- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1992 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Some historians have made a case for the colony being founded with the motive of opening up trade with China and South America and tapping the North American fur trade. Others have stressed the importance of whaling and sealing as a motive.
Professor Blainey has argued that New South Wales was chosen as a source of strategic materials, particularly mast timber from Norfolk Island and flax from New Zealand for ropes and sails. As far back as 1817 some historians have believed that there were other motives and influences than the transportation of convicts taken into account when the decision was taken to establish the colony. Strangely this whole debate which has been particularly active in the last 30-40 years has drawn little or no publicity.
In conclusion, as I have said before, if Britain was solely concerned with the criminal population why choose Botany Bay? There must have been some reason or reasons to prefer Botany Bay to somewhere else. The unknown country, the distance, the length of journey and the sensitive lines of communication and the high cost must have been taken into consideration. Documents exist that more than balance the document on which the colony concept is based.
In view of all this the proposition that the colony was founded only to rid Britain of convicts becomes a nonsense. All the evidence points to the underlying reasons being the necessity to form a colony quickly to forestall its annexation by another European power, the colony’s location from a commercial and strategic point of view and its potential to absorb and utilise a large number of convicts. The terms “convict colony” and “penal colony” are simply not correct and the so-called convict colony concept is fallacious. New South Wales was established as a normal British colony.
I think that it is about time that we accept statements from people who should know. Phillip said in his first despatch “this country will prove the most valuable acquisition that Great Britain ever made”, and Captain David Collins the Judge Advocate in his book “An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales” published in 1798 said “Great Britain alone has followed up the discoveries she has made in this country by at once establishing in it a regular colony and civil government”.