Monday, 26 December 2011

Simeon Lord and Macarthur

 More notes from Bligh's other mutiny by Stephen Dando-Collins

Many power disputes occurred in Colonial Sydney with John Macarthur being one of the key players. After Bligh was deposed negotiations began to locate a ship on which Bligh could leave the colony and have him tried for high treason. Bligh had agreed to leave on the warship, Porpoise, but Macarthur wanted a non-naval vessel to be used. Macarthur arranged for the ship, Pegasus, to be used but the agreement fell through. One of the owners of the Pegasus was Simeon Lord along with Surgeon Harris and Thomas Moore. "Even though the rebel government fitted out the Pegasus with government sails, the three owners backed out of the deal at the last minute. Lord had already shown that he had joined Bayley's opposition rebel camp, while Harris's support for Macarthur had already begun to waver. If they hadn't been in John Macarthur's black book before, all three of these gentlemen were well and truly in it now." (p114)

As a former convict Simeon Lord was not allowed to have a financial interest in any ship however Simeon found ways of getting around this minor technicality. "John Blaxland and his brother Gregory, by now firmly in the opposing rebel camp, jointly had an interest in the appropriately named ship the Brothers. The remaining half was officially owned by the London shipping firm Hullets & Co, which was also in partnership with John Macarthur in three or four of his ships. Hullets' half share of the Brothers  was actually mortgaged by the firm to Simeon Lord ..." A dispute between Macathur and the Blaxland brothers lasted through much of March and April of 1808. (p 116)

The appendix of Dando-Collins' book provides additional information about the Brothers case. Macarthur was determined that the ship would sail to London but Blaxland wanted it for other purposes. Much correspondence had been undertaken between Blaxland and Johnston with Blaxland continuing to ignore Macarthur. Russell, the captain of the ship, had been sacked by Blaxland but, supported by Macarthur, he refused to leave. " On 19 March, John and Gregory Blaxland and Simeon Lord boarded the Brothers. Lord was there because he was secretly in partnership with the Blaxlands in their half share of the Brothers. Ex-convicts were not permitted to own ships, but Lord neatly side-stepped the law by mortgaging his interest in ships he purchased to London financiers such as Hullets, so that the mortgage holder's name appeared on the ship's papers, not his. Ostensibly, the trio had come aboard the Brothers to inspect the accommodation that John Blaxland would use when he sailed the ship to England.  Gregory Blaxland laid hands on Captain Russell, a scuffle broke out, Russell called the Blaxlands and Lord names, and they reciprocated. Crew members separated the combatants. After the merchant trio left his ship, Russell went straight to Macarthur and subsequently laid charges of assault against the three merchants." (pp312-313)

The assault case was heard on 28 March 1808. Captain Russell read his address, which had primarily been written by Macarthur, to the court. When cross examined Russell admitted that Macarthur had advised on on how to handle his case. Russell and the chief officer of the ship, Robert Daniels, then testified re the assault but five other witnesses claimed that as Daniels was noton the quarter deck at the time he could not have witnessed anything.  Russell then tried to withdraw the charges without success and he and Daniels were charged with perjury and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Gregory Blaxland was fined £5 for assault while his brother and Simeon Lord were found not guilty.
A transcript of the proceedings can be found at Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

The repercussions of the trial continued for some weeks with Johnston annulling the sentence for Russell and Daniels, the dismissal of the Acting Judge Advocate on the advice of Macarthur, Macarthur suing Grimes for deformation and John Blaxland reappearing in court accusing Russell of perjury and also piracy by threatening to throw the newly appointed captain of the Brothers off the ship. On 18 April Russell was released on a £2000 good behaviour bond and allowed to return to England on the Brothers.

The power struggle in the colony continued with Macarthur continuing his battle with the Blaxland brothers and their supporters as he prepared dispatches to London defending his actions in deposing Bligh.
"He also mentioned the Blaxland partner, Simeon Lord. 'These gentlemen have, unhappily for themselves, formed a connection with an inhabitant by the name of Lord, who was once a convict, but now possesses a very extensive fortune, or at least an appearance of it.' (Johnston to Castlereagh 11 April 1808) Lord, the former convict now made good, had more land in the colony than anyone else and a grand three-storey mansion in the heart of Sydney that had reputedly cost £10,000 to build. That mansion, according to one observer, 'would be an ornament to the most fashionable square in London'.(Finucane) Macarthur's own residence at Elizabeth farm was humble by comparison. Macarthur seems jealous of Lord's fortune, not the least because Lord had not long before been a convict.
Macarthur's unflattering opinion of Lord was not shared by even his closest friends. Captain John Piper, commandant at Norfolk Island, had used Lord as his business agent in Sydney since 1802, and would continue to do so until 1811." (p 119)

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