‘Since Sir Young, an admiral who was intensely interested in the proposal to send the first fleet to New South Wales, did not know even in 1788 that Norfolk Island was part of the design, 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, p.107

1787 – 13 May, England: Commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN eleven (11) ships, a large expeditionary force known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from Portsmouth to invade the island continent of New Holland now Australia.

‘During Lord Sydney’s time as secretary of state, the Home Office was a clearing house. Its jurisdiction included overseeing of naval officers involved in trade regulation, secret service and special projects. As a result, Sydney crossed paths with three men who left their mark on history – Horotio Nelson, William Bligh and Arthur Phillip’. Andrew Tink, Lord Sydney [life and times of Tommy Townshend], 2011.

Captain Phillip, a secret service operative, lived in a world of intrigue. Long active in Britain’s Secret Service he acted through Evan Nepean who could be best described as his ‘handler’.

Phillip and Nepean, a former naval officer turned politician, now Under-Secretary at the Home Office, had known each other since the early 1770s.

Arthur Phillip, son of an English mother and German father, a teacher of languages, his appearance allied to fluency in French German Dutch Spanish and Portuguese made him an exceptionally effective spy.

‘We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage and experience in military affairs, do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be Governor of our territory of New South Wales, extending from the northern cape or extremity of the coast Cape York…to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales or South Cape’. King George III, to Arthur Phillip, 12 October 1786. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1

In August 1786 Captain Arthur Phillip RN had been selected to lead Britain’s invasion of New Holland. This ‘special project’ was undertaken to stymie French ambition and establish British supremacy over ‘the sea-route to Asia via the Southern Oceans’.

‘Parallel to, and dependent upon, the Anglo-French duel for command of the sea went their struggle for overseas bases and colonies…That the fighting against France in what was originally and essentially a European war should have spread so swiftly to the tropics was a result of many factors, most of them predictable’. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Fontana Press, 3rd ed. London, 1976

Britain’s invasion of New Holland, Australia, was remarkably prescient for within five (5) years Britain was engaged in global warfare the French and Napoleonic Wars 1793 -1815.

Control over the Southern Oceans guaranteed Britain secure sea-routes to and from India and Asia, a possible blockade-breaker in time of war.

‘Here too, the culminating point in a century-long race was reached, with Britain emerging in 1815 with a position so strengthened that she appeared to be the only real colonial power’. Kennedy. op.cit

Britain’s lawyers using legal tags –‘terra nullius’ – ‘vacuum domicillium’ deemed New Holland empty – uninhabited, therefore under international law of the 18th century, capable of invasion and  ‘effective occupation’ conquest. See: A Cracker-Jack Opinion – No Sweat

‘Four companies of Marines landed with the first Europeans to settle in Australia, and twenty five [25] regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870…They fought in one of 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, Kangaroo Press, 1986

Yet the Privy Council of the United Kingdom [in Cooper V Stuart 1889] found; ‘New South Wales was peacefully annexed to the Dominions’.


Britain’s objective – domination of ‘the sea-route to Asia via the Southern Oceans’ required Britain get to New Holland before the French and claim that territory ‘from the Northern extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape.

‘New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon Historical Records of New South Wales, Anon.

1788 – 18-20 January, Botany Bay: The ‘First Fleet’ anchored in Botany Bay between 18-20 January. Its complement of 1500 souls, one-half convicted criminals, was overwhelmingly male. All 1300 men – convicts, soldiers and sailors were fed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies’.

1788 – 24 January, Botany Bay: La Boussole and La Astrolabe, two (2) French ships commanded by Captain Jean-Francois La Perouse stood to off Botany Bay.

‘…his [Phillip’s] failure to invite the French commander [La Perouse] there [Port Jackson] reflect some fear that he might be known as a spy. Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip 1738-1814 His Voyaging, Melbourne University Press.

1788 – 25 January, Port Jackson: Phillip in the teeth of a howling gale quit Botany Bay in HMS Supply and made for Port Jackson. Three (3) days earlier Phillip had ‘passed between the capes [Heads] which form the entrance…run up the harbour about four miles’ to Sydney Cove where Supply cast anchor just as night fell.

26 January: At first light Phillip landed with marines and some Supply crew and raised ‘English colours’ the Union Jack of Queen Anne and claimed Britain’s victory over France .See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

‘International law had developed a doctrine of discovery that dictated the rule by which European colonial powers could claim territory around the world. Raising the flag was one of the acts recognised as an assertion of a prior claim against other colonial powers eyeing off the same land. Prof. Larissa Behrendt The Honest History Book, ed. David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, New South, 2017 

Captain Arthur Phillip RN – master mariner and master spy – had pulled off a very ‘special project’– he won the race for New Holland.

‘There would seem to be some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days’. Edwards Jenks’ History of Australian Colonies, cited Hugh E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, The Period of Trade Ascendency, Methuen, 1928.

1788 – 26 January, Botany Bay: Continuing rough weather kept the English fleet in and the French out of Botany Bay until 26 January when the English ships managed a dangerous exit and sailed to Sydney Cove arriving just on evening to anchor alongside HMS Supply.

Late that same afternoon, 26 January, La Boussole and L’Astrolabe with assistance from Captain John Hunter of HMS Sirius, anchored in an area of Botany Bay known now as Frenchman Bay. See: A Band of Brothers and Mortal Enemies

‘Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary to be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th February’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L.Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1788 – 27/28 January, Sydney Cove: Over the following ten (10 days) marines and male convicts disembarked and having found their land legs began the ‘pressing business’, unloading stores and preparing a settlement.

1788 – 6 February: The fleet’s female component two hundred and twenty-two (222) with about thirty (30) free children landed on the 6th of February 1788.

The following day soldiers with fixed bayonets herded the prisoners into in a circle, the band played music ‘suited to the business’ marines paraded with all the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war’ as Captain, now Governor Arthur Phillip RN, without consent of Australia’s First Peoples, or entering into treaty with them, claimed Britain’s ownership of and sovereignty over; ‘our territory called New South Wales…from Cape York…to South Cape’.

1788 – 7 February:  ‘We have come today to take possession of this fifth great continental division of the earth on behalf of the British people. I do not doubt that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made. How grand a prospect which lies before this youthful nation’. Governor Arthur Phillip, Historical Records of New South Wales

Britain knows and Australia knows ‘how grand a prospect’ lay before the Peoples of this ancient nation.

‘You cannot overrate the solicitude of H.M. Government on the subject of the Aborigines of New Holland. It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race without the deepest commiseration. Still it is impossible that the government should forget that the original aggression was ours. Lord John Russell to [Governor] Sir George Gipps, 21 December 1838, Historical Records of Australia. Series 1. Vol. XX


‘The Old Privy Council decision in Cooper V Stuart [1889] was based on the factual errors that Australia was peacefully settled and the Aborigines were never in possession of the land. That case was also inconsistent with the common law decisions of the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. In short, it was wrongly decided’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1994

1992:  Australia’s High Court decision (Mabo No. 2) ruled ‘terra nullius’ the legal tenet that underwrote Britain’s dispossession of the First Nations’ Peoples; ‘the Aborigines were never in possession of the land’ to be ‘legal fiction’. See: A Cracker-Jack Opinion – Your Land Is My Land 

The Court however upheld the ‘factual error’ -‘New South Wales was peacefully annexed to the British Dominions’.

 2018: How long will the First Australians have the wait before the High Court addresses UK Cooper V Stuart 1889 – ‘New South Wales was peacefully annexed to the British Dominions’?






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