The 1790s were a hard time for the British Empire. The United States had recently taken their place as a new, sovereign country. England had been at war with the French and Spanish all over the world, but especially in the West Indies and The New World. To top it all off, sailors in the Royal Navy had become disillusioned and disheartened under the tight reins of British Officers.
They were frustrated by the conditions in which they lived and in the pay which hadn’t gone up in almost a full century — the kind of situation that would push anyone to their limits. For Britain, these problems came to a head in 1797.
In April of 1797 the fleet, anchored at Spithead near Portsmouth, came together and mutinied in response to the incredibly harsh treatment that they’d suffered under the British flag.
Sailors demanded better pay and more bearable working conditions. After a short deliberation, the men who took part in the mutiny were given their demands and pardoned.
This would be the first of three major mutinies, the second coming in May 1797 at Nore anchorage on the Thames. The first ship to mutiny was the Sandwich, but they were joined by other ships.
Turbulent London reports that the sailors first demands were similar to the Spithead fleet demands: better pay and better working conditions. If they had stopped there, perhaps they would have been more successful.
They also, however, made demands including the dissolution of Parliament and immediate peace with France. The mutineers were offered the same concessions given to the Spithead fleet; however, radical elements of the crews continued to demand more.
Possibly their worst mistake was to blockade the Thames. Their hope was to prevent ships from entering London which, if successful, could cripple the economy.