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Taken from the AJCP Treasury Papers T1/639, Reel 3550 –
On 18 th August 1786 Lord Sydney wrote that the sloop Nautilus had been sent to explore the southern coast of Africa seeking a site for a penal settlement. The area was found to be sandy and barren and unsuitable, so it was decided “advisable to fix upon Botany Bay”.
Heads of Plan for effectually disposing of convicts, and rendering their transportation reciprocally beneficial both to themselves and to their state by the establishment of a colony in New South Wales, a country by which fertility and salubrity of the climate, connected with the remoteness of its situation (from whence it is hardly possible for persons to return without permission) seems peculiarly adapted to answer the views of Government with respect to the providing a remedy for the evils likely to result by the late alarming and numerous increase of felons in this country, and more particularly in the metropolis.
It is proposed that a Ship of War of a proper class, with a part of her guns mounted, and a sufficient number of men on board for her navigation, and a tender of about 200 tons burthen, commanded by discreet officers, should be got ready as soon as possible to serve as an escort to the Convict Ships and for other purposes hereinafter mentioned.
That in addition to their crews they should take on board two companies of marines, to form a Military Establishment on shore (not only for the protection of the settlement if requisite against the natives, but for the preservation of good order) together with an assortment of stores, utensils and implements necessary for erecting habitations and for agriculture, and such quantities of provisions as may be proper for the use of the crews.
As many of the marines as possible should be Artificers, such as Carpenters, Sawyers, Smiths, Potters (if possible) and some Husbandsmen. To have a chaplain on board, with a surgeon and one mate at least, the former to remain at the settlement
That these vessels should touch at the Cape of Good Hope, or any other places that may be convenient for any seed that may be requisite to be taken from thence, and for such livestock as they can possibly contain which it is supposed can be procured there without any sort of difficulty and at the most reasonable rates for the use of the settlement at large.
That Government should immediately provoke a certain number of ships of a proper burthen to receive on board at least seven or eight hundred convicts, and that one of them should be properly fitted for the accommodation of the women to prevent their intercourse with the men.
That three ships should take on board as much provisions as they could possibly stow, or at least a sufficient quantity for two years consumption, supposing one year to be issued at whole allowance, and the other year’s provisions at half allowance, which will last two years longer, by which time it is presumed the Colony with the livestock and grain, which may be raised by a common industry on the part of the new settlers, will be fully sufficient for their maintenance and support.
That an addition to the crews of the ships appointed to contain the convicts, a Company of Marines should be divided between them, to be employed as guards for preventing all consequence that might arise from dissatisfaction amongst the convicts, and for the protection of the crews in the navigation of the ships, from insults that might be offered by the convicts.
That each of the ships should have on board at least two surgeons mates, to attend to the wants of the sick, and should be supplied with a proper assortment of medicines and instruments, and that two of them should remain with the settlement.
After the arrival of the ships which are intended to convey the convicts, the Ship of War and tender may be employed in obtaining livestock from the Cape, or from the Molucco Islands, a sufficient quantity of which may be brought from either of those places to the new settlement in two or three trips; or the Tender, if it should be thought most advisable, may be employed in conveying to the new settlement a further number of women from the Friendly Islands, New Caledonia, etc which are contiguous thereto, and from whence any number may be procured without difficulty; and without a sufficient proportion of that sex, it is well known that it would be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders.
The whole regulation and management of the settlement should be committed to the care of a discreet officer, and provision should be made in all cased both civil and military by special instructions under the Great Seal or otherwise, as may be thought proper.
Upon the whole it may be observed with great force and truth, that the difference of expense (whatever method of carrying the convicts thither may be adopted) that this mode of disposing of them, and that of the usual ineffectual one, is too trivial to be a consideration with Government, at least in comparison with the great ob ject to be obtained by it, especially now the evil is increased to such an alarming degree, from the inadequacy of all other expedients that have hitherto been tried or suggested.
It may not be remiss to remark in favour of this Plan that considerable advantage will arise from the cultivation of the New Zealand hemp, or Flax Plant, in the new intended settlement, the supply of which would be of great consequence to us as a Naval Power as our manufacturers are of opinion that canvas made of it would be superior in strength and beauty to any canvas made from the European material, and that a rope made from the former would be superior in strength to one of a much larger size made of the latter. The threads or filaments of this New Zealand plant are formed by nature with the most exquisite delicacy, and may be so minutely divided as to be manufactured into the finest linens.
Most of the Asiatic productions may also without doubt be cultivated in the new settlement, and in a few years may render our recourse to our European neighbours for these productions unnecessary. It may also be proper to attend to the possibility of procuring from New Zealand any quantity of masts and ship timber for the use of our fleets in India, as the distance between the two countries is not greater than between Great Britain and America. It grows close to the water’s edge, is of size and quality superior to any hitherto known and may be obtained without difficulty.
In this bundle of papers you will discover a list of the tools, utensils, etc necessary for the convicts and marines intended to proceed to New South Wales.
There is an estimate for clothing convicts after arrival in New South Wales. A comment here says that allowing for death and disasters during the passage 1,000 rations it is presumed will be sufficient.
London 21 August 1786
If Government should determine to send the convicts to South Wales (sic) we beg leave to offer to undertake to convey them thither and provide what may be wanting for them on the following terms –
To provide sufficient vessels for transporting them thither and to remain two months with them after their arrivals, accommodation on board, and sufficient provisions for the voyage plus two months after at the rate of 28 guineas each person. To deliver in South Wales sufficient provisions in proportion as the troops are victualled for such length of time as may be required at the rate of 7¹/ 3 sterling per man per day. Freight and insurance to South Wales therein included.
To purchase on the most reasonable terms whatever tools, utensils, etc may be wanted, without charging any commission thereon.
Signed, Turnbull, Macaulay and T. Gregory.
31 October 1786
Mr Nepean wrote about the articles to be provided for the purchase of stock, etc for the intended settlement at Botany Bay.
The wine to be procured from the Cape de Verd Islands must be paid for in Bills of Exchange.
Livestock and grain to be procured at the Cape of Good Hope must be paid for in the same manner.
At Sava and all the Molucca Islands, from whence black cattle, goats and hogs are to be procured, a Dutch Factor resides, who is the only European usually on the island, by a compact between the Ra ja and the Dutch, the Factor controls the whole of the commerce, and it is probable that he will not permit any trade with foreigners until he is bribed. About £10 in addition to some English beer, perhaps a few dozen, will satisfy him. Ducats to the amount of £50 will be sufficient for this purpose with two or three casks of beer. The cattle, hogs and goats are to be obtained from the natives for cutlasses and firearms, and it is supposed that 200 musquets and the same number of cutlasses would purchase a sufficient quantity. Those arms might be taken from the Ordnance Department as a great number are now in the store, daily decreasing in value.
As there will be most likely occasion to keep up an intercourse with the Society Islands, from whence indeed various supplies may be obtained, about £150 laid out in small hatchets, some of them made in the Otaheite fashion, glass beads chiefly white, pocket looking-glasses, nails and gimblets, and a few real red feathers, will answer that purpose.
Office of Ordnance
28 November 1786
I have laid before the Master General and Board your letters of the 7 th and 11 th instant signifying the desire of the Lords Commissioners of His Ma jestys Treasury that 200 musquets and the same number of cutlasses might be issued for the intended settlement at Botany Bay and that 400 stand of fire arms with a proper quantity of ammunition might also be issued for the blacks now about to embark for Sierra Leona….
There is a great deal of information to be gleaned regarding the preparations for the journey to Botany Bay. There are letters from Governor Phillip, and there are such things as concerns about security on the ship Alexander.