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Joseph Banks recommends Botany Bay as a Site for a Convict Colony


Dear Grandpa Pencil looks at early Australian development through journals, official reports and newspaper excerpts of the day. Readers should remember that these accounts are based on personal observations at the time and some have, since, been shown to be flawed.

From the evidence of Joseph Banks to a committee of the House Of Commons, printed in the Journals of the House of Commons, recommending Botany Bay as a penal colony.

Joseph Banks, Esquire, being requested, in case it should be thought expedient to establish a colony of convicted felons in any distant part of the globe, from whence their escape might be difficult, and where, from the fertility of the soil, they might be enabled to maintain themselves, after the first year, with little or no aid from the Mother Country, to give his opinion what place would be most eligible for such settlement?

- Informed your committee, that the place which appeared best adapted for such a purpose was Botany Bay, on the coast of New Holland, in the Indian Ocean, which was about seven months voyage from England; That he apprehended there would be little probability of any opposition from natives, as, during his stay there, in the year 1770, he saw very few and did not think there was above fifty in all the neighbourhood, and had reason to believe the country was very thinly peopled;Those he saw were naked, treacherous and armed with lances, but extremely cowardly and constantly retired from our people when they made the least appearance of resistance.He was in this bay in the end of April and beginning of May 1770 when the weather was mild and moderate; that the weather he apprehended was similar to that about Toulouse, in the south of France, having found the Southern Hemisphere colder than the Northern, in such proportion, that any given climate in the Southern answered to one in the Northern about ten degrees nearer to the Pole

.The proportion of rich soil was small in comparison to the barren but sufficient to support a large number of people.

Upon the same continent there were no beasts of prey, and he did not doubt but our oxen and sheep, if carried there, would thrive and increase.

There were no tame animals and he saw no wild ones during his stay of ten days but he observed the dung of what were called kangaroos, which were the size of a middling sheep, but very swift and difficult to catch. Some of those animals he saw in another part of the bay.

There was a great plenty of fish, he took a large quantity by hauling the sein and struck several stingrays, a kind of skate, all very large; one weighed 336 pounds.The grass was long and luxuriant , and there were some eatable vegetables, particularly a sort of wild spinage. The country was well supplied with water;There was abundance of timber and fuel, sufficient for any number of buildings, which might be found necessary.Being asked, how a colony of that nature could be subsisted in the beginning of their establishment? he answered, they must certainly be furnished, at landing, with a full year's allowance of victuals, rainment, and drink. With all kinds of tools for labouring the earth, and building houses. With black cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry. With seeds of all kinds of European corn and pulse and with garden seeds. With arms and ammunition for their defense and they should likewise have small boats, nets and fishing tackle, all of which, except arms and ammunition, might be purchased at the Cape of Good Hope.

And that afterwards, with a moderate portion of industry, they might undoubtedly, maintain themselves without any assistance from England.

He recommended sending a large number of persons, two or three hundred at least.

Their escape would be very difficult, as the country was far distant from any part of the globe inhabited by Europeans.

And, being asked, whether the Mother Country was likely to reap any benefit from a colony established at Botany Bay? he replied, if the people formed among themselves a civil
Government,they would necessarily increase and find occasion for many European commodities

It was not to be doubted, that a tract of land such as New Holland, which was larger than Europe, would furnish matter of advantageous return...

Your committee, having gone through every matter that was referred to their consideration came to the following resolutions:

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, That some alteration should be made in the laws respecting the maintenance and employment of felons, confined by sentence of imprisonment, or by sentence of imprisonment and hard labour, in different places within England.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, ''That it might be of public utility, if the laws which now direct and authorise transportation of certain convicts to His Majesty's Colonies and Plantations in North America, were made to authorise the same to any other part of the globe that may be found expedient.'


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