The outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775 meant that the British government could no longer ship its convicts to North America. The hulks were established as a short-term fix, and when, at the end of the war, it became clear that North America was no longer an option, public officials began to look elsewhere. In August 1786, the Pitt administration settled on Botany Bay, on the east coast of New Holland, half a world away by sea.
From the outset, the Home Office assumed that the convicts would be transported by private contractors, in much the same way that they had been to North America immediately prior to the war - there would be a payment from central government for the convicts from London, Middlesex and the Home Counties, with the contractor negotiating directly with local justice officials for those from towns and counties. Responsibility for the procurement was delegated to the Navy Board.
Advertisements for 1,500 tons of shipping were published on the 1st of September, with tenders submitted on the 12th, when the contract was awarded to a small London brokerage, Richards & Fernie. Contrary to the claims that have been made by some historians, there is no reason to think that William Richards was the only bidder - at least two other firms showed an interest.
The fleet - which would eventually comprise six convict transports, three victuallers and two naval vessels - was originally meant to sail in November, but while the ships were ready to sail, the government found that it required a great deal more time. The ships did not finally sail from Spithead until the 13th of May, by which time some of the convicts had been on board for four months.
This section is concerned with the merchant ships employed in delivering the convicts and stores as part of the First Fleet, their history and ownership, the voyage home as well as gthe voyage out.
- Gary L. Sturgess, 2 March 2016
This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.