‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire, 1763-1793, Vol. 2, Longmans, 1964

1763 – 1793: A collision of external and internal circumstances determined New Holland to be the lynch-pin of thatSecond British Empire’. Together they led to the invasion of the island continent and the near destruction of its Indigenous First Peoples.

The American Revolution A World War. Ed. David K. Allison & Larrie D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian, Books Washington, DC

What drove Britain to invade?

Externally the War of American Independence (1775-1783) and the loss of her ’empire in the west’. The humiliation of that defeat, that had been only made possible by the vast amounts of men, money and munitions France supplied Washington’s Patriot home-spun militia, made further conflict between Britain and France inevitable.

Internally the threat of revolution epitomised by the devastating Gordon Riots of 1780; impending abolition of slavery, an avalanche of homeless starving unemployed paupers, rising street crime together with an army of convicted criminals 10,000 strong, confined since 1775 on prison-hulks, moored along the River Thames at the very heart of London.

1786 – 2 August, London: An attempt was made to assassinate King George III in early August 1786 served as a trigger point that led directly to the invasion of far-off New Holland and sealed the fate of a free people – Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

1786 – 26 August, Westminster. Three (3) weeks after the failed assassination attempt King George, at the State opening of Parliament, announced his government’s decision to dispatch a large armed expeditionary force of eleven (11) ships, the ‘First Fleet’, into the ‘imperfectly explored’ southern oceans.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the [245] marines and the [583 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

1776 – Hulks Act: During the War of American Independence (1775-1783) legislation – the Hulks Act 16, Geo. 111, c 43 – permitted male convicts, reprieved death and sentenced for ‘transportation to America’, be confined in appalling conditions on decaying prison-ships  within sight and smell of Westminster Palace.

‘Early [Australian] 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 part to strategic considerations’. Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, Chapter 1, The British Period, 1788-1870, 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2008


‘While the global extent of the Revolutionary War may be astonishing to Americans today, it was not surprising to Americans living at the time…In 1781Britain was becoming overwhelmed by the effort of fighting five [5] separate nation-states around the globe, – France Spain, the United States, the Dutch Republic, and the Kingdom of Mysore in India. Ultimately, it was the events in that wider global war that led to America’s independence’. The American Revolution and the Second Hundred Years’ War, Introduction Larrie D. Ferreiro. Ed. David K. Allison & L.D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian Books, Washington DC 

1788: Britain’s invasion of New Holland was the first shot in that second Hundred Years’ World War. In the 18th and 19th centuries four (4) interlocking strategies dominated global warfare; sea battles, land battles, blockade and espionage and New Holland had every element.

1793:  Within five years of landing at Botany Bay and, claiming the entire east coast of from; ‘Cape York in the most northern extremity…to South Cape’.

New Holland, now Australia, situated in the southern hemisphere offered Britain, via southern oceans, control of alternate pathways to India, Africa, China and Spanish South America.  Sea-routes that in time of war could serve as blockade-breakers.

Britain however was not only the contender for New Holland’s ‘strategic’ advantages.

Britain’s international prestige suffered greatly from the loss of her American Empire. France by contrast had aligned with America’s victorious Patriot rebels and that success fuelled French ambition.

1786:  So France in 1786 also had New Holland in her sights. Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse with two (2) ships, La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, already on the high seas.

Secrecy and espionage became the game.

‘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

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

A strong supporting cast included Home Secretary Lord Sydney and Evan Nepean Under-Secretary in charge of espionage at the Home Office and Nepean’s mentor the arch-intriguer and former Prime Minister William Petty Lord Shellburne (Lansdowne).

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

‘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’. Extract, “W. Raleigh” to Home Office Under-Secretary Evan Nepean, 1789, Historical Records of Australia.



Did Britain invade New Holland?

1790 – 14 December, Botany Bay: ‘On 14 December 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
















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