The rebellion was precipitated by the governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, who attempted to normalise trading conditions by prohibiting the use of spirits as payment for commodities. Bligh was aiming to reduce the power of the rum merchants and the New South Wales Corps, which had a role in the trade. These groups resented his interference and the quarrel built to a military rebellion on January 26, 1808. Bligh was arrested by George Johnston of the New South Wales Corps who took control of the colony. Bligh was held for over a year and when he agreed to leave for England, he immediately attempted to return.
In 1809, the British government decided to recall Bligh and replaced him with Lachlan Macquarie in 1810. Macquarie arrived with his own regiment and ended the control of the Corps. Johnston was court-martialled and cashiered in England in 1811.