Invasion Day, Captain Cook’s Only Sin Was to Discover Australia.

Howard Dewhirst – The Spectator Australia

12 February, 2024

Can there ever have been such a pathetic example of historical mis-and-disinformation as the Woke claim that the discovery of Australia by Captain Cook and the subsequent landing of British convicts at what became Sydney, was an ‘invasion’? Arriving at Botany Bay on January 24, 1788, the fleet of eleven ships comprised two naval ships (with a complement of marines to become prison guards), three supply ships, and six transports. In total, some 800 convicts had been sentenced to seven years or more in the yet to be created colony. Has there ever been such an invasion fleet?

The world’s history is punctuated with what rightly are called invasions, where an army from one country marches or sails into that of another with the intent of taking control of that country. Some were successful, some were not; many are famous and their leader’s names are well remembered. The Arab conquest of Spain which began in 711 AD, was a long-resented invasion, and was eventually reversed in 1492, the same year that Columbus stumbled on the New World. This discovery of the New World was followed by a whole raft of invasions by generally small armies of Portuguese and Spanish soldiers. When it was over, most of Central and South America and the southern half of what became the USA, had been thoroughly ‘invaded’ and ‘colonised’. This military conquest and its accompanying Old World diseases. such as smallpox and measles, resulted in the near or complete extinction of many of the New World’s indigenous societies. But each invasion was different.

The first was of the Mayan Empire centred on the Yucatan Peninsula and was a long drawn-out affair beginning in 1517, accelerating briefly under Cortes from 1525, but not completed until 1697. The Aztec Empire in Mexico was attacked by Cortes in 1519 and overwhelmed two years later by his relatively small force of Spaniards with the help of indigenous enemies of the Aztecs. Much later, in 1592, Pizarro with 170 men, one cannon, and 27 horses conquered the Incas of Peru, an empire that stretched from Bolivia to Central Chile.

Were these ‘invasions’ even remotely similar to the founding of the penal colony of New South Wales?

With the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, the Pope divided the planet into two halves, along a meridional 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, awarding the Portuguese what became Brazil and much of Africa and Asia, and Spain all the rest; that is until the Dutch, French, and British ‘settled’ in the Caribbean and the northern parts of South America and eastern seaboard of North America. Not content, these belligerent Europeans invaded much of the rest of the world following the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan.

What drove this surge of exploration activity was another invasion, this time the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, closing off trade routes between Europe and the Far East. The famed Silk Road later explored by Marco Polo had existed since well before the invasion and conquest of what is now the Middle East and Western Pakistan by Alexander the Great.

Was any of this even remotely like the ‘invasion’ of Australia?

Perhaps the British and French settlements along the eastern coastline of North America… Convict transportation was used initially to provide labour, and it was the successful revolution or War of Independence that drove the British government to find an alternative location for its expanding class of convicts. The French also set up a prison colony on Devil’s Island offshore Cayenne in 1852 in what had become French Guiana, but unlike Australia it operated as a prison until 1952.

By a stroke of luck, or misfortune depending on your perspective, he arrived in Botany Bay on January 24, 1788, just ahead of two French ships. Two days later he moved the fleet to Port Jackson in what is now Sydney Harbour, leaving the French ships in Botany Bay. Captain, later Governor Phillip, as commander of the First Fleet, opened his orders from the British Crown only when he arrived in Port Jackson and, following those instructions, he sparked the process that began the making of today’s Australia. What a different history there might have been if the French had taken possession of the harbour before the First Fleet’s arrival. Certainly, future Australia Days would not have been celebrated in English on January 26. Would it have been better if say each state was created by a different Western power, a French NSW, a Dutch WA, a Spanish SA, a German NT, and a Portuguese Tasmania, each with their own foundation day and mimicking the politics of their homeland towards each other? But even if Arthur Phillip had been beaten to the post by the French, what is certain is that colonisation would happen.

What were his orders in terms of the indigenous inhabitants? Was he to dispatch his troops to conquer the indigenous population? No, he was to ‘conciliate their affections … to live in amity and kindness with them’ and to punish anyone under his command who should ‘wantonly destroy them or give them any unnecessary interruption in the exercise of their several occupations’. Hardly the stuff of ‘invasions’… Phillip wrote that he hoped to ‘give them a High Opinion of their New Guests’ through kindness and gifts. Indeed, when he was struck with a spear by an Aboriginal, he refused to have the man punished. He also decreed that there would be no slavery in this new colony, and that the indigenous inhabitants were to have the same rights under law as any other of the Crown’s subjects.

To suggest that the British descent onto Sydney Cove and elsewhere in Australia was an ‘invasion’ would require that we need a new word to describe Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia, and Hitler’s similarly unprofitable invasion in 1942. Persia’s two equally unsuccessful invasions of Ancient Greece in 490 and 480 BC, and the Crusaders’ capture of Jerusalem in 1099, each qualify as invasions, as do the multiple armies that descended on Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Huns led by Attila, Vandals, Alans, Goths and Arabs, then several hundred years later, the Mongols lead by Genghis Khan; and that is just in Western Europe and the Middle East.

In 1066, King Harold and his Saxon army rushed north to defeat a Viking invasion of England, then rushed south to die at the Battle of Hastings, unsuccessfully trying to turn back the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror. The list of invasions is endless, but does not include the activities of the First Fleet. Captain Phillip would have laughed at being ‘elevated’ into such a pantheon, as would Captain Cook, whose only sin was to discover Australia, as Columbus’s was to discover the New World, and for these ‘sins’, their statues are toppled and their reputation pilloried by those who seem to know nothing of history but the distorted Woke view that anything done by ‘white’ Europeans is automatically wrong.

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