Again, the bond-servants formed a minority and an unimportant minority of the whole colonial population.
When this system was interrupted by the revolt of the Colonies in 1776, and brought altogether to an end by the peace of 1782, the Government decided to recommence the transportation of convicts, apparently unconscious of the extent to which they were creating a new policy. Under the new scheme not only were the majority of the colonists convicts, but they were almost entirely, for the first few years wholly, under the direct control of the Government. By an Act of 1783, the King in Council was empowered to declare any territory in the foreign possessions of Great Britain to be a place to which convicts might be transported. At the same time an expedition examined the West Coast of Africa in the search for territory, but reported that it was too unhealthy even for the social outcast. Yet to find some suitable country for the purpose became daily more urgent. With the growing humanity of the times the commutation of the death penalty grew increasingly frequent. England offered no places of confinement for the men whose sentences were thus commuted save the pestilent, over-crowded prisons or equally horrible river hulks.
Meanwhile the immediate settlement of New Holland was being pressed upon the Government. The opportunity of achieving both objects was too good to be lost, and in 1784 the scheme received the serious attention of Lord Sydney, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. In 1786 a further step was taken, and Orders in Council issued which declared the East Coast of New Holland to be a place within the meaning
- Afterwards the first Lord Auckland.
- See History of New Holland, by William Eden, 1787, p. xxx. Discourse on Banishment.
- 24 Geo. III. cap. 56.
- i.e., Australia. New Holland was the earlier name for the Colony. In Flinders' Charts, published in 1814, the name Australia was used, and Macquarie in D., 4th April, 1817, hoped that the name would be adopted. One of the earliest names given by the voyagers of the seventeenth century was Terra Australis.
- See H.R., I., Pt. II., Memorial of Matra to Lord Sydney, 23rd August, 1783.