A TALE OF TWO CITIES: 1759 QUEBEC, NEW FRANCE & 1788 SYDNEY, NEW HOLLAND – CAPTAIN JAMES C00K AND LOUIS ANTIONE DE BOUGAINVILLE

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

1788 – Australia: Britain’s invasion of New Holland, now Australia, must be seen in context of Pitt the Elder’s ‘war strategy’.  In reality the ‘pattern set’ was not that of colonisation but of its precursor; ‘one hundred years’ of conquest 1763 – 1868.

‘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

THE BACK STORY

The North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) saw Lieutenant James Cook RN distinguish himself as a talented mathematician, a brave navigator and exceptional map-maker.

1758 – Louisberg, Canada: Lieutenant James Cook RN, recently appointed sailing master of HMS Pembroke, departed Plymouth to take part in the projected capture of Louisberg, but his ship was so badly damaged on its stormy passage from England to Canada it failed to reach the battle sector.

1758 – Canada, Nova Scotia: Halifax, England’s principal naval base in Canada, proved an ideal spot from where to mount a 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’. Arthur Herman, To Rule The Waves, Hodder and Stoughton, 2005

James Cook was destined to enter world affairs by way of the St Lawrence River.

‘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’. Herman. ibid

1759: Quebec:  But early in 1759 Britain’s attack plans for Quebec were compromised; ‘by an enterprising French army officer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville [who] intercepted documents detailing the Amherst [British] 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

Cook, prior to the projected assault on Quebec, was among several navigators tasked to re-survey the St Lawrence River. He employed his advanced mapping techniques during extensive night surveys, sorties that revealed the river’s advantages as well as its many pitfalls.

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

1759 – 12 September, Quebec:  Navy vessels with muffled oars ferried General James Wolfe’s land forces, unobserved without incident, up the St Lawrence River.

Before it was fully light the Heights of Abraham had been scaled and high ground achieved. The French army,  commanded by General Louis-Joseph Montcalm, defending open plains below, were cut to pieces by cannon fire concentrated from above.

1759 – 13 /14 September: In the carnage both Generals, Wolfe on 13 September and Montcalm next 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 satisfactory truce. He arranged for 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 French possession’ would never be enough for Prime Minister William Pitt.

‘We retain nothing, although we have conquered everything’.  Pitt the Elder, cited, England in the Eighteenth Century (1714-1815), J.H. Plumb, Pelican, 1965

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

‘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’. Plumb. ibid.

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

Prime Minister Pitt’s dissatisfaction with the 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, 2001

Some English historians regard Pitt’s obsession with Newfoundland’s fishery an early manifestation of his later documented ‘insanity’.

Britain’s wide-ranging participation in the Seven Years’ War increased substantially her national debt. Westminster passed legislation to tax American colonists in an effort to claw back some costs incurred during England’s North American campaigns.

Imposing import taxes on those whose catch-cry had long been ‘no taxation without representation’ cost England much good-will. The [Charles] Townshend Tax Acts ignited a revolution that blazed into open warfare between Britain and her colonists.

WAR OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE 1775 to 1783 

1775 – Lexington, Massachusetts: The Seven Years’ War morphed into the American War of Independence 1775-1783. That conflict, between England and her thirteen (13) ‘middle colonies’, began at Lexington in April, 1775.

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

America’s Patriots, led by General George Washington, fought for independence from Britain. France and later Spain joined Washington’s fight against England.

1782: By the end of 1782 the shooting war over; against all odds America won the war and Britain lost her ’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 thirteen (13) colonies; Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

America, now a free-trade nation with enormous potential, was free to exploit trade routes in whatever latitudes she chose. Unlike England, constrained as she was by her own institutions, principally the British East India Company established in 1600 by Tudor Elizabeth.

1783: Britain post 1783 stood in danger of being squeezed out of the coveted Newfoundland fisheries and not only by her traditional enemies France and Spain.

NEW HOLLAND –  ENGLAND &  JAMES COOK

‘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’.  Discovery, The Quest of the Great South Land, Miriam Estensen, 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 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 begin a search for the British Admiralty’s shadowy Great South Land’.

‘During the 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

1770 – April, Botany Bay: Cook ‘discovered’ not the Great South Land, a myth he would put to rest on his second voyage to Antarctic waters (1772-1775) but, in 1770, the eastern coast of New Holland the planet’s largest island 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 the ‘Union Flag’ and, on 22 August 1770, claimed for Britain ‘discovery’ of the entire eastern coast of the island continent from ‘Cape York to South Cape’. See: A Cracker Jack Opinion – No Sweat

‘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, Discovery, The Search For The Great South Land. ibid.

1779 – London: In 1779 Joseph Banks the Royal Society’s celebrated botanist, who accompanied Cook on Endeavour, was invited to brief government on New Holland .

‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion’.  Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire 1763-1793. ibid.

And not only Britain, France having lost Canada was also seeking ‘overseas expansion’.

NEW HOLLAND – FRANCE  &  ANTOINE DE BOUGAINVILLE

1766 – December, Brest: Louis-Antione de Bougainville, following France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War, switched from army to navy. As 1766 came to a close he sailed from Brest Harbour on a voyage of exploration.

Bougainville’s voyage in Boudeuse, accompanied by Etoile a support vessel, took him into the South Pacific where he investigated many places of interest for future colonial expansion. Amongst these Samoa, Vanuata, Tahiti and Mauritius.

On his return passage, by way of New Guinea, the Moluccas and Java, Bougainville sailed along and charted the Great Barrier Reef. But unlike Cook Bougainville did not land and mark French presence.

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 a member of Britain’s Royal Society was held in high esteem among England’s scientific elite. A mathematician of note, on the eve of the Seven Years’ War he read an important paper on calculus before fellow members of that Society.

1771 – France:  An account of Bougainville’s extensive South Pacific voyage, ‘A Voyage Round the World ‘ published in 1771, was immediately translated into English and rushed into print.

[Bougainville’s book] raised the stakes in the race to see who would open up the Pacific first’. Arthur Herman. ibid.

The race for New Holland was on. But 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 Boussoule 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.’ Australian Discovery and Exploration, Michael Cannon, 1987.

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

1785 – France: At the time of La Perouse’s departure in August 1785 Phillip, in secret service mode, was spying in France. It is highly likely shrouded in shadow he watched as La Perouse guided his ships out of Brest Harbour into stormy seas.

‘AN EMPIRE IN THE SOUTH’

‘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: Via the Treaty of Paris, September 1783, Britain not only lost her American colonies but also her off-shore prison there.

Joseph Banks was again consulted on his knowledge of Botany Bay and its potential to replace America in general and as a place of exile.

On the latter issue Banks responded with unrestrained enthusiasm; ‘ideal climate…escape difficult…return impossible’.

1786:  Post the War of Independence (1775 – 1783) apart from loss of extensive and valuable territory Britain had many pressing problems.

Looming abolition of slavery; restrictive trade practices imposed by the powerful East India Company on any expansion of existing trade that might threaten share-holder profits; an ever increasing army of criminals sentenced for exile ‘out of the kingdom’ but with nowhere to go.

Most pressing of all war with France was looming. Britain had an urgent need to extend and consolidate her sea power by dominating alternate routes to India, Africa and China via the southern oceans.

1786 – New Holland:  Government attention turned in earnest to New Holland. Joseph Banks consulted yet again, assured Prime Minister Pitt’s ‘inner circle of government‘, a military and naval presence at Botany Bay was key to relieving many of England’s pressures.

In addition Britain would acquire and exploit a fresh source of cheap whale oil.

‘If a whaling industry in these areas could be established, Britain could supply herself and Europe at cheap rates independently of the Americans. In the wake of whalers other British traders [solutions] would follow’. Vincent T. Harlow. Vol. 2. ibid.

At this point -1786 – perhaps with some angst from young Prime Minister William Pitt, son of the Elder Pitt, lingering from the earlier ‘Newfoundland fisheries‘ affair (1763), may 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’. Harlow. ibid.

1786 – London: New Holland ‘an empire in the south‘ was set fair to replace America.

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

Arthur Phillip’s was a political appointment. Documentary evidence confirms government, not Lord Howe First Lord of the Admiralty, chose Captain Phillip to invade and conquer New Holland.

Phillip was given over-all command of a large armed expeditionary squadron comprised 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-east coast of New Holland with its complement, upwards of 1500 souls, 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, were 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 First Fleet.

These vessels carried twenty (20) officials, two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, thirty-one (31) marine wives, thirty (30) free children and approximately seven hundred and fifty (750) convicted criminals.

‘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 fleet’s five hundred and eight (580) male prisoners, many near the end of their sentence, were rationed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies‘.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the 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.

Regarded by the Navy Board as ‘impressed’ male convicts were available for combat in support of paid professional soldiers.

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: Within thirty-six (36) hours between 18-20 January 1788 all ‘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 British Colonial Policy, Hugh E. Egerton, Menthuen, 1928.

1788 – 23 January, Botany Bay: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, King Louis’ ships under command of Captain Jean-Francoise La Perouse, appeared in the entrance to Botany Bay but heavy weather forced them south to shelter at Sutherland.

‘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 – 24 January, Port Jackson: Hidden in fog and sea-mist HMS Supply with Phillip aboard quit Botany Bay sailing nine (9) miles (14km) north to the safety of Sydney Cove deep within Port Jackson.

Guarded by towering sand-stone headlands Sydney Cove provided; ‘perfect security for a thousand ships of the line’  Phillip ordered the fleet follow Supply there when weather permitted.

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: With the fleet assembled on 26 January Captain, now Governor Arthur Phillip RN, ‘raised English colours [using] a form of words’ declared victory over King Louis XVI and France.

‘…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.

1788 – 7 February, Sydney Cove:  Conquest ‘without consent’ of its First Peoples, 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’.

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

Names of Prime Minister Pitt’s ‘ secretive…inner circle’ and their cronies are writ large on Sydney’s landscape; Hawkesbury, PIttwater, Liverpool, Dundas, Lansdowne, Mulgrave, Nepean and Sydney itself.

The Blue Mountains – Arthur Phillip named Lansdowne and Carmarthan Hills – all names of privileged powerful politicians climbing Westminster’s lucrative ladder of influence.

1793: Within five (5) years – 1793 – Britain was enmeshed in a generation of global warfare; join the dots and the ‘exact purposes’ for Britain’s invasion of New Holland becomes crystal clear;

‘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

It is time to position European Australia where it belongs; in the context of Europe’s ancient religious enmities, shifting political alliances, competing territorial expansion and, post conflict, compounding economic and humanitarian crises.

Britain’s invasion of New Holland did not take place in a vacuum. New Holland was all about war; Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763), American War of Independence (1775 – 1783) and Napoleonic Wars.

1793 to 1815, Europe: Twenty-five (25) years of conflict, broadly the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, began in February 1793 when France declared war on Britain and ended with Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in June 1815.

1788 to 1870, Australia: Eighty-two (82) years ‘in action….they [British infantry] fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire…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.

Twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry…served in the colonies [they] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, The British Army in Australia, 1788 – 1870,  Kangaroo Press, 1986

Conquest: Justice demands Britain claim not only the invasion of New Holland but also the military campaign that saw the near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

Australia’s First Nations’ War is the only war for which Australians have no stomach. See: Arthur’s Algorithm – ‘Infuse Universal Terror’ – Open Sesame – ‘Put ten to death…bring in the heads of the slain’.

Fair Go: Britain and Australia share many traditions most entrenched the habit of war. A dialogue of truth between Britain and Australia needs to take place if Australia is ever to become the nation of our rhetoric.

EPILOGUE

‘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’. Stanley. ibid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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