Sunday, 27 July 2014
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Sunday, 13 July 2014
The ‘Rum Rebellion’ had nothing to do with rum. Almost no one at the time of the rebellion thought it was about rum. Bligh briefly tried to give it that spin to smear his opponents, but there was no evidence for it and he moved on. The label was conferred some fifty years after the event by William Howitt, a writer with teetotal sympathies and popularised by H.V. Evatt as the title of the series of lectures he delivered at the University of Queensland for its 150th anniversary. Officers of the NSW Corps had monopolised the rum trade in the 1790s, but this ended years before the rebellion, with the arrival on the commercial scene of successful former convicts such as Simeon Lord and free traders like Robert Campbell. The name seems to have persisted partly due to the power of alliteration and partly because it has allowed left-leaning writers to blame the event on Australia’s proto-capitalists. Neither was it really a ‘rebellion’. Contemporaries thought of it as a mutiny or military insurrection though it might more accurately be described as a coup d’etat in that, once the NSW Corps had seized power by arresting Bligh, it was its leaders who ruled the colony and, in the case of Paterson and Foveaux refused to reinstate Bligh, until replaced by Macquarie.
With Macquarie’s inconclusive investigation in 1810 and the ambivalence of the court martial findings on the basic cause of the mutiny, there has been a diversity of theories as to why it occurred and have polarised into two distinct and divergent perspectives. At one extreme, historians argue that the rebels had been granted large tracts of land that they successfully exploited in their own interests and that Bligh’s policies threatened their wealth. John Macarthur, a former officer of the Corps who had become one of the wealthiest men in the colony, is cast as a conniving puppet master and Bligh’s personal defects are played down. This interpretation appeals to those who have faith in government enterprise and an egalitarian inclination to support, as Bligh did, the small farmers of the settlement on the Hawkesbury flood plain.
At the other extreme, the primary focus is on the part played by the officers of the NSW Corps in providing much of the entrepreneurial drive in trade and agriculture that was necessary to enable the colony to succeed. Bligh’s policies threatened that success. His was a static vision of a government-dominated society serviced by yeoman farmers that starkly contrasted with the dynamism of Sydney-based commerce. Adherents to this approach emphasise the defects in Bligh’s character and policy and play down the greed and cunning of the rebels. Certainly those involved in the coup were quick to put their spin on events. A picture of Bligh being pulled from beneath the bed where he had hidden for two hours was possibly produced and put on display within hours of the event. It was part of a campaign to brand Bligh a coward and reduce support for him in the colony and in Britain. This seems to have been at least partly successful. Following the rebellion, the NSW Corps was withdrawn, Johnston was cashiered and Macarthur had to stay out of the colony for many years for fear of prosecution had he returned. Yet the outcome could have been far worse for the rebels, but for the antipathy that existed towards Bligh in England at the time of Johnston’s trial in 1811. The perspective appears also to have been the judgement of the only systematic contemporary investigation of the events, the court martial that simply cashiered Johnson, a punishment universally regarded as exceptionally lenient.
Both perspectives are plausible because the available contemporary evidence consists largely of assertions by those with a vested interest in the outcome, perhaps inevitable with an event that polarised a small community. Three issues are important when assessing this event. First, any explanation of why the coup occurred can look like justification or condemnation. Secondly, it is important not to project today’s values backwards to judge the corruption of the officers. Early nineteenth century British politics and public administration was, by today’s standards, profoundly corrupt and the early Sydney colony was no different. Finally, this was an age in which conduct was defined by the code of honour to which all gentlemen had to subscribe. This code is expressed through the tradition of duelling that was already evident in colonial NSW and that provides part of the explanation for the military coup of 1808.
The coup was the result of a range of factors including various aspects of commercial self-interest. The traffic in rum was of little if any significance, except to some of the non-commissioned officers. Much more important, amongst multiple causes, was the conflict between real estate developers and the public interest over the exploitation of prime urban land near the water. The tension over urban leases was one of a number of conflicts in which Bligh sought to reverse practices permitted by his less resolute predecessors. He made only three land grants in 18 months and issued no leases; he pardoned only two convicts in 18 months; he cracked down on profiteering and enforced import restrictions. His policies undermined the wealth and the prospects of that part of the local elite with access to capital. On a number of occasions he deployed his authority over the rudimentary judicial system to attack those he opposed and intervened directly in court cases to achieve his ends.
This kind of untrammelled executive power was unacceptable to ‘free-born Englishmen’. Government by whim or caprice in the exercise of an absolute discretion was tyranny, typical of Continental nations and an anathema to the English. Jeremy Bentham maintained that military rule breached the Enlightenment tenet of liberty since there was no separation of powers to prevent the executive becoming excessively powerful and that the colonies reflected the spirit of French absolutism rather than British constitutionalism. Broad discretionary powers may have been necessary for NSW governors to deal with convicts, but when applied to free settlers and emancipists, they challenged the dominant Lockean ideology of eighteenth century Britain and the principles of the rule of law and provided the civic discourse of early Sydney. Bligh’s conduct may have been acceptable on a ship where a culture of authority created an expectation of unquestioning and immediate execution of orders. However, such conduct was unacceptable when applied to free subjects, who made up the majority of the 7,000 persons in the colony. Indeed there were serious doubts, privately expressed by Bentham but known to some settlers, about whether, in the absence of express parliamentary authority, the Governor could lawfully exercise such authority over free men and women at all.
The sense of personal security of citizens, indeed the existence of social order, is determined in large measure by the extent to which people can arrange their personal affairs and their relationships with associates, friends, family and neighbours on the assumption that basic standards of propriety are met and reasonable expectations are satisfied. All forms of social relationships, including economic interaction, are impeded by the degree to which personal and property rights are subject to unpredictable and arbitrary incursion, so that people live in fear or act on the basis of suspicion, rather than on the basis that others will act in a predictable way. The rule of law provided the central legitimising discourse of eighteenth century England. It was firmly established in Australia by the experience of the coup itself and, perhaps more significantly, by the experience of government under a military regime. Bligh had united a number of disparate interests. His removal took away that unity.
The absence of a clearly legitimate authority enabled those with a grievance to seek vengeance and anyone with access to power to abuse it. After the coup, the sense of personal security was lost to a substantial degree and the rule of law compromised and, on occasions, set aside. Later, the courts appeared to operate more normally and fairly. However, throughout the two years between the deposition of Bligh and the arrival of Macquarie, the colony was controlled by an illegal government. Every appointment, including to judicial office and every governmental decision was invalid. Personal and property rights were institutionally insecure and the residents of NSW welcomed the restoration of legitimate authority under Lachlan Macquarie. In accordance with his instructions, he invalidated the appointments and the decisions of the rebel administration, including appointments to and decisions by the courts. Completed court orders were not reopened on the basis of necessity, perhaps most poignantly applied in the case of the invalid death sentences that had been carried into effect. Nevertheless, some redress was available for the past illegal exercise of governmental power. One of those banished to the coal mines sued successfully for false imprisonment. The rule of law was emphatically restored.
 Howitt, William, Land, labour, and gold: or, Two years in Victoria: with visits to Sydney and Van Diemen’s Land, 2 Vols. 1st ed., (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans), 1855, p. 118, 2nd ed., (Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts), 1858, Vol. 2, p. 78.
 Ibid, Evatt, H.V., Rum Rebellion: A Study of the Overthrow of Governor Bligh by John Macarthur and the New South Wales Corps remains useful because, although partisan in favour of Governor Bligh, it was written by an eminent Australian lawyer. Ellis, M.H., John Macarthur, 3 editions, (Angus & Robertson), 1955, 1967, 1978 is partisan in the opposite direction. A more balanced account is Fitzgerald, Ross and Hearne, Mark, Bligh, Macarthur and the Rum Rebellion, (Kangaroo Press), 1988.
 This is particularly evident in the correspondence in HRA, Series I, Vol. 6 where Bligh, Johnston, Foveaux and Paterson and pro- and anti-Bligh factions placed their positions on the record.
 See ibid, Neal, David, The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony, pp. 92-94, 97-98; Braithwaite John, ‘Crime in a Convict Republic’, Modern Law Review, Vol. 64, (2001), p. 11; ibid, Gascoigne, John, The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia, pp. 39-44; Krygier, Martin, ‘Subjects, Objects and the Colonial Rule of Law’, in Krygier, Martin, Civil Passions: Selected Writings, (Black Inc), 2005; Thompson, E.P., Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act, (Pantheon), 1975, pp. 265-266; Hay, Douglas, ‘Property, Authority and the Criminal Law’, in Hay, Douglas et al, (eds.), Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth Century England, (Pantheon), 1975, pp. 17-63; Cole, D.H., ‘‘An Unqualified Human Good’: E.P.Thompson and the Rule of Law’, Law and Society Review, Vol. 28, (2001), p. 117.
 Alan Atkinson, ‘Jeremy Bentham and the Rum Rebellion’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 64, (1), (1978), pp. 1-13, at p. 1.
 Ibid, Kercher, B., Debt, Seduction and Other Disasters: The Birth of Civil Law in Convict New South Wales, p. 40.
Monday, 7 July 2014
This was, for instance, evident in increased levels drinking by women described in contemporary newspapers. Concerns about women drinking was not a new problem: ‘If a woman is out drinking all day long, the home is neglected’. The problem appears, at least as far as the authorities were concerned, to have been exacerbated by the war. Although women probably accounted for between 25 and 30 per cent of all pub patrons in before 1914, most came from the working-classes. During the war, novel drinking habits began to emerge with an unprecedented increase in the number of upper working- and middle-class women who patronised pubs. The Aberdeen Journal reported: ‘Having more money in their hands than usual, there were only too many ready to help them to spend it in the wrong way.’  In November, Carnarvon magistrates restricted the hours during which women could purchase alcohol. The following year, Theophilus Simpson, a member of the county magistrates, expressed his shock in the Manchester Evening News at counting:
…26 women enter a licensed house in ten minutes, with 16 coming out who he had not seen enter…Some people said women have a right to spend their money as they liked; they might as well say that they had a right to sell themselves if they like.
In 1916, the Liverpool Echo reported a debate of the Bootle Licensing Magistrates during which Captain Oversby said: ‘In the opinion of the committee, the great increase in the number of women visiting public-houses during the past year has demanded drastic treatment.’ A number of different measures were discussed to stop women visiting the public houses, including a refurbishment of all public houses: ‘All licensed houses to be provided with clear plate-glass windows; partitions, snugs and other obstacles likely to facilitate secret drinking, be done away.’ a member of the Flintshire Police Committee described women as ‘The Thirsty Sex’ two months before the war ended.  The scale of the problem, even if it applied to only a ‘small minority of the soldiers’ wives’, and its impact was made clear in a report produced by the Dundee Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1918: the number of women drinking in 1915 was reported to be 275 and 175 soldiers’ wives or 55 per cent; in 1916, the respective numbers were 260 and 172 or 66 per cent; and in 1917 263 and 189 or 71 per cent.
In many cases the Service allowance to soldiers’ wives was larger than the ordinary labouring man’s wide was accustomed to receive from her husband…the result [of drinking] was neglect of the children, and abandonment of parental responsibility, and not infrequently unfaithfulness to the husband at the front. 
In the early-twentieth century beer, wine and spirits were relatively cheap and consumed in large quantities. In the outbreak of war, drink was one of the main political issues in Britain was and convictions for drunken behaviour regularly exceeded 200,000 per year. Drinking places provided a focus for the community. By 1830 a measure of social segregation had developed and by 1860 no respectable urban Englishman entered an ordinary public house. Private, as opposed to public, drinking was becoming the mark of respectability. Drinking was also a predominantly male preserve and on paydays pubs were often besieged by wives anxious to get money to feed and clothe their children before it was drunk away.
Job opportunities in alcohol: A women brewer securing the lid of a barrel of beer
Growing control over licensed premises predated the war at least in part motivated by concerns about women drinking with calls for the government to take action to keep women out of bars, for publicans to stop serving them, and even for changes to the design of pubs, to discourage female drinkers. The 1908 Licensing Bill, with the enthusiastic support of Lloyd George a long-time supporter of the temperance movement, sought to limit the number of licensed premises in each local authority area and one of its provisions included the banning of women from working behind the bar. Unlike the suffrage movement that called a truce for the duration of the war, temperance reformers saw it as a call to arms and there were immediate calls from some for the introduction of total prohibition. It was believed that military efficiency would be enhanced by abstinence. Many prominent public figure including King George V, Lloyd George and Lord Kitchener endorsed wartime pledge to abstain from alcohol for the duration of the war as a means through which the whole population, should they take the pledge, could contribute to the war effort. British teetotalism, therefore, was seen as a crucial weapon to be deployed against beer-drinking Germany. 
It was not uncommon for pubs to open between 5.00 am and midnight. At the end of August, the Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act gave licensing authorities the power to curtail drinking hours. The legislation allowed pubs to be open for a maximum of six hours per day with a compulsory afternoon break but it was never applied universally. Rising concern about drink impeding the war effort prompted the government to commence a new policy of regulating selective areas through the Liquor Traffic Central Control Board (CCB). Created in May 1915, the CCB addressed insobriety with radical ideas that transformed virtually every aspect of drinking--from hours, liquor strengths and increasing alcohol taxes to retailing and social customs, for instance banning the buying of rounds (the ‘No Treating Order’) in 1915. Shorter, broken licensing hours ranked as one of the key changes. Arrests for drunkenness, already down one-quarter in 1915, decreased another two-thirds over the next two years. Still weaker beer at comparably higher prices in 1918 cut drunkenness by almost a further two-fifths. When the war ended, arrests were less than one-fifth the level of 1914. Between 1914 and 1916, although alcohol consumption had decreased by 17 per cent, actual expenditure had increased by 24 per cent but largely down to higher taxation.
Crispin Street, Stepney in c1916
The CCB protected women from discriminatory policies that some authorities had introduced in 1914 to banish women from licensed premises after 6 or 7pm. This appealed to a government that dreaded the revival of the pre-war violent strife with the women’s suffrage movement especially after the NUWSS reacted with outrage to at an attempt by the Chief Commissioner of Police in London to bar women from buying alcohol before 11.30 am. Concerns about female insobriety took second place to threats to public harmony. Despite the alarm expressed by local newspapers, there appears to have been a waning of the stigma attached to women drinking in public. Their large numbers, coupled with far fewer men drinkers and more women running pubs for husbands away at war, also helped to make the pub more respectable. This did not prevent affronted local magistrates seeking to divest women of newly-attained drinking rights, a process that accelerated in the final years of the war, as part of a strategy to restore pre-war gender segregation.
Hostility against women drinkers reflected a north-south divide. It was strongest in ports and industrial areas of northern England, regions most committed to preserving existing drinking habits. This was less the case in southern England where respectable women had traditionally found less opposition to drinking in pubs. The issue, like that of ‘Khaki fever’, was one of female independence—one social, the other sexual—and both threatened patriarchal authority. Drinking alcohol in pubs defied established norms and women were regarded as flagrantly challenging the gender status quo. Female drinkers, whether respectable or not, were seen—much as those campaigning for women’s suffrage before the war—as feckless, disorderly and unpatriotic and, consequently, not only unfit to use licensed premises but also unfit to have the vote.
 ‘Teignmouth Inn’, Western Times, 12 February 1914, p. 2. ‘A Plague Spot: Clarendon Hotel License Opposed’, Nottingham Evening Post, 9 March 1914, p. 5, ‘the landlord was charged with harbouring women of immoral character…The women were behaving in a more unbecoming manner, dancing ragtime and smoking as if they were men.’
 ‘Drinking among Wives of Soldiers’, Aberdeen Journal, 25 November 1914, p. 3. See also, ‘Drinking amongst Women’, Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough, 3 November 1914, p. 4, ‘Drinking and Women’, Manchester Evening Post, 7 November 1914, p. 2.
 ‘Women’s Drinking Hours’, Liverpool Echo, 18 November 1914, p. 8.
 ‘Soldiers’ Wives’, Manchester Evening News, 5 April 1915, p. 4, see also, ‘Manchester Morals’, Manchester Evening News, 11 December 1915, p. 5.
 ‘What Becomes of the Beer’, Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 5 September 1918, p. 2.
 ‘The Dundee Liquor Problem. The Care of the Soldier’s Wife’, Evening Telegraph and Post, 25 February 1918, p. 3.
 Burnett, John, Liquid pleasures: a social history of drinks in modern Britain, (Routledge), 1999, provides an excellent overview.
 Nottingham Guardian, 2 May 1914. ‘The Flying Inn’, Nottingham Evening Post, 21 May 1914, p. 4, suggested that a ‘general diminution of drunkenness reported throughout the country…’
 Holt, Mack P., (ed.), Alcohol: a social and cultural history, (Berg), 2006, provides an overview.
 Jennings, Paul, The local: a history of the English pub, (Tempus), 2007, Haydon, Peter, The English pub: a history, (Hale), 1994, and Kneale, James, ‘‘A problem of supervision’: moral geographies of the nineteenth-century British public house’, Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 25, (1999), pp. 333-348.
 Donnachie, I., ‘World War I and the Drink Question: State Control of the Drink Trade’, Journal of the Scottish Labour History Society, Vol. 17, (1982), pp. 19-26, Gutzke, David W., ‘Gender, Class and Public Drinking in Britain during the First World War’, Histoire social/Social History, Vol. 27, (1994), pp. 367-391.
 Yeomans, Henry, ‘Discussion Paper: Providentialism, The Pledge and Victorian Hangovers: Investigating Moderate Alcohol Policy, 1914-1918’, Law, Crime and History, Vol. 1, (1), (2011), pp. 95-107.
 Carter, Henry, The Control of the Drink Trade: A Contribution to National Efficiency, 1915-17, (Longman, Green and Co.), 1918, pp. 136-148.
 Wilson, George B., Alcohol and the Nation: A Contribution to the Study of the Liquor Problem in the United Kingdom from 1800 to 1935, (Nicholson & Watson), 1940, pp. 432, 435-436. See also, Nicholls, James, The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England, (Manchester University Press), 2009.