Transportation or penal transportation is the sending of convicted criminals to a penal colony. For example, France transported convicts to Devil's Island and New Caledonia, and Great Britain to its colonies in the Americas (from the 1610s until the American Revolution in the 1770s) and Australia (1788–1868).
A convict who had served part of his time might apply for a ticket of leave permitting some prescribed freedoms. This enabled some convicts to resume a more normal life, to marry and raise a family, and a few to develop the colonies while removing them from the society. Exile was an essential component and thought a major deterrent. Transportation was also seen as a humane and productive alternative to execution, which would most likely have been the sentence for many if transportation had not been introduced.
North America 
North America was used for transportation from the early 17th century to the American Revolution of 1776. In the 17th century, it was done at the expense of the convicts or the shipowners. The first Transportation Act in 1718 allowed courts to sentence convicts to seven years' transportation to America. In 1720, extension authorised payments by the state to merchants contracted to take the convicts to America. Under the Transportation Act, returning from transportation was a capital offence.
The gaols became overcrowded and dilapidated ships were pressed into service, the hulks moored in various ports as floating gaols. The number of convicts transported to North America is not verified although it has been estimated to be 50,000 by Dr John Dunmore Lang and 120,000 by Thomas Keneally. These went originally to New England, the majority of prisoners taken in battle from Ireland and Scotland. Some were sold as slaves to the Southern states.
From the 1620s until the American Revolution, the British colonies in North America received transported British criminals. The American Revolutionary War brought that to an end and, since the remaining British colonies in what is now Canada were close to the new United States of America, prisoners sent there might become hostile to British authorities. Thus, the British Government was forced to look elsewhere.
In 1787, the "First Fleet" departed from England, to establish the first British settlement in Australia, as a penal colony. They arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney) on 26 January 1788, a date now celebrated as Australia Day. Norfolk Island served as a convict penal settlement from 1788 until 1794, and again from 1824 to 1847. In 1803, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) was also settled as a penal colony, followed by the Moreton Bay Settlement (Queensland) in 1824. The other Australian colonies were "free settlements", as non-convict colonies were known. However, the Swan River Colony (Western Australia) accepted transportation from England and Ireland in 1851, to resolve a long-standing labour shortage. Until the massive influx of immigrants during the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s, the settler population had been dominated by English and Irish convicts and their descendants. However, compared to America, Australia received a significantly higher number of English prisoners.
Transportation from Britain/Ireland officially ended in 1868 although it had become uncommon several years earlier.
Other locations 
New Caledonia became a French penal colony from the 1860s until the end of the transportations in 1897. About 22,000 criminals and political prisoners were sent to New Caledonia.
See also 
- Devil's Island
- Millbank Prison
- Australian history before 1901
- Convicts in Australia
- Australian penal colonies
- Convict ship
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