INVASION – 1775 1783 1788 – 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 ancient international rivalries, an insatiable quest for trade, territorial and strategic advantage.

A global context: The Seven Years’ War 1756 -1763, War of American War Independence 1775 – 1783, need for fresh sources of cheap whale oil, impending abolition of slavery, exile of criminals 1788 invasion of New Holland and post 1788 yet more conflict, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815.

SEVEN YEARS’ WAR:  1756 – 1763

‘[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, a doyen of Britain’s Royal Navy, first distinguished himself in the North American theatre 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 the turbulent St Lawrence River. In early 1759 it became known Britain’s plans for a surprise attack on the province 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.

James Cook along and others were tasked to re-survey and chart the St Lawrence. Dangerous meticulous night operations assured success for a complex amphibious operation.

‘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, British soldiers and artillery were ferried without incident up the turbulent St Lawrence.

Via a steep and difficult pathway, unobserved the British achieved high ground, the Heights of Abraham. From there they could direct cannon fire directly onto General Louis Montcalm’s men encamped below.

1759 – 18 September: The French troops without artillery fought their enemy hand to hand. After three (3) days of carnage Quebec fell.  Wolfe and Montcalm died with their men.The French army surrendered. Both commanders Wolfe and Montcalm were numbered among the many dead.

1760: By the end of 1760 all of France’s colonial possessions in North America were in British hands.

1763:  The Seven Years’ War ended officially in 1763 with signing of the Treaty of Paris.

‘In 1763 England had emerged victorious from a protracted struggle with France. But the Peace, not signed until 1763, enraged Pitt and 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

Via the Treaty of Paris; ‘the French were given their old fishing rights…off Newfoundland’. Therein lay one (1) piece of a jigsaw that in time sealed the fate of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.


‘Early in the throes of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson penned the opening sentences of a document addressed to King Louis XVI of France and King Carlos III of Spain…Without the direct intervention of Britain’s adversaries, France and Spain, on America’s side, the [thirteen 13] colonies could not hope to prevail against the superior British army and navy to win their independence outright’. Larrie D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms, American Independence and the men of France and Spain who saved it. First Vintage Books, New York, 2017

The Seven Years’ War 1756-173 more than doubled Britain’s national debt. In an effort to claw back costs incurred during the expensive North American campaigns of that war. Under Prime Minister Lord North Parliament passed legislation to tax the thirteen (13) American ‘middle’ colonies.

‘No taxation without [parliamentary] representation’ wrote the lawyer and  pamphleteer James Otis. It was taken up as the catch-cry of the Patriot rebels. Imposing ‘increasingly  onerous tax duties and export duties’ lost Britain much goodwill.

Britain’s [Charles] Townshend Tax Acts proved a false move they ignited a revolution that blazed into open warfare, the War of American Independence 1775-1783.

1775 – April, Massachusetts: Conflict between Britain and some American colonists began at Lexington in April 1775. The colonists were not as one. Loyalists supported the Crown fighting alongside English soldiers.

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

The results of major battles and many skirmishes see-sawed between Loyalist and Patriot until the Battle of Yorktown.

1781 – September, Battle of the Capes – Chesapeake Bay VA:  Chesapeake was the prelude to the main event. The French Navy under Admiral Comte de Grasses out-witted a British naval squadron.

Driven off the English ships were unable to land reinforcements or any heavy artillery to support Britain’s land army leaving Commander General Charles Cornwallis’ troops vulnerable.

 1781 – October, Siege of Yorktown: The stand-off between September-October however allowed Washington time to move up and position heavy artillery. When under command of Marquis Lafayette equal numbers of experienced French regulars formed up alongside American home-spun militia they represented a formidable infantry force.

A two-day bombardment destroyed Cornwallis’ headquarters. When amid the chaos an attempted English break-out failed. Lieutenant General Abercrombie and Major-General O’Hara split their forces. Some companies fled into the surrounding hillside weakening the outer perimeters.      

14 October:  The English troop movements however did not go unnoticed. Colonel Alexander Hamilton chose a dark night to test his opponent’s strength and press Patriot advantage. Hamilton led a bayonet charge, with surprise and steel, a critical border outpost was quickly overran.

This was a signal for La Fayette to move his infantry into position. The French and Americans positioned themselves under Britain’s cannon-range allowing vicious hand to hand combat with British and German troops.

The British sued for peace on the 17th. Terms of surrender and repatriation were negotiated and agreement reached over the following  two (2) days.

19 October: The formal surrender was enacted on the 19th.

‘At 2pm Cornwallis’s 8000 survivors marched out under command of Major-General O’Hara…The troops had been issued with new red-coats for the occasion, the bands played ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ the men piled their arms. the Siege of Yorktown was over. So effectively, was the war. America had won its independence from Britain’. The Dictionary of Battles, the World’s Battles from 405BC to today. David Chandler, General Editor, Henry Holt and Company New York, 1987


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

Britain lost her ’empire in the west’. Connecticut, Carolina North and South, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia were nominated ‘The United States of America’.


‘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: The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), under its terms, 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. Once there, 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

Much of England’s prosperity was built on human trafficking so progress towards abolition was painfully slow. Nevertheless, just as Britain lost the immense wealth of her American empire, the anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce, supported by Prime Minister Pitt the Younger, was by then unstoppable.

1783: Britain’s inevitable exit from the international slave trade was 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’. 


‘ A lucrative and essential commodity….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 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

Earlier, in 1763, the Elder William Pitt had expressed deep anger, some English historians say insane anger, over France retaining her rights to fish for cod and whale in the rich northern waters ‘off Newfoundland’.

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’. Harlow. op.cit.

‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion’. Harlow. ibid.

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 so highly prized for their remarkable oil.

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.

Although Captain Cook ‘influenced the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion’, news of New Holland and an abundance of marine life was not fresh news either to the Admiralty or the Royal Society, whose President, Joseph Banks has been with Cook on the HMS Endeavour voyage in 1770.

Seventy (70) years earlier William Dampier, England’s exploring buccaneer, regarded as ‘Australia’s First Natural Historian’ was the first Englishman to map the west coast of New Holland,

‘Dampier collected quantities of plants from the tropical islands he had visited, which he turned over to the Royal Society, inaugurating a tradition of scientific observation and collection among the Pacific explorers’Lynne Whitey, Voyages of Discovery, Captain Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific, the World Beyond Europe, 1986.

Three (30) times Dampier circumnavigated the globe and twice made landfall on the west coast of New Holland. In 1688 he went ashore from Cygnet near Cape Leveque and in 1699 landed in Shark Bay from Roebuck.

Dampier published two (2) books. A New Voyage to New Holland in the Year 1699, his second reported an abundance of marine life and put New Holland front and centre of the Admiralty’s thinking and Government planning.

William Dampier did not make it across to New Holland’s east coast but without doubt, his writings were the reason Joseph Banks was with James Cook on Endeavour.


‘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: The Transportation Act 1717 [1718] 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, regarded as a ‘severe mode of punishment short of death’, was loftily passed off as ‘tempering justice with mercy’.  In reality it was a simple cheap way for government to get rid of ‘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‘. Tied to twice yearly Assize and County Courts sittings, the arrangement guaranteed a participating merchant, regular income.

‘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 a transporting merchant sold his ‘interest’ in the prisoner at regular ‘slave scrambles‘, mainly to owners of tobacco and cotton plantations.

Other prisoners fell prey 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

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

1775: The American War of Independence (1775-1783) brought an abrupt end to systematic ‘transportation to America’.

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

1776 – London: As a result Britain’s putrid gaols quickly reached capacity. Legislation, the Hulks Act 1776, allowed male prisoners be imprisoned on rotting prison-ships – hulks – moored in the Thames River at the very heart of London.

Fear that violence and disease would escape the hulks to invade the teeming metropolis moved London’s 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. A number of Select Committees were set up to advance Africa as a penal destination. But Edmund Burke in the House of Commons vehemently opposed Africa as a penal destination. His fiery eloquence won the day, 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 to America.

1783: America had long resented receiving Britain’s convicted criminals. Congress, now independent, legislated to end the practice. Britain ignored America’s legislature and resumed transportation.

1783/84 – America:  In 1783 Swift with 143 prisoners and, Mercury 1784 with 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 hulks moored in the River Thames.

Swift’s prisoners who reached America were refused permission to land. They were sold from the ship. But Mercury was forced out to sea. Her captain made for Honduras where it is believed both crew and prisoners died of disease and starvation. Some were murdered by local mahogany loggers.

In a remarkable twist of fate approximately one hundred (100) Swift and Mercury mutineers disembarked from the ‘First Fleet’.


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

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 surprise’.  Alan Frost, Botany Bay, The Real Story, Black Inc. 2012

The conquest and occupation of New Holland in 1788 was remarkably prescient. In 1793, within five (5) years of invading New Holland (Australia) Britain, under Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, was at war with France.

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

In the 17th, 18th centuries and well into the early 19th century, four (4) strategies – sea battles, land battles, blockade and espionage – dominated global warfare.

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

1793 – 1815: The war in which “W. Raleigh” sought to intervene; ‘I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large number of troops in New South Wales’ lasted twenty-five (25) years.

It began between France and Britain in 1793, expanded into global warfare, and ended in June 1815 with England’s Duke of Wellington’s defeat of France’s Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.

‘I have taken this method because I wish to be unknown…and I give my honor not a hint of it shall ever transpire’. “W. Raleigh”

Sir Walter Raleigh, Tudor Elizabeth’s favourite sailor mercenary spy, appears remarkably well informed for a man beheaded in ‘a most public and exemplary manner‘ at the Tower of London on 29 October 1618.

‘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

‘ When Deploying Troops Appear not to be’. Hidden in plain sight the First Fleet, an armed squadron of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, was an invasion fleet.  To regard it otherwise perpetuates an historical fiction.

‘The Pacific was the back door to the Indian Ocean and the China Sea and [James] Cook had undone the lock’. Harlow. ibid.

1786- August:  King George III, at the State opening of Parliament in August 1786 announced an expeditionary naval force, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, would sail for Botany Bay; ‘Our territory called New South Wales…from Cape York in the most northern extremity…to South Cape’.

‘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 ‘First Fleet’ had a complement of 1500 souls, one-half of them convicted criminals. The five hundred and eighty-three (583) male prisoners, regarded as ‘impressed’, were fed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies’.

Together with two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel, crew of HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, officers and men the Sydney Garrison were distributed throughout the six (6) troop transports and four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen, the ‘First Fleet’ represented a formidable invasion force.

‘The Way of War is a Way of Deception’.

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

To regard New South Wales as ‘peacefully annexed’ is to deny Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples Sovereignty and perpetuate a legal fiction.

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


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