoning the schooner and forcing the crew to commit a breach of the port regulations.

[* See page 295.]      [** See page 307.]

Acting under instructions from Bligh, judge-advocate Atkins wrote * on the same day (14th December) to summon Macarthur to appear on the following day and answer for his conduct. Macarthur somewhat contemptuously declined to appear.** This was an error of judgment on the part of Macarthur, though strictly within his legal rights. The letter was virtually a command from the representative of the King, and certainly should not have been resented by him. On the 15th of December Atkins issued a warrant *** for the arrest of Macarthur, and according to Atkins' evidence, Bligh approved of his action. In issuing this warrant, Atkins was wrong. The letter to Macarthur was not a summons, and, until a legal summons had been served and ignored, no warrant for Macarthur's arrest should have been issued. Bligh had the misfortune of having a man as his legal adviser who was untrained in the law and addicted to alcoholic excess.**** The warrant was served by a constable. Macarthur spurned the constable, told him that he would never submit until he was forced, and added that Bligh and his friends would soon make a rope to hang themselves. This action was an open defiance of the civil power. On the following day a bench of magistrates,***** which included major Johnston, decided that a second warrant should be issued for his arrest. This was executed, and Macarthur was brought before Atkins and admitted to bail. On the 17th of December, he was again brought before a bench of magistrates,****** consisting of the judge-advocate, John Palmer, and two of the military party, George Johnston and Edward Abbott. By this bench he was committed to take his trial before the criminal court, and was admitted to bail.

[* See page 307.]      [** See page 296.]      [*** See page 310.]

[**** See page 150.]      [***** See page 312.]      [****** See page 314.]

The court of criminal jurisdiction did not meet until the 25th of January, 1808, but in the interval Macarthur was not idle. Four days after his committal he called upon Atkins for payment of a bill drawn in 1793. When payment was not made, he applied to Bligh for relief in a memorial,* dated 29th December, and in reply was informed "that a Court of Civil Jurisdiction is open to take cognizance of all Civil Actions." He repeated his applications to the governor without success on the 1st and 12th of January.

[* See page 231.]

Macarthur then attempted to make use of his lease near St. Phillip's church, which had been submitted by Bligh to the consideration of the secretary of state. For this purpose he engaged some soldiers of the New South Wales Corps to erect a fence around the allotment, which included a public well. Bligh was compelled publicly to put a stop to this work.

On the 20th of January Macarthur made a strong effort ** to obtain a copy of his indictment, but this request was refused. Two days later, when the members of the criminal court had been nominated, he wrote a letter *** to Bligh protesting against Atkins sitting as judge-advocate. In reply, he was told that the law must take its course. In this action, Macarthur was clearly in the wrong. At the trial of major Johnston in England in 1811, the judge-advocate general stated that "it was perfectly incompetent to any person brought before that Court to offer a challenge against the Judge-Advocate sitting upon it; he might as well offer a challenge against a Judge in this country sitting at the Assizes. The Governor has no more right to change the Judge-Advocate who sits upon that Court than he has to change a Judge in England or anywhere else."

[** See page 228.]      [*** See page 229.]

There is no doubt that Macarthur, prior to his trial, had determined to force a crisis with Bligh. Whether the actual usurpation of the government had been determined will probably never be known. There are indications that some conspiracy was on foot. On the 11th of January the removal of captain Abbott from his command at Parramatta to headquarters was proposed. Abbott was a magistrate, and this change would have given the military party a preponderancy on the bench of magistrates at Sydney. This plan was checkmated by Bligh, who sanctioned the change to take place on the 27th of January, but dispensed with Abbott's services as a magistrate. Abbott, in a private letter to Philip Gidley King, dated 13th February, 1808, stated that he had advised major Johnston that, in the event of taking the step to arrest Bligh, to send for lieutenant-governor Paterson, then stationed at Port Dalrymple, immediately afterwards. As Abbott was at Parramatta on the 26th of January, it is clear that this advice must have been given previously, and that the decision to make the arrest was not the mere impulse of the moment. Abbott, however, did not confirm this statement in his evidence at the trial of Johnston. At that trial Bligh swore that the screws were taken out of the breeches of the two field pieces at government house on the night of the 25th of January. Private Gillard swore that he removed the elevating screws from the same guns a few days before the 26th of January, by order of lieutenant Minchin. On the 24th of January, Edward and Hannibal Macarthur, Nicholas Bayly, and Garnham Blaxcell (Macarthur's two bailsmen), and the six officers who were nominated for the criminal court on the following day, all dined together at a mess dinner of the New South Wales Corps. John Macarthur was not present at the dinner, but spent the evening walking to and fro on the parade in front of the mess-room. It seems highly probable that the usurpation was the result of a well-considered plan, in which the prime mover was John Macarthur; that major Johnston was the passive figure-head of a more active and energetic party behind him; that many of the malcontents against Bligh were averse to extreme measures; and that the trial of Macarthur was made the cause of action by the prisoner and his immediate adherents to force Bligh's hands and to implicate the waverers and provoke them to take a decisive step.

The criminal court met for the trial of Macarthur * in the morning of the 25th of January. The members were the judge-advocate and six military officers. As was the custom, the oath was administered to the six officers by the judge-advocate, but, before Atkins had taken his oath, Macarthur entered a protest against him sitting as judge-advocate. The letters patent constituting the courts of justice enacted that the criminal court should consist of the judge-advocate for the time being and six officers of his Majesty's sea or land forces. These were one and indivisible. Until all the members of the court were sworn in, no legal court was constituted. The six officer members of the court therefore could only hear the protest in a private capacity, as they had no judicial standing until the court was legally complete. As has already been stated, no protest could stand, and the governor had no power to remove or supersede the judge-advocate. Before the meeting of the court, Macarthur was in possession of Bligh's opinion ** on the merits of a protest against Atkins, and he knew that it would not be entertained. In the deliberations of a criminal court, the judge-advocate acted as an exponent of the law to his colleagues, but in the consideration of the verdict his vote was equal only to that of any other member of the court. As six of the seven members of the court were military officers, and probably in sympathy with him, Macarthur had little reason to fear the verdict. The only inference that can be drawn from these facts is that Macarthur, in making this irregular protest, deliberately attempted to upset the administration of the colony, to force an immediate issue with Bligh, and to implicate openly the members of the court in an illegal procedure. It is probable that this action was taken on Macarthur's initiative, with the connivance of the extremist members of the military party. For some months previously, it must be remembered, Macarthur was not on terms of intimacy with Johnston and several of the senior officers.

[* See page 221 et seq.]      [** See page 229.]

At this stage, Bligh sought the advice of major Johnston, and at 5.30 p.m. on the 25th of January wrote requesting to see him without delay. Johnston sent a verbal message in reply that he was too unwell to attend. He had been present at the mess dinner on the night before, and had met with an accident on his return to Annandale. It is recorded that his face was much bruised and his arm in a sling for several days, and it is probable that a temporary incapacity was serious enough to affect Johnston's judgment for the time.

Early in the morning of the 26th of January, Macarthur was arrested and lodged in gaol on a warrant, issued by Atkins, Arndell, Campbell, and Palmer, for his alleged escape from the custody of the provost-marshal. Probably the magistrates were wrong in issuing this warrant. Macarthur's bailsmen were responsible for his appearance before the criminal court. As no criminal court had yet been legally formed, it is probable that technically Macarthur had not surrendered to his bail, was not in the custody of the provost-marshal, and that his bailsmen were still responsible for his appearance.

At 10 o'clock the six members of the criminal court met, and forwarded to Bligh Macarthur's protest against Atkins and their own protest against the imprisonment of Macarthur. Bligh did not reply to these letters, and at 3 o'clock the members adjourned. Shortly afterwards Bligh forwarded a summons to each member to appear before him on the following day to answer certain charges. The crimes they were charged with were treason and usurpation of the government. It is probable that the issue of this summons or some similar action by Bligh was the aim and object of the provocative conduct of Macarthur and the extremists. Bligh immediately communicated to Johnston the charges against the officers, and suggested that during his (Johnston's) illness captain Abbott should take the military command. In reply to Bligh's letter, Johnston sent a verbal message "that he was so ill as to be unable to write, but that he would get a person to write an answer in the evening."

Petition for Bligh's Arrest [Macarthur's handwriting]

Johnston received Bligh's letter at Annandale shortly after 4 o'clock, and notwithstanding his refusal to wait on Bligh, he hastened to the barracks, then situated around the site of Wynyard-square. It is evident that Johnston made no effort to achieve a peaceable settlement, but on the contrary was determined to let matters take their course. Soon after his arrival at the barracks Johnston committed the first open act of rebellion and usurpation of the civil power, when he assumed the title of lieutenant-governor and signed the warrant for the release of Macarthur from gaol. Macarthur had been confined in gaol throughout the day. The promptitude with which Johnston ordered the release is additional evidence that the insurrection was a preconceived plan. Macarthur was released, and shortly after 7 o'clock government house was surrounded by the soldiers, Bligh was arrested, and the colony was in the hands of rebels.


AFTER the insurrection Bligh was kept in confinement until February, 1809, when he was allowed to embark on H.M.S. Porpoise for the purpose of sailing direct for England. Bligh, however, sailed for Tasmania,* and returned to Port Jackson after the arrival of Governor Macquarie. He took his final departure on the 12th of May, 1810.

[* See below.]

Johnston's first official act was to assume the title of lieutenant-governor. This was quite unjustifiable. By the letters patent appointing each governor, the senior officer on the station was appointed administrator in the event of the death or absence of the governor or lieutenant-governor, and a lieutenant-governor was appointed only by a commission from the King. After this, acts of rebellion succeeded one another rapidly. On the 27th of January, the judge-advocate, commissary, provost-marshal, naval officer, and, three days later, the chaplain, were suspended from their duties. If the rebellion had been only against the person of Governor Bligh, it is difficult to understand why these officers should have been promptly relieved of their duties before giving evidence of unwillingness to continue acting, unless the object of the rebels was to obtain a complete control of all branches of the government. During the first few days of power, an insurrectionary committee sat to examine Bligh's public and private papers, with the object of securing incriminating evidence against him. With the possible exception of the papers in connection with Bligh's farm, this search was a total failure, and is decidedly discreditable to the honour of the insurrectionaries.

Petition of Thanks to Johnston, 27th January, 1808

The legal administration under Johnston was a parody of justice. On the 30th of January, a meeting of the criminal court was ordered for the trial of Macarthur. This trial was a pitiable farce. The indictment prepared by Atkins was read, but there was no prosecutor. Under these circumstances the prisoner, Macarthur, had unlimited license; there was no one to object to his questions; no one to cross-examine or refute the evidence he tendered; no one to question his conduct in producing extracts from Bligh's correspondence. Captain Abbott advised Johnston of the shameful character of the proceedings, but the trial was allowed to be completed without interruption.

The court martial on D'Arcy Wentworth * on the 17th of February was also a mockery, as there was no prosecutor. On the 10th of February, Thomas Jamison demanded a court martial ** on himself, but when Bligh refused to prosecute, no trial was held. The holding of the one trial and the refusal of the other were decidedly inconsistent actions. William Gore was convicted of perjury without trial after taking action similar to that of Macarthur at his first trial, in entering a protest against the constitution of the court. The trial of John and Gregory Blaxland and Simeon Lord was allowed to develop into the persecution of the prosecutor. Two men, Oliver Russell and Robert Daniels, were convicted and sentenced for perjury without trial.*** In the case of Russell and Daniels, Johnston recognised the flagrant injustice committed, and released the two prisoners.

[* See page 446 et seq.]      [** See page 442 et seq.]      [*** See page 484.]

By the end of March a very strong party had arisen in opposition to the Johnston-Macarthur administration. To checkmate this, Johnston ordered Charles Grimes and John Harris to carry his despatches to England. On the 26th of April, he wrote a letter **** to all officers stationed at Sydney challenging them to produce charges against Macarthur, but the officers tactfully refused. The settlers' antipathy to Macarthur is shown by their address ***** to Johnston on the 11th of April. According to the testimony ****** of Thomas Arndell, Macarthur endeavoured to silence all expression of opposition by the refusal of the individual's right to petition the representative of the king.

[**** See page 518.]      [***** See page 572.]      [****** See page 573.]

By his arrest of Bligh, Johnston took over the administration of a colony in which existed many discontented and discordant factions. The removal of Bligh did nothing to remove these causes of trouble, and the ease with which the rebellion was accomplished increased rather than allayed the restlessness. The general peace of the colony was in a worse condition after than before the arrest.

Johnston was superseded in the administration by the arrival of his senior officer. Foveaux returned to the colony on the 28th of July, 1808, and on the following day relieved Johnston in the administration of the government. The camaraderie and mutual support prevalent amongst the officers of the New South Wales Corps are well shown by his action on his arrival. On the 28th of July, Foveaux first learned of the arrest of Governor Bligh, and "determined on the same day to continue the arrest and to carry on the government in his own name. This resolution seems to have been taken almost sooner than it was possible to have received the necessary information" * to form his own opinion as to the advisability of Bligh's deposition.

[* From a legal opinion given by T. G. Harris for the crown.]

The most important episodes of Foveaux's administration were a continuation of the efforts to induce Bligh to leave the colony, the granting of lands in the city of Sydney, the endeavour to secure the cancellation of the contract ** between Messrs. Campbell and Hook and lieutenant-governor Collins, the erection of commissariat stores and barracks, and the drastic action *** he adopted with regard to the ship Rose.

[** See page 645.]      [*** See page 648 et seq.]

Foveaux was relieved of the government by the arrival of lieutenant-governor Paterson on the 1st of January, 1809.


[Source: Bladen.]

THE news [of Bligh's arrest in January, 1808] reached England in September. At that time Great Britain, and, in fact, the whole of the civilised world, was so engrossed in the triumphal progress of Napoleon, and the opening scenes of the great Peninsula War, that the affairs of a distant convict settlement attracted no attention. After the uproar which followed the Convention of Cintra had subsided, the British Government began to look about for a suitable man to re-establish order in New South Wales. It is easy to understand that Viscount Castlereagh, filling as he did the dual position of Minister for War and the Colonies, would lean to the appointment of a military man. The experiment of appointing sea captains had not been successful. Phillip, Hunter, King, and Bligh (all sea captains) had found it impossible to live on amicable terms with the military. Castlereagh's selection fell upon Brigadier-General Nightingall, then fresh returned from the Peninsula, where he had served with distinction under Sir Arthur Wellesley. At the same time the 73rd Regiment, then quartered in Scotland, was ordered to hold itself in readiness to embark for the colony to relieve the old New South Wales Corps; and orders were given that in future the returning Corps should be known as the 102nd. Before the arrangements for his departure were completed Nightingall fell ill, and the Governorship was conferred upon Lachlan Macquarie, then Lieutenant-Colonel of the 73rd Regiment.

While these events were happening in England, Lieutenant-Governor Paterson had arrived at Sydney from Port Dalrymple and taken over the command from Lieutenant-Colonel Foveaux.

If Paterson thought that he would find Bligh resigned to his lot, and that he himself would only have the perfunctory mission of holding office until orders were received from England, he was sadly mistaken. Immediately after his arrival a fresh cause of trouble arose. Bligh refused to relinquish his authority over the captains of the men-of-war. He warned the captain of H.M.S. Porpoise that he was to obey no orders but his. Paterson threatened to use force and send Bligh Home, under arrest, in an outgoing merchant vessel of 500 tons burden. In the meantime he confined him in a barrack.

The subsequent negotiations were conducted on Paterson's behalf by Johnston and Abbott. Bligh tells us (p. 173) that these two officers had not seen him since the memorable 26th January, 1808, when the arrest was made. It is evident from this that all communications were made by letter. We can imagine the awkward state of affairs at Sydney during the whole of the year 1808: the Governor confined to Government House, with its small grounds, at the top of Bridge-street, sentinels at the gates and doors; the head quarters of the usurping Government on the opposite side of the small Tank Stream; the two buildings are within hail of each other, but the only communications which pass are frigidly formal, official notes; the principals never see one another; Bligh keeps mostly indoors; the portraits of George III and Catherine, in the drawing-room, are veiled, and Bligh chafes as he hears the repeated "All's well!" of the sentinels without. It was under such circumstances that Johnston and Abbott waited on him on 30th January, 1809 (the anniversary, as Bligh grandiloquently remarked, of the martyrdom of King Charles). According to the Governor's account, it took Johnston and Abbott "some time to recover themselves from the effect of first seeing me." The recovery, however, when once made, was very complete, for they unceremoniously marched Bligh off, and confined him in a subaltern's barrack.* Bligh's account of his treatment on this occasion is unique. He describes at length the indignities heaped upon himself and his daughter by "as presumptuous a set of rebels as ever existed"; the mental strain involved in counteracting the machinations of the enemy, "whose minds are replete with every art and dissimulation", and his daily apprehension that the food supplied to him might be poisoned.

[* Bligh and his adherents stated that it was a subaltern's barrack, the subaltern being J. Finucane, Foveaux's secretary. Johnston, on his trial, stated that this was wrong; according to him, it was the surgeon's.]

Eventually a compromise was arranged. Bligh undertook to quit the colony in the Porpoise, and pledged his word of honour as an officer and a gentleman to proceed to England as quickly as possible, not touching at any port in the territory. He further agreed not to interfere in the Government of the colony on any pretence whatever. Paterson, on his part, agreed to allow Bligh to have the Porpoise, to remove all restraints on his liberty, to permit him to communicate with his friends and supporters, and to take Home to England, with him, any persons he desired.

This agreement had not been in force a fortnight before it was broken—first by Paterson, then by Bligh. Paterson refused to allow any one to go with Bligh, except his daughter, his secretary, and a few domestics; and Bligh, on his part, utterly disregarded his promise to sail direct for England.

Bligh seems to have had no difficulty in reconciling his breach of the pledge of honour, to his conscience. He regarded the fulfilment thereof—so he told Viscount Castlereagh—as "contrary to all political, moral, or religious precepts, and the duty I owed to my King" (p. 175). At the Court Martial on Johnston he seemed rather proud of his action in this particular. To him the military officers were unscrupulous usurpers, and he was justified in resorting to any expedient. The pledge of honour of a British officer, and a gentleman, is one which Bligh's friends would rather have seen him hold sacred, at whatever cost.** Fulton (p. 87) tells us that Bligh thought that the good of His Majesty's service was not to be sacrificed by keeping faith with rebels. Bligh himself tells us (p. 110): "I then, by stratagem, got command of my ship."

[** The extent to which the suggestio falsi was countenanced in the Navy a century ago is instanced by Paley's assertion that it was the custom of English ships to decoy an enemy into their power by counterfeiting signals of distress.—Mor. and Nat. Phil., p. 52.]

In accordance with this agreement, orders were given for the Porpoise to be prepared and provisioned for the voyage to Europe, and the deposed Governor was permitted to go on board—a free man. Having procured the command of the Porpoise, Bligh drew up a proclamation, dated 12th March, 1809, declaring the Corps to be in a state of mutiny, and forbidding the masters of vessels taking any of the persons connected with the rebellion out of the colony. Copies of the proclamation were made secretly, and when Bligh sailed he left them behind him to be circulated by his adherents. Although the wind was fair, he hovered about the coast between Port Stephens and Broken Bay for several days, and then made sail for the Derwent, his object, apparently, being to intercept, and take prisoners, Johnston and Macarthur, who were on the eve of embarking for England. When he arrived at Hobart on 31st March he found Collins prepared to pay him all the respect due to the Governor and Commander-in-Chief. Collins's communications were addressed to "His Excellency Governor Bligh", and the customary formalities were at first punctiliously observed. Bligh, it would appear, had, in a way, undertaken not to interfere in the internal government of the settlement. Such was the state of affairs when the Æolus arrived at Hobart Town with a proclamation*** by Lieutenant-Governor Paterson, forbidding any communication being held with Bligh, his family, or establishment, or with any person on the Porpoise known to be in his confidence or service. Collins, who had desired to be friendly with both parties, was forced to declare for one side or the other. After consulting his officers he decided to obey Paterson's orders, and had the proclamation ostracising Bligh read in church by the chaplain (Rev. Robert Knopwood) at a time when the officers of the Porpoise were attending Divine service. Bligh withdrew to his ship, and all friendly communications with the shore ceased. The weapons with which the fray between Bligh and his opponents was waged were proclamations and general orders. When Bligh read Paterson's proclamation he immediately replied with a counterblast, in which he warned all and sundry of the consequences they might expect if they opposed or defied him. He recited his authority to "vanquish, apprehend, take, and put to death" all "enemies, pirates, and rebels", this lengthy and high-sounding document will be found printed on pages 108 and 110. Bligh forwarded a copy to Collins, and requested him to have it printed, a dilemma from which Collins was rescued by some contumacious busybody who successfully concealed the small stock of printing ink. Bligh then requested Collins to assemble the inhabitants at the bell, and cause the proclamation to be read to them. Collins declined to comply, at the same time assuring Bligh of his unabated respect. For six months the same sort of official bickerings were indulged in as had prevailed at Sydney. This continued until the news of Macquarie's arrival was received, when Bligh hastened in high spirits to Sydney.

[*** Post, p. 81.]

Shortly after Bligh sailed for Hobart in H.M.S. Porpoise, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston and John Macarthur left Sydney in the Admiral Gambier, bound for England, viâ Rio de Janeiro. They were under the impression that Bligh had sailed for England, and hoped to forestall him. Paterson gave them a letter to the British Ambassador at Rio, to the effect that he had ordered them to England for the purpose of explaining to His Majesty's Ministers the circumstances connected with the arrest of Governor Bligh. For some months prior to their departure from Sydney, Macarthur was very much less conspicuous than he had been at the arrest of Bligh and the events consequent thereon. When Foveaux superseded Johnston, Macarthur's occupation was gone. It was very fortunate for Macarthur that he had left Sydney when Macquarie arrived. His bold step, in sailing for England to fight Bligh in the law courts, turned out to be the best thing he could have done. Had he been at Sydney when the reliefs landed from England, and Bligh returned from Hobart, he would beyond all doubt have been arrested on a criminal charge and tried by a court composed of the Judge-Advocate Bent and the officers of the 73rd Regiment, who would view the transactions of 26th January from a very different point of view to that taken by the officers of the New South Wales Corps.

When it became known in England that Johnston and Macarthur had left the colony, and were daily expected to arrive in London, steps were at once taken to secure counsel's opinion as to the question of prosecuting them. The lawyers to whom the papers were referred advised that both of them were guilty of conspiracy and high misdemeanour. Johnston it was recommended should be tried by Court Martial. Macarthur and the other civilians inculpated (Bayly, Townson, J. Blaxland, Blaxcell, and Jamison) could only be tried by the law of the colony in which the offence was committed. It was, therefore, recommended that Macarthur be sent back to New South Wales, and a prosecution instituted against him in the Criminal Court. It may be that Macarthur suspected this, for he sent word from Rio that they would land at Bristol. As a matter of fact, they landed on the west coast of Ireland, travelled by land to Cork, and from thence sailed to Bristol, where they were met by Mr. Macarthur's eldest son, Edward, a lieutenant in the 39th Regiment.

Macarthur expected—and he was not disappointed—to find a powerful enemy in Sir Joseph Banks. Bligh had been a protege of Banks for years: he had virtually received at his hands the appointment of Governor, and under almost any circumstances would have been fairly sure of Sir Joseph's support. When it became known in England that the ringleader was John Macarthur, about whom so many of Banks' friends had complained, and with whom he had never been on friendly terms, it is not to be wondered at that he readily took up the cudgels on Bligh's behalf. During the whole of his residence in the colony, Bligh kept Banks well posted in its affairs; in fact, it is evident that Bligh deemed it no less important to report direct to Banks than it was to do so to his official superiors at Downing-street. A comparison of his letters and despatches to Viscount Castlereagh and to Banks shows many of them to be practically identical. Word for word, the private letters addressed by Bligh to Banks correspond with the official despatches to Viscount Castlereagh. The deferential allusions to "your Lordship" are paraphrased into a more friendly style of address; but in well nigh every other respect they are fairly faithful copies.

Macarthur was not dismayed by Banks's open hostility. In one of his first letters, sent from England before Bligh had arrived, he remarked: "Sir Joseph Banks still continues to advocate his friend's [Bligh's] cause, and speaks of him as a much-injured, meritorious character; fortunately, no one believes him."** Again, immediately before Johnston's trial, Macarthur tells his wife: "Mr. Bligh is universally execrated. Sir Joseph Banks certainly supports their cause with all his interest."*** On p. 539 will be found a private letter from Bligh to Banks. At the time it was written, the Court Martial on Lieut.-Colonel Johnston was sitting. It is evident from this letter that they were in close and constant communication. Bligh complained of the methods adopted by the prosecution, and realised that it was he, as much as Johnston, who was standing his trial.

[** Post, p. 370.]      [*** Post, p. 526. [End Bladen.]]

In the meantime counsel had been consulted on behalf of the crown, and had given their opinion that major Johnston, Macarthur "and the persons concerned with them were guilty of a conspiracy and high misdemeanor in the arrest and imprisonment of Governor Bligh"; that the military concerned should be tried by a court martial in England, and all others by a criminal court in the colony. The authorities were unable to take action until the witnesses for the prosecution arrived, on the 25th of October, 1810, and it is doubtful whether any action would have been taken if Johnston and his party had not been so persistent in their agitation for an inquiry.

The Court assembled at Chelsea Hospital on 7th May, 1811, and continued by adjournments until 5th June. It was composed of fifteen military officers under the presidency of Lieutenant-General Keppel. The Right Hon. Charles Manners-Sutton—afterwards Speaker of the House of Commons—was Judge Advocate. Governor Bligh was represented by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Frederick Pollock, and Lieutenant Colonel Johnston by Mr. C. F. Williams and Mr. J. Adolphus.

Title Page of "History of New South Wales"
by A Literary Gentleman [G. Paterson]


[Source: THE HISTORY OF NEW SOUTH WALES FROM ITS FIRST DISCOVERY TO THE PRESENT TIME (1811): APPENDIX (pages 533 to 624) by G. Paterson [and J. Bartrum].


THE fullest, clearest, and best substantiated account of the present state of the colony of New South Wales was produced in evidence on the trial of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johns[t]on, major of the 102d regiment, late the New South Wales Corps, on a charge of mutiny exhibited against him by the crown, for deposing, on the 26th January, 1808, William Bligh, Esq. F.R.S. then Captain in his Majesty's navy (and since appointed Rear-admiral of the Blue) Captain-General and Governor in Chief, in and over the territory of New South Wales and its dependencies, held before a general court martial at Chelsea Hospital, Tuesday, May 7th, 1811. We shall therefore exhibit an abstract of the most material evidence adduced on this important trial, as far as it tends to elucidate the causes of that singular transaction, or to communicate a knowledge of the circumstances of the colony. The court was constituted as follows:—




Lieut.-Gen. Sir D. Baird. | Lieut.-Gen. Milner.
—————— Hon. E. Finch. | —————— McDonald.
—————— Dowdeswell. | Major-Gen. Hon. E. Paget.
Major-General Kerr. | Colonel Burnet.
Colonel Anson. | ———— Fyers.
———— O'Loglin. | ———— Buller.
Lieut.-Col. Lord Proby. | Lieut.-Col. Paterson.


[Counsel for the Crown was Mr. Larpent; Governor Bligh was represented by Mr. (afterwards Sir) Frederick Pollock, and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston by Mr. C. F. Williams and Mr. J . Adolphus.—see above.]


THE warrant for holding the court, together with the charge against Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston, were read by the Judge Advocate, as follows:—

  G.P.R. [George Prince Regent]

WHEREAS it hath been most humbly represented unto us, that the following charge bath been preferred against Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, Major in his Majesty's 102d regiment of foot, viz.

"That Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, Major as aforesaid, did, on or about the 26th day of January, 1808, at Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, begin, excite, cause, and join in a mutiny, by putting himself at the head of the New South Wales Corps, then under his command and doing duty in the colony, and seizing and causing to be seized and arrested, and imprisoning and causing to be imprisoned, by means of the above-mentioned military force, the person of William Bligh, Esq. then Captain-General and Governor in Chief in and over the territory of New South Wales:"

Which charge we have thought fit should be inquired into by a General Court Martial:—Our will and pleasure therefore is, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, that a General Court Martial be forthwith held on this occasion, which is to consist of Lieutenant-General William Keppel, Colonel of his Majesty's 67th or the South Hampshire regiment of foot, whom we appoint president thereof, and of a sufficient number of other officers of competent rank and quality, who can be conveniently summoned to attend the same. And you are to order the Provost Marshal General of his Majesty's forces, or his deputy, to give notice to the said president and officers, and all others whom it may concern, when and where the said Court Martial is to be held, and to summon such witnesses as may be able to give testimony touching the charge above specified; the said Provost Marshal General and his deputy being hereby required to obey your orders, and give their attendance where it shall be requisite. And we do hereby authorise and empower the said General Court Martial to hear and examine all such matters and information as shall be brought before them, touching the charge against the said Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, Major as aforesaid, and to proceed in the trial and giving sentence according to the rules of military discipline. And for so doing, this shall be, as well to you as to the General Court Martial, and to all others whom it may concern, a sufficient warrant.

Given at our Court at Carlton House, this third day of April, 1811, in the fifty-first year of his Majesty's reign. By the command of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, in the name anion the behalf of his Majesty.


To the Right Hon. Charles Manners Sutton,
Judge Advocate-General of his Majesty's
Forces, or his Deputy.


[Tuesday, 7 May, 1811]

Opening Speech.

Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston having pleaded not guilty, Governor Bligh read to the court a statement of the case in substance as follows:—

"In the month of May, 1805, his Majesty was pleased to appoint me Captain General and Governor in Chief of the territory of New South Wales. With my commission, I had the honour to receive instructions under the sign manual accompanied by others from the Secretary of State, directing the conduct I was to pursue in my future government; and thus prepared, on the 28th of January, 1806, I sailed from England, having a commission as a post-captain of his Majesty's ship Porpoise, with a commander under me, and was afterwards directed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to wear a broad pendant, constituting me a commodore, and to hoist the same on board of such other ship as might be at New South Wales.

"I arrived there on the 5th of August following, and on the 13th read my commission, took the necessary oaths, and superseded Governor King in the command of the colony and its dependencies. On this occasion I received respectful addresses from the military and civil officers, free inhabitants, and others, congratulating me on my appointment and safe arrival, which were shortly afterwards followed by some others, that convinced me that dissentions prevailed in the settlement, and that much attention on my part would be necessary to preserve the peace and promote the unanimity of the inhabitants.

"To ascertain the state of the colony, I visited many of the inhabitants individually, and witnessed many melancholy proofs of their wretched condition. A want even of the common necessaries of life was too prevalent, particularly at the extensive settlement of the Hawkesbury; and although Sydney, the head-quarters, formed some exception to the general aspect, yet there the inhabitants and public storehouses were falling into decay; industry was declining; while a pernicious fondness for spirituous liquors was gaining ground, to the destruction of public morals and private happiness."

Governor Bligh then proceeded to state the measures he adopted to check the pernicious custom of bartering spirits; the committal of Mr Macarthur; the conduct of the six officers that formed the criminal court appointed to try him; and his subsequent release by order of Major Johnston.

"Immediately after the order for the release of Macarthur," he continued, "there followed an operation of the main guard close to the gate of the Government-House, and the regiment marched down from the barracks led on by Major Johnston and the other officers, with colours flying and music playing as they advanced to the house. Within a few minutes after, the house was surrounded; the soldiers quickly broke into all parts of it, and arrested all the magistrates, Mr. Gore the provost marshal, Mr Griffin my Secretary, and Mr Fulton the chaplain. I had just time to call to my orderly serjeant to have my horses ready while I went up stairs to put on my uniform, (the family being then in deep mourning) when on my return, as I was standing on the staircase waiting for my servant with my sword, I saw a number of soldiers rushing up stairs with their muskets and fixed bayonets, as I conceived to seize my person. I retired instantly into a back room, to defeat their object, and to deliberate on the means to be adopted for the restoration of my authority, which in such a critical situation could only be accomplished by my getting into the interior of the country adjacent to the Hawkesbury, where I knew the whole body of the people would flock to my standard. To this situation I was pursued by the soldiers, and after experiencing much insult, was conducted below by Lieutenant Minchin, who told me that Major Johnston was waiting for me. We passed together into the drawing-room, every part being crowded with soldiers under arms, many of whom appeared to be intoxicated.

"I then received a letter brought by Lieut. Moore, and signed by Major Johnston (calling himself Lieutenant Governor), requiring me to resign my authority, and to submit to the arrest under which, he placed me; which I had scarcely perused, when a message was delivered to me that Major Johnston wished to speak to me in the adjoining room, at the door of which he soon after appeared, surrounded by his officers and soldiers; and in terms much to the same effect as his letter he there verbally confirmed my arrest. Martial law was proclaimed, my secretary and my friends were prevented from seeing me, and I was left only with my daughter and another lady.

"By Major Johnston's order several persons seized my cabinet and papers, with my commission, instructions, and the great seal of the colony. These were locked up in a room guarded by two sentinels, and several others were placed wand the house to prevent my escape.

"The same evening committees were formed with a pretended view of examining into my government, but in reality to discover all such persons as were attached to me. In this Macarthur took an active part.

"On the following day Lieutenant Moore came with Major. Johnston's orders, and carried away my swords and what fire arms he found in the house; at noon three vollies were fired by the soldiers, and twenty-one guns from the battery, while the royal standard was displayed. His Majesty's Commissary, the Provost Marshal, the Judge Advocate, and the Chaplain, were suspended from their offices; all the magistrates were dismissed, and others appointed in their room; the most extraordinary and mutinous proclamations were issued, and even my broad pendant as Commodore on the station was ordered by Major Johnston to be struck. Thus was the mutiny complete: those who were concerned in it had got possession of the government, had turned out all the civil officers and substituted others in their room, and imposed on me an arrest which continued from the time of the mutiny till the 20th of February, 1809.

"The circumstances of indignity to which I was exposed during all the period of usurpation which followed the mutiny, I need not here state to this honourable Court; suffice it to say at present, that after experiencing various insults while under arrest, and many hardships after I was enlarged, being proscribed as an outlaw, Colonel Macquarie arrived at the colony on the 28th of December, 1809, with orders from his Majesty to reinstate me in my government, and to express his Majesty's high disapprobation at the mutiny. Shortly after, I left the colony, and arrived in England the 25th of October, 1810.

Rear-Admiral William Bligh
NLA pic-an11230917-v

"Thus have I endeavoured to give to this honourable Court such a statement of the mutiny as may be necessary to connect and explain the evidence that, will be given: and here for the present, ignorant of what may be attempted to be asserted against me, and not willing to waste unnecessarily the time of the Court, I shall rest my case. Should any justification be attempted, I doubt not this honourable Court will give me an opportunity of answering it by any additional witnesses, and by again submitting myself, or the witnesses who shall have been already examined, to a re-examination as to the matters to which they shall not already have been examined.

"What justification can be offered I am at a loss to conceive; and although I have seen the dispatch, which three months nearly after the event Colonel Johnston sent home to the Secretary of State, and which contains nothing but general and vague assertions, I am still as much in doubt what excuse can be presented to this honourable Court for a mutiny so unprecedented in the military annals of this country, so dangerous by its example, and in many of its effects to the colony so destructive."

After some conversation respecting the time that had elapsed since the expulsion of Governor Bligh, it was decided by the Court that the accusation came within the limits of the act of parliament, as it appeared that the limited period had been exceeded without cause. The appointment of William Bligh, Esq. to be Governor of New South Wales, and his instruction, were then proved, after which he was examined on the part of the prosecution.

Examination of Bligh.

PROSECUTOR: Have you the Admiralty order, authorisizing you to carry a broad pendant?

BLIGH: Yes, sir.

Q Put it in. [Read.]

Q When did you first, in pursuance of his Majesty's commission, take upon yourself the government of New South Wales as Governor and Captain General?

A About the 13th of Aug. 1806.

Q To what period were you acting as such?

A To the 26th of January, 1808.

Q In what state did you find the colony upon your arrival?

A In a very miserable state.

Q Did you discover any, and what abuses, then existing with respect to spirits?

A There was a barter of spirits for articles that were wanting of every description, by those persons who had spirits to purchase them with.

Q Were the officers or soldiers at all interested in that barter of spirits, and if so, how?

A The officers were very much interested in the barter of spirits; so much so, as to be enabled to get whatever they wanted at a very cheap rate.

Q What with respect to the soldiers?

A The observation applies exactly the same to the soldiers, provided they could get it.

Q Did you take any measures to prevent this barter of spirits?

A Yes, sir.

Q What?

A By prohibiting the barter of spirits altogether; and it stands so in my public orders.

Q Have you those orders?

A Yes, sir; there is a copy of them in the common orderly book, and they have also been printed.

Q Did those measures of reform create any discontent in the colony; and if so, mention who were discontented, and on what account, and how they shewed their discontent?

A They did create discontent among a few.

Q Mention who were discontented.

A Those persons in particular who were connected with the mutiny, who were connected with my arrest; Macarthur, and a few others, whose names are mentioned in my dispatches.

Q Was there a regiment in the settlement at that time called the New South Wales Corps, or the 102d regiment?

A Yes, sir.

Q Under whose command was this corps at that time?

A Major Johnston, at head-quarters; Colonel Paterson was colonel of the regiment, he was at one of the out-settlements, at Port Dalrymple, as Lieutenant Governor.

Q Who was then the senior officer in his Majesty's service at the colony?

A Am I to understand that any distinction is made between the colony and the territory?

Q At Sydney?

A Major Johnston.

Q Of the 102d?

A Of the New South Wales Corps then; I never knew it as the 102d till it came home.

Q In what state was the settlement in general in the month of January, 1808?

A In a very improved state, and the whole people happy and contented in a high degree, except as I mentioned in answer to a former question.

Q Was there the least danger of tumult or insurrection, or of any disturbance in the settlement, provided the military had remained true to you as the Governor?

A Not the least danger.

Q Did you receive any address as Governor on the first of January, 1808?

A I did.

Q What is that paper?

A It is the original address. [Read.]

THE COURT: Signed by how many names; It appears to have been totalled 838.

A Of the settled inhabitants, the landholders; all the respectable people, except a few as before mentioned; and it was delivered to me by persons who have come over to witness that these were the sentiments of the whole colony.

THE COURT: Are the landholders convicts?

A Some of the landholders use people who have been sent out as convicts, and who have got a quantity of land, to the extent perhaps of 50 or 100 acres, as ticket-of-leave-men; others are regular settlers. They are a mixture of those people, which has always been the case in that colony.


Q Were any of them convicts at the time they signed the address?

A I really do not know: there may be some who were convicts, because many of the convicts are emancipated, and have spots of ground given them, which they, cultivate for themselves. There may be convicts among them; I know nothing of them myself.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: I understand Captain Bligh to state, that the subscriptions to this address are composed of persons who have been sent as convicts to the settlement and of persons who have gone out thither as settlers, but he does not know their respective names.

That is followed up by a question, whether any of those who signed the address were convicts at the time. The answer introduces another description of persons: there are persons sent out as convicts who have served their time, and remain in the colony as settlers, and persons who went out originally as settlers, and there are persons also, who being convicts there, still are at liberty, and have land given them; therefore there are three descriptions of persons.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Was Mr John Macarthur in January, 1808, under charge for certain supposed offences?

A Yes, sir.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Do you know whether any and what Court Martial met to try this charge on the 25th of January, 1808?

A No Court Martial whatever; the Criminal Court met.


A On the 25th of January, 1808.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: To try this supposed charge?

A Yes, sir.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Do you know the names of the members composing that Court?

A Yes, sir.


A Captain Anthony Fenn Kemp, Lieut. John Brabyn, Lieut. Wm. Moore, Lieut. Thomas Laycock, Lieut. William Minchin, Lieut. William Lawson.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Of what corps?

A All of the New South Wales Corps.

THE JUDGE ADVOCATE: Who was at that time acting as Judge Advocate in the settlement, what had he to do in the Criminal Court?

A To preside, according to act of parliament, as Judge of the Court.


Q On the same day, (that is, on the 25th of January) was any application made to you by the Judge Advocate for redress? If so, what was the application, and against whom was it made?

A The Judge Advocate represented to me that he had been used extremely ill; that after he had sworn in the members of the Court, the six officers refused to swear him in until Mr Macarthur had read a paper which was in his hand, (upon which the paper was read) and Mr Judge Advocate Atkins prevented from being a part of the Court. It was of a most inflammatory tendency, the paper was, and scurrilous.

Q What did you do in consequence of this application? Relate what passed between you and this Criminal Court on the occasion.

A Letters passed between us to induce me to change the Judge Advocate. I refused to appoint any other Judge Advocate, and declared there could be no Court without him. They however would not swear him in, or allow him to sit; upon which they detained his papers; and finally, Mr Atkins reported the case to me by a memorial.

Q What steps did you take with respect to the Court, and by whose advice: did you advise with any body?

A I had all the magistrates about me.

THE COURT: Did you summon the magistrates to attend, or did they come by chance?

A They were sent for by me by message only, and they came: there was a consultation; and the result was, it was determined that Mr Macarthur should be arrested.

THE COURT: What consultation?

A The magistrates and civil officers were at the Government House at that time; we were all together. Mr Judge Advocate Atkins came and read his memorial. Upon the memorial being read, circumstances were then considered to be in a very alarming way, and I wrote a letter to Major Johnston, requesting his attendance at Government House; and afterwards, when I found that Mr Macarthur was let loose from the criminal court, circumstances were then thought so much more alarming that I immediately sent another letter to Major Johnston to come to me, as I wanted his advice and opinion upon the circumstances, as to what was necessary to be done. These are the letters I sent to Major Johnston.

THE COURT: Are those the original letters?

A Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Are those the letters you sent; is that the letter itself, or is it a copy?

A It is signed by Mr Griffin, my secretary. I ordered my secretary to sign it, and his name is to it. I don't know whether it is a copy or the original.

THE COURT: Do you know whether it is the same in words with the letter you sent?

A O, yes.

THE COURT: You saw the letter before it was sent?

A I did.

THE COURT: You dictated it?

A Yes. [The first letter read.]

THE COURT: Had you any answer to that?

A To that letter I received a verbal answer, that he could not come: I think it was, that he had fallen out of his chaise, and that he could not come. This is the second letter which I sent him, dated Government House, the 26th of January, the day after the first was sent. [Read.]

THE COURT: What answer did you receive to that; verbal or written?

A A verbal answer; all were verbal. That Major Johnston was too ill to come, and he would endeavour to get a person to write an answer in the evening. I think it was nearly to that amount.


Q Was any thing stated to you on the 25th of January by the Provost Marshal Mr Gore, relative to Mr Macarthur and his bail?

A Yes.

Q What did you do about that?

A Mr Gore declared that Mr Macarthur was out of his custody.

Q What did you do then?

A Myself and the magistrates then took the matter into consideration, and a warrant was issued, ordering Macarthur into custody.

Q Who dined with you at the Government House on the 28th of January, and remained with you during the evening?

A There was Mr Campbell, a merchant, a gentleman who had been resident in the colony for some years; Mr Palmer, the commissary; Mr Griffin, the secretary; Mr Williamson, the deputy commissary: I am not sure whether there were any other persons there, I am not sure whether Mr Fulton was not there, I rather think he was not.

Q Did you see any soldiers approach the Government House on that evening?

A Yes.

Q What soldiers, what number of them, and at what time?

A At what time I am sure I cannot say with precision; it was about sun-down.

Q What soldiers were they?

A They appeared to be the whole of the New South Wales Corps, or the greater part of them; there might be a few sentinels left at the barracks.

Q Were they there with their arms?

A All with their arms; they marched up in battle array, with their colours flying and bayonets fixed.

Q Had they any officers with them?

A Yes, sir.

Q Who were they?

A Major Johnston was at the head of them; he was the commanding officer. Before they reached Government House, Lieutenant Bell, who was the officer of the main guard, commonly called the Governor's guard, advanced suddenly with his men, burst through the gates, and surrounded the house; the principal body, with Major Johnston at their head, marching up the road in the mean time, came in afterward. They entered the house, and burst through the rooms; they broke open the door, and burst into my daughter's room.

Q Who do you mean by they?

A Some of the soldiers.

Q Was there any artillery?

A There were two pieces before the house, and two at the barracks, upon the Parade.

Q Stationed there?

A Stationed there; the two guns upon the Parade were pointed towards Government House: there were two field-pieces likewise before the house: and it appeared that the night before, without my knowledge, the screws were taken away out of the breeches.

Q Was the direction of the guns altered; were the guns on this day pointed as they had always been before?

A Those before the house were not altered, but those on the Parade were. They always stood with their muzzles in the line of Government House, but not pointed directly towards it; their position was usually to the right.

THE COURT: You don't mean to say the guns were pointed particularly to your house on that day more than on any other?

A Yes, I do think they were.

THE COURT: You say not those by your house, but those that were at the barracks?

A Those that were at the barracks.

THE COURT: What distance are the barracks from Government House?

A I should suppose about 400 yards, in a straight line. If the Court would allow me, I have a plan of the town, which would serve to explain the transaction. [The plan was produced.]

THE COURT: Was any order to release Mr Macarthur given to you; and by whom was that order?

A Mr Gore the provost marshal brought it up to me in the room where I was with the magistrates; a written order, signed with the name of Major Johnston, as Lieutenant Governor.

THE COURT: When did he bring it up?

A That was the 26th.

THE COURT: Was that before or after you saw the soldiery coming up to Government House?

A It was just about the time they were marching up: we saw that Mr Macarthur had been liberated a short time before Mr Gore reported. They let him loose out of jail, and he mixed himself with the New South Wales Corps; and the moment they got him amongst them, they marched up along with him.

THE COURT: Is that the order?

A This is the order, sir. [Read.]

THE COURT: This is the order that was given to you?

A Yes, sir, before Major Johnston came up; that was prior to my being put under arrest.

THE COURT: You have already stated in your evidence, that it was given to you about the same period of time the soldiers were marching up to Government House: do you know whose hand-writing that is?

A I think it is Major Johnston's.

THE COURT: Do you know it?

A It is my belief that it is.

THE COURT: Have you sufficient knowledge of his hand-writing so be able to swear that you believe it is his?

A Yes, sir; I have seen him write his name frequently; and I verily believe, upon my oath, that it is his hand-writing.

THE COURT: Was Colonel Johnston then, in fact, Lieutenant-Governor?

A Not, sir; he was only Major Johnston. The Lieutenant-Governor, as far as I could comprehend, and who had been reported as such in the Calendars, was Colonel Paterson; the prisoner was only Major Johnston, commanding the troops at head-quarters.

THE COURT: Was Major Johnston the senior officer present at head-quarters?

A Yes, sir.

JUDGE ADVOCATE: You see they are both in the same regiment, Colonel Paterson and Major Johnston; and the patent which has been read states, that on the death or absence of the Governor, the government shall devolve upon the person who has the highest command.

THE COURT: That would be either Colonel Paterson or Major Johnston, the man who would have been Lieutenant Governor, agreeably to your commission, supposing you had died?

A Colonel Paterson; but Johnston took the government for the time being.

THE COURT: What distance was Colonel Paterson off from Port Jackson?

A In a good sailing vessel a week or a fortnight would perform it.

THE PRESIDENT: There must always have been a Governor.

PROSECUTOR: Q What did you do on first seeing the soldiers approach Government House?

A I immediately retired, it was so sudden; and, with the gentlemen who were with me, went up stairs into my own room, and got together some papers which were there, and which I thought it necessary to take care of. While this was doing, the gentlemen all left me, except Mr Palmer, the emissary; and Mr Palmer and myself were standing together at the head of the stairs, when on hearing the troops making a noise round the house, and rushing in, Mr Palmer went down; and as he reached the foot of the stairs, a party of the soldiers rushed past him, and came up to the head of the stairs where he had left me. These men were in an infuriated state, with their muskets, and bayonets fixed; upon which, feeling that they were coming with great fierceness to seize my person, I retired into a room which was upon my right hand as I stood on the staircase. These were two rooms in the place that I went into an inner and an outer room, divided from each other by a small partitions, with a door between them; I went into the inner room, which was an end room of the house, where there was a window, at which it was my contemplation how I could possibly get clear of the troops that had surrounded the house, and get to the Hawkesbury.

Q Is the Hawkesbury distant?

A It is a district forty miles in the interior, where most of the free persons are settled, with only a small party of soldiers, perhaps fifteen or sixteen, and where I was sure the people would flock to my standard, and give all their aid in defending me. While I was in the room which I have mentioned, the door between the two rooms was shut, and there I arranged the papers which I had got with me, and tore a number of them in order to lessen my bundle, which was too large to be concealed under my waistcoat. I tore a great number of them; and a vast quantity of the pieces were picked up by John Dunn, my servant, and afterwards burnt. During this time the troops were running all over the rooms; the room I was in was at the back part of the house; they had rummaged every where except this room; and while I was in it busied about these papers, the door was opened, and the person who opened the door, who was Lieutenant Moore, of the same corps, said,"Pooh! pooh! you need not come in here, the Governor is not here", just in that indifferent kind of way; "The Governor is not in here, the Governor is not to be found here;" and retired; and the door was shut again. I then heard them rattling about the staircase and rummaging the other parts of the house in search of me for a long while, and many bad expressions made use of. Afterwards I understood they had been rummaging all the outhouses and searching the grounds, and that they sent their scouts every way, as they apprehended I had escaped into the country and gone to the Hawkesbury. I then heard a halloo-balloo, and a man cry out, (which was one Serjeant Whittle,) "Damn my eyes, I will find him—soldiers! come up stairs again, I will have another search;" or words to that effect. The fellows came in, Serjeant Whittle commanded the party, which consisted of eight or ten men, or there might be more; they came with their muskets, and bayonets fixed, into the room, and there they found me. There was a hallo-balloo directly, and a cheering by the troops outside, that the Governor was found. I was then a little confused in fixing and arranging my papers withinside my waistcoat; I put my right hand up to prevent them from falling through; a fellow came up to me, and with his bayonet presented, says, "Damn your eyes, if you don't take your hand out of there, I will whip this into you immediately." I immediately called out, "Serjeant, keep the man off, I have no arms—stand off." At this moment, in the middle of a great crowd, came Lieutenant Minchin, creeping through upon his hands and knees, and called out, "Serjeant, keep the men off, the Governor is not armed:" upon which Mr Minchin took hold of me by the arm, and led me down stairs, telling me that Major Johnston wanted me below; and accordingly I was obliged to go below.

Q Was any letter then given to you; and if so, by whom?

A Lieutenant Moore was the first person that came up to me with a letter.

Q When you got down stairs?

A When I got down stairs, after I had entered the drawing-room, Lieutenant Moore brought an a letter. Communicating with the drawing-room is an outer room, called the dining parlour; on being led into these rooms, I found troops stationed all round the walls, just hire a Roberspierrean party, or a revolutionary tribunal; while other troops like sentinels surrounded the house, having a party with them, consisting of a few of the inhabitants.

Q Is that the letter that was given to you?

A This is the letter which was delivered to me by Lieutenant Moore.

Q Do you know by whom it is signed?

A It is signed by Major Johnston.

Q Is that his hand-writing?

A Yes, it is, sir.

Q To whom is it addressed?

A To myself, William Bligh, Esq.

Q Not directed to the Governor?

A Not at all.

Q How is it directed?

A "On his Majesty's service. William Bligh, Esquire, F.R.S. &c."

Q Now read the letter? [Read.]

Q Did you afterwards see Colonel Johnston himself?

A Yes, sir; there was a message brought that Major Johnston wanted to speak to me; and just as I received it, as I was moving forward, he met me at the door of the drawing-room.

Q Who were present when you saw him?

A Mr Griffin, my secretary, I believe, was present, and Mr Campbell; I don't know whether some of my servants may not have been there also.

Q What passed when you saw Colonel Johnston?

A What he said was just to the amount of the letter; that he had put me under arrest by the advice of his officers, and therefore commanded me to remain under the arrest that he had placed me in.

Q To your own knowledge, was any thing done to your papers, public and private, and by whom?

A Yes, sir.

Q Only state what you know yourself.

A I know that every thing,—my commission, all my papers, a cabinet, and desk, that were in one of the rooms,—were taken possession of by Mr John Blaxland, who is one of those gentlemen that have come home; Mr Grimes, Mr Jamieson, Dr Townson, and Mr Blaxcell, as named in my dispatch, which I will take my solemn oath is every word of it correct. These were taken possession of, all my private drawers ransacked, every thing was taken out of this room, and huddled into another, where they were locked up, the door sealed, and two sentries put over it; that I might have no access to the papers.

Q Who were then left with you, and in what state were you left?

A I was left with only two ladies; one of them my daughter, the other was a Mrs Palmer: the servants remained in the house.

Q Did you make any application relative to your secretary, Mr Griffin?

A Yes, I did.

Q What was that application; to whom did you make it, and what was the answer?

A I said "Major Johnston, I suppose you will not take my secretary away, he may remain with me?" for all the magistrates were seized and carried I knew not where, I knew nothing of where they were carried till afterwards; there was only a Mr Campbell at this time in the house. Major Johnston said, "O yes, certainly, Mr Griffin may remain—but stop," says he, "Mr Bayly," (Mr Bayly was the person who brought every message to me, and was the secretary of Major Johnston ever afterward,)—Major Johnston said, "Stop, Mr Bayly, go and ask the inhabitants outside, whether they approve of Mr Griffin's remaining here." Away he ran: he was absent I suppose about a minute, or not so much; then he comes back to Major Johnston, and says, "It is not approved of." In consequence, the secretary was not suffered to remain with me; and I was left the only person in the house with my daughter and Mrs Palmer, as I before stated.

Q Where were you left?

A In my own house.

Q From this time who acted as Governor?

A Major Johnston.

Q Do you, of your own knowledge, know of any acts or proclamations of Colonel Johnston, at or about this time, relating to martial law, or to the superseding of your officers, and the appointment of others?

A Yes, I heard it mentioned in the house at the time, that Major Johnston—

Q Do you know what was done with your public and private papers?

A They were all put into one room on the night of the 26th.

Q What has become of them since?

A On the 27th, or the day after, committees were appointed, by a written order from Major Johnston, to come and examine my papers.

Q How do you know they were written orders?

A Because the secretary, Mr Bayly, brought the orders he was to act upon, and the papers themselves are forth-coming to show that Major Johnston directed it.

Q You saw this written order?

A Yes, they came to me with it: Bayly walked in at the head of this committee, as the principal mover of the thing, and read the paper That his honour the Lieutenant Governor had ordered them to come and do so and so.

Q Was any thing done with respect to your establishment at this time, as to allowances?

A Yes, there was.

Q What?

A Major Johnston informed me by letter, that whatever I might want would be furnished me, and charged according to the Government prices, or the prices then misting in the colony, and that an account of such charges should be transmitted home to his Majesty's Secretary of State, to know whether I was to pay them or not.

Q Have you got that letter?

A Yes.

THE COURT: Your allowance was to cease from that time?

A I did not consider so.

THE COURT: But you understand so from that order?

A No.

THE COURT: What was the use of the order?

A I could not understand what the order meant, further than that I was to have what I wanted, but I was to pay for it.

THE COURT: Why should you not pay for what you had?

A The rations and whatever things are taken out of the government stores in the settlement are issued under the orders of the Governor, by the commissary, and he takes an account of it; all the Governor's provisions come from the Government stock, and the Governor would have nothing to eat if he had not the command of the Government stock; the Governor has the sole power to use every thing, and if he had not the command of the Government stock he would have nothing to live upon but salt meat.


Q Where, and in what state, were you kept during the time that Colonel Johnston continued to act as the Governor?

A I was confined to Government House, with permission from Major Johnston to go any where in the garden for the air, having sentinels to attend me, whose orders were to keep at about six paces from me; which orders they in general strictly fulfilled,—so much so, that at times, when my daughter has been walking with me arm in arm, we could not speak for the interruption of a sentinel; we could say nothing to each other in close conversation, the sentinels kept so close to us; we were insulted and treated in the most cruel manner.

Q Who succeeded Colonel Johnston in the government, and when?

A Major Johnston continued in the government till July, 1808, I believe, when Colonel Foveaux came. I believe it was about the 29th of July that Colonel Foveaux arrived.

THE COURT: Is. Colonel Foveaux senior officer to Colonel Paterson?

A No, he is not senior to Colonel Paterson; he came out from England as Lieutenant Governor of Norfolk Island, and brought a letter to me from the Secretary of State, requiring me not to suffer him to remain at Port Jackson, but to send him off to Norfolk Island, there to carry into execution the orders that were contained in my dispatch. He brought me this letter. I informed Colonel Foveaux what my orders were, and he had himself orders from the Secretary of State. Upon his arrival, having a sanguine hope that he would unite with me in getting the colony again into my hands, I sent some of my friends to wait upon him. Mr Macarthur, however, and his adherents had got to the ship first, and my friends could only succeed in getting a letter on board, but which they did, and he received it. The letter from me was my positive orders, as Commander in Chief, that be should put himself at the head of the New South Wales Corps, and reinstate me in my government.


Q What and in what state were you when Colonel Foveaux succeeded Major Johnston?

A I remained in the Government House confined, and suffered many indignities until the first of January, 1809, when Colonel Paterson arrived.

Q Who succeeded Colonel Foveaux?

A Colonel Paterson.

Q When?

A On the first of January, 1809.

Q That is, he arrived at Sydney on the first of January, 1809[?]

A Yes, he arrived then.

Q How long did you remain under arrest?

A From the 26th of January, 1808, until the 20th of February, 1809, at which time I got possession of my ship, in which I was proclaimed, or rather, I was proscribed, as an outlaw, and every person in the colony was ordered, upon pain of punishment, not to supply me or my family with any food or article whatever. I was completely outlawed; and in this situation I remained till about the middle of January, 1810, when I determined, having waited with great impatience, and no succours coming to me for two years, to proceed to head quarters, there to wait, and to support myself in the best manner I could by seizing provisions out of the shipping, which was the only means I had. I did seize them: but on my arrival at Sydney, I found that Colonel Macquarie of the 73d regiment had arrived, with orders from his Majesty to reinstate me in my government.

Q When was this?

A The middle of January, 1810; Colonel Macquarie arrived in December, 1809, I believe the last day of the year. I had been just two years without hearing a word from England. I went to Sydney, not only to wait there, but intending to defend myself when I was there; because had there been no change of government, they would have attacked me the moment they arrived.

Q Where did you remain during the time you were under arrest?

A At the Government House.

Q Then on the 20th of February, 1809, you state that you got possession of a ship?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where did you get possession of that ship?

A It was his Majesty's ship the Porpoise, which I commanded.

Q Where was she lying?

A She was lying in Sydney Cove.

Q That is opposite Government House?

A It is opposite Government House, but I had been carried to close confinement before that by Major Johnston I was taken up to a subaltern's barrack because I would not consent to give up my ship.

Q You have stated that you were under confinement in the Government House from the 26th of January, 1808, to the 20th of February, 1809?

A Yes, sir.

Q Now you say before the end of that period, you were taken up to the barracks?

A Speaking generally to the question, that was the answer: I was under arrest till the 20th of February, 1809, for the most part in the Government House; but within that period of time a proposal was made to me by Colonel Paterson; that is, Major Johnston came down with orders from Colonel Paterson.

Q Are you speaking now to what you know?

A Yes.

Q How do you know that Major Johnston came down to you with orders from Colonel Paterson?

A Because he shewed me the orders; he and Captain Abbott came down to Government House from Colonel Paterson, with written orders first of all that I should give up his Majesty's ship the Porpoise, to go according to their own direction to Norfolk Island or some where else. My answer was, I will never comply with any orders from you; Sand it is at your peril, and at the peril of any one else, to take that ship, with my broad pendant, from me, sir; you shall not have her. Then the prisoner said, I am very sorry, sir, but I have orders, that unless you comply with his Honour's request, you are to proceed with us up to a subaltern's barrack, which is prepared for you at the barracks. I then desired that I might have the order, which was not granted; but my secretary was allowed to take a copy of it, which was compared with the original. Their Majesties' pictures were at the end of the room covered with a piece of gauze: "I said to Colonel Johnston, It is a fortunate thing their Majesties' faces are covered, that they cannot see this transaction": upon which Major Johnston replied, "Sir, you must go with us."

Q Then you went with Major Johnston to this subaltern's barrack?

A Yes.

Q How long did you remain there?

A About a week. They took me to this subaltern's barrack, and my daughter ran after me, just seizing hold of my arm as we entered; she fainted away in my arms. I called to Major Johnston to get me some water; but instead of procuring any, thinking this was the time to get the better of me, while my daughter was in this situation, he came up with a fresh message from the Lieutenant Governor, to tell me, "Sir, I am come with an order from the Lieutenant Governor, that you are to prepare yourself to embark on board the Estramina (which is a small schooner) as soon as she arrives." I asked Major Johnston where she was going: he said, "I don't know," made a low bow, and retired; and the whole affair was conducted with as much awful ceremony as possible.

Q What became of you at the expiration of the week?

A At the expiration of the week I was permitted to return to the Government House, under conditions. Upon my being placed in the barracks, I remained there for a week, during which time there was a good deal said to induce me to give up the command of my ship; and at last it came to a treaty and agreement with Colonel Paterson, that I should go home in the Gambier, a merchant ship; and the farce was carried so far, that I was desired to mark out such accommodations as I wished to have on board the ship. I sent a statement of the accommodations which I thought would be necessary, to Colonel Paterson. He sent me back word that the accommodations I had marked out were too large; and I learned afterward, that Mr Macarthur and Major Johnston were to go home in this vessel. It was a large ship, and they did ultimately proceed to England in her. When this was determined upon, I desired to have no farther communications in writing; but that if any thing was to be done they should send an officer. Mr Finucane then came, and made proposals for my taking the command of my ship the Porpoise.

Q Who was Mr Finucane?

A He was secretary to Colonel Fouveaux at that time.

Q What were the terms?

A For me to return to England. I took the Porpoise upon the terms they had proposed to me; and the moment I got the command of the Porpoise I took care to keep it, and would not suffer any of their terms, or any thing which they said, to have the least influence upon my mind; I took the command of the ship, and the command of the colony again, by which means I saved the lives and properties of many of his Majesty's subjects. I considered myself, the moment I got on board my ship, as the legal Governor of the country, and so I considered myself to the last.

Q Then you went straight from the barracks to the Porpoise?

A I went from Government House to the Porpoise.

Q But you stated, that when this proposal was made to you, you were confined in the barracks?

A Upon my agreeing to the terms which they proposed the carriage was brought, and I was taken back to Government House, whence I was to embark.

Q How long did you remain in Government House before you embarked?

A I should think about a fortnight, or a little better; they agreed that I should embark on the 20th. I was more anxious to embark on the 20th than they were, for if I had waited till the 21st, I believe they would not have permitted me to embark at all.

Q On the 20th of what month did you embark?

A Of February, 1809.

Q You have said, in the former part of your examination, that you remained under arrest from the 26th of January, 1809 [sic]; then, you say, you took possession of the Porpoise?

A Yes, sir; that is correct.

Q In which situation you remained till the middle of January, 1810; you remained on board the Porpoise all that time?

A All that time.

Q Where were you in the Porpoise?

A At the Derwent, waiting for succours, I sailed from Port Jackson to the Derwent on the 17th of March, having taken possession of the ship the 20th of February: the people thought I was going to England,—that was the condition on which the ship had been given up to me; but instead of going to England, I took the command again, and went to the southward.

Q Did you land at the Derwent?

A Yes, sir; and saw Colonel Collins there, who, when I arrived, united himself to me, and I landed.

Q He acknowledged your authority?

A He acknowledged my authority, he was very happy to see me, and we remained there on the best terms a week or a fortnight; when a Gazette containing a proclamation was sent down from Colonel Paterson at head-quarters, proscribing me and my family, and prohibiting all descriptions of persons from having any communication with me. Colonel Paterson wrote at the same time to Colonel Collins in such a way, that nothing I could say to him could prevent his mind being alienated from me. I had been accustomed always to sleep on board my ship, leaving my daughter on shore for the sake of her health at the Government House, with her servants; in short, I did not dare to quit my ship at night, because I had my suspicions; and the first symptom I perceived of Colonel Collins's being inclined to unite with the Lieutenant-Governor was, that proceeding one morning about eight o'clock to my daughter's apartments, I found the sentinel was taken from off the door.

Q When was this?

A About a fortnight after. I had been there; between that and three weeks.

Q The sentinel had been placed over the door as a mark of respect?

A Yes, sir; every mark of respect, by salutes and otherwise, was shewn to me up to this moment.

Q By Colonel Collins?

A By Colonel Collins. This circumstance struck me with a good deal of suspicion: I desired my daughter to take hold of my arm; and having walked out a little way, I told her what I thought. I said to her, "I will direct the boat's crew, as many as we can muster, to get your things out of your room, for this is so suspicious a circumstance that I will take you on board instantly;" and I got her on board immediately. There I remained; Colonel Collins having united with the orders that were sent down from Port Jackson, which I endeavoured publicly to counteract as much as was in my power: nevertheless, Colonel Collins remained united with Colonel Paterson, and were no longer upon any friendly footing.

Q Then you remained on board your vessel?

A I remained on board my vessel, getting some trivial supplies from the captains of ships, and some fresh beef I got from a man of the name of George Guest, who did it in opposition to Colonel Collins, setting him at defiance. Of a few poor unfortunate settlers, who endeavoured to get off a few fowls and some mutton to my daughter, some were seized and flogged, and one poor man, whose name was Belbin, received, I believe, four or five hundred lashes, and was imprisoned, for the relief he had given to my daughter.

Q You remained on board your ship till you returned to Sydney, in the middle of January, 1810?

A Just so.

Q There you found Colonel Macquarie arrived, with orders to reinstate you?

A To reinstate me in my command.

Q How far is the Derwent from Sydney?

A It is considered about ten days' or a fortnight's sail.

Q Is that Colonel Johnston's hand-writing?

A Yes, sir, it is.

BLIGH: I beg leave to mention to the Court, there was a proclamation issued in the beginning of this business which is of the utmost importance, and which shews the character of the whole of the transaction better than any thing else: it is a turbulent proclamation, ending—"Soldiers, you have done your duty! you have now put the credit of the New South Wales Corps on a footing which is not to be shaken!"—in short, worded in all the revolutionary phraseology of France.

A MEMBER: Have you that proclamation?

A Yes, sir; it shall be produced to-morrow. Adjourned.

SECOND DAY—Examination of Bligh (continued.)

THE Second Day was mostly occupied in explaining the evidence before given. It also appeared, as the Judge Advocate observed, 'that Governor Bligh, upon his return to Sydney, had delivered to him, by Governor Macquarie, a letter from the Secretary of State to him, Captain Bligh, stating, that directions were sent out by Governor Macquarie to reinstate him in the government for twenty-four hours, when he was to be superseded by Colonel Macquarie. Then the fact appeared, that Governor Bligh was not reinstated, and that the reason of that was, that he was absent from Sydney at the time that Colonel Macquarie arrived; therefore Colonel Macquarie had but one alternative to follow, either to leave the colony without a Governor until Captain Bligh should return, or to assume the government himself; and having once assumed it, he could not depose himself in order to reinstate Governor Bligh for twenty-four hours.' The letter was produced, directed to Governor Bligh; and this letter, Governor Bligh stated, was delivered to him, on his arrival at Sydney, by Governor Macquarie.

THIRD DAY—Cross-examination of Bligh.

JOHNSTON: It appears by your evidence, that you acted as Governor of New South Wales about seventeen months: had you ever been before that time in a situation that gave you the command of land forces?

BLIGH: No; marines I have, but not the regular troops of the line.

Q How often has it happened, in the course of your service in the navy, that you have found it necessary to bring officers or others to courts martial for mutiny or other similar offences?

A I think about twice, I have brought persons to a court martial; twice or thrice, I suppose, in the course of forty years constant and active service.

Q How many courts martial have you obtained against individuals for other offences?

A Really, gentlemen, it is hard for me to answer such a question; the world knows perfectly well, that in 178[9] there was a mutiny on board the ship Bounty: I presume that is what they allude to; I don't know any other mutiny that I have had any thing to do with, except that dreadful mutiny at the Nore, in which, of course, I was not particularly concerned.

Q How often has it happened, in the course of your service in the navy, that you have found it necessary to bring individuals to courts martial for mutiny or similar offences?

A Oh! for mutiny—in the year 178[9], when the ship Bounty was taken from my command by the mutiny of the people, and myself with some others turned into an open boat, and set adrift from the ship in the Pacific Ocean, and these circumstances stand recorded in public history, and prove that the way in which I was turned out of that ship was most honourable to me as commander of her, and on the public trial of the mutineers, when the members of the Court were investigating the case, and a witness was giving evidence, they put this question to him: "In what situation was your captain when the mutineer officers were standing with their swords drawn round him?" he replied, "Standing in his shirt with his hands tied behind his back."

[Here the Judge Advocate offered some observations, after which Governor Bligh proceeded.]

A If the Court would allow me, I would say this in explanation. In the year 1787, I was sent out in the command of his Majesty's ship Bounty, to bring the bread-fruit from Otaheite to the West Indies, and to explore the passage between New Holland and New Guinea. In the course of this voyage it was that a part of my crew mutinied; they seized and tied me in my shirt, with my hands behind my back, and put me at last into the boat, and then set us adrift. We were forty-eight days and nights without any relief, and with scarcely any food to support life: however, I got home at last, having escaped the greatest dangers, of climate and the sea. Immediately upon my coming home, my King called upon me a second time to proceed on the same voyage, which was beside the most dangerous voyage that could then be performed, as no man at that time knew any thing about the geography of that part of the world. I was allowed to fit out two ships in any manner that I liked: I did fit out two ships, and sailed on the voyage. In the mean-time, while I was fitting those ships out, a ship was sent in search of the mutineers; that ship was the Pandora: it was equipped, and it sailed. I went upon the voyage which I had been ordered upon, and returned, after fully accomplishing the objects of my mission; and upon my return, I found the Pandora had gone out but had not returned, for she got aground is the very passage between New Guinea and New Holland which I had been sent out to explore, and was lost, and it was a miracle that the captain and any of the men reached home again. But although the ship got into this dangerous situation, the captain did not forget his duty to secure the mutineers: he had been fortunate enough to lay hold of some of them, and he brought home; I was absent all that time, on that most dangerous voyage, and these men were brought home; they were tried in my absence; most of them were convicted, some were executed, and some were reprieved.

Q Then do I understand your answer to be, that the men of the Bounty are the only persons brought to a court martial for mutiny with which you have ever had any concern, you having stated what the transaction was?

A Those are all that I recollect.

Q Then another question is, How many courts martial have you obtained against individuals for other offences?

A To the best of my recollection, about three; but if there have been three score, if the prisoner will be so good as to mention them, I will tell him whether he is right or not.

Q Have you ever been brought to a court martial, and for what?

A I was brought to a court martial for the loss of the Bounty: and my lieutenant, who, I understand, is now turned out of the service, brought me to a trial when I commanded his Majesty's ship the Warrior, a seventy-four.

Q And for what? the latter part of the question is.

A I cannot say how the charge was worded; but the amount of it, I recollect, was, that I had sent for him to do his duty when he had a lame foot, which he had embarked on board the ship with, but made a pretence of it when I sent for him on duty, and said that it was an act of tyranny on my part to send for him, or the word might be, oppression.

Q What was the result of that last court martial to which you have spoken?

A I think, to the best of my recollection, that the affair terminated with the Court, saying, they recommended to Captain Bligh to be more cautious in his expressions; I think that was just to the amount of it, word for word.

Q When you had prohibited the traffic in spirits, did you enforce the order you had issued with impartiality?

A In the most impartial manner.

Q Was not Andrew Thomson your bailiff convicted by the magistrates in the penalty of 100l. for selling part of a puncheon of spirits; and did you not remit the penalty?

A Andrew Thomson was the man who had charge of a little farm of mine; it was through my rigid impartiality that he was detected in the offence of making an improper use of a quantity of spirits which had been intrusted to his care for distribution among the settlers in the interior; and it was by my order to the Judge Advocate that he was brought to trial; and I would have nothing to do with him afterwards; he was in the hands of the magistrates, and I had nothing more to do with him.

Q The latter part of the question is, And did you not remit the penalty?

A No; I recollect nothing of the kind, of remitting the penalty; I was so incensed, I thought the penalty too light: he had been guilty of a breach of faith, which I thought deserving of the highest punishment.

Q Did you immediately dismiss him from your service?

A I dismissed him from my service so far, that I never allowed him to come near me afterwards: the usurpation came on very soon afterwards, and there were several things be had to account for, but he never came into my confidence again, though he supplicated in the strongest manner; but there were some circumstances of my affairs which I had to settle with him, and he was obliged to come to me for that purpose, and I saw him upon that occasion.

Q Was he not always continued as your agent; and did he not in that quality correspond with you in the most confidential manner?

A He had the impudence to address me on other subjects beside the little trust which was confided in him, and I reprimanded him for it in the severest manner.

A MEMBER: Was the penalty remitted by the magistrates?

A Really I cannot positively speak to that.

A MEMBER: You have stated, that after he was in the hands of the magistrates you had nothing more to do with him?

A I do not believe it was remitted at all, I know nothing of its being remitted; but, sir, the magistrates will be forthcoming as witnesses to speak to the fact.


Q Will Captain Bligh add to that, that he did not remit it?

A I really cannot call the thing to recollection, but the magistrates will be forthcoming; I do not recollect, upon my oath, that it was remitted: on the contrary, upon my oath I should declare that it was not remitted; that is my idea of it, but the magistrates will be forthcoming to prove the facts.

A MEMBER: You have spoken of an individual of the name of Macarthur; Was not that Mr Macarthur one of the principal settlers in the colony?

A Yes.

JUDGE ADVOCATE: Had he the authority of his Majesty's government for a grant of 5000 acres of land?

A Yes, I believe so; he certainly had such a grant; I was so informed by a member of his Majesty's government, but it was before my government.


Q Together with the power of employing a certain number of labourers, for forwarding a project of great public importance, that of raising very fine wool, which should supercede or supply the want of Spanish wool?

A I heard that government had been informed by Mr Macarthur that such he could produce, and that every indulgence was granted by government to enable him to do that.

A MEMBER: This grant was before your appointment?

A Before my appointment, sir; I found him there in that situation; he had sheep, but he had no quantity of wool in his possession when I arrived.

A MEMBER: Did you ever forward or endeavour to forward, or did you oppose and thwart, the execution of these declared intentions of his Majesty's government?

A I did every thing in my power to forward the views of his Majesty's government

A MEMBER: In this respect?

A In that respect.

A MEMBER: Did you not damn the Privy Council and Secretary of State, and say that Macarthur should not keep the grant of land which he held by order of the Secretary of State?

A No. I declare to God I never did.

A MEMBER: Did you not, in the hearing of Major Abbott use these words, or others to the like effect: 'Damn the Secretary of State; what do I care for him, he commands in England, and I command here?'

A I know nothing about it.

A MEMBER: Did you not say, in the presence of Lieutenant Minchin: 'I don't care a damn for the Secretary of State; he is but a clerk in office, in to-day, and out to-morrow?'

A I did not.

A MEMBER: Will you venture to restate, upon your oath, that you never did utter any of those expressions, or any words to the like effect?

A To the best of my recollection, I know of nothing of this kind of conversation taking place.

[After some other questions respecting houses being pulled down and lands seized by order of Governor Bligh, the interrogator proceeded.]


Q Did you not by force, and against the will of Mr Harris, the agent of Captain Kent, seize and take to your own use a fine English bull, the only one in the colony, and the property of Captain Kent?

A Never.

Q Was Mr Atkins your confidential law-adviser?

A He was my public law-adviser, not a confidential one: he was Judge Advocate to the colony.

Q The question is, Was he your confidential law-advisor?

A He was the public law-officer of the colony; I had no private confidence with Mr Atkins, but if any thing was to be done concerning the law he was called.

Q Had you a high opinion of his ability and integrity?

A Whatever opinion I had of Mr Atkins, I thought proper to keep to myself, as I do now. I do not conceive it proper, that upon a request coming in this way, I should say whether that man is one thing or another.

A MEMBER: I should certainly think it not necessary.

A I only object to it, because my opinion of Mr Atkins might not be favourable.


Q Have you not expressed yourself of Mr Atkins in these terms: 'He has been accustomed to inebriety; he has been the ridicule of the community; sentence of death has been pronounced in moments of intoxication; his determination is weak; his opinion floating and infirm; his knowledge of the law is insignificant, and subject to private inclination; and confidential causes of the crown, where due secrecy is required, he is not to be trusted with?'

A That paper, sir, which you have now read, was a secret document transmitted by me to the Secretary of State in sure confidence.

Q Do you know a person of the name of George Crosley?

A Yes, sir.

Q Do you not know that he was a man of most infamous character, and was transported to New South Wales for perjury?

A I know nothing of his character, but that he was sent out from England to New South Wales, that win any way injurious to him.

THE COURT: That is, sent out as a convict?

A He was transported, but I know nothing of the circumstances; it was many years ago, I understand.

THE COURT: Before you arrived?

A O yes, sir, a long time before I arrived.

THE COURT: Did you find him as a settler?

A As a settler, sir.

THE COURT: Not as a convict?

A As a settler, and not as a convict. I believe Mr Macarthur and every officer in the colony employed him as an attorney, more or less, as they could get hold of him.

FOURTH DAY—Witnesses for the Crown.

John Palmer [Commissary and Magistrate; dismissed after the mutiny] sworn, and examined on the part of the Prosecution.

PROSECUTOR: When did you first go out to New South Wales?

PALMER: With Governor Phillips.

Q What time was that?

A In 1788.

Q How long have you resided there?

A Ever since: I first went out as Purser of the Sirius, and was appointed Commissary on the 12th of April, 1790.

Q Were you there while Gov. Bligh was the governor?

A Yes, sir.

Q And in what situation?

A As Commissary.

Q Had you any particular means of knowing the sentiments of the settlers at different times during your residence there?

A Yes, sir.

Q What were they; and when did the settlers appear to you in general to be best satisfied with the government of the colony?

A In Governor Bligh's time; more so, I think, than in any other governor's.

Q What was the conduct of Governor Bligh in general, and particularly with respect to the administration of justice in the settlement?

A He always administered justice, according to my ideas, impartially to every body and to all ranks of people.

Q During the government of Gov. Bligh, and particularly January, 1808, before the 26th, in what state was the colony; were any persons discontented?

A I never heard of any. I never saw the colony in a more thriving state, or people in general better satisfied.

Q Had any thing taken place relating to the barter of spirits which had excited discontent?

A I don't recollect particularly; if there was any discontent, it was occasioned by that.

Q Was there any danger of revolt or insurrection in January, 1808, if the military had remained obedient to the Governor?

A No, sir, none whatever.

Q Were you present at the meeting of the magistrates on the 16th of December concerning Mr Macarthur[?]

A Yes, sir.

Q Was Col. Johnston there?

A He was, sir; one of the members.

Q How did Mr Macarthur behave on that occasion?

A He was before the second bench, on the 17th, when he behaved in a very violent manner.

Q Did the public service suffer in consequence of your being turned out of your office, and the stores or your papers taken from you?

A Yes, I conceive very much, from the stores being afterwards very improperly applied.

Q Were you examined upon any business on the 27th?

A Yes, sir, I was.

Q Was Major Johnston there?

A Yes, he was.

Q Did Major Johnston take any part while he was there?

A Yes, he administered an oath to me, sir.

Q Who examined you?

A Mr Bayly, who was his secretary, Mr Blaxcell, and another gentleman whose name I do not recollect at present.

Q To what were you examined?

A They required that I should relate all I knew respecting Governor Bligh's administration; but indeed I was so flurried and confused at the time, that I cannot charge my memory with every thing that passed.

THE COURT: What are the number of inhabitants in that part of the colony?

A I should suppose from three to four thousand, men, women, and children.

THE COURT: Not including the soldiers?

A I should suppose there might be about two or three thousand inhabitants.

THE COURT: Including the convicts?

A Including the convicts about three thousand; I know it from the numbers that were victualled there.

THE COURT: What was the number of troops?

A I suppose, sir, between four and five hundred.

THE COURT: You mean the number of troops between four and five hundred, within the same range within which you have described the number of inhabitants to be between two and three thousand?

A Yes, there were more than four hundred I am sure.

THE COURT: Had you any knowledge of or connexion with Capt. Bligh previous to his arrival as Governor in the colony?

A I never saw him before, nor heard of him before.

Mr Palmer cross-examined by Lieut. Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: Was not Col. Johnston the oldest military officer in the colony?

PALMER: In that part of the colony, at Sydney.

Q How long had Col. Johnston been there?

A He went out at the first formation of the settlement, the same time that I went.

Q Had any other officer been there so long a time?

A Not that I know of, sir.

Q Was not his conduct uniformly quiet and submissive to the authority of the several Governors in your time?

A Until the 26th of January, sir, I never knew him otherwise.

Q Was there any reason for considering him a discontented person in January, 1808?

A No reason that I know of, except, as I said before, on account of the barter of spirits; but that cannot speak particularly to.

Mr Robert Campbell, a naval officer, and a magistrate for about seven months, deposed, that the colonists were very quiet and contented under the government of William Bligh, Esq. and that the mutiny arose from the dissatisfaction which his regulations concerning spirits created amongst the civil and military officers. On his cross examination he admitted that the fine of 100l. incurred by Andrew Thompson for selling spirits contrary to the general order had never been paid to him as treasurer of the public funds; that Col. Johnston's habits of life were very retired, and that he never heard any officer complain of the Governor's regulations with respect to spirits. He also acknowledged that Mr Crosley was a very dishonest man, and that he was consulted by the Governor in the dispute respecting the criminal court.

Mr Francis Oakes, chief constable of Parramatta and its district, deposed, that the Colony under the Government of Captain Bligh was very flourishing and peaceable, and that after the Governor's arrest he himself was removed from his office, and obliged to remove his family to a friend's house, the people of Parramatta being much enraged against him. On his cross examination it appeared that though his name as Constable had been Gazetted, he was never swore into the office; and that the barter for spirits and other goods, before Gov. Bligh's time, was the common way of making, payments and exchanges throughout the Colony.

Mr William Gore [Provost-Marshall] sworn.—Examined on the part of the Prosecution.

PROSECUTOR: Were you in New South Wales during Gov. Bligh's government; and in what situation?

GORE: I was there, sir, as Provost Marshal: I arrived with. Gov. Bligh.

Q In what state was the colony previous to the 26th of January 1808; and how were the colonists disposed towards the Governor?

A The colonists generally from my knowledge of them were extremely well disposed towards. Gov. Bligh, and the colony was extremely tranquil.

Q What was the conduct of the Governor generally during his government, especially relating to the administration of justice; had you any, and if any what particular means of judging of his conduct in that respect?

A As the Provost Marshal of the territory, I had at all times a very general access to the Governor; all warrants of execution were directed to me, and all sentences of magistrates were carried into execution under my immediate orders. I have myself made several applications in favour of individuals under sentence of death, which were at all times attended to.

Q Were any persons discontented with the measures of the Government; and if so, who were discontented, and upon what account?

A There were a number of individuals, sir, discontented with the measures of the Governor, which in my opinion originated in consequence of the suppression of certain abuses which existed in the colony at the time of Gov. Bligh's arrival.

Q State the nature of those abuses.

A One abuse (the suppression of which gave extreme discontent) was the barter of spirits; another abuse (which had prevailed very generally) was the circulation of private notes-of-hand in that colony: those notes-of-hand on Gov. Bligh's arrival, and previous to it, were drawn payable in colonial currency; but the Governor issued general orders that such only should pass in future which were drawn payable in sterling money.

Q Are there any other measures of reform to which you conceive these discontents are attributable?

A I think, sir, from the time of Gov. Bligh's arrival in New South Wales till the time of the subversion of the government, I acted as Provost Marshal, and for some months before the latter period I was also acting as Superintendant of the Police; and Gov. Bligh had at several times after I became Superintendant of Police desired me to express to the Judge Advocate his wish and his hope, that he would in future discontinue the severe punishments to which the government servants and the convicts indented to the settlers and others had been subjected for minor offences. When I arrived in New South Wales, and for some time after, it was not an uncommon thing for individuals of that class to be imprisoned without a warrant from any magistrate, and for corporal punishment to be inflicted to obtain confession, of supposed crimes. I mentioned to Gov. Bligh, as the custody of the gaol was in my charge, what I considered the injustice and impropriety of confining these persons at the will of any individual, and liberating them without any investigation into their supposed offences, or the circumstances under which they were confined; and I received the Governor's orders to permit no man to be imprisoned without a warrant from a magistrate, and that no prisoner should be liberated without his discharge being submitted to myself.

Q Did this produce any dissatisfaction?

A I think it did, sir.

Q Was there any danger of tumult or insurrection about the end of January, 1808, if the military had supported the Governor?

A None, sir, that I could see.

Q Did you know any thing concerning the removal, or order for the removal, of some houses that stood within the government boundary?

A I know some houses were removed.

Q Do you know any thing of the orders for that purpose?

A There was a general order for the removal of the houses within the government limits; the circumstances I really cannot call to mind.

Q How many houses were there?

A I don't think there were six: if there were six, to the best of my knowledge they did not exceed that number.

On his cross-examination he stated, that after Gov. Bligh's arrest, he was imprisoned in the first instance; then he was suspended from his situation; and after that, they brought a charge against him for perjury and false imprisonment, kept him in a dungeon for eleven weeks and four days, and then took him from his wife and infant family, and sent him to the coal-mines for four months.

The Rev. Mr [Henry] Fulton, acting Principal Chaplain in the colony, deposed to the same effect as the preceding witnesses. He stated that he had been suspended from his office for his attachment to the Governor. Mr Griffin, Gov. Bligh's Secretary, gave similar evidence. He was succeeded by Mr [James] Williamson, a deputy Commissary of Stores and Provisions, who on his cross-examination admitted that he had been tried, convicted, cashiered, and fined, for applying the public stores to his own use.

John Gray [Private of the New South Wales Corps] sworn.—Examined on the part the Prosecution.

PROSECUTOR: What are you, a private soldier?

GRAY: Yes, sir.

Q In what regiment?

A The 102d, sir.

Q Were you so in 1808, in New South Wales?

A I was, sir.

Q Did you see any thing done with the guns near the Government House on the 26th of January, before the Governor's arrest?

A Not at Government House, sir.

Q Did you with the guns at the barracks?

A Yes; I went sentry on that day at four o'clock, I think; and when I went on, after some considerable time, I saw Serj. Whalley, which was Gov. Bligh's orderly serjeant, and I saw some officers come on the parade with papers in their hands. Some time after that, I saw Col. Johnston and Mr Minchin come in, in a chaise, into the barracks; and there was an order given out, for what soldiers were seen, to go to their quarters and put on their accoutrements, and come quietly into the barracks through the back way. Some time after this, the regiment fell in, and marched towards Government House; and on or near about the time, I was standing sentry upon the guns; the battalion guns were taken from me, and run down into a magazine built upon the parade, and loaded, and they appeared to be elevated towards Government House.

Q Who ran them down?

A The additional gunners.

Q Were you one of them?

A No, sir.

THE COURT: What was the state of the colony at this time?

A I cannot pretend to say any thing about the state of the colony; I did not see any thing of any noise or uproar that was likely to be; I thought it was in a peaceable state.

Isaac Champion [Serjeant of the New South Wales Corps; reduced to the ranks after the mutiny] sworn.—Examined on the part of the Prosecution.

PROSECUTOR: What are you?

CHAMPION: I am now a private soldier.

Q In what regiment?

A The 102d.

Q Were you so in 1808?

A No, sir; in 1808 I was an acting serjeant-major, and pay-serjeant to two companies.

Q After the arrest of Gov. Bligh, did you receive any orders concerning him?

A I did, sir.

Q Did you receive no orders respecting him till 1809?

A Not directly, in written orders; only that we were to keep him a prisoner in Government House; and the guard was regularly mounted over him, and not to admit the sentries to let him go out of their sight; when be walked out of Government House, he was not to leave him at a distance of more than seven or eight paces.

Q Did you see any effigies after the Governor's arrest?

A I did, sir.

Q Of whom?

A The effigy was a picture of a naval officer; and I know that Serj.-major Whittle at that time said, that he had got the old tyrant and old villain's picture drawn in a proper manner, and that he would expose it.

Q What was done with it?

A It was placed in his room, with a lamp on each side, for the public inspection of any person who thought proper to go there, let their character be what it would.

Q Did you see any persons there?

A Yes; I saw a great number of persons go in and out as they pleased.

Q Was it carried out of the room at all?

A I did not see it out of the room.

Q Did you see it burnt?

A I saw a something burnt, an image of an effigy, on the evening of the 28th.

Q Where?

A On the church hill, sir.

Q Representing whom?

A There was no name mentioned; but at the time it was thrown into the fire there were three loud shouts from the people in general; and at that time there was a number of officers and ladies walked by, apparently in parade order, two-and-two; and the whole of that business was under the direction of Serj.-major Whittle.

Q This, you say, was on the 28th?

A On the evening of the 28th?

THE COURT: Who cheered; you say the people?

A I believe the soldiers and the convicts mixed together.

THE COURT: You say, a number of officers were there?

A They were walking past along the road; I particularly observed Lieutenant Colonel Johnston, Mr Minchin, Major Abbott, a gentleman of the name of Macarthur, and some ladies.

THE COURT: Who was the effigy intended to represent?

A Why, all supposed Governor Bligh.

THE COURT: That was the general impression?

A That was the general impression. The military band that was there attended, and the moment after, they played a tune which they called in common 'The Silly Old Man': they struck it up immediately after the three shouts were over.

A MEMBER: Do you know whether the effigy of Governor Bligh that was kept in the Serjeant-major's room was known to the prisoner?

A I can answer so far, that I heard the Serjeant-major publicly say on the parade, in his own face, that he would have exposed this effigy on the top of his house, only that Colonel Johnston told him that it would hurt him in England.

A MEMBER: What do you mean, that it would hurt the Serjeant-major, or himself, Colonel Johnston?

A Hurt himself, the Serjeant-major.

THE COURT: Are you a friend of Serjeant Whittle's?

A I don't know that we have ever been particular enemies; I had been a serjeant a number of years until this unfortunate affair happened, I was a serjeant ever since the formation of the regiment. I have no particular enmity against the man, more than against any other person.

THE COURT: Did he succeed you?

A No, sir; he did not.

Isaac Champion cross-examined by Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston.

JOHNSTON: Did you come home in the ship with Captain Bligh?

CHAMPION: I did, sir.

Q Were you a serjeant when you left the settlement?

A No, sir; I was reduced a few months before by my friend Col. Johnston there. [Pointing to him.]

Q Before Gov. Macquarie's arrival, or afterwards?

A Before Gov. Macquarie arrived.

Several other soldiers were examined on the same subject.

Mr Martin Mason [free settler and surgeon] sworn—Examined on the part of the Prosecution.

PROSECUTOR: How long, and during what period, sir, have you resided in New South Wales?

MASON: From the beginning of the year 1798 until I embarked for England with Gov. Bligh; but during that period I sailed as acting-surgeon of his Majesty's ship Buffalo, to the Cape of Good Hope, and returned with that ship.

Q In what situation had you been before the month of January, 1808; and what were you at that time?

A I had been in the Commission of the Peace; I had also been employed as Acting Assistant Surgeon, but was superseded by a gentleman who obtained the appointment of Assistant Surgeon in England.

Q What were you in January, 1808?

A I was a settler, and practised at a surgeon upon my own account among the settlers in different parts of the colony.

Q In what state was the colony at the time Gov. Bligh took upon himself the government?

A In the most distressed state that a colony could possibly be in: I myself have paid two shillings per pound for Indian-corn bread.

Q In what state was it during the government of Governor Bligh, and especially in the month of January, 1808?

A I believe at that time the primest samples of wheat were from 8s. to 10s. per bushel. The settlers universally, (and I believe no man had a better opportunity of knowing their dispositions than I had, from the nature of my profession,) contented and tranquil. There was the greatest abundance of grain which I had ever known in the colony.

Q What was the conduct of Gov. Bligh, particularly as to the administration of justice?

A Gov. Bligh I believe to be a strict disciplinarian, and a man as impartial in the administration of justice as any man that ever lived.

Q What was the state of the public mind in the colony in consequence of the Governor's arrest; and in what manner did this appear at the time, or soon afterwards?

A The greatest regret among the cultivators, and every sober and industrious inhabitant, that so unfortunate an event had taken place as the revolution, which it was generally called.

Q In what state was the settlement during the three or four days following the 26th of January; and what was the conduct of the soldiers of the New South Wales Corps?

A About the 27th of January, the 28th, the 29th, and 30th, and I believe the 31st, was a general state of intoxication, riot, and confusion, with the detachment of soldiers at the Green Hills, which however consisted only of twelve, beside a serjeant and corporal; the serjeant who commanded was present on the 29th, and directed the erection of a gallows within fifty paces of my own door. A soldier of the name of Butcher brought a cart-load or cart-loads of wood to make a bonfire, and after dark they burnt the Governor and Mr Gore in effigy, suspended from the gallows; at least they suspended tarred hides, and called them effigies of the Governor and Mr Gore. On the 28th of January, one Thomas Hobby, who had been an officer in the New South Wales Corps; Mr Fitz, a deputy commissary; and one Thomas Bigers, who kept a sort of grog-shop, met at the house of one Andrew Thompson, and there drew up an address to Maj. Johnston, sanctioning what had been done. They had assembled a number of their dependents and adherents; and when, they were heated with wine and spirits, they sallied out to solicit signatures. I myself was solicited three times in that day, and was told by Bigers and others, that if I did not sign it I should be in the body of Sydney gaol within twenty-four hours.

Q Do you know of any addresses having been prepared and signed, requesting Colonel Paterson to repair to Sydney and reinstate Gov. Bligh?

A I remember assisting in drawing one; I subscribed it myself, and saw several others subscribe it, requesting Col. Paterson to repair to Sydney, and again to place the inhabitants under the protection of the king and the law.

Mr Mason cross-examined by Lieut.-Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: You say you were once a magistrate: did not Gov. King dismiss you from the situation of a magistrate in consequence of a charge that was brought against you, of extreme inhumanity and indecency towards a female convict, named Elizabeth Hastings?

MASON: It is a calumny: besides, I was never dismissed from being a magistrate; and here is my appointment to the command at Hunter's River, after I had been withdrawn by Gov. King from Toongabbee, where the subject of this false accusation is pretended to have taken place.

Q Were you dismissed from the command at Hunter's River?

A I was not dismissed: I withdrew from it, assigning my reasons to Gov. King, who told me, that in consequence of the then state of the colony, and the opposition he was meeting with, he was unable to enforce his own measures: from this cause it was I withdrew, and never returned to the detachment at Hunter's River: and here is the document he gave me on that occasion in his own hand-writing to resume my situation as a magistrate at Toongabbee.

Q Were you not removed by order of Governor King from your command at the Coal River in consequence of your very severe and cruel treatment of the convicts?

A I have answered that question already; I repeat again, that it is a calumny; if it will not be intruding upon the time of the court, I can relate the situation in which I found that settlement when I went there. It had been under the command of a corporal only, and it would shock humanity to give a precise detail of the circumstances in which I found it. It was a settlement consisting of the most desperate outcasts in the whole country, who were sent there, 100 miles distance from Port Jackson, as a punishment, and to prevent them from committing those rapes, robberies, and other enormous excesses, that had been greatly prevalent for a long period in the settlement of Sydney: that is well known to every gentleman from the colony who is now in England. In such a place, with such men as these to govern, and without any one person of a different description, but a corporal and six privates of the New South Wales Corps, myself the only person there who had gone out a free settler, it is easy to judge of the situation I was in when the convicts mutinied. When the soldiers had taken a boat-load of provisions and divided it among themselves and the convict women whom they lived with, under pretence of arrears, the convicts then demanded their arrears also; and upon my refusing to accede to their demand, which if I had done I should have been left without a week's provision in store; there was a mutiny among the convicts, and through my own personal exertions I suppressed that mutiny: I held the ringleader in my left hand, while I defended myself with a pistol in the right, till he was secured and punished.

Q Were you not in Gov. King's time convicted and imprisoned for a misdemeanor?

A No; an action was brought, if it be necessary to explain that: a civil action was brought against me by the Rev. Mr Marsden, for writing an incautious letter to him, and which was sent under seal; for which, by a court assembled expressly to try that cause, he recovered damages to the amount of 250l. On the 1st of May he sent an apology to me, proposing that, if I would sign and allow that apology to be inserted in the Sydney Gazette, he would forgive the demises and pay the costs. I have the apology in Court which I declined to sign, and this is a copy of my letter to him.

Q Did you acquiesce in it?

A I did not, because the facts were true, although rather incautiously stated, and in strong terms.

Q Were you not, after the arrival of Col. Foveaux in 1808, detected in working a private still, convicted, and the conviction advertised in the Sydney Gazette?

A No; I was neither detected in working a still, nor convicted of it. This is a copy of the warrant which was issued upon that occasion. A still of ten gallons, it is true, was seized and taken out of my house, but there are several circumstances connected with that seizure which it will be necessary for the Court to know. I had kept a still in my house publicly and openly in a professional man; it might contain from ten to twelve gallons, but did not exceed that: a warrant was issued; and during my absence, and when there were none but females there, my house was entered by a party of soldiers at one door, headed by Serj. Lowther, and by a party of convicts at the other, headed by one Fitzgerald, the high constable. They seized my still, which was standing publicly in the kitchen, and carried it away: they ransacked my writing-desk, examined all my books, opened Mrs Mason's trunks and boxes, searched every room, and even searched my bed; went into the shop, and from thence took away about three pints of rectified spirits, and about half a gallon of low spirits, which was there for the purpose of making tinctures and other medical preparations. This took place on the first of October, and it was the 15th of October before I could obtain any hearing whatever; but on that day, Mr Bell, Mr Fitz, and Mr Milcham, those three magistrates, declared that I had not the still in my house for any improper purpose, but for use in my profession, and that they should recommend to Lieut. Governor Foveaux to restore me my still; notwithstanding this, to my very great surprise, on the Sunday next I saw the advertisement in the Sydney Gazette, of which this is a copy, published as a general order, dated three days prior to the investigation of the business by those three magistrates at the Green Hills. On the 22d I applied to the magistrates again, and demanded a copy of their proceedings, which Mr Bell positively refused to give me. This, with the scandalous libel which was published of me in the Sydney Gazette, plainly showed the object was something more than that of seizing my small still, while every medical man in the colony had a still, for the most part of larger dimensions than mine. This is a copy of a letter which I wrote to Col. Foveaux, in consequence of so unhandsome and scurrulous a libel upon me being published in the Sydney Gazette, to which received no answer: on the contrary, the advertisement was continued three weeks afterwards. As I have no reserve, I will inform the Court that there were fifteen gallons of wash found in my house at the same time, which I expressly avowed before the magistrates was there for the purpose of distilling for the use of my profession; but as to any improper use of it, I also proved before them, that I had actually about this time paid three guineas out of my own pocket to buy wine and spirits for poor invalid people who could not procure it. It would have been very easy to prove the sale of spirits if the fact had been so; and what is remarkable, the convict who was convicted, on the same day that I was heard before the magistrates, of working a forty-gallon still, there was no libel of him put into the Gazette.

A MEMBER: That is certainly an important circumstance, and shows that this man's character is not quite so black as it is wished to make it appear.


Q Had you given any notice to Government of your having or working that still?

A I had acquainted Mr Arndell, who was the resident magistrate; and I had also informed the Chief Constable that I had such a still; they both knew it as well as I did myself, it was not a matter of secret; and as this matter has been brought before the Court with a view to impeach my veracity or reputation, if the Court will indulge me, I can make a further observation on this subject; but then it is only what the person implicated told me himself; an that is, that the very man, Patrick Portland, who was convicted of working a forty-gallon still, settled his business by going down to Sydney, and paying into the hands of Mr Blaxcell, Mr Macarthur's agent, 100l. which he owed him for sugar that he had been distilling, and he shewed me the receipt.

Mr [Nicholas] Divine, a [principal] superintendent of convicts, and director of public works, was next sworn; he stated how the houses before spoke of was pulled down, and admitted that he had signed two papers, which he thought was either to put the Gov. Bligh under arrest, or to continue him in that state, but excused himself by saying he did it for self-preservation!

Charles Walker, [Master Mariner] who had commanded a brig belonging to Mr Macarthur, deposed, that he had heard some murmur from Mr Macarthur and his party. This question was then asked,

PROSECUTOR[?]: What was that discontent which you heard?

WALKER: I recollect (he said) Mr Macarthur making application to Gov. Bligh for something out of the stores: Gov. Bligh thought it necessary, I suppose, to refuse it. Mr Macarthur said, 'that Gov. Bligh was giving the Government property to the settlers, a set of rascals who would deceive him; it would be better if he gave it to me and some of the other respectable gentlemen of the colony; if he does not, he will perhaps get another voyage in his launch again.' This was previous to my sailing: but after I returned, he said, 'that the colony had suffered Governor Bligh to reign long enough, there would soon be an alteration.' But I always heard the settlers say that Gov. Bligh was the only Governor that ever studied the interest of the colony, as he was the only Governor who ever allowed the colonists any spirits, the officers having always that privilege to themselves; the other Governors only allowed the officers to have spirits.

This witness contradicted himself in speaking of an illumination, which took place on Gov. Bligh's arrest. He next stated his refusal to sign a paper addressed to Col. Johnston, on the subject of the arrest of the Governor, though threatenings were used.

It was asked,

Q You were told it would be the worse for you, you have said, if you did not sign; was it the worse for you?

A Yes, sir; Gov. Bligh had given me permission to leave the colony, in an American ship, for China; but a few days after, I received on order from Col. Johnston, by Mr Bayly, his secretary, not to dare go into the ship; and the ship was ordered to get under weigh at six hours notice, and leave the harbour; and they sent an officer on board the ship to smoke her, for fear I should be stowed away, but the captain would not allow them.

Mr Walker cross-examined by Lieut. Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: Was there not an order by Gov. King, forbidding any British subject to sail in an American ship?

WALKER: I never heard of such an order, sir.

Q Was not the ship you speak of The Jenny?

A Yes, sir.

The evidence for the prosecution closing here, the Court adjourned till Thursday the 23d of May.


Thursday, 23d May.

THE PRESIDENT: Lieut. Col. Johnston, what is your defence?

[A written defence was delivered into the Court by Lieut. Col. Johnston; and the Judge Advocate, at the particular request of Lieut. Col. Johnston, read it.]

Lieut. Col. Johnston's Defence.

     Mr President and Gentlemen,

It is now my duty to address to you my defence against the charge which had been promoted by Capt. Bligh; a task, in the performance of which I must appeal, and I am sure I shall not appeal in vain, to your patience, your candour, and your humanity. I assure you I am not using a mere phrase of course: when I say that I feel most strongly the difficulty and embarrassment of my situation, I make that declaration most sincerely and unaffectedly; every circumstance attending the charge and trial contributes to this effect. The distance of time and remoteness of the country at which the transaction in question took place; the death and absence of many persons whose evidence would have been of the highest importance to me; the seriousness of the charge, the extent to which it may effect my fortune, my liberty, and my life; all have their share in producing my uneasiness and embarrassment. To me, although it is not so to Capt. Bligh, the situation of prosecutor or defendant in a Court Martial is new and painful: but above all, I feel this great and insuperable difficulty—I feel that, although I must admit as an undisputed fact that I did remove Capt. Bligh from the Government of New South Wales, and put him under an arrest; although I am aware that such a proceeding may subject me to the highest censure and punishment; and although the witnesses who have been called have laboured so strenuously to refer my conduct to the very worst of motives,—yet I feel so thoroughly conscious of the rectitude of my intentions; so firmly and solemnly convinced that neither malice, faction, ambition, or avarice guided my conduct; so perfectly sure that an anxious zeal for his Majesty's service, and the desire to prevent a massacre and the plunder and ruin of an infant colony, alone determined my mode of proceeding;—that I cannot, so far as a guilty intention is necessary to constitute guilt, charge myself with any crime. I know, and I knew in January, 1808, that the step I was taking was one of the greatest boldness and precision, to be justified only by the most cogent and imperious necessity: I may have erred, though I do not think I did, in my opinion of that necessity; but I am perfectly sure, that to no part of my conduct, so far as my views and intentions decide its character, the charge of mutiny can justly be affixed.

I have mentioned the late period at which this charge is brought, as one of the hardships of my situation; and on this head I feel myself bound in duty to submit to the Court a few observations on the law which regulates these proceedings against me. In doing this, I beg leave to state most implicitly my entire submission to the judgment of the Court, and my resignation to any decision they may definitively pronounce on this or any other part of my case; but on the first day of this trial, when the matter to which I am about to advert was mentioned, I understood the mind of the court to be, that the point in question was to be further explained in evidence; and when I should make my defence, that would be the first time to offer any observations I might deem adviseable. Under this impression I humbly solicit the attention of the Court to this part of my case, premising, that I acknowledge the matter of it to be entirely in their decision, and I have no doubt that decision will be founded alike on sound law, on justice, and on mercy. It has already been observed by the Court, that I am here on my trial for a fact which took place three years and four months ago: by the Mutiny Act it is declared, that "No person shall be liable to be tried and punished for any offence against any of the said acts or articles of war, which shall appear to have been committed more than three years before the issuing of the commission or warrant for such trial, unless the person accused, by reason of his having absented himself, or of some other manifest impediment, shall not have been amenable to justice within that period; in which case, such person shall be liable to be tried at any time not exceeding two years after the impediment shall have ceased.' On applying the evidence to this part of the law, I humbly apprehend, that the point for the Court to consider will be, whether all impediment was so far removed before the expiration of three years, that a charge could have been preferred against me within that time; for I think it will not be understood as the miming of the law, that the Court Martial must come to a decision, or even be proceeded on, within that time, but that it must be determined by the Prosecuter within that time that proceedings shall be had; and that a charge must be framed to which the party accused must know that he will be called upon to answer. The absence of the party accused is, in this case, out of the question; for I have been in England more than eighteen months: I came hither for the express purpose of meeting a charge which I had been given to understand Capt. Bligh would prefer against me. More than two years ago Capt. Bligh had the offer of free leave to take with him whatever witnesses he might think proper; and he had, under a solemn pledge given by him as an officer and a gentleman, undertaken to proceed forthwith to England. I lost no time in coming here, and was surprised that he was not also on the spot nearly two years ago. But Capt. Bligh, it seems, had found some reason which never occurred to me, enabling him to dispense with his solemn pledge, and therefore remained in the colony, or in the adjacent seas, more than a twelvemonth after he had given it. I shall not enter into an examination whether Capt. Bligh's conduct in this particular was justifiable or not; but I must submit that, from the moment he was put on board the Porpoise, in February 1809, all impediments with respect to him had ceased. He was avowedly in pursuit of prosecution against me; he has his choice of witnesses, by whom any charge might be supported; he was, according to his own evidence, victualled for a voyage to England:—it was then his bounden duty, as far as regards this proceeding, to have come immediately to England and preferred his charge, even if he had afterward found it necessary to delay the trial that he might have time to collect his witnesses. But if I read the clause in the statue rightly, it does not afford further time than three years for the commencement of a prosecution, if the manifest impediment shall have been removed, and the party accused shall have been amenable to justice within that period. Now I have certainly been amenable to justice by being in England for so long a time; and for the last three months of the time, namely, from October 1810 till the 26th of January, 1811, Capt. Bligh, who was also in England with all his other witnesses, might have framed and delivered his charge against me. He wrote home to Government his statement of the transactions in question three years ago, at the same time that I sent my dispatch to the Secretary of State. At that time, had he thought fit to require it, a charge might have been framed against me, and I might have been ordered home to answer it. Two years and three months ago Capt. Bligh might, without an impediment, have returned to England; but he chose to linger a year in Van Dieman's Land, or somewhere thereabout. When I had long left Sydney, he returned to collect evidence, and arrived with his witnesses in October 1810. In the three months which followed, he could have presented his charge; and I think that by the statue he was bound to do so, unless he can show that some manifest impediment existed up to and in January last, which has since been removed. I had, in fact, concluded, that no prosecution against me was intended; and the more so, as I was in November last, after the arrival of Capt. Bligh, ordered by the Commander in Chief to take the command of the 102d regiment, and remained in that command until I was put under arrest in order to answer this charge. I, need not point out to the discernment of this honourable Court the dreadful evils to which officers would be subjected by these delays in proceeding, if they were so sanctioned as to be drawn into a precedent. In my own case, many of the inevitable evils have been experienced: persons, whose testimony would have been of the highest importance to me this day, are dead; some, who have been in England within the time, and who would have staid, had I known that any proceeding against me was intended, are returned to New South Wales; and their testimony could not be obtained without a greater delay than I can solicit; a delay, indeed, which would be ruinous to me in every sense of the word.

Lt. Col. George Johnston
1810 watercolour portrait by R. Dighton: State Library of NSW

I have dwelt so long, I trust not improperly, on this point, through the earnest desire which every man under an accusation so grave and important must feel to secure to himself all the benefits which the law affecting his state in society will allow. I have not been influenced in the slightest degree by a wish to avoid a trial before a Court of honour, a Court constituted and composed as this is. The habits and predilections of my life, from its earliest period, have been altogether military. At the early age of twelve years I received a commission, and commenced my services in America. Subsequently, I have served in India, and on the Coast of Africa, under military and under naval commanders. In 1786 I volunteered to New South Wales, and was the first officer who landed there; and I have served there ever since that time, with only two short intervals of absence, when I returned to England. In all that long period—in all the situations which I have served—under all the Governors to whose care the colony of New. South Wales has been intrusted, not a complaint against me, in my military character, has ever been preferred; nor have I ever thought it necessary to bring any officer or private to a court martial for any offence personally affecting myself.

Capt. Bligh too is an officer of long standing, and has served his Majesty in various parts of the world; but such have been the misfortunes attending his service, that a series of prosecutions by and against him, and all referring to his personal conduct, has always marked his career. Mutiny and insubordination are the charges he has repeatedly preferred; tyranny and oppression are the offences for which he has been tried, and for which, on full proof, he has been reprimanded and censured.

It is with great reluctance that I make this reflection; for it is painful for me to speak in terms of censure of any officer bearing his majesty's commission, and still more so to speak of myself in terms which may be considered somewhat vain-glorious; but I am obliged to do it, for the purpose of presenting to the Court a correct view of my relative situation. I never was the subject or promoter of an accusation of this kind, until, unfortunately, I was placed under the government of Capt. Bligh, under whose command so many have been obliged to appear as culprits or as prosecutors. In all the vicissitudes of government in the colony in question; in all the alternate scenes of plenty and distress, of discipline and insubordination; in the days of quiet and ease, and in those of rebellion and danger,—I have always been active in my duty, and unreproached in the discharge of it; and so probably should have continued to the end of my days, had not compassion for the colonists, goaded into phrensy by the injustice, tyranny, and oppression of Capt. Bligh, and a desire to prevent those excesses to which such a disposition of mind in such persons must have given birth, obliged me to adopt the measures which have laid the foundation for the present prosecution. In adopting these measures I considered myself, and know I was considered by the great majority of the people in New South Wales, as the saviour of the colony.

I am aware that this declaration will excite some surprise when it is contrasted with the testimony of Capt. Bligh and his witnesses with respect to his great popularity, and the surprise, astonishment, and indignation, with which the event of the 26th of January was received by all the classes of the people. My defence rests on the denial and contradiction, by argument and by evidence, of these assertions of Capt. Bligh and his witnesses; in the proof that in his short administration of sixteen months, the violation of public justice and private property, a tyranny which exhibited an extravagant mixture of system and caprice, and perpetual violence, displaying itself both in real injury and gross verbal abuse, and crowned at last by an avowed intention to imprison and prosecute for high treason, or treasonable practices, several persons who had merely uttered words unpleasing to him; wrought up the public mind to such a pitch of frantic indignation, that every calamity must have ensued, had I not been induced to interfere in the way I did.

The summary of Capt. Bligh's statement, as disclosed, by himself and his witnesses, is this:—That on his arrival to take the Government, he found the colony in much distress, owing partly to the visitations of Providence, and partly to political causes. That he commenced and pursued a system of impartial justice, combined with vigilance, encouragement, humanity, economy, and reform, which re-established prosperity, and rendered him universally popular. That some of his reforms (particularly that which related to the prevention of the barter of spirits) gave umbrage to a few individuals, among whom were the officers of the New South Wales Corps and Mr Macarthur. To these causes of discontent Mr Gore, the Provost Marshal, has added two others, which seem to be, even if founded on truth, extremely fanciful and inadequate; namely, a regulation with respect to the issue of cash notes, and an act of such mere ordinary justice and humanity as the abolition of imprisonment without a legal warrant, and the prevention of torture for the purpose of obtaining confession. That the discontent of a few individuals arising from such causes should be sufficiently operative to occasion the overthrow of a popular Government, must on the face of it appear extremely doubtful; and I think the Court, on a fair review of all the circumstances, would not be disposed to believe that would begin, excite, or join in, a mutiny originating among such persons, and proceeding from such causes. If the habits of my whole life presented no reason for believing the contrary, the total absence of any motive arising out of these circumstances and affecting me would be sufficient to prove that I could not participate in the sentiments of such parties. Of all the witnesses who have named persons who trafficked in spirits, sot one has mentioned me: in fact, it never was particularly interesting to me. While it was permitted, I used it as all other persons did, the Governors and Lieutenant Governors not excepted. When it was prohibited, I acquiesced in the prohibition without a struggle and without a complaint. I knew, and acknowledge, that it was in the Governor's province to annul this traffic. Governor Macquarie has re-established it; but that cause alone would not make the one Governor hated or the other beloved. As to notes payable in one mode or another, I never issued, nor had occasion to traffic in them: the notes of the military were always held equivalent to coined money, because the recovery of them did not depend on the solvency of individuals, they being payable at the public Treasury. With respect to the imprisonment and torture mentioned by Mr Gore, I am totally ignorant that such a fact ever existed; but if it did, I am sure every measure tending to reform it would have met ray most cordial and firm support; and I firmly believe that if Capt. Bligh had had the merit of such an act to plead, not all the efforts of the most malignant faction which the colony could produce, aided by all the other instances of his mal-administration, could have so obliterated the sentiments of gratitude and affection from the bosoms of the people; but that they would have torn in pieces any man who should have proposed to injure so great a public benefactor.

To prove his popularity, Capt. Bligh has given his own evidence, and supported by that of many other persons who had greater or less means of knowledge. In aid of this testimony, Capt. Bligh has produced an address signed by eight hundred and thirty-three inhabitants of the Hawkesbury district in January, 1808. In answer to this evidence, so far as it goes, I shall show not only Captain Bligh's real unpopularity, and the real causes of it, but I shall prove that some time before the let of January, 1808, Mr Williamson, one of his most intimate friends, and Mr Palmer, now one of his principal witnesses, were distinctly and repeatedly apprised of the profound impression made on the public mind by the Governor's misconduct, and the great probability that, by pursuing such a course, he would occasion some tremendous explosion of popular indignation. I will also prove that a similar communication was made to the Governor himself; and that, far from even promising to redress or enquire into the grievances complained of, he burst out into the most lofty expressions of indignation and contempt, declaring the information to be unfounded, and that it would be easier to move mountains than to make him alter his conduct.

These communications not only throw suspicion on the evidence which has been given of Gov. Bligh's belief in his own popularity, but they account for the zeal and industry with which the address from the Hawkesbury district was urged, and the critical time at which it was procured. Commercial and other causes gave Mr Campbell and Palmer an unlimited influence in that part of the colony, and their emissaries exerted great activity on this occasion; buts in fact, great exertion was hardly necessary, for I shall call witnesses well acquainted with this part of the colony, who will declare that for the most insignificant reward, so small a matter as a glass of spirits per man, an address of any import might be procured, and almost all the signatures which the place affords would be affixed to it.

Soon after the 26th of January, I, too, had an address from the same quarter;—it is in these terms: "Impressed with the highest sense of the obligations due to yon for having come forward at the present momentous crisis, to extricate the loyal inhabitants of the colony from that dread and horror which the recent arbitrary measures had caused,—measures which, if pursued as they hitherto have been, must ultimately have proved destructive to this infant colony, as well as injurious to the finances of the mother country, and which tended to destroy those rights so dear to every Englishman,—we presume to address you, and in the most unfeigned manner earnestly hope you will accept our grateful acknowledgment, unadorned by any fulsome language. The oppressions which we have lately undergone had nearly blunted those feelings which as men we ought to have cherished: but anxious for the welfare of our families, and to avert those calamities which would, we fear, have inevitably attended those persons who might have refused to sign the recent address, many of us therein reluctantly praised those proceedings which in our hearts we could but condemn. Now that we can freely express the sentiments of our minds, we gladly beg to assure you that we are ready to support you with our lives and properties, conscious that every act of your administration will meet with his Majesty's highest approbation. We cannot in language sufficiently praise the meritorious services of the New South Wales Corps on this memorable occasion.' It was signed by some hundreds of people; but the names being much blotted, and the paper defaced, the first sheet only, signed by four of Capt. Bligh's principal addressers, was left in my hands; the other names were taken away because the paper was so much blotted as to render many of them illegible, and it was deemed adviseable to get new signatures. That may have been done or may not, for I interested myself so little about such addresses that I never took the trouble to inquire.

Another address has been relied on by the prosecutor as demonstrative of the public opinion respecting his conduct. It is that which was signed by a certain number of inhabitants of New South Wales after the arrival of Gov. Macquarie: but perhaps if the whole of that transaction is rightly viewed, Capt. Bligh has little reason to be proud of it. This attempt to procure a public declaration was made when I and all my principal friends had left the colony; when Gov. Macquarie, in pursuance of his instructions, had pronounced the highest censure on the proceedings of the 26th of January, and annulled all the public acts which ensued. The meeting was announced by the authority of the Provost Marshal, and with the known sanction of Government, and the intent of it was defined in the advertisement. The meeting was numerously attended: and yet the friends of Capt. Bligh, (although the Provost Marshal, their warm partizan, was in the chair) did not chuse to put their resolutions in a regular way, but attempted to carry their address privately and by subscription. Foiled in this attempt, and although they were a pretended majority, these persons withdrew from the meeting, not venturing to oppose the very moderate and proper counter-resolutions which were moved, and which Mr Gore refused to put from the chair, until Gov. Macquarie positively commanded him to conduct himself with impartiality. Fortunately, death nor absence does not intervene to prevent me from giving evidence of what passed at this meeting, although I am deprived of the benefit of one witness, who could have stated in what terms of reproach Capt. Bligh greeted his friend Mr Gore when he was informed of the result of this meeting, and of the pretexts by which many persons not present at the meeting were influenced to sign the address.

But by whatever arts these addresses may have been procured, or however gratifying they may have been to the individual for whom they were obtained, I trust I shall be able most satisfactorily to shew, that, during his government of sixteen months, Capt. Bligh had managed to render him universally odious. This public detestation did not arise from speculative regulations or small matters of offence, but from a frequent, I may say constant irregular interference in the administration of justice; not only in public matters, but in causes between individuals. It was increased by frequent invasions of private property, not, as Capt. Bligh and his witnesses have pretended, merely for the public good and with beneficial compensation to the parties affected, but for mere malice and love of oppression; and in one instance at the least, (which he has most positively denied on his oath,) for his own private accommodation. I shall also show that the minds of the common people, particularly the soldiery, were irritated by a constant repetition of abuse, daily and hourly uttered in the lowest and coarsest terms, accompanied by the threats of the privation and destruction of their property, and declarations that appeals to law or justice from the mandates of his will should be useless and unavailing. Above all, I trust I shall be able to prove, that, when in addition to these facts it Was publicly announced by the advice of Mr George Crosley, whose known character in England made him at once the terror and hatred of the colonists, such alarming measures were resolved on as those which were announced on the 26th of January, no power existing in the colony, no address or influence possessed by any individual there, no efforts that could have been made, not no means, except those which I adopted, could have prevented the massacre of the Governor, his adherent's, and advisers: and when once the restraint of the law was removed from such persons as those who compose that colony, who is there but must tremble at the contemplation of the consequences! For let me here observe, that the soldiers are not at Sydney kept in a state of separation from the people; but mix, marry, and live among them, and are in all respects identified with them: they hear their opinions, share in their feelings, discuss their grievances, and would with infinite difficulty, if at all, in a matter of great public concern, be brought to act against them: Let me also observe, that the lower class in New South Wales looked up to the few independent and respectable inhabitants, as their only protectors against the violence with which they were beset. Thus, when Gov. Bligh threatened to pull down their homes, they were in the habit of requesting some person of respectability and character to accept a friendly assignment of their leases, flattering themselves that the superior station of these persons would be respected, and their property thus secured. But when it became known that of this class of society seven individuals were at once to be imprisoned and sentenced to death or banishment, every hope seemed at once to vanish, and despair with all its attendant feelings deemed to take possession of every mind.

I come now to the transactions which immediately led to those of the 26th of January: but I beg the Court to call to mind, that, in all the scenes and all the events I have already described or alluded to, I was a mere spectator, never in any manner mixing in what was done. I lived in a state of absolute privacy and retirement, four miles from the seat of Government, as one of the witnesses for the Prosecution has expressed it. I merely went to town to attend my duty as a magistrate and officer; and when that was performed, returned to my own residence. With Mr Macarthur I had no connexion, nor was our acquaintance at all intimate. I had heard of wrongs sustained by him from the Governor, but I did not interfere in the discussions which arose between them. I knew Mr Macarthur to be an opulent and respectable settler, and a man of unblemished character both in public and private; but when on his appearance before the bench of magistrates, on the 16th of December, 1807, he used expressions which could justly be considered as too warm, I did (as Mr Campbell has stated) observe on the injury he did himself by so much impetuosity; and, far from attempting to screen him from justice if he was amenable to it, I concurred with the other magistrates in ordering him to be tried before the Criminal Court.

On the 24th of January, 1808, I was at Sydney, and dined with the officers of the 102d. In Gov. King's time there had been a regular mess-dinner, and it was now the wish of the officers to re-establish so laudable and convivial an arrangement; and this was the first meeting we had for the purpose of considering what followed. I do not wonder that Capt. Bligh should imagine this dinner had some connexion with the events of the ensuing days; but I most solemnly declare, and I will bring the officers who were present to prove, that nothing of the kind was agitated or even hinted at, nor do I believe it was in the contemplation of any one of us. 'No parish business!' was the good-humoured expression of restriction by which we bound ourselves not to advert to any of the affairs of the colony. It is not true, (as estimated) that Mr Macarthur was there; he was not in the room a single moment; he was not even named: but every thing at the meeting displayed and denoted only that honest conviviality and cordial friendship which distinguish such parties among officers.

In returning home from this meeting I had the misfortune to overturn my gig in a bad road, and received those hurts which have been particularly alluded to by some of the witnesses, but which were of much greater seriousness than they have given the Court to understand. They were quite sufficient to confine me to my bed, and make removal dangerous, as I should now be able to prove, but for the long postponement of my trial; in which interval, death has removed from me my valuable friend Doctor Jamieson, whose evidence would have been highly important to me in a great many particulars.

On the 25th, while I was thus confined, Mr Macarthur's trial came on before the Criminal Court. Of the transactions of that day I know nothing but from report: I have seen the paper which Mr Macarthur put in, objecting to his being tried before Mr Atkins. I take no share in that paper nor in its effects. The Court will hear it read, and I am persuaded they will be of opinion that the reasonings it contains were plausible and ingenious, to a sufficient degree to induce a Court composed only of officers, and not assisted by a single lawyer, to acquiesce in their propriety. Against these reasonings, indeed, no sort of argument was resorted to; but command and threat succeeded each other; while measures of the greatest violence both to the defendant and the officers were known to be preparing under the direction and advice of Mr George Crosley.

As I have now more particular occasion to mention this person, let me beg leave to make a few observations on his character, situation, and conduct; and on the causes which in my humble opinion, rendered it disgraceful, if not criminal, for a person exercising his Majesty's Government to be led at all by his advice, or to consult him officially on any business whatever. Mr Crosley never was an eminent attorney, unless notoriety and infamy can pass for eminence. For nearly thirty years before he was sentenced to transportation be had been the opprobium of the law, and the plague of the Courts. He was at the head of a gang who infested the gaol doors of the metropolis, and who, having first excited the unhappy criminals to acts of guilt, made them subservient to all his villainous purposes, preyed on them to the last; and then, often by treachery, delivered them over to the arm of justice. There was no crime in which he had not been implicated: perjury and subordination, conspiracy and forgery, were among those for which he had been tried: but until the last crime for which he was put to the bar, he had always been able to extricate himself, by inducing his underlings to commit those perjuries on his behalf which wrested the arm of justice. When at last he was convicted, Lord Kenyon, with expressions of undisguised satisfaction, seized the opportunity of freeing British society from so very worthless a member. He might have pronounced a milder sentence, and would have done so, had the culprit been a man who had late in life made a single abberration from the path of honour; but in punishing him, to the extent he did, that virtuous Chief Justice felt and owned that he was inflicting, for one crime, a sentence far too mild to be imposed an one whose life had been a series of profligacy, offensive alike to morality, religion, and the law. Far from being eminent in his profession, this man's knowledge was limited to the arts of fraud and chicane: no man in the profession, who had the least regard for his reputation could hold friendly intercourse with him; and many attorneys, conscious of the infamy of his character, would not even engage in causes against him. In New South Wales, more than in any other placer except London, this man's infamy was known. Many of the unfortunate convicts owed their original corruption and final expulsion from their native society entirely to him. The settlement rang with his infamy. Gov. King did nor pardon him for his good behaviour; but finding him addicted to all the arts of law fraud and chicane, and exercising them to the injury of the unwary, he made him a settler, that he might be subject to the law for debts contracted, which, as a convict, he was not No man of ordinary credit in the colony, unless it were Mr Palmer, ever resorted to hint for legal advice; and his being consulted both publicly and confidentially by the Governor created universal alarm and astonishment. I am far from asserting that the Governor had not a perfect right to consult whomsoever he might think proper; but I am sure it would have been more satisfactory, more wise and more honourable, to have followed the genuine dictates of an honest understanding, than to have contaminated the fountain of authority with the impurities of so base an adviser. Other Governors, before Capt. Bligh, carried on the government without such an assistant. They may have made their mistakes, and had their faults; but they did not expose the colony to the danger of insurrection, nor stigmatize their own administration.

To return to my narrative:—On the 25th I received the first letter from Gov. Bligh; to which, being unable to write myself, and having no person near me to perform that office, I returned a verbal answer by the Orderly, as mentioned Capt. Bligh's evidence. On the 26th. I received a letter from the Governor, announcing his resolution to arrest six officers of the 102d, for treasonable practices, and requiring me, as I was unable to attend myself, to appoint Major Abbott to the command of the regiment. Had these measures been adopted, there would have been but two officers to do the duty of the regiment, and the highest and most important duties must have been left to the Serjeants. I was ill; Maj. Abbott was at Paramatta, sixteen miles off; and it could not be expected, but that the arrest of six officers, and the dread of what measures would ensue, would occasion considerable uneasiness.

My medical friend had directed me on no account to leave my room: but sensible of the danger of this crisis, and anxious to avert impending evil, I neglected that advice, got myself dressed, and was driven to town by the aid of my family. On my arrival, as I passed through the streets, every thing denoted terror and consternation: I saw in every direction groups of people with soldiers amongst them; apparently in deep and earnest conversation. I repaired immediately to the barrack; and, in order to separate the military from the people, made the drum heat to orders. The soldiers immediately repaired to the barrack-yard, where they were drawn up, and where they remained.

In the mean time an immense number of the people, comprising all the respectable inhabitants, except those who were immediately connected with Capt. Bligh, rushed into the barrack and surrounded me, repeating with importunate clamour a solicitation that I would immediately place the Governor under arrest. They solemnly assured me, if I did not, an insurrection and massacre would certainly take place; and added, that the blood of the colonists would be upon my head. [Here the prisoner mentioned the requisition which had been presented to him, after which he proceeded.]

We marched to the Government House, attended by a vast concourse of people, who were all inflamed with indignation against the Governor. On our arrival I learnt that the officers I had sent had not been able to obtain an interview, but that the Governor had concealed himself. This intelligence was truly alarming, for I had every thing to fear from the agitation it was likely to produce. I immediately drew up the soldiers in a line before the Government House, and between it and the people, who were thus made to keep a respectful distance: the troops were halted, and made to stand at ease. I then directed a small number to proceed in search of the Governor, while I waited below to protect the family from injury or insult. The search occupied, according to Gov. Bligh's account, two hours. At length he was found, and brought to the room where I was. When he was introduced, I gently informed him of the step which, by the requisition of the people, I had been obliged to take. He answered, He was very sorry he had incurred public displeasure; had he been aware that such would be the effect of his conduct, he would have acted otherwise; and he resigned all authority into my hands, publicly thanking me for the handsome manner in which I had carried the wishes of the people into execution. I then gave the orders I deemed necessary for the security and the protection of his person, and the safety and ease of his family, and withdrew. During all this time the troops, far from being infuriate or uncontrollable, maintained the most steady order and the most perfect silence; not a man stirred from his rank, except those who were ordered, nor was a word spoken along the whole line.

I know that a great part of this statement differs very materially from that of Capt. Bligh and his witnesses; but I trust I shall be able to support if in every particular by full and satisfactory evidence. Capt. Bligh admits that I behaved to him with perfect gentleness and propriety; but he talks of the invasion of the Government House as a scene of utter riot and confusion; his seizure he calls a Robespierrean scene: he speaks of shouting by the soldiery; and has been led, to believe that the position of the guns at the parade was altered so as to menace the Government House. For all this fabrication and exaggeration I am utterly at a loss to account. I am not willing to assert that Capt. Bligh has wilfully feigned all these circumstances; but if I exclude that supposition, I must believe that the terror he underwent during his two hours concealment must have perverted his powers of perception. I cannot of my own knowledge speak of the situation in which he was found, nor will I repeat what has been told me by others; their account will be given on oath; they will state the condition in which they found his Majesty's full uniform on the back of Capt. Bligh,—a condition which would make the real heroes of the British navy blush with shame and boil with indignation.

Such are the events which took place on the 26th of January, 1808, and for which I am now called upon to answer. I have accounted for the causes of my conduct according to the exact truth; and upon the opinion the Court shall form of those causes, and not of the mere act, separated entirely from them, I trust their opinion on this case will depend.

It may be said, that I might have put myself at the head of the military, and with their aid dispersed the people, and thus supported the Governor. I know I could have done so, and that for the moment it would have been attended with effect; but of this I am perfectly sure, that, identified as the military were with the people, and inflamed by the feelings of wrongs and insults affecting them all, they would before the night was past have joined with them, or at least refused to act against them; while vengeance would have been urged to its greatest degree of acrimony, and produced on one side or the other the most deplorable excesses. If the people, joined by the military, had broken out, terror and devastation would have marked their course, and his Majesty's fine flourishing infant colony would have been reduced to a state of distress and dissolution.

After explaining some subsequent transactions, the prisoner concluded by thanking the Court for their patience in attending to his address 'I need not,' he added, 'implore them to give to my evidence the same patient attention, for that I am sure they will not fail to do. The only request I have to make is, that they will not, in considering my case, forget the peculiar position in which I was placed;—far from advice, assistance, or control; amidst a population used to illegal acts, and of unrestrained habits; a population driven to phrensy by oppression, against which there was no appeal; and on the point of taking it into their own hands vengeance of which it was impossible to foresee, and equally impossible not to dread, the consequence. I pray them to consider the difficulty of electing a proper course under such circumstances: and if they feel the least doubt in determining on my motives, I hope and trust that my long and unblemished service of thirty-five years, and my anxious care during a great portion of the time for this very colony, will not be without their weight in the scale of consideration.'

Witnesses for the Defence.

Mr Richard Atkins, Judge Advocate of the Colony [dismissed after the mutiny, but later re-appointed], was first sworn by Lieut.-Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: Did your situation in the colony of New South Wales give you great opportunities of knowing Governor Bligh's conduct and its motives?

ATKINS: No doubt, sir.

Q Has the Governor at different times endeavoured to influence your opinion in causes before you, previously to the Court's giving their decision?

A No sir.

Q Have you frequently been obliged, from your dread of the Governor, to submit to or sanction measures repulsive to your feelings and judgment?

A I have, sir, sometimes thought it better, from certain reasons, to sanction measures that were contrary to my feelings and judgment.

Q Did those measures relate to trials between the Crown and the subject, and to others, between party and party?

A I am rather inclined to think, sir, it was with respect to colonial regulations.

Q Did you ever remonstrate with Gov. Bligh on any particular occasion?

A I did.

Q State upon what.

A There was a Mr D'Arcy Wentworth, assistant surgeon, who was tried by a general Court Martial on a charge exhibited against him. He was sentenced to be reprimanded by the Governor: he was not reprimanded by the Governor; but he was reprimanded by the commanding officer of the regiment, who was at that time Lieut. Col. Johnston, the prisoner. Some time afterward, when I saw Gov. Bligh, he said that it was his intention to suspend Mr D'Arcy Wentworth from the functions of his office, from being assistant surgeon. I stated to him that I conceived it was improper, because he had already undergone the sentence of the Court, and that I did conceive it was contrary to law, that a man should be punished a second time. The answer that he made me was this: "The law, sir! damn the law: my will is the law, and woe unto the man that dares to disobey it!" Mr Wentworth was suspended.

Q Was Mr Gore, the Provost Marshal, admitted much about the presence and into the counsels of Gov. Bligh?

A Admitted much about his presence; no doubt of it, sir; he was constantly there, and, as myself, having a great deal of business to do with the Governor: with respect to his counsel, any thing that might pass in private it is impossible for me to speak to.

Q Was Mr Gore tried for swindling and felony?

A He was tried, sir, once for felony and once on a charge of fraud.

Q Did not the Court that tried Mr Gore object to Wellesley's pleading before them; and was there a written, order reduced from the Governor to compel his being admitted to plead?

A The Court did object to his pleading; but I never saw any written order from the Governor to admit him to plead.

A MEMBER: Was Crosley for or against Mr Gore?

A For him, sir.

A MEMBER: Who prepared the indictment against Mr Gore, and what was the event of his trial?

A The first trial, sir, was for felony, and I prepared the indictment.

A MEMBER: What was the result of it?

A The result of it was, sir, that he was acquitted.

A MEMBER: Who prepared the indictment for the second?

A The second was by information, and George Crosley prepared it.

A MEMBER: What was the second for?

A It was for a fraud.

A MEMBER: What was the result of that?

A The charge, sir, was for a fraud, in wrongfully obtaining the sum of 15s. upon a note that was drawn by one James Underwood; but it was made payable neither to order nor to bearer; and the Court were of opinion, that as the note was not negociable, the obtaining payment of it in the manner that was charged against Mr Gore could not be considered in law as a fraud.

A MEMBER: Then he was acquitted?

A Upon that ground he was acquitted, the Court did not proceed. The fact was, he had once received the value, 15s. and wanted to receive it a second time.


Q Did Gov. Bligh ever shew a disposition to screen Mr Gore from justice, by interfering in any business pending before the magistrates?

A I will mention a circumstance, and the Court will consider whether it was an interference or not. Mr Gore was charged with a crime; and a Bench of Magistrates sat to inquire into it. They had made progress, sir, in their examination, and the further proceedings were deferred until the next day: before we met on the next day, I received a letter from the Governor's secretary, Mr Griffin, the Governor being then up the country at Hawkesbury, about forty miles distance, stating that it was his direction.

Q Whose direction; Mr Griffin's, or the Governor's?

A Saying particularly, it was his Excellency the Governor's direction, that the Bench of Magistrates do not meet till his return to Sydney, to the capital.

Q State to the Court the treatment that Mr Newsham, one of the principal witnesses against Mr Gore, experienced by the order or privity of the Governor for some days previous to the trial?

A I always understood, sir, that Mr Newsham was exceedingly ill treated, and cruelly ill treated; but as it did not come through me as Judge Advocate, I cannot speak to it.

THE COURT: Do you know whether this Mr Newsham was ill treated by Gov. Bligh's order or not?

A I know nothing of it: hearsay, I presume, is not evidence; it did not come within my knowledge.

THE COURT: What was the crime that Gore was charged with then?

A He was charged with that very crime for which he was tried.

THE COURT: You mean the business of the fraud?

A No, sir; it, was for the felony, for entering into a house and taking out some property belonging to a Mr McKoy.

THE COURT: He was the police officer?

A No, sir; he had been gaoler; and I am not certain whether he was gaoler at that time or not.


Q Was there any legal accusation preferred against Mr Newsham?

A At that time none, sir, to my knowledge.

Q Was it at your request, or against your inclination, that Mr Crosley was consulted and employed by Gov. Bligh?

A It was with my own approbation. I was not bred to the law; mine has been a military life; and not understanding forms of law, it was at my request, and I did apply to Gov. Bligh to allow me to consult him upon that particular occasion, being ignorant at that time of the forms of law.

Q State to the Court the character and situation of Martin Mason in the colony of New South Wales.

A Martin Mason, sir, came out to New South Wales as surgeon of a merchant ship, I believe of a convict ship. After a considerable time, Gov. King, in consideration, as I believe, of his large family, having five children, appointed him Superintendant at a place called Toongabbee, where the worst characters were sent.

A MEMBER: Does Superintendant import Superintendant of convicts, or Superintendant of works?

A Superintendant of convicts and of labour, sir: he was at the same time sworn in as a magistrate. After some time, various complaints came to me of oppression and otherwise ill conduct on his part towards the convicts; but as I knew the desperate set he had to deal with, I took little or no notice of them. At last, sir, a charge of a very serious nature was stated to the Governor, (Gov. King) which was, that Mr Mason having looked with an eye of cupidity (if I may be allowed the expression) on one of the convict women, but who refused to gratify him, he had tied her to a post, where she remained the whole night. This was inquired into by a Bench of Magistrates, of which I was one, when the fact was clearly proved; and in consequence he never was permitted to act as a magistrate afterwards, and the magistrates actually refused to act with him: among others, Mr Marsden refused, I refused; he was not permitted, to my knowledge, to act as a magistrate either at Toongabbee or at the Hawkesbury.

THE COURT: Was he dismissed?

A I don't know that he was dismissed, but I never knew him after that as a magistrate; myself and the other magistrates refused to act with him; but whether he was formally dismissed by the Governor, I cannot say.

THE COURT: Did he still continue Superintendant of the convicts?

A I believe he did, but I am not certain of that. After some time, sir, Gov. King sent him to superintend the convicts at a place they call Hunter's River, or most commonly the Coal River, where the worst of the convicts are sent.

THE COURT: Even worse than those you first mentioned?

A Even worse than those, sir; we have all descriptions of them. He had not been there any great length of time before complaints upon, complaints came to Sydney against him for cruelty and oppression, such as was really shocking to think of. He was sent for to Sydney, and the Commanding Officer at Hunter's River was desired to send such evidence as he might think necessary to prove the fact, which he did. The matter came before a Bench of Magistrates a second time, when it was clearly proved that he had been guilty of those oppressions and tyranny. There were two men brought, sir, who were so ill that we were obliged to take their evidence lying on the ground; and they swore positively they were in that state owing to the ill treatment which they had received from Mr Mason, and which was corroborated by other evidence.

THE COURT: What sort of ill treatment was it that this was owing to?

A To over-labour, sir; and punishments of different kinds.

THE COURT: Was he dismissed?

A Yes, sir.

THE COURT: By Gov. King?

A Yes, sir.

THE COURT: You say, positively, he was dismissed; that he did not resign?

A He was dismissed, sir; and afterwards went to the Hawkesbury and acted as a surgeon there: he had some land given him in consideration of his family, which he did not cultivate, but lived upon his professional means as a surgeon among the settlers.


Q State to the Court your opinion of the Hawkesbury settlers; and what importance ought to be attached to an address from them to any Governor.

A I believe, sir, that, except a very few, a glass of gin would bias them.

Q What number do you mean by a very few?

A I mean, perhaps, six, or seven, or ten, I cannot exactly say what number.

Q What may be the number of the population altogether?

A I cannot say with precision; I suppose there might be 2000 people there; it is a settlement of about 60 or 70 miles in extent, and the whole population, (I don't mean settlers only) might be about 2000.

Q Were not a great majority of the Hawkesbury settlers, in consequence of their debts to Mr Palmer, Mr Campbell, and Andrew Thomson, much under their influence?

A There is no doubt of it, sir; they owed large sums of money to all three; but how far that influenced them it is not for me to judge.

Mr John Macarthur [formerly of the New South Wales Corps, but for long a free settler; after the mutiny appointed a magistrate and Colonial Secretary] sworn. Examined by Lieut.-Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: How long have you been established in New South Wales?

MACARTHUR: I went to the colony in the year 1789, as an officer in the New South Wales Corps; twenty-one years since.

Q When did you first commence your agricultural pursuits in that colony?

A About the year 1793. The colony had, previously to that period, been in the extremest distress for provisions; the rations issued by the Government were frequently so small, that the greatest want prevailed, and absolute famine was often apprehended. When Major Grose, (now Gen. Grose), took the command of the colony as Lieutenant Governor, he considered it expedient to encourage cultivation by giving grants of land to the officers both civil and military. Among the persons so encouraged, was myself; and I devoted myself with great assiduity to the clearing and the cultivating of the land given to me, and to the raising of every kind of animal fitted for food.

Q What quantity of live stock do you suppose you have reared la the period you have spokes of?

A To the best of my knowledge and belief, I have circulated among the settlers at least 20,000l. worth of breeding animals, all raised by myself.

John Macarthur.
Dixson Galleries, State Library of NSW.

A MEMBER: We cannot judge of the number of the cattle by such a statement, because the prices might be very high.

A I have sent an immense quantity to the market to be slaughtered, and I am sure I may fairly estimate from my present stock, that the colony will be supplied with at least 100,000lbs. weight annually. It is perhaps proper that I should state to the Court, that the stock from which such large supplies have been obtained, originally consisted only of about six or seven cows, and about thirty ewes; and that from these I have raised 1,000 or 1,200 head of horned cattle, and at least 10 or 12,000 sheep. The last returns of my stock made the number of sheep 4,600, the horned cattle near 300, with about 50 horses.

A MEMBER: Are those in addition to the numbers you before stated?

A No; they are the present stock.

A MEMBER: What was the price of beef and mutton in the colony when you commenced breeding cattle and sheep; and what was the price when you left the colony?

A When I commenced, it fluctuated from 3s. to 2s. 6d. per pound: before I left it, I supplied Government with a large quantity at 1s.: and since my departure they have been supplied with a still larger quantity at 9d.

A MEMBER: At what period, and in what manner, did the Government of England encourage your agricultural views?

A In the beginning of the year 1804, some of the most eminent manufacturers of woollen cloth in England saw by accident some specimens of the wool that I had raised in New South Wales; its quality was so fine that it induced them to find me out, and to make particular inquiries how and, in what manner this wool had been raised. On my communicating to them all I knew upon the subject, they expressed a decided opinion that the colony of New Holland might, with proper encouragement, be enabled in time to supply the woollen manufacture of this country with the whole quantity of fine wool which was then, with great difficulty, obtained from Spain; and such was the importance which they attached to this, that they signified their determination to communicate their opinion to Government by memorial, which was soon afterward done. In consequence of those memorials being sent in, I was directed to attend a Privy Council, before whom I was particularly examined as to the state of my flocks and their probable improvement. The Privy Council were so satisfied of the importance of the undertaking, that they recommended to the Secretary of State that it should be encouraged.

A MEMBER: In what shape was the encouragement of Government conferred upon you?

A Lord Camden, the then Secretary of State, was pleased to order me a grant of 5,000 acres of land, in a particular situation which I had pointed out to his lordship: at the same time he wrote to the Governor of the colony, directing that I was to be supplied with shepherds.

A MEMBER: Did Gov. Bligh promote the intentions of Government in your favour, and forward your agricultural views?

A Never, in the smallest degree.

A MEMBER: State to the Court the circumstances of your first interview with Gov. Bligh on the subject of your agricultural speculations.

A When Gov. King gave up the government to the prosecutor, he, (Gov. King) retired with his family to the Government House at Paramatta. Having understood that the prosecutor was on a visit there, I went to the Government House; this was about a month after he had taken the command. I found him walking in the garden perfectly disengaged, and alone; and thinking it a proper opportunity to speak to him on the subject of my affairs, I inquired if he had been informed of the wishes of Government respecting them: I particularly alluded to the sheep, and the probable advantages that might result to the colony and the mother-country from the production of fine wool. The prosecutor burst out instantly into a most violent passion, exclaiming, 'What have I to do with your sheep, sir; what have I to do with your cattle? Are you to have such flocks of sheep and such herds of cattle as no man ever heard of before? No, sir!' I endeavoured to appease him, by stating that I had understood the Government at home had particularly recommended me to his notice. He replied, 'I have heard of your concerns, sir; you have got 5,000 acres of land in the finest situation in the country; but, by God, you shan't keep it!' I told him that as I had received this land at the recommendation of the Privy Council and by the order of the Secretary of State, I presumed that my right to it was indisputable. 'Damn the Privy Council! and damn the Secretary of State, too!' he says; What have they to do with me? You have made a number of false representations respecting your wool, by which you have obtained this land. I told him, I had made no false representations: and that luckily, as he was on the spot, he could, by examining the flocks, ascertain the fact himself; and there was a flock of 7 or 800 then at my house, within a mile of him; if he pleased he could examine them that morning. We immediately after entered the Government House, where we found Governor and Mrs King, and sat down to breakfast. The prosecutor then renewed the conversation about my sheep, addressing himself to Governor King; when he used such violent and insulting language to him, that Gov. King burst into tears. About two hours after, the prosecutor, Gov. King, and Major Abbott of the New South Wales Corps, came to my house, and a flock of sheep were produced for the prosecutor to examine. Their improvements were so apparent, and corresponded so exactly with my representations, that the prosecutor had nothing further to say in respect to the truth of what I had advanced. After a little general conversation respecting their probable increase in numbers and the value of the wool, he burst out into a second passion, and asked me what this examination was for, as nobody ever doubted the possibility of raising fine wool in New South Wales; 'But what have to do with it?' I told him in the most respectful manner I could assume, that I certainly had understood him that morning as doubting the truth of my representations. 'No such thing!' he replied; 'and I desire, sir, you will never attempt to attach any such meanings to my words.' To draw off his attention from this subject, which seemed to give him great offence, I again mentioned that I was extremely desirous to ascertain how far his opinions corresponded with those of the Secretary of State. 'Damn the Secretary of State!' he answered, with the utmost violence; 'He commands at home; I command here.'

Mr Macarthur then proceeded to accuse Gov. Bligh of taking from him two Government servants, and of depossessing him of some property which he held under lease from the crown, by removing the fence he was erecting. He also stated the origin of his quarrel with the Governor, which was in substance as follows:—He sent a schooner to Otaheite to procure salted pork: after the vessel had been some days at sea, a convict was found concealed among the fire-wood, for which she was seized, and £900 demanded as being forfeited on a bond which the deponent conceived had no relation to the voyage she had been employed on. He therefore abandoned the vessel, and dismissed the crew, who complained to the Governor. His excellency therefore issued a warrant against Mr Macarthur, which he resisted, but next day it was executed by force. He then gave bail, and appealed against the Judge Advocate acting on the trial, because he was his avowed enemy. The Court supported his objections, but the Governor committed him to prison, and summoned the six officers that formed the Court to answer a charge of suspicion of treason. After this the Governor was arrested.

On his cross-examination he admitted that he had had differences with Gov. Phillips, Gov. Hunter, and Gov. King. That he had fought a duel with Gov. Paterson, and was sent home a prisoner, but released by the Commander in Chief, and that he also fought a duel with Col. Foveaux.

Nothing very particular resulted from the examination of Lieutenants [J.] Finucane [Secretary to Lieut. Col. Foveaux and afterwards to Col. Paterson] and [Anthony Fenn] Kemp [Captain in the New South Wales Corps; appointed a magistrate], but Lieut. [William] Minchin [Adjutant of the New South Wales Corps; appointed a magistrate] stated that several persons who were acquitted by the Criminal Court, were afterwards brought before a bench of magistrates, and punished for the same offence, the Governor not being satisfied with the decision of the Court. He affirmed that he had no intimacy with Mr Macarthur, and proceeded to state the situation in which Gov. Bligh was found at the time of his arrest.

[MINCHIN] He was, [said this witness], in a small room up stairs that appeared to me to be a servant's room; there was a small bedstead and some lumber in it. I was called toward that room, I believe, by the Governor's secretary, Mr Griffin; I think it was his voice. The Governor was then standing up; there were two or three soldiers in the room; two, I recollect perfectly. His bosom was open, his shirt frill out, and he appeared to me to be in the act of putting it into his waistcoat at the time I went into the room. From his putting his hand to put the frill of his shirt in, one of the soldiers called out to me, "Take care, he has got a pistol." I then ordered the soldiers away, and I said to the Governor, that I was extremely sorry he suffered himself to be found in that manner; that he had not come forward in the first instance to meet the officers. A corporal who was its the room, and who is now in the 73d regiment, said, as he was going out, "We found him there, sir," (pointing under the bedstead.) The fore part of his coat, the lappels, were full of dust, and the back part full of feathers: he appeared to be very much agitated; indeed I never saw a man so much frightened in my life, in appearance. When I went into the room he reached his hand to me, and asked me if I would protect his life. I assured him his life was not in danger; and that I would pledge my own for the safety of his. I then told him that Col. Johnston was in the room below, and that I would see him safely to him if he would allow me: he took my arm, and we walked down stairs together. On our getting to the stairs, his secretary came up the other side, and said, "Will you take my arm, sir?" the Governor replied, "No; I am perfectly safe with Mr Minchin." I shewed him to the room where Major Johnston was waiting. The Governor came towards him, and I must acknowledge it surprised me to see the Governor reach his hand toward him; Col. Johnston told him he had taken that step at the request of the whole of the inhabitants, and that he was sorry he was obliged to do it for the preservation of the colony. Gov. Bligh thanked him for the handsome manner in which he had carried the wishes of the inhabitants into effect, and said, that had he before known he was so much disliked by the inhabitants, he would have left the colony. Some other conversation passed, which I do not immediately recollect, until, coming out at the door, I heard the Governor say to Col. Johnston, He hoped he would have no objection to his having a few friends to eat a bit of dinner with him now and then? Col. Johnston said "Certainly not, sir;" and immediately after that I left the house.

This witness underwent a long cross-examination relative to the truth of his statement concerning the Governor interfering improperly in the administration of justice.

Mr John Blaxland [free settler; appointed a magistrate] deposed, that he became a settler in New South Wales in consequence of an agreement with the Secretary of State. He had to have 8000 acres, and the labour of 80 convicts, and a free passage out for himself, family, and stock; in return for which the deponent engaged to employ a capital of not less than 6000l. He said that the capital he employed exceeded 14,500l. but that he could only obtain 1,290 acres, and 21 convicts, and was in other respects ill used by Gov. Bligh, who refused to fulfil the agreement.

On his cross-examination, he acknowledged having signed a subscription-paper, intended to defray the expences of John Macarthur, Esq. who was appointed to proceed to England, in order to lay before Government the mal-administration of Gov. Bligh. It also appeared that he had not produced satisfactory documents, when called on by Gov. Bligh, to prove that he had actually employed the capital stipulated for, and that no more convicts could be granted without prejudice to the public works. It came also out on the examination of this witness, that Lieut.-Col. Johnston had complained of his conduct after Gov. Bligh's arrest. His evidence was very confused.

Lieut. [George Carlile] Kent, Acting Commander of the Porpoise, said, that he carried verbal orders from Gov. Bligh to Captain Piper, the Commandant at Norfolk Island, that he was to send the settlers off the island, and in case any of them refused to go, he was to use military force, and if any of them took to the woods, he was to outlaw them and to shoot them. He stated further, that the settlers chose rather to go to the Derwent than to Port Dalrymple, because the former was considered as without the jurisdiction of Gov. Bligh.

This witness also stated, that Gov. Bligh gave him orders to batter down the town of Sydney, and to compel the inhabitants to reinstate him, and that when he came on board, he was in a violent rage because he had not obeyed this order. He was confined two years, brought home, and acquitted by a court martial. The instructions sent to Capt. Piper from Gov. Bligh, relative to the evacuation of Norfolk Island was put in, and appeared to be drawn up in the most judicious and humane manner.

Mr David Dickinson Mann ["Inhabitant of Sydney"] stated, that he had a house worth 400l. which Gov. Bligh ordered him to pull down, and to give up the lease. When the witness mentioned the laws of England, which entitled him to a just and quiet possession, the Governor hastily replied, 'Damn your laws of England! don't talk to me of your laws of England: I will make laws for this colony, and every wretch of you, son of a bitch, shall be governed by them; or there (pointing over to the gaol) is your habitation!' He then bowed to him, and wished him a good morning.—This witness also stated, that he informed Mr Palmer three months before Gov. Bligh's arrest, that unless steps were taken to conciliate the people, a revolution would shortly happen. On his cross-examination, it was asked whether his house had not been erected within the line marked out for the Government domains but of this the witness professed his ignorance.


Serjeant-Major Thomas Whittle [of the New South Wales Corps] sworn. Examined by Lieut-Col. Johnston.

JOHNSTON: Had you a leasehold in the town of Sydney, with a house built on it?

WHITTLE: I had, sir.

Q What was the value of it?

A The value, sir, it stood me in, was about 510l.

Q Did Capt. Bligh ever order you to pull down that house?

A Capt. Bligh, sir, came to me one morning about seven o'clock.

Q When was this?

A About four or five months before he was put under arrest. He came with two dragoons after him, sir. I saw him coming towards the gate, and I went and paid him the compliment that was due to him. He asked me how I came by it. I told him, sir, that I had exchanged it for a house that I had lived in before, with a man of the name of Connor, on the other side of the water. He bawled out in a very violent manner, (and all the neighbours heard it) that I might chop and change as pleased, but he would have the house down by ten o'clock, and that I was welcome to take the bricks off the ground. 'Sir,' says I, 'I have got a lease of this house': then he paused a bit, and afterwards, says he, 'How long has that lease to run?' Says I, 'It has about six or seven years to run, and it is signed by Gov. Hunter.' 'Well,' says he, 'I will have the house down again by ten o'clock, and you shall neither take bricks nor any thing else away, but it shall be all mine, house, and ground, and all.' I dressed myself, sir, and went to parade, and mentioned the circumstance to my adjutant, Adj. Minchin. He advised me, sir, to let the Commanding Officer know, to see whether he could protect it for me; and I immediately signed it over to my commanding officer for his protection.

Q Who was your commanding officer?

A Col. Johnston.

Q Was it commonly known that you had been ordered to pull down your house?

A Yes, Sir; it was over in the town in less than half an hour. I had a little business at the Hospital Wharf, and every body had it in their mouths, that it had been ordered to be pulled down; and were saying what a pity it was that such an elegant house should be pulled down.

Q What effect did that produce upon its value?

A A great deal, sir; I could have got 600l. for it before that, and afterwards I could get nothing for it, till I sold it to Gov. Macquarie for 200 gallons of rum.

On his cross-examination he admitted having assisted in chairing Mr Macarthur, but did not know of any transparencies being in his house in ridicule of Gov. Bligh. Before his cross-examination was finished, he fainted away, and was taken out of court.

Several serjeants were now examined, who all expressed their belief, except one, that had the six officers been imprisoned, the soldiers would have mutinied and released them. After this the defence closed.


LIEUT.-COL. Johnston was then permitted to offer his observations to the Court. This being heard, Gov. Bligh gave in his reply, which was read by the Judge Advocate. The Governor complained much that his whole life had been searched for occasions of censure. When found, he said he was in the attitude of tearing his papers, which lay on the floor. 'It has been said,' be added, that this circumstance would make the heroes of the British navy blush with shame and burn with indignation. I certainly at such a suggestion burn with indignation, but who ought to blush with shame I leave others to determine. The Court will forgive me if I intrude a moment on their time, to mention the services in which I have been employed. For twenty-one years I have been a Post-captain, and have been engaged in services of danger, not falling within the ordinary duties of my profession: for four years with Capt. Cook in the Resolution, and four years more as a commander myself, I traversed unknown seas, braving difficulties more terrible because less frequently encountered. In subordinate situations I fought under Admiral Parker at the Dogger Bank, and Lord Howe at Gibraltar. In the battle of Camperdown the Director, under my command, first silenced and then boarded the ship of Admiral de Winter; and after the battle of Copenhagen, where I commanded the Glatton, I was sent for by Lord Nelson to receive his thanks publicly on the quarter-deck. Was it for me then to sully my reputation and to disgrace the medal I wear by shrinking from death, which I had braved in every shape? An honourable mind will look for some other motive for my retirement, and will find it in my anxiety for those papers, which during this inquiry have been occasionally produced to the confusion of those witnesses who thought they no longer existed.

I have not," he concluded, "so far forgotten the feelings of a man in the character of a Prosecutor, as to feel any interest in this investigation, except as it is connected with the vindication of my honour and reputation; and if Col. Johnston's innocence be consistent with that vindication, I shall be the first to rejoice at his acquittal. From my whole conduct and character before I took the command, I ask for a favourable construction of my actions. To the regulations and orders made during my government; to the public dispatches sent home to the Secretary of State; to the written instructions in opposition to any supposed verbal orders; to the list of the papers seized at my arrest; I appeal, and with confidence, for proofs of my general providence, attention, and humanity, my zeal for the welfare of my country, and my anxiety for the prosperity of the colony. I now leave the whole case to the judgment of the members of this honourable court, thanking them for their unwearied assiduity during this long inquiry, and the patient attention with which this address has been heard." [The court was cleared; in less than an hour afterwards the court broke up, and did not meet again. On the second of July the sentence was issued, as follows.]


Horse Guards, 2d July,1811.   

"AT a General Court Martial, held at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, on the 7th May, 1811, and continued by adjournments to the 5th of June following, Lieut.-Col. George Johnston, Major of the 102d regiment, was arraigned upon the undermentioned charge, viz.—

'That Lieut.-Col: George Johnston, Major as aforesaid, did, on or about the 26th day of January, 1808, at Sydney, in the colony of New South Wales, begin, excite, cause, and join in, a mutiny, by putting himself at the head of the New South Wales Corps, then under his command and doing duty in the colony, and seizing and causing to be seized and arrested, and imprisoning and causing to be imprisoned, by means of the above-mentioned military force, the person of William Bligh, Esq. then Captain General and Governor in Chief in and over the territory of New South Wales.'

"Upon which charge the court came to the following decision:—

'The Court having duly and maturely weighed and considered the whole of the evidence adduced on the Prosecution, as well as what has been offered in defence, are of opinion that Lieut.-Col. Johnston is guilty of the act of Mutiny as described in the charge, and do therefore sentence him to be Cashiered.

"His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, was pleased, ender all the circumstances of this case, to acquiesce in the sentence of the Court.

"The Court, in passing a sentence so inadequate to the enormity of the crime of which the prisoner has been found guilty, have apparently been actuated by a consideration of the novel and extraordinary circumstances, which, by the evidence on the face of the proceedings, may have appeared to them to have existed during the administration of Gov. Bligh, both as affecting the tranquillity of the colony, and calling for some immediate decision. But although the Prince Regent admits the principle under which the court have allowed this consideration to act in mitigation of the punishment which the crime of, mutiny would otherwise have suggested, yet no circumstances whatever can be received by His Royal Highness in full extenuation of an assumption of power, so subversive of every principle of good order and discipline under which Lieut.-Col. Johnston has been convicted.

"The Commander in Chief directs that the charge preferred against Lieut.-Col. Johnston, together with the sentence of the Court, and His Royal Highness the Prince Regent's pleasure thereon, shall be read at the head of every regiment, and entered in the regimental orderly book.

"By command of his Royal Highness                  
"The Commander in Chief,                        
"HARRY CALVERT, Adj.-Gen."   




SUCH was the result of this important trial, which involved considerations and consequences of the highest interest. The materials of which this colony is constituted, audits immense distance from home, certainly requires a vigorous and respected government. The danger of permitting insurrections to pass over with impunity, and the necessity of enforcing colonial subordination, all concurred to require some signal punishment to be inflicted on time who had ventured to oppose, degrade, and imprison his Majesty's representative. Yet no doubt can remain on the mind after perusing the trial, but that Lieut.-Col. Johnston was actuated by a consideration of the novel and extraordinary circumstances which appeared to exist, and which, affecting the tranquillity of the colony, called for some immediate measure of decision. All the witnesses admitted that this officer was remarkable for his peaceful and retired habits; that he had no particular intimacy with the gentleman whose conduct and trial were the immediate causes of the arrest; that he filled the expensive end arduous office of Governor without requiring any remuneration, and that he diminished his popularity by lessening the expenditure of the public money.

These circumstances sufficiently prove that his intentions were pure, and that he was actuated by the patriotic motive of saving the colony from the dreadful effects of military insubordination, as he had once before saved it from the licentious violence of a numerous, desperate, and armed mob of convicts. This affair will, it is to be hoped, be productive of good consequences. It will render the ministers in future more cautious and attentive in selecting a Governor properly qualified for occupying so trying and delicate a situation; and it will teach inferior officers the propriety of repressing any casual burst of public indignation, with all their power and influence, and of holding the post allotted them to the very last extremity.

The new Colony of New South Wales is undoubtedly one of the boldest and most singular experiments ever tried. To plant a settlement merely with robbers, thieves, and vagabonds, is a project which was never before attempted. In America the transported felon was landed amidst a sober, honest, and industrious body of people. His vices were neither permitted nor encouraged by his associates, and he was soon compelled by the most irresistible motives to change his habits, and to deserve the public confidence and approbation. He was, therefore, soon moulded into the general mass, and his object was to blot out the remembrance of the causes of his introduction. But in New South Wales there are but two classes, convicts and their masters, or overseers. The luxuries and vices of civilized society continue still to influence and deprave their desires, and to counteract the effects which a change of place and situation might produce in accelerating their moral regeneration.

This perhaps is a radical error in the formation of these settlements. We have, indeed, heard many accounts of the wonderful transformations which have taken place; of robbers and highwaymen being converted into good husbands, and of the most abandoned thieves and prostitutes into intelligent and industrious mothers, but we fear these statements are exaggerated; for the history of this colony presents little else but a continued disgusting, and sickening series of crimes, which could only originate from the most inveterate depravity. There are, however, some noble exceptions, where individuals of industrious habits have raised a small capital, cultivated land, and after their emancipation have entered into commercial speculations, and now ranks amongst the richest and most respectable inhabitants of the colony.

The salubrity of the climate, the fertility of the soil, and the excellence of the situation of the country adjoining Port Jackson, are circumstances which must ultimately render it a great and flourishing country. Settlers possessed of a large capital have here ample means of employing it with incalculable advantage. The former scarcity, which so frequently recurred, was principally owing to the careless, abandoned, and improvident character of the convicts; but the success of Mr Macarthur, in rearing stock, shews what may be effected with even a moderate capital properly applied. The greatest impediment to improvement arises from the high price of labour; but a scheme, equally sure and effectual, might be adopted in order to remove this evil. Were a few spirited capitalists to engage a vessel to proceed to the coast of China to encourage some of the industrious but half-starved inhabitants of that country to settle in New South Wales, a communication might readily be opened, and numbers of Chinese would flock to a country where the exertions of industry were so well rewarded. It is a prejudice to suppose that these people refuse to quit their native country. Necessity operates with equal power over all men, and the thousands of peaceful and industrious Chinese which inhabit the numerous hands in the south of Asia, sufficiently attest their inclination to emigrate.

The combination which would thus be formed between the bold, restless, and active characters of the British convicts, and the timid, passive, and industrious habits of the Chinese, would constitute another curious and singular experiment in morals and legislation. The European, from his superior address and knowledge, would acquire a kind of superiority, which, requiring the assumption of a correspondent character, generally tends to alter and improve the moral character. New sources of industry might thus be opened. The whale and seal fishery might be prosecuted with redoubled vigour. Coals in large quantities might be sent to India and the Cape of Good Hope. A commerce might be established with the inhabitants of Peru, extremely advantageous to both parties. Cargoes of salted provisions might be obtained in exchange for trinkets, &c. with the natives of the South Sea Islands, and a most lucrative commerce might be carried on by purchasing furs, on the north-west coast of America, and selling them to the Chinese near the mouth of the Yellow River. These branches of trade are at present scarcely regarded, from the limited powers of the Colonists; while the raising of articles, useful and necessary to the mother country and for which their soil and climate are so well adapted, is from receiving the encouragement it deserves. But at the present time, when the strength, commerce, and existence of the country are so furiously attacked, it is hoped that our opulent merchants, for the good of their country, as well as for their individual interest, will emulate each other in encouraging every scheme which is calculated to promote the prosperity of even the most distant part of the British empire, particularly a part which, from a variety of circumstances, seems destined to fix the attention and excite the admiration of posterity.



[Source: Watson]

IT is needless to discuss the problem as to which individuals were actually privy to the final decision for the arrest of Bligh. The opinion of the English counsel who were consulted was "that the evidence to be collected from the correspondence principally affects John Macarthur, Nicholas Bayly, Doctor Townson, John Blaxland, Garnham Blaxcell, and Thomas Jamieson, as having previously concerted together with Major Johnston the arrest and imprisonment of Governor Bligh, and having afterwards borne a part in the assumed Government."

A careful study of the papers will show that very few of the malcontents were desirous of extreme measures. The large majority of the insurrectionaries were men who sought unrestrained freedom of action, and a few weeks after the arrest of Bligh they were just as antagonistic to Johnston's administration as they had been to Bligh's. After the arrest misrepresentations were industriously circulated by the rebels to justify their action. It was stated even that Bligh had shown cowardice and was found under a servant's bed. A picture illustrating this episode was freely exhibited by sergeant-major Whittle, and is still extant. Bligh's friends circulated pipes discrediting the leading rebels. In consequence it is impossible to reach a definite conclusion on many of the issues which were raised.

Cartoon illustrating the arrest of Governor Bligh

Governor Bligh was the victim of circumstances when he failed to maintain the government of the colony. Since the departure of Governor Phillip, in 1792, officials had received many privileges and perquisites, which, though inconsistent with the public welfare, had been excused by the fact that, owing to the high cost of living, the man who held a situation under government could barely subsist on his pay. Bligh put an end to these privileges and perquisites. He refused land grants, restricted assigned labour, and prohibited the barter of spirits. He acted with the best intentions, and his reforms were urgently needed. But he paid too little regard to the necessity of conciliating, so far as might be, powerful interests and powerful individuals. The determination of his actions and the coarseness of his speech gave, perhaps, unnecessary offence, but by no means justified the opposition to and the usurpation of his government.

A fact of importance is that at the critical moment in the story, the second in command in the colony was major Johnston. It was generally acknowledged that Johnston was "a well disposed good natured man—a cheerful companion and an idol of the soldiers and the lower order of society." His well meaning good nature made him an easy tool in the hands of men determined to overcome any obstacles which might interfere with their personal interests. Probably at no other time would Macarthur have been successful in attaining his ends. If lieutenant-governor Paterson had been present at headquarters, Macarthur would have been unsuccessful, for Paterson had a strong distrust of him. Lieutenant-colonel Foveaux had similar feelings, and when he superseded Johnston Macarthur was retired into private life. It was otherwise with Johnston, and Macarthur was able to mould his views, with the result that during the insurrection and Johnston's subsequent administration, Macarthur held the actual command. This view is well borne out by the subsequent action of the English government. In 1809, Johnston and Macarthur sailed for England in the Admiral Gambier. The government were desirous of dropping all further inquiry into the rebellion, but Johnston forced an issue.

When Governor Macquarie arrived, in 1810, he made a general summary of the circumstances of the arrest. He stated:—

"It occurs to me that your Lordship may perhaps wish to know my opinion and Sentiments with regard to the extraordinary transactions and disturbances that took place here, as connected with the arrest of Governor Bligh, and the subversion of his Government, by Lieut.-Colonel Johnston, at the head of the New South Wales Corps, on the 26th of January, 1808.

"I have taken particular pains to discover the cause which gave rise to that most daring event, and to the mutinous conduct of Lt.-Colonel Johnston and the New South Wales Regiment, and find it extremely difficult to form a just Judgment on this delicate and mysterious subject, Party rancour having run so high as to preclude the possibility of arriving at the truth without a very minute and legal investigation of the whole business.

"But, in justice to Governor Bligh, I must say that I have not been able to discover any Act of his which could in any degree form an excuse for, or in any way warrant, the violent and Mutinous Proceedings pursued against him on that occasion, very few complaints having been made to me against him, and even those few are rather of a trifling nature.

"On the other hand, there cannot be a doubt but that Governor Bligh's administration was extremely unpopular, particularly among the higher orders of the People; And from my own short experience. I must acknowledge that he is a most unsatisfactory Man to transact business with, from his want of candor and decision, in so much that it is impossible to place the smallest reliance on the fulfilment of any engagement he enters into."

All the unbiassed contemporary opinions are in full accordance with Macquarie's summary.

The administration of Governor Bligh and its results form one of the most important milestones in the development of the civil life of Australia. Had this stormy epoch been eliminated from the history of this continent, progress might have been retarded indefinitely. In the interval between the departure of Governor Phillip in 1792, and the arrival of Governor Bligh, the administration of the colony had fallen into the hands of what was to all intents and purposes a small oligarchy, consisting of the military officers and a few wealthy partisans. Their one object was to acquire wealth. Everything was subordinated to this desire. with the result that the many outside the oligarchy were forced to lose the profits of their honest labour in the ruinous traffic which benefited chiefly the members of the ruling class. Bligh recognised the evil, and his deposition was brought about because it was perceived that this was the only means to prevent immediate and complete reform. But his arrest did not result in the failure of his efforts and a permanent reversion to the former conditions. It concentrated the attention of the English authorities on the conditions of the colony. It forced them to initiate immediate reforms. It directly caused the recall of the New South Wales Corps, which, by long residence, had become the most powerful and perhaps the most evil factor in the community. It indirectly led to the reform of the law courts, to the removal of the restrictions on trade and commerce, and to the general betterment of the conditions of life in the colony.


[Source: Watson]

IN spite of a certain weakness of decision, Johnston's character was an admirable one. He was "a well disposed good natured man." He had few if any personal enemies, and was popular with all persons he came in contact with. In his routine military administration he was methodical and just, and was the idol of the rank and file. His very good nature made him the easy tool of conspirators, and this was his undoing. Prior to the rebellion, he resented the interference of Governor Bligh in military matters, but when making his report to the military secretary to the Duke of York on this subject, his diffidence and fairness were shown when he stated: "I will detail to you . . . . some of the most glaring acts of Governor Bligh's indecorous and, I hope I might be pardoned if I said, oppressive conduct."

Prior to the arrest of Bligh, the malcontents probably held frequent conferences with Johnston, for without him action was impossible. Captain Abbott stated that the arrest had been discussed, but it is probable that Johnston was averse to extreme action. When John Macarthur arrived at the barracks after his liberation on the 26th of January, 1808, Johnston is reported to have said: "God's curse! What am I to do, Macarthur? Here are these fellows advising me to arrest the Governor!" to which Macarthur replied: "Advising you; then, Sir, the only thing left for you to do is to do it. To advise on such matters is legally as criminal as to do them." If this conversation is correctly recorded it is proof that Johnston was the tool in the hands of the malcontents, and also that Macarthur at least recognised the guilt of the action.

Both at the time of the arrest and throughout his administration, Johnston failed to assert his personal authority, and it was generally recognised that the actual administration was in the hands of Macarthur. Johnston therefore was only the figurehead under whom the maladministration for the following six months was carried on.


AFTER his return to England, Bligh was promoted, in July, 1811, to the rank of rear-admiral of the blue squadron, and in June. 1814, to that of vice-admiral, but remained on the half-pay list. He died in Bond-street, London, on the 7th of December, 1817, and was buried in Lambeth churchyard.

Johnston returned to the colony in October, 1812, and lived in retirement on his estate called "Annandale", near Sydney. He died, universally respected, on the 3rd of January, 1823. At the time of his death his case was being considered by the war office, and it is probable that he would have been reinstated to his former rank in the army if he had lived a few months longer.

[Source: Bladen.]

Macarthur was dealt with very differently. No legal proceedings were taken against him; but advantage was taken of the power which the Government exercised of controlling the immigration to the colony; and he was prohibited from returning. In 1816, the Secretary of State, in view of assurances received by him from various sources that Macarthur was sensible of the impropriety of conduct which led to his departure from the colony, withdrew the objections to his return. Macarthur, however, would not accept this; he refused to acknowledge any regret or concern for the part he had taken in Bligh's arrest. He went farther and stated that he considered it one of the most meritorious he had ever been engaged in. He took a high stand, which did him infinite credit. He made known his decision to suffer in silence no longer. Unless he was permitted to return, unconditionally, to the colony, he would petition Parliament, and "lay open all the iniquities of Mr. Bligh, of which I held in my possession abundant proofs, which I was not to be deterred from producing in the way that the unfortunate and ill-advised Colonel Johnston had been." Eventually, in February, 1817, the Government agreed to permit Macarthur to return, without any admissions or conditions.


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