INVASION 1788: DO – U – KNOW THE CONTEXT

‘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 (1757-1763)’. Jeffrey Grey,  A Military History of Australia, Third ed. Cambridge University Press, 2008

1788 – January: Britain’s invasion of New Holland in 1788, the subjugation and subsequent near annihilation of Australia’s First Peoples, must be seen in the context of international rivalry and an insatiable quest for trading, territorial and strategic advantage.

‘On 14 December [1790] a troop of over 50 men departed for Botany Bay armed with muskets, hatchets for beheading, and bags for carrying heads’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

BRITAIN’S INVASION AND CONQUEST OF NEW HOLLAND

‘The Way of war is a way of Deception. When Deploying troops Appear not to be’. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin, 2009

Situated in the southern oceans the island continent of New Holland offered Britain control of alternate strategic and logistical pathways to and from India, Africa, China and Japan.

In the 18th and 19th centuries four (4) interlocking strategies dominated global warfare; sea battles, land battles, blockade and espionage.

A collision of external and internal circumstances determined New Holland be the lynch pin-pin of a ‘Second British Empire’.

Externally: The Seven Years’ War 1756-1763, The War of American Independence 1775-1783, end of convict transportation to America,    impending French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815.

Internally: Impending abolition of slavery, an avalanche of homeless unemployed paupers, rising street crime and ‘fear of the mob’, an army of 10,000 mainly male criminals sentenced ‘for transportation to America’ held over in gaols or on prison-hulks, and the need for new sources of cheap whale oil.

THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR – 1756-1763 – ‘a truly  global struggle’

THE BACK STORY

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

Lieutenant James, Cook, doyen of Britain’s Royal Navy, first distinguished himself in the North American campaigns of the Seven Years’ War.

1758 – Canada, Nova Scotia, July: Britain captured the fort town of Louisbourg from the French on the 27th July 1758.

Louisbourg was an ideal site from where to launch a land and sea assault on Quebec with the aim of crushing French forces defending France’s colonies in Canada.

1759 – Quebec, Canada: Quebec was protected by a turbulent St Lawrence River. In early 1759 Britain’s plans for a suprize attack had been penetrated by French spies.

1759: ‘Louis Antoine de Bougainville…an enterprising French army officer intercepted documents detailing the Amherst [Quebec] plan. The French thereupon removed any navigation aids from the St Lawrence [River]’. A.W. Beasley, Fellowship of Three, James Cook, John Hunter, Joseph Banks, Kangaroo Press, 1993.

To assure success for the projected complex amphibious assault a meticulous and dangerous night operation was deemed necessary. James Cook along with others was tasked with re-surveying the St Lawrence River.

‘Cook first learned from a British army officer 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…and won the reputation as one of the navy’s finest navigators’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Hodder and Stoughton, 2005

1759 – 12 September, Quebec: Led by General James Wolfe, in pitch darkness with oars muffled, 4,500 British troops and artillery were ferried without incident along the St Lawrence.

Unobserved, via a steep and difficult pathway, the British achieved high ground – Heights of Abraham. From there they directed cannon fire onto General Louis Montcalm’s men encamped below.

1759 – 18 September: The French, hampered by a lack of cannon, fought ferociously face to face. After three (3) days of carnage Quebec fell to the British.

Numbered among the dead – 1400 French, 600  British – Wolfe the British commander and, Montcalm his French counterpart.

1760: Although the French mounted a spirited counter-offensive by the end of 1760 all of France’s colonial possessions in North America were in British hands.

1763 – February, Paris:  The Seven Years’ War ended officially with signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, under its terms the French ceded Canada to Britain.

‘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’. Pitt the Elder, Cited in England in the Eighteenth Century (1714-1815), J.H. Plumb, Pelican, 1965

‘The French were given their old fishing rights…off Newfoundland’. For Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples therein lay one (1) piece of a jigsaw that in time sealed their fate as free peoples.

AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE  1775 – 1783

THE BACK STORY

The  Seven Years’ War more than doubled Britain’s national debt. In an effort to claw back some costs incurred during the expensive North American campaigns Whitehall passed legislation to tax her American colonists.

It proved a false move for Britain lost much goodwill by imposing import taxes on colonists, whose catch-cry had long been ‘no taxation without [parliamentary] representation’.

The [Charles] Townshend Tax Acts ignited a revolution that in April 1775 blazed into open warfare, the War of American Independence.

1775 – April, Massachusetts: Conflict between Britain and America’s Patriot colonists 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 the Patriot fight against England.

1776 – 1 April, Whitehall: During the American War legislation – the Hulks Act 16, Geo.III, c 43 — permitted men, reprieved death on condition of ‘transportation to America’ be confined in appalling conditions on stinking hulks within sight and smell of Westminster Palace.

1782: By the end of 1782 the shooting war was over. Against all odds America won and Britain lost an empire.

1783 – September, Paris: The Treaty of Versailles, signed in September 1783 brought a formal end to the American war.

Britain lost ‘thirteen colonies’; Connecticut, Carolina North and South, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia – combined with other states they formed ‘The United States of America’.

BRITAIN – ABOLITION OF SLAVERY

 THE BACK STORY

‘Between 1701 and 1810 British North America received about 380,000 slaves, the British Caribbean about 1.4 million. The trade was viewed as a pillar of the plantations and necessary to economic commercial expansion’. Richard C. Simmons, Professor American History, University of Birmingham, Oxford Companion to British History, ed. John Cannon, Oxford University Press, 1997

1713: Much of England’s prosperity was built on human trafficking. Via The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) Britain became prime mover of bodies in the infamous ‘Atlantic slave trade’.

British ships, their stinking holds crammed with terrified Africans, sailed the oceans destined for slave markets in America and the Caribbean.

Those who survived the cruel ‘middle passage’, were sold in perpetuity – their children and their children’s children.

1722: ‘Lord Mansfield made his famous judgement in Somerset’s case, by which slavery was declared illegal in this country [England]’. J.H. Plumb, England in the Eighteenth Century 1714-1815, Pelican, 1965

1783:  Progress towards abolition however was painfully slow. The anti-slavery movement led in Parliament by ‘God’s Politician’  William Wilberforce, supported by Prime Minister Pitt the Younger, was gaining momentum just as Britain lost the immense wealth of her American empire.

With Britain’s inevitable exit from the international slave trade edging ever closer English slave traders, faced with loss of income,  lobbied government to switch cargo.

They aimed to replace slaves with convicts and transport them; ‘out of the kingdom…beyond the seas’. 

WHALE OIL – ‘A lucrative and essential commodity’

THE BACK STORY

A contractor for the servicing of street lamps in London, Westminster and other towns reported in 1791 that of the different types of oil for lighting purposes spermaceti oil was the best and most carefully prepared. London alone spent some 300,000 Pounds Sterling p.a. maintaining street lamps and had by this means made its streets reasonably safe’. Harlow. ibid.

1783  – France: Post the American War 1775-1783, France emerged the only nation with sufficient ships to challenge Britain’s push; ‘beyond the Cape of Good Hope and Horn into the Indian and Southern Oceans’.

Two (2) decades earlier, in 1763, the Elder William Pitt had expressed deep anger, many English historians say insane anger, over France retaining her rights to fish for cod and whale in the rich northern waters ‘off Newfoundland’.

‘It was known that the prized sperm-whale was abundant beyond the Capes of Good Hope and Horn; and these were gateways into regions with a vast trading potential. If a whaling industry in these areas could be established, Britain could supply herself and Europe at cheap rates independently of the Americans.

The gates of the Pacific were open, and there seem to be no good reason why the whale and seal traders should not be the means of establishing a general commerce in that ocean, thus providing Britain with fresh lines of trade with China and possible Japan.

The furtherance of this plan became one of the central objects of [Lord] Hawkesbury’s commercial policy’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire, 1763-1793, Vol. 2, Longmans, 1964

1783:  William Pitt the Younger, on attaining the post of Prime- Minister for the first time (1783-1801), was intent on acquiring for Britain exclusive fishing rights in the southern oceans an area known to be teeming with sperm whales highly prized for their remarkable oil.

‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion’. The Pacific was the back door to the Indian Ocean and the China Sea and Cook had undone the lock’. Harlow. ibid.

TRANSPORTATION OF CRIMINALS: AMERICA & AUSTRALIA

 THE BACK STORY

1717: The Transportation Act 1717[18] Act 4, Geo. 1, C 11 introduced exile ‘out of the realm’ for those criminals reprieved death but considered too evil to remain ‘within the kingdom’.

‘Transportation marked a profound transition in the history of British criminal justice…Much like African slaves convicts found themselves chained below deck in damp quarters with little light or fresh air’. Roger Ekirch, Bound for America The Transportation of British Convicts to America 1718-1775, 1981

1717-1775 – America: Under the Transportation Act, fifty thousand (50,000) English criminals, one thousand (1000) annually, were transported to America between 1717 and 1775.

Regarded as a ‘severe mode of punishment short of death’, transportation was passed off loftily as ‘tempering justice with mercy’.

In reality it was a simple cheap way for government to get rid of its ‘undesirables’.

Merchants paid government, through a local Sheriff’s office and purchased; ‘a property and interest in the service of such offender for such term of years‘.

Shipping dates were tied to twice yearly Assize and County Courts sittings. This arrangement guaranteed a regular income for the merchant and his agent in America.

‘The only difference [between convict and slave] one was sold for life and the other for a term of years’. Ekirch. ibid.

On arriving in America an agent sold the merchant’s ‘interest’ in the prisoner at regular ‘slave scrambles‘, mainly to owners of tobacco and cotton plantations taking a cut of the profit for his trouble.

Some convicts, more often women, were sold off to ‘soul drivers’.

‘Soul drivers…bought “lumps” of multiple convicts…A whole shipload or a parcel and then drive them throughout the Country like a parcel of Sheep until they could sell them to advantage’. Edith Ziegler, Harlots, Hussies, and Poor Unfortunate Women, Crime, Transportation & The Servitude of Female Convicts 1718-1783, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, 2014

1775: The American War of Independence brought an abrupt halt to systematic ‘transportation to America’.

Many British  judges however showed a marked reluctance to execute so many of their fellow countrymen and continued to reprieve the  death penalty ‘for transportation to America’.

‘In May 1776 the Solicitor-General declared before the British Parliament that “when tranquillity was restored to America, the usual mode of transportation might again be adopted”. Vaver. ibid.

1776 – London: To that end legislation, the Hulks Act of 1776, allowed male prisoners be imprisoned on hulks moored in the Thames River at the very heart of London ready for shipment at war’s end.

As numbers grew fear violence and disease would escape the hulks to invade the teeming metropolis moved the city fathers to a state of near panic.

1781-82, Africa: To alleviate their fears government made three (3) attempts to ship criminals to Africa with many lives lost.

Edmund Burke in the House of Commons vehemently opposed Africa as a penal destination. His fiery eloquence won the day and further plans to ship more convicts to Africa were aborted.

1783 America: After eight (8) years of war the Treaty of Paris, signed in September 1783, brought a formal end to the American war and Britain lost her right to transport convicts there.

‘At first the British government thought that the America rebellion would not last long and that the transportation of convicts to the colonies would soon resume’. Vaver. ibid.

America had long resented receiving Britain’s convicted criminals. Congress, now independent, legislated to end the practice however Britain  ignored America’s legislature and resumed transportation.

1783/84 – America:  In 1783 Swift with one hundred and forty-three (143) prisoners and, in 1784  Mercury with one hundred and seventy-nine (179) prisoners, sailed for America.

Mutinies occurred on both ships. Those convicts who escaped from Swift at Rye, Sussex and from Mercury at Torbay, Devon were recaptured.

Found guilty of ‘return before expiry of sentence’ a few were executed, the majority ‘remanded to former orders’ were returned to gaols and hulks.

‘One other naval exploit remains to be noticed, the more striking since at the time people thought little or nothing of it. The same year which saw the beginning of Lord North’s government [1770] that was destined to lose us our American colonies, saw Captain Cook take possession of Australia and New Zealand in the name of King George III.

No one realized that a fresh continent had been secured for the British race’. George Townsend Warner, A Brief Survey of British History, Blackie and Son, 1925

1786- 26 August, Westminster: Three (3)weeks after a failed attempt to assassinate King George III, at the State opening of Parliament on the 26 August 1786, His Majesty announced an expeditionary naval force, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, would sail for; ‘Our territory called New South Wales…from Cape York in the most northern extremity…to South Cape’

1786 – 26 August, New South Wales: The decision sealed the fate of a free peoples – the First Australians.

The ‘First Fleet’ had a complement of 1500 souls, one-half convicted criminals, one hundred (100) of them Swift and Mercury survivors.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the [male] convicts…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-three (583) male prisoners, fed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies’ must be regarded as ‘impressed’.

Together with two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel and two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, officers and men of the Sydney Garrison and, four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen, the ‘First Fleet’ represented a formidable invasion force.

‘Early colonial society bore the stamp of the British military to a marked degree. Indeed the first colony of New South Wales owed its foundation in large to strategic considerations’. Grey. ibid.

FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY AND NAPOLEONIC WARS: 1793  – 1815

THE BACK STORY

‘New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India…I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales. They may be transported thither before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter‘. Anon, Historical Records of New South Wales

Britain’s conquest and occupation of New Holland in 1788 was remarkably prescient for within five (5) years – 1793 –  under Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, France and England were at war.

‘The [Pitt] administration believed that India would be the principal theatre in any future war.

Taking it for granted that India is the quarter to be first attacked, we must never lose sight of keeping such a force there, as will be sufficient to baffle all suprise’.  Alan Frost, Botany Bay, The Real Story, Black Inc. 2012

While Britain’s prestige had suffered greatly from the loss of her American Empire France, having allied herself with America’s victorious rebels, was fired with ambition.

India; Britain was not the only contender for ‘the jewel in the Crown’.

King Louis XVI also had India in his sights and, in 1785 with Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse and two (2) ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe on the high seas, the French were already making for New Holland.

ESPIONAGE – ‘To baffle all suprise’

THE BACK STORY

‘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, The Founding of Australia, The Argument about Australia’s Origins, Ed. Ged Martin, Hale and Iremonger, 1978

Prime Minister Pitt’s triumvir secretive inner circle’ of ambitious politicians, Henry Dundas, Lord Mulgrave and Lord Hawkesbury, later Lord Liverpool, were front and centre of those in the know.

‘As Henry Dundas put it in November 1784, ‘our force now, and hereafter, must be regulated by the intelligence we have of the force kept up by our European rivals’. Frost. op.cit.

A strong supporting cast included Lord Sydney the Home Secretary, Evan Nepean under-secretary in charge of espionage at the Home Office and Nepean’s mentor, William Petty arch-intriguer, a former Prime Minister, now Lord Shelburne, Marquis of Lansdowne.

Pittwater,  Hawkesbury, Nepean, Sydney, Dundas, Mulgrave, Liverpool, Lansdowne; ‘the men who founded the second British Empire during the reign of George III‘ dot Sydney’s landscape.

By the outbreak of war with France in 1793 Britain, with New Holland, had achieved supremacy over the Southern Oceans and secured alternate sea-routes to and from India, Africa, China and South America capable of providing a blockade-breaker in time of war.

1793 -3  February, Paris: Twenty-five (25) years of war began when France declared war on Britain at the beginning of February 1793.

1793 – 1815: Under Napoleon Bonaparte, following the rout of the aristocracy and beheading of King Louis XVI, the French Revolutionary Wars morphed into global warfare; ending with England’s Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Emperor Napoleon at Waterloo in June 1815.

EPILOGUE

Invasion hidden in plain sight; ‘When Deploying troops Appear not to be’. Sun Tzu

The First Fleet a large armed squadron of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, was an invasion fleet and to regard it otherwise perpetuates historical fiction.

United Kingdom Privy Council, Cooper V Stuart [1889], Lord Watson presiding; ‘it [New South Wales] was peacefully annexed to the British Dominions’.

‘And yet the troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent.

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

‘The Way of War is a Way of Deception’.  Sun Tzu See: ‘Terror’ Arthur’s Algorithm

POSTSCRIPT

‘Perhaps 20,000 in all…men of the Royal Marines were to continue to serve in Australia after 1870, until 1913 stationed aboard Royal Naval vessels based at Sydney’. Stanley. op.cit.

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