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the threat of the British battle-fleet of the compass. But they have lost in compelled the Germans to keep to their sea endurance, and they are far more harbors, or limited them to a very re- dependent upon prompt and frequent stricted area beyond them, the whole access to their bases. And, being vastly menace of German sea-power was gone. more complicated, they need something The seas were free to British cruisers more at their bases than provisions, and British trade. The German lighter ropes, spars, and sails. A modern naval ships, von Spee's armored cruisers, base, to be of the slightest value to Emden, Königsberg, Dresden, and the a battle-fleet, must be equipped with converted merchantmen,
- these were
productive facilities of an engineering all mopped up in a few months. There order, ample enough to constitute a was nothing between any British ship manufacturing town of very respectable and her home ports. But with the situ- proportions. It must have all the adation reversed this would not have been
vantages on which the manufacturing so. A British battleship force ‘in be- town depends for a constant supply of ing,' unhurt, at Scapa in the north, and fuel, material, and labor. So vast, inother forces at Plymouth in the south, deed, are the necessities of a modern could have issued from their harbors arsenal, that it is practically impossiand stopped all German sea-borne ble for one to exist if severed from the services, and have harried the German mainland of the country that owns it. cruisers that attempted to attack our No country in the world has so many own trade. Nor could the German coaling and other naval stations as fleet have left the British fleet on its has Great Britain; but outside Great flank and gone to the open sea to pro
Britain itself there is not one naval tect its cruisers. So great, in short, was base that could support and supply a the handicap of the geographical po- battle-fleet in war. Both the American sition, that Germany, to counteract it, and the Japanese navies, then, suffer — would have had to possess a fleet twice I am discussing this from the point of as strong as ours, merely to win a naval view of their being a menace to Great equality.
Britain - from this severe disability. The present naval situation is, of Thus, altogether apart from the difcourse, altogether and entirely different. ficulties that have accumulated durA superior battle-fleet, based on the ing the past few years in employing Atlantic seaports, seems free from the a battle-fleet at all, British-sea power handicap imposed upon the German derives certain advantages from this fleet; for, clearly, a stronger battle-fleet factor of the distance that separates could not be confined to its harbors by a our bases and the focal points of our weaker force; and at first sight it would trade from the fleets materially superior seem as if, with free access to the At- to ours. In the light of these things, the lantic, such a fleet would constitute the fact that Great Britain no longer has a most formidable of all threats to Great predominant fighting fleet has a meanBritain. But there a new principle af- ing radically different from mere naval fects the situation.
inferiority to a European power: it sugModern ships have certain vast ad- gests that the difference is one, not of vantages over the wooden vessels of degree at all, but actually of kind. our forefathers. They have gained in- Yet, when every allowance has been calculably in power and in speed. They made, it remains a fact that, for the have gained still more in the facility first time in modern history, Great with which they are free of every point Britain is not the putative mistress of
the seas. The topsy-turvydom of the the first proposition, let me quote from World War has brought us no surprise Mahan’s Naval Strategy: comparable to this. Time out of mind,
There is a further conclusion to be drawn the invincibility of the British fleet has
from the war between Japan and Russia, been a fundamental doctrine of our
which contradicts a previous general imnational policy. What England owes to pression that I myself have shared, and posthe sea is a commonplace of everyday sibly in some degree have contributed to knowledge. That England, cut off from diffuse. That impression is, that navies
. , the sea, must perish instantly and ut- depend upon maritime commerce as the terly, is a commonplace of military cause and justification of their existence. science. That for two hundred and To a certain extent, of course, this is true; fifty years Great Britain has never, so
and, just because true to a certain extent, far as material provision could prevent,
the conclusion is more misleading. Because been in danger of sea-defeat, is a simple partly true, it is accepted as unqualifiedly
true. Russia has little maritime commerce, historical fact. And when I say 'in
at least in her own bottoms; her merchant danger,' I understate the fact. I mean
flag is rarely seen; she has a very defective that never, in all this period, was there
seacoast; can in no sense be called a maria time when Great Britain could not time nation. Yet the Russian navy had the face the sea-world in arms: indeed, at decisive part to play in the late war; and one period she actually did so, and with the war was unsuccessful, not because the
navy was not large enough, but because it
was improperly handled. Probably, it also III was intrinsically insufficient
bad in qualNow, we shall not understand why it
ity; poor troops as well as poor generalship.
The disastrous result does not contravene is that Great Britain no longer has the
the truth that Russia, though with little strongest fleet, unless we understand
maritime shipping, was imperatively in need why for so long she had. It has been assumed that our greatness at sea arose originally — and naturally and inevi. Here, then, is a case where a navy tably out of our greatness as a sea
was essential, though there was virtufaring people, and to our owning and ally no merchant-shipping at all out of using a larger merchant-shipping than which it could germinate. That there did other nations. And, again, it has have been great merchant marines been assumed that, as Great Britain without navies is, of course, equally was by far the wealthiest country in the true. Norway, with no navy at all, has world, her maintaining a greater navy a singularly high ratio of tonnage to was a natural and inevitable function population; and the huge leap in Gerof her wealth. But it is, of course, sim- man merchant-tonnage between 1890 ply untrue that fighting navies derive and 1909 is a not less striking instance from merchant navies by some preor- in point. For until 1909 Germany had dained and unescapable process; and not even the rudiments of a fleet that equally untrue that naval strength is, could have been formidable at sea. or ever has been, proportionate to a And as to navies being functions of country's wealth.
wealth, this surely is not in the least I shall not attempt to justify these degree tenable. People do not build statements by any complete summary fleets and ships because they can afford of the historical facts that prove them. them as a luxury. Still less do they But there are a few instances in point build them as an investment, trusting that will suffice for my purpose. As to to their conquests or their loot to pay
of a navy.
the bill. They build them only because Mexican border to the North Pole, they are a grim necessity. At least, owes its control by the descendants of this is certainly the explanation of Englishmen; that half of Africa is unGreat Britain's two centuries and a half der the flag of Britain; that India is a of sea-supremacy.
British dependency; that Australia is one of His Majesty's Dominions; that
China has been opened up to European IV
trade. England, after all, is one of the Few, if any, of the statesmen of European nations. Until quite recently England visualized the enormous scale she was as inferior in population to one of national expansion that Destiny had and another of her neighbors as she was in store for the British people. But in area. It was only toward the end of they have never failed in the instinct the eighteenth century that she became that this people had to be free to exthe wealthiest country in Europe; and pand. At every stage they. perceived although always dependent for a large that there was only one thing that portion of her wealth on the freest pos- could prevent the English being mas sible access to the sea, it was not pri- ters of their Fate: it was that the sea, marily her sea trade, but the fact that should be closed against them. They she was the first of the world's people to saw that there was but one contingency become a manufacturing nation, that that could so close the sea: it was that explained why, for a century and half, the other powers of Europe should comhers was the richest people in the world. bine to do it. There never was a posBut, of course, she could not have be- sibility that such a combination would come so without free access to the sea; be a spontaneous and voluntary moveand of all the nations that have ever ment; but it was a danger, nevertheless. been, she had the greatest interest in The ambition to govern the whole preserving this freedom. And she world is an infirmity that has obsessed needed a free sea, not only to develop the minds — noble and otherwise - of her trade, but for another purpose. many emperors and kings. But the Indeed, her trade itself arose out of that collapse of the Roman Empire, the purpose.
barbarian invasion of Europe, the slow The end of the fifteenth century, and reconstruction of a new civilization to the beginning of the sixteenth, was replace the old, the arrest of the world the age of the great sea-adventurers. trade that had existed while the Roman But, of all the countries, England alone Empire still stood - these and other maintained the spirit that had first sent causes made the business of world-conher sons afloat. Sometimes they went quest slumber, until Louis the Great as colonists — to get a freer religious or emerged from his minority in the political atmosphere than they could seventeenth century and found the get at home; sometimes they went in whole power and wealth of France consearch of wealth; sometimes, appar- centrated in his hands. His ambitions ently, for the sheer fun of the thing. taught the English the lesson they But, whatever the motive, the spirit of needed; and when, a century and a sea-adventuring, the desire for, and a quarter after Louis's failure, his politidetermination to get, free use of the sea, cal and spiritual heir, Napoleon Bonabecame the mark of the Anglo-Saxon parte, came into the same heritage, his race. It is to this spirit that the north- military genius seemed to promise sucern continent of America, from the cess where Louis had failed. But long pondering on what she had escaped un- military conquest. It was this truth that der Louis had prepared England for the safeguarded the position of England in emergency. It was during this period Europe. As it was our set policy to prethat the sea-doctrine of Great Britain vent the domination of any single powhad been formulated and had become er, it necessarily followed that, when fundamental.
the disposition to conquer showed itself The ‘Balance of Power' had become in any one nation, we were always sure the target of every modern carper at of allies, because it was we alone who the old régime. But the adhesion of could give effective help to those who England to it arose from no insane were in danger of aggression. Thus the militarism, nor from any blind devo- compulsion of national security drove tion to an old-world and corrupt diplo- us literally to make a virtue of necessity. macy. If for more than two hundred It became our rôle to stand for liberty years we stood in the way of any one and right-dealing on the continent. power in Europe dominating the rest, In the very nature of things, thereit was not because we were slaves to the fore, we could not follow our destiny pursuit of glory, not because we coveted without being a great sea-power, and the wealth of others, not because we our greatness at sea made us the arbiter reveled in the shameless chicanery of and the judge among our neighbors in intrigue, but simply because we knew Europe. But this does not exhaust the that it was all up with us if we did not. advantages that sea-power gave us. And the only way we could prevent from the earliest times sea-war has France or any other country from been the only form of war that has dominating Europe was to keep the been regulated by international law. command of the seas in our hands. This, of course, is a very large subject,
In time of peace it is usual to talk of which I cannot pursue. Let it suffice national forces, whether they are land- to remind the reader that right into forces or sea-forces, as implements of the nineteenth century the progress of national 'defense.' In war, of course, armies was still marked by unchecked there is only one use of force, and that looting and the rape, murder, and toris for an attack upon the enemy. If you ture of the non-combatant population. wish to defend your territory you will, But, for a century before that, sea-war if you are wise, attack and destroy the had been governed by the most rigid force that threatens it. At sea there are rules; and anyone - even an enemy no territories, and the traditions of sea- who suffered in his property or in his war are not, therefore, confused by the person, had access to an Admiralty military jargon of offensive and defen- court, where, if he had right on his side, sive strategy. The function of a fleet is he was sure of justice. The thing followto destroy, or neutralize the possible ac- ed inevitably, of course, from the fact tion of, the enemy's fleet. But its func- that the sea is a common highway, on tion begins and ends with this. To be which, except that they may not help sure, if either of these ends is achieved, an enemy, neutrals have equal rights the way
open for the other arm. But with the combatants. But the point the work proper of the fleet is over when is that men fighting at sea, having first the enemy's fleet is rendered innocuous. to respect the rights of noncombat
Thus, viewed politically, a navy is ant neutrals, — who, of course, did not not an instrument of conquest. It does figure in land-war at all,
were then not threaten its neighbors - except in- compelled to recognize the personal directly — because it opens the way to rights of a noncombatant enemy. It is,
I think, an interesting historical fact en from her great estate. But he will be that the English, necessarily the great wholly wrong to blame his government exponents of maritime law, and those for allowing this thing to be. The deepbest trained in its spirit, were almost the er and saner interpretation of our seafirst to insist on a similarly disciplined supremacy, while it lasted, is not that humanity on land. It was the Duke it corresponded with some such innate of Wellington, in the Crimea, and after- national pride as is echoed in ‘Britannia ward in France, who, by his practice, rules the waves'; not that it was a luxlaid the foundation of all these rules for ury which our old overwhelming wealth the protection of noncombatants, which gave us, and our present poverty canmuch later on were embodied in the not afford; not that it was a natural agreements of Geneva and The Hague. outcome of our merchant-shipping, Thus sea-war had a double influence which, when all is said and done, is as
. on the national character. It made the dominant to-day as it was before the English the protagonists of political war: Great Britain maintained a seajustice and right dealing, and it trained force superior to that of all other combithe nation in the higher humanity that nations of sea-force for just so long as insists that the horrors of war shall be her security as a nation made it imperalimited by the observance of civilized tive and this is the point — for no regulations. Nor was either influence longer. If our navy lasted long enough limited to the European sphere. To my to defeat the German effort, and if that mind there is nothing fanciful in the idea defeat left us without an enemy or a that the successive abolitions, first of threat against us in any part of the the slave-trade all over the world, and world, then the British Navy had done next of slave-owning in British posses- its work. Whether America or Japan or sions, were very largely due to the com- any other country with whom we had pulsory education that the British people coöperated to win had a larger fleet received from seamen. I need hardly than that which we had inherited from remind American readers of the in- pre-war conditions was, so to speak, a fluence of this example on the conduct matter of indifference. Surprising as of their forebears. And it is certainly the man in the street has found the an historical fact that when, after the present naval situation to be, it has, of Congress of Vienna, the old monarchies
course, been no surprise at all to those of Europe exhibited a deplorable re- who follow public events closely and action toward absolutism, - against who have attempted to understand the which the popular elements in the causes behind them. South American colonies of Spain and That the American and Japanese Portugal rebelled, — it was at the in- fleets do not threaten Great Britain stance of the British Prime Minister and here I drop the technical argument that President Monroe announced the and confine myself to the political situafamous doctrine ever since associated tion - is certainly clear enough to-day. with his name. And it was certainly be. We have no differences that we know of cause of British sea-power that, at that with either country. We have an offenmost critical time, the doctrine was sive and defensive alliance with Japan, respected.
against the world, except the United All these things are vaguely in the States; and we have a treaty of arbiEnglishman's mind when he looks at tration with the United States which, the present naval situation and sees as both nations respect their plighted how lamentably Great Britain has fall- word, is no scrap of paper, but a bond.