A propaganda cartoon created within hours of William Bligh's arrest, portraying him as a coward

Rum Rebellion Part 1: That Bounty Bastard

22nd April 2015

British naval officer William Bligh was used to mutinies at sea, his most famous one happening aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. But on Australia Day 1808, 20 years after the first fleet made landfall in Sydney, he experienced his first mutiny on land. A force of armed soldiers stormed government house in Sydney and dragged him out from under his bed, toppling him from his position as Governor of the colony.

Later known as the Rum Rebellion, the overthrow of Governor William Bligh marked Australia’s first and only military coup. After Bligh’s forced banishment, the colony would be run as a dictatorship by a junta of military officers and plutocrats for two years.

In part one of our series on the Rum Rebellion, we follow the early career of the cantankerous and emotionally volatile William Bligh, which culminates with his appointment as governor of NSW, setting him on a collision course with the entrenched interests of John MacArthur and the NSW Rum Corps.