3. The Jails are Overcrowded


The Gaols are Overcrowded


What do we do?


Britain during the late 1700s was growing in power but was also in crisis. Big factory industry had grown and many small cottage industries had closed down. Common land and Irish land was taken and large numbers of people came to live in the cities which were already overpopulated.

There was competition for basic human living needs. A huge gap had developed between the wealthy landowners and factory owners, and the growing number of struggling working class people.

The crimes are more each day


The law was designed to protect life and property and it favoured the rich. The authorities responded to the crisis by making penalties harsher. People could be imprisoned simply for stealing a loaf of bread to survive.

With no welfare system or other help for the poor, many people became ‘criminals’ in order to live. Alcohol was cheap and alcoholism became commonplace.

The ruling class could not cope and exported ‘criminals’ to colonies, mainly America. When this ‘transportation’ came to an end after the War of Independence, old or damaged ships known as hulks were used as prison ships.

Terra Nullius


In 1770 Captain Cook had ‘discovered’ the east coast of Australia. He declared it to be ‘terra nullius’, which means “land belonging to no-one”, and on that basis claimed it all for England.

The War of Independence meant that no more convicts could be sent to America.

The gaols soon became overcrowded due to the very harsh laws and punishments in England in the 1700s.

One Solution


The government tried to find a solution to their ‘problem’ and called Sir Joseph Banks to question him about using Australia. Joseph Banks, who had sailed with Cook, was the expert on New South Wales and promoted NSW as the solution. He was called to a meeting with the Select Committee for Transportation of Felons and was asked a number of things about Aboriginal people: Their numbers, their weapons, would they negotiate, were they peaceful or hostile, could the land be taken over?


BANKS:                    “…it was not to be doubted, that a tract of land such as New Holland, which was larger  than the whole of Europe, would furnish matter of advantageous return.”


COMMITTEE:           “Do you think 500 men being put on shore there would meet with that obstruction from the Natives that would prevent them from settling there?”


BANKS:                    “Certainly not – from my experience… I am inclined to believe they would speedily abandon the country to the newcomers…”


The Gaols Are Overcrowded


Thousands of convicts were sent from England

From Scotland and Ireland too

To America but they won’t take them

anymore… What do we do?

All the Gaols are overcrowded

And the crimes are more each day

“There is only one solution

Take them down to Botany Bay

There is land, plenty of it

Unclaimed and fertile too

There are natives and they won’t hurt you

They’re poorly armed and their numbers are few”

Terra Nullius – no one there

Terra Nullius – unclaimed land

Terra Australis – Great South Land

Of the Holy Spirit

Should we colonise this great south land?

Would it all be worth our while?

“It is bigger than the whole of Europe

That should make his Majesty smile!”

All the Gaols are overcrowded

And the crimes are more each day

There is only one solution

Take them down to Botany Bay