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The Rum Rebellion

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

The Rum Rebellion was a coup d'état that took place in the then-British penal colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1808. The rebellion was led by officers of the New South Wales Corps (also referred to as the Rum Corps), who were opposed to the rule of Governor William Bligh.

"The Arrest of Governor Bligh, January 26 1808" with the text "The Rum Rebellion" foregrounded.

The Rum Rebellion was the culmination of a long-running conflict between Bligh and the officers of the New South Wales Corps. Bligh was a strict disciplinarian, and he clashed with the officers over a number of issues, including the management of the rum trade. The officers were also concerned about Bligh's plans to reform the colony's legal system.

On 26 January 1808, a group of officers of the New South Wales Corps led by Major George Johnston arrested Governor Bligh and deposed him from office. Johnston then assumed control of the colony as Lieutenant-Governor. Bligh was initially imprisoned on Norfolk Island, but he was eventually allowed to return to England.


The Rum Rebellion had a number of consequences. It marked the end of Bligh's governorship, and it led to a period of instability in the colony. The rebellion also damaged the reputation of the New South Wales Corps, and it led to the disbandment of the Corps in 1818.


The Rum Rebellion served as the first and only military coup in Australia. The rebellion also highlighted the problems of corruption and patronage that existed in the colony.


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