That day Johnston, the officer in command of the forces, came up to town. On the following morning, January 26th, 1808, Macarthur was released by the soldiers from gaol and a requisition presented to Johnston calling upon him to arrest Bligh and take over the Government. This was immediately carried out. It was afterwards claimed that had the officers been sent to prison, the regiment would have mutinied and got beyond all control, and that Bligh's life was saved by his arrest. It was certainly a very peaceful revolution which was accomplished, for within two hours the "subversion" of Bligh's government was complete—with no shots fired nor violence of any kind.
It was with Bligh, the mutiny's victim, with Johnston the commander and Macarthur, "the prime mover and instigator," and with Foveaux who had by implication approved the arrest, that Macquarie's instructions dealt. Immediately upon his arrival, if he found Bligh still in Sydney, he was to reinstate him in the Government. But Bligh had disturbed the tranquillity of the Colony and of the Colonial Office. Complaints against him had been many and weighty. His temper too was one more inclined to indignant revenge decent clemency. Influenced by all these things, the Colonial Office decided that discipline required only his nominal reinstatement, and he was instructed to hand over the Government to Macquarie within twenty-four hours and return as soon as possible to England, where he would be needed for the prosecution of the insurgents.
Major Johnston was to be placed under close arrest and sent to England, there to be tried by court-martial for mutiny. Foveaux's case was to be left over for the time being. He would return with the New South Wales Corps, and then a decision would be arrived at. It was more difficult to deal with Macarthur. The members of the Madras Council were tried in England by virtue of a statute relating to offences committed in India, but for offences committed by a civilian in New South Wales he could be brought to trial in that Colony only. Macquarie's orders were that if Macarthur was still in New South Wales and charges were preferred against him, he was to be brought before the Criminal Court of the territory.
- Bligh's term for Macarthur.
- Letter from Castlereagh, 1809, 14th May. H.R., VII., p. 143.
- 13 Geo. III., cap. 63.