Lord Mansfield and a special jury for a misdemeanour. The jury brought in a verdict of guilty and they were fined in the penalty of £1,000 each, a purely nominal punishment for men who had grown rich in the service of the East India Company.
In general outline Bligh's case was similar. He quarrelled with Macarthur, and very soon, by means which were not illegal, but had the savour of oppression, brought him before a Bench of Magistrates. It is unnecessary to relate the details of the affair. Macarthur was contumacious and was summoned to stand his trial before the Criminal Court, which was composed of the Judge-Advocate, Richard Atkins, and six military officers belonging to the garrison. Macarthur protested that as Atkins owed him large sums of money which he would not pay, and had for long been on the very worst terms with him, on this account he was not a fit and proper person to preside as Judge-Advocate at his trial. The Governor insisted that he had no power to dispense with his attendance as Judge-Advocate and the trial commenced. The prisoner at the bar read a long argument full of citations from legal authorities (though where in a Colony almost devoid of lawyers and lawbooks he found his Blackstone and the rest, it is hard to imagine), in which he sought to prove that the Judge-Advocate, not being an impartial person, could not legally form part of the Court. Atkins was bewildered though obstinate, but the weight of Macarthur's learning completely overwhelmed the six officers, unused as they were to the pomp of civil law. They unanimously upheld the objection and appealed to Bligh. He declared that he could do nothing. Without the Judge-Advocate, he claimed, there could be no Court; and in the Crown alone lay the power to recall Atkins and make a new appointment. The officers held to their point, remanded Macarthur to his bail, and adjourned. This took place in the morning. So soon as he heard of what they had done, Bligh summoned the six officers to appear before him on the afternoon of the following day. Rumour said that he intended to arrest them on a charge of high treason. At the same time he ordered Macarthur to be committed to the town gaol, claiming that, as without the Judge-Advocate there could be no Court, he could not have been legally remanded to his bail.