Tag Archives: Rum Rebellion

An Unforgettable Drop

Scandals don’t travel very well geographically. Some scandals take on a global dimension, and are instantly recognizable as such wherever you live – Monica Lewinsky’s dress definitely, a duck house built at taxpayers’ expense maybe, but I doubt if anyone elsewhere will really understand the significance of a New South Wales Premier thanking a lobbyist for giving him an expensive bottle of red wine.

Last week the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell denied to the Independent Commission on Corruption that he was given a bottle of 1959 Grange 3 years ago. He said he didn’t remember receiving it and he didn’t put it on his gift register, but when confronted with his own thank you note, he resigned.

It’s not the most riveting of scandals, though the ICAC inquiry is currently revealing a lot about politics in New South Wales that reminds me of the remark attributed (or misattributed) to Otto von Bismarck that you don’t want to see how either laws or sausages are made, if you want a good night’s sleep. Continue reading

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Reading the Rum Rebellion

At about five o’clock on the afternoon of 26 January 1808, Major George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps led his men from the barracks in Bridge Street.  They marched in a line two or three deep along the streets of Sydney to Government House.  They carried the regimental flag, and played The British Grenadier.  They carried their weapons, with bayonets fixed.  Their plan was to arrest Governor Bligh.  Arriving at Government House, they found the governor’s daughter and a number of his supporters who had just finished dinner, but they spent some time hunting for her father, until he was found in an attic bedroom.  He would later say he was destroying documents there.  The soldiers insisted he was hiding under a bed.

Governor Bligh seized under the bed

One of the few contemporary images of the Rum Rebellion. Painted on thin paper, the illumination would have been placed in the window, with a lamp behind it. Needless to say it is propaganda rather than an accurate portrayal of the arrest

In the last few weeks, I’ve been revisiting a long neglected project of mine, a biography of an early Australian settler called Walter Davidson who became an opium trader in China. Continue reading