"And we're bound for Botany Bay"
With the independence of the United States in 1776, Britain found itself without an avenue for disposing of its more anti-social elements. In the past, Britain had transported over 40,000 convicts to the United States since 1717. Transportation had not only been used as a judicial deterrant but as a cheap means of guaranteeing labour in the colonies.
However, both the population and the crime rate in Britain had exploded by the mid 18th century. Changes were taking place in agriculture and industry, and economic hardships were faced by many of the population.
As a temporary solution to Britain's prison woes, convicts were imprisoned aboard "hulks" - ships in permanent anchorage on the River Thames. But soon these too proved inadequate for the vast numbers of prisoners. Overcrowding became a serious issue. But what to do with these prisoners.
In 1779, a Committee of the House of Commons was established. It found that over 1000 convicts would need to be transported each year to alleviate the prison crisis. After dismissing South Africa, West Africa, Canada and the West Indies, a newly discovered continent was put forward for consideration.
Sir Joseph Banks - noted botanist - and James Matra - shipmate of Cook - suggested that Botany Bay would not only make a useful naval and trading station, but also a suitable colony. It wasn't until August 1786 that Lord Sydney announced the founding of Botany Bay. And in October 1786, Captain Arthur Philip was named the first Governor.