‘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 a ‘Second British Empire’. Together they led to the invasion of the island continent.

Externally, inevitable war with France, internally impending abolition of slavery, an avalanche of homeless starving unemployed paupers, rising street crime and, an army of convicted criminals 10,000 strong confined on prison-ships moored along the River Thames at the very heart of London.

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 for ‘transportation to America’, be confined in appalling conditions on stinking hulks within sight and smell of Westminster Palace.

1786 – 2 August, London: An attempt was made to assassinate King George III in early August 1786.

1786 – 26 August, London: Three (3) weeks later King George III, at the State opening of Parliament on 26th August 1786, announced his government’s decision to dispatch a large armed expeditionary naval force of eleven (11) ships, the ‘First Fleet’, to invade New Holland situated in the southern oceans.

That decision sealed the fate of Australia’s First Nations’ People.

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


1786: In 1786 Britain teetered on a precipice, internal revolt and twenty-five (25) years of global warfare (1793-1815).

1793: In 1793, within five years of landing at Botany Bay and, claiming the entire east coast of New Holland from; ‘Cape York in the most northern extremity…to South Cape’, Britain was at war with France.

Enter Napoleon Bonaparte and conflict escalated into global warfare. Britain gathered many enemies, including the Dutch, Spain and newly independent United States of America.

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

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

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

Britain’s international prestige suffered from the loss of her American Empire via the War of Independence 1775-1783. France by contrast had aligned with America’s victorious rebels. Success fueled 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.

Espionage and secrecy 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, William Petty arch-intriguer, a former Prime Minister, 2nd Earl Shellburne, Marquis of 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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