Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/187

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173
THE MOTHER OF THE AUSTRALIAS.

here he took possession of the continent in the name and on behalf of the then reigning monarch, George the Third. After an extensive voyage, Cook returned to England in June, 1771, and reported his discoveries in Australia. No action, however, was taken in reference to his report, until the loss of the American colonies necessitated the formation of other penal settlements. Then, and not till then, was Captain Cook's report taken from its dusty pigeon-hole and perused with far greater interest than when it was first submitted. To British statesmen it seemed a merciful interposition of Providence, that a new continent in the south was thus rendered available for the occupation of their felonry, so soon after they had forfeited their American possessions by a pigheaded policy and tyrannical dictation. It was immediately decided to found a penal settlement on the delightful shores of Botany Bay. In pursuance of this object Viscount Sydney, then principal Secretary of State for the Colonies in Pitt's administration, recommended the establishment of the colony of New South Wales, and this recommendation was subsequently confirmed by an Order of Council, dated December 6th, 1785. On May 13, 1787, what has come to be historically known as the "First Fleet," consisting of eleven ships, with supplies for two years, sailed from England for the antipodes under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. The first consignment of prisoners numbered 696—504 males and 192 females—who were guarded by 212 officers and marines. Captain Phillip, with his living freight of exiles, arrived in Botany Bay on January 20, 1788. But, strange to say, though the name of Botany Bay has ever since been associated with crime and criminals, as a matter of fact the place never was a permanent penal settlement. Two days after landing, Captain Phillip,