CONVICT TRANSPORTATION ACTS
The 1718 Transportation Act gave power to the courts to directly sentence felons to seven years transportation to America instead of burning or flogging. The Act also allowed those guilty of capital offences and under sentence of death, to be pardoned by the king on condition of being transported for 14 years or life.
The Act made it clear that transportation, as well as being a deterrent to crime, was to supply a colony with a labour force.
Transportation really begins as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the Vagrancy Act of 1597. This Act authorised banishment as a punishment for those that will not be reformed of their roguish kind of life.
In 1775, the American Colonies revolted and a year later saw Congress issue the Declaration of Independence.
In 1783 Britain recognised the independence by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
Britain was no longer able to dispose of her convicts there.
It was not until 1786 that the decision was made to begin transportation again. In August of that year, after rejecting several other places, the Government finally decided on New South Wales.
The scheme was presented to Parliament in January 1787 and the Transportation Act was extended to include the proposed settlement there.