Spithead and Nore mutinies

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The Spithead and Nore mutinies were two major mutinies by sailors of the Royal Navy in 1797. There was also discontent and minor incidents on ships in other locations in the same year. The mutinies were potentially dangerous for the United Kingdom because at the time the UK was at war with the Revolutionary government in France. There were also concerns among some members of the British ruling class that the mutinies might be the trigger to a wider uprising similar to the French Revolution.

Contents

Spithead

The mutiny at Spithead (an anchorage near Portsmouth) lasted from 16 April to 15 May, 1797. Sailors on 16 ship in the Channel Fleet, commanded by Admiral Lord Bridport, protested at the appalling living conditions aboard Royal Navy vessels and demanded a pay rise (the first since 1658).

The mutineers were led by elected delegates, and tried to negotiate with the Admiralty for two weeks. The negotiations broke down, and minor violence broke out. When the situation calmed, Admiral Lord Howe intervened to negotiate an agreement that saw a Royal Pardon for all crews, together with a pay rise and better living conditions. Afterwards, the mutiny was to become nicknamed "breeze at Spithead".

The Nore

The mutiny at the Nore (an anchorage in the Thames Estuary) lasted from 12 May to 13 June, 1797. Richard Parker, a former naval officer, was elected "president of the fleet" and demanded an end to impressment, better pay (including prize money), better rations, and better shore-leave. They also demanded the removal of cruel or unpopular officers and changes to the Article of War.

The mutineers expanded their initial grievance about living conditions into the beginnings of a social revolution, and blockaded London, preventing merchant vessels from entering the port. After the successful resolution of the Spithead mutiny, the goverment and the Admiraly were not minded to make futher concessions, particular as the Nore muniteers had more political aims.

The mutineers were denied food, many deserted, and mutiny failed. Parker was quickly convicted of treason and piracy and hanged from the yardarm of HMS Sandwich, the vessel where the munity started. Other leading co-conspirators were hanged, and many were flogged, imprisoned or transported to Australia.

Other mutinies and discontent in 1797

Similar movements took place on the coast of Ireland and at the Cape of Good Hope. The spirit spread to the fleet under Admiral Jervis off the coast of Spain. The spirit of the times is demonstrated in Herman Melville's novel, Billy Budd.

External links

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