It's January 26 today, and to all my Indian friends I wish a happy Republic Day. It is also Australia Day here. Maybe we, too, in Australia will one day have a Republic Day to celebrate...
It is 220 years since Captain Arthur Phillip took his fleet of eleven Royal Navy ships into a harbour, set anchor and claimed the land in the name of King George III, despite the fact that there had been no attempt to consult with, or compensate, the existing owners of the land, the Cadigal people of the Eora nation.
Captain Phillip's mission was to establish new sites for Britain's overcrowded prison system. With most corrective service options in North America closed off following the War of Independence, which saw the creation of the United States of America, King George's government saw Terra Australis as a bountiful place of permanent deposit for its harbingers of crime.
Captain Phillip's fleet embarked from Portsmouth with 786 convicts. A total of 754 completed the trip, including 22 children born en route. Phillip named his new settlement Sydney Cove, after Thomas Townshend, the 1st Viscount Sydney and, being the British Home Secretary, the Jacqui Smith of his day.
But it is January 26, 1808 that I refer to in the title of this post. Today is the bicentenary of Australia's first and only military coup, the Rum Rebellion. The Governor of New South Wales, the mutiny-prone William Bligh, was removed from office by soldiers of the New South Wales Corps led by Major George Johnston (he of the wide street through the middle of Annandale).
In recent times there has been some debate over the real reasons for the Rum Rebellion. Bligh, it seems, may not have been at fault. The Australian had an article on the matter this week. See also the Sydney Morning Herald's audio slideshow on the Rum Rebellion.