People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

John Moseley (c. 1757–1832)

John Moseley (c.1757- ), an African American, was found guilty on 21 April 1784 at the Old Bailey, London, of impersonating a seaman in order to receive his wages. His death sentence was commuted to life transportation on 3 March 1785. Sent to the Ceres hulk in 1785 he was dispatched to the Scarborough in February 1787 and arrived at Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Moseley said he had been a tobacco planter in America which geographically locates him in the Chesapeake region of the American colonies, probably Virginia, where tobacco culture was most intense. As he was only in his mid 20s when he left America for England it is more likely he had been a runaway slave working on a tobacco plantation, one of the thousands of African-American runaways who left with the British evacuation of America at the end of the War of Independence. A 'John Moseley', aged 25, is included in the Book of Negroes, which lists 3000 African-Americans evacuated by the British from New York in 1783. Unable to find work in London and with a common law wife to support, Moseley had tried to claim his friend's wages. While serving time at Newgate Gaol he fathered a child, Jane Moseley, who was baptised in November 1785, aged 3 months.

Moseley received a conditional pardon on 3 April 1800. He was described as a labourer. He worked with William Chippendale at Liverpool in 1822 and in 1825 was employed by Messrs Berry and Wollstonecraft, merchants in Sydney. He was described, that year, as being 5 feet 7½ inches tall with a black complexion, black eyes, and white woolly, balding hair. In 1828 he was recorded as a dealer in Sydney, with three women servants.

information from

  • Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), p 255
  • 'John Moseley - From Chesapeake Bay to Botany Bay', Black Loyalist, — accessed 24 February 2021

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Moseley, John (c. 1757–1832)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Shore, John
  • Mozley, John
  • Morley, John
  • Mosley, John
  • Mosler, John

c. 1757
United States of America


1832 (aged ~ 75)
New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: deception
Sentence: death
Commuted To: life
Court: Old Bailey, London
Trial Date: 21 April 1784


Married: Yes
Children: Yes (1)