The British first decided on settling New South Wales in 1786, and colonization began early in 1788. Their motives for this are a matter of controversy. The traditional view is that the British needed to relieve the pressure on their prisons, which had intensified after losing the American colonies. Another view holds that there may have been a separate scheme to establish a stronghold for British trade in the eastern seas. The South Pacific could provide mast timber and flax, needed naval supplies. The government planned to develop an economy in the region through convict labour on government farms and by giving former convicts their own small plots for subsistence farming. The First Fleet from Britain consisted of eleven vessels carrying 730 convicts and more than 250 free persons, most of them marines. After landing first at Botany Bay, they moved northward to Port Jackson which contained Sydney Cove. The city of Sydney grew out of this development.