AUSTRALIA - FIRST BRITISH COLONY
Hello . What a vast country it is . So much to learn , I always wondered why the British Government chose Australia ---From Australian History - Tells us the answer
Establishment of the first British colony
A proposal that Britain found a colony of banished convicts in the South Sea or in Terra Australis to enable the mother country to exploit the riches of those regions had been put forward in 1766 by John Callander in Terra Australia Cognita. Following the loss of the American Colonies after the American War of Independence 1775-1783, Great Britain needed to find alternative land for a new British colony. Australia was chosen for settlement, and colonisation began in 1788. Rather than resorting to the use of slavery to build the infrastructure for the new colony, convict labour was used as a cheap and economically viable alternative.
It is commonly reported that the colonisation of Australia was driven by the need to address overcrowding in the British prison system; however, it was simply not economically viable to transport prisoners half way around the world for this reason alone. Many convicts were either skilled tradesmen or farmers who had been convicted for trivial crimes and were sentenced to seven years, the time required to set up the infrastructure for the new colony. Convicts were often given pardons prior to or on completion of their sentences and were allocated parcels of land to farm.
Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent scientist who had accompanied Lieutenant James Cook on his 1770 voyage, recommended Botany Bay as a suitable site. Banks accepted an offer of assistance made by the American Loyalist James Matra in July 1783. Matra had visited Botany Bay with Banks in 1770 as a junior officer on the Endeavour commanded by James Cook. Under Banks’s guidance, he rapidly produced "A Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales" (23 August 1783), with a fully developed set of reasons for a colony composed of American Loyalists, Chinese and South Sea Islanders (but not convicts).
Following an interview with Secretary of State Lord Sydney in March 1784, Matra amended his proposal to include convicts as settlers. Matra’s plan can be seen to have “provided the original blueprint for settlement in New South Wales”. A cabinet memorandum December 1784 shows the Government had Matra’s plan in mind when considering the erection of a settlement in New South Wales. The London Chronicle of 12 October 1786 said: “Mr. Matra, an Officer of the Treasury, who, sailing with Capt. Cook, had an opportunity of visiting Botany Bay, is the Gentleman who suggested the plan to Government of transporting convicts to that island”. The Government also incorporated into the colonization plan the project for settling Norfolk Island, with its attractions of timber and flax, proposed by Banks’s Royal Society colleagues, Sir John Call and Sir George Young.
In 1787, the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 1530 people (736 convicts, 17 convicts' children, 211 marines, 27 marines' wives, 14 marines' children and about 300 officers and others) under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip set sail for Botany Bay. The Fleet of 11 vessels consisted of over a thousand settlers, including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men). A few days after arrival at Botany Bay the fleet moved to the more suitable Port Jackson where a settlement was established at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. This date later became Australia's national day, Australia Day. The colony was formally proclaimed by Governor Phillip on 7 February 1788 at Sydney. Sydney Cove offered a fresh water supply and a safe harbour, which Philip famously described as:
“ 'being with out exception the finest Harbour in the World [...] Here a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security.’ ”
Phillip named the settlement after the Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, 1st Baron Sydney (Viscount Sydney from 1789). The only people at the flag raising ceremony and the formal taking of possession of the land in the name of King George III were Phillip and a few dozen marines and officers from the Supply, the rest of the ship's company and the convicts witnessing it from on board ship. The remaining ships of the Fleet were unable to leave Botany Bay until later on 26 January because of a tremendous gale. The new colony was formally proclaimed as the Colony of New South Wales on 7 February.
A map of Sydney from 1789.
On 24 January 1788 a French expedition of two ships led by Admiral Jean-François de La Pérouse had arrived off Botany Bay, on the latest leg of a three-year voyage that had taken them from Brest, around Cape Horn, up the coast from Chile to California, north-west to Kamchatka, south-east to Easter Island, north-west to Macao, and on to the Philippines, the Friendly Isles, Hawaii and Norfolk Island. Though amicably received, the French expedition was a troublesome matter for the British, as it showed the interest of France in the new land.
Nevertheless, on 2 February Lieutenant King, at Phillip's request, paid a courtesy call on the French and offered them any assistance they may need. The French made the same offer to the British, as they were much better provisioned than the British and had enough supplies to last three years. Neither of these offers was accepted. On 10 March the French expedition, having taken on water and wood, left Botany Bay, never to be seen again. Phillip and La Pérouse never met. La Pérouse is remembered in a Sydney suburb of that name. Various other French geographical names along the Australian coast also date from this expedition.
Governor Phillip was vested with complete authority over the inhabitants of the colony. Enlightened for his Age, Phillip's personal intent was to establish harmonious relations with local Aboriginal people and try to reform as well as discipline the convicts of the colony. Phillip and several of his officers - most notably Watkin Tench – left behind journals and accounts of which tell of immense hardships during the first years of settlement. Often Phillip's officers despaired for the future of New South Wales. Early efforts at agriculture were fraught and supplies from overseas were few and far between. Between 1788 and 1792 about 3546 male and 766 female convicts were landed at Sydney – many "professional criminals" with few of the skills required for the establishment of a colony. Many new arrivals were also sick or unfit for work and the conditions of healthy convicts only deteriorated with hard labour and poor sustenance in the settlement. The food situation reached crisis point in 1790 and the Second Fleet which finally arrived in June 1790 had lost a quarter of its 'passengers' through sickness, while the condition of the convicts of the Third Fleet appalled Phillip. From 1791 however, the more regular arrival of ships and the beginnings of trade lessened the feeling of isolation and improved supplies.
In 1792, two French ships, La Recherche and L'Espérance anchored in a harbour near Tasmania's southernmost point they called Recherche Bay. This was at a time when Britain and France were trying to be the first to discover and colonise Australia. The expedition carried scientists and cartographers, gardeners, artists and hydrographers who, variously, planted, identified, mapped, marked, recorded and documented the environment and the people of the new lands that they encountered at the behest of the fledgling Société D'Histoire Naturelle.
European settlement began with a consignment of English convicts, guarded by a detachment of the Royal Marines, a number of whom subsequently stayed in the colony as settlers. Their view of the colony and their place in it was eloquently stated by Captain David Collins: "From the disposition to crimes and the incorrigible character of the major part of the colonists, an odium was, from the first, illiberally thrown upon the settlement; and the word "Botany Bay" became a term of reproach that was indiscriminately cast upon every one who resided in New South Wales. But let the reproach light upon those who have used it as such.... if the honour of having deserved well of one's country be attainable by sacrificing good name, domestic comforts, and dearest connections in her service, the officers of this settlement have justly merited that distinction".
Still more to come before we take a look around at other interests .
Till we meet again - Regards - edmondsallan