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Made By Many Hands

Cadwallder Draffin
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Cadwallder Draffin

Arrest -of -governor -bligh -january -26-1808-image -courtsey -fo -the -national -library -of -australia

LIEUTENANT CADWALLADER DRAFFIN (1792–1830) AND THE ARREST OF GOVERNOR BLIGH

On January 26 1808 William Bligh, the Governor of NSW, was overthrown by the NSW Corps in Australia’s first and only military coup, known as the ‘Rum Rebellion’. The Corps invaded Government House and placed Bligh under arrest, taking over the administration of the colony.

A key participant in the arrest was Lieutenant Cadwallader Draffin, who actually seized Governor Bligh. Lt. Draffin had been appointed as Commandant of Newcastle in March 1805, but only a month later was declared unfit to command; in the words of surgeon Charles Throsby he had become: 

… perfectly incapable of even assisting himself with the common necessaries of life, so that his servant is obliged to put every morsel of his food in his mouth. He never speaks, except when asked a question he sometimes answers yes or no, and when placed in any particular position he remains so until removed by some person.

Throsby advised that Draffin be removed to Sydney in an attempt to restore his health. Draffin is listed on the NSW Corps sick list in April 1805, and although his health may have improved, he suffered relapses. Bligh himself noted Draffin’s condition a few days after the rebellion:

At an early hour, Lieutenant Draffin, who … was very active among the officers, was attacked with violent insanity.

Despite Draffin’s mental condition which should have rendered him unfit for service, he sat on the committees which tried Bligh and his supporters. Was this due to loyalty to Major Johnston, the Lieutenant Governor of NSW and Commandant of the NSW Corps? Or did his mental state make him especially passive and pliable?