Why did Britain send convicts to Australia?
During the later half of the 18th Century, the world was filled with war and competition for imperialistic endeavours and strategies. Economic and military gains in countries meant wealth, and wealth meant power. After the events of the American War of Independence in 1775 -1783, Britain, one of the most powerful countries at the time, was overflowing with convicts who were waiting to be shipped off. As they could no longer send their convicts to America, it was time for Britain to reiterate her power and spread their influence to another part of the globe. Hence, the decision to for Britain to send convicts to Australia was confirmed in 1776.
The apparent primary reason for sending convicts to Australia was the overcrowding of the British gaols and hulks. However, it cannot be overlooked that Australia, specifically Botany Bay, was chosen for several other reasons. Reports from Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks, and proposals from James Matra, John Call and George Young all reference to the various economic and naval advantages that sending convicts to Australia offered. It has also declared that the “decision to transport convicts to Botany Bay didn’t correlate directly to the overcrowding of the hulks, but rather was (the government’s plan) to reassert transportation as a central part of British penal practice”
Britain’s naval sources were severely endangered after the American War of Independence. Timber that was previously obtained from New England (northeastern state in America) was no longer available for obvious reasons. Flax and hemp that had previously been taken from Russia, were in jeopardy due to Russia’s sympathy for America. The Seven Years War (1756-1763) and American Revolutionary War (1776 – 1783) put the British Navy in a dangerous position. Thus, Britain set up investigations into their Royal lands and forests. Captain James Cook’s description of flax in Australia was that it was “scarce possible to get through it” (Cook’s report on October 11th 1774 during his 1772 to 1775 Resolution voyage) and the “Spruce pines which grow in vast abundance and to vast size, from two to three in diameter and upwards” were very fascinating (Cook’s report on October 11th 1774 during his 1772 to 1775 Resolution