Who said “no rebellions in Australia”?

Ben Kelley
Written by Ben Kelley

We are the land of rebels. Australia started rebelling as soon as it was setup. As soon as the first ships arrived, before the convicts had even been unloaded! Probably because many of those convicts, were die hard, convicted, guilty as sin, rebels. The whole concept of Ticket of Leave was introduced because of rebel behavior and incentive for people to tow the reasonable line.

Witness this! Rebellion! Lead by a member of the (Irish Rebellion of 1798!) Where do people think those horrible Irish trouble makers were sent to after the rebellion? London?

The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was a coup d’état in the then-British penal colony (now the Australian state) 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.[2] Read more >>>

A propaganda cartoon created within hours of William Bligh‘s arrest, portraying him as a coward [1]
26 January 1808 – 1 January 1810
(1 year, 11 months and 6 days)
Sydney, New South Wales Colony
Deposition and arrest of NSW Governor William Bligh.
Imposition of martial law.
Withdrawal and disbandment of NSW Corps in disgrace.
Appointment of Lachlan Macquarie as governor.

The Rum Rebellion was different. Here you have the local elites turfing out the UK appointed governor to run their own corrupt government. By the time Governor King had been appoint the control on the ground was well and truly out of the control of the Governor and now to powerful land holders.

Governor Bligh (yes, that Bligh, from that ship) was sent in to sort things out, and basically a cluster fuck of a situation happened. The colony was basically seen as ungovernable.

No specifically against Briton as a concept, but certainly against British control. They basically wanted local control and to capitalize on their new powers. London was far away, and was not likely to send an invading force to fight against its own rebelling troops in a convict colony.

To make it even more Australian, it was about Rum. Rum ran the economy, ran the country, and those who had control of the Rum, had the power!

The Eureka Rebellion was really the formative flexing of a nation against the imposed colonial government. Gold has swamped the colony with migrants form Ireland, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, with locally born trouble makers. Forming a dynamic mix.

Fighting against “taxation” this is a rebellion Americans can understand. From this several local politicians were created and democratically elected into parliament. One of his brothers went back to Ireland and became a politician there (while his other brothers fought on both sides of the American civil war).

There were also some notable events such as the attempted assassination’s of the Duke of Edinburgh. While not a rebellion, highlighted some of the tensions that existed in Australia.

Ned Kelly made a famous stance, in which it was political, and again was nation forming and about justice.

Australia was militant and rebellious by nature. We also started into get involved in wars both for and against the Empire, as people picked their own side.

It was from this that Australia started to form its own military. Not really to protect itself from invasion, but so people could joint and fight expeditionary wars elsewhere, in South Africa, in China, throughout the British Empire. Australian and British interests often differed, which makes for many fascinating historical events, where British commanders found Australian units, crews etc almost unmanageable. But were highly respected for their tenacity, fury, bushcraft, and skill, particularly in adverse conditions.

Comment by Peter Webb

The Eureka Stockade rebellion happened in 1854 in the colony of Victoria. Over, as you point out, a form of taxation – mining licences.

By 1855 Victoria had become the first self-governing colony in Australia. With a local democratically elected Parliament which had pretty much full authority over all domestic matters – including taxation and mining licenses.

News of the rebellion reached the UK early in 1855. They spent about 15 minutes considering the “geo-political situation” – that Australia was on the other side of the planet, and they couldn’t practically do anything about any future rebellions there, and this was just going to turn into another version of the US war of independence including the part about being on the losing side again.

So they sent a decree that the colony of Victoria should form its own democratically elected government, and if miners didn’t like the tax rates, they should complain at the ballot box and not by shooting redcoats.

In that sense, the Eureka Stockade was a spectacular success for the rebels. Victoria got its own government, responsible for all local laws including taxation, without another shot being fired.

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Ben Kelley

Ben Kelley

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