‘The decision to colonise New South Wales cannot be isolated from the strategic imperatives of the world’s first truly global struggle, the Seven Years’ War (1757-63′.  Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, Third Ed. Cambridge University Press, 2008

1788: It is imperative Britain’s invasion of New Holland in 1788 be seen in context of the Seven Years’ War and Prime Minister [Elder] Pitt’s ‘war strategy’,

‘Pitt’s  war strategy set the pattern of colonisation for the next one hundred years’. Vanessa Collingridge, Captain Cook, Ebury Press, 2003.


‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion…During period 1763 and 1793 the character of the Second British Empire was being formed…the empire of commerce  in the Indian and Pacific Oceans’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire 1763-1793, Vol.2 Longmans, 1964

Lieutenant James Cook RN, during the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War, distinguished himself as a talented mathematician, innotative navigator and exceptional map-maker.

Canada was where Cook played his first part in world affairs.

1758 – Louisberg, Canada: It had been Cook’s intention as crew of HMS Pembroke to take part in the capture of Louisberg, but so badly damaged was the ship during its stormy passage from England to Canada it failed to reach the battle zone.

1758 – Canada, Nova Scotia: Halifax, the Royal Navy’s principal base in Canada, proved an ideal spot from where to mount an land attack on Quebec.

Canada – Quebec: Quebec was to be Prime Minister Pitt’s main amphibious assault against French forces defending France’s North American colonies.

‘It was on that expedition that Cook first learned from a British army officer [ Samuel Holland] how to make maps….He mastered the technique of translating the three [3 ] dimensions of landmarks, shores, rocks and shoals precisely and exactly onto two [2] dimensional charts.

His meticulous  corrections of existing charts of the St Lawrence River and creation of new ones where none existed, saved Admiral [Sir Charles] Saunders and [General James] Wolfe’s expedition to Quebec and won the reputation as one of the navy’s finest navigators’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 2005 

1759: Quebec:  Britain’s plans for the assault on Quebec had been compromised when in early 1759 it become known; Louis Antoine de Bougainville an enterprising French army officer [had] intercepted documents detailing the Amherst [British] plan.

The French thereupon removed any navigation aids from the St Lawrence’.  A.W. Beasley, Fellowship of Three, James Cook, John Hunter, Joseph Banks,  Kangaroo Press, 1993

Cook with several others was tasked to re-survey the St Lawrence River. During extensive night surveys Cook’s advanced mapping techniques revealed the river’s advantages as well as its many pitfalls.

It is widely held Cook’s ‘meticulous’ charts of the St Lawrence  enabled England wrest New France – Canada – from the French.

1759 – 12 September, Quebec:  Cook accompanied General James Wolfe as the British forces in pitch darkness with oars muffled, were ferried unobserved and without incident up the River.

Before it was fully light the Heights of Abraham had been scaled and high ground achieved.

French troops, commanded by General Louis-Joseph Montcalm, defending open plains below, were cut to pieces by cannon fire concentrated on them from above.

1759 – 13 /14 September: In the carnage both Generals, Wolfe on 13 September, Montcalm the following day, fell among their men.

1759 – 18 September: After three (3) days of intense fighting the French army surrendered.

Colonel Louis-Antione de Bougainville, Montcalm’s aide-de-camp, negotiated a truce, arranged the care and, where possible,  repatriation of his sick and wounded.

1760: By the end of 1760 all French possessions in North America were in English hands. But ‘all’ would never be enough for Prime Minister Pitt.

‘In 1763 England had emerged victorious from a protracted struggle with France. But the Peace, not signed until 1763, enraged Pitt and enraged his City friends the French were given their old fishing rights on the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland. Without the fish trade, Pitt considered it useless to hold Canada’. J.H. Plumb, Pitt the Elder, England in the Eighteenth Century (1714-1815), Pelican, 1965

1763 – October:  The Treaty of Paris, signed in October 1763, officially ended The Seven Years’ War.

Despite Britain’s undoubted success in terms of enemies vanquished and territory gained, the peace treaty pleased neither England’s government nor her greedy city merchants.

Prime Minister Pitt’s dissatisfaction with the Paris Treaty was intense, he found France’s retention of her Newfoundland fishing rights particularly galling.

‘Pitt insisted that he would not make peace until they [French] also surrendered their rights to the Newfoundland fishery and that demand was strictly nonnegotiable’. Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, Faber and Faber, London, 2001

Despite Pitt’s opposition France retained her Arctic fishing rights. Some English historians regard Pitt’s obsession with Newfoundland a manifestation of deep depression that led to a documented diagnosis of  ‘insanity’.

Britain’s wide-ranging participation in the Seven Years’ War had increased the national debt substantially.

Westminster, in an effort to claw back some costs incurred during the costly North American campaigns, passed legislation to tax her American colonists.

Imposing import taxes on colonists whose catch-cry had long been ‘no taxation without representation’ was considered outrageous and  cost England much good-will.

The [Charles] Townshend Tax Acts ignited a revolution that blazed into open warfare between Britain and America’s Patriot colonists.


1775 – Lexington, Massachusetts:  In this way the Seven Years’ War morphed into the American War of Independence 1775-1783, a conflict that began at Lexington in April, 1775.

The colonists were not as one. Loyalists supported the Crown and fought alongside English soldiers.

Patriots, led by General George Washington, fought for independence from Britain. France and later Spain joined Washington’s fight against England. See: Arthur Phillip – The Importance of Being Arthur

1782: By the end of 1782 the shooting war over. Against all odds America won and Britain lost her mighty ’empire in the west’.

1783 – September,  Paris: The Treaty of Versailles, signed in  September 1783, brought a formal end to America’s War of Independence.

Britain lost her colonies; North and South Carolina, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

America newly independent, a free-trade nation with enormous potential, was now able to exploit trade routes in whatever latitudes she chose.

Britain stood in danger of being squeezed out of the coveted Newfoundland fisheries and not only by her traditional enemies France and Spain.

Meantime Britain’s trading opportunities were constrained by her own institutions, principally the British East India Company established by Tudor Elizabeth in 1602.


‘In the 1760s the European wars having subsided, Britain began sending out official expeditions of discovery. The shadowy image of the Great South Land intrigued the British Admiralty,  and in 1764 it sent John Byron, grandfather of the poet, on a voyage of exploration. Byron explored the Pacific, in 1765-65’.  Miriam Estensen, Discovery, The Quest of the Great South Land,  Allen and Unwin, 1999

1768 – Tahiti:  Lieutenant James Cook RN, at the behest of Britain’s Royal Society, sailed HMS Endeavour from Plymouth to Tahiti in 1768. Ostensibly Cook’s only task was to observe the transit of Venus.

However as Admiralty had supplied Endeavour paid her captain and crew, once Cook’s obligation to the Royal Society was satisfied, he was free to carry out ‘secret instructions‘ and search for; ‘the British Admiralty’s shadowy Great South Land’.

‘The men who founded the second British Empire during the reign of George III renewed a policy which animated their predecessors in the age of the Tudors, Vincent T. Harlow, Vol. 2. ibid.

1770 – April, Botany Bay: Cook’s exploration ‘discovered’ not the Great South Land, a myth dating from ‘the age of the Tudors‘, but the eastern coast of New Holland located in the southern oceans whose waters teemed with marine life.

1770 – 22 August, Possession Island: In New Holland’s far north Lieutenant James Cook RN marked a tree, ran up a ‘Union Flag’ and, on 22 August 1770, claimed the entire eastern coast of the island continent from ‘Cape York to South Cape’ for Britain.

‘Within 50 years this ancient island would surrender its entire coastline to the mapmakers and be known by the single name of Australia’.  Miriam Estensen. ibid.


France, England’s traditional enemy, was also seeking ‘overseas expansion’ particularly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Louis-Antione de Bougainville, following France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War, switched from army to navy.

A mathematician of note Bougainville on the eve of the Seven Years’ War he published an important paper on calculus. A member of Britain’s Royal Society he was held in high esteem among England’s scientific elite.

1766 – December, Brest: In 1766, two (2) years before James Cook, in , Bougainville in Boudeuse, accompanied by Etoile a support vessel, sailed from Brest Harbour seeking the mysterious Great South Land.

Bougainville’s voyage took him into the Pacific Ocean where he investigated many places of interest for French colonial expansion amongst them Samoa, Vanuata, Tahiti and Mauritius.

On his return passage, by way of New Guinea, the Moluccas and Java, Bougainville sailed along the north-east coast of New Holland charting the Great Barrier Reef, but unlike Cook in 1770, Bougainville did not risk a landing.

1769 – March, France: After a voyage of twenty-eight (28) months circumnavigating the globe Bougainville was back in France.

Like Cook, whom he admired, Bougainville paid attention to the health of his crew losing only seven  (7) men to scurvy.

Bougainville wrote an extensive account of his South Pacific voyage. ‘A voyage Round the World.

1771 – France: A tale of  ‘perils…dangers and escapes’ the book was published in 1771 its English translation was a popular read.

‘It raised the stakes in the race to see who would open up the Pacific first’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves. ibid


France not England made the first move to establish; ‘an Empire in the South’.

1785 – France:  ‘ Louis XVI quietly sent the  Comte de la Perouse with two ships [La Boussole and L’Astrolabe] to survey likely spots for French settlement. Aboard were copper plates engraved with the royal arms to be used as permanent notification of French ownership.’ Michael Cannon, Australian Discovery and Exploration, , 1987.

King Louis may have thought he had  stolen a march on England and King George 111 but had not reckoned on Arthur Phillip, arguably Britain’s most successful spy.

1785 – January, Toulon:  Phillip the spy arrived in France in January 1785 just as Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse was selected to lead a wide-ranging voyage of exploration.

The French voyage modeled on Cook’s voyages was estimated to take three (3) years and included New Holland.

1785 – August, Brest: It is highly likely, shrouded in shadow, Phillip watched as La Perouse guided his ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe out Brest Harbour into stormy seas.


‘It is much to the credit of those in office that an empire has been founded in the south, which time will render much superior to that which their predecessors have lost in the west [America]’.  Historical Records of New South Wales. Anon.

1783 – London: Post the War of American Independence (1775-1783), via the Treaty of Paris, Britain lost not only her valuable American colonies but her off-shore prison there.

Government quizzed Joseph Banks who, in 1770 accompanied James Cook in the Endeavour, on his knowledge of Botany Bay and its potential to replace America in terms of valuable territory and as an off-shore prison.

On the latter issue Banks responded with unrestrained enthusiasm New Holland’s; ‘ideal climate…escape difficult [and] return impossible’ was ideal‘ – fit for purpose – banishment.

1786:  For apart from suffering the loss of extensive and valuable territory, in 1786 Britain had many pressing problems.

An ever increasing army of criminals reprieved death for exile ‘out of the kingdom’ but with nowhere to go and looming abolition of slavery.

Restrictive trade practices imposed by the powerful East India Company stood in the way of any expansion of trade that might threaten the profits of its powerful share-holders;

Perhaps most pressing of all was Britain’s desire to regain national prestige by extending and consolidating her sea power that, in time of war, would be integral to success.

Except for short breaks war between France and Britain, was a constant.

Britain recognised an urgent need to establish alternate sea routes to and from India, Africa and China via the southern oceans to serve as a blockade-beaker in time of war

Joseph Banks assured Prime Minister PItt’s ‘secretive inner circle of government‘  – Lord Hawkesbury, Henry Dundas and Lord Mulgrave, that a military and naval presence at Botany Bay was key to relieving many of his Government’s pressing problems.

Importantly with New Holland Britain would acquire and exploit a rich source of cheap whale oil.

‘If a whaling industry in these areas could be established, Britain could supply herself an Europe at cheap rates independently of the Americans. In the wake of whalers other British traders [solutions] would follow’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of a Second British Empire, Vol. 2, 1763-1793, Longmans, 1964

Prime Minister William Pitt, son of the Elder Pitt, perhaps with some angst lingering from the earlier ‘Newfoundland fisheries’ affair (1763), may well have entered the equation.

‘The Act of 1786 [Geo. III, C,50] for the Encouragement of the Southern Whale Fishery proved to be the foundation of an important industry’. ibid.

1786 – August, London: The decision was taken, New Holland ‘an empire in the south‘ was set fair to replace America the lost ’empire in the west’.

1786 – 12 October, London: Captain Arthur Phillip RN was selected to lead Britain’s charge into the Pacific and Southern Oceans. Phillip’s was a political appointment. See Britain By A Short-Half Head

Documentary evidence confirms government not, as was usual the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord Howe), chose Captain Phillip to invade and conquer New Holland.

‘Phillip’s long training as a naval officer, and his experience in captaining large warships led him naturally into exercising his authority, which he did insistently’. Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, His Voyaging, cited in Professor Bernard Bailyn, Peopling of the British Peripheries in the Eighteenth Century, Esso Lecture, 1988, Highland Press, Canberra. 

Phillip was given over-all command of a large naval expeditionary force of eleven (11) ships known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’.

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: The fleet sailed from Portsmouth on 13 May 1787 bound for Botany Bay on the south-eastern coast of New Holland.

Its complement upwards of 1500 souls were distributed throughout the fleet. The convoy comprised two (2) king’s ships HMS Sirius and HMS Supply crewed by two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel.

Nine (9) chartered vessels Alexander, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Lady Penrhyn, Scarborough, Friendship and stores-ships Golden Grove, Fishburn and Borrowdale, crewed to a mandated formula. Plus specialist members they would have numbered approximately four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen. See: Asleep In the Deep – Merchant Men of the Fist Fleet

‘The Way of War is a Way of Deception. When deploying troops Appear not to be‘. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin, 2009 

The  ships vessels carried twenty (20) officials, two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, thirty-one (31) marine wives and approximately seven hundred and fifty (750) convicted criminals.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the [male] convicts…apart from the allowance of spirits, the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1990.

The fleet’s five hundred and eighty (580) male prisoners were regarded by the Navy Victualing Board as ‘impressed’ available for combat, obligated to support the paid professional soldier.

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: Within thirty-six (36) hours between 18-20 January 1788 all eleven (11) ‘First Fleet’ vessels reached Botany Bay.

‘There would seem to be ‘some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days‘. Edward Jenks, History of Australian Colonies, Cited in British Colonial Policy, Hugh E. Egerton, Menthuen, 1928.

1788 – 23 January, Botany Bay: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, King Louis’ ships  commanded by Captain Jean-Francoise La Perouse,  appeared in the entrance to Botany Bay three (3) days after the ‘First Fleet’.

1788 – 24 January, Port Jackson; Shrouded in mist aboard HMS Supply Arthur Phillip stole silently from Botany Bay and sailed nine (9) miles (14 km) to Port Jackson. See: Arthur Phillip – the Spy Who Never Came In From the Cold

‘His [Phillip’s] failure to invite the French commander there [Port Jackson] may reflect some fear he might be known as a spy’. Arthur Phillip 1738-1814, His Voyaging, Alan Frost, 1987

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: Phillip ordered his ships quit Botany Bay when weather permitted and join him.

Deep within Port Jackson lay Sydney Cove, guarded by towering sand-stone headlands, it offered deep sheltered anchorage able to provide in Phillip’s opinion; ‘perfect security for a thousand ships of the line’.

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: Captain, now Governor Arthur Phillip RN, by invasion and occupation, using a ‘form of words...raised English colours’ =Union Jack – declared victory over France.

1788 – 7 February:  ‘Without consent’ of the First Nations’ People, on 7 February 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip RN declared British sovereignty over the entire eastern coast of New Holland ‘from Cape York…to South Cape’.

‘It seems clear that only a few men in the inner circle of government knew the exact purposes of the settlement; Eden [William Eden later Lord Auckland] was probably not in that secretive circle. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Gotham City, cited in the Founding of Australia, The argument about Australia’s origins, Ed. Ged Martin, Hale and Iremonger, 1978.

Pitt the Younger’s ‘ secretive…inner circle’ and their privileged, powerful political cronies are writ large on Sydney’s landscape; Hawkesbury, PIttwater, Liverpool, Dundas, Lansdowne, Mulgrave, Nepean and Sydney itself.

Join the dots the ‘exact purposes’ for Britain’s invasion of New Holland becomes crystal clear.

Phillip in his earliest dispatches from Sydney confirmed Prime Minister Pitt’s belief New Holland had the potential to be ‘the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made’.

An ‘acquisition’ that had to held against all comers. See: Machiavellian Macarthur.

‘Twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry…served in the colonies between [June] 1790 and 1870 [they] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent.

For the first of half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa. They fought in one of the most prolonged wars in the history of the British empire. Dr Peter Stanley, The British Army in Australia,1788 – 1870,  Kangaroo Press, 1986

Britain’s invasion of New Holland did not take place in a vacuum it was integral to ‘[Elder] Pitt’s war strategy [that] set the pattern of colonisation for the next one hundred years’. Vanessa Collingridge. ibid.

New Holland was all about The Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) – The American War of Independence (1775 – 1783) –  twenty-five (25) years of war that began on 1 February 1793 when France declared war on Britain and ended with Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

‘With increasing sophistication, historians have come to recognise the importance of international trade rivalries in 18th century British policy, and the emerging importance of global sea power’. Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia. The British Period, 1788 – 1870, University of Cambridge Press, 2008 

Justice demands modern European Australia position itself into the wider political context of ancient enmities, shifting alliances, competing territorial expansion and, following the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793 to 1815, Britain’s compounding humanitarian and economic crises.

‘After 1815, a new element entered the problem. The rising cost of poor relief began to alarm the Government, and emigration offered a partial solution of the problem…From 1815 to 1835 the dominant feature of Government policy with regard to emigration was to reduce the poor rate’. Milton Briggs  and Percy Jordan, University Tutorial Press, 9th ed. London.

Britain and Australia share many traditions, most entrenched, the habit of war. Yet Australia’s First Nations’ War is the only war for which Australians have no  stomach. See: Arthur Phillip’s Algorithm – ‘Infuse Universal Terror – Open Sesame‘.

1788 – 1870: ‘At the end of September [1870] the last British soldiers of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment departed for Britain, although hundreds took their discharge and remained to settle in the colony’. Jeffrey Grey. ibid.

Fair Go: A dialogue of truth between Britain and Australia needs to take place if Australia is ever to become the nation of our rhetoric.


1788 – 10 March, Botany Bay: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe after rest and repairs sailed for home on 10 March 1788. Sadly La Perouse and his men were lost at sea. See: A Band of Brothers and Mortal Enemies



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