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The 1797 mutinies in the channel fleet: a foreign-inspired revolutionary movement?

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The Ships at Spithead for a whole week in a perfect state of mutiny – the Men commanding their Officers, and a Parliament consisting of Delegates from each Ship of the Line, sitting all that time on board the Queen Charlotte, and issuing Orders to his Majesty's Fleet. George III, his government and the Board of Admiralty were horrified by this threat to naval discipline, expressed here by the Duke of Clarence to Nelson on 30 April 1797. The potential threat to the security of Britain while the French and Batavian fleets were preparing for invasion was a publicly expressed fear, but the breakdown in discipline was regarded as a far more serious risk by the British establishment, whose intelligence system had led them to expect noimmediate invasion of Britain or Ireland. This chapter will examine the extent of revolutionary inspiration for the 1797 mutinies in the Channel Fleet. Was it a rebellion inspired by American, Irish or French revolutionary ideas, part of a plot to overturn the government, oust Pitt's ministry and substitute an opposition ministry, or impose a republic on French or American lines? Many writers, from Pitt onwards, have portrayed the 1797 mutinies as overt proof of foreign-inspired revolutionary activity in Britain in the 1790s. He asserted that the “whole affair was of that colour and description which proved it to be not of native growth”.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Naval Mutinies of 1797
Subtitle of host publicationUnity and Perseverance
EditorsAnn Veronica Coats, Philip MacDougall
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Pages120-141
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781782040057
ISBN (Print)9781843836698
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011

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