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Lieutenant John Macarthur (1766.......1834.)

Back To . . The New South Wales Corps. ( Rum Corps. ) "Renamed 102nd Regiment
  • Born : 1766
  • Where Born : Plymouth Devonshire
  • Occupation : Soldier
  • Date Arrived :  1790
  • Ship Arrived on : " Scarborough "
  • Rank on Discharge : Lieutenant 
  • Date of Enlistment : 1782 as Ensign
  • Where Enlisted : Plymouth
  • Transfered :  68th Foot (later Durham Light Infantry),1788
  • Transfered :  New South Wales Corps as Lieutenant,  1789
  • Date of Discharge : Macarthur resigned in 1796
  • Where Discharged : Sydney
  • Died : 1834
  • Where Died / Buried : Camden
  • Parents Names :  Alexander Macarthur,
  • 1st Spouse's Name :Elizabeth
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    History & Achievements :

    [John Macarthur joined the army as  ensign in 1782. Having never seen action, his regiment was placed on half-pay when the American Wars ended in 1783. During the next five years Macarthur appears to have taught at a private school, using spare time to travel, read and perhaps contemplate a future at the bar. Having purchased a new commission in 1788 with the 68th Foot (later Durham Light Infantry), Macarthur found himself facing possible court Marshal for refusing to assume his new post in Gibralter   Ensuing negotiations with the war office resulted in an alternative posting to far-flung Sydney, with the  New South Wales ,Corps  in 1789. Prior to his ship's departure to New South Wales, Macarthur clashed with various personnel, including a suspected duel with a captain of the fleet. Disputes revolved around the cramped and squalid accommodation provided for his wife and infant son although this resulted in his family being exchanged to another ship.

    In July 1801 Lieutenant James Marshall, a naval agent on the Earl Cornwallis, was convicted, fined and sentenced to a year's imprisonment for assaulting Captain Abbott and Macarthur of the NSW Corps during a dispute over Marshall's theft of a dead shipmate's possessions. Governor King   believed that Marshall was guilty but the court, which consisted of officers of the NSW Corps, had refused to hear Marshall's objection to one of the Corps's officers not being an impartial judge, and so on grounds of fairness King decided to overturn the sentence send Marshall to England for the matter to be resolved. Macarthur refused to let this go and organised a petty social boycott of Governor King, including an unsuccessful attempt at sabotaging King's House 

    Paterson challenged Macarthur to a duel in which Paterson was severely wounded in the shoulder. Governor King had Macarthur arrested and then released him and appointed him as commandant on  Norfolk Island to resolve the matter. Macarthur refused to comply and demanded a Court Marshal   by his fellow officers. King, realising that his prosecuting Macarthur before a court of his colleagues would not work, sent Macarthur for trial in England. The statement against Macarthur went missing during the voyage (Evatt in Rum Rebellion accuses Macarthur of involvement though there was no evidence) and as all the evidence and witnesses were in Sydney the court decided that it a matter for that jurisdiction.

    Macarthur decided that, instead of just producing food including mutton for the colony, the land around Sydney could be used to produce high quality wool and a profitable export industry established. In 1796 he imported some poor quality Merinos   which being Spanish were better suited to the local climate, f

    When he arrived back in Sydney in 1805 Macarthur further antagonized local authorities by claiming his 5,000 acres (20 km˛) in the Cow pastures. This was prime grazing land, well supplied by water from the Nepean river, and reserved by the Governor exclusively for the colony's cattle herds. Both Governors King and Bligh strongly objected to this and wanted the grant moved, but the Colonial Office wrote back affirming Macarthur's right to the land.

      Rum Rebellion

    Governor Bligh was appointed, with backing by Sir Joseph Banks, to crack down on the commercial activities of the NSW Corps, especially their trade in alcohol. Macarthur was a prime target and the pair clashed throughout 1807.

    Macarthur was owed a debt in wheat, the price of which gone up four fold, but on appeal Bligh ruled it was only payable at the original value. Bligh cancelled a lease Macarthur held for some government land that Bligh wanted to use and Macarthur tried to prevent Bligh taking hold of it. When Bligh ordered that a still Macarthur had imported be seized and shipped back to England, Macarthur objected taking the copper and claiming he wanted to ship the rest of the still to China or India instead. When Bligh again demanded that the still in its entirety be shipped back to England Macarthur won a court case declaring the shipping agent's seizure of his property illegal

    When a convict stowed away and escaped to Tahiti on the Parramatta, a ship Macarthur part- owned, Bligh demanded that the 900 pound Transport Board bond be forfeited. Macarthur refused to comply, the ship was seized when it returned and Macarthur abandoned it. In December 1807 Bligh had an order issued for Macarthur to appear before the courts which Macarthur refused to obey and he was arrested and bailed for trial on the 25th January 1808. This trial led to the Rum Rebellion  when the officers of the NSW Corps on the court sided with Macarthur and the Corps overthrew Bligh. Immediately after the rebellion took place Macarthur, a brilliant tactician, dispatched his son Edward to London with Macarthur's version of the events, and accompanying him was the first bale of Australian wool to be exported. The British woollen mills were desperate for wool because of the Napoleonic blockade, and the wool sold for a record price.

    Macarthur served as Colonial Secretary in the rebel administration, until he was removed. Macarthur was sent to England where he remained for eight and half years to avoid an arrest warrant for him in Sydney. While there he put his sons into public schools, went for a tour of the continent in 1815, and organised the shipment of his wool and developed export markets. This left his wife to manage his properties and the breeding and shearing of the flock, a partnership that served them well. Macarthur had gained the right to return to Sydney through lobbying, but would not accept the conditions imposed that he admit his wrong doing and promise his good behaviour and so he remained in England until Lord Camden granted him unconditional return to NSW in 1817.

    It is interesting to note that Macarthur was never punished in any way for his involvement in the Rum Rebellion. Evatt in his book discusses the legal quibbles used to achieve this.


    Military records  ,Pay rolls, Pay Musters, Cemetery Records, Church Records & General Muster Records, Mitchell Library ,Sydney Australia
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