(previous … Governor William Bligh)

Month after month, Governor William Bligh grew more and more unpopular and those he didn’t alienate in the course of his duty he offended by his rudeness and tyranny until there was scarcely anyone left in the colony who was his friend. Many were inflamed by so bitter a hatred that they were ready to do anything for revenge. The colony was on tenterhooks, fearing that the smallest of incidents was likely to bring about serious results.

John Macarthur vs Richard Atkins

This eventually happened through a quarrel between John Macarthur and Richard Atkins, the new judge-advocate of the colony. Mr Macarthur was given a heavy fine for neglect in having permitted a convict to escape in a vessel, the Paramatta, of which he was partly the owner. Macarthur refused to pay and was summoned before the court, of which Atkins was the president. Macarthur declined to appear on the grounds that Atkins was his personal enemy. As a result, Atkins ordered him seized and placed in gaol. Bligh appointed a special court to try him, consisting of six officers, together with Atkins himself. Macarthur was bought before the court, but protested against being judged by his enemy, however, he declared he would abide by the decision of the six officers. The officers supported his protest and the trial was dismissed. Bligh was exceedingly angry, declared that the six officers would be put in gaol, which brought matters to a crisis.

Colony Had Enough of Bligh

The officers of the New South Wales Corps all took part in protesting with their comrades and assisted Macarthur to get up a petition, asking Major Johnston, the military commander, to depose Governor Bligh and for himself to take charge of the colony. Major Johnston was only too happy of the opportunity.

Major Johnston held a council of officers at which John Macarthur and several others were present. The course of action was decided upon and the next morning the soldiers marched, with colours flying and drums beating, to the gate of the Governor’s house. Here they were met by Bligh’s daughter, who endeavoured to persuade them to go away. The soldiers made her stand aside and they continued to march up the avenue. In the meantime, Bligh had hidden himself in the house. The soldiers entered and searched for him everywhere until at length they discovered him behind a bed, where he declared he was seeking to hide important papers.

Arrest of Bligh

Bligh was arrested and sentinels were posted to prevent his escape. Major Johnston, in the meantime, assumed the Governor’s position and proceeded to appoint his friends to the most important offices in the Government service. he continued to direct affairs for some time until Colonel Foveaux superseded him. Foveaux was then superseded by Colonel Paterson who came from Tasmania to take charge of the colony until a new Governor could be sent from England.

Bligh Breaks His Promise

Paterson offered Bligh his freedom if he would promise to go straight to England and not seek to stir trouble in the colony. Bligh promised, but no sooner had he been released that he began to stir up the Hawkesbury settlers on his behalf. They declined to assist him, however, so Bligh headed to Tasmania. Here he was received with goodwill, until the news arrived from Sydney that Bligh had broken his promise and he ought to have been on his way back to England. An attempt was made to capture him but he escaped and headed back to England. In England, where his exploits were not known, he rose to be Admiral in the English navy.


When the news of the rebellion reached the authorities in England, Major Johnston was dismissed from the service and Major-General Lachlan Macquarie was sent out as Governor of the colony. Major Johnston retired to a farm in New South Wales, where he lived and prospered until his death in 1817.

(continues … Tasmania 1803 to 1836)