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The New South Wales Corps (The Rum Corps)

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

The New South Wales Corps (colloquially referred to as The Rum Corps) was a military unit that was established in New South Wales in 1789. The Corps was formed to provide protection for the colony and to help to enforce the law. However, the Corps quickly became involved in politics and business, and it soon gained a reputation for corruption and violence.

A cropped section of Raymond Lindsay's painting depicting the 1808 Rum Rebellion featuring the NSW Corps, also known as The Rum Corps, with the text "The Rum Corps" foregrounded.

The Corps was originally established by Governor Arthur Phillip. Phillip was concerned about the lack of security in the colony, and he believed that the Corps would help to protect the settlers from attack by Aboriginal people. The Corps was also tasked with enforcing the law and with helping to build roads and bridges.

The Corps quickly became involved in politics. The officers of the Corps were often appointed to positions of power in the colony, and they used their influence to benefit themselves and their friends. The Corps also became involved in the slave trade, and it was accused of using its power to intimidate and exploit Aboriginal people.


The Corps was also involved in a number of violent incidents. In 1804, the Corps clashed with Aboriginal people at the Battle of Appin. The Corps also clashed with the British Army in the Rum Rebellion of 1808.


Some of the most notable figures associated with the Rum Corps include:

  • John Macarthur: Macarthur was a wealthy landowner and businessman who was a major figure in the Rum Corps. He was accused of using his influence to benefit himself and his friends, and he was eventually deported from the colony.

  • William Bligh: Bligh was a naval officer who was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1806. Bligh was a strict disciplinarian, and he soon clashed with the officers of the Rum Corps. Bligh was eventually overthrown by the Corps in the Rum Rebellion of 1808.

  • Francis Grose: Grose was a British Army officer who was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales in 1792. Grose was a close friend of Macarthur, and he was accused of using his position to benefit Macarthur and the Rum Corps.

The New South Wales Corps was disbanded in 1818.

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