The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was a coup d’état in the then-British penal colony of New South Wales, staged by the New South Wales Corps in order to depose Governor William Bligh.
Australia’s first and only military coup, it is named after early Sydney’s illicit rum trade, over which the Rum Corps, as it became known, maintained a monopoly.
During the first half of the 19th century, it was widely referred to in Australia as the Great Rebellion.
Bligh, a former Royal Navy officer known for his overthrow in the mutiny on the Bounty, had been appointed governor in 1805 to rein in the power of the Corps.
Within two years, rising tensions between Bligh and the military elite, as well as prominent civilians such as John Macarthur, prompted Major George Johnston to organise an armed takeover.
On 26 January 1808, 400 soldiers marched on Government House and arrested Bligh.
He was kept in confinement in Sydney, then aboard a ship off Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land, for the next two years while Johnston acted as Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales.
The military remained in control until the 1810 arrival from Britain of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, who became the colony’s new governor.