Abbildungen der Seite
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


OF 1856.



WE who live in Islands have not to choose what or where our defences shall be. Nature herself, which has brought to our doors the waters that wrap the earth, has taught us plainly that by the sea alone shall an enemy reach us or we him. She has taught us that the sea is the gate and the rampart of our house, and the waters our battlefield, from which none can debar us, and which while we hold them, as we may, are our sure barrier against the world. If there be methods of making war at sea so effectual that they can reach and paralyze the very heart of landlocked nations remotely seated in continents; if there be means of opposing sailors to soldiers and fleets to armies so powerful that to control the seas is to coerce the land; then indeed the British Empire may be secured against all danger from without. If not; if it be that, from any cause whatever, we are found impuissant at sea, and unable by acting there to produce any impression, then the days of the British Empire are numbered.


There are such methods. They consist in stopping Supplies. They strike at the Material Resources of the enemy. They aim at Merchandise rather than at the Lives of Men. They have always proved as effectual as they are merciful. But they have been laid aside.

On land we are relatively weak. We have not and never can have an army any way comparable in point of numbers to that which any first-class Power could bring against us. Conscription and universal military service never should be and never can be established in England, unless it be by an alien invader after and as a result of the conquest and extinction of the country, as an independent statewhen indeed these islands would become as fine a recruiting ground as Germany has found Poland to be, and Russia the Cossack territory. But even if it were established by ourselves for ourselves, it would not materially mend matters. It has been said, "the English infantry is the best in the world, luckily "there is not much of it," and it is indeed because there is not much of it that it is the best, because it does not forcibly enrol those who are fitted only for peaceful avocations, and invites those alone who have the taste and capacity for a soldier's life. Most men are peaceably inclined. If we were to take the operatives from every town, every tailor from his board, every ploughman from his plough, and every clerk from his desk, we should indeed increase the numbers of our army, but it would be at the expense of its fighting power. Putting aside therefore the probability that neither conscription nor any system of universal military service would be endured, we may easily conclude that what we must be content with in land forces is a small but efficient army. One

numerous enough to cope with that of any of the first-class Powers we cannot look for and should not desire; one large enough to act as a powerful auxiliary to our maritime force, and to furnish if necessary contingents for foreign service, we may have on terms which will still make it the best in the world.

Very different are matters when we look to our great and natural defence, the Sea. On this it is as easy for us to be the strongest in point both of numbers and of quality as it is impossible on land. The mere fact that our seafaring population is far greater than that of any other nation is enough to establish this; and standing beside that fact and doubling its importance, is this other that while every landsman is not fit to fight, every seaman is fit. Indeed, if taken all round, our land population is probably less fitted than that of many other nations who lead a simpler and harder life, to undergo the fatigues and privations of war; so that the fighting power to be got out of it is less in proportion were it all drained into the army, than is to be got out of nations whose main work is on the land. But this is precisely because in a maritime nation like ours the flower of its manhood is always found in the seafaring classes. The sea has no place for any but strong, bold, and daring men, and it is of such alone that good fighters are made. To compare our land population with that of other nations, for numbers only, is therefore fallacious in one way, because a large proportion of the best of ours have been taken out of the land for the sea, while the best of theirs remain; and to compare our seafaring population for numbers with theirs is equally fallacious in another way, for seafaring is our principal business and takes our best


« ZurückWeiter »