Of Rum, and Rebellions.

Sydney 1808Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the islands the South Pacific will have read at some time tales of armed insurrection against the powers of sovereignty. What I had not fully appreciated, was the story of the Lucky Country and their coup.

The year was 1808, the word ‘cocktail’ had appear in print on the other side of the world a triflingly short two years previously. New South Wales was in its twentieth year of operation as an ‘open prison’ for those transported from good old blighty. The years of neglect had taken their toll on the inhabitants of Port Philip, the money supply was tighter than a Scotsman’s purse strings and a vigorous black market bartering economy had sprung up. Chief among the bartered goods was Rum, the golden tipple of Pirate Kings.

So prevalent was its trade, the local militia had cornered the market, controlling all the Rum and taking all the proceeds. The British Crown had shown many times before that it would take strong measures to protect the tax revenue of the empire, and barter was a strong threat to this. The Lords in England choose William Bligh, of Mutiny fame, to head to the colonies and sort the militia out.

Getting all preachy to a gang of men with guns has never been a winning strategy and quickly Bligh found himself under a matteress with musket trained on his privates, by, well, privates. The whole story got written down later by another total prude who called it the Rum Rebellion, when really it should have been called the ‘not going to slave in a prison, but want to actually grow a real economy’ Rebellion.

Five years down the track, the next Governor of the colony had a similar problem with not having enough coin in circulation to support commerce, so he took a leaf out of the Canadian rule book and punched out Mexican silver dollars, creating a little coin or “dump” and a large donut, called at the time, a holey dollar. The Governor was called Lachlan Macquarie, who was so good at creating money his family ended up doing over and over again and might just be why the merchant bank uses the holey dollar as its logo…

Which sort brings me to the point of my post, some enterprising gents have once again started to influence the market with Rum, and Holey Dollar will start to undermine the Crown’s economy very, very soon. With their triple overproof coming in at a whopping 75% abv, I hope someone will trade me a bottle for a post.


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