Sunday, 22 November 2009

Thomas Muir

At his state-rigged show-trial in August, 1793,
leading Scots radical Thomas Muir was sentenced
 to 14 years transportation to Botany Bay,a penal
settlement in Australia. Following a lengthy wait in
London for a transport ship, Muir finally set foot in
 the Bay on October 25, 1794.

Penal servitude could have been worse — Muir was
 able to buy a 30-acre farm near Sydney Cove and
settled down to farming, fishing and reading. But he
didn’t put up with Australian isolation for long.

On January 26, 1796, an American ship, the Otter,
arrived in Botany Bay to take on fresh water and provisions.
 The captain of the Otter, Ebeneezer Dorr, met Muir and
agreed to take him to his home port of Boston. After crossing
the Pacific to the northwest coast of America, Muir
arranged to be transferred to a Spanish ship.

His hopes that the Spanish authorities in California
 and Mexico would provide him with a passport to the
 United States were disappointed. The Spanish
officials treated the Scots radical with deep suspicion
 and arranged for him to be taken back to Spain.

But as the convoy carrying Muir approached Cadiz
 on April 26, 1797, it was attacked by a squadron of
British warships - as Britain and Spain were by
now at war.

Muir was badly wounded in the battle and had to be
carried to an on-shore military hospital. When the French
 learned of Muir’s plight they petitioned the Spanish for his
 release, which was negotiated on September 16, 1797.
Muir arrived in France in November, 1797, and was
 greeted as a hero.

He settled in Paris where he soon began to involve
himself again in the cause of reform at home.

Allying himself with James Napper Tandy, one of the
 leading United lrishmen in Paris, he began to put pressure
 on the French government to send an army to liberate

The French showed interest in Muir’s proposals at first,
 but by the spring of 1798 their military commanders
 had decided that invasion of the British Isles was not a
good strategic option. Muir’s personal commitment to
overthrowing the ’tyrannicaI' British state remained strong,
 until his retirement to the town of Chantilly, where he
 died on January 26, 1799.

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