1797: The Spithead and Nore Mutinies

Resetting E.P. Thompson’s Clock:

The Spithead and Nore Mutinies


Shall France alone a despot spurn?

She alone, O Freedom, boast thy care?

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Destruction of the Bastille” (1789).


In 1797, common sailors in two “channel fleets” of the British Royal Navy mutinied in protest over low pay, conditions of service, and mistreatment by aristocratic officers. In the first mutiny at the Spithead anchorage, a series of tense exchanges over many weeks resulted in a peaceful resolution which met many of the sailor‘s unprecedented demands. In contrast, the Nore mutiny which immediately followed increased these demands to a point beyond which British authorities could concede. The sailors threatened the lives of their officers and blockaded key ports – all at a time when Britain was at war with revolutionary France. The British Admiralty put down the Nore mutiny harshly and hung several of the sailor’s representatives.

Both the organizational norms and the rhetoric of these mutinies are strikingly similar to the Correspondence Societies discussed in E. P. Thompson’s landmark The Making of the English Working Class. Indeed, markings of class consciousness are plentiful throughout both of these worker actions. It is therefore particularly noteworthy that Thompson failed to credit the strong resonances of class ethos embedded in the Spithead and Nore events. Although these mutinies preceded by several decades the early nineteenth century British working class protests noted by Thompson, they exhibit the same sort of demands for social reform. Many of the sailor’s leaders were educated men – tradesmen and teachers – forced out of work by inflation and by structural changes within the economy. These men organized democratic meetings and corresponded in secret, sharing ideas borrowed from revolutionary France and from British radicals such as Thomas Paine. The sailor’s petitions capture their demands for economic and political reform, while less formal records like ballads, newspaper reports, and court testimonies provide additional insights into their goals. These goals, and the language that expressed them, defined a set of working class expectations every bit as potent as those captured by Thompson’s work.

  1. P. Thompson’s Concept of Working Class Identity

Thompson’s magisterial The Making of the English Working Class (1963) argued that the working class became conscious of its uniqueness through the gradual impingement of a number of social and economic factors.[i] He located the emergence of this identity in the period between 1780 and 1832, yet he strangely ignored the great mutinies as antecedents. Most of the specific events he cited were distributed between the 1790s and the 1830s, including such influences as Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, the London Constitutional Society, the London Correspondence Society LCS), and the growth of the Methodist Church.

Thompson was careful not to define class as a structure, but as a relationship between groups of people. The key to self-awareness occurred, he avowed, “when some men, as a result of common experiences…feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from theirs.”[ii] Accordingly, we will not assume that the common sailors of the Spithead and Nore fleets were a class simply because the structure of the Royal Navy debased their rights and made them subservient to aristocratic officers. Instead, we will see that it was the “feelings of identity” they articulated that clearly marked their class interests, and defined their status in opposition to the classes represented by Parliament and the aristocracy. It is the concrete nature of these statements that forces us to question why E. P. Thompson failed to recognize the great mutinies of 1797 as a profound announcement of class identity and solidarity.

In telling his story of the early period of class consciousness formation, Thompson dwelled on the Pitt Government’s “assault” on the London Constitutional Society and the London Correspondence Society (LCS) in the mid-1790s. The government suspended Habeas Corpus. Leaders of these democratic associations were imprisoned, their papers seized, and a special parliamentary committee established to investigate them.[iii] The Constitutional Society did not survive Pitt’s persecution but the LCS persisted.

One LCS leader, John Gale Jones, visited several Royal dockyards during this period. E. P. Thompson acknowledges a possible “thread which links the Jacobins to the naval mutineers at Spithead and the Nore…”[iv] However, as if unconvinced by the very connection he observed, Thompson only briefly connected the mutinies with his larger agenda of “working class consciousness.” He labeled these events “the greatest revolutionary portents for England” but did not grant them the instrumentality or significance of the later events he focused on. His reasons for dismissing their importance seem to be that the sailor’s demands hinged on “appalling conditions of food, pay, and discipline.”[v] These demands apparently did not rise to the level of self-affirmation and self-awareness that E. P. Thompson required for “class consciousness.” We will argue that he failed to fully credit obvious signs of class awareness.

Despite his brief (less than two page) treatment of the mutinies, Thompson noted “some evidence of direct Jacobin instigation. There were Correspondence Society members among the mutineers.”[vi] This is insufficient recognition of the reformist and class sensibilities embedded within the mutinies. As if to demonstrate that the mutinies were not driven by class issues, Thompson emphasized Richard Parker’s dying testament, which warned “never to make yourself the busy body of the lower classes (emphasis added).”[vii] Thus in dismissing the mutinies as a causal factor in the development of class consciousness, Thompson focused only on the less-organized and more poorly-managed of the two mutinies, and on the self-serving accommodation of a condemned man who felt betrayed by his fellow conspirators.

In fact, the mutinies were not isolated events. Historians Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh have demonstrated links between the mutineers and Edward Despard, a Jacobin agitator who sought to overthrow the “Den of thieves” in Parliament, and to “recover some of those liberties we have lost.”[viii] As we shall show, considerable evidence exists in the mutineer’s rhetoric and demands to confirm the presence of – if not of clear Jacobin passions – clear concepts of class identity and solidarity, political awareness, and an agenda for social reform.

One might argue that sailors in the Royal Navy cannot be considered a single working class, given the presence of hierarchal sub-categories within their ranks. That is, do the relative authorities of seaman, boatswain’s mate, masters, or other warranted officers differ so much that they preclude the concept of a unitary identity? In fact, while these ranks could exercise some minor differences in authority, it was only relative to each other, and those limited authorities were bounded by the officer class. All sailors were subject to the absolute authority of the commissioned officers. All sailors shared the same conditions of food, discipline, restrictions of movement, and lack of legal process. So far as identity is concerned, they may be thought of as a single class. The question remains, did they think of themselves as such?

An examination of the Delegate’s language, contemporary newspaper accounts, and surviving ballads reveals that E.P. Thompson’s markers for class consciousness were present in both the Spithead and the Nore mutinies. Recognition of this earlier manifestation of class identity augments his thesis and “resets the clock” – extending its origins into the eighteenth century.

A Brief Overview of the Mutinies

The Spithead and Nore events were the most prominent of several mutinies by sailors of the British Royal Navy during the tumultuous year of 1797. Britain, at war with Revolutionary France and its allies Spain and the Netherlands, feared immanent invasion. Accordingly, wartime strategy placed elements of the British navy in a protective perimeter at key locations around the island nation. The Spithead fleet was anchored outside the principal western port of Portsmouth, while the Nore anchorage was on the Themes River, protecting London.

Sailor’s pay had been fixed for one hundred and forty years since an act of Parliament in 1658. A long period of stable prices assured that pay remained a relatively unimportant issue until high inflation swept the Empire in the late eighteenth century. Now the sailor’s wage level was significantly below the standards for other workers in industrializing England. As if this was not sufficient to incite protest, the pay and prize money already owed to the men was typically accumulated unpaid in the Navy treasury for months, even years. As of April 1797 the estimated debt of the Royal Navy to its own sailors exceeded 1.4 million pounds![ix]

Simultaneous to these injustices, war with France drove the need to dramatically expand the Royal Navy. Britain declared war on France with 25,000 able seamen. Within four years the naval enrollment reached 100,000.[x] Once normal enlistment soaked up unemployed sailors and volunteers eager for small signing bonuses, the Admiralty turned to “press gangs” to capture those unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. In addition, economic conditions in impoverished Ireland resulted in continued political agitation that “pressed” over 15,000 Irish political prisoners into the Royal Navy in the four years prior to 1797.[xi]

The crews of the Royal Navy constituted a “parliament” of individuals sharing a common lack of civil rights. The crew was an entity in large part defined by its collectivity and the nature of its supervision. Historian Marcus Rediker notes that the word “crew” originally meant any band of armed men, “but by the end of the seventeenth century it had come to signify a supervised squad of workmen bent to a particular purpose.”[xii] He has further asserted in Villains of All Nations that given the opportunity to govern themselves (as pirates), sailors “constructed their own distinctive egalitarian society, as they elected their officers…and maintained a multinational social order.”[xiii] In his study of the social and cultural aspects of the eighteenth-century maritime world, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Rediker is even more explicit, proclaiming sailors to be an “international working class.” They work in ships that are “floating factories” and are “sharply segregated by sex and class, restricted to men and populated by chiefly by the poor.”[xiv] The seaman was a collective worker, “the proletarian of the period.”[xv]

Contemporary writers noted the common aspirations of the seaman, the soldier, and other working class citizens. In 1792, Thomas Paine wrote “The oppressed soldier will become a freeman, and the sailor, no longer dragged along the streets like a felon, will pursue his mercantile voyage in safety.”[xvi] Wide circulation of Paine’s The Rights of Man throughout Britain assured that some of the men pressed into the Royal Navy would be familiar with these and other radical sentiments. Among those “quota men” who were “dragooned” by the press gangs were tradesmen, attorneys, teachers and clerks from the debtor’s prisons, superior in education and political awareness to the common seaman.[xvii] Although these new arrivals were often resented by the old-timers and distrusted by officers, they would have enhanced the political and philosophical awareness of the fleet’s “common man.”

Many of the newly-pressed recruits had no maritime experience. Consequently, they were ill-prepared for conditions of poor food, irregular pay, routine floggings for minor infractions in discipline, and aristocratic officers who had the power of life and death for real or imagined offenses. We may imagine that conditions long accepted by experienced seamen were jarring to literate professionals who read Tom Paine. Nevertheless, resentment of shared mistreatment was not confined to the newcomers. The majority of the mutineer’s Delegates were not pressed landsmen, but long-service professional sailors. These men gave clear evidence of their familiarity with radical thought through their protest rhetoric.

To add to the sailors’ misery, new hull-coppering technology increased the time warships could remain “on station,” thus reducing shore leave. Food was of poor quality and rations were compromised by the accepted practice of “the purser’s pound,” which permitted provisioning officers to short the crew two ounces out of every pound, and to pocket the savings. The aristocrats who served as officers in the Royal Navy did not live with the same conditions and restrictions, and were slow to recognize the breeding discontent. Even when discontent revealed itself in isolated mutinies, the Admiralty was reluctant to make any accommodation to discipline or practice. Given the deep passions created by both the American and French revolutions, the Admiralty had a reasonable fear that even slight recognition of the sailor’s demands might trigger wider expectations for social reform.

In February 1797, a group of quota men in the Spithead Fleet, led by Valentine Joyce, an out-of-work shopkeeper, met secretly aboard the HMS Queen Charlotte to create a petition which focused on the issue of low pay. Their anonymous petition was a “humble request” to the Lords of the Admiralty to “take into consideration” the vast difference between the century-old wage rate and the realities of contemporary life. They complained that they were disadvantaged as a group. Significantly, there was no mention of bad food, bad officers, bad ships or other common issues in this initial set of petitions.[xviii] Regrettably, Lord Howe, the Admiral responsible for the fleet, ignored these first petitions because they were anonymous and unsigned. Weeks of government silence permitted distrust and dissatisfaction to grow among the petitioners.

After six weeks, the seamen had still received no reply from Admiral Howe. Consequently, the leaders of the petition movement began to use regular boat traffic between the ships to organize their efforts on a fleet-wide basis. Resentment continued to rise and aboard each ship, the men elected “speakers” (later “Delegates”) to represent themselves in a democratic committee they called a “fleet republic.” The committee borrowed its rhetoric from the laws and precedents of the United States Congress, the French Assembly, and British reform organizations such as the London Correspondence Society.[xix] Concepts of shared grievance and solidarity were spread throughout the fleet by means of regular service craft traffic. This mode of communication subverted the attempts of fleet captains to suppress the possibility of “combinations” which might support an exchange of grievances.[xx]

The Spithead fleet was anchored near Portsmouth on 16 April when the festering discontent erupted in a class action. Delegates from 16 ships mutinied and formally petitioned the Admiralty for increased pay, improvement in rations, better treatment of the injured, and the reassignment of certain unpopular officers. Significantly, this petition still did not demand moderation of flogging or impressment. The mutineers took great care to avoid any limitations on the fleet’s military effectiveness. Instead, they preserved regular naval routines and maintained combat readiness even as the uprising progressed. They committed in their petition that if a French invasion fleet was spotted, they would immediately suspend the mutiny and go to sea.

At the same time as the Spithead action Thomas Hardy, founder of the London Correspondence Society, was languishing in the Tower of London. The early LCS enunciated ideals of “universal suffrage, equal representation and annual parliaments,” all of which resonated throughout the consciousness of the Spithead Delegates. Although a jury eventually acquitted Hardy of treason, the sentiments embodied in the LCS – and its membership of artisans, small tradesmen, and professionals – parallel those of the mutineers.[xxi] It was portentous that the government of Prime Minister William Pitt became aware of the 16 April petition at the same time as its spies reported growing agitation by the LCS at the royal dockyards. So quite early in the action at Spithead, the Admiralty and the aristocracy made a direct connection between the mutinous agitation and the London Correspondence Society. Thomas Grenville, brother of Marques of Buckingham, wrote “I cannot help fearing that the evil is…deeply rooted in the influence of Jacobin emissaries and the Correspondence Society.”[xxii]

On 27 April, Delegates from the various ships met on the HMS Atlas and designated her “the Parliament Ship.” They drew up a list of disciplinary codes which included the stipulation that any men who should “turn their Coats to their brethren in the present case shall suffer death.” This commitment to class solidarity was unique for its breadth, severity, and commitment. But the Delegates also held that men had to continue to obey their superior officers regarding regular Ship’s duties, or they would receive a dozen lashes from the mutineers.[xxiii] Thus the language of solidarity balanced with a measured approach designed to present the petition as reasoned demands by reasonable men. In effect, the mutineers aimed to redraw the conditions of their employment without jettisoning the system that framed it.

The Spithead mutineers were kept apprised of landside developments by means of bundles of newspapers delivered through the gunports of the warships at anchorage. By this means the Delegates learned that the London Courier and Morning Chronicle were sympathetic to the seamen’s plight.[xxiv] But alarmingly, on May 1st they intercepted a letter from the Admiralty to fleet commanders which revealed that marines would soon be ordered to fire on the mutineers. It was probably this revelation more than any other factor that drove a few of the delegates to flirt with more radical actions such as turning the fleet over to the French.[xxv]

Admiralty’s sluggish reaction and its failure to agree to pardons for the mutineers led to incidents in which some unpopular officers were treated with blatant disrespect and others were put ashore against their will, but on the whole the mutineers acted with restraint. Finally, Prime Minister Pitt took control and negotiated a Royal pardon, a pay raise, reassignment of certain unpopular officers, and abolishment of the purser’s pound. Leaders of the mutiny maintained class discipline throughout the long proceedings. They always acted unanimously and none of the leaders were never positively identified. The anonymous Delegates worked hard to maintain proper respect for superior officers and to avoid threats of violence that might be associated with the wave of terror that had engulfed nearby France.



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he mutiny at the Nore did not follow the Spithead pattern, nor did it have a positive outcome. Sailors at the Themes anchorage learned of the success at Spithead and decided to present their own list of demands. On 12 May 1797 the crews of several ships seized control in an effort that demonstrated far less planning and forethought than the previous mutiny. The ships of the Nore fleet were more widely dispersed, which inhibited clandestine communication between organizers. Thus organization was not as effective as at Spithead and the mutiny was declared before demands were fully agreed upon. An indication of this lack of organization is that some Nore ships continued to slip away throughout the mutiny, despite being fired upon by those left behind. Nevertheless, those who remained quickly chose delegates for each ship and elected Richard Parker the “President of the Delegates of the Fleet.” Parker, an unemployed teacher, had been “pressed” from Debtor’s Prison shortly before the mutiny began. Some historians have suggested that he was a poor choice as leader and have proclaimed him a “mentally unbalanced agitator.”[xxvi]

After a week of dithering over objectives, the Nore mutineers met on the HMS Sandwich and presented their demands to Admiral Buckner on 20 May. The Admiralty again underestimated the severity of the situation, deciding that the smaller Nore fleet would not organize as effectively as at Spithead, and that it would be easier to manage. Accordingly, they simply offered the same terms negotiated earlier. Unfortunately, the Nore delegates over-estimated the results from Spithead and began to make piecemeal additional demands of the already incensed Admiralty, Parliament, and King. The list of demands grew over following weeks to include further increases in pay, modification of the Articles of War, the dissolving of Parliament, and a demand for immediate peace with France. The Nore Delegates had moved from demands for a redress of class injustice, into potentially revolutionary territory. Despite the growing stridency of their demands, some ships from other locations took advantage of the Nore fleet’s location on the Themes and began to join the mutineers piecemeal.

From the beginning the Nore mutineers eschewed the moderate language of the Spithead delegates. Their communications made overt threats. They also moved radically beyond the shipboard tactics of their Spithead brethren. Officers were abused and some were killed as the mutineers took control. Richard Parker and others failed to show “proper respect” for the aristocrats who received their demands. More ominously, the Nore mutineers blockaded merchant ships from entering London, which alienated the locals on shore and turned many would-be supporters against their cause. Further, some of the leaders began to make plans to take the fleet to revolutionary France, thereby alienating patriotic English sailors who were otherwise committed to the cause.

A further contrast illustrates how substantially the Nore experience departed from the Spithead precedent. The Spithead seamen had created a fraternal and democratic organization of anonymous delegates. They sent envoys to the Nore Fleet, recommending that their success be used as a guide for replication. The Nore mutineers chose to ignore their advice. They ratcheted up the intensity of class solidarity by immediately adopting a fraternal oath which included the promise to “swear that I will be true to the cause…and I will to the laying down of my life…”[xxvii] Their blockade of Themes traffic reached the point where 150 merchant ships stood idle in port. More alarming to the government and to potential sympathizers on shore, the mutineers sent crews to the Sheerness dockyards where they seized eight gunboats and brought them back to the Nore.

This combination of erratic organization, internal dissent and ever-spiraling demands alienated many men. As early as May 30th, nine ships staged a counter-mutiny when they learned of the partial concessions and offer of amnesty made by the Admiralty. These crews attempted to raise the white flag and desert the mutineer-controlled fleet, but they were overcome, beaten and flogged by those still loyal to the cause.

The Nore Delegates’ final petition read as ultimatum and threatened that if their grievances were not satisfied within 54 hours, they would take “such steps by the Fleet…as will astonish their dear countrymen.” An infuriated Admiralty simply restated the concessions already made at Spithead. With Parliamentary backing, they cut off food to the remaining ships and demanded an immediate return to duty. At this point some ships of the Nore fleet began to successfully desert the mutiny. When the mutineers’ deadline passed without reply on 9 June and Parker ordered the fleet to sail for France, all of the remaining ships refused to follow and the mutiny collapsed. The remaining mutineers made a final, feeble offer to accept the Spithead agreement and the royal pardon if only officers were not returned to the ships, but it was too late. Parker and twenty-eight others were convicted of treason and piracy and hanged from the yardarm of HMS Sandwich, the vessel where the mutiny had started. Many others were flogged, imprisoned or transported to New South Wales, Australia. Even so, most of the crews from ships involved in the mutiny were never punished.

Even in this brief review, we can see many of the markers of class identity that historians select as typifying English working class consciousness in succeeding years. These attributes will become more apparent as we investigate the class origins of the mutineers, their approach to organization, and the ways in which they articulated their identities and concerns.


Who Were the Mutineers?

The Spithead delegates worked carefully through second parties to conceal their identities. None were ever definitely acknowledged, even decades after the mutiny when recognition would have held no penalty. We know the names of many Nore delegates, but little is known about their backgrounds with the exception of Richard Parker, the “President” of the Delegates. Parker (1767 – 1797) may have attributes common to the leaders of both mutinies. The son of a grain merchant and baker, he rejected his family business and went to sea as a midshipman, where he attained the rank of Masters Mate, with a probationary period as Lieutenant. Well before the mutinies, Parker was known for making blunt demands of his superiors for improved food and more humane treatment of the common sailor. Frequently insubordinate, he was demoted after challenging the Captain of the HMS Bulldog to a duel. Parker was later “disrated” and discharged in 1794 because of “persistent rheumatism.”

In common with many others in the rapidly-changing labor environment of the early industrial revolution, Parker moved through several unsuccessful jobs and worked briefly as a teacher. He was in debtor’s prison in 1797 when he accepted a 30-pound “bounty” to rejoin the Royal Navy. Although the Nore mutiny began only a month after Parker returned to duty, there is no evidence that he was active in the early phase of the mutiny. He may have been recruited once it became clear that the initial missteps required better organization and a more articulate spokesman. If this was the intent, Parker proved to be more confrontational than expected. His manners and choice of words insulted aristocratic officers. Similarly, Parker’s approach to “dickering” as President of the Delegates led to a later charge that the Nore mutiny was a “Jacobin plot.” But in fact none of his recorded speeches incorporated obviously revolutionary ideas.

Fellow mutineers chose Parker as their President because he knew how to act like a gentleman and had good writing skills. As the Nore Delegates continued to hide behind Parker and to use him to present their increasingly unsuitable demands, he rapidly found himself without any real authority, despite his “presidential” title. Twentieth-century historians tend to pity rather than glamorize him. When, late in the mutiny, Parker attempted to leave the HMS Sandwich to capitulate to the Admiralty, his fellow radicals prevented it.

Once the Admiralty saw ships attempt to desert the mutiny, they demanded unconditional surrender with the possibility of pardon left up to King George III. When the mutiny completely collapsed and the HMS Sandwich raised the white flag of surrender, the Admiralty immediately began to identify and arrest the Nore Delegates. Richard Parker attempted to escape but was blocked by the crew. He was quickly arrested, charged with treason, and executed.

Were the Spithead Demands Revolutionary?

Conditions for seamen in the Royal Navy were not unlike those of an African slave on an American plantation, characterized by debased living conditions, blocked access to wages that might provide flexibility, subject to arbitrary punishment without redress, and subservient to an aristocratic class that held the power of life and death. Awareness of these similarities must have emboldened the mutineer’s quest for justice. It is not surprising to learn that there is evidence that some of the sailors attended Jacobin meetings in the port towns, and that members of the LCS contacted Delegates during the mutinies.[xxviii]

A revealing document was circulated in Sheerness during the Nore standoff. Authored by “The Delegates of the different ships at the Nore assembled in Council” and addressed to “fellow subjects,” it responded to an alleged government proclamation that threatened death to any person who communicated with the mutineers.[xxix] The delegates aimed their most inflammatory rhetoric at class and privilege. “Shall we…be the victims of tyranny and oppression which vile, gilded, pampered knaves, wallowing in the lap of luxury, chose to load us with…of a set of tyrants who derives from us alone their honors, their titles, and their fortunes? No, the Age of Reason has at length revolved.” The document strove to explain the nature of common sailor’s life in the Royal Navy and compared it to conditions of slavery. In a telling phrase, the authors expressed their fears that authorities meant to “deprive us of the common rights of men (emphasis added).”[xxx] The document was signed, “Your Loving Brothers, Red For Ever!” “Red” in this case refers to the flag of mutiny, not to any pre-socialist pretentions, but the language of the document clearly delineates E. P. Thompson’s concept of class consciousness as defined by opposition to another class. The selection of words like “tyranny” and appeals to the “Age of Reason” indicate solid awareness that certain attributes mark each class – both the oppressed and the oppressors. References to luxury and privilege make it equally clear that these are economic as well as political class distinctions.



The Revolutionary Nature of the Nore Demands

The Nore mutineers began with the Spithead concessions as a base and quickly advanced more radical demands. The eight articles in their petition included all of the items that the Admiralty had refused to discuss at Spithead.  Article two, for example, required that men be permitted to go ashore at “a convenient time” to visit friends and families.[xxxi] The practice of holding men on their ships amounted to imprisonment, a parallel noted in some mutineer communications with the English public. Nevertheless, this demand threatened the control officers required to assure full combat manning at all times, and created avenues for desertion. Article four held that no officer who had been “turned down” by any ship could serve on the same ship again “without consent of the ship’s company.”[xxxii] This demand effectively transferred management staffing from the Board of Directors (The Admiralty) to the workers (the sailors). Article seven required “a more equal distribution…of prize money,” which would compromise the Admiralty’s profit sharing plans, which were heavily skewed to the aristocratic officers. Finally, Article eight, an open-ended catch-all demand, suggested that the Articles of War required “various alterations, several of which to be expunged.”[xxxiii] This nebulous reform would permit the employees (sailors) participation in setting the basic operating procedures and regulations of the industry (the fleet). In effect, it would create a collective bargaining mechanism within the management structures of the Royal Navy. It was within this charged environment that many sailors recognized that their delegates had gone too far. When the deadline passed without reply on 9 June and Parker ordered the fleet to sail for France, not one ship moved.


Class Markers in Communications Between the Mutineers

A number of the mutineer’s internal communications survive in British Admiralty records. Their language and content display obvious appeals to brotherhood, class consciousness, and shared grievance. Nearly all use salutations such as “Messmates,” ”Friends,” or even “Brothers of the Squadron.” Reflecting the mutineer’s desire to remain anonymous, most are signed with the name of the ship, as in “The Charlottes” or “London,” thereby further reinforcing the concept of solidarity. An even more obvious signature appears on one communication as simply “By Order of the Ship’s Company – One and All.”[xxxiv] Internal instructions to deliver letters throughout the fleet employ code names for specific mutineers, such as Mr. Pink, or direct delivery to “post offices” at pubs in town, such as “The Bear and Ragged Staff.”[xxxv]

These sailor’s messages frequently share information about actual or rumored actions by the Admiralty and the Pitt government. More frequently, they appeal to each other to remain firm in resolve, to review and sign a petition, or to take actions to visibly reinforce unity, such as hoisting a flag at a specific time or displaying a device on the yardarm. Solidarity is a most constant theme, as shown by the example of a communication from one of the smaller ships, the HMS Pompee: “…and whatever may be your proposals, we one and all will never deviate from being determined to sink or swim.”[xxxvi] Most of these communications are written with surprisingly formal style and articulate expression, suggesting one or more educated authors.

Communications of the Spithead mutineers had one element in common. All were stated as unanimous and democratic declarations. The anonymous Spithead Delegates maintained this voice, as did Richard Parker at the beginning of the Nore mutiny: “The committee of delegates of the whole fleet…unanimously agreed…”[xxxvii] When the Nore mutineers lost their unanimity it was reflected in their communications by the absence of these unanimous affirmations.

Did Those on Shore Think Class Was An Issue?

The earliest public account of the Spithead mutiny appeared in the London Chronicle of 19 April 1797. The news article took an immediate posture on behalf of the mutineers, noting “It is but common justice to say that the seamen have conducted themselves throughout the whole business with sobriety, steadiness, unanimity and determination, that would do honor to a better cause.”[xxxviii]

Coverage appeared in The Whitehall Evening Post of 20 April. This early report was unusually accurate in many details. It traced the sailor’s attempts to work through channels and it identified their chief complaints as issues of pay, prize money and provisions. Still unsure of the extent of the developing mutiny, the Post nonetheless labeled the Delegates “discontents” and incorrectly suggested that the raising of a rope on the starboard arm of each ship was a warning to the supposedly loyal seamen who might otherwise reject the unfolding disorder.[xxxix]

By April 22, 1797 The Whitehall Evening Post had modified its interpretation of the events of April 19th.  Language had become more inflammatory, describing the Spithead seamen as “disobedient and disorderly.”[xl] Warming to their indignation, the editors warned that the “discontents…have assumed a most ferocious and formidable aspect.” Nevertheless, the Post acknowledged that the sailor’s complaints were not of recent origin, having been petitioned to Lord Howe many weeks earlier.

The April 25, 1797 issue of Bell’s Weekly Messenger viewed events at Spithead without the overt alarm reported elsewhere, describing them as “very curious and important business.”[xli] It singled out Admiral Gardner for having “greatly irritated” the sailors by calling the Delegates “a d—d mutinous set of blackguards,” and telling them that they deserved to be hanged. Bell’s reprinted the first concessionary letter from the Admiralty, immediately followed by the seamen’s counter-petition that listed the issues still unresolved, and finally by the official document that granted a full pardon to the mutineers.

By May 9th, the Whitehall Evening Post ran an article entitled “The Mutiny Renewed,” which reported on the outbreak when Spithead sailors began to fear that the government would not honor its promises.[xlii] In an incident that has never been confidently explained, shots were fired during a standoff between the mutineers and an Admiralty delegation, in which several officers were wounded and seamen killed. Despite the fact that the Post assessed that the mutineers’ reaction “struck at the very foundation of our national security,” the article and five accompanying letters presented an objective report that appeared balanced.

Also on May 9th, the Morning Post and Fashionable World reported on “the state of discontent” within the Spithead fleet, in which seven seamen were “hastily put to death” by officers aboard the HMS London.[xliii] The officers were then threatened with hanging at sunset. The article specifically mentioned the betrayal of mutineers on board the HMS Culloden a year earlier, who were executed after being given assurances of pardon from the Admiralty.

British newspapers were less charitable when the Nore mutiny began. On June 6th, The Morning Chronicle reported briefly that the government had laid an embargo on the ships at Sheerness and had severed all communications with the shore.[xliv] The Chronicle adopted an outraged air, stating that in no former war had its “conductors” been given greater support or such able generals and admirals to fight their battles.

The next day The London Packet reported the escape of the HMS Serapis from the Nore rebel fleet, although with damage from the mutineer’s guns. This defection was more than offset by the arrival of four more men-of-war from Yarmouth, who joined the mutineers. The Packet went on to correct a rumor that four men had been hung by the mutineers, pointing out that these were effigies which those on shore mistook for an execution. In telling language, Richard Parker was described as “the Robespierre of the Delegates.” Freely editorializing on a theme that the Nore Delegates did not represent the seamen, the article stated that their “system of terror is so effectual that no two men dare be seen consulting together.”[xlv]

The June 8th edition of Lloyd’s Evening Post reported Admiralty’s most serious threats against the mutineers, as Parliament authorized that three or more commissioners of the Lord High Admiral could declare an entire crew guilty of mutiny and rebellion. Although this news came in the form of an ultimatum to immediately capitulate, a careful reading reveals a patient recapitulation of the terms already conceded to the Spithead mutineers. The King offered any mutineers who return to duty straightaway “to be exempted and relieved from any and all of the penalties and forfeitures” otherwise enacted.[xlvi]

On June 17th, the British Evening Post reported on developments at the Nore.[xlvii] Editors correctly identified that, upon finding that their demands would not be met and that they faced charges of treason, the lead mutineers intended to sail the fleet to France. While condemning this threatened action, they further suggested that the King and the parliament, by cooperating earlier with the Spithead mutineers, “contributed to increase the mutiny” at the Nore.

On July 8th Lloyd’s Evening Post reported on the courts-martial of a crewman on trial for his active participation in the Nore mutiny. His defense, quoted at some length in Lloyd’s, rested on being “compelled by Parker to undertake [this role] and threatened with death in case of the least refusal…”[xlviii] The same line of argument would be adopted by others in succeeding trials.

By the time of the August 2nd edition of Lloyd’s Evening Post, references to “the late mutiny” could be framed in what was at the time considered humor.[xlix] A sailor who had been flogged until “dripping” looked at the yardarm and commented “I think I am wet enough now to be hung up to dry.” As we will show, other words from the common sailor also illuminate the pervading ethos of solidarity and class consciousness.

Class Markers in Seaman’s Ballads and Government Counter-Ballads

Admiralty records include two ballads discovered on the sixty-four-gun man of war HMS Repulse which arrived at the Nore anchorage during the last days of the mutiny.  These ballads were later used as evidence in courts martial proceedings, where they were each labeled “An Insidious Song.” Only these two works are in the surviving court records, but the numbering convention used by the Admiralty suggests that at one time there might have as many as twenty-nine ballads collected from the Repulse. The following excerpt from All Hail Brother Seamen” clearly states several of the key elements of class consciousness and identity:

“Good providence long looked with pity at last
For to see honest Jack so shamefully thrashed,
But still held his arm for to let Jack subdue
The pride of those masters whose hearts were not true.At Spithead Jack from a long silence was roused,
Which waked other brothers who did not refuse
To assist in the plan that good providence taught,
In the hearts of brave seamen, that had long been forgot.

“Your brothers” says he, are all firmly resolved,
To banish all tyrants that long did uphold,
Their cruel intention to scourge when they please,
Such a set of brace villains you must instantly seize.”[l]


“In days of yore when rich and poor agreed,
Poor served the rich and rich the poor relieved.
No despotic tyrants then the womb produced
But mutual all, each loved, and none abused,
But now how dreadful is the scene reversed,
We’re blest with birth, but with oppression cursed…

From their supineness now their souls are roused
To rod and yoke no longer are exposed.
But all alike, each swears he will be true,
And tyrants ne’er their former course renew.

At Spithead first their noble blood was fired…
Then at the Nore the lions boldly roused,
Their brethren’s cause at Spithead they espoused.
Each swore alike to King he would be true,
But one and all the tyrants would subdue… “[li]


This excerpt clearly identifies the collective lot of the abused seaman, “Jack” in opposition to “masters” and “tyrants.” Although they were “blest with birth” – a reference to their identity as free Englishmen – some terrible reversal had occurred and they were now cursed with oppression. The mutineers are “brothers” and “brethren” who obey natural law – “the plan that good providence taught” – and they seek a return to an imagined past when there were no tyrants “and each loved, but none abused.” In the restored social order the “poor served the rich and the rich the poor relieved.” Despite denials that the mutineers espoused Jacobin ideals, these lyrics resonate with concepts of egalite and fraternité, espousing a brethren of seamen in opposition to despotic tyrants.

Not all ballads were seditious. Some celebrated the settlement at Spithead. For example, the following ballad became popular as a general celebration of victory:

The tars of old England have long toil’d in vain,

From the time of King Charles down to the present reign:

But their royal master their wages doth raise,

So join, British sailors, in King George’s praise…

Their petition was granted, each grievance redress’d

In the heart of each seaman great George he is bless’d.”[lii]

After playing catch-up throughout the Spithead mutiny, the Pitt government did not sit idly during the standoff at The Nore. Instead, they circulated a series of overblown accounts of the proceedings, painting the Nore mutineers as incendiaries and Jacobin revolutionaries. Rumors circulated that the mutineers planned to sail up the Thames and shell the city of London.  Amidst this program of counter-propaganda, a ballad appeared entitled “A New Song on Parker the Delegate, Head of the Mutiny at Sheerness.” This song depicts the Nore mutineers as set against King, country and Constitution. It incorporates “the bloody flag” as a symbol for the protests and raises the specter of “revolution,” a word that never appears in the rhetoric of either mutiny. Not just political violence is threatened, but also implied piratical peril for British commerce. This brief excerpt evokes “terror,” “traitors,” and the “country’s ruin”.

“Fell factions head they proudly rear ‘gainst country and ‘gainst King sir,
And on their land they now do try destruction for to bring sir…
Then Britains all, with one accord, fight for your Constitution,
And let surrounding foes behold we want no revolution.

A terror to each merchant ship, detains and doth them plunder,
And if they offer to sail by, his guns at them do thunder;
…Who thus the bloody flag hath reared ‘gainst country and ‘gainst King, sir;
Let’s hope the villain quickly will to punishment be brought, sir,
Who like the daring traitor bold his country’s ruin sought, sir.[liii]

Once the Nore mutiny was concluded, media rhetoric dropped the inflammatory tropes and distanced the event from issues of class tensions. The best known of all the songs from the period, “President Parker,” appeared within days after his execution. It described the ordeal of Parker’s wife to secure his body and give it proper burial. The lyrics focused on the widow’s travails and turned Parker into an “imprudent” brave man whose objectives were now ambiguously undefined. In part, it said:

“Brave Parker was my lawful husband, my bosom friend I loved so dear;
And at the moment he was to suffer I was not allowed to come near…
My fainting spirit I thought would follow the soul of him I loved most dear;
No friend or neighbor would come near me to ease me of my grief and care…


And there I got him decently buried, and then the doleful task was done;
I soon did finish the doleful task that his imprudence had begun…
Ye gods above protect the widow, and with pity look on me.
Although my Parker was hung for mutiny there were worse men in the wars than he.”[liv]

The authorship of this ballad is unknown. While the artistic purpose seems to be pathos and sympathy for the widow, Parker’s execution for treason has been softened into a vaguely implied injustice, for “there were worse…than he.”

Post-Mortem Recognition of Class in the British Press

Over the following decades the British press continued its fascination with the two great mutinies. As outbursts of working-class tension became more frequent in the 1830s, British media could remember the mutinies as almost reasonable and orderly. For example, The Penny Satirist reprinted a compressed view of widow Parker’s recollections in 1838.[lv] By this time Mrs. Parker, who was never identified with a first name, had bought into the now-official government version of events, stating for instance that “happily, the mutiny was suppressed…a joyful conclusion.” The widow, then sixty-nine, was described as “an object of almost national compassion,” and the article focused on her suffering rather than on the events of the mutiny. The memory of Richard Parker was now transmuted into “a bold, intelligent, and energetic character” who pursued “just and reasonable” grievances and who tried to restrain the “excesses” the other Delegates and to promote their rights.

Of significant interest, the editors of The Penny Satirist commented on the contrast between the 1797 mutinies and present (1838) times, in which “leaders [are] in more desperate opposition to constituted authorities.” These authorities were listed as the Established Church, the House of Lords, and other institutions of the state. E. P. Thompson considers the 1830s the culmination of the rise of the English Working Class. Perhaps he undervalued the class-driven character of the great mutinies precisely because their memory had softened after forty years.

More than sixty years after the mutinies, the subject still received occasional mention in the British press. By now the processes Thompson studied had transformed public awareness into categories of class and class opposition. The period of direct revolutionary threat was past. The great mutinies could once again be described in theatrical color. For example, a suspiciously dramatic 1797 eyewitness account of a dockworker was published in the June 12th 1869 Sheerness Guardian. This previously undisclosed account described an entirely revolutionary process. “I was on board the Sandwich when the mutiny broke out. I saw them point guns that were on the forecastle aft, towards the captain’s cabin, with intent to fire on the officers, in case they attempted to oppose them. The next thing they did was to reeve the yard ropes, with a view to hang any of the officers who might attempt to stay their career.”[lvi]

“They then told the first lieutenant…there was a boat, or…there was a rope, whichever he pleased. The ropes were [ready for] hanging any of the officers who might attempt to oppose them, or any of the men who might revolt from their cause. They were all bound upon oath to be true one to the other. From I believe, about the 30th, many of the mutineering ships slipped their cables and ran through the fleet receiving fire from what shall I call them- butchers, yes-not British seaman…and came into the harbor, every man in the ships turning in favor of the King.”[lvii] TLoading images…

he Guardian added editorially that the numerous reforms of the last seventy years, had “happily made the state of naval affairs which obtained before the mutiny, a matter of history, and nothing more.”[lviii]


On the one hundredth anniversary of the Spithead mutiny, The Hampshire Telegraph recalled “the story of a great struggle.”[lix] The long article began by recalling “the lot of the British seaman,” whose dire state was described with major paragraphs devoted to “the food abominable” and “press gangs.” It advised that “a candid reader” of the petitions would have to admit that they were written in respectful language, and that “the demands were themselves most reasonable.” Admiralty’s response was described as “half measures” that nevertheless served as “tacit acknowledgement” that previous treatment of the sailors had been wrong. The article blamed the Admiralty for letting the incident develop into a full-scale mutiny. It went on to claim that news of the second mutiny caused the government to “panic.” Consequently, the government did not intervene with Nore mutineers in port because the townspeople “appeared to be of their party.” This was the only suggestion that the Sheerness community sided with the Nore mutineers.

The centenary Hampshire Telegraph article drew special attention to the further reforms issued by the Admiralty in May, 1797, to atone for “mal-administration.” The editors labeled these reforms “a more complete admission of the wrong and injustice” to which the men had been subjected. They set the context of the mutinies as a time when slavery was universally tolerated “and liberty, comparatively speaking, unknown.” The Telegraph’s transition to the Nore mutiny revealed a definite change in temper, emphasizing the peril of fleet bombardment against the town, and the threat of turning the fleet over to the French. The guilty were a minority, “men of no ordinary understanding” who gained influence over their comrades. It is apparent that a distinction was made between the reasonable processes at Spithead and the more radical and threatening events at the Nore.

The Mutinies Produce a Thin Historiographic Field

The two “great mutinies” have not received much scholarly attention in the United States. The reasons for this oversight are not clear, but the two most easily-accessible studies were performed by military historians, and the designation of “military history” has been known to sour certain subjects by historians who view this subfield with apprehension. Further, these events are typically treated as manifestations of general discontent with on-board conditions and severe discipline, akin to those of the celebrated HMS Bounty case. Nevertheless, some scholars have noted that the sailor’s demands employ prose comparable to the language of revolutionary France and the United States. The informal sources of shipboard ballads and news reports provide additional insights into the similarities between these 1797 events and the processes that culminated in the turning points of the 1830s, permitting us to argue that “working class consciousness” announced itself in dramatic fashion quite early in the period that Thompson and others have studied.

The work of Marcus Rediker does not deal specifically with the Spithead and Nore mutinies, but with the social conditions created on board maritime vessels during the seventeenth century. Accordingly, we can add the voice of this recognized cultural historian to our analysis. Rediker maintains that the maritime ship represented “an early precursor of the factory” poised during a transitional period in which “paternalistic forms of labor control” were giving way to “the contested negotiation of waged work.”[lx] The seaman’s labor became a “commodity to be calculated into an equation with other things…The collective worker, exemplified by the seaman, was the proletarian of the period…”[lxi] It is typical of Rediker to state his conclusions prima facie, with little or no citation. Nevertheless, these excerpts demonstrate Rediker’s general assumption that seamen may be seen as a “working class.”

Historical works devoted specifically to the Spithead and Nore mutinies are scarce. Isolated monographs have incorporated these events in investigations of subaltern theories or have briefly mentioned the mutinies within the context of a larger analysis of mutiny phenomena. The first book-length treatment of the mutinies appeared in 1913. This obscure work was published under the title The Naval Mutinies of 1797, and is only available on-line.[lxii] In 1935, G.E. Manwaring and Bonamy Dobree combined for The Floating Republic, an account highly favorable to the mutineers.[lxiii] Their work assembles thorough documentation, particularly of the correspondence between government officials and the Admiralty. The general tone of their analysis asserts “There can be no doubt…that the mutinies…were thoroughly justified…the men…were abominably treated.”[lxiv]

Manwaring and Dobree present Richard Parker as an idealistic man used badly by his fellow mutineers. They argue that he was never in control of the processes he served, while critical divisions plagued the organizing fleet “parliament” throughout the Nore mutiny. This interpretation is far more favorable to Parker than other studies which attempt psychological profiles of the man, typically concluding that he was mentally unbalanced or simply ill-suited for his role.

In its last chapter, Floating Republic proposes broad conclusions about how governments ought to respond to similar challenges to authority. These boil down to two sets of oppositions. The first compares how one ought to organize a mutiny with how one ought not. The second compares how one ought to deal with a mutiny with how one can “exacerbate the sore.”[lxv] This attention to “Causes and Lessons” may reflect 1930s social tensions within Britain, which were then rife with oppositions. One intriguing observation is that the Articles of War were practiced for generations in a much less onerous form than as practiced in the late eighteenth century.[lxvi] But above all, it was Admiralty’s failure to regulate its more abusive captains, and to simply create the structures to assure that wages were paid on time, that created the breakdown of order. We can read this as an indirect plea for government intervention and redress in the 1930s.

In The Great Mutiny (1965), James Dugan opined that the mutineers established “the first government based on universal suffrage that Britain had ever seen.”[lxvii] He noted that the Spithead “parliament” enacted measures which included a requirement that the seamen swear an oath to be true to their cause. The oath was based on reform and republican societies of England and Ireland. In contrast, the Admiralty did not require seamen to swear loyalty to crown or country. One gauge of the potential nobility of the Spithead delegates was that “From Lord Bridport on down, officers who commented on the Spithead rising said that the delegates were the best men aboard.” Best men or not, their initiative violated more than half of the 36 Articles of War, twenty-one of which required the death penalty.[lxviii] Dugan lays these arguments on the table, but then abandons them for a straightforward chronological narrative of events.

Another work dealing with the mutinies was issued by a small publishing house during the 1960s, but it is regrettably out of print. The Naval Mutiny at Spithead, 1797 is a brief monograph not presently available from any library in Georgia, and its exact content is unknown.[lxix] The one other work in limited circulation is History of the mutiny at Spithead and the Nore, which is actually a reprint of a legal treatise first published in 1842. The author, W. J. Neale, dealt with matters of maritime law and made “suggestions for the prevention of future discontent in the Royal Navy.”[lxx] This work is found only in the Harvard law library and was not consulted for this study.

Richard Woodman published A Brief History of Mutiny in 2005 and devoted a chapter to the Spithead and Nore mutinies.[lxxi] Woodman is a novelist, so his work is entertaining but poorly documented. A Brief History places it emphasis on the dramatic aspects of a series of mutinies that occurred in European navies between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries.

The most recent scholarly work to address the mutinies is a brief 2007 monograph that appeared in Romanticism, a quarterly magazine devoted to literary criticism. English professor Frank Mabee explores “how naval mutiny came to a revolutionary trope during the Romantic era.”[lxxii] Mabee connects the Spithead mutiny to William Wordsworth’s defense of Fletcher Christian and the earlier Bounty mutiny, to determine how pamphlets were used in the debate. Mabee’s principal objective is literary rather than political analysis.

The Emphatic Presence of Thompson’s Working Class

Having examined these examples of 1797 class solidarity and rhetoric, we must return to the question of why E.P. Thompson paid faint attention to the great mutinies. One reason his great work has remained viable in academic circles for forty-five years is its meticulous thoroughness. His thesis is painstakingly built from a large number of carefully researched examples. Thompson undoubtedly knew of the mutiny details we have discussed in this monograph, yet he chose to largely ignore them. This is not an oversight.

We can propose three possible explanations for Thompson’s disregard. First, the underlying structure of The Making of the English Working Class is a gradual massing of individual protests, political agitation, and social forces whose cumulative weight eventually demonstrates the arrival of “consciousness” in a crescendo of empirical evidence. Consequently, the too-early expression of working class consciousness evident in the 1797 Spithead and Nore mutinies disrupts this neat linear trajectory. Thompson may have understated the significance of these events in order to preserve his notion of a steady accretion of ever-stronger incidents. Second, many of the causal antecedents that Thompson identified as leading to class identity are absent from the mutinies, again dislocating his linear argument. These antecedents – the intertwining of such forces as Methodism, Chartism, and Owenism with the Combination Acts and the outbursts at Peterloo – do not play a prominent role at Spithead or the Nore. Thus the great mutinies appear to burst too early on the scene without the drivers Thompson felt were necessary for the expression of “class.” Finally, the great mutinies themselves appeared at the time to be dead ends, in the sense that they did not immediately lead directly to further social reform or to obvious increases in class consciousness. This is true, but the same charge may be leveled at several of other class protests that Thompson does acknowledge in his thesis. So while we cannot be certain why the mutinies were amputated from the English Working Class narrative, there is sufficient evidence that this exception was intentional rather than accidental.

If we apply E. P. Thompson’s definition of working class identity to the mutineers at Spithead and the Nore, we can see that the mutiny phenomena integrated nearly the entire body of men employed in a given trade (seamanship) within a large institutional segment (the Royal Navy). As a result of their common experiences these men democratically united to express their shared demands as a class, in a direct appeal to the controlling class whose interests opposed theirs. In the case of Spithead, the mutineers managed the process with minimal recourse to real or threatened violence, and by framing their demands within the rhetoric of the “rights of Englishmen,” obtained significant redress of the class issues and conditions of employment that prompted their rebellion. While they succeeded in expanding their own rights, they at no time proposed to remove the prerogatives of the aristocratic officer class. Consequently, the Spithead mutineers accomplished their goals within the existing system, employing its own rules.

In contrast, the Nore mutineers exceeded the limits of the system, threatening to remove the “rights” of the governing class. They further demanded the right to remove and replace officers, thereby usurping management prerogatives. Instead of working through an established system of appeals, they made unilateral demands, threatened massive disruption of commerce, and even proposed the treasonous delivery of their fleet to the French.

Thus the mutiny at the Spithead Fleet can be viewed as a non-violent general strike, organized by collective labor on matters of pay, work rules, and management abuse. The Delegates sought redress of grievances, but did not propose to upset the norms of the existing social structure. The adoption of non-violent tactics assured that the public on shore could identify with their complaints. Nonetheless, despite these caveats, the organization and presentation of their protests must be seen as a clear manifestation of class consciousness. In contrast, the more radical Nore mutineers sought to remove or restrict management prerogatives.

E. P. Thompson argued that the rise of working class consciousness went hand-in-hand with the government’s response to the issues they raised. The accommodations of Crown and Parliament created a feedback loop to reinforce and reaffirm the demands made by working class men. He correctly identified this interaction in The Making of the English Working Class. The same mechanisms can be seen in the process of negotiation between the Spithead Delegates and the Admiralty, mediated through the Pitt government and the Parliament. The same markers of class awareness are present in the mutinies and are expressed in their own words of protests, petitions, and songs. These resonances permit us to see that “working class consciousness” had already dramatically announced itself much earlier than Thompson and others proposed.

[i] E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Vintage Books (1966). Pp. 9 – 848.

[ii] Thompson, English Working Class. P. 9.

[iii] Thompson, English Working Class. P. 132.

[iv] Thompson, English Working Class. P. 148.

[v] Thompson, English Working Class. P. 167.

[vi]Thompson, English Working Class. P. 167.

[vii] Thompson, English Working Class . Pp. 167 – 168.

[viii] Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press (2000). Pp. 275 – 278.

[ix] G. E. Manwaring and Bonamy Dobree, The Floating Republic: An Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797. Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword Military Classics (2004). A reprint of first edition 1935. P. 69.

[x] James Dugan, The Great Mutiny. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (1965). P. 58.

[xi] Frank Mabee, “The Spithead Mutiny and Urban Radicalism in the 1790s,” in Romanticism, Vol. 13, No. 2. 2007. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Pp. 133 – 144.

[xii] Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra. P. 153.

[xiii] Marcus Rediker, Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age. Boston: Beacon Press (2004).

[xiv] Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Pp. 77; 155.

[xv] Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Pp. 75, 78.

[xvi] Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man. Mineola: Dover Publication (1999).

[xvii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. P. 62.

[xviii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. Pp. 63-5.

[xix] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. P. 90.

[xx] Richard Woodman, A Brief History of Mutiny. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers (2005). P. 103.

[xxi] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. Pp. 25 -26.

[xxii] Buckingham Memoirs, 9 and 11 May 1797, Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. Pp. 100 – 101.

[xxiii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. Pp. 119 – 20.

[xxiv] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. P. 134

[xxv] Simon Barclay, “Perspectives,” in Military History, April 1997. Vol. 14, Issue 1.

[xxvi] Simon Barclay, “Perspectives,” in Military History, April 1997. Vol. 14, Issue 1.

[xxvii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. P. 180.

[xxviii] Thompson, English Working Class. P. 168.

[xxix] Proclamation of the Delegates, June 5, 1797, reprinted in James Dugan, The Great Mutiny. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (1965). Pp. 275 – 276.

[xxx] Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. P. 199.

[xxxi] “Articles of Demand” presented to Admiral Buckner by the Nore mutineers 13 June 1797. www.napoleonguide.com/navy-nore-articles.htm

[xxxii] “Articles of Demand” www.napoleonguide.com/navy-nore-articles.htm

[xxxiii] “Articles of Demand” www.napoleonguide.com/navy-nore-articles.htm.

[xxxiv] Letters of Captain Knight, Ad. 1/2017. London: Admiralty Documents in the Public Record Office (1797).

[xxxv] For an example, see quotations in Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. Pp. 20 – 22, 28, 55 – 56. Manwaring’s citation methodology is often arcane, combining Admiralty records and British newspaper articles with minimal notation.

[xxxvi]  Conrad Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797. Number XIX. London: Sherratt & Hughes, Publishers to The Manchester University Press (1913). P. 56.

[xxxvii] Annual Register, Rivington’s Edition, State Papers (1797). P. 385. Quoted in G. E. Manwaring and Bonamy Dobree, The Floating Republic: An Account of the Mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797. Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword Military Classics (2004). A reprint of first edition 1935. P. 143.

[xxxviii] Quoted in Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. P. 55.

[xxxix] “The Mutiny.” The Whitehall Evening Post, April 20, 1797. Issue 7172.

[xl] “The Mutiny: Extract of a Letter from Portsmouth, April 19.” London: The Whitehall Evening Post, April 22, 1797. Issue 7172.

[xli] “Mutiny on Board the Fleet at Spithead.” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, April 25, 1797. Issue 53.

[xlii] “Tuesday Afternoon, May 9th, The Mutiny Renewed.” Whitehall Evening Post, London. May 9, 1797. Issue 7179.

[xliii] “Mutiny in the Fleet.” The Morning Post and Fashionable World. London, <ay 9, 1797. Issue 7849.

[xliv] “Note,” in The Morning Chronicle. Sheerness, June 6, 1797. Issue 8626. Obtained from Gale Group, British Newspapers, 1600-1900.

[xlv] “Mutiny at Sheerness,” The London Packet. Sheerness, June 7, 1797. P. 3.

[xlvi] “From the London Gazette Extraordinary,” Lloyd’s Evening Post. London, June 8, 1797. P. 3.

[xlvii] “St. James’s Chronicle, London: Saturday – One O’clock” in The British Evening Post. June 17, 1797. Issue 6161.

[xlviii]  “Court’s-Martial,” Lloyd’s Evening Post. July 8th, 1797. P. 4.

[xlix] “Naval Intelligence.” Lloyd’s Evening Post. London, August 2, 1797. Issue 6231.

[l]  “All Hail Brother Seamen,” from An Insidious Song. Ballads found on the HMS Repulse. Records of the British Admiralty, 1797.

[li]  “The Muses Friendly Aid,” from An Insidious Song. Ballads found on the HMS Repulse. Records of the British Admiralty, 1797.

[lii] “Ballad Number 33,” Naval Ballads and Songs, C. H. Firth (ed). Naval Records Society (1907). P. 280.

[liii] “A New Song on Parker the Delegate, Head of the Mutiny at Sheerness.” Records of the British Admiralty Records, 1797.

[liv] “President Parker,” in The Oxford Book of Sea Songs. Roy Palmer (ed). New York: Oxford University Press (1986).

[lv] “The Mutiny at the Nore.” The Penny Satirist, London. October 27, 1838. P. 2, Issue 80. From the Gale News Vault .

[lvi] “An eye-witness account by a workman in the Sheerness Dockyard.” The Sheerness Guardian, June 12th 1869

[lvii]  “An eye-witness account by a workman in the Sheerness Dockyard.” The Sheerness Guardian, June 12th 1869.

[lviii]  “An eye-witness account by a workman in the Sheerness Dockyard.” The Sheerness Guardian, June 12th 1869

[lix] “The Spithead Mutiny. A Notable Centenary: The Story of a Great Struggle.” Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle. Portsmouth, April 17, 1897. Issue 6031.

[lx] Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Pp. 290, 114.

[lxi] Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Pp. 75; 78.

[lxii] Conrad Gill, The Naval Mutinies of 1797. Number XIX. London: Sherratt & Hughes, Publishers to The Manchester University Press (1913).

[lxiii] Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic.

[lxiv] Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. P. 245.

[lxv] Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. P. 251.

[lxvi] Manwaring and Dobree, The Floating Republic. P. 246.

[lxvii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. P. 36.

[lxviii] Dugan, The Great Mutiny. Pp. 94 – 99.

[lxix] Alfred Temple Patterson, The Naval Mutiny at Spithead, 1797. Portsmouth, England: Portsmouth City Publishers (1968).

[lxx]  W. Johnson Neale, History of the Mutiny at Spithead and the Nore: with an enquiry into its origin and treatment: and suggestions for the prevention of future discontent in the Royal Navy. Location Unknown: Gale, Making of Modern Law (2010).

[lxxi] Woodman, A Brief History of Mutiny.

[lxxii] Mabee, “The Spithead Mutiny”. Pp. 133 – 144.