chapter  1
17 Pages

The Initial Stage (1788-1809)

IN 1787, the logic of a few facts and considerations of strict economy determined that Botany Bay should be settled. The facts were that there were 100,000 convicts in England and that, of these, 40,000 were awaiting transportation. The factor of economy came in with the consideration that a convict in the hulks cost £26/15/11 a year, while he could be transported 10,000 miles for less than £20. Hence, as a Committee of the House of Commons reported in 1779, it was advisable 'to establish a colony of convicted felons in any distant part of the Globe'.l But where? America was closed, and Africa had meant extermination for the convicts. That left only the South, to which attention had been directed a short time before by a French writer, de Brosses (1756).2 He had emphasized the islands directly north of Australia, so that, when news came of Cook's discoveries on the East Coast, the topic was by no means undeveloped. Cook merely buttressed and gave hope to a trend which had been emerging, the upshot being a resolution to send convicts to the new lands of the South.3