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Title: Sea-Power and Other Studies
Author: Bridge, Cyprian, Admiral Sir, 1839-1924
Language: English
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The essays collected in this volume are republished in the hope
that they may be of some use to those who are interested in naval
history. The aim has been to direct attention to certain historical
occurrences and conditions which the author ventures to think
have been often misunderstood. An endeavour has been made to
show the continuity of the operation of sea-power throughout
history, and the importance of recognising this at the present

In some cases specially relating to our navy at different periods
a revision of the more commonly accepted conclusions--formed,
it is believed, on imperfect knowledge--is asked for.

It is also hoped that the intimate connection between naval history
in the strict sense and military history in the strict sense has
been made apparent, and likewise the fact that both are in reality
branches of the general history of a nation and not something
altogether distinct from and outside it.

In a collection of essays on kindred subjects some repetitions
are inevitable, but it is believed that they will be found present
only to a moderate extent in the following pages.

My nephew, Mr. J. S. C. Bridge, has very kindly seen the book
through the press.

_June_ 1910.



Ten of the essays included in this volume first appeared in the
_Encyclopoedia_Britannica_, the _Times_, the _Morning_Post_, the
_National_Review_, the _Nineteenth_Century_and_After_, the
_Cornhill_Magazine_, and the _Naval_Annual_. The proprietors of
those publications have courteously given me permission to
republish them here.

Special mention must be made of my obligation to the proprietors
of the _Encyclopoedia_Britannica_ for allowing me to reproduce
the essays on 'Sea-Power' and 'The Command of the Sea.' They are
the owners of the copyright of both essays, and their courtesy
to me is the more marked because they are about to republish them
themselves in the forthcoming edition of the _Encyclopoedia_.

The paper on 'Naval Strategy and Tactics at the Time of Trafalgar'
was read at the Institute of Naval Architects, and that on 'The
Supply and Communications of a Fleet' at the Hong-Kong United
Service Institution.



[Footnote 1: Written in 1899. (_Encyclopoedia_Britannica_.)]

Sea-power is a term used to indicate two distinct, though cognate
things. The affinity of these two and the indiscriminate manner
in which the term has been applied to each have tended to obscure
its real significance. The obscurity has been deepened by the
frequency with which the term has been confounded with the old
phrase, 'Sovereignty of the sea,' and the still current expression,
'Command of the sea.' A discussion--etymological, or even
archæological in character--of the term must be undertaken as
an introduction to the explanation of its now generally accepted
meaning. It is one of those compound words in which a Teutonic
and a Latin (or Romance) element are combined, and which are
easily formed and become widely current when the sea is concerned.
Of such are 'sea-coast,' 'sea-forces' (the 'land- and sea-forces'
used to be a common designation of what we now call the 'Army
and Navy'), 'sea-service,' 'sea-serpent,' and 'sea-officer' (now
superseded by 'naval officer'). The term in one form is as old
as the fifteenth century. Edward III, in commemoration of the
naval victory of Sluys, coined gold 'nobles' which bore on one
side his effigy 'crowned, standing in a large ship, holding in
one hand a sword and in the other a shield.' An anonymous poet,
who wrote in the reign of Henry VI, says of this coin:

  For four things our noble showeth to me,
  King, ship, and sword, and _power_of_the_sea_.

Even in its present form the term is not of very recent date.
Grote [2] speaks of 'the conversion of Athens from a land-power
into a sea-power.' In a lecture published in 1883, but probably
delivered earlier, the late Sir J. R. Seeley says that 'commerce
was swept out of the Mediterranean by the besom of the Turkish
sea-power.'[3] The term also occurs in vol. xviii. of the
'Encyclopædia Britannica,' published in 1885. At p. 574 of that
volume (art. Persia) we are told that Themistocles was 'the founder
of the Attic sea-power.' The sense in which the term is used differs
in these extracts. In the first it means what we generally call
a 'naval power'--that is to say, a state having a considerable
navy in contradistinction to a 'military power,' a state with a
considerable army but only a relatively small navy. In the last
two extracts it means all the elements of the naval strength
of the state referred to; and this is the meaning that is now
generally, and is likely to be exclusively, attached to the term
owing to the brilliant way in which it has been elucidated by
Captain A. T. Mahan of the United States Navy in a series of
remarkable works.[4] The double use of the term is common in
German, though in that language both parts of the compound now
in use are Teutonic. One instance out of many may be cited from
the historian Adolf Holm.[5] He says[6] that Athens, being in
possession of a good naval port, could become '_eine_bedeutende_
_Seemacht_,' i.e. an important naval power. He also says[7] that
Gelon of Syracuse, besides a large army (_Heer_), had '_eine_
_bedeutende_Seemacht_,' meaning a considerable navy. The term,
in the first of the two senses, is old in German, as appears
from the following, extracted from Zedler's 'Grosses Universal
Lexicon,' vol. xxxvi:[8] 'Seemachten, Seepotenzen, Latin. _summae_
_potestates_mari_potentes_.' 'Seepotenzen' is probably quite
obsolete now. It is interesting as showing that German no more
abhors Teuto-Latin or Teuto-Romance compounds than English. We may
note, as a proof of the indeterminate meaning of the expression
until his own epoch-making works had appeared, that Mahan himself
in his earliest book used it in both senses. He says,[9] 'The
Spanish Netherlands ceased to be a sea-power.' He alludes[10]
to the development of a nation as a 'sea-power,' and[11] to the
inferiority of the Confederate States 'as a sea-power.' Also,[12]
he remarks of the war of the Spanish Succession that 'before
it England was one of the sea-powers, after it she was _the_
sea-power without any second.' In all these passages, as appears
from the use of the indefinite article, what is meant is a naval
power, or a state in possession of a strong navy. The other meaning
of the term forms the general subject of his writings above
enumerated. In his earlier works Mahan writes 'sea power' as
two words; but in a published letter of the 19th February 1897,
he joins them with a hyphen, and defends this formation of the
term and the sense in which he uses it. We may regard him as
the virtual inventor of the term in its more diffused meaning,
for--even if it had been employed by earlier writers in that
sense--it is he beyond all question who has given it general
currency. He has made it impossible for anyone to treat of sea-power
without frequent reference to his writings and conclusions.

[Footnote 2: _Hist._of_Greece_, v. p. 67, published in 1849, but
with preface dated 1848.]

[Footnote 3: _Expansion_of_England_, p. 89.]

[Footnote 4: _Influence_of_Sea-power_on_History_, published 1890;
2 vols. 1892; _Nelson:_the_Embodiment_of_the_Sea-power_of_Great_
_Britain_, 2 vols. 1897.]

[Footnote 5: _Griechische_Geschichte_. Berlin, 1889.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_. ii. p. 37.]

[Footnote 7: _Ibid_. ii. p. 91.]

[Footnote 8: Leipzig und Halle, 1743.]

[Footnote 9: _Influence_of_Sea-power_on_History_, p. 35.]

[Footnote 10: _Ibid_. p. 42.]

[Footnote 11: _Ibid_. p. 43.]

[Footnote 12: _Ibid_. p. 225.]

There is something more than mere literary interest in the fact that
the term in another language was used more than two thousand years
ago. Before Mahan no historian--not even one of those who specially
devoted themselves to the narration of naval occurrences--had
evinced a more correct appreciation of the general principles
of naval warfare than Thucydides. He alludes several times to
the importance of getting command of the sea. This country would
have been saved some disasters and been less often in peril had
British writers--taken as guides by the public--possessed the same
grasp of the true principles of defence as Thucydides exhibited.
One passage in his history is worth quoting. Brief as it is, it
shows that on the subject of sea-power he was a predecessor of
Mahan. In a speech in favour of prosecuting the war, which he
puts into the mouth of Pericles, these words occur:-- _oi_meu_
_to_tes_thalassaes_kratos_. The last part of this extract,
though often translated 'command of the sea,' or 'dominion of
the sea,' really has the wider meaning of sea-power, the 'power
of the sea' of the old English poet above quoted. This wider
meaning should be attached to certain passages in Herodotus,[13]
which have been generally interpreted 'commanding the sea,' or
by the mere titular and honorific 'having the dominion of the
sea.' One editor of Herodotus, Ch. F. Baehr, did, however, see
exactly what was meant, for, with reference to the allusion to
Polycrates, he says, _classe_maximum_valuit_. This is perhaps as
exact a definition of sea-power as could be given in a sentence.

[Footnote 13: _Herodotus_, iii. 122 in two places; v.83.]

It is, however, impossible to give a definition which would be at
the same time succinct and satisfactory. To say that 'sea-power'
means the sum-total of the various elements that go to make up
the naval strength of a state would be in reality to beg the
question. Mahan lays down the 'principal conditions affecting
the sea-power of nations,' but he does not attempt to give a
concise definition of it. Yet no one who has studied his works
will find it difficult to understand what it indicates.

Our present task is to put readers in possession of the means
of doing this. The best, indeed--as Mahan has made us see--the
only effective way of attaining this object is to treat the matter
historically. Whatever date we may agree to assign to the formation
of the term itself, the idea--as we have seen--is as old as history.
It is not intended to give a condensed history of sea-power, but
rather an analysis of the idea and what it contains, illustrating
this analysis with examples from history ancient and modern. It
is important to know that it is not something which originated
in the middle of the seventeenth century, and having seriously
affected history in the eighteenth, ceased to have weight till
Captain Mahan appeared to comment on it in the last decade of
the nineteenth. With a few masterly touches Mahan, in his brief
allusion to the second Punic war, has illustrated its importance
in the struggle between Rome and Carthage. What has to be shown
is that the principles which he has laid down in that case, and
in cases much more modern, are true and have been true always and
everywhere. Until this is perceived there is much history which
cannot be understood, and yet it is essential to our welfare as a
maritime people that we should understand it thoroughly. Our
failure to understand it has more than once brought us, if not
to the verge of destruction, at any rate within a short distance
of serious disaster.


The high antiquity of decisive naval campaigns is amongst the most
interesting features of international conflicts. Notwithstanding
the much greater frequency of land wars, the course of history
has been profoundly changed more often by contests on the water.
That this has not received the notice it deserved is true, and
Mahan tells us why. 'Historians generally,' he says, 'have been
unfamiliar with the conditions of the sea, having as to it neither
special interest nor special knowledge; and the profound determining
influence of maritime strength on great issues has consequently been
overlooked.' Moralising on that which might have been is admittedly
a sterile process; but it is sometimes necessary to point, if
only by way of illustration, to a possible alternative. As in
modern times the fate of India and the fate of North America were
determined by sea-power, so also at a very remote epoch sea-power
decided whether or not Hellenic colonisation was to take root in,
and Hellenic culture to dominate, Central and Northern Italy as
it dominated Southern Italy, where traces of it are extant to this
day. A moment's consideration will enable us to see how different
the history of the world would have been had a Hellenised city
grown and prospered on the Seven Hills. Before the Tarquins were
driven out of Rome a Phocoean fleet was encountered (537 B.C.) off
Corsica by a combined force of Etruscans and Phoenicians, and
was so handled that the Phocoeans abandoned the island and settled
on the coast of Lucania.[14] The enterprise of their navigators
had built up for the Phoenician cities and their great off-shoot
Carthage, a sea-power which enabled them to gain the practical
sovereignty of the sea to the west of Sardinia and Sicily. The
control of these waters was the object of prolonged and memorable
struggles, for on it--as the result showed--depended the empire of
the world. From very remote times the consolidation and expansion,
from within outwards, of great continental states have had serious
consequences for mankind when they were accompanied by the
acquisition of a coast-line and the absorption of a maritime
population. We shall find that the process loses none of its
importance in recent years. 'The ancient empires,' says the historian
of Greece, Ernst Curtius, 'as long as no foreign elements had
intruded into them, had an invincible horror of the water.' When
the condition, which Curtius notices in parenthesis, arose, the
'horror' disappeared. There is something highly significant in
the uniformity of the efforts of Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and
Persia to get possession of the maritime resources of Phoenicia.
Our own immediate posterity will, perhaps, have to reckon with
the results of similar efforts in our own day. It is this which
gives a living interest to even the very ancient history of
sea-power, and makes the study of it of great practical importance
to us now. We shall see, as we go on, how the phenomena connected
with it reappear with striking regularity in successive periods.
Looked at in this light, the great conflicts of former ages are
full of useful, indeed necessary, instruction.

[Footnote 14: Mommsen, _Hist._Rome_, English trans., i. p. 153.]

In the first and greatest of the contests waged by the nations
of the East against Europe--the Persian wars--sea-power was the
governing factor. Until Persia had expanded to the shores of the
Levant the European Greeks had little to fear from the ambition
of the great king. The conquest of Egypt by Cambyses had shown how
formidable that ambition could be when supported by an efficient
navy. With the aid of the naval forces of the Phoenician cities
the Persian invasion of Greece was rendered comparatively easy.
It was the naval contingents from Phoenicia which crushed the
Ionian revolt. The expedition of Mardonius, and still more that
of Datis and Artaphernes, had indicated the danger threatening
Greece when the master of a great army was likewise the master
of a great navy. Their defeat at Marathon was not likely to,
and as a matter of fact did not, discourage the Persians from
further attempts at aggression. As the advance of Cambyses into
Egypt had been flanked by a fleet, so also was that of Xerxes
into Greece. By the good fortune sometimes vouch-safed to a people
which, owing to its obstinate opposition to, or neglect of, a
wise policy, scarcely deserves it, there appeared at Athens an
influential citizen who understood all that was meant by the
term sea-power. Themistocles saw more clearly than any of his
contemporaries that, to enable Athens to play a leading part in
the Hellenic world, she needed above all things a strong navy.
'He had already in his eye the battle-field of the future.' He
felt sure that the Persians would come back, and come with such
forces that resistance in the open field would be out of the
question. One scene of action remained--the sea. Persuaded by him
the Athenians increased their navy, so that of the 271 vessels
comprising the Greek fleet at Artemisium, 147 had been provided
by Athens, which also sent a large reinforcement after the first
action. Though no one has ever surpassed Themistocles in the
faculty of correctly estimating the importance of sea-power,
it was understood by Xerxes as clearly as by him that the issue
of the war depended upon naval operations. The arrangements made
under the Persian monarch's direction, and his very personal
movements, show that this was his view. He felt, and probably
expressed the feeling, exactly as--in the war of Arnerican
Independence--Washington did in the words, 'whatever efforts are
made by the land armies, the navy must have the casting vote in
the present contest.' The decisive event was the naval action of
Salamis. To have made certain of success, the Persians should have
first obtained a command of the Ægean, as complete for all practical
purposes as the French and English had of the sea generally in
the war against Russia of 1854-56. The Persian sea-power was not
equal to the task. The fleet of the great king was numerically
stronger than that of the Greek allies; but it has been proved
many times that naval efficiency does not depend on numerical
superiority alone. The choice sections of the Persian fleet were
the contingents of the Ionians and Phoenicians. The former were
half-hearted or disaffected; whilst the latter were, at best, not
superior in skill, experience, and valour to the Greek sailors. At
Salamis Greece was saved not only from the ambition and vengeance
of Xerxes, but also and for many centuries from oppression by an
Oriental conqueror. Persia did not succeed against the Greeks,
not because she had no sea-power, but because her sea-power,
artificially built up, was inferior to that which was a natural
element of the vitality of her foes. Ionia was lost and Greece
in the end enslaved, because the quarrels of Greeks with Greeks
led to the ruin of their naval states.

The Peloponnesian was largely a naval war. The confidence of
the Athenians in their sea-power had a great deal to do with its
outbreak. The immediate occasion of the hostilities, which in
time involved so many states, was the opportunity offered by the
conflict between Corinth and Corcyra of increasing the sea-power of
Athens. Hitherto the Athenian naval predominance had been virtually
confined to the Ægean Sea. The Corcyræan envoy, who pleaded for
help at Athens, dwelt upon the advantage to be derived by the
Athenians from alliance with a naval state occupying an important
situation 'with respect to the western regions towards which the
views of the Athenians had for some time been directed.'[15]
It was the 'weapon of her sea-power,' to adopt Mahan's phrase,
that enabled Athens to maintain the great conflict in which she
was engaged. Repeated invasions of her territory, the ravages
of disease amongst her people, and the rising disaffection of
her allies had been more than made up for by her predominance
on the water. The scale of the subsequent Syracusan expedition
showed how vigorous Athens still was down to the interruption
of the war by the peace of Nicias. The great expedition just
mentioned over-taxed her strength. Its failure brought about
the ruin of the state. It was held by contemporaries, and has
been held in our own day, that the Athenian defeat at Syracuse
was due to the omission of the government at home to keep the
force in Sicily properly supplied and reinforced. This explanation
of failure is given in all ages, and should always be suspected.
The friends of unsuccessful generals and admirals always offer
it, being sure of the support of the political opponents of the
administration. After the despatch of the supporting expedition
under Demosthenes and Eurymedon, no further great reinforcement,
as Nicias admitted, was possible. The weakness of Athens was in
the character of the men who swayed the popular assemblies and
held high commands. A people which remembered the administration of
a Pericles, and yet allowed a Cleon or an Alcibiades to direct its
naval and military policy, courted defeat. Nicias, notwithstanding
the possession of high qualities, lacked the supreme virtue of
a commander--firm resolution. He dared not face the obloquy
consequent on withdrawal from an enterprise on which the popular
hopes had been fixed; and therefore he allowed a reverse to be
converted into an overwhelming disaster. 'The complete ruin of
Athens had appeared, both to her enemies and to herself, impending
and irreparable. But so astonishing, so rapid, and so energetic
had been her rally, that [a year after Syracuse] she was found
again carrying on a terrible struggle.'[16] Nevertheless her
sea-power had indeed been ruined at Syracuse. Now she could wage
war only 'with impaired resources and on a purely defensive system.'
Even before Arginusæ it was seen that 'superiority of nautical
skill had passed to the Peloponnesians and their allies.'[17]

[Footnote 15: Thirwall, _Hist._Greece_, iii. p. 96.]

[Footnote 16: Grote, _Hist._Greece_, v. p. 354.]

[Footnote 17: _Ibid._ p. 503.]

The great, occasionally interrupted, and prolonged contest between
Rome and Carthage was a sustained effort on the part of one to
gain and of the other to keep the control of the Western
Mediterranean. So completely had that control been exercised
by Carthage, that she had anticipated the Spanish commercial
policy in America. The Romans were precluded by treaties from
trading with the Carthaginian territories in Hispania, Africa,
and Sardinia. Rome, as Mommsen tells us, 'was from the first a
maritime city and, in the period of its vigour, never was so
foolish or so untrue to its ancient traditions as wholly to neglect
its war marine and to desire to be a mere continental power.' It
may be that it was lust of wealth rather than lust of dominion
that first prompted a trial of strength with Carthage. The vision
of universal empire could hardly as yet have formed itself in the
imagination of a single Roman. The area of Phoenician maritime
commerce was vast enough both to excite jealousy and to offer
vulnerable points to the cupidity of rivals. It is probable that
the modern estimate of the sea-power of Carthage is much exaggerated.
It was great by comparison, and of course overwhelmingly great
when there were none but insignificant competitors to challenge
it. Mommsen holds that, in the fourth and fifth centuries after
the foundation of Rome, 'the two main competitors for the dominion
of the Western waters' were Carthage and Syracuse. 'Carthage,'
he says, 'had the preponderance, and Syracuse sank more and more
into a second-rate naval power. The maritime importance of the
Etruscans was wholly gone.... Rome itself was not exempt from
the same fate; its own waters were likewise commanded by foreign
fleets.' The Romans were for a long time too much occupied at
home to take much interest in Mediterranean matters. The position
of the Carthaginians in the western basin of the Mediterranean
was very like that of the Portuguese long afterwards in India.
The latter kept within reach of the sea; 'nor did their rule ever
extend a day's march from their ships.'[18] 'The Carthaginians
in Spain,' says Mommsen, 'made no effort to acquire the interior
from the warlike native nations; they were content with the
possession of the mines and of stations for traffic and for shell
and other fisheries.' Allowance being made for the numbers of the
classes engaged in administration, commerce, and supervision,
it is nearly certain that Carthage could not furnish the crews
required by both a great war-navy and a great mercantile marine.
No one is surprised on finding that the land-forces of Carthage
were composed largely of alien mercenaries. We have several examples
from which we can infer a parallel, if not an identical, condition
of her maritime resources. How, then, was the great Carthaginian
carrying-trade provided for? The experience of more than one
country will enable us to answer this question. The ocean trade
of those off-shoots or dependencies of the United Kingdom, viz.
the United States, Australasia, and India, is largely or chiefly
conducted by shipping of the old country. So that of Carthage was
largely conducted by old Phoenicians. These may have obtained a
'Carthaginian Register,' or the contemporary equivalent; but they
could not all have been purely Carthaginian or Liby-Phoenician.
This must have been the case even more with the war-navy. British
India for a considerable time possessed a real and indeed highly
efficient navy; but it was officered entirely and manned almost
entirely by men from the 'old country.' Moreover, it was small. The
wealth of India would have sufficed to furnish a larger material
element; but, as the country could not supply the _personnel_,
it would have been absurd to speak of the sea-power of India
apart from that of England. As soon as the Romans chose to make
the most of their natural resources the maritime predominance
of Carthage was doomed. The artificial basis of the latter's
sea-power would not enable it to hold out against serious and
persistent assaults. Unless this is perceived it is impossible to
understand the story of the Punic wars. Judged by every visible
sign of strength, Carthage, the richer, the more enterprising,
ethnically the more predominant amongst her neighbours, and
apparently the more nautical, seemed sure to win in the great
struggle with Rome which, by the conditions of the case, was to be
waged largely on the water. Yet those who had watched the struggles
of the Punic city with the Sicilian Greeks, and especially that
with Agathocles, must have seen reason to cherish doubts concerning
her naval strength. It was an anticipation of the case of Spain in
the age of Philip II. As the great Elizabethan seamen discerned
the defects of the Spanish naval establishment, so men at Rome
discerned those of the Carthaginian. Dates in connection with
this are of great significance. A comprehensive measure, with the
object of 'rescuing their marine from its condition of impotence,'
was taken by the Romans in the year 267 B.C. Four _quoestores_
_classici_--in modern naval English we may perhaps call them
port-admirals--were nominated, and one was stationed at each
of four ports. The objects of the Roman Senate, so Mommsen tells
us, were very obvious. They were 'to recover their independence
by sea, to cut off the maritime communications of Tarentum, to
close the Adriatic against fleets coming from Epirus, and to
emancipate themselves from Carthaginian supremacy.' Four years
afterwards the first Punic war began. It was, and had to be,
largely a naval contest. The Romans waged it with varying fortune,
but in the end triumphed by means of their sea-power. 'The sea
was the place where all great destinies were decided.'[19] The
victory of Catulus over the Carthaginian fleet off the Ægatian
Islands decided the war and left to the Romans the possession
of Sicily and the power of possessing themselves of Sardinia
and Corsica. It would be an interesting and perhaps not a barren
investigation to inquire to what extent the decline of the mother
states of Phoenicia, consequent on the campaigns of Alexander
the Great, had helped to enfeeble the naval efficiency of the
Carthaginian defences. One thing was certain. Carthage had now
met with a rival endowed with natural maritime resources greater
than her own. That rival also contained citizens who understood
the true importance of sea-power. 'With a statesmanlike sagacity
from which succeeding generations might have drawn a lesson, the
leading men of the Roman Commonwealth perceived that all their
coast-fortifications and coast-garrisons would prove inadequate
unless the war-marine of the state were again placed on a footing
that should command respect.'[20] It is a gloomy reflection that
the leading men of our own great maritime country could not see
this in 1860. A thorough comprehension of the events of the first
Punic war enables us to solve what, until Mahan wrote, had been
one of the standing enigmas of history, viz. Hannibal's invasion
of Italy by land instead of by sea in the second Punic war. Mahan's
masterly examination of this question has set at rest all doubts
as to the reason of Hannibal's action.[21] The naval predominance
in the western basin of the Mediterranean acquired by Rome had
never been lost. Though modern historians, even those belonging
to a maritime country, may have failed to perceive it, the
Carthaginians knew well enough that the Romans were too strong
for them on the sea. Though other forces co-operated to bring
about the defeat of Carthage in the second Punic war, the Roman
navy, as Mahan demonstrates, was the most important. As a navy, he
tells us in words like those already quoted, 'acts on an element
strange to most writers, as its members have been from time
immemorial a strange race apart, without prophets of their own,
neither themselves nor their calling understood, its immense
determining influence on the history of that era, and consequently
upon the history of the world, has been overlooked.'

[Footnote 18: R. S. Whiteway, _Rise_of_the_Portuguese_Power_
_in_India_ p. 12. Westminster, 1899.]

[Footnote 19: J. H. Burton, _Hist._of_Scotland_, 1873, vol. i.
p. 318.]

[Footnote 20: Mommsen, i. p. 427.]

[Footnote 21: _Inf._on_Hist._, pp. 13-21.]

The attainment of all but universal dominion by Rome was now
only a question of time. 'The annihilation of the Carthaginian
fleet had made the Romans masters of the sea.'[22] A lodgment
had already been gained in Illyricum, and countries farther east
were before long to be reduced to submission. A glance at the
map will show that to effect this the command of the eastern
basin of the Mediterranean, like that of the western, must be
secured by the Romans. The old historic navies of the Greek and
Phoenician states had declined. One considerable naval force
there was which, though it could not have prevented, was strong
enough to have delayed the Roman progress eastwards. This force
belonged to Rhodes, which in the years immediately following
the close of the second Punic war reached its highest point as
a naval power.[23] Far from trying to obstruct the advance of
the Romans the Rhodian fleet helped it. Hannibal, in his exile,
saw the necessity of being strong on the sea if the East was to
be saved from the grasp of his hereditary foe; but the resources
of Antiochus, even with the mighty cooperation of Hannibal, were
insufficient. In a later and more often-quoted struggle between
East and West--that which was decided at Actium--sea-power was
again seen to 'have the casting vote.' When the whole of the
Mediterranean coasts became part of a single state the importance
of the navy was naturally diminished; but in the struggles within
the declining empire it rose again at times. The contest of the
Vandal Genseric with Majorian and the African expedition of
Belisarius--not to mention others--were largely influenced by
the naval operations.[24]

[Footnote 22: Schmitz, _Hist._Rome_, p. 256.]

[Footnote 23: C. Torr, _Rhodes_in_Ancient_Times_, p. 40.]

[Footnote 24: Gibbon, _Dec._and_Fall_, chaps. xxxvi. xli]


A decisive event, the Mohammedan conquest of Northern Africa
from Egypt westwards, is unintelligible until it is seen how
great a part sea-power played in effecting it. Purely land
expeditions, or expeditions but slightly supported from the sea,
had ended in failure. The emperor at Constantinople still had at
his disposal a fleet capable of keeping open the communications
with his African province. It took the Saracens half a century
(647-698 A.D.) to win 'their way along the coast of Africa as
far as the Pillars of Hercules';[25] and, as Gibbon tells us,
it was not till the Commander of the Faithful had prepared a
great expedition, this time by sea as well as by land, that the
Saracenic dominion was definitely established. It has been generally
assumed that the Arabian conquerors who, within a few years of his
death, spread the faith of Mohammed over vast regions, belonged
to an essentially non-maritime race; and little or no stress has
been laid on the extent to which they relied on naval support
in prosecuting their conquests. In parts of Arabia, however,
maritime enterprise was far from non-existent; and when the
Mohammedan empire had extended outwards from Mecca and Medina
till it embraced the coasts of various seas, the consequences
to the neighbouring states were as serious as the rule above
mentioned would lead us to expect that they would be. 'With the
conquest of Syria and Egypt a long stretch of sea-board had come
into the Saracenic power; and the creation and maintenance of
a navy for the protection of the maritime ports as well as for
meeting the enemy became a matter of vital importance. Great
attention was paid to the manning and equipment of the fleet.'[26]
At first the fleet was manned by sailors drawn from the Phoenician
towns where nautical energy was not yet quite extinct; and later
the crews were recruited from Syria, Egypt, and the coasts of
Asia Minor. Ships were built at most of the Syrian and Egyptian
ports, and also at Obolla and Bushire on the Persian Gulf,' whilst
the mercantile marine and maritime trade were fostered and
encouraged. The sea-power thus created was largely artificial.
It drooped--as in similar cases--when the special encouragement
was withdrawn. 'In the days of Arabian energy,' says Hallam,
'Constantinople was twice, in 668 and 716, attacked by great
naval armaments.' The same authority believes that the abandonment
of such maritime enterprises by the Saracens may be attributed to
the removal of the capital from Damascus to Bagdad. The removal
indicated a lessened interest in the affairs of the Mediterranean
Sea, which was now left by the administration far behind. 'The
Greeks in their turn determined to dispute the command of the
sea,' with the result that in the middle of the tenth century
their empire was far more secure from its enemies than under the
first successors of Heraclius. Not only was the fall of the empire,
by a rational reliance on sea-power, postponed for centuries,
but also much that had been lost was regained. 'At the close of
the tenth century the emperors of Constantinople possessed the
best and greatest part' of Southern Italy, part of Sicily, the
whole of what is now called the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor,
with some parts of Syria and Armenia.[27]

[Footnote 25: Hallam, _Mid._Ages_, chap. vi.]

[Footnote 26: Ameer Ali, Syed, _Short_Hist._Saracens_, p. 442]

[Footnote 27: Hallam, chap. vi.; Gibbon, chap. li.]

Neglect of sea-power by those who can be reached by sea brings its
own punishment. Whether neglected or not, if it is an artificial
creation it is nearly sure to disappoint those who wield it when
it encounters a rival power of natural growth. How was it possible
for the Crusaders, in their various expeditions, to achieve even
the transient success that occasionally crowned their efforts?
How did the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem contrive to exist
for more than three-quarters of a century? Why did the Crusades
more and more become maritime expeditions? The answer to these
questions is to be found in the decline of the Mohammedan naval
defences and the rising enterprise of the seafaring people of
the West. Venetians, Pisans, and Genoese transported crusading
forces, kept open the communications of the places held by the
Christians, and hampered the operations of the infidels. Even
the great Saladin failed to discern the important alteration
of conditions. This is evident when we look at the efforts of
the Christians to regain the lost kingdom. Saladin 'forgot that
the safety of Phoenicia lay in immunity from naval incursions,
and that no victory on land could ensure him against an influx
from beyond the sea.'[28] Not only were the Crusaders helped by
the fleets of the maritime republics of Italy, they also received
reinforcements by sea from western Europe and England, on the
'arrival of _Malik_Ankiltar_ (Richard Coeur de Lion) with twenty
shiploads of fighting men and munitions of war.'

[Footnote 28: Ameer Ali, Syed, pp. 359, 360.]

Participation in the Crusades was not a solitary proof of the
importance of the naval states of Italy. That they had been able
to act effectively in the Levant may have been in some measure
due to the weakening of the Mohammedans by the disintegration
of the Seljukian power, the movements of the Moguls, and the
confusion consequent on the rise of the Ottomans. However that
may have been, the naval strength of those Italian states was
great absolutely as well as relatively. Sismondi, speaking of
Venice, Pisa, and Genoa, towards the end of the eleventh century,
says 'these three cities had more vessels on the Mediterranean
than the whole of Christendom besides.'[29] Dealing with a period
two centuries later, he declares it 'difficult to comprehend
how two simple cities could put to sea such prodigious fleets
as those of Pisa and Genoa.' The difficulty disappears when we
have Mahan's explanation. The maritime republics of Italy--like
Athens and Rhodes in ancient, Catalonia in mediæval, and England
and the Netherlands in more modern times--were 'peculiarly well
fitted, by situation and resources, for the control of the sea by
both war and commerce.' As far as the western Mediterranean was
concerned, Genoa and Pisa had given early proofs of their maritime
energy, and fixed themselves, in succession to the Saracens, in
the Balearic Isles, Sardinia, and Corsica. Sea-power was the
Themistoclean instrument with which they made a small state into
a great one.

[Footnote 29: _Ital._Republics_, English ed., p. 29.]

A fertile source of dispute between states is the acquisition
of territory beyond sea. As others have done before and since,
the maritime republics of Italy quarrelled over this. Sea-power
seemed, like Saturn, to devour its own children. In 1284, in a
great sea-fight off Meloria, the Pisans were defeated by the
Genoese with heavy loss, which, as Sismondi states, 'ruined the
maritime power' of the former. From that time Genoa, transferring
her activity to the Levant, became the rival of Venice, The fleets
of the two cities in 1298 met near Cyprus in an encounter, said
to be accidental, that began 'a terrible war which for seven
years stained the Mediterranean with blood and consumed immense
wealth.' In the next century the two republics, 'irritated by
commercial quarrels'--like the English and Dutch afterwards--were
again at war in the Levant. Sometimes one side, sometimes the
other was victorious; but the contest was exhausting to both,
and especially to Venice. Within a quarter of a century they
were at war again. Hostilities lasted till the Genoese met with
the crushing defeat of Chioggia. 'From this time,' says Hallam,
'Genoa never commanded the ocean with such navies as before; her
commerce gradually went into decay; and the fifteenth century,
the most splendid in the annals of Venice, is till recent times
the most ignominious in those of Genoa.' Venice seemed now to
have no naval rival, and had no fear that anyone could forbid
the ceremony in which the Doge, standing in the bows of the
_Bucentaur_, cast a ring into the Adriatic with the words,
The result of the combats at Chioggia, though fatal to it in
the long-run, did not at once destroy the naval importance of
Genoa. A remarkable characteristic of sea-power is the delusive
manner in which it appears to revive after a great defeat. The
Persian navy occasionally made a brave show afterwards; but in
reality it had received at Salamis a mortal wound. Athens seemed
strong enough on the sea after the catastrophe of Syracuse; but,
as already stated, her naval power had been given there a check
from which it never completely recovered. The navy of Carthage
had had similar experience; and, in later ages, the power of
the Turks was broken at Lepanto and that of Spain at Gravelines
notwithstanding deceptive appearances afterwards. Venice was
soon confronted on the sea by a new rival. The Turkish naval
historian, Haji Khalifeh,[30] tells us that, 'After the taking of
Constantinople, when they [the Ottomans] spread their conquests
over land and sea, it became necessary to build ships and make
armaments in order to subdue the fortresses and castles on the
Rumelian and Anatolian shores, and in the islands of the
Mediterranean.' Mohammed II established a great naval arsenal at
Constantinople. In 1470 the Turks, 'for the first time, equipped
a fleet with which they drove that of the Venetians out of the
Grecian seas.'[31] The Turkish wars of Venice lasted a long time.
In that which ended in 1503 the decline of the Venetians' naval
power was obvious. 'The Mussulmans had made progress in naval
discipline; the Venetian fleet could no longer cope with theirs.'
Henceforward it was as an allied contingent of other navies that
that of Venice was regarded as important. Dyer[32] quotes a striking
passage from a letter of Æneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II,
in which the writer affirms that, if the Venetians are defeated,
Christendom will not control the sea any longer; for neither the
Catalans nor the Genoese, without the Venetians, are equal to
the Turks.

[Footnote 30: _Maritime_Wars_of_the_Turks_, Mitchell's trans.,
p. 12.]

[Footnote 31: Sismondi, p. 256.]

[Footnote 32: _Hist._Europe_, i. p. 85.]


The last-named people, indeed, exemplified once more the rule
that a military state expanding to the sea and absorbing older
maritime populations becomes a serious menace to its neighbours.
Even in the fifteenth century Mohammed II had made an attack on
Southern Italy; but his sea-power was not equal to the undertaking.
Suleymân the Magnificent directed the Ottoman forces towards
the West. With admirable strategic insight he conquered Rhodes,
and thus freed himself from the danger of a hostile force on
his flank. 'The centenary of the conquest of Constantinople was
past, and the Turk had developed a great naval power besides
annexing Egypt and Syria.'[33] The Turkish fleets, under such
leaders as Khair-ad-din (Barbarossa), Piale, and Dragut, seemed
to command the Mediterranean including its western basin; but the
repulse at Malta in 1565 was a serious check, and the defeat at
Lepanto in 1571 virtually put an end to the prospect of Turkish
maritime dominion. The predominance of Portugal in the Indian
Ocean in the early part of the sixteenth century had seriously
diminished the Ottoman resources. The wealth derived from the trade
in that ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea, had supplied
the Mohammedans with the sinews of war, and had enabled them to
contend with success against the Christians in Europe. 'The main
artery had been cut when the Portuguese took up the challenge
of the Mohammedan merchants of Calicut, and swept their ships
from the ocean.'[34] The sea-power of Portugal wisely employed
had exercised a great, though unperceived, influence. Though
enfeebled and diminishing, the Turkish navy was still able to act
with some effect in the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, the
sea-power of the Turks ceased to count as a factor of importance
in the relations between great states.

[Footnote 33: Seeley, _British_Policy_, i. p. 143.]

[Footnote 34: Whiteway, p. 2.]

In the meantime the state which had a leading share in winning
the victory of Lepanto had been growing up in the West. Before
the union of its crown with that of Castile and the formation of
the Spanish monarchy, Aragon had been expanding till it reached
the sea. It was united with Catalonia in the twelfth century, and
it conquered Valencia in the thirteenth. Its long line of coast
opened the way to an extensive and flourishing commerce; and an
enterprising navy indemnified the nation for the scantiness of its
territory at home by the important foreign conquests of Sardinia,
Sicily, Naples, and the Balearic Isles. Amongst the maritime states
of the Mediterranean Catalonia had been conspicuous. She was to
the Iberian Peninsula much what Phoenicia had been to Syria. The
Catalan navy had disputed the empire of the Mediterranean with
the fleets of Pisa and Genoa. The incorporation of Catalonia
with Aragon added greatly to the strength of that kingdom. The
Aragonese kings were wise enough to understand and liberal enough
to foster the maritime interests of their new possessions.[35]
Their French and Italian neighbours were to feel, before long, the
effect of this policy; and when the Spanish monarchy had been
consolidated, it was felt not only by them, but by others also.
The more Spanish dominion was extended in Italy, the more were the
naval resources at the command of Spain augmented. Genoa became
'Spain's water-gate to Italy.... Henceforth the Spanish crown
found in the Dorias its admirals; their squadron was permanently
hired to the kings of Spain.' Spanish supremacy at sea was
established at the expense of France.[36] The acquisition of a
vast domain in the New World had greatly developed the maritime
activity of Castile, and Spain was as formidable on the ocean as
in the Mediterranean. After Portugal had been annexed the naval
vessels of that country were added to the Spanish, and the great
port of Lisbon became available as a place of equipment and as an
additional base of operations for oceanic campaigns. The fusion
of Spain and Portugal, says Seeley, 'produced a single state of
unlimited maritime dominion.... Henceforth the whole New World
belonged exclusively to Spain.' The story of the tremendous
catastrophe--the defeat of the Armada--by which the decline of
this dominion was heralded is well known. It is memorable, not
only because of the harm it did to Spain, but also because it
revealed the rise of another claimant to maritime pre-eminence--the
English nation. The effects of the catastrophe were not at once
visible. Spain still continued to look like the greatest power
in the world; and, though the English seamen were seen to be
something better than adventurous pirates--a character suggested
by some of their recent exploits--few could have comprehended
that they were engaged in building up what was to be a sea-power
greater than any known to history.

[Footnote 35: Prescott, _Ferdinand_and_Isabella_, Introd. sects.
i. ii.]

[Footnote 36: G. W. Prothero, in M. Hume's _Spain_, 1479-1788,
p. 65.]

They were carrying forward, not beginning the building of this.
'England,' says Sir J. K. Laughton, 'had always believed in her
naval power, had always claimed the sovereignty of the Narrow
Seas; and more than two hundred years before Elizabeth came to the
throne, Edward III had testified to his sense of its importance
by ordering a gold coinage bearing a device showing the armed
strength and sovereignty of England based on the sea.'[37] It is
impossible to make intelligible the course of the many wars which
the English waged with the French in the Middle Ages unless the
true naval position of the former is rightly appreciated. Why were
Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt--not to mention other combats--fought,
not on English, but on continental soil? Why during the so-called
'Hundred Years' War' was England in reality the invader and not
the invaded? We of the present generation are at last aware of the
significance of naval defence, and know that, if properly utilised,
it is the best security against invasion that a sea-surrounded
state can enjoy. It is not, however, commonly remembered that
the same condition of security existed and was properly valued
in mediæval times. The battle of Sluys in 1340 rendered invasion
of England as impracticable as did that of La Hogue in 1692,
that of Quiberon Bay in 1759, and that of Trafalgar in 1805; and
it permitted, as did those battles, the transport of troops to
the continent to support our allies in wars which, had we not
been strong at sea, would have been waged on the soil of our own
country. Our early continental wars, therefore, are proofs of the
long-established efficiency of our naval defences. Notwithstanding
the greater attention paid, within the last dozen years or so,
to naval affairs, it is doubtful if the country generally even
yet recognises the extent to which its security depends upon a
good fleet as fully as our ancestors did nearly seven centuries
ago. The narrative of our pre-Elizabethan campaigns is interesting
merely as a story; and, when told--as for instance D. Hannay
has told it in the introductory chapters of his 'Short History
of the Royal Navy'--it will be found instructive and worthy of
careful study at the present day. Each of the principal events
in our early naval campaigns may be taken as an illustration of
the idea conveyed by the term 'sea-power,' and of the accuracy
with which its meaning was apprehended at the time. To take a
very early case, we may cite the defeat of Eustace the Monk by
Hubert de Burgh in 1217. Reinforcements and supplies had been
collected at Calais for conveyance to the army of Prince Louis
of France and the rebel barons who had been defeated at Lincoln.
The reinforcements tried to cross the Channel under the escort of
a fleet commanded by Eustace. Hubert de Burgh, who had stoutly
held Dover for King John, and was faithful to the young Henry
III, heard of the enemy's movements. 'If these people land,'
said he, 'England is lost; let us therefore boldly meet them.' He
reasoned in almost the same words as Raleigh about four centuries
afterwards, and undoubtedly 'had grasped the true principles of
the defence of England.' He put to sea and defeated his opponent.
The fleet on which Prince Louis and the rebellious barons had
counted was destroyed; and with it their enterprise. 'No more
admirably planned, no more fruitful battle has been fought by
Englishmen on water.'[38] As introductory to a long series of
naval operations undertaken with a like object, it has deserved
detailed mention here.

[Footnote 37: _Armada_, Introd. (Navy Records Society).]

[Footnote 38: Hannay, p. 7.]

The sixteenth century was marked by a decided advance in both
the development and the application of sea-power. Previously
its operation had been confined to the Mediterranean or to coast
waters outside it. Spanish or Basque seamen--by their proceedings
in the English Channel--had proved the practicability of, rather
than been engaged in, ocean warfare. The English, who withstood
them, were accustomed to seas so rough, to seasons so uncertain,
and to weather so boisterous, that the ocean had few terrors for
them. All that was wanting was a sufficient inducement to seek
distant fields of action and a development of the naval art that
would permit them to be reached. The discovery of the New World
supplied the first; the consequently increased length of voyages
and of absence from the coast led to the second. The world had
been moving onwards in other things as well as in navigation.
Intercommunication was becoming more and more frequent. What was
done by one people was soon known to others. It is a mistake to
suppose that, because the English had been behindhand in the
exploration of remote regions, they were wanting in maritime
enterprise. The career of the Cabots would of itself suffice to
render such a supposition doubtful. The English had two good
reasons for postponing voyages to and settlement in far-off lands.
They had their hands full nearer home; and they thoroughly, and as
it were by instinct, understood the conditions on which permanent
expansion must rest. They wanted to make sure of the line of
communication first. To effect this a sea-going marine of both
war and commerce and, for further expansion, stations on the
way were essential. The chart of the world furnishes evidence of
the wisdom and the thoroughness of their procedure. Taught by the
experience of the Spaniards and the Portuguese, when unimpeded by
the political circumstances of the time, and provided with suitable
equipment, the English displayed their energy in distant seas. It
now became simply a question of the efficiency of sea-power. If
this was not a quality of that of the English, then their efforts
were bound to fail; and, more than this, the position of their
country, challenging as it did what was believed to be the greatest
of maritime states, would have been altogether precarious. The
principal expeditions now undertaken were distinguished by a
characteristic peculiar to the people, and not to be found in
connection with the exploring or colonising activity of most
other great nations even down to our own time. They were really
unofficial speculations in which, if the Government took part at
all, it was for the sake of the profit expected and almost, if
not exactly, like any private adventurer. The participation of
the Government, nevertheless, had an aspect which it is worth
while to note. It conveyed a hint--and quite consciously--to all
whom it might concern that the speculations were 'under-written'
by the whole sea-power of England. The forces of more than one state
had been used to protect its maritime trade from the assaults of
enemies in the Mediterranean or in the Narrow Seas. They had
been used to ward off invasion and to keep open communications
across not very extensive areas of water. In the sixteenth century
they were first relied upon to support distant commerce, whether
carried on in a peaceful fashion or under aggressive forms. This,
naturally enough, led to collisions. The contention waxed hot,
and was virtually decided when the Armada shaped course to the
northward after the fight off Gravelines.

The expeditions against the Spanish Indies and, still more, those
against Philip II's peninsular territory, had helped to define
the limitations of sea-power. It became evident, and it was made
still more evident in the next century, that for a great country
to be strong it must not rely upon a navy alone. It must also have
an adequate and properly organised mobile army. Notwithstanding
the number of times that this lesson has been repeated, we have
been slow to learn it. It is doubtful if we have learned it even
yet. English seamen in all ages seem to have mastered it fully;
for they have always demanded--at any rate for upwards of three
centuries--that expeditions against foreign territory over-sea
should be accompanied by a proper number of land-troops. On the
other hand, the necessity of organising the army of a maritime
insular state, and of training it with the object of rendering
effective aid in operations of the kind in question, has rarely
been perceived and acted upon by others. The result has been a
long series of inglorious or disastrous affairs like the West
Indies voyage of 1595-96, the Cadiz expedition of 1625, and that
to the Ile de Ré of 1627. Additions might be made to the list.
The failures of joint expeditions have often been explained by
alleging differences or quarrels between the naval and the military
commanders. This way of explaining them, however, is nothing but
the inveterate critical method of the streets by which cause
is taken for effect and effect for cause. The differences and
quarrels arose, no doubt; but they generally sprang out of the
recriminations consequent on, not producing, the want of success.
Another manifestation of the way in which sea-power works was first
observed in the seventeenth century. It suggested the adoption
of, and furnished the instrument for carrying out a distinct
maritime policy. What was practically a standing navy had come
into existence. As regards England this phenomenon was now of
respectable age. Long voyages and cruises of several ships in
company had been frequent during the latter half of the sixteenth
century and the early part of the seventeenth. Even the grandfathers
of the men who sailed with Blake and Penn in 1652 could not have
known a time when ships had never crossed the ocean, and squadrons
kept together for months had never cruised. However imperfect
it may have been, a system of provisioning ships and supplying
them with stores, and of preserving discipline amongst their
crews, had been developed, and had proved fairly satisfactory.
The Parliament and the Protector in turn found it necessary to
keep a considerable number of ships in commission, and make them
cruise and operate in company. It was not till well on in the
reign of Queen Victoria that the man-of-war's man was finally
differentiated from the merchant seaman; but two centuries before
some of the distinctive marks of the former had already begun to
be noticeable. There were seamen in the time of the Commonwealth
who rarely, perhaps some who never, served afloat except in a
man-of-war. Some of the interesting naval families which were
settled at Portsmouth and the eastern ports, and which--from
father to son--helped to recruit the ranks of our bluejackets
till a date later than that of the launch of the first ironclad,
could carry back their professional genealogy to at least the
days of Charles II, when, in all probability, it did not first
start. Though landsmen continued even after the civil war to be
given naval appointments, and though a permanent corps, through
the ranks of which everyone must pass, had not been formally
established, a body of real naval officers--men who could handle
their ships, supervise the working of the armament, and exercise
military command--had been formed. A navy, accordingly, was now
a weapon of undoubted keenness, capable of very effective use
by anyone who knew how to wield it. Having tasted the sweets
of intercourse with the Indies, whether in the occupation of
Portugal or of Spain, both English and Dutch were desirous of
getting a larger share of them. English maritime commerce had
increased and needed naval protection. If England was to maintain
the international position to which, as no one denied, she was
entitled, that commerce must be permitted to expand. The minds
of men in western Europe, moreover, were set upon obtaining for
their country territories in the New World, the amenities of
which were now known. From the reign of James I the Dutch had
shown great jealousy of English maritime enterprise. Where it was
possible, as in the East Indian Archipelago, they had destroyed
it. Their naval resources were great enough to let them hold
English shipping at their mercy, unless a vigorous effort were
made to protect it. The Dutch conducted the carrying trade of
a great part of the world, and the monopoly of this they were
resolved to keep, while the English were resolved to share in
it. The exclusion of the English from every trade-route, except
such as ran by their own coast or crossed the Narrow Seas, seemed
a by no means impossible contingency. There seemed also to be
but one way of preventing it, viz. by war. The supposed
unfriendliness of the Dutch, or at least of an important party
amongst them, to the regicide Government in England helped to
force the conflict. The Navigation Act of 1651 was passed and
regarded as a covert declaration of hostilities. So the first
Dutch war began. It established our claim to compete for the
position of a great maritime commercial power.

The rise of the sea-power of the Dutch, and the magnitude which
it attained in a short time and in the most adverse circumstances,
have no parallel in history. The case of Athens was different,
because the Athenian power had not so much been unconsciously
developed out of a great maritime trade, as based on a military
marine deliberately and persistently fostered during many years.
Thirlwall believes that it was Solon who 'laid the foundations
of the Attic navy,'[39] a century before Salamis. The great
achievement of Themistocles was to convince his fellow-citizens
that their navy ought to be increased. Perhaps the nearest parallel
with the power of the Dutch was presented by that of Rhodes, which
rested largely on a carrying trade. The Rhodian undertakings,
however, were by comparison small and restricted in extent. Motley
declares of the Seven United Provinces that they 'commanded the
ocean,'[40] and that it would be difficult to exaggerate the
naval power of the young Commonwealth. Even in the days of Spain's
greatness English seamen positively declined to admit that she
was stronger than England on the sea; and the story of the Armada
justified their view. Our first two Dutch wars were, therefore,
contests between the two foremost naval states of the world for
what was primarily a maritime object. The identity of the cause
of the first and of the second war will be discerned by anyone
who compares what has been said about the circumstances leading
to the former, with Monk's remark as to the latter. He said that
the English wanted a larger share of the trade enjoyed by the
Dutch. It was quite in accordance with the spirit of the age
that the Dutch should try to prevent, by force, this want from
being satisfied. Anything like free and open competition was
repugnant to the general feeling. The high road to both individual
wealth and national prosperity was believed to lie in securing a
monopoly. Merchants or manufacturers who called for the abolition
of monopolies granted to particular courtiers and favourites had
not the smallest intention, on gaining their object, of throwing
open to the enterprise of all what had been monopolised. It was to
be kept for the exclusive benefit of some privileged or chartered
company. It was the same in greater affairs. As Mahan says, 'To
secure to one's own people a disproportionate share of the benefits
of sea commerce every effort was made to exclude others, either
by the peaceful legislative methods of monopoly or prohibitory
regulations, or, when these failed, by direct violence.' The
apparent wealth of Spain was believed to be due to the rigorous
manner in which foreigners were excluded from trading with the
Spanish over-sea territories. The skill and enterprise of the
Dutch having enabled them to force themselves into this trade,
they were determined to keep it to themselves. The Dutch East India
Company was a powerful body, and largely dictated the maritime
policy of the country. We have thus come to an interesting point
in the historical consideration of sea-power. The Elizabethan
conflict with Spain had practically settled the question whether
or not the expanding nations were to be allowed to extend their
activities to territories in the New World. The first two Dutch
wars were to settle the question whether or not the ocean trade
of the world was to be open to any people qualified to engage
in it. We can see how largely these were maritime questions,
how much depended on the solution found for them, and how plain
it was that they must be settled by naval means.

[Footnote 39: _Hist._Greece_, ii. p. 52.]

[Footnote 40: _United_Netherlands_, ii. p. 132.]

Mahan's great survey of sea-power opens in 1660, midway between
the first and second Dutch wars. 'The sailing-ship era, with its
distinctive features,' he tells us, 'had fairly begun.' The art
of war by sea, in its more important details, had been settled
by the first war. From the beginning of the second the general
features of ship design, the classification of ships, the armament
of ships, and the handling of fleets, were to remain without
essential alteration until the date of Navarino. Even the tactical
methods, except where improved on occasions by individual genius,
altered little. The great thing was to bring the whole broadside
force to bear on an enemy. Whether this was to be impartially
distributed throughout the hostile line or concentrated on one
part of it depended on the character of particular admirals.
It would have been strange if a period so long and so rich in
incidents had afforded no materials for forming a judgment on
the real significance of sea-power. The text, so to speak, chosen
by Mahan is that, notwithstanding the changes wrought in naval
_matériel_ during the last half-century, we can find in the history
of the past instructive illustrations of the general principles
of maritime war. These illustrations will prove of value not
only 'in those wider operations which embrace a whole theatre of
war,' but also, if rightly applied, 'in the tactical use of the
ships and weapons' of our own day. By a remarkable coincidence
the same doctrine was being preached at the same time and quite
independently by the late Vice-Admiral Philip Colomb in his work
on 'Naval Warfare.' As a prelude to the second Dutch war we find
a repetition of a process which had been adopted somewhat earlier.
That was the permanent conquest of trans-oceanic territory. Until
the seventeenth century had well begun, naval, or combined naval
and military, operations against the distant possessions of an
enemy had been practically restricted to raiding or plundering
attacks on commercial centres. The Portuguese territory in South
America having come under Spanish dominion in consequence of the
annexation of Portugal to Spain, the Dutch--as the power of the
latter country declined--attempted to reduce part of that territory
into permanent possession. This improvement on the practice of
Drake and others was soon seen to be a game at which more than
one could play. An expedition sent by Cromwell to the West Indies
seized the Spanish island of Jamaica, which has remained in the
hands of its conquerors to this day. In 1664 an English force
occupied the Dutch North American settlements on the Hudson. Though
the dispossessed rulers were not quite in a position to throw stones
at sinners, this was rather a raid than an operation of recognised
warfare, because it preceded the formal outbreak of hostilities.
The conquered territory remained in English hands for more than
a century, and thus testified to the efficacy of a sea-power
which Europe had scarcely begun to recognise. Neither the second
nor the third Dutch war can be counted amongst the occurrences to
which Englishmen may look back with unalloyed satisfaction; but
they, unquestionably, disclosed some interesting manifestations
of sea-power. Much indignation has been expressed concerning the
corruption and inefficiency of the English Government of the
day, and its failure to take proper measures for keeping up the
navy as it should have been kept up. Some, perhaps a good deal, of
this indignation was deserved; but it would have been nearly as
well deserved by every other government of the day. Even in those
homes of political virtue where the administrative machinery was
worked by or in the interest of speculating capitalists and
privileged companies, the accumulating evidence of late years
has proved that everything was not considered to be, and as a
matter of fact was not, exactly as it ought to have been. Charles
II and his brother, the Duke of York, have been held up to obloquy
because they thought that the coast of England could be defended
against a naval enemy better by fortifications than by a good
fleet and, as Pepys noted, were 'not ashamed of it.' The truth
is that neither the king nor the duke believed in the power of
a navy to ward off attack from an island. This may have been
due to want of intellectual capacity; but it would be going a
long way to put it down to personal wickedness. They have had
many imitators, some in our own day. The huge forts which stud
the coast of the United Kingdom, and have been erected within
the memory of the present generation, are monuments, likely to
last for many years, of the inability of people, whom no one
could accuse of being vicious, to rate sea-power at its proper
value. It is much more likely that it was owing to a reluctance
to study questions of naval defence as industriously as they
deserved, and to that moral timidity which so often tempts even
men of proved physical courage to undertake the impossible task
of making themselves absolutely safe against hostile efforts
at every point.

Charles II has also been charged with indifference to the interests
of his country, or worse, because during a great naval war he
adopted the plan of trying to weaken the enemy by destroying
his commerce. The king 'took a fatal resolution of laying up
his great ships and keeping only a few frigates on the cruise.'
It is expressly related that this was not Charles's own idea,
but that it was urged upon him by advisers whose opinion probably
seemed at the time as well worth listening to as that of others.
Anyhow, if the king erred, as he undoubtedly did, he erred in
good company. Fourteen hundred years earlier the statesmen who
conducted the great war against Carthage, and whose astuteness
has been the theme of innumerable panegyrics since, took the same
'fatal resolution.' In the midst of the great struggle they 'did
away with the fleet. At the most they encouraged privateering; and
with that view placed the war-vessels of the State at the disposal
of captains who were ready to undertake a corsair warfare on
their own account.'[41] In much later times this method has had
many and respectable defenders. Mahan's works are, in a sense, a
formal warning to his fellow-citizens not to adopt it. In France,
within the last years of the nineteenth century, it found, and
appears still to find, adherents enough to form a school. The
reappearance of belief in demonstrated impossibilities is a
recognised incident in human history; but it is usually confined
to the emotional or the vulgar. It is serious and filled with
menaces of disaster when it is held by men thought fit to administer
the affairs of a nation or advise concerning its defence. The
third Dutch war may not have settled directly the position of
England in the maritime world; but it helped to place that country
above all other maritime states,--in the position, in fact, which
Great Britain, the United Kingdom, the British Empire, whichever
name may be given it, has retained up to the present. It also
manifested in a very striking form the efficacy of sea-power.
The United Provinces, though attacked by two of the greatest
monarchies in the world, France and England, were not destroyed.
Indeed, they preserved much of their political importance in
the State system of Europe. The Republic 'owed this astonishing
result partly to the skill of one or two men, but mainly to its
sea-power.' The effort, however, had undermined its strength
and helped forward its decline.

[Footnote 41: Mommsen, ii. p. 52.]

The war which was ended by the Peace of Ryswick in 1697 presents
two features of exceptional interest: one was the havoc wrought on
English commerce by the enemy; the other was Torrington's conduct
at and after the engagement off Beachy Head. Mahan discusses
the former with his usual lucidity. At no time has war against
commerce been conducted on a larger scale and with greater results
than during this period. We suffered 'infinitely more than in
any former war.' Many of our merchants were ruined; and it is
affirmed that the English shipping was reduced to the necessity
of sailing under the Swedish and Danish flags. The explanation is
that Louis XIV made great efforts to keep up powerful fleets. Our
navy was so fully occupied in watching these that no ships could
be spared to protect our maritime trade. This is only another way
of saying that our commerce had increased so largely that the
navy was not strong enough to look after it as well as oppose
the enemy's main force. Notwithstanding our losses we were on
the winning side in the conflict. Much misery and ruin had been
caused, but not enough to affect the issue of the war.

Torrington's proceedings in July 1690 were at the time the subject
of much angry debate. The debate, still meriting the epithet
angry, has been renewed within the last few years. The matter
has to be noticed here, because it involves the consideration of
a question of naval strategy which must be understood by those
who wish to know the real meaning of the term sea-power, and who
ought to learn that it is not a thing to be idly risked or thrown
away at the bidding of the ignorant and the irresponsible. Arthur
Herbert, Earl of Torrington--the later peerage is a viscounty held
by the Byng family--was in command of the allied English and Dutch
fleet in the Channel. 'The disparity of force,' says Mahan, 'was
still in favour of France in 1690, but it was not so great as
the year before.' We can measure the ability of the then English
Government for conducting a great war, when we know that, in its
wisdom, it had still further weakened our fleet by dividing it
(Vice-Admiral Killigrew having been sent to the Mediterranean with
a squadron), and had neglected, and indeed refused when urged, to
take the necessary steps to repair this error. The Government
having omitted, as even British Governments sometimes do, to
gain any trustworthy intelligence of the strength or movements
of the enemy, Torrington suddenly found himself confronted by a
considerably superior French fleet under Tourville, one of the
greatest of French sea-officers. Of late years the intentions of
the French have been questioned; but it is beyond dispute that
in England at the time Tourville's movements were believed to
be preliminary to invasion. Whether Tourville deliberately meant
his movement to cover an invasion or not, invasion would almost
certainly have followed complete success on his part; otherwise his
victory would have been without any valuable result. Torrington
saw that as long as he could keep his own fleet intact, he could,
though much weaker than his opponent, prevent him from doing
serious harm. Though personally not a believer in the imminence of
invasion, the English admiral knew that 'most men were in fear that
the French would invade.' His own view was, 'that whilst we had a
fleet in being they would not dare to make an attempt.' Of late
years controversy has raged round this phrase, 'a fleet in being,'
and the strategic principle which it expresses. Most seamen were
at the time, have been since, and still are in agreement with
Torrington. This might be supposed enough to settle the question.
It has not been allowed, however, to remain one of purely naval
strategy. It was made at the time a matter of party politics.
This is why it is so necessary that in a notice of sea-power it
should be discussed. Both as a strategist and as a tactician
Torrington was immeasurably ahead of his contemporaries. The
only English admirals who can be placed above him are Hawke and
Nelson. He paid the penalty of his pre-eminence: he could not
make ignorant men and dull men see the meaning or the advantages
of his proceedings. Mahan, who is specially qualified to do him
full justice, does not devote much space in his work to a
consideration of Torrington's case, evidently because he had
no sufficient materials before him on which to form a judgment.
The admiral's character had been taken away already by Macaulay,
who did have ample evidence before him. William III, with all his
fine qualities, did not possess a military genius quite equal
to that of Napoleon; and Napoleon, in naval strategy, was often
wrong. William III understood that subject even less than the
French emperor did; and his favourites were still less capable
of understanding it. Consequently Torrington's action has been
put down to jealousy of the Dutch. There have been people who
accused Nelson of being jealous of the naval reputation of
Caracciolo! The explanation of Torrington's conduct is this:--
He had a fleet so much weaker than Tourville's that he could
not fight a general action with the latter without a practical
certainty of getting a crushing defeat. Such a result would have
laid the kingdom open: a defeat of the allied fleet, says Mahan,
'if sufficiently severe, might involve the fall of William's
throne in England.' Given certain movements of the French fleet,
Torrington might have manoeuvred to slip past it to the westward
and join his force with that under Killigrew, which would make
him strong enough to hazard a battle. This proved impracticable.
There was then one course left. To retire before the French,
but not to keep far from them. He knew that, though not strong
enough to engage their whole otherwise unemployed fleet with any
hope of success, he would be quite strong enough to fight and
most likely beat it, when a part of it was trying either to deal
with our ships to the westward or to cover the disembarkation of
an invading army. He, therefore, proposed to keep his fleet 'in
being' in order to fall on the enemy when the latter would have
two affairs at the same time on his hands. The late Vice-Admiral
Colomb rose to a greater height than was usual even with him in
his criticism of this campaign. What Torrington did was merely
to reproduce on the sea what has been noticed dozens of times on
shore, viz. the menace by the flanking enemy. In land warfare
this is held to give exceptional opportunities for the display of
good generalship, but, to quote Mahan over again, a navy 'acts
on an element strange to most writers, its members have been
from time immemorial a strange race apart, without prophets of
their own, neither themselves nor their calling understood.'
Whilst Torrington has had the support of seamen, his opponents
have been landsmen. For the crime of being a good strategist he
was brought before a court-martial, but acquitted. His sovereign,
who had been given the crowns of three kingdoms to defend our laws,
showed his respect for them by flouting a legally constituted
tribunal and disregarding its solemn finding. The admiral who
had saved his country was forced into retirement. Still, the
principle of the 'fleet in being' lies at the bottom of all sound

Admiral Colomb has pointed out a great change of plan in the
later naval campaigns of the seventeenth century. Improvements
in naval architecture, in the methods of preserving food, and
in the arrangements for keeping the crews healthy, permitted
fleets to be employed at a distance from their home ports for
long continuous periods. The Dutch, when allies of the Spaniards,
kept a fleet in the Mediterranean for many months. The great De
Ruyter was mortally wounded in one of the battles there fought.
In the war of the Spanish Succession the Anglo-Dutch fleet found
its principal scene of action eastward of Gibraltar. This, as
it were, set the fashion for future wars. It became a kind of
tacitly accepted rule that the operation of British sea-power
was to be felt in the enemy's rather than in our own waters. The
hostile coast was regarded strategically as the British frontier,
and the sea was looked upon as territory which the enemy must
be prevented from invading. Acceptance of this principle led
in time to the so-called 'blockades' of Brest and Toulon. The
name was misleading. As Nelson took care to explain, there was
no desire to keep the enemy's fleet in; what was desired was to
be near enough to attack it if it came out. The wisdom of the
plan is undoubted. The hostile navy could be more easily watched
and more easily followed if it put to sea. To carry out this
plan a navy stronger in number of ships or in general efficiency
than that of the enemy was necessary to us. With the exception
of that of American Independence, which will therefore require
special notice, our subsequent great wars were conducted in
accordance with the rule.


In the early part of the eighteenth century there was a remarkable
manifestation of sea-power in the Baltic. Peter the Great, having
created an efficient army, drove the Swedes from the coast provinces
south of the Gulf of Finland. Like the earlier monarchies of which
we have spoken, Russia, in the Baltic at least, now became a naval
state. A large fleet was built, and, indeed, a considerable navy
established. It was a purely artificial creation, and showed
the merits and defects of its character. At first, and when under
the eye of its creator, it was strong; when Peter was no more it
dwindled away and, when needed again, had to be created afresh.
It enabled Peter the Great to conquer the neighbouring portion
of Finland, to secure his coast territories, and to dominate
the Baltic. In this he was assisted by the exhaustion of Sweden
consequent on her endeavours to retain, what was no longer possible,
the position of a _quasi_ great power which she had held since
the days of Gustavus Adolphus. Sweden had been further weakened,
especially as a naval state, by almost incessant wars with Denmark,
which prevented all hope of Scandinavian predominance in the
Baltic, the control of which sea has in our own days passed into
the hands of another state possessing a quickly created navy--the
modern German empire.

The war of the Spanish Succession left Great Britain a Mediterranean
power, a position which, in spite of twice losing Minorca, she
still holds. In the war of the Austrian Succession, 'France was
forced to give up her conquests for want of a navy, and England
saved her position by her sea-power, though she had failed to
use it to the best advantage.'[42] This shows, as we shall find
that a later war showed more plainly, that even the Government
of a thoroughly maritime country is not always sure of conducting
its naval affairs wisely. The Seven Years' war included some
brilliant displays of the efficacy of sea-power. It was this
which put the British in possession of Canada, decided which
European race was to rule in India, and led to a British occupation
of Havannah in one hemisphere and of Manila in the other. In
the same war we learned how, by a feeble use of sea-power, a
valuable possession like Minorca may be lost. At the same time
our maritime trade and the general prosperity of the kingdom
increased enormously. The result of the conflict made plain to
all the paramount importance of having in the principal posts
in the Government men capable of understanding what war is and
how it ought to be conducted.

[Footnote 42: Mahan, _Inf._on_Hist._ p. 280.]

This lesson, as the sequel demonstrated, had not been learned
when Great Britain became involved in a war with the insurgent
colonies in North America. Mahan's comment is striking: 'The
magnificence of sea-power and its value had perhaps been more
clearly shown by the uncontrolled sway and consequent exaltation
of one belligerent; but the lesson thus given, if more striking,
is less vividly interesting than the spectacle of that sea-power
meeting a foe worthy of its steel, and excited to exertion by a
strife which endangered not only its most valuable colonies, but
even its own shores.'[43] We were, in fact, drawing too largely
on the _prestige_ acquired during the Seven Years' war; and we
were governed by men who did not understand the first principles
of naval warfare, and would not listen to those who did. They
quite ignored the teaching of the then comparatively recent wars
which has been alluded to already--that we should look upon the
enemy's coast as our frontier. A century and a half earlier the
Dutchman Grotius had written--

  Quæ meta Britannis
  Litora sunt aliis.

[Footnote 43: _Influence_on_Hist._ p. 338.]

Though ordinary prudence would have suggested ample preparation,
British ministers allowed their country to remain unprepared.
Instead of concentrating their efforts on the main objective,
they frittered away force in attempts to relieve two beleaguered
garrisons under the pretext of yielding to popular pressure, which
is the official term for acting on the advice of irresponsible
and uninstructed busybodies. 'Depuis le début de la crise,' says
Captain Chevalier, 'les ministres de la Grande Bretagne s'étaient
montrés inférieurs à leur tâche.' An impressive result of this was
the repeated appearance of powerful and indeed numerically superior
hostile fleets in the English Channel. The war--notwithstanding
that, perhaps because, land operations constituted an important
part of it, and in the end settled the issue--was essentially
oceanic. Captain Mahan says it was 'purely maritime.' It may
be true that, whatever the belligerent result, the political
result, as regards the _status_ of the insurgent colonies, would
have been the same. It is in the highest degree probable, indeed
it closely approaches to certainty, that a proper use of the
British sea-power would have prevented independence from being
conquered, as it were, at the point of the bayonet. There can be no
surprise in store for the student acquainted with the vagaries of
strategists who are influenced in war by political in preference
to military requirements. Still, it is difficult to repress an
emotion of astonishment on finding that a British Government
intentionally permitted De Grasse's fleet and the French army
in its convoy to cross the Atlantic unmolested, for fear of
postponing for a time the revictualling of the garrison beleaguered
at Gibraltar. Washington's opinion as to the importance of the
naval factor has been quoted already; and Mahan does not put
the case too strongly when he declares that the success of the
Americans was due to 'sea-power being in the hands of the French
and its improper distribution by the English authorities.' Our
navy, misdirected as it was, made a good fight of it, never allowed
itself to be decisively beaten in a considerable battle, and won
at least one great victory. At the point of contact with the
enemy, however, it was not in general so conspicuously successful
as it was in the Seven Years' war, or as it was to be in the
great conflict with the French republic and empire. The truth
is that its opponent, the French navy, was never so thoroughly
a sea-going force as it was in the war of American Independence;
and never so closely approached our own in real sea-experience
as it did during that period. We met antagonists who were very
nearly, but, fortunately for us, not quite as familiar with the
sea as we were ourselves; and we never found it so hard to beat
them, or even to avoid being beaten by them. An Englishman would,
naturally enough, start at the conclusion confronting him, if he
were to speculate as to the result of more than one battle had
the great Suffren's captains and crews been quite up to the level
of those commanded by stout old Sir Edward Hughes. Suffren, it
should be said, before going to the East Indies, had 'thirty-eight
years of almost uninterrupted sea-service.'[44] A glance at a
chart of the world, with the scenes of the general actions of
the war dotted on it, will show how notably oceanic the campaigns
were. The hostile fleets met over and over again on the far side
of the Atlantic and in distant Indian seas. The French navy had
penetrated into the ocean as readily and as far as we could do
ourselves. Besides this, it should be remembered that it was
not until the 12th April 1782. when Rodney in one hemisphere and
Suffren in the other showed them the way, that our officers were
able to escape from the fetters imposed on them by the _Fighting_
_Instructions_,--a fact worth remembering in days in which it is
sometimes proposed, by establishing schools of naval tactics
on shore, to revive the pedantry which made a decisive success
in battle nearly impossible.

[Footnote 44: Laughton, _Studies_in_Naval_Hist._ p. 103.]

The mighty conflict which raged between Great Britain on one side
and France and her allies on the other, with little intermission,
for more than twenty years, presents a different aspect from that
of the war last mentioned. The victories which the British fleet
was to gain were generally to be overwhelming; if not, they were
looked upon as almost defeats. Whether the fleet opposed to ours
was, or was not, the more numerous, the result was generally the
same--our enemy was beaten. That there was a reason for this which
can be discovered is certain. A great deal has been made of the
disorganisation in the French navy consequent on the confusion of
the Revolution. That there was disorganisation is undoubted; that
it did impair discipline and, consequently, general efficiency will
not be disputed; but that it was considerable enough to account by
itself for the French naval defeats is altogether inadmissible.
Revolutionary disorder had invaded the land-forces to a greater
degree than it had invaded the sea-forces. The supersession,
flight, or guillotining of army officers had been beyond measure
more frequent than was the case with the naval officers. In spite
of all this the French armies were on the whole--even in the
early days of the Revolution--extraordinarily successful. In
1792 'the most formidable invasion that ever threatened France,'
as Alison calls it, was repelled, though the invaders were the
highly disciplined and veteran armies of Prussia and Austria.
It was nearly two years later that the French and English fleets
came into serious conflict. The first great battle, which we
call 'The Glorious First of June,' though a tactical victory
for us, was a strategical defeat. Villaret-Joyeuse manoeuvred so
as to cover the arrival in France of a fleet of merchant vessels
carrying sorely needed supplies of food, and in this he was
completely successful. His plan involved the probability, almost
the necessity, of fighting a general action which he was not at
all sure of winning. He was beaten, it is true; but the French
made so good a fight of it that their defeat was not nearly so
disastrous as the later defeats of the Nile or Trafalgar, and--at
the most--not more disastrous than that of Dominica. Yet no one
even alleges that there was disorder or disorganisation in the
French fleet at the date of anyone of those affairs. Indeed,
if the French navy was really disorganised in 1794, it would
have been better for France--judging from the events of 1798 and
1805--if the disorganisation had been allowed to continue. In
point of organisation the British Navy was inferior, and in point
of discipline not much superior to the French at the earliest
date; at the later dates, and especially at the latest, owing
to the all-pervading energy of Napoleon, the British was far
behind its rival in organisation, in 'science,' and in every
branch of training that can be imparted without going to sea.
We had the immense advantage of counting amongst our officers
some very able men. Nelson, of course, stands so high that he
holds a place entirely by himself. The other British chiefs,
good as they were, were not conspicuously superior to the Hawkes
and Rodneys of an earlier day. Howe was a great commander, but
he did little more than just appear on the scene in the war.
Almost the same may be said of Hood, of whom Nelson wrote, 'He
is the greatest sea-officer I ever knew.'[45] There must have
been something, therefore, beyond the meritorious qualities of
our principal officers which helped us so consistently to victory.
The many triumphs won could not have been due in every case to
the individual superiority of the British admiral or captain to
his opponent. There must have been bad as well as good amongst
the hundreds on our lists; and we cannot suppose that Providence
had so arranged it that in every action in which a British officer
of inferior ability commanded a still inferior French commander
was opposed to him. The explanation of our nearly unbroken success
is, that the British was a thoroughly sea-going navy, and became
more and more so every month; whilst the French, since the close
of the American war, had lost to a great extent its sea-going
character and, because we shut it up in its ports, became less
and less sea-going as hostilities continued. The war had been
for us, in the words of Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, 'a continuous
course of victory won mainly by seamanship.' Our navy, as regards
sea-experience, especially of the officers, was immensely superior
to the French. This enabled the British Government to carry into
execution sound strategic plans, in accordance with which the coasts
of France and its dependent or allied countries were regarded as
the English frontier to be watched or patrolled by our fleets.

[Footnote 45: Laughton, _Nelson's_Lett._and_Desp._ p. 71.]

Before the long European war had been brought to a formal ending
we received some rude rebuffs from another opponent of unsuspected
vigour. In the quarrel with the United States, the so-called
'War of 1812,' the great sea-power of the British in the end
asserted its influence, and our antagonists suffered much more
severely, even absolutely, than ourselves. At the same time we
might have learned, for the Americans did their best to teach us,
that over-confidence in numerical strength and narrow professional
self-satisfaction are nearly sure to lead to reverses in war, and
not unlikely to end in grave disasters. We had now to meet the
_élite_ of one of the finest communities of seamen ever known.
Even in 1776 the Americans had a great maritime commerce, which,
as Mahan informs us, 'had come to be the wonder of the statesmen
of the mother country.' In the six-and-thirty years which had
elapsed since then this commerce had further increased. There
was no finer nursery of seamen than the then states of the American
Union. Roosevelt says that 'there was no better seaman in the
world' than the American, who 'had been bred to his work from
infancy.' A large proportion of the population 'was engaged in
sea-going pursuits of a nature strongly tending to develop a
resolute and hardy character in the men that followed them.'[46]
Having little or no naval protection, the American seaman had
to defend himself in many circumstances, and was compelled to
familiarise himself with the use of arms. The men who passed
through this practical, and therefore supremely excellent, training
school were numerous. Very many had been trained in English
men-of-war, and some in French ships. The state navy which they
were called on to man was small; and therefore its _personnel_,
though without any regular or avowed selection, was virtually
and in the highest sense a picked body. The lesson of the war
of 1812 should be learned by Englishmen of the present day, when
a long naval peace has generated a confidence in numerical
superiority, in the mere possession of heavier _matériel_, and
in the merits of a rigidly uniform system of training, which
confidence, as experience has shown, is too often the forerunner
of misfortune. It is neither patriotic nor intelligent to minimise
the American successes. Certainly they have been exaggerated by
Americans and even by ourselves. To take the frigate actions
alone, as being those which properly attracted most attention,
we see that the captures in action amounted to three on each
side, the proportionate loss to our opponents, considering the
smallness of their fleet, being immensely greater than ours.
We also see that no British frigate was taken after the first
seven months of a war which lasted two and a half years, and that
no British frigate succumbed except to admittedly superior force.
Attempts have been made to spread a belief that our reverses
were due to nothing but the greater size and heavier guns of our
enemy's ships. It is now established that the superiority in
these details, which the Americans certainly enjoyed, was not
great, and not of itself enough to account for their victories.
Of course, if superiority in mere _matériel_, beyond a certain
well-understood amount, is possessed by one of two combatants,
his antagonist can hardly escape defeat; but it was never alleged
that size of ship or calibre of guns--greater within reasonable
limits than we had--necessarily led to the defeat of British
ships by the French or Spaniards. In the words of Admiral Jurien
de la Gravière, 'The ships of the United States constantly fought
with the chances in their favour.' All this is indisputable.
Nevertheless we ought to see to it that in any future war our
sea-power, great as it may be, does not receive shocks like those
that it unquestionably did receive in 1812.

[Footnote 46: _Naval_War_of_1812_, 3rd ed. pp. 29, 30.]


We have now come to the end of the days of the naval wars of
old time. The subsequent period has been illustrated repeatedly
by manifestations of sea-power, often of great interest and
importance, though rarely understood or even discerned by the
nations which they more particularly concerned. The British
sea-power, notwithstanding the first year of the war of 1812,
had come out of the great European conflict unshaken and indeed
more preeminent than ever. The words used, half a century before
by a writer in the great French 'Encyclopédie,' seemed more exact
than when first written. '_L'empire_des_mers_,' he says, is,
'le plus avantageux de tous les empires; les Phoeniciens le
possédoient autre fois et c'est aux Anglois que cette gloire
appartient aujourd'hui sur toutes les puissances maritimes.'[47]
Vast out-lying territories had been acquired or were more firmly
held, and the communications of all the over-sea dominions of the
British Crown were secured against all possibility of serious
menace for many years to come. Our sea-power was so ubiquitous
and all-pervading that, like the atmosphere, we rarely thought
of it and rarely remembered its necessity or its existence. It
was not till recently that the greater part of the nation--for
there were many, and still are some exceptions--perceived that
it was the medium apart from which the British Empire could no
more live than it could have grown up. Forty years after the
fall of Napoleon we found ourselves again at war with a great
power. We had as our ally the owner of the greatest navy in the
world except our own. Our foe, as regards his naval forces, came
the next in order. Yet so overwhelming was the strength of Great
Britain and France on the sea that Russia never attempted to
employ her navy against them. Not to mention other expeditions,
considerable enough in themselves, military operations on the
largest scale were undertaken, carried on for many months, and
brought to a successful termination on a scene so remote that
it was two thousand miles from the country of one, and three
thousand from that of the other partner in the alliance. 'The
stream of supplies and reinforcements, which in terms of modern
war is called "communications,", was kept free from even the threat
of molestation, not by visible measures, but by the undisputed
efficacy of a real, though imperceptible sea-power. At the close
of the Russian war we encountered, and unhappily for us in
influential positions, men who, undismayed by the consequences
of mimicking in free England the cast-iron methods of the Great
Frederick, began to measure British requirements by standards
borrowed from abroad and altogether inapplicable to British
conditions. Because other countries wisely abstained from relying
on that which they did not possess, or had only imperfectly and
with elaborate art created, the mistress of the seas was led to
proclaim her disbelief in the very force that had made and kept
her dominion, and urged to defend herself with fortifications by
advisers who, like Charles II and the Duke of York two centuries
before, were 'not ashamed of it.' It was long before the peril
into which this brought the empire was perceived; but at last,
and in no small degree owing to the teachings of Mahan, the people
themselves took the matter in hand and insisted that a great
maritime empire should have adequate means of defending all that
made its existence possible.

[Footnote 47: _Encyclopédie_, 7th Jan. 1765, art. 'Thalassarchie.']

In forms differing in appearance, but identical in essentials, the
efficacy of sea-power was proved again in the American Secession
war. If ever there were hostilities in which, to the unobservant
or short-sighted, naval operations might at first glance seem
destined to count for little, they were these. The sequel, however,
made it clear that they constituted one of the leading factors
of the success of the victorious side. The belligerents, the
Northern or Federal States and the Southern or Confederate States,
had a common land frontier of great length. The capital of each
section was within easy distance of this frontier, and the two
were not far apart. In wealth, population, and resources the
Federals were enormously superior. They alone possessed a navy,
though at first it was a small one. The one advantage on the
Confederate side was the large proportion of military officers
which belonged to it and their fine training as soldiers. In
_physique_ as well as in _morale_ the army of one side differed
little from that of the other; perhaps the Federal army was slightly
superior in the first, and the Confederate, as being recruited
from a dominant white race, in the second. Outnumbered, less well
equipped, and more scantily supplied, the Confederates nevertheless
kept up the war, with many brilliant successes on land, for four
years. Had they been able to maintain their trade with neutral
states they could have carried on the war longer, and--not
improbably--have succeeded in the end. The Federal navy, which was
largely increased, took away all chance of this. It established
effective blockades of the Confederate ports, and severed their
communications with the outside world. Indispensable articles of
equipment could not be obtained, and the armies, consequently,
became less and less able to cope with their abundantly furnished
antagonists. By dominating the rivers the Federals cut the
Confederacy asunder; and by the power they possessed of moving troops
by sea at will, perplexed and harassed the defence, and facilitated
the occupation of important points. Meanwhile the Confederates
could make no reply on the water except by capturing merchant
vessels, by which the contest was embittered, but the course of
the war remained absolutely unaffected. The great numbers of
men under arms on shore, the terrific slaughter in many battles
of a war in which tactical ability, even in a moderate degree,
was notably uncommon on both sides, and the varying fortunes of
the belligerents, made the land campaigns far more interesting
to the ordinary observer than the naval. It is not surprising,
therefore, that peace had been re-established for several years
before the American people could be made to see the great part
taken by the navy in the restoration of the Union; and what the
Americans had not seen was hidden from the sight of other nations.

In several great wars in Europe waged since France and England
made peace with Russia sea-power manifested itself but little.
In the Russo-Turkish war the great naval superiority of the Turks
in the Black Sea, where the Russians at the time had no fleet,
governed the plans, if not the course, of the campaigns. The
water being denied to them, the Russians were compelled to execute
their plan of invading Turkey by land. An advance to the Bosphorus
through the northern part of Asia Minor was impracticable without
help from a navy on the right flank. Consequently the only route
was a land one across the Danube and the Balkans. The advantages,
though not fully utilised, which the enforcement of this line of
advance put into the hands of the Turks, and the difficulties
and losses which it caused the Russians, exhibited in a striking
manner what sea-power can effect even when its operation is scarcely

This was more conspicuous in a later series of hostilities. The
civil war in Chili between Congressists and Balmacedists is specially
interesting, because it throws into sharp relief the predominant
influence, when a non-maritime enemy is to be attacked, of a navy
followed up by an adequate land-force. At the beginning of the
dispute the Balmacedists, or President's party, had practically
all the army, and the Congressists, or Opposition party, nearly
all the Chilian navy. Unable to remain in the principal province
of the republic, and expelled from the waters of Valparaiso by the
Balmacedist garrisons of the forts--the only and doubtful service
which those works rendered to their own side--the Congressists
went off with the ships to the northern provinces, where they
counted many adherents. There they formed an army, and having
money at command, and open sea communications, they were able
to import equipment from abroad, and eventually to transport
their land-force, secured from molestation on the voyage by the
sea-power at their disposal, to the neighbourhood of Valparaiso,
where it was landed and triumphantly ended the campaign.

It will have been noticed that, in its main outlines, this story
repeated that of many earlier campaigns. It was itself repeated,
as regards its general features, by the story of the war between
China and Japan in 1894-95. 'Every aspect of the war,' says Colomb,
'is interesting to this country, as Japan is to China in a position
similar to that which the British Islands occupy to the European
continent.'[48] It was additionally interesting because the sea-power
of Japan was a novelty. Though a novelty, it was well known by
English naval men to be superior in all essentials to that of
China, a novelty itself. As is the rule when two belligerents
are contending for something beyond a purely maritime object,
the final decision was to be on land. Korea was the principal
theatre of the land war; and, as far as access to it by sea was
concerned, the chief bases of the two sides were about the same
distance from it. It was possible for the Chinese to march there
by land. The Japanese, coming from an island state, were obliged
to cross the water. It will be seen at once that not only the
success of the Japanese in the struggle, but also the possibility
of its being carried on by them at all, depended on sea-power.
The Japanese proved themselves decisively superior at sea. Their
navy effectually cleared the way for one army which was landed in
Korea, and for another which was landed in the Chinese province
of Shantung. The Chinese land-forces were defeated. The navy of
japan, being superior on the sea, was able to keep its sister
service supplied or reinforced as required. It was, however, not
the navy, but the army, which finally frustrated the Chinese
efforts at defence, and really terminated the war. What the navy
did was what, in accordance with the limitations of sea-power,
may be expected of a navy. It made the transport of the army
across the sea possible; and enabled it to do what of itself
the army could not have done, viz. overcome the last resistance
of the enemy.

[Footnote 48: _Naval_Warfare_, 3rd ed. p. 436.]

The issue of the Spanish-American war, at least as regards the mere
defeat of Spain, was, perhaps, a foregone conclusion. That Spain,
even without a serious insurrection on her hands, was unequal to
the task of meeting so powerful an antagonist as the United States
must have been evident even to Spaniards. Be that as it may, an
early collapse of the Spanish defence was not anticipated, and
however one-sided the war may have been seen to be, it furnished
examples illustrating rules as old as naval warfare. Mahan says of
it that, 'while possessing, as every war does, characteristics of
its own differentiating it from others, nevertheless in its broad
analogies it falls into line with its predecessors, evidencing that
unity of teaching which pervades the art from its beginnings unto
this day.'[49] The Spaniards were defeated by the superiority
of the American sea-power. 'A million of the best soldiers,' says
Mahan, 'would have been powerless in face of hostile control of
the sea.' That control was obtained and kept by the United States
navy, thus permitting the unobstructed despatch of troops--and
their subsequent reinforcement and supply--to Spanish territory,
which was finally conquered, not by the navy, but by the army
on shore. That it was the navy which made this final conquest
possible happened, in this case, to be made specially evident
by the action of the United States Government, which stopped a
military expedition on the point of starting for Cuba until the
sea was cleared of all Spanish naval force worth attention.

[Footnote 49: _Lessons_of_the_War_with_Spain_, p. 16.]

The events of the long period which we have been considering
will have shown how sea-power operates, and what it effects.
What is in it will have appeared from this narrative more clearly
than would have been possible from any mere definition. Like
many other things, sea-power is composed of several elements. To
reach the highest degree of efficacy it should be based upon a
population naturally maritime, and on an ocean commerce naturally
developed rather than artificially enticed to extend itself. Its
outward and visible sign is a navy, strong in the discipline,
skill, and courage of a numerous _personnel_ habituated to the
sea, in the number and quality of its ships, in the excellence
of its _matériel_, and in the efficiency, scale, security, and
geographical position of its arsenals and bases. History has
demonstrated that sea-power thus conditioned can gain any purely
maritime object, can protect the trade and the communications of a
widely extended empire, and whilst so doing can ward off from its
shores a formidable invader. There are, however, limitations to be
noted. Left to itself its operation is confined to the water, or at
any rate to the inner edge of a narrow zone of coast. It prepares
the way for the advance of an army, the work of which it is not
intended, and is unable to perform. Behind it, in the territory
of which it guards the shores, there must be a land-force adjusted
in organisation, equipment, and numbers to the circumstances
of the country. The possession of a navy does not permit a
sea-surrounded state to dispense with all fixed defences or
fortification; but it does render it unnecessary and indeed absurd
that they should be abundant or gigantic. The danger which always
impends over the sea-power of any country is that, after being
long unused, it may lose touch of the sea. The revolution in
the constructive arts during the last half-century, which has
also been a period of but little-interrupted naval peace, and
the universal adoption of mechanical appliances, both for
ship-propulsion and for many minor services--mere _matériel_
being thereby raised in the general estimation far above really
more important matters--makes the danger mentioned more menacing
in the present age than it has ever been before.



[Footnote 50: Written in 1899. (_Encyclopoedia_Britannica_.)]

This phrase, a technical term of naval warfare, indicates a definite
strategical condition. The term has been substituted occasionally,
but less frequently of late years, for the much older 'Dominion
of the sea' or 'Sovereignty of the sea,' a legal term expressing
a claim, if not a right. It has also been sometimes treated as
though it were identical with the rhetorical expression 'Empire
of the sea.' Mahan, instead of it, uses the term 'Control of
the sea,' which has the merit of precision, and is not likely
to be misunderstood or mixed up with a form of words meaning
something different. The expression 'Command of the sea,' however,
in its proper and strategic sense, is so firmly fixed in the
language that it would be a hopeless task to try to expel it;
and as, no doubt, writers will continue to use it, it must be
explained and illustrated. Not only does it differ in meaning
from 'Dominion or Sovereignty of the sea,' it is not even truly
derived therefrom, as can be briefly shown. 'It has become an
uncontested principle of modern international law that the sea,
as a general rule, cannot be subjected to appropriation.'[51]
This, however, is quite modern. We ourselves did not admit the
principle till 1805; the Russians did not admit it till 1824;
and the Americans, and then only tacitly, not till 1894. Most
European nations at some time or other have claimed and have
exercised rights over some part of the sea, though far outside
the now well-recognised 'three miles' limit.' Venice claimed
the Adriatic, and exacted a heavy toll from vessels navigating
its northern waters. Genoa and France each claimed portions of
the western Mediterranean. Denmark and Sweden claimed to share
the Baltic between them. Spain claimed dominion over the Pacific
and the Gulf of Mexico, and Portugal over the Indian Ocean and
all the Atlantic south of Morocco.[52] The claim which has made
the greatest noise in the world is that once maintained by the
kings of England to the seas surrounding the British Isles. Like
other institutions, the English sovereignty of the sea was, and
was admitted to be, beneficent for a long period. Then came the
time when it ought to have been abandoned as obsolete; but it was
not, and so it led to war. The general conviction of the maritime
nations was that the Lord of the Sea would provide for the police
of the waters over which he exercised dominion. In rude ages when
men, like the ancients, readily 'turned themselves to piracy,'
this was of immense importance to trade; and, far from the right
of dominion being disputed by foreigners, it was insisted upon by
them and declared to carry with it certain duties. In 1299, not
only English merchants, but also 'the maritime people of Genoa,
Catalonia, Spain, Germany, Zealand, Holland, Frisia, Denmark,
Norway, and several other places of the empire' declared that the
kings of England had from time immemorial been in 'peaceable
possession of the sovereign lordship of the sea of England,'
and had done what was 'needful for the maintenance of peace,
right, and equity between people of all sorts, whether subjects
of another kingdom or not, who pass through those seas.'[53] The
English sovereignty was not exercised as giving authority to
exact toll. All that was demanded in return for keeping the sea
safe for peaceful traffic was a salute, enforced no doubt as a
formal admission of the right which permitted the (on the whole,
at any rate) effective police of the waters to be maintained.
The Dutch in the seventeenth century objected to the demand for
this salute. It was insisted upon. War ensued; but in the end
the Dutch acknowledged by solemn treaties their obligation to
render the salute. The time for exacting it, however, was really
past. S. R. Gardiner[54] maintains that though the 'question of
the flag' was the occasion, it was not the cause of the war.
There was not much, if any, piracy in the English Channel which
the King of England was specially called upon to suppress, and
if there had been the merchant vessels of the age were generally
able to defend themselves, while if they were not their governments
possessed force enough to give them the necessary protection.
We gave up our claim to exact the salute in 1805.

[Footnote 51: W. E. Hall, _Treatise_on_International_Law_,
4th ed. 1895, p. 146.]

[Footnote 52: Hall, pp. 48, 49.]

[Footnote 53: J. K. Laughton, 'Sovereignty of the Sea,' _Fortnightly_
_Review_, August 1866.]

[Footnote 54: _The_First_Dutch_War_ (Navy Records Society), 1899.]

The necessity of the foregoing short account of the 'Sovereignty
or Dominion of the Seas' will be apparent as soon as we come
to the consideration of the first struggle, or rather series
of struggles, for the command of the sea. Gaining this was the
result of our wars with the Dutch in the seventeenth century.
At the time of the first Dutch war, 1652-54, and probably of
the later wars also, a great many people, and especially seamen,
believed that the conflict was due to a determination on our
part to retain, and on that of the Dutch to put an end to, the
English sovereignty or dominion. The obstinacy of the Dutch in
objecting to pay the old-established mark of respect to the English
flag was quite reason enough in the eyes of most Englishmen, and
probably of most Dutchmen also, to justify hostilities which
other reasons may have rendered inevitable. The remarkable thing
about the Dutch wars is that in reality what we gained was the
possibility of securing an absolute command of the sea. We came
out of the struggle a great, and in a fair way of becoming the
greatest, naval power. It is this which prompted Vice-Admiral P.
H. Colomb to hold that there are various kinds of command, such
as 'absolute or assured,' 'temporary,' 'with definite ulterior
purpose,' &c. An explanation that would make all these terms
intelligible would be voluminous and is unnecessary here. It
will be enough to say that the absolute command--of attempts
to gain which, as Colomb tells us, the Anglo-Dutch wars were
the most complete example--is nothing but an attribute of the
nation whose power on the sea is paramount. It exists and may
be visible in time of peace. The command which, as said above,
expresses a definite strategical condition is existent only in
time of war. It can easily be seen that the former is essential to
an empire like the British, the parts of which are bound together
by maritime communications. Inability to keep these communications
open can have only one result, viz. the loss of the parts with
which communication cannot be maintained. Experience of war as
well as reason will have made it evident that inability to keep
open sea-communications cannot be limited to any single line,
because the inability must be due either to incapacity in the
direction of hostilities or insufficiency of force. If we have
not force enough to keep open all the communications of our widely
extended empire, or if--having force enough--we are too foolish
to employ it properly, we do not hold the command of the sea,
and the empire must fall if seriously attacked.

The strategic command of the sea in a particular war or campaign
has equal concern for all maritime belligerents. Before seeing
what it is, it will be well to learn on high authority what it is
not. Mahan says that command, or, to use his own term, 'control
of the sea, however real, does not imply that an enemy's single
ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of port, cannot cross
more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harassing descents
upon unprotected points of a long coast-line, enter blockaded
harbours. On the contrary, history has shown that such evasions
are always possible, to some extent, to the weaker party, however
great the inequality of naval strength.'[55] The Anglo-French
command of the sea in 1854-56, complete as it was, did not enable
the allies to intercept the Russian ships in the North-Western
Pacific, nor did that held by the Federals in the American civil
war put an early stop to the cruises of the Confederate vessels.
What the term really does imply is the power possessed from the
first, or gained during hostilities, by one belligerent of carrying
out considerable over-sea expeditions at will. In the Russian
war just mentioned the allies had such overwhelmingly superior
sea-power that the Russians abandoned to them without a struggle
the command of the sea; and the more recent landing in South
Africa, more than six thousand miles away, of a large British army
without even a threat of interruption on the voyage is another
instance of unchallenged command. In wars between great powers
and also between secondary powers, if nearly equally matched,
this absence of challenge is rare. The rule is that the command
of the sea has to be won after hostilities begin. To win it the
enemy's naval force must be neutralised. It must be driven into
his ports and there blockaded or 'masked,' and thus rendered
virtually innocuous; or it must be defeated and destroyed. The
latter is the preferable, because the more effective, plan. As
was perceptible in the Spanish-American war of 1898, as long
as one belligerent's fleet is intact or at large, the other is
reluctant to carry out any considerable expedition over-sea. In
fact, the command of the sea has not been secured whilst the
enemy continues to have a 'fleet in being.'[56]

[Footnote 55: _Influence_of_Sea-power_on_History_, 1890, p. 4.]

[Footnote 56: See _ante_, Sea-Power, p. 50.]

In 1782 a greatly superior Franco-Spanish fleet was covering
the siege of Gibraltar. Had this fleet succeeded in preventing
the revictualling of the fortress the garrison would have been
starved into surrender. A British fleet under Lord Howe, though
much weaker in numbers, had not been defeated and was still at
large. Howe, in spite of the odds against him, managed to get his
supply-ships in to the anchorage and to fight a partial action, in
which he did the allies as much damage as he received. There has
never been a display of higher tactical skill than this operation
of Howe's, though, it may be said, he owes his fame much more
to his less meritorious performance on the first of June. The
revictualling of Gibraltar surpassed even Suffren's feat of the
capture of Trincomalee in the same year. In 1798 the French,
assuming that a temporary superiority in the Mediterranean had
given them a free hand on the water, sent a great expedition to
Egypt. Though the army which was carried succeeded in landing
there, the covering fleet was destroyed by Nelson at the Nile,
and the army itself was eventually forced to surrender. The French
had not perceived that, except for a short time and for minor
operations, you cannot separate the command of the Mediterranean
or of any particular area of water from that of the sea in general.
Local command of the sea may enable a belligerent to make a hasty
raid, seize a relatively insignificant port, or cut out a vessel;
but it will not ensure his being able to effect anything requiring
considerable time for its execution, or, in other words, anything
likely to have an important influence on the course of the war.
If Great Britain has not naval force enough to retain command
of the Mediterranean, she will certainly not have force enough
to retain command of the English Channel. It can be easily shown
why it should be so. In war danger comes less from conditions of
locality than from the enemy's power to hurt. Taking up a weak
position when confronting an enemy may help him in the exercise of
his power, but it does not constitute it.[57] A maritime enemy's
power to hurt resides in his fleet. If that can be neutralised
his power disappears. It is in the highest degree improbable
that this end can be attained by splitting up our own fleet into
fragments so as to have a part of it in nearly every quarter in
which the enemy may try to do us mischief. The most promising
plan--as experience has often proved--is to meet the enemy, when
he shows himself, with a force sufficiently strong to defeat
him. The proper station of the British fleet in war should,
accordingly, be the nearest possible point to the enemy's force.
This was the fundamental principle of Nelson's strategy, and it
is as valid now as ever it was. If we succeed in getting into
close proximity to the hostile fleet with an adequate force of
our own, our foe cannot obtain command of the sea, or of any
part of it, whether that part be the Mediterranean or the English
Channel, at any rate until he has defeated us. If he is strong
enough to defeat our fleet he obtains the command of the sea
in general; and it is for him to decide whether he shall show
the effectiveness of that command in the Mediterranean or in
the Channel.

[Footnote 57: In his _History_of_Scotland_ (1873). J. H. M. Burton,
speaking of the Orkney and Shetland isles in the Viking times,
says (vol. i. p. 320): 'Those who occupied them were protected,
not so much by their own strength of position, as by the complete
command over the North Sea held by the fleets that found shelter
in the fiords and firths.']

In the smaller operations of war temporary command of a particular
area of water may suffice for the success of an expedition, or
at least will permit the execution of the preliminary movements.
When the main fleet of a country is at a distance--which it ought
not to be except with the object of nearing the opposing fleet--a
small hostile expedition may slip across, say the Channel, throw
shells into a coast town or burn a fishing village, and get home
again unmolested. Its action would have no sort of influence on
the course of the campaign, and would, therefore, be useless. It
would also most likely lead to reprisals; and, if this process were
repeated, the war would probably degenerate into the antiquated
system of 'cross-raiding,' discarded centuries ago, not at all
for reasons of humanity, but because it became certain that war
could be more effectually waged in other ways. The nation in
command of the sea may resort to raiding to expedite the formal
submission of an already defeated enemy, as Russia did when at
war with Sweden in 1719; but in such a case the other side cannot
retaliate. Temporary command of local waters will also permit of
operations rather more considerable than mere raiding attacks;
but the duration of these operations must be adjusted to the
time available. If the duration of the temporary command is
insufficient the operation must fail. It must fail even if the
earlier steps have been taken successfully. Temporary command
of the Baltic in war might enable a German force to occupy an
Aland isle; but unless the temporary could be converted into
permanent command, Germany could make no use of the acquisition,
which in the end would revert as a matter of course to its former
possessors. The command of the English Channel, which Napoleon
wished to obtain when maturing his invasion project, was only
temporary. It is possible that a reminiscence of what had happened
in Egypt caused him to falter at the last; and that, quite
independently of the proceedings of Villeneuve, he hesitated to
risk a second battle of the Nile and the loss of a second army.
It may have been this which justified his later statement that he
did not really mean to invade England. In any case, the English
practice of fixing the station of their fleet wherever that of
the enemy's was, would have seriously shortened the duration
of his command of the Channel, even if it had allowed it to be
won at all. Moreover, attempts to carry out a great operation
of war against time as well as against the efforts of the enemy
to prevent it are in the highest degree perilous.

In war the British Navy has three prominent duties to discharge. It
has to protect our maritime trade, to keep open the communications
between the different parts of the empire, and to prevent invasion.
If we command the sea these duties will be discharged effectually.
As long as we command the sea the career of hostile cruisers
sent to prey on our commerce will be precarious, because command
of the sea carries with it the necessity of possessing an ample
cruiser force. As long as the condition mentioned is satisfied
our ocean communications will be kept open, because an inferior
enemy, who cannot obtain the command required, will be too much
occupied in seeing to his own safety to be able to interfere
seriously with that of any part of our empire. This being so,
it is evident that the greater operation of invasion cannot be
attempted, much less carried to a successful termination, by the
side which cannot make head against the opposing fleet. Command of
the sea is the indispensable preliminary condition of a successful
military expedition sent across the water. It enables the nation
which possesses it to attack its foes where it pleases and where
they seem to be most vulnerable. At the same time it gives to its
possessor security against serious counter-attacks, and affords
to his maritime commerce the most efficient protection that can
be devised. It is, in fact, the main object of naval warfare.



[Footnote 58: Written in 1900. (_Naval_Annual_, 1901.)]

Had the expression 'real war' been introduced into the title of
this chapter, its introduction would have been justifiable. The
sources--if not of our knowledge of combat, at least of the views
which are sure to prevail when we come to actual fighting--are to
be found in two well-defined, dissimilar, and widely separated
areas. Within one are included the records of war; within the
other, remembrance of the exercises and manoeuvres of a time of
peace. The future belligerent will almost of a certainty have taken
a practical part in the latter, whilst it is probable that he will
have had no personal experience of the former. The longer the time
elapsed since hostilities were in progress, the more probable and
more general does this absence of experience become. The fighting
man--that is to say, the man set apart, paid, and trained so as
to be ready to fight when called upon--is of the same nature as
the rest of his species. This is a truism; but it is necessary to
insist upon it, because professional, and especially professorial,
strategists and tacticians almost invariably ignore it. That which
we have seen and know has not only more, but very much more,
influence upon the minds of nearly all of us than that of which
we have only heard, and, most likely, heard but imperfectly. The
result is that, when peace is interrupted and the fighting man--on
both sea and land--is confronted with the problems of practical
belligerency, he brings to his attempts at their solution an
intellectual equipment drawn, not from knowledge of real war,
but from the less trustworthy arsenal of the recollections of
his peace training.

When peace, especially a long peace, ends, the methods which it
has introduced are the first enemies which the organised defenders
of a country have to overcome. There is plenty of evidence to prove
that--except, of course, in unequal conflicts between highly
organised, civilised states and savage or semi-barbarian
tribes--success in war is directly proportionate to the extent
of the preliminary victory over the predominance of impressions
derived from the habits and exercises of an armed force during
peace. That the cogency of this evidence is not invariably recognised
is to be attributed to insufficient attention to history and to
disinclination to apply its lessons properly. A primary object
of the _Naval_Annual_--indeed, the chief reason for its
publication--being to assist in advancing the efficiency of the
British Navy, its pages are eminently the place for a review
of the historical examples of the often-recurring inability of
systems established in peace to stand the test of war. Hostilities
on land being more frequent, and much more frequently written
about, than those by sea, the history of the former as well as
of the latter must be examined. The two classes of warfare have
much in common. The principles of their strategy are identical;
and, as regards some of their main features, so are those of
the tactics followed in each. Consequently the history of land
warfare has its lessons for those who desire to achieve success
in warfare on the sea.

That this has often been lost sight of is largely due to a
misapprehension of the meaning of terms. The two words 'military'
and 'army' have been given, in English, a narrower signification
than they ought, and than they used, to have. Both terms have
been gradually restricted in their use, and made to apply only
to the land service. This has been unfortunate; because records
of occurrences and discussions, capable of imparting much valuable
instruction to naval officers, have been passed over by them
as inapplicable to their own calling. It may have been noticed
that Captain Mahan uses the word 'military' in its right sense
as indicating the members, and the most important class of
operations, of both land- and sea-forces. The French, through
whom the word has come to us from the Latin, use it in the same
sense as Mahan. _Un_militaire_ is a member of either a land
army or a navy. The 'Naval _and_ Military Intelligence' of the
English press is given under the heading 'Nouvelles Militaires'
in the French. Our word 'army' also came to us direct from the
French, who still apply it equally to both services--_armée_de_
_terre,_armée_de_mer_. It is a participle, and means 'armed,'
the word 'force' being understood. The kindred words _armada_ in
Spanish and Portuguese, and _armata_ in Italian--equally derived
from the Latin--are used to indicate a fleet or navy, another
name being given to a land army. The word 'army' was generally
applied to a fleet in former days by the English, as will be
seen on reference to the Navy Records Society's volumes on the
defeat of the Spanish Armada.

This short etymological discussion is not inappropriate here,
for it shows why we should not neglect authorities on the history
and conduct of war merely because they do not state specially
that they are dealing with the naval branch of it.

A very slight knowledge of history is quite enough to make us
acquainted with the frequent recurrence of defeats and disasters
inflicted on armed forces by antagonists whose power to do so
had not been previously suspected. It has been the same on the
sea as on the land, though--owing to more copious records--we
may have a larger list of events on the latter. It will not be
denied that it is of immense importance to us to inquire how this
happened, and ascertain how--for the future--it may be rendered
highly improbable in our own case. A brief enumeration of the more
striking instances will make it plain that the events in question
have been confined to no particular age and to no particular

It may be said that the more elaborately organised and trained
in peace time an armed force happened to be, the more unexpected
always, and generally the more disastrous, was its downfall.
Examples of this are to be found in the earliest campaigns of
which we have anything like detailed accounts, and they continue
to reappear down to very recent times. In the elaborate nature
of its organisation and training there probably never has been
an army surpassing that led by Xerxes into Greece twenty-four
centuries ago. Something like eight years had been devoted to
its preparation. The minute account of its review by Xerxes on
the shores of the Hellespont proves that, however inefficient
the semi-civilised contingents accompanying it may have been,
the regular Persian army appeared, in discipline, equipment,
and drill, to have come up to the highest standard of the most
intense 'pipeclay' epoch. In numbers alone its superiority was
considerable to the last, and down to the very eve of Platæa its
commander openly displayed his contempt for his enemy. Yet no
defeat could be more complete than that suffered by the Persians
at the hands of their despised antagonists.

As if to establish beyond dispute the identity of governing
conditions in both land and maritime wars, the next very conspicuous
disappointment of an elaborately organised force was that of the
Athenian fleet at Syracuse. At the time Athens, without question,
stood at the head of the naval world: her empire was in the truest
sense the product of sea-power. Her navy, whilst unequalled in size,
might claim, without excessive exaggeration, to be invincible. The
great armament which the Athenians despatched to Sicily seemed, in
numbers alone, capable of triumphing over all resistance. If the
Athenian navy had already met with some explicable mishaps, it
looked back with complacent confidence on the glorious achievements
of more than half a century previously. It had enjoyed many years
of what was so nearly a maritime peace that its principal exploits
had been the subjection of states weak to insignificance on the
sea as compared with imperial Athens. Profuse expenditure on its
maintenance; the 'continued practice' of which Pericles boasted,
the peace manoeuvres of a remote past; skilfully designed equipment;
and the memory of past glories;--all these did not avail to save
it from defeat at the hands of an enemy who only began to organise
a fleet when the Athenians had invaded his coast waters.

Ideal perfection as a regular army has never been so nearly reached
as by that of Sparta. The Spartan spent his life in the barrack
and the mess-room; his amusements were the exercises of the parade
ground. For many generations a Spartan force had never been defeated
in a pitched battle. We have had, in modern times, some instances
of a hectoring soldiery arrogantly prancing amongst populations
whose official defenders it had defeated in battle; but nonesuch
could vie with the Spartans in the sublimity of their military
self-esteem. Overweening confidence in the prowess of her army
led Sparta to trample with ruthless disdain on the rights of
others. The iniquitous attack on Thebes, a state thought incapable
of effectual resentment, was avenged by the defeat of Leuctra,
which announced the end of the political supremacy and the military
predominance of Sparta.

In the series of struggles with Carthage which resulted in putting
Rome in a position enabling her eventually to win the dominion
of the ancient world, the issue was to be decided on the water.
Carthage was essentially a maritime state. The foundation of the
city was effected by a maritime expedition; its dominions lay on
the neighbouring coast or in regions to which the Carthaginians
could penetrate only by traversing the sea. To Carthage her fleet
was 'all in all': her navy, supported by large revenues and
continuously maintained, was more of a 'regular' force than any
modern navy before the second half of the seventeenth century. The
Romans were almost without a fleet, and when they formed one the
undertaking was ridiculed by the Carthaginians with an unconcealed
assumption of superiority. The defeat of the latter off Mylæ,
the first of several, came as a great surprise to them, and, as
we can see now, indicated the eventual ruin of their city.

We are so familiar with stories of the luxury and corruption of
the Romans during the decline of the empire that we are likely
to forget that the decline went on for centuries, and that their
armed forces, however recruited, presented over and over again
abundant signs of physical courage and vigour. The victory of
Stilicho over Alaric at Pollentia has been aptly paralleled with
that of Marius over the Cimbri. This was by no means the only
achievement of the Roman army of the decadence. A century and
a quarter later--when the Empire of the West had fallen and the
general decline had made further progress--Belisarius conducted
successful campaigns in Persia, in North Africa, in Sicily, and
in Italy. The mere list of countries shows that the mobility and
endurance of the Roman forces during a period in which little
creditable is generally looked for were not inferior to their
discipline and courage. Yet they met with disastrous defeat after
all, and at the hands of races which they had more than once
proved themselves capable of withstanding. It could not have been
because the later Roman equipment was inferior, the organisation
less elaborate, or the training less careful than those of their
barbarian enemies.

Though it is held by some in these days that the naval power
of Spain in the latter part of the sixteenth century was not
really formidable, that does not appear to have been the opinion
of contemporaries, whether Spaniards or otherwise. Some English
seamen of the time did, indeed, declare their conviction that
Philip the Second's navy was not so much to be feared as many
of their fellow-countrymen thought; but, in the public opinion
of the age, Spain was the greatest, or indeed the one great,
naval state. She possessed a more systematically organised navy
than any other country having the ocean for a field of action
had then, or till long afterwards. Even Genoa and Venice, whose
operations, moreover, were restricted to Mediterranean waters,
could not have been served by more finished specimens of the
naval officer and the man-of-war's man of the time than a large
proportion of the military _personnel_ of the regular Spanish
fleet. As Basques, Castilians, Catalans, or Aragonese, or all
combined, the crews of Spanish fighting ships could look back
upon a glorious past. It was no wonder that, by common consent
of those who manned it, the title of 'Invincible' was informally
conferred upon the Armada which, in 1588, sailed for the English
Channel. How it fared is a matter of common knowledge. No one
could have been more surprised at the result than the gallant
officers who led its squadrons.

Spain furnishes another instance of the unexpected overthrow of
a military body to which long cohesion and precise organisation
were believed to have secured invincibility. The Spanish was
considered the 'most redoubtable infantry in Europe' till its
unexpected defeat at Rocroi. The effects of this defeat were
far-reaching. Notwithstanding the bravery of her sons, which
has never been open to question, and, in fact, has always been
conspicuous, the military superiority of Spain was broken beyond

In the history of other countries are to be found examples equally
instructive. The defeats of Almansa, Brihuega, and Villaviciosa
were nearly contemporary with the victories of Blenheim and
Ramillies; and the thousands of British troops compelled to lay
down their arms at the first named belonged to the same service
as their fellow-countrymen who so often marched to victory under
Marlborough. A striking example of the disappointment which lies
in wait for military self-satisfaction was furnished by the defeat
of Soubise at Rossbach by Frederick the Great. Before the action
the French had ostentatiously shown their contempt for their

The service which gloried in the exploits of Anson and of Hawke
discerned the approach of the Seven Years' war without misgiving;
and the ferocity shown in the treatment of Byng enables us now
to measure the surprise caused by the result of the action off
Minorca. There were further surprises in store for the English
Navy. At the end of the Seven Years' war its reputation for
invincibility was generally established. Few, perhaps none, ventured
to doubt that, if there were anything like equality between the
opposing forces, a meeting between the French and the British
fleets could have but one result--viz. the decisive victory of
the latter. Experience in the English Channel, on the other side
of the Atlantic, and in the Bay of Bengal--during the war of
American Independence--roughly upset this flattering anticipation.
Yet, in the end, the British Navy came out the unquestioned victor
in the struggle: which proves the excellence of its quality. After
every allowance is made for the incapacity of the Government,
we must suspect that there was something else which so often
frustrated the efforts of such a formidable force as the British
Navy of the day must essentially have been. On land the surprises
were even more mortifying; and it is no exaggeration to say that,
a year before it occurred, such an event as the surrender of
Burgoyne's army to an imperfectly organised and trained body of
provincials would have seemed impossible.

The army which Frederick the Great bequeathed to Prussia was
universally regarded as the model of efficiency. Its methods were
copied in other countries, and foreign officers desiring to excel
in their profession made pilgrimages to Berlin and Potsdam to drink
of the stream of military knowledge at its source. When it came in
contact with the tumultuous array of revolutionary France, the
performances of the force that preserved the tradition of the great
Frederick were disappointingly wanting in brilliancy. A few years
later it suffered an overwhelming disaster. The Prussian defeat
at Jena was serious as a military event; its political effects
were of the utmost importance. Yet many who were involved in that
disaster took, later on, an effective part in the expulsion of
the conquerors from their country, and in settling the history
of Europe for nearly half a century at Waterloo.

The brilliancy of the exploits of Wellington and the British
army in Portugal and Spain has thrown into comparative obscurity
that part of the Peninsular war which was waged for years by
the French against the Spaniards. Spain, distracted by palace
intrigues and political faction, with the flower of her troops
in a distant comer of Europe, and several of her most important
fortresses in the hands of her assailant, seemed destined to
fall an easy and a speedy prey to the foremost military power in
the world. The attitude of the invaders made it evident that they
believed themselves to be marching to certain victory. Even the
British soldiers--of whom there were never many more than 50,000
in the Peninsula, and for some years not half that number--were
disdained until they had been encountered. The French arms met
with disappointment after disappointment. On one occasion a whole
French army, over 18,000 strong, surrendered to a Spanish force,
and became prisoners of war. Before the struggle closed there
were six marshals of France with nearly 400,000 troops in the
Peninsula. The great efforts which these figures indicate were
unsuccessful, and the intruders were driven from the country. Yet
they were the comrades of the victors of Austerlitz, of Jena,
and of Wagram, and part of that mighty organisation which had
planted its victorious standards in Berlin and Vienna, held down
Prussia like a conquered province, and shattered into fragments
the holy Roman Empire.

In 1812 the British Navy was at the zenith of its glory. It had
not only defeated all its opponents; it had also swept the seas of
the fleets of the historic maritime powers--of Spain, of France,
which had absorbed the Italian maritime states, of the Netherlands,
of Denmark. Warfare, nearly continuous for eighteen, and
uninterrupted for nine years, had transformed the British Navy
into an organisation more nearly resembling a permanently maintained
force than it had been throughout its previous history. Its long
employment in serious hostilities had saved it from some of the
failings which the narrow spirit inherent in a close profession
is only too sure to foster. It had, however, a confidence--not
unjustified by its previous exploits--in its own invincibility.
This confidence did not diminish, and was not less ostentatiously
exhibited, as its great achievements receded more and more into
the past. The new enemy who now appeared on the farther side of
the Atlantic was not considered formidable. In the British Navy
there were 145,000 men. In the United States Navy the number
of officers, seamen, and marines available for ocean service
was less than 4500--an insignificant numerical addition to the
enemies with whom we were already contending. The subsequent
and rapid increase in the American _personnel_ to 18,000 shows
the small extent to which it could be considered a 'regular'
force, its permanent nucleus being overwhelmingly outnumbered
by the hastily enrolled additions. Our defeats in the war of
1812 have been greatly exaggerated; but, all the same, they did
constitute rebuffs to our naval self-esteem which were highly
significant in themselves, and deserve deep attention. Rebuffs
of the kind were not confined to the sea service, and at New
Orleans our army, which numbered in its ranks soldiers of Busaco,
Fuentes de Onoro, and Salamanca, met with a serious defeat.

When the Austro-Prussian war broke out in 1866, the Austrian
commander-in-chief, General Benedek, published an order, probably
still in the remembrance of many, which officially declared the
contempt for the enemy felt in the Imperial army. Even those
who perceived that the Prussian forces were not fit subjects of
contempt counted with confidence on the victory of the Austrians.
Yet the latter never gained a considerable success in their combats
with the Prussians; and within a few weeks from the beginning of
hostilities the general who had assumed such a lofty tone of
superiority in speaking of his foes had to implore his sovereign
to make peace to avoid further disasters.

At the beginning of the Franco-German war of 1870, the widespread
anticipation of French victories was clearly shown by the unanimity
with which the journalists of various nationalities illustrated
their papers with maps giving the country between the French
frontier and Berlin, and omitting the part of France extending
to Paris. In less than five weeks from the opening of hostilities
events had made it certain that a map of the country to the eastward
of Lorraine would be practically useless to a student of the
campaign, unless it were to follow the route of the hundreds
of thousands of French soldiers who were conveyed to Germany as
prisoners of war.

It is to be specially noted that in the above enumeration only
contests in which the result was unexpected--unexpected not only
by the beaten side but also by impartial observers--have been
specified. In all wars one side or the other is defeated; and it
has not been attempted to give a general _résumé_ of the history
of war. The object has been to show the frequency--in all ages
and in all circumstances of systematic, as distinguished from
savage, warfare--of the defeat of the force which by general
consent was regarded as certain to win. Now it is obvious that
a result so frequently reappearing must have a distinct cause,
which is well worth trying to find out. Discovery of the cause
may enable us to remove it in the future, and thus prevent results
which are likely to be all the more disastrous because they have
not been foreseen.

Professional military writers--an expression which, as before
explained, includes naval--do not help us much in the prosecution
of the search which is so eminently desirable. As a rule, they
have contrived rather to hide than to bring to light the object
sought for. It would be doing them injustice to assume that this
has been done with deliberate intention. It is much more likely
due to professional bias, which exercises over the minds of members
of definitely limited professions incessant and potent domination.
When alluding to occurrences included in the enumeration given
above, they exhibit signs of a resolve to defend their profession
against possible imputations of inefficiency, much more than
a desire to get to the root of the matter. This explains the
unremitting eagerness of military writers to extol the special
qualities developed by long-continued service habits and methods.
They are always apprehensive of the possibility of credit being
given to fighting bodies more loosely organised and less precisely
trained in peace time than the body to which they themselves

This sensitiveness as to the merits of their particular profession,
and impatience of even indirect criticism, are unnecessary. There
is nothing in the history of war to show that an untrained force
is better than a trained force. On the contrary, all historical
evidence is on the other side. In quite as many instances as are
presented by the opposite, the forces which put an unexpected
end to the military supremacy long possessed by their antagonists
were themselves, in the strictest sense of the word, 'regulars.'
The Thebans whom Epaminondas led to victory over the Spartans at
Leuctra no more resembled a hasty levy of armed peasants or men
imperfectly trained as soldiers than did Napoleon's army which
overthrew the Prussians at Jena, or the Germans who defeated the
French at Gravelotte and Sedan. Nothing could have been less like
an 'irregular' force than the fleet with which La Galissonnière
beat Byng off Minorca, or the French fleets which, in the war
of American Independence, so often disappointed the hopes of
the British. The records of war on land and by sea--especially
the extracts from them included in the enumeration already
given--lend no support to the silly suggestion that efficient
defence can be provided for a country by 'an untrained man with
a rifle behind a hedge.' The truth is that it was not the absence
of organisation or training on one side which enabled it to defeat
the other. If the beaten side had been elaborately organised and
carefully trained, there must have been something bad in its
organisation or its methods.

Now this 'something bad,' this defect--wherever it has disclosed
itself--has been enough to neutralise the most splendid courage
and the most unselfish devotion. It has been seen that armies
and navies the valour of which has never been questioned have
been defeated by antagonists sometimes as highly organised as
they were, and sometimes much less so. This ought to put us on
the track of the cause which has produced an effect so little
anticipated. A 'regular' permanently embodied or maintained service
of fighting men is always likely to develop a spirit of intense
professional self-satisfaction. The more highly organised it is,
and the more sharply its official frontiers are defined, the
more intense is this spirit likely to become. A 'close' service of
the kind grows restive at outside criticism, and yields more and
more to the conviction that no advance in efficiency is possible
unless it be the result of suggestions emanating from its own
ranks. Its view of things becomes narrower and narrower, whereas
efficiency in war demands the very widest view. Ignorant critics
call the spirit thus engendered 'professional conservatism'; the
fact being that change is not objected to--is even welcomed,
however frequent it may be, provided only that it is suggested
from inside. An immediate result is 'unreality and formalism of
peace training'--to quote a recent thoughtful military critic.

As the formalism becomes more pronounced, so the unreality increases.
The proposer or introducer of a system of organisation of training
or of exercises is often, perhaps usually, capable of distinguishing
between the true and the false, the real and the unreal. His
successors, the men who continue the execution of his plans,
can hardly bring to their work the open mind possessed by the
originator; they cannot escape from the influence of the methods
which have been provided for them ready made, and which they are
incessantly engaged in practising. This is not a peculiarity of
the military profession in either branch--it extends to nearly
every calling; but in the profession specified, which is a service
rather than a freely exercised profession, it is more prominent.
Human thought always has a tendency to run in grooves, and in
military institutions the grooves are purposely made deep, and
departure from them rigorously forbidden. All exercises, even
those designed to have the widest scope, tend to become mere
drill. Each performance produces, and bequeaths for use on the
next occasion, a set of customary methods of execution which are
readily adopted by the subsequent performers. There grows up in
time a kind of body of customary law governing the execution of
peace operations--the principles being peace-operation principles
wholly and solely--which law few dare to disobey, and which
eventually obtains the sanction of official written regulations.
As Scharnhorst, quoted by Baron von der Goltz, said, 'We have
begun to place the art of war higher than military virtues.'
The eminent authority who thus expressed himself wrote the words
before the great catastrophe of Jena; and, with prophetic insight
sharpened by his fear of the menacing tendency of peace-training
formalism and unreality, added his conviction that 'this has
been the ruin of nations from time immemorial.'

Independently of the evidence of history already adduced, it
would be reasonable to conclude that the tendency is strengthened
and made more menacing when the service in which it prevails
becomes more highly specialised. If custom and regulation leave
little freedom of action to the individual members of an armed
force, the difficulty--sure to be experienced by them--of shaking
themselves clear of their fetters when the need for doing so arises
is increased. To realise--when peace is broken--the practical
conditions of war demands an effort of which the unfettered
intelligence alone seems capable. The great majority of successful
leaders in war on both elements have not been considerably, or
at all, superior in intellectual acuteness to numbers of their
fellows; but they have had strength of character, and their minds
were not squeezed in a mould into a commonplace and uniform pattern.

The 'canker of a long peace,' during recent years at any rate,
is not manifested in disuse of arms, but in mistaken methods.
For a quarter of a century the civilised world has tended more
and more to become a drill-ground, but the spirit dominating
it has been that of the pedant. There has been more exercise
and less reality. The training, especially of officers, becomes
increasingly scholastic. This, and the deterioration consequent
on it, are not merely modern phenomena. They appear in all ages.
'The Sword of the Saracens,' says Gibbon, 'became less formidable
when their youth was drawn from the camp to the college.' The
essence of pedantry is want of originality. It is nourished on
imitation. For the pedant to imitate is enough of itself; to
him the suitability of the model is immaterial. Thus military
bodies have been ruined by mimicry of foreign arrangements quite
inapplicable to the conditions of the mimics' country. More than
twenty years ago Sir Henry Maine, speaking of the war of American
Independence, said, 'Next to their stubborn valour, the chief
secret of the colonists' success was the incapacity of the English
generals, trained in the stiff Prussian system soon to perish
at Jena, to adapt themselves to new conditions of warfare.' He
pointed out that the effect of this uncritical imitation of what
was foreign was again experienced by men 'full of admiration
of a newer German system.' We may not be able to explain what
it is, but, all the same, there does exist something which we
call national characteristics. The aim of all training should
be to utilise these to the full, not to ignore them. The naval
methods of a continental state with relatively small oceanic
interests, or with but a brief experience of securing these,
cannot be very applicable to a great maritime state whose chief
interests have been on the seas for many years.

How is all this applicable to the ultimate efficiency of the
British Navy? It may be allowed that there is a good deal of
truth in what has been written above; but it may be said that
considerations sententiously presented cannot claim to have much
practical value so long as they are absolute and unapplied. The
statement cannot be disputed. It is unquestionably necessary
to make the application. The changes in naval _matériel_, so
often spoken of, introduced within the last fifty years have been
rivalled by the changes in the composition of the British Navy.
The human element remains in original individual character exactly
the same as it always was; but there has been a great change in
the opportunities and facilities offered for the development of
the faculties most desired in men-of-war's men. All reform--using
the word in its true sense of alteration, and not in its strained
sense of improvement--has been in the direction of securing perfect
uniformity. If we take the particular directly suggested by the
word just used, we may remember, almost with astonishment, that
there was no British naval uniform for anyone below the rank of
officer till after 1860. Now, at every inspection, much time
is taken up in ascertaining if the narrow tape embroidery on
a frock collar is of the regulation width, and if the rows of
tape are the proper distance apart. The diameter of a cloth cap
is officially defined; and any departure from the regulation
number of inches (and fractions of an inch) is as sure of involving
punishment as insubordination.

It is the same in greater things. Till 1853--in which year the
change came into force--there was no permanent British naval
service except the commissioned and warrant officers. Not till
several years later did the new 'continuous service' men equal
half of the bluejacket aggregate. Now, every bluejacket proper
serves continuously, and has been in the navy since boyhood. The
training of the boys is made uniform. No member of the ship's
company--except a domestic--is now allowed to set foot on board
a sea-going ship till he has been put through a training course
which is exactly like that through which every other member of
his class passes. Even during the comparatively brief period in
which young officers entered the navy by joining the college
at Portsmouth, it was only the minority who received the special
academic training. Till the establishment of the _Illustrious_
training school in 1855, the great majority of officers joined
their first ship as individuals from a variety of different and
quite independent quarters. Now, every one of them has, as a
preliminary condition, to spend a certain time--the same for
all--in a school. Till a much later period, every engineer entered
separately. Now, passing through a training establishment is
obligatory for engineers also.

Within the service there has been repeated formation of distinct
branches or 'schools,' such as the further specialised specialist
gunnery and torpedo sections. It was not till 1860 that uniform
watch bills, quarter bills, and station bills were introduced, and
not till later that their general adoption was made compulsory. Up
to that time the internal organisation and discipline of a ship
depended on her own officers, it being supposed that capacity
to command a ship implied, at least, capacity to distribute and
train her crew. The result was a larger scope than is now thought
permissible for individual capability. However short-lived some
particular drill or exercise may be, however soon it is superseded
by another, as long as it lasts the strictest conformity to it is
rigorously enforced. Even the number of times that an exercise
has to be performed, difference in class of ship or in the nature
of the service on which she is employed notwithstanding, is
authoritatively laid down. Still more noteworthy, though much
less often spoken of than the change in _matériel_, has been
the progress of the navy towards centralisation. Naval duties
are now formulated at a desk on shore, and the mode of carrying
them out notified to the service in print. All this would have
been quite as astonishing to the contemporaries of Nelson or
of Exmouth and Codrington as the aspect of a battleship or of
a 12-inch breech-loading gun.

Let it be clearly understood that none of these things has been
mentioned with the intention of criticising them either favourably
or unfavourably. They have been cited in order that it may be
seen that the change in naval affairs is by no means one in
_matériel_ only, and that the transformation in other matters has
been stupendous and revolutionary beyond all previous experience.
It follows inevitably from this that we shall wage war in future
under conditions dissimilar from any hitherto known. In this very
fact there lies the making of a great surprise. It will have
appeared from the historical statement given above how serious
a surprise sometimes turns out to be. Its consequences, always
significant, are not unfrequently far-reaching. The question of
practical moment is: How are we to guard ourselves against such
a surprise? To this a satisfactory answer can be given. It might
be summarised in the admonitions: abolish over-centralisation;
give proper scope to individual capacity and initiative; avoid
professional self-sufficiency.

When closely looked at, it is one of the strangest manifestations
of the spirit of modern navies that, though the issues of land
warfare are rarely thought instructive, the peace methods of land
forces are extensively and eagerly copied by the sea-service.
The exercises of the parade ground and the barrack square are
taken over readily, and so are the parade ground and the barrack
square themselves. This may be right. The point is that it is
novel, and that a navy into the training of which the innovation
has entered must differ considerably from one that was without
it and found no need of it during a long course of serious wars.
At any rate, no one will deny that parade-ground evolutions and
barrack-square drill expressly aim at the elimination of
individuality, or just the quality to the possession of which
we owe the phenomenon called, in vulgar speech, the 'handy man.'
Habits and sentiments based on a great tradition, and the faculties
developed by them, are not killed all at once; but innovation
in the end annihilates them, and their not having yet entirely
disappeared gives no ground for doubting their eventual, and even
near, extinction. The aptitudes still universally most prized
in the seaman were produced and nourished by practices and under
conditions no longer allowed to prevail. Should we lose those
aptitudes, are we likely to reach the position in war gained
by our predecessors?

For the British Empire the matter is vital: success in maritime
war, decisive and overwhelming, is indispensable to our existence.
We have to consider the desirability of 'taking stock' of our
moral, as well as of our material, naval equipment: to ascertain
where the accumulated effect of repeated innovations has carried
us. The mere fact of completing the investigation will help us to
rate at their true value the changes which have been introduced;
will show us what to retain, what to reject, and what to substitute.
There is no essential vagueness in these allusions. If they seem
vague, it is because the moment for particularising has not yet
come. The public opinion of the navy must first be turned in the
right direction. It must be led to question the soundness of
the basis on which many present methods rest. Having once begun
to do this, we shall find no difficulty in settling, in detail
and with precision, what the true elements of naval efficiency



[Footnote 59: Written in 1898. (_The_Times_.)]

The regret, often expressed, that the crews of British merchant
ships now include a large proportion of foreigners, is founded
chiefly on the apprehension that a well-tested and hitherto secure
recruiting ground for the navy is likely to be closed. It has
been stated repeatedly, and the statement has been generally
accepted without question, that in former days, when a great
expansion of our fleet was forced on us by the near approach
of danger, we relied upon the ample resources of our merchant
service to complete the manning of our ships of war, even in
a short time, and that the demands of the navy upon the former
were always satisfied. It is assumed that compliance with those
demands was as a rule not voluntary, but was enforced by the
press-gang. The resources, it is said, existed and were within
reach, and the method employed in drawing upon them was a detail
of comparatively minor importance; our merchant ships were manned
by native-born British seamen, of whom tens of thousands were
always at hand, so that if volunteers were not forthcoming the
number wanted could be 'pressed' into the Royal service. It is
lamented that at the present day the condition of affairs is
different, that the presence in it of a large number of foreigners
forbids us to regard with any confidence the merchant service as an
adequate naval recruiting ground in the event of war, even though
we are ready to substitute for the system of 'impressment'--which
is now considered both undesirable and impossible--rewards likely
to attract volunteers. The importance of the subject need not
be dwelt upon. The necessity to a maritime state of a powerful
navy, including abundant resources for manning it, is now no
more disputed than the law of gravitation. If the proportion of
foreigners in our merchant service is too high it is certainly
deplorable; and if, being already too high, that proportion is
rising, an early remedy is urgently needed. I do not propose
to speak here of that matter, which is grave enough to require
separate treatment.

My object is to present the results of an inquiry into the history
of the relations between the navy and the merchant service, from
which will appear to what extent the latter helped in bringing the
former up to a war footing, how far its assistance was affected
by the presence in it of any foreign element, and in what way
impressment ensured or expedited the rendering of the assistance.
The inquiry has necessarily been largely statistical; consequently
the results will often be given in a statistical form. This has the
great advantage of removing the conclusions arrived at from the
domain of mere opinion into that of admitted fact. The statistics
used are those which have not been, and are not likely to be,
questioned. It is desirable that this should be understood, because
official figures have not always commanded universal assent. Lord
Brougham, speaking in the House of Lords in 1849 of tables issued
by the Board of Trade, said that a lively impression prevailed
'that they could prove anything and everything'; and in connection
with them he adopted some unnamed person's remark, 'Give me half
an hour and the run of the multiplication table and I'll engage
to payoff the National Debt.' In this inquiry there has been no
occasion to use figures relating to the time of Lord Brougham's
observations. We will take the last three great maritime wars
in which our country has been engaged. These were: the war of
American Independence, the war with Revolutionary France to the
Peace of Amiens, and the war with Napoleon. The period covered
by these three contests roughly corresponds to the last quarter
of the eighteenth and the first fifteen years of the nineteenth
century. In each of the three wars there was a sudden and large
addition to the number of seamen in the navy; and in each there
were considerable annual increases as the struggle continued. It
must be understood that we shall deal with the case of seamen only;
the figures, which also were large, relating to the marines not
being included in our survey because it has never been contended
that their corps looked to the merchant service for any appreciable
proportion of its recruits. In taking note of the increase of
seamen voted for any year it will be necessary to make allowance
also for the 'waste' of the previous year. The waste, even in the
latter part of the last century, was large. Commander Robinson,
in his valuable work, 'The British Fleet,' gives details showing
that the waste during the Seven Years' war was so great as to be
truly shocking. In 1895 Lord Brassey (_Naval_Annual_) allowed
for the _personnel_ of the navy, even in these days of peace
and advanced sanitary science, a yearly waste of 5 per cent., a
percentage which is, I expect, rather lower than that officially
accepted. We may take it as certain that, during the three serious
wars above named, the annual waste was never less than 6 per
cent. This is, perhaps, to put it too low; but it is better to
understate the case than to appear to exaggerate it. The recruiting
demand, therefore, for a year of increased armament will be the
sum of the increase in men _plus_ the waste on the previous year's

The capacity of the British merchant service to supply what was
demanded would, of course, be all the greater the smaller the
number of foreigners it contained in its ranks. This is not only
generally admitted at the present day; it is also frequently
pointed out when it is asserted that the conditions now are less
favourable than they were owing to a recent influx of foreign
seamen. The fact, however, is that there were foreigners on board
British merchant ships, and, it would seem, in considerable numbers,
long before even the war of American Independence. By 13 George
II, c. 3, foreigners, not exceeding three-fourths of the crew,
were permitted in British vessels, 'and in two years to be
naturalised.' By 13 George II, c. 17, exemption from impressment
was granted to 'every person, being a foreigner, who shall serve in
any merchant ship, or other trading vessel or privateer belonging
to a subject of the Crown of Great Britain.' The Acts quoted
were passed about the time of the 'Jenkins' Ear War' and the
war of the Austrian Succession; but the fact that foreigners
were allowed to form the majority of a British vessel's crew is
worthy of notice. The effect and, probably, the object of this
legislation were not so much to permit foreign seamen to enter
our merchant service as to permit the number of those already
there to be increased. It was in 1759 that Lord, then Commander,
Duncan reported that the crew of the hired merchant ship _Royal_
_Exchange_ consisted 'to a large extent of boys and foreigners,
many of whom could not speak English.' In 1770 by 11 George III,
c. 3, merchant ships were allowed to have three-fourths of their
crews foreigners till the 1st February 1772. Acts permitting
the same proportion of foreign seamen and extending the time
were passed in 1776, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, and 1782. A similar
Act was passed in 1792. It was in contemplation to reduce the
foreign proportion, after the war, to one-fourth. In 1794 it
was enacted (34 George III, c. 68), 'for the encouragement of
British seamen,' that after the expiration of six months from the
conclusion of the war, vessels in the foreign, as distinguished
from the coasting, trade were to have their commanders and
three-fourths of their crews British subjects. From the wording
of the Act it seems to have been taken for granted that the
proportion of three-fourths _bona_fide_ British-born seamen was
not likely to be generally exceeded. It will have been observed
that in all the legislation mentioned, from the time of George
II downwards, it was assumed as a matter of course that there
were foreign seamen on board our merchant vessels. The United
States citizens in the British Navy, about whom there was so
much discussion on the eve of the war of 1812, came principally
from our own merchant service, and not direct from the American.
It is remarkable that, until a recent date, the presence of
foreigners in British vessels, even in time of peace, was not
loudly or generally complained of. Mr. W. S. Lindsay, writing in
1876, stated that the throwing open the coasting trade in 1855
had 'neither increased on the average the number of foreigners we
had hitherto been allowed to employ in our ships, nor deteriorated
the number and quality of British seamen.' I have brought forward
enough evidence to show that, as far as the merchant service
was the proper recruiting ground for the British Navy, it was
not one which was devoid of a considerable foreign element.

We may, nevertheless, feel certain that that element never amounted
to, and indeed never nearly approached, three-fourths of the
whole number of men employed in our 'foreign-going' vessels. For
this, between 50,000 and 60,000 men would have been required,
at least in the last of the three wars above mentioned. If all
the foreign mercantile marines at the present day, when nearly
all have been so largely increased, were to combine, they could
not furnish the number required after their own wants had been
satisfied. During the period under review some of the leading
commercial nations were at war with us; so that few, if any,
seamen could have come to us from them. Our custom-house statistics
indicate an increase in the shipping trade of the neutral nations
sufficient to have rendered it impossible for them to spare us
any much larger number of seamen. Therefore, it is extremely
difficult to resist the conclusion that during the wars the
composition of our merchant service remained nearly what it was
during peace. It contained a far from insignificant proportion
of foreigners; and that proportion was augmented, though by no
means enormously, whilst war was going on. This leads us to the
further conclusion that, if our merchant service supplied the
navy with many men, it could recover only a small part of the
number from foreign countries. In fact, any that it could give
it had to replace from our own population almost exclusively.

The question now to be considered is, What was the capacity of
the merchant service for supplying the demands of the navy? In
the year 1770 the number of seamen voted for the navy was 11,713.
Owing to a fear of a difficulty with Spain about the Falkland
Islands, the number for the following year was suddenly raised
to 31,927. Consequently, the increase was 20,214, which, added
to the 'waste' on the previous year, made the whole naval demand
about 21,000. We have not got statistics of the seamen of the
whole British Empire for this period, but we have figures which
will enable us to compute the number with sufficient accuracy
for the purpose in hand. In England and Wales there were some
59,000 seamen, and those of the rest of the empire amounted to
about 21,000. Large as the 'waste' was in the Royal Navy, it
was, and still is, much larger in the merchant service. We may
safely put it at 8 per cent. at least. Therefore, simply to keep
up its numbers--80,000--the merchant service would have had to
engage fully 6400 fresh hands. In view of these figures, it is
difficult to believe that it could have furnished the navy with
21,000 men, or, indeed, with any number approximating thereto.
It could not possibly have done so without restricting its
operations, if only for a time. So far were its operations from
shrinking that they were positively extended. The English tonnage
'cleared outwards' from our ports was for the years mentioned
as follows: 1770, 703,495; 1771, 773,390; 1772 818,108.

Owing to the generally slow rate of sailing when on voyages and
to the great length of time taken in unloading and reloading
abroad--both being often effected 'in the stream' and with the
ship's own boats--the figures for clearances outward much more
nearly represented the amount of our 'foreign-going' tonnage
a century ago than similar figures would now in these days of
rapid movement. After 1771 the navy was reduced and kept at a
relatively low standard till 1775. In that year the state of
affairs in America rendered an increase of our naval forces
necessary. In 1778 we were at war with France; in 1779 with Spain
as well; and in December 1780 we had the Dutch for enemies in
addition. In September 1783 we were again at peace. The way in
which we had to increase the navy will be seen in the following

  |       |           |           |          |   Total    |
  |       |  Seamen   |           |          | additional |
  |       | voted for |           |          |   number   |
  | Year. | the navy  | Increase. | 'Waste.' | required.  |
  | 1774  |  15,646   |     --    |    --    |      --    |
  | 1775  |  18,000   |   2,354   |    936   |    3,290   |
  | 1776  |  21,335   |   3,335   |  1,080   |    4,415   |
  | 1777  |  34,871   |  13,536   |  1,278   |   14,184   |
  | 1778  |  48,171   |  13,300   |  2,088   |   15,388   |
  | 1779  |  52,611   |   4,440   |  2,886   |    7,326   |
  | 1780  |  66,221   |  13,610   |  3,156   |   16,766   |
  | 1781  |  69,683   |   3,462   |  3,972   |    7,434   |
  | 1782  |  78,695   |   9,012   |  4,176   |   13,188   |
  | 1783  |  84,709   |   6,014   |  4,722   |   10,736   |

It cannot be believed that the merchant service, with its then
dimensions, could have possibly satisfied these great and repeated
demands, besides making up its own 'waste,' unless its size were
much reduced. After 1777, indeed, there was a considerable fall
in the figures of English tonnage 'outwards.' I give these figures
down to the first year of peace.

  1777  736,234 tons 'outwards.'
  1778  657,238   "      "
  1779  590,911   "      "
  1780  619,462   "      "
  1781  547,953   "      "
  1782  552,851   "      "
  1783  795,669   "      "
  1784  846,355   "      "

At first sight it would seem as if there had, indeed, been a
shrinkage. We find, however, on further examination that in reality
there had been none. 'During the [American] war the ship-yards in
every port of Britain were full of employment; and consequently
new ship-yards were set up in places where ships had never been
built before.' Even the diminution in the statistics of outward
clearances indicated no diminution in the number of merchant
ships or their crews. The missing tonnage was merely employed
elsewhere. 'At this time there were about 1000 vessels of private
property employed by the Government as transports and in other
branches of the public service.' Of course there had been some
diminution due to the transfer of what had been British-American
shipping to a new independent flag. This would not have set free
any men to join the navy.

When we come to the Revolutionary war we find ourselves confronted
with similar conditions. The case of this war has often been
quoted as proving that in former days the navy had to rely
practically exclusively on the merchant service when expansion
was necessary. In giving evidence before a Parliamentary committee
about fifty years ago, Admiral Sir T. Byam Martin, referring
to the great increase of the fleet in 1793, said, 'It was the
merchant service that enabled us to man some sixty ships of the
line and double that number of frigates and smaller vessels.' He
added that we had been able to bring promptly together 'about
35,000 or 40,000 men of the mercantile marine.' The requirements
of the navy amounted, as stated by the admiral, to about 40,000
men; to be exact, 39,045. The number of seamen in the British
Empire in 1793 was 118,952. In the next year the number showed
no diminution; in fact it increased, though but slightly, to
119,629. How our merchant service could have satisfied the
above-mentioned immense demand on it in addition to making good
its waste and then have even increased is a thing that baffles
comprehension. No such example of elasticity is presented by
any other institution. Admiral Byam Martin spoke so positively,
and, indeed, with such justly admitted authority, that we should
have to give up the problem as insoluble were it not for other
passages in the admiral's own evidence. It may be mentioned that
all the witnesses did not hold his views. Sir James Stirling, an
officer of nearly if not quite equal authority, differed from
him. In continuation of his evidence Sir T. Byam Martin stated
that afterwards the merchant service could give only a small
and occasional supply, as ships arrived from foreign ports or as
apprentices grew out of their time. Now, during the remaining years
of this war and throughout the Napoleonic war, great as were the
demands of the navy, they only in one year, that of the rupture
of the Peace of Amiens, equalled the demand at the beginning of
the Revolutionary war. From the beginning of hostilities till
the final close of the conflict in 1815 the number of merchant
seamen fell only once--viz. in 1795, the fall being 3200. In 1795,
however, the demand for men for the navy was less than half that
of 1794. The utmost, therefore, that Sir T. Byam Martin desired
to establish was that, on a single occasion in an unusually
protracted continuance of war, the strength of our merchant service
enabled it to reinforce the navy up to the latter's requirements;
but its doing so prevented it from giving much help afterwards.
All the same, men in large numbers had to be found for the navy
yearly for a long time. This will appear from the tables which

                    REVOLUTIONARY WAR

  |       |           |           |          |   Total    |
  |       |  Seamen   |           |          | additional |
  |       | voted for |           |          |   number   |
  | Year. | the navy  | Increase. | 'Waste.' | required.  |
  | 1794  |   72,885  |  36,885   |  2,160   |   39,045   |
  | 1795  |   85,000  |  12,115   |  4,368   |   16,483   |
  | 1796  |   92,000  |   7,000   |  5,100   |   12,100   |
  | 1797  |  100,000  |   8,000   |  5,520   |   13,520   |
  | 1798  |  100,000  |     --    |  6,000   |    6,000   |
  | 1799  |  100,000  |     --    |  6,000   |    6,000   |
  | 1800  |   97,300  |     --    |    --    |      --    |
  | 1801  |  105,000  |   7,700   | Absorbed |    7,700   |
  |       |           |           | by       |            |
  |       |           |           | previous |            |
  |       |           |           |reduction.|            |

                     NAPOLEONIC WAR

  |       |           |           |          |   Total    |
  |       |  Seamen   |           |          | additional |
  |       | voted for |           |          |   number   |
  | Year. | the navy  | Increase. | 'Waste.' | required.  |
  |       |  /38,000\ |           |          |            |
  | 1803  |  \77,600/ |  39,600   |    --    |   39,600   |
  | 1804  |   78,000  |     400   |  3,492   |    3,892   |
  |       |           |           |(for nine |            |
  |       |           |           | months)  |            |
  | 1805  |   90,000  |  12,000   |  4,680   |   16,680   |
  | 1806  |   91,000  |   1,000   |  5,400   |    6,400   |
  | 1807  |   98,600  |   7,600   |  5,460   |   13,060   |
  | 1808  |   98,600  |     --    |  5,460   |    5,460   |
  | 1809  |   98,600  |     --    |  5,460   |    5,460   |
  | 1810  |  113,600  |  15,000   |  5,460   |   20,460   |
  | 1811  |  113,600  |     --    |  6,816   |    6,816   |
  | 1812  |  113,600  |     --    |  6,816   |    6,816   |
  | 1813  |  108,600  | Reduction |    --    |      --    |
  |       |  /86,000\ |           |          |            |
  | 1814  |  \74,000/ |    Do.    |    --    |      --    |

(No 'waste' is allowed for when there has been a reduction.)

It is a reasonable presumption that, except perhaps on a single
occasion, the merchant service did not furnish the men required--not
from any want of patriotism or of public spirit, but simply because
it was impossible. Even as regards the single exception the evidence
is not uncontested; and by itself, though undoubtedly strong, it
is not convincing, in view of the well-grounded presumptions the
other way. The question then that naturally arises is--If the navy
did not fill up its complements from the merchant service, how
did it fill them up? The answer is easy. Our naval complements
were filled up largely with boys, largely with landsmen, largely
with fishermen, whose numbers permitted this without inconvenience
to their trade in general, and, to a small extent, with merchant
seamen. It may be suggested that the men wanted by the navy could
have been passed on to it from our merchant vessels, which could
then complete their own crews with boys, landsmen, and fishermen.
It was the age in which Dr. Price was a great authority on public
finance, the age of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund, when borrowed money
was repaid with further borrowings; so that a corresponding
roundabout method for manning the navy may have had attractions
for some people. A conclusive reason why it was not adopted is
that its adoption would have been possible only at the cost of
disorganising such a great industrial undertaking as our maritime
trade. That this disorganisation did not arise is proved by the
fact that our merchant service flourished and expanded.

It is widely supposed that, wherever the men wanted for the navy
may have come from, they were forced into it by the system of
'impressment.' The popular idea of a man-of-war's 'lower deck'
of a century ago is that it was inhabited by a ship's company
which had been captured by the press-gang and was restrained
from revolting by the presence of a detachment of marines. The
prevalence of the belief that seamen were 'raised'--'recruited' is
not a naval term--for the navy by forcible means can be accounted
for without difficulty. The supposed ubiquity of the press-gang
and its violent procedure added much picturesque detail, and even
romance, to stories of naval life. Stories connected with it,
if authentic, though rare, would, indeed, make a deep impression
on the public; and what was really the exception would be taken
for the rule. There is no evidence to show that even from the
middle of the seventeenth century any considerable number of men
was raised by forcible impressment. I am not acquainted with a
single story of the press-gang which, even when much embellished,
professes to narrate the seizure of more than an insignificant body.
The allusions to forcible impressment made by naval historians
are, with few exceptions, complaints of the utter inefficiency
of the plan. In Mr. David, Hannay's excellent 'Short History of
the Royal Navy' will be found more than one illustration of its
inefficient working in the seventeenth century. Confirmation,
if confirmation is needed, can be adduced on the high authority
of Mr. M. Oppenheim. We wanted tens of thousands, and forcible
impressment was giving us half-dozens, or, at the best, scores.
Even of those it provided, but a small proportion was really
forced to serve. Mr. Oppenheim tells us of an Act of Parliament
(17 Charles I) legalising forcible impressment, which seems to
have been passed to satisfy the sailors. If anyone should think
this absurd, he may be referred to the remarkable expression of
opinion by some of the older seamen of Sunderland and Shields
when the Russian war broke out in 1854. The married sailors, they
said, naturally waited for the impressment, for 'we know that
has always been and always will be preceded by the proclamation
of bounty.'

The most fruitful source of error as to the procedure of the
press-gang has been a deficient knowledge of etymology. The word
has, properly, no relation to the use of force, and has no
etymological connection with 'press' and its compounds, 'compress,'
'depress,' 'express,' 'oppress,' &c. 'Prest money is so-called
from the French word _prest_--that is, readie money, for that
it bindeth all those that have received it to be ready at all
times appointed.' Professor Laughton tells us that 'A prest or
imprest was an earnest or advance paid on account. A prest man
was really a man who received the prest of 12d., as a soldier
when enlisted.' Writers, and some in an age when precision in
spelling is thought important, have frequently spelled _prest_
pressed, and _imprest_ impressed. The natural result has been
that the thousands who had received 'prest money' were classed
as 'pressed' into the service by force.

The foregoing may be summed up as follows:--

For 170 years at least there never has been a time when the British
merchant service did not contain an appreciable percentage of

During the last three (and greatest) maritime wars in which this
country has been involved only a small proportion of the immense
number of men required by the navy came, or could have come,
from the merchant service.

The number of men raised for the navy by forcible impressment
in war time has been enormously exaggerated owing to a confusion
of terms. As a matter of fact the number so raised, for quite
two centuries, was only an insignificant fraction of the whole.



[Footnote 60: Written in 1900, (_National_Review_.)]

Of late years great attention has been paid to our naval history,
and many even of its obscure byways have been explored. A general
result of the investigation is that we are enabled to form a high
estimate of the merits of our naval administration in former
centuries. We find that for a long time the navy has possessed an
efficient organisation; that its right position as an element of
the national defences was understood ages ago; and that English
naval officers of a period which is now very remote showed by their
actions that they exactly appreciated and--when necessary--were able
to apply the true principles of maritime warfare. If anyone still
believes that the country has been saved more than once merely
by lucky chances of weather, and that the England of Elizabeth
has been converted into the great oceanic and colonial British
Empire of Victoria in 'a fit of absence of mind,' it will not
be for want of materials with which to form a correct judgment
on these points.

It has been accepted generally that the principal method of manning
our fleet in the past--especially when war threatened to arise--was
to seize and put men on board the ships by force. This has been
taken for granted by many, and it seems to have been assumed that,
in any case, there is no way of either proving it or disproving
it. The truth, however, is that it is possible and--at least as
regards the period of our last great naval war--not difficult to
make sure if it is true or not. Records covering a long succession
of years still exist, and in these can be found the name of nearly
every seaman in the navy and a statement of the conditions on
which he joined it. The exceptions would not amount to more than
a few hundreds out of many tens of thousands of names, and would
be due to the disappearance--in itself very infrequent--of some of
the documents and to occasional, but also very rare, inaccuracies
in the entries.

The historical evidence on which the belief in the prevalence
of impressment as a method of recruiting the navy for more than
a hundred years is based, is limited to contemporary statements
in the English newspapers, and especially in the issues of the
periodical called _The_Naval_Chronicle_, published in 1803,
the first year of the war following the rupture of the Peace
of Amiens. Readers of Captain Mahan's works on Sea-Power will
remember the picture he draws of the activity of the press-gang
in that year, his authority being _The_Naval_Chronicle_. This
evidence will be submitted directly to close examination, and
we shall see what importance ought to be attached to it. In the
great majority of cases, however, the belief above mentioned has
no historical foundation, but is to be traced to the frequency
with which the supposed operations of the press-gang were used
by the authors of naval stories and dramas, and by artists who
took scenes of naval life for their subject. Violent seizure and
abduction lend themselves to effective treatment in literature
and in art, and writers and painters did not neglect what was
so plainly suggested.

A fruitful source of the widespread belief that our navy in the old
days was chiefly manned by recourse to compulsion, is a confusion
between two words of independent origin and different meaning,
which, in ages when exact spelling was not thought indispensable,
came to be written and pronounced alike. During our later great
maritime wars, the official term applied to anyone recruited by
impressment was 'prest-man.' In the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, and part of the eighteenth century, this term meant
the exact opposite. It meant a man who had voluntarily engaged to
serve, and who had received a sum in advance called 'prest-money.'
'A prest-man,' we are told by that high authority, Professor Sir
J. K. Laughton, 'was really a man who received the prest of 12d.,
as a soldier when enlisted.' In the 'Encyclopædia Metropolitana'
(1845), we find:-- 'Impressing, or, more correctly, impresting,
i.e. paying earnest-money to seamen by the King's Commission to
the Admiralty, is a right of very ancient date, and established
by prescription, though not by statute. Many statutes, however,
imply its existence--one as far back as 2 Richard II, cap. 4.' An
old dictionary of James I's time (1617), called 'The Guide into
the Tongues, by the Industrie, Studie, Labour, and at the Charges
of John Minshew,' gives the following definition:--'Imprest-money.
G. [Gallic or French], Imprest-ànce; _Imprestanza_, from _in_
and _prestare_, to lend or give beforehand.... Presse-money. T.
[Teutonic or German], Soldt, from salz, _salt_. For anciently
agreement or compact between the General and the soldier was
signified by salt.' Minshew also defines the expression 'to presse
souldiers' by the German _soldatenwerben_, and explains that
here the word _werben_ means prepare (_parare_). 'Prest-money,'
he says, 'is so-called of the French word _prest_, i.e. readie,
for that it bindeth those that have received it to be ready at
all times appointed.' In the posthumous work of Stephen Skinner,
'Etymologia Linguæ Anglicanæ' (1671), the author joins together
'press or imprest' as though they were the same, and gives two
definitions, viz.: (1) recruiting by force (_milites_cogere_);
(2) paying soldiers a sum of money and keeping them ready to serve.
Dr. Murray's 'New English Dictionary,' now in course of publication,
gives instances of the confusion between imprest and impress. A
consequence of this confusion has been that many thousands of
seamen who had received an advance of money have been regarded
as carried off to the navy by force. If to this misunderstanding
we add the effect on the popular mind of cleverly written stories
in which the press-gang figured prominently, we can easily see
how the belief in an almost universal adoption of compulsory
recruiting for the navy became general. It should, therefore, be
no matter of surprise when we find that the sensational reports
published in the English newspapers in 1803 were accepted without

Impressment of seamen for the navy has been called 'lawless,' and
sometimes it has been asserted that it was directly contrary to law.
There is, however, no doubt that it was perfectly legal, though its
legality was not based upon any direct statutory authority. Indirect
confirmations of it by statute are numerous. These appear in the
form of exemptions. The law of the land relating to this subject
was that all 'sea-faring' men were liable to impressment unless
specially protected by custom or statute. A consideration of the
long list of exemptions tends to make one believe that in reality
very few people were liable to be impressed. Some were 'protected'
by local custom, some by statute, and some by administrative
order. The number of the last must have been very great. The
'Protection Books' preserved in the Public Record Office form no
inconsiderable section of the Admiralty records. For the period
specially under notice, viz. that beginning with the year 1803,
there are no less than five volumes of 'protections.' Exemptions
by custom probably originated at a very remote date: ferrymen,
for example, being everywhere privileged from impressment. The
crews of colliers seem to have enjoyed the privilege by custom
before it was confirmed by Act of Parliament. The naval historian,
Burchett, writing of 1691, cites a 'Proclamation forbidding pressing
men from colliers.'

Every ship in the coal trade had the following persons protected,
viz. two A.B.'s for every ship of 100 tons, and one for every 50
tons in larger ships. When we come to consider the sensational
statements in _The_Naval_Chronicle_ of 1803, it will be well to
remember what the penalty for infringing the colliers' privilege
was. By the Act 6 & 7 William III, c. 18, sect. 19, 'Any officer
who presumes to impress any of the above shall forfeit to the
master or owner of such vessel £10 for every man so impressed;
and such officer shall be incapable of holding any place, office,
or employment in any of His Majesty's ships of war.' It is not
likely that the least scrupulous naval officer would make himself
liable to professional ruin as well as to a heavy fine. No parish
apprentice could be impressed for the sea service of the Crown
until he arrived at the age of eighteen (2 & 3 Anne, c. 6, sect.
4). Persons voluntarily binding themselves apprentices to sea
service could not be impressed for three years from the date
of their indentures. Besides sect. 15 of the Act of Anne just
quoted, exemptions were granted, before 1803, by 4 Anne, c. 19;
and 13 George II, c. 17. By the Act last mentioned all persons
fifty-five years of age and under eighteen were exempted, and
every foreigner serving in a ship belonging to a British subject,
and also all persons 'of what age soever who shall use the sea'
for two years, to be computed from the time of their first using
it. A customary exemption was extended to the proportion of the
crew of any ship necessary for her safe navigation. In practice
this must have reduced the numbers liable to impressment to small

Even when the Admiralty decided to suspend all administrative
exemptions--or, as the phrase was, 'to press from all
protections'--many persons were still exempted. The customary
and statutory exemptions, of course, were unaffected. On the
5th November 1803 their Lordships informed officers in charge
of rendezvous that it was 'necessary for the speedy manning of
H.M. ships to impress all persons of the denominations exprest
in the press-warrant which you have received from us, without
regard to any protections, excepting, however, all such persons
as are protected pursuant to Acts of Parliament, and all others
who by the printed instructions which accompanied the said warrant
are forbidden to be imprest.' In addition to these a long list
of further exemptions was sent. The last in the list included
the crews of 'ships and vessels bound to foreign parts which
are laden and cleared outwards by the proper officers of H.M.
Customs.' It would seem that there was next to no one left liable
to impressment; and it is not astonishing that the Admiralty, as
shown by its action very shortly afterwards, felt that pressing
seamen was a poor way of manning the fleet.

Though the war which broke out in 1803 was not formally declared
until May, active preparations were begun earlier. The navy had
been greatly reduced since the Peace of Amiens, and as late as
the 2nd December 1802 the House of Commons had voted that '50,000
seamen be employed for the service of the year 1803, including
12,000 marines.' On the 14th March an additional number was voted.
It amounted to 10,000 men, of whom 2400 were to be marines. Much
larger additions were voted a few weeks later. The total increase
was 50,000 men; viz. 39,600 seamen and 10,400 marines. It never
occurred to anyone that forcible recruiting would be necessary
in the case of the marines, though the establishment of the corps
was to be nearly doubled, as it had to be brought up to 22,400
from 12,000. Attention may be specially directed to this point.
The marine formed an integral part of a man-of-war's crew just as
the seamen did. He received no better treatment than the latter;
and as regards pecuniary remuneration, prospects of advancement,
and hope of attaining to the position of warrant officer, was, on
the whole, in a less favourable position. It seems to have been
universally accepted that voluntary enlistment would prove--as,
in fact, it did prove--sufficient in the case of the marines.
What we have got to see is how far it failed in the case of the
seamen, and how far its deficiencies were made up by compulsion.

On the 12th March the Admiralty notified the Board of Ordnance that
twenty-two ships of the line--the names of which were stated--were
'coming forward' for sea. Many of these ships are mentioned in
_The_Naval_Chronicle_ as requiring men, and that journal gives
the names of several others of various classes in the same state.
The number altogether is thirty-one. The aggregate complements,
including marines and boys, of these ships amounted to 17,234.
The number of 'seamen' was 11,861, though this included some of
the officers who were borne on the same muster-list. The total
number of seamen actually required exceeded 11,500. The _Naval_
_Chronicle_ contains a vivid, not to say sensational, account of
the steps taken to raise them. The report from Plymouth, dated
10th March, is as follows: 'Several bodies of Royal Marines in
parties of twelve and fourteen each, with their officers and
naval officers armed, proceeded towards the quays. So secret
were the orders kept that they did not know the nature of the
business on which they were going until they boarded the tier
of colliers at the New Quay, and other gangs the ships in the
Catwater and the Pool, and the gin-shops. A great number of prime
seamen were taken out and sent on board the Admiral's ship. They
also pressed landsmen of all descriptions; and the town looked
as if in a state of siege. At Stonehouse, Mutton Cove, Morris
Town, and in all the receiving and gin-shops at Dock [the present
Devonport] several hundreds of seamen and landsmen were picked
up and sent directly aboard the flag-ship. By the returns last
night it appears that upwards of 400 useful hands were pressed
last night in the Three Towns.... One press-gang entered the
Dock [Devonport] Theatre and cleared the whole gallery except
the women.' The reporter remarks: 'It is said that near 600 men
have been impressed in this neighbourhood.' The number--if
obtained--would not have been sufficient to complete the seamen
in the complements of a couple of line-of-battle ships. Naval
officers who remember the methods of manning ships which lasted
well into the middle of the nineteenth century, and of course long
after recourse to impressment had been given up, will probably
notice the remarkable fact that the reporter makes no mention of
any of the parties whose proceedings he described being engaged
in picking up men who had voluntarily joined ships fitting out,
but had not returned on board on the expiration of the leave
granted them. The description in _The_Naval_Chronicle_ might
be applied to events which--when impressment had ceased for half
a century--occurred over and over again at Portsmouth, Devonport,
and other ports when two or three ships happened to be put in
commission about the same time.

We shall find that the 600 reported as impressed had to be
considerably reduced before long. The reporter afterwards wisely
kept himself from giving figures, except in a single instance
when he states that 'about forty' were taken out of the flotilla
of Plymouth trawlers. Reporting on 11th March he says that 'Last
Thursday and yesterday'--the day of the sensational report above
given--'several useful hands were picked up, mostly seamen, who
were concealed in the different lodgings and were discovered
by their girls.' He adds, 'Several prime seamen were yesterday
taken disguised as labourers in the different marble quarries
round the town.' On 14th October the report is that 'the different
press-gangs, with their officers, literally scoured the country
on the eastern roads and picked up several fine young fellows.'
Here, again, no distinction is drawn between men really impressed
and men who were arrested for being absent beyond the duration of
their leave. We are told next that 'upon a survey of all impressed
men before three captains and three surgeons of the Royal Navy,
such as were deemed unfit for His Majesty's service, as well as
all apprentices, were immediately discharged,' which, no doubt,
greatly diminished the above-mentioned 600.

The reporter at Portsmouth begins his account of the 'press'
at that place by saying, 'They indiscriminately took every man
on board the colliers.' In view of what we know of the heavy
penalties to which officers who pressed more than a certain
proportion of a collier's crew were liable, we may take it that
this statement was made in error. On 14th March it was reported
that 'the constables and gangs from the ships continue very alert
in obtaining seamen, many of whom have been sent on board different
ships in the harbour this day.' We do not hear again from Portsmouth
till May, on the 7th of which month it was reported that 'about 700
men were obtained.' On the 8th the report was that 'on Saturday
afternoon the gates of the town were shut and soldiers placed at
every avenue. Tradesmen were taken from their shops and sent on
board the ships in the harbour or placed in the guard-house for
the night, till they could be examined. If fit for His Majesty's
service they were kept, if in trade set at liberty.' The 'tradesmen,'
then, if really taken, were taken simply to be set free again.
As far as the reports first quoted convey any trustworthy
information, it appears that at Portsmouth and Plymouth during
March, April, and the first week of May, 1340 men were 'picked
up,' and that of these many were immediately discharged. How
many of the 1340 were not really impressed, but were what in
the navy are called 'stragglers,' i.e. men over-staying their
leave of absence, is not indicated.

_The_Times_ of the 11th March 1803, and 9th May 1803, also contained
reports of the impressment operations. It says: 'The returns to
the Admiralty of the seamen impressed (apparently at the Thames
ports) on Tuesday night amounted to 1080, of whom no less than
two-thirds are considered prime hands. At Portsmouth, Portsea,
Gosport, and Cowes a general press took place the same night....
Upwards of 600 seamen were collected in consequence of the
promptitude of the measures adopted.' It was added that the
Government 'relied upon increasing our naval forces with 10,000
seamen, either volunteers or impressed men, in less than a
fortnight.' The figures show us how small a proportion of the
10,000 was even alleged to be made up of impressed men. A later
_Times_ report is that: 'The impress on Saturday, both above and
below the bridge, was the hottest that has been for some time.
The boats belonging to the ships at Deptford were particularly
active, and it is supposed they obtained upwards of 200 men.' _The_
_Times_ reports thus account for 1280 men over and above the
1340 stated to have been impressed at Plymouth and Portsmouth,
thus making a grand total of 2620. It will be proved by official
figures directly that the last number was an over-estimate.

Before going farther, attention may be called to one or two points
in connection with the above reports. The increase in the number
of seamen voted by Parliament in March was 7600. The reports of
the impressment operations only came down to May. It was not
till the 11th June that Parliament voted a further addition to the
navy of 32,000 seamen. Yet whilst the latter great increase was
being obtained--for obtained it was--the reporters are virtually
silent as to the action of the press-gang. We must ask ourselves,
if we could get 32,000 additional seamen with so little recourse
to impressment that the operations called for no special notice,
how was it that compulsion was necessary when only 7600 men were
wanted? The question is all the more pertinent when we recall
the state of affairs in the early part of 1803.

The navy had been greatly reduced in the year before, the men
voted having diminished from 100,000 to 56,000. What became of
the 44,000 men not required, of whom about 35,000 must have been
of the seaman class and have been discharged from the service?
There was a further reduction of 6000, to take effect in the
beginning of 1803. Sir Sydney Smith, at that time a Member of
Parliament, in the debate of the 2nd December 1802, 'expressed
considerable regret at the great reductions which were suddenly
made, both in the King's dockyards and in the navy in general.
A prodigious number of men,' he said, 'had been thus reduced
to the utmost poverty and distress.' He stated that he 'knew,
from his own experience, that what was called an ordinary seaman
could hardly find employment at present, either in the King's or
in the merchants' service.' The increase of the fleet in March
must have seemed a godsend to thousands of men-of-war's men. If
there was any holding back on their part, it was due, no doubt,
to an expectation--which the sequel showed to be well founded--that
a bounty would be given to men joining the navy.

The muster-book of a man-of-war is the official list of her crew.
It contains the name of every officer and man in the complement.
Primarily it was an account-book, as it contains entries of the
payments made to each person whose name appears in it. At the
beginning of the nineteenth century it was usual to make out
a fresh muster-book every two months, though that period was
not always exactly adhered to. Each new book was a copy of the
preceding one, with the addition of the names of persons who had
joined the ship since the closing of the latter. Until the ship
was paid off and thus put out of commission--or, in the case of a
very long commission, until 'new books' were ordered to be opened
so as to escape the inconveniences due to the repetition of large
numbers of entries--the name of every man that had belonged to her
remained on the list, his disposal--if no longer in the ship--being
noted in the proper column. One column was headed 'Whence, and
whether prest or not?' In this was noted his former ship, or the
fact of his being entered direct from the shore, which answered
to the question 'Whence?' There is reason to believe that the
muster-book being, as above said, primarily an account-book, the
words 'whether prest or not' were originally placed at the head
of the column so that it might be noted against each man entered
whether he had been paid 'prest-money' or not. However this may
be, the column at the beginning of the nineteenth century was
used for a record of the circumstances of the man's entering the
ship, whether he had been transferred from another, had joined
as a volunteer from the shore, or had been impressed.

I have examined the muster-book of every ship mentioned in the
Admiralty letter to the Board of Ordnance above referred to,
and also of the ships mentioned in _The_Naval_Chronicle_ as
fitting out in the early part of 1803. There are altogether
thirty-three ships; but two of them, the _Utrecht_ and the
_Gelykheid_, were used as temporary receiving ships for newly
raised men.[61] The names on their lists are, therefore, merely
those of men who were passed on to other ships, in whose muster-books
they appeared again. There remained thirty-one ships which, as
far as could be ascertained, account for the additional force
which the Government had decided to put in commission, more than
two-thirds of them being ships of the line. As already stated,
their total complements amounted to 17,234, and the number of the
'blue-jackets' of full age to at least 11,500. The muster-books
appear to have been kept with great care. The only exception
seems to be that of the _Victory_, in which there is some reason
to think the number of men noted as 'prest' has been over-stated
owing to an error in copying the earlier book. Ships in 1803
did not get their full crews at once, any more than they did
half a century later. I have, therefore, thought it necessary
to take the muster-books for the months in which the crews had
been brought up to completion.

[Footnote 61: The words 'recruit' and 'enlist,' except as regards
marines, are unknown in the navy, in which they are replaced by
'raise' and 'enter.']

An examination of the books would be likely to dispel many
misconceptions about the old navy. Not only is it noted against
each man's name whether he was 'pressed' or a volunteer, it is
also noted if he was put on board ship as an alternative to
imprisonment on shore, this being indicated by the words 'civil
power,' an expression still used in the navy, but with a different
meaning. The percentage of men thus 'raised' was small. Sometimes
there is a note stating that the man had been allowed to enter
from the '----shire Militia.' A rare note is 'Brought on board
by soldiers,' which most likely indicated that the man had been
recaptured when attempting to desert. It is sometimes asserted
that many men who volunteered did so only to escape impressment.
This may be so; but it should be said that there are frequent
notations against the names of 'prest' men that they afterwards
volunteered. This shows the care that was taken to ascertain the
real conditions on which a man entered the service. For the purposes
of this inquiry all these men have been considered as impressed,
and they have not been counted amongst the volunteers. It is,
perhaps, permissible to set off against such men the number of
those who allowed themselves to be impressed to escape inconveniences
likely to be encountered if they remained at home. Of two John
Westlakes, ordinary seamen of the _Boadicea_, one--John (I.)--was
'prest,' but was afterwards 'taken out of the ship for a debt
of twenty pounds'; which shows that he had preferred to trust
himself to the press-gang rather than to his creditors. Without
being unduly imaginative, we may suppose that in 1803 there were
heroes who preferred being 'carried off' to defend their country
afloat to meeting the liabilities of putative paternity in their
native villages.

The muster-books examined cover several months, during which
many 'prest' men were discharged and some managed to desert,
so that the total was never present at anyone time. That total
amounts to 1782. It is certain that even this is larger than
the reality, because it has been found impossible--without an
excessive expenditure of time and labour--to trace the cases
of men being sent from one ship to another, and thus appearing
twice over, or oftener, as 'prest' men. As an example of this
the _Minotaur_ may be cited. Out of twenty names on one page of
her muster-book thirteen are those of 'prest' men discharged to
other ships. The discharges from the _Victory_ were numerous; and
the _Ardent_, which was employed in keeping up communication with
the ships off Brest, passed men on to the latter when required. I
have, however, made no deductions from the 'prest' total to meet
these cases. We can see that not more than 1782 men, and probably
considerably fewer, were impressed to meet the increase of the
navy during the greater part of 1803. Admitting that there were
cases of impressment from merchant vessels abroad to complete
the crews of our men-of-war in distant waters, the total number
impressed--including these latter--could not have exceeded greatly
the figures first given. We know that owing to the reduction of
1802, as stated by Sir Sydney Smith, the seamen were looking
for ships rather than the ships for seamen. It seems justifiable
to infer that the whole number of impressed men on any particular
day did not exceed, almost certainly did not amount to, 2000. If
they had been spread over the whole navy they would not have made
2 per cent. of the united complements of the ships; and, as it was,
did not equal one-nineteenth of the 39,600 seamen ('blue-jackets')
raised to complete the navy to the establishment sanctioned by
Parliament. A system under which more than 37,000 volunteers
come forward to serve and less than 2000 men are obtained by
compulsion cannot be properly called compulsory.

The Plymouth reporter of _The_Naval_Chronicle_ does not give
many details of the volunteering for the navy in 1803, though
he alludes to it in fluent terms more than once. On the 11th
October, however, he reports that, 'So many volunteer seamen
have arrived here this last week that upwards of £4000 bounty is
to be paid them afloat by the Paying Commissioner, Rear-Admiral
Dacres.' At the time the bounty was £2 10s. for an A.B., £1 10s.
for an ordinary seaman, and £1 for a landsman. Taking only £4000
as the full amount paid, and assuming that the three classes were
equally represented, three men were obtained for every £5, or
2400 in all, a number raised in about a week, that may be compared
with that given as resulting from impressment. In reality, the
number of volunteers must have been larger, because the A.B.'s
were fewer than the other classes.

Some people may be astonished because the practice of impressment,
which had proved to be so utterly inefficient, was not at once
and formally given up. No astonishment will be felt by those
who are conversant with the habits of Government Departments. In
every country public officials evince great and, indeed, almost
invincible reluctance to give up anything, whether it be a material
object or an administrative process, which they have once possessed
or conducted. One has only to stroll through the arsenals of the
world, or glance at the mooring-grounds of the maritime states,
to see to what an extent the passion for retaining the obsolete
and useless holds dominion over the official mind. A thing may
be known to be valueless--its retention may be proved to be
mischievous--yet proposals to abandon it will be opposed and
defeated. It is doubtful if any male human being over forty was
ever converted to a new faith of any kind. The public has to
wait until the generation of administrative Conservatives has
either passed away or been outnumbered by those acquainted only
with newer methods. Then the change is made; the certainty,
nevertheless, being that the new men in their turn will resist
improvements as obstinately and in exactly the same way as their

To be just to the Board of Admiralty of 1803, it must be admitted
that some of its members seem to have lost faith in the efficacy of
impressment as a system of manning the navy. The Lords Commissioners
of that date could hardly--all of them, at any rate--have been so
thoroughly destitute of humour as not to suspect that seizing
a few score of men here and a few there when tens of thousands
were needed, was a very insufficient compensation for the large
correspondence necessitated by adherence to the system (and still
in existence). Their Lordships actively bombarded the Home Office
with letters pointing out, for example, that a number of British
seamen at Guernsey 'appeared to have repaired to that island with
a view to avoid being pressed'; that they were 'of opinion that
it would be highly proper that the sea-faring men (in Jersey as
well as Guernsey), not natives nor settled inhabitants, should
be impressed'; that when the captain of H.M.S. _Aigle_ had landed
at Portland 'for the purpose of raising men' some resistance
had 'been made by the sailors'; and dealing with other subjects
connected with the system. A complaint sent to the War Department
was that 'amongst a number of men lately impressed (at Leith)
there were eight or ten shipwrights who were sea-faring men, and
had been claimed as belonging to a Volunteer Artillery Corps.'

We may suspect that there was some discussion at Whitehall as to
the wisdom of retaining a plan which caused so much inconvenience
and had such poor results. The conclusion seems to have been to
submit it to a searching test. The coasts of the United Kingdom
were studded with stations--thirty-seven generally, but the number
varied--for the entry of seamen. The ordinary official description
of these--as shown by entries in the muster-books--was 'rendezvous';
but other terms were used. It has often been thought that they were
simply impressment offices. The fact is that many more men were
raised at these places by volunteering than by impressment. The
rendezvous, as a rule, were in charge of captains or commanders,
some few being entrusted to lieutenants. The men attached to each
were styled its 'gang,' a word which conveys no discredit in
nautical language. On 5th November 1803 the Admiralty sent to
the officers in charge of rendezvous the communication already
mentioned--to press men 'without regard to any protections,'--the
exceptions, indeed, being so many that the officers must have
wondered who could legitimately be taken.

The order at first sight appeared sweeping enough. It contained
the following words: 'Whereas we think fit that a general press
from all protections as above mentioned shall commence at London
and in the neighbourhood thereof on the night of Monday next,
the 7th instant, you are therefore (after taking the proper
preparatory measures with all possible secrecy) hereby required
to impress and to give orders to the lieutenants under your command
to impress all persons of the above-mentioned denominations (except
as before excepted) and continue to do so until you receive orders
from us to the contrary.' As it was addressed to officers in
all parts of the United Kingdom, the 'general press' was not
confined to London and its neighbourhood, though it was to begin
in the capital.

Though returns of the numbers impressed have not been discovered,
we have strong evidence that this 'general press,' notwithstanding
the secrecy with which it had been arranged, was a failure. On
the 6th December 1803, just a month after it had been tried, the
Admiralty formulated the following conclusion: 'On a consideration
of the expense attending the service of raising men on shore for
His Majesty's Fleet comparatively with the number procured, as
well as from other circumstances, there is reason to believe that
either proper exertions have not been made by some of the officers
employed on that service, or that there have been great abuses
and mismanagement in the expenditure of the public money.' This
means that it was now seen that impressment, though of little
use in obtaining men for the navy, was a very costly arrangement.
The Lords of the Admiralty accordingly ordered that 'the several
places of rendezvous should be visited and the conduct of the
officers employed in carrying out the above-mentioned service
should be inquired into on the spot.' Rear-Admiral Arthur Phillip,
the celebrated first Governor of New South Wales, was ordered
to make the inquiry. This was the last duty in which that
distinguished officer was employed, and his having been selected
for it appears to have been unknown to all his biographers.

It is not surprising that after this the proceedings of the
press-gang occupy scarcely any space in our naval history. Such
references to them as there are will be found in the writings
of the novelist and the dramatist. Probably individual cases
of impressment occurred till nearly the end of the Great War;
but they could not have been many. Compulsory service most
unnecessarily caused--not much, but still some--unjustifiable
personal hardship. It tended to stir up a feeling hostile to
the navy. It required to work it machinery costly out of all
proportion to the results obtained. Indeed, it failed completely
to effect what had been expected of it. In the great days of old
our fleet, after all, was manned, not by impressed men, but by
volunteers. It was largely due to that that we became masters
of the sea.



[Footnote 62: Written in 1900. (_The_Times_.)]

The practice to which we have become accustomed of late, of
publishing original documents relating to naval and military
history, has been amply justified by the results. These meet
the requirements of two classes of readers. The publications
satisfy, or at any rate go far towards satisfying, the wishes
of those who want to be entertained, and also of those whose
higher motive is a desire to discover the truth about notable
historical occurrences. Putting the public in possession of the
materials, previously hidden in more or less inaccessible
muniment-rooms and record offices, with which the narratives of
professed historians have been constructed, has had advantages
likely to become more and more apparent as time goes on. It acts
as a check upon the imaginative tendencies which even eminent
writers have not always been able, by themselves, to keep under
proper control. The certainty, nay the mere probability, that
you will be confronted with the witnesses on whose evidence you
profess to have relied--the 'sources' from which your story is
derived--will suggest the necessity of sobriety of statement and
the advisability of subordinating rhetoric to veracity. Had the
contemporary documents been available for an immediate appeal to
them by the reading public, we should long ago have rid ourselves
of some dangerous superstitions. We should have abandoned our
belief in the fictions that the Armada of 1588 was defeated by the
weather, and that the great Herbert of Torrington was a lubber,
a traitor, and a coward. It is not easy to calculate the benefit
that we should have secured, had the presentation of some important
events in the history of our national defence been as accurate as
it was effective. Enormous sums of money have been wasted in trying
to make our defensive arrangements square with a conception of
history based upon misunderstanding or misinterpretation of facts.
Pecuniary extravagance is bad enough; but there is a greater evil
still. We have been taught to cherish, and we have been reluctant
to abandon, a false standard of defence, though adherence to
such a standard can be shown to have brought the country within
measurable distance of grievous peril. Captain Duro, of the Spanish
Navy, in his 'Armada Invencible,' placed within our reach
contemporary evidence from the side of the assailants, thereby
assisting us to form a judgment on a momentous episode in naval
history. The evidence was completed; some being adduced from
the other side, by our fellow-countryman Sir J. K. Laughton, in
his 'Defeat of the Spanish Armada,' published by the Navy Records
Society. Others have worked on similar lines; and a healthier view
of our strategic conditions and needs is more widely held than
it was; though it cannot be said to be, even yet, universally
prevalent. Superstition, even the grossest, dies hard.

Something deeper than mere literary interest, therefore, is to
be attributed to a work which has recently appeared in Paris.[63]
To speak strictly, it should be said that only the first volume of
three which will complete it has been published. It is, however,
in the nature of a work of the kind that its separate parts should
be virtually independent of each other. Consequently the volume
which we now have may be treated properly as a book by itself.
When completed the work is to contain all the documents relating
to the French preparations during the period 1793-1805, for taking
the offensive against England (_tous_les_documents_se_rapportant_
The search for, the critical examination and the methodical
classification of, the papers were begun in October 1898. The
book is compiled by Captain Desbrière, of the French Cuirassiers,
who was specially authorised to continue his editorial labours
even after he had resumed his ordinary military duties. It bears
the _imprimatur_ of the staff of the army; and its preface is
written by an officer who was--and so signs himself--chief of
the historical section of that department. There is no necessity
to criticise the literary execution of the work. What is wanted
is to explain the nature of its contents and to indicate the
lessons which may be drawn from them. Nevertheless, attention
may be called to a curious misreading of history contained in
the preface. In stating the periods which the different volumes
of the book are to cover, the writer alludes to the Peace of
Amiens, which, he affirms, England was compelled to accept by
exhaustion, want of means of defence, and fear of the menaces of
the great First Consul then disposing of the resources of France,
aggrandised, pacified, and reinforced by alliances. The book being
what it is and coming whence it does, such a statement ought not
to be passed over. 'The desire for peace,' says an author so
easily accessible as J. R. Green, 'sprang from no sense of national
exhaustion. On the contrary, wealth had never increased so fast....
Nor was there any ground for despondency in the aspect of the
war itself.' This was written in 1875 by an author so singularly
free from all taint of Chauvinism that he expressly resolved that
his work 'should never sink into a drum and trumpet history.' A
few figures will be interesting and, it may be added, conclusive.
Between 1793 when the war began and 1802 when the Peace of Amiens
interrupted it, the public income of Great Britain increased from
£16,382,000 to £28,000,000, the war taxes not being included
in the latter sum. The revenue of France, notwithstanding her
territorial acquisitions, sank from £18,800,000 to £18,000,000.
The French exports and imports by sea were annihilated; whilst
the British exports were doubled and the imports increased more
than 50 per cent. The French Navy had at the beginning 73, at
the end of the war 39, ships of the line; the British began the
contest with 135 and ended it with 202. Even as regards the army,
the British force at the end of the war was not greatly inferior
numerically to the French. It was, however, much scattered, being
distributed over the whole British Empire. In view of the question
under discussion, no excuse need be given for adducing these

[Footnote 63: 1793-1805. _Projets_et_Tentatives_de_Débarquement_
_aux_Iles_Britanniques_, par Édouard Desbrière, Capitaine breveté
aux 1er Cuirassiers. Paris, Chapelot et Cie. 1900. (Publié sous la
direction de la section historique de l'État-Major de l'Armée.)]

Captain Desbrière in the present volume carries his collection
of documents down to the date at which the then General Bonaparte
gave up his connection with the flotilla that was being equipped
in the French Channel ports, and prepared to take command of
the expedition to Egypt. The volume therefore, in addition to
accounts of many projected, but never really attempted, descents
on the British Isles, gives a very complete history of Hoche's
expedition to Ireland; of the less important, but curious, descent
in Cardigan Bay known as the Fishguard, or Fishgard, expedition;
and of the formation of the first 'Army of England,' a designation
destined to attain greater celebrity in the subsequent war, when
France was ruled by the great soldier whom we know as the Emperor
Napoleon. The various documents are connected by Captain Desbrière
with an explanatory commentary, and here and there are illustrated
with notes. He has not rested content with the publication of
MSS. selected from the French archives. In preparing his book he
visited England and examined our records; and, besides, he has
inserted in their proper place passages from Captain Mahan's works
and also from those of English authors. The reader's interest in
the book is likely to be almost exclusively concentrated on the
detailed, and, where Captain Desbrière's commentary appears,
lucid, account of Hoche's expedition. Of course, the part devoted
to the creation of the 'Army of England' is not uninteresting;
but it is distinctly less so than the part relating to the
proceedings of Hoche. Several of the many plans submitted by
private persons, who here describe them in their own words, are
worth examination; and some, it may be mentioned, are amusing
in the _naïveté_ of their Anglophobia and in their obvious
indifference to the elementary principles of naval strategy.
In this indifference they have some distinguished companions.

We are informed by Captain Desbrière that the idea of a hostile
descent on England was during a long time much favoured in France.
The national archives and those of the Ministries of War and
of Marine are filled with proposals for carrying it out, some
dating back to 1710. Whether emanating from private persons or
formulated in obedience to official direction, there are certain
features in all the proposals so marked that we are able to classify
the various schemes by grouping together those of a similar
character. In one class may be placed all those which aimed at
mere annoyance, to be effected by landing small bodies of men, not
always soldiers, to do as much damage as possible. The appearance
of these at many different points, it was believed, would so
harass the English that they would end the war, or at least so
divide their forces that their subjection might be looked for
with confidence. In another class might be placed proposals to
seize outlying, out not distant, British territory--the Channel
Islands or the Isle of Wight, for example. A third class might
comprise attempts on a greater scale, necessitating the employment
of a considerable body of troops and meriting the designation
'Invasion.' Some of these attempts were to be made in Great Britain,
some in Ireland. In every proposal for an attempt of this class,
whether it was to be made in Great Britain or in Ireland, it
was assumed that the invaders would receive assistance from the
people of the country invaded. Indeed, generally the bulk of the
force to be employed was ultimately to be composed of native
sympathisers, who were also to provide--at least at the
beginning--all the supplies and transport, both vehicles and
animals, required. Every plan, no matter to which class it might
belong, was based upon the assumption that the British naval
force could be avoided. Until we come to the time when General
Bonaparte, as he then was, dissociated himself from the first
'Army of England,' there is no trace, in any of the documents
now printed, of a belief in the necessity of obtaining command
of the sea before sending across it a considerable military
expedition. That there was such a thing as the command of the sea
is rarely alluded to; and when it is, it is merely to accentuate
the possibility of neutralising it by evading the force holding
it. There is something which almost deserves to be styled comical
in the absolutely unvarying confidence, alike of amateurs and
highly placed military officers, with which it was held that
a superior naval force was a thing that might be disregarded.
Generals who would have laughed to scorn anyone maintaining that,
though there was a powerful Prussian army on the road to one city
and an Austrian army on the road to the other, a French army
might force its way to either Berlin or Vienna without either
fighting or even being prepared to fight, such generals never
hesitated to approve expeditions obliged to traverse a region
in the occupation of a greatly superior force, the region being
pelagic and the force naval. We had seized the little islands
of St. Marcoff, a short distance from the coast of Normandy,
and held them for years. It was expressly admitted that their
recapture was impossible, 'à raison de la supériorité des forces
navales Anglaises'; but it was not even suspected that a much
more difficult operation, requiring longer time and a longer
voyage, was likely to be impracticable. We shall see by and by
how far this remarkable attitude of mind was supported by the
experience of Hoche's expedition to Ireland.

Hoche himself was the inventor of a plan of harassing the English
enemy which long remained in favour. He proposed to organise what
was called a _Chouannerie_ in England. As that country had no
_Chouans_ of her own, the want was to be supplied by sending over
an expedition composed of convicts. Hoche's ideas were approved
and adopted by the eminent Carnot. The plan, to which the former
devoted great attention, was to land on the coast of Wales from
1000 to 1200 _forçats_, to be commanded by a certain Mascheret,
of whom Hoche wrote that he was 'le plus mauvais sujet dont on
puisse purger la France.' In a plan accepted and forwarded by
Hoche, it was laid down that the band, on reaching the enemy's
country, was, if possible, not to fight, but to pillage; each man
was to understand that he was sent to England to steal 100,000f.,
'pour ensuite finir sa carrière tranquillement dans l'aisance,'
and was to be informed that he would receive a formal pardon from
the French Government. The plan, extraordinary as it was, was
one of the few put into execution. The famous Fishguard Invasion
was carried out by some fourteen hundred convicts commanded by an
American adventurer named Tate. The direction to avoid fighting
was exactly obeyed by Colonel Tate and the armed criminals under
his orders. He landed in Cardigan Bay from a small squadron of
French men-of-war at sunset on the 22nd February 1797; and, on the
appearance of Lord Cawdor with the local Yeomanry and Militia, asked
to be allowed to surrender on the 24th. At a subsequent exchange
of prisoners the French authorities refused to receive any of the
worthies who had accompanied Tate. At length 512 were allowed to
land; but were imprisoned in the forts of Cherbourg. The French
records contain many expressions of the dread experienced by the
inhabitants of the coast lest the English should put on shore in
France the malefactors whom they had captured at Fishguard.

A more promising enterprise was that in which it was decided to
obtain the assistance of the Dutch, at the time in possession of
a considerable fleet. The Dutch fleet was to put to sea with the
object of engaging the English. An army of 15,000 was then to be
embarked in the ports of Holland, and was to effect a diversion in
favour of another and larger body, which, starting from France, was
to land in Ireland, repeating the attempt of Hoche in December 1796,
which will be dealt with later on. The enterprise was frustrated
by the action of Admiral Duncan, who decisively defeated the Dutch
fleet off Camperdown in October. It might have been supposed
that this would have driven home the lesson that no considerable
military expedition across the water has any chance of success
till the country sending it has obtained command of the sea; but
it did not. To Bonaparte the event was full of meaning; but no
other French soldier seems to have learned it--if we may take
Captain Desbrière's views as representative--even down to the
present day. On the 23rd February 1798 Bonaparte wrote: 'Opérer une
descente en Angleterre sans être maître de la mer est l'opération
la plus hardie et la plus difficile qui ait été faite.' There has
been much speculation as to the reasons which induced Bonaparte
to quit the command of the 'Army of England' after holding it
but a short time, and after having devoted great attention to
its organisation and proposed methods of transport across the
Channel. The question is less difficult than it has appeared
to be to many. One of the foremost men in France, Bonaparte was
ready to take the lead in any undertaking which seemed likely
to have a satisfactory ending--an ending which would redound
to the glory of the chief who conducted it. The most important
operation contemplated was the invasion of England; and--now that
Hoche was no more--Bonaparte might well claim to lead it. His
penetrating insight soon enabled him to see its impracticability
until the French had won the command of the Channel. Of that
there was not much likelihood; and at the first favourable moment
he dissociated himself from all connection with an enterprise
which offered so little promise of a successful termination that
it was all but certain not to be begun. An essential condition,
as already pointed out, of all the projected invasions was the
receipt of assistance from sympathisers in the enemy's country.
Hoche himself expected this even in Tate's case; but experience
proved the expectation to be baseless. When the prisoners taken
with Tate were being conducted to their place of confinement,
the difficulty was to protect them, 'car la population furieuse
contre les Français voulait les lyncher.' Captain Desbrière dwells
at some length on the mutinies in the British fleet in 1797, and
asks regretfully, 'Qu'avait-on fait pour profiter de cette chance
unique?' He remarks on the undoubted and really lamentable fact
that English historians have usually paid insufficient attention
to these occurrences. One, and perhaps the principal reason of their
silence, was the difficulty, at all events till quite lately, of
getting materials with which to compose a narrative. The result is
that the real character of the great mutinies has been altogether
misunderstood. Lord Camperdown's recently published life of his
great ancestor, Lord Duncan, has done something to put them in
their right light. As regards defence against the enemy, the
mutinies affected the security of the country very little. The
seamen always expressed their determination to do their duty if
the enemy put to sea. Even at the Nore they conspicuously displayed
their general loyalty; and, as a matter of fact, discipline had
regained its sway some time before the expedition preparing in
Holland was ready. How effectively the crews of the ships not
long before involved in the mutiny could fight, was proved at

Though earlier in date than the events just discussed, the celebrated
first expedition to Ireland has been intentionally left out of
consideration till now. As to the general features of the
undertaking, and even some of its more important details, the
documents now published add little to our knowledge. The literature
of the expedition is large, and Captain Chevalier had given us an
admirable account of it in his 'Histoire de la Marine Française
sous la première République.' The late Vice-Admiral Colomb submitted
it to a most instructive examination in the _Journal_of_the_
_Royal_United_Service_Institution_ for January 1892. We can,
however, learn something from Captain Desbrière's collection.
The perusal suggests, or indeed compels, the conclusion that the
expedition was doomed to failure from the start. It had no money,
stores, or means of transport. There was no hope of finding these
in a country like the south-western corner of Ireland. Grouchy's
decision not to land the troops who had reached Bantry Bay was
no doubt dictated in reality by a perception of this; and by
the discovery that, even if he got on shore, sympathisers with him
would be practically non-existent. On reading the letters now made
public, one is convinced of Hoche's unfitness for the leadership
of such an enterprise. The adoration of mediocrities is confined
to no one cult and to no one age. Hoche's canonisation, for he
is a prominent saint in the Republican calendar, was due not so
much to what he did as to what he did not do. He did not hold the
supreme command in La Vendée till the most trying period of the
war was past. He did not continue the cruelties of the Jacobin
emissaries in the disturbed districts; but then his pacificatory
measures were taken when the spirit of ferocity which caused the
horrors of the _noyades_ and of the Terror had, even amongst
the mob of Paris, burnt itself out. He did not overthrow a
constitutional Government and enslave his country as Bonaparte
did; and, therefore, he is favourably compared with the latter,
whose opportunities he did not have. His letters show him to have
been an adept in the art of traducing colleagues behind their
backs. In writing he called Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse 'perfide,'
and spoke of his 'mauvaise foi.' He had a low opinion of General
Humbert, whom he bracketed with Mascheret. Grouchy, he said, was
'un inconséquent paperassier,' and General Vaillant 'un misérable
ivrogne.' He was placed in supreme command of the naval as well as
of the military forces, and was allowed to select the commander
of the former. Yet he and his nominee were amongst the small
fraction of the expeditionary body which never reached a place
where disembarkation was possible.

Notwithstanding all this, the greater part of the fleet, and
of the troops conveyed by it, did anchor in Bantry Bay without
encountering an English man-of-war; and a large proportion continued
in the Bay, unmolested by our navy, for more than a fortnight. Is
not this, it may be asked, a sufficient refutation of those who
hold that command of the sea gives security against invasion?
As a matter of fact, command of the sea--even in the case in
question--did prevent invasion from being undertaken, still more
from being carried through, on a scale likely to be very formidable.
The total number of troops embarked was under 14,000, of whom
633 were lost, owing to steps taken to avoid the hostile navy,
before the expedition had got fully under way. It is not necessary
to rate Hoche's capacity very highly in order to understand that
he, who had seen something of war on a grand scale, would not
have committed himself to the command of so small a body, without
cavalry, without means of transport on land, without supplies, with
but an insignificant artillery and that not furnished with horses,
and, as was avowed, without hope of subsequent reinforcement or
of open communications with its base--that he would not have
staked his reputation on the fate of a body so conditioned, if
he had been permitted by the naval conditions of the case to lead
a larger, more effectually organised, and better supplied army.
The commentary supplied by Captain Desbrière to the volume under
notice discloses his opinion that the failure of the expedition
to Ireland was due to the inefficiency of the French Navy. He
endeavours to be scrupulously fair to his naval fellow-countrymen;
but his conviction is apparent. It hardly admits of doubt that this
view has generally been, and still is, prevalent in the French
Army. Foreign soldiers of talent and experience generalise from
this as follows: Let them but have the direction of the naval
as well as of the military part of an expedition, and the invasion
of England must be successful. The complete direction which they
would like is exactly what Hoche did have. He chose the commander
of the fleet, and also chose or regulated the choice of the junior
flag officers and several of the captains. Admiral Morard de
Galles was not, and did not consider himself, equal to the task
for which Hoche's favour had selected him. His letter pointing
out his own disqualifications has a striking resemblance to the
one written by Medina Sidonia in deprecation of his appointment
in place of Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, the French naval officers
did succeed in conveying the greater part of the expeditionary
army to a point at which disembarkation was practicable.

Now we have some lessons to learn from this. The advantages conferred
by command of the sea must be utilised intelligently; and it
was bad management which permitted an important anchorage to
remain for more than a fortnight in the hands of an invading
force. We need not impute to our neighbours a burning desire to
invade us; but it is a becoming exercise of ordinary strategic
precaution to contemplate preparations for repelling what, as a
mere military problem, they consider still feasible. No amount
of naval superiority will ever ensure every part of our coast
against incursions like that of Tate and his gaol-birds. Naval
superiority, however, will put in our hands the power of preventing
the arrival of an army strong enough to carry out a real invasion.
The strength of such an army will largely depend upon the amount of
mobile land force of which we can dispose. Consequently, defence
against invasion, even of an island, is the duty of a land army
as well as of a fleet. The more important part may, in our case,
be that of the latter; but the services of the former cannot be
dispensed with. The best method of utilising those services calls
for much thought. In 1798, when the 'First Army of England' menaced
us from the southern coast of the Channel, it was reported to our
Government that an examination of the plans formerly adopted for
frustrating intended invasions showed the advantage of troubling
the enemy in his own home and not waiting till he had come to
injure us in ours.



[Footnote 64: Written in 1906. (_The_Morning_Post_.)]

It has been contended that raids by 'armaments with 1000, 20,000,
and 50,000 men on board respectively' have succeeded in evading
'our watching and chasing fleets,' and that consequently invasion
of the British Isles on a great scale is not only possible but
fairly practicable, British naval predominance notwithstanding.
I dispute the accuracy of the history involved in the allusions
to the above-stated figures. The number of men comprised in a
raiding or invading expedition is the number that is or can be
put on shore. The crews of the transports are not included in
it. In the cases alluded to, Humbert's expedition was to have
numbered 82 officers and 1017 other ranks, and 984 were put on
shore in Killala Bay. Though the round number, 1000, represents
this figure fairly enough, there was a 10 per cent. shrinkage
from the original embarkation strength. In Hoche's expedition
the total number of troops embarked was under 14,000, of whom
633 were lost before the expedition had got clear of its port of
starting, and of the remainder only a portion reached Ireland.
General Bonaparte landed in Egypt not 50,000 men, but about 36,000.
In the expeditions of Hoche and Humbert it was not expected that
the force to be landed would suffice of itself, the belief being
that it would be joined in each case by a large body of adherents
in the raided country. Outside the ranks of the 'extremists of the
dinghy school'--whose number is unknown and is almost certainly
quite insignificant--no one asserts or ever has asserted that raids
in moderate strength are not possible even in the face of a strong
defending navy. It is a fact that the whole of our defence policy
for many generations has been based upon an admission of their
possibility. Captain Mahan's statement of the case has never been
questioned by anyone of importance. It is as follows: 'The control
of the sea, however real, does not imply that an enemy's single
ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of port, cannot cross
more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harassing descents
upon unprotected points of a long coast-line, enter blockaded
harbours.' It is extraordinary that everyone does not perceive
that if this were not true the 'dinghy school' would be right.
Students of Clausewitz may be expected to remember that the art
of war does not consist in making raids that are unsuccessful;
that war is waged to gain certain great objects; and that the
course of hostilities between two powerful antagonists is affected
little one way or the other by raids even on a considerable scale.

The Egyptian expedition of 1798 deserves fuller treatment than
it has generally received. The preparations at Toulon and some
Italian ports were known to the British Government. It being
impossible for even a Moltke or--comparative resources being taken
into account--the greater strategist Kodama to know everything
in the mind of an opponent, the sensible proceeding is to guard
against his doing what would be likely to do you most harm. The
British Government had reason to believe that the Toulon expedition
was intended to reinforce at an Atlantic port another expedition
to be directed against the British Isles, or to effect a landing
in Spain with a view to marching into Portugal and depriving our
navy of the use of Lisbon. Either if effected would probably cause
us serious mischief, and arrangements were made to prevent them. A
landing in Egypt was, as the event showed, of little importance.
The threat conveyed by it against our Indian possessions proved
to be an empty one. Upwards of 30,000 hostile troops were locked
up in a country from which they could exercise no influence on
the general course of the war, and in which in the end they had
to capitulate. Suppose that an expedition crossing the North Sea
with the object of invading this country had to content itself
with a landing in Iceland, having eventual capitulation before it,
should we not consider ourselves very fortunate, though it may
have temporarily occupied one of the Shetland Isles _en_route_?
The truth of the matter is that the Egyptian expedition was one of
the gravest of strategical mistakes, and but for the marvellous
subsequent achievements of Napoleon it would have been the typical
example of bad strategy adduced by lecturers and writers on the
art of war for the warning of students.

The supposition that over-sea raids, even when successful in
part, in any way demonstrate the inefficiency of naval defence
would never be admitted if only land and sea warfare were regarded
as branches of one whole and not as quite distinct things. To be
consistent, those that admit the supposition should also admit that
the practicability of raids demonstrates still more conclusively
the insufficiency of defence by an army. An eminent military writer
has told us that 'a raiding party of 1000 French landed in Ireland
without opposition, after sixteen days of navigation, unobserved
by the British Navy; defeated and drove back the British troops
opposing them on four separate occasions... entirely occupied the
attention of all the available troops of a garrison of Ireland
100,000 strong; penetrated almost to the centre of the island,
and compelled the Lord-Lieutenant to send an urgent requisition
for "as great a reinforcement as possible."' If an inference is to
be drawn from this in the same way as one has been drawn from the
circumstances on the sea, it would follow that one hundred thousand
troops are not sufficient to prevent a raid by one thousand, and
consequently that one million troops would not be sufficient to
prevent one by ten thousand enemies. On this there would arise the
question, If an army a million strong gives no security against
a raid by ten thousand men, is an army worth having? And this
question, be it noted, would come, not from disciples of the
Blue Water School, 'extremist' or other, but from students of
military narrative.

The truth is that raids are far more common on land than on the
ocean. For every one of the latter it would be possible to adduce
several of the former. Indeed, accounts of raids are amongst
the common-places of military history. There are few campaigns
since the time of that smart cavalry leader Mago, the younger
brother of Hannibal, in which raids on land did not occur or
in which they exercised any decisive influence on the issue of
hostilities. It is only the failure to see the connection between
warfare on land and naval warfare that prevents these land raids
being given the same significance and importance that is usually
given to those carried out across the sea.

In the year 1809, the year of Wagram, Napoleon's military influence
in Central Germany was, to say the least, not at its lowest.
Yet Colonel Schill, of the Prussian cavalry, with 1200 men,
subsequently increased to 2000 infantry and 12 squadrons, proceeded
to Wittenberg, thence to Magdeburg, and next to Stralsund, which
he occupied and where he met his death in opposing an assault
made by 6000 French troops. He had defied for a month all the
efforts of a large army to suppress him. In the same year the
Duke of Brunswick-Oels and Colonel Dornberg, notwithstanding the
smallness of the force under them, by their action positively
induced Napoleon, only a few weeks before Wagram, to detach the
whole corps of Kellerman, 30,000 strong, which otherwise would
have been called up to the support of the Grande Armée, to the
region in which these enterprising raiders were operating. The
mileage covered by Schill was nearly as great as that covered by
the part of Hoche's expedition which under Grouchy did reach an
Irish port, though it was not landed. Instances of cavalry raids
were frequent in the War of Secession in America. The Federal
Colonel B. H. Grierson, of the 6th Illinois Cavalry, with another
Illinois and an Iowa cavalry regiment, in April 1863 made a raid
which lasted sixteen days, and in which he covered 600 miles of
hostile country, finally reaching Baton Rouge, where a friendly
force was stationed. The Confederate officers, John H. Morgan,
John S. Mosby, and especially N. B. Forrest, were famous for the
extent and daring of their raids. Of all the leaders of important
raids in the War of Secession none surpassed the great Confederate
cavalry General, J. E. B. Stuart, whose riding right round the
imposing Federal army is well known. Yet not one of the raids
above mentioned had any effect on the main course of the war
in which they occurred or on the result of the great conflict.

In the last war the case was the same. In January 1905, General
Mischenko with 10,000 sabres and three batteries of artillery
marched right round the flank of Marshal Oyama's great Japanese
army, and occupied Niu-chwang--not the treaty port so-called, but
a place not very far from it. For several days he was unmolested,
and in about a week he got back to his friends with a loss which
was moderate in proportion to his numbers. In the following May
Mischenko made another raid, this time round General Nogi's flank.
He had with him fifty squadrons, a horse artillery battery, and a
battery of machine guns. Starting on the 17th, he was discovered
on the 18th, came in contact with his enemy on the 19th, but
met with no considerable hostile force till the 20th, when the
Japanese cavalry arrived just in time to collide with the Russian
rearguard of two squadrons. On this General Mischenko 'retired
at his ease for some thirty miles along the Japanese flank and
perhaps fifteen miles away from it.' These Russians' raids did
not alter the course of the war nor bring ultimate victory to
their standards.

It would be considered by every military authority as a flagrant
absurdity to deduce from the history of these many raids on land
that a strong army is not a sufficient defence for a continental
country against invasion. What other efficient defence against
that can a continental country have? Apply the reasoning to the
case of an insular country, and reliance on naval defence will
be abundantly justified.

To maintain that Canada, India, and Egypt respectively could
be invaded by the United States, Russia, and Turkey, backed by
Germany, notwithstanding any action that our navy could take,
would be equivalent to maintaining that one part of our empire
cannot or need not reinforce another. Suppose that we had a military
force numerically equal to or exceeding the Russian, how could any
of it be sent to defend Canada, India, and Egypt, or to reinforce
the defenders of those countries, unless our sea communications
were kept open? Can these be kept open except by the action of
our navy? It is plain that they cannot.



[Footnote 65: Written in 1900. (_Nineteenth_Century_and_After_,

An eminent writer has recently repeated the accusations made
within the last forty years, and apparently only within that
period, against Queen Elizabeth of having starved the seamen
of her fleet by giving them food insufficient in quantity and
bad in quality, and of having robbed them by keeping them out of
the pay due to them. He also accuses the Queen, though somewhat
less plainly, of having deliberately acquiesced in a wholesale
slaughter of her seamen by remaining still, though no adequate
provision had been made for the care of the sick and wounded.
There are further charges of obstinately objecting, out of mere
stinginess, to take proper measures for the naval defence of the
country, and of withholding a sufficient supply of ammunition
from her ships when about to meet the enemy. Lest it should be
supposed that this is an exaggerated statement of the case against
Elizabeth as formulated by the writer in question, his own words
are given.

He says: 'Instead of strengthening her armaments to the utmost,
and throwing herself upon her Parliament for aid, she clung to
her moneybags, actually reduced her fleet, withheld ammunition
and the more necessary stores, cut off the sailor's food, did, in
short, everything in her power to expose the country defenceless
to the enemy. The pursuit of the Armada was stopped by the failure
of the ammunition, which, apparently, had the fighting continued
longer, would have been fatal to the English fleet.'

The writer makes on this the rather mild comment that 'treason
itself could scarcely have done worse.' Why 'scarcely'? Surely
the very blackest treason could not have done worse. He goes
on to ask: 'How were the glorious seamen, whose memory will be
for ever honoured by England and the world, rewarded after their

This is his answer: 'Their wages were left unpaid, they were
docked of their food, and served with poisonous drink, while for
the sick and wounded no hospitals were provided. More of them
were killed by the Queen's meanness than by the enemy.'

It is safe to challenge the students of history throughout the
world to produce any parallel to conduct so infamous as that
which has thus been imputed to an English queen. If the charges
are true, there is no limit to the horror and loathing with which
we ought to regard Elizabeth. Are they true? That is the question.
I respectfully invite the attention of those who wish to know
the truth and to retain their reverence for a great historical
character, to the following examination of the accusations and of the
foundations on which they rest. It will not, I hope, be considered
presumptuous if I say that--in making this examination--personal
experience of life in the navy sufficiently extensive to embrace
both the present day and the time before the introduction of
the great modern changes in system and naval _matériel_ will be
of great help. Many things which have appeared so extraordinary
to landsmen that they could account for their occurrence only
by assuming that this must have been due to extreme culpability
or extreme folly will be quite familiar to naval officers whose
experience of the service goes back forty years or more, and
can be satisfactorily explained by them.

There is little reason to doubt that the above-mentioned charges
against the great Queen are based exclusively on statements in
Froude's History. It is remarkable how closely Froude has been
followed by writers treating of Elizabeth and her reign. He was
known to have gone to original documents for the sources of his
narrative; and it seems to have been taken for granted, not only
that his fidelity was above suspicion--an assumption with which I
do not deal now--but also that his interpretation of the meaning
of those who wrote the papers consulted must be correct. Motley,
in his 'History of the United Netherlands,' published in 1860,
had dwelt upon the shortness of ammunition and provisions in
the Channel Fleet commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham; but
he attributed this to bad management on the part of officials,
and not to downright baseness on that of Elizabeth.

Froude has placed beyond doubt his determination to make the Queen
responsible for all shortcomings.

'The Queen,' he says, 'has taken upon herself the detailed
arrangement of everything. She and she alone was responsible.
She had extended to the dockyards the same hard thrift with which
she had pared down her expenses everywhere. She tied the ships to
harbour by supplying the stores in driblets. She allowed rations
but for a month, and permitted no reserves to be provided in the
victualling offices. The ships at Plymouth, furnished from a
distance, and with small quantities at a time, were often for
many days without food of any kind. Even at Plymouth, short food
and poisonous drink had brought dysentery among them. They had
to meet the enemy, as it were, with one arm bandaged by their
own sovereign. The greatest service ever done by an English fleet
had been thus successfully accomplished by men whose wages had
not been paid from the time of their engagement, half-starved,
with their clothes in rags, and so ill-found in the necessaries
of war that they had eked out their ammunition by what they could
take in action from the enemy himself. The men expected that
at least after such a service they would be paid their wages
in full. The Queen was cavilling over the accounts, and would
give no orders for money till she had demanded the meaning of
every penny that she was charged.... Their legitimate food had
been stolen from them by the Queen's own neglect.'

We thus see that Froude has made Elizabeth personally responsible
for the short rations, the undue delay in paying wages earned, and
the fearful sickness which produced a heavy mortality amongst the
crews of her Channel Fleet; and also for insufficiently supplying
her ships with ammunition.

The quotations from the book previously referred to make it clear
that it is possible to outdo Froude in his denunciations, even where
it is on his statements that the accusers found their charges. In
his 'History of England'--which is widely read, especially by
the younger generation of Englishmen--the Rev. J. Franck Bright
tells us, with regard to the defensive campaign against the Armada:
'The Queen's avarice went near to ruin the country. The miserable
supplies which Elizabeth had alone allowed to be sent them (the
ships in the Channel) had produced all sorts of disease, and
thousands of the crews came from their great victory only to die.
In the midst of privations and wanting in all the necessaries
of life, the sailors had fought with unflagging energy, with
their wages unpaid, with ammunition supplied to them with so
stingy a hand that each shot sent on board was registered and
accounted for; with provisions withheld, so that the food of
four men had habitually to be divided among six, and that food
so bad as to be really poisonous.'

J. R. Green, in his 'History of the English People,' states that:
'While England was thrilling with the triumph over the Armada, its
Queen was coolly grumbling over the cost and making her profit
out of the spoiled provisions she had ordered for the fleet that
had saved her.'

The object of each subsequent historian was to surpass the originator
of the calumnies against Elizabeth. In his sketch of her life in
the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' Dr. Augustus Jessopp
asserts that the Queen's ships 'were notoriously and scandalously
ill-furnished with stores and provisions for the sailors, and
it is impossible to lay the blame on anyone but the Queen.' He
had previously remarked that the merchant vessels which came to
the assistance of the men-of-war from London and the smaller
ports 'were as a rule far better furnished than the Queen's ships,'
which were 'without the barest necessaries.' After these extracts
one from Dr. S. R. Gardiner's 'Student's History of England'
will appear moderate. Here it is: 'Elizabeth having with her
usual economy kept the ships short of powder, they were forced
to come back' from the chase of the Armada.

The above allegations constitute a heavy indictment of the Queen.
No heavier could well be brought against any sovereign or government.
Probably the first thing that occurs to anyone who, knowing what
Elizabeth's position was, reads the tremendous charges made against
her will be, that--if they are true--she must have been without a
rival in stupidity as well as in turpitude. There was no person
in the world who had as much cause to desire the defeat of the
Armada as she had. If the Duke of Medina Sidonia's expedition
had been successful she would have lost both her throne and her
life. She herself and her father had shown that there could be a
short way with Queens--consort or regnant--whom you had in your
power, and whose existence might be inconvenient to you. Yet,
if we are to believe her accusers, she did her best to ensure
her own dethronement and decapitation. 'The country saved itself
and its cause in spite of its Queen.'

How did this extraordinary view of Elizabeth's conduct arise?
What had Froude to go upon when he came forward as her accuser?
These questions can be answered with ease. Every Government that
comes near going to war, or that has gone to war, is sure to
incur one of two charges, made according to circumstances. If
the Government prepares for war and yet peace is preserved, it
is accused of unpardonable extravagance in making preparations.
Whether it makes these on a sufficient scale or not, it is accused,
if war does break out--at least in the earlier period of the
contest--of not having done enough. Political opponents and the
'man in the street' agree in charging the administration with
panic profusion in one case, and with criminal niggardliness in
the other. Elizabeth hoped to preserve peace. She had succeeded
in keeping out of an 'official' war for a long time, and she had
much justification for the belief that she could do so still
longer. 'She could not be thoroughly persuaded,' says Mr. David
Hannay,[66] 'that it was hopeless to expect to avert the Spanish
invasion by artful diplomacy.' Whilst reasonable precautions
were not neglected, she was determined that no one should be
able to say with truth that she had needlessly thrown away money
in a fright. For the general naval policy of England at the time,
Elizabeth, as both the nominal and the real head of the Government,
is properly held responsible. The event showed the perfect efficiency
of that policy.

[Footnote 66: _A_Short_History_of_the_Royal_Navy_, pp. 96, 97.]

The war having really come, it was inevitable that the Government,
and Elizabeth as its head, should be blamed sooner or later for not
having made adequate provision for it. No one is better entitled
to speak on the naval policy of the Armada epoch than Mr. Julian
Corbett,[67] who is not disposed to assume that the Queen's action
was above criticism. He says that 'Elizabeth has usually been
regarded as guilty of complete and unpardonable inaction.' He
explains that 'the event at least justified the Queen's policy.
There is no trace of her having been blamed for it at the time at
home; nor is there any reason to doubt it was adopted sagaciously
and deliberately on the advice of her most capable officers.'
Mr. David Hannay, who, as an historian, rightly takes into
consideration the conditions of the age, points out that 'Elizabeth
was a very poor sovereign, and the maintenance of a great fleet
was a heavy drain upon her resources.' He adds: 'There is no
reason to suppose that Elizabeth and her Lord Treasurer were
careless of their duty; but the Government of the time had very
little experience in the maintenance of great military forces.'

[Footnote 67: _Drake_and_the_Tudor_Navy_, 1898, vol. ii. p. 117.]

If we take the charges against her in detail, we shall find that
each is as ill-founded as that of criminal neglect of naval
preparations generally. The most serious accusation is that with
regard to the victuals. It will most likely be a surprise to
many people to find that the seamen of Elizabeth were victualled
on a more abundant and much more costly scale than the seamen of
Victoria. Nevertheless, such is the fact. In 1565 the contract
allowance for victualling was 4-1/2d. a day for each man in harbour,
and 5d. a day at sea. There was also an allowance of 4d. a man
per month at sea and 8d. in harbour for 'purser's necessaries.'
Mr. Oppenheim, in whose valuable work[68] on naval administration
the details as to the Elizabethan victualling system are to be
found, tells us that in 1586 the rate was raised to 6d. a day
in harbour and 6-1/2d. at sea; and that in 1587 it was again
raised, this time to 6-1/2d. in harbour and 7d. at sea. These
sums were intended to cover both the cost of the food and storage,
custody, conveyance, &c., the present-day 'establishment charges.'
The repeated raising of the money allowance is convincing proof
that the victualling arrangements had not been neglected, and
that there was no refusal to sanction increased expenditure to
improve them. It is a great thing to have Mr. Oppenheim's high
authority for this, because he is not generally favourable to
the Queen, though even he admits that it 'is a moot point' how
far she was herself responsible.

[Footnote 68: _The_Administration_of_the_Royal_Navy,_
_1509-1660_. London, 1896.]

If necessary, detailed arguments could be adduced to show that
to get the present value of the sums allowed in 1588 we ought
to multiply them by six[69] The sum allowed for each man's daily
food and the 'establishment charges'--increased as they had been
in 1586--did little more than cover the expenditure; and, though
it does not appear that the contractor lost money, he nevertheless
died a poor man. It will be hardly imputed to Elizabeth for iniquity
that she did not consider that the end of government was the
enrichment of contractors. The fact that she increased the money
payment again in 1587 may be accepted as proof that she did not
object to a fair bargain. As has been just said, the Elizabethan
scale of victualling was more abundant than the early Victorian,
and not less abundant than that given in the earlier years of
King Edward VII.[70] As shown by Mr. Hubert Hall and Thorold
Rogers, in the price-lists which they publish, the cost of a week's
allowance of food for a man-of-war's man in 1588, in the money of
the time, amounted to about 1s. 11-1/2d., which, multiplied by
six, would be about 11s. 9d. of our present money. The so-called
'savings price' of the early twentieth century allowance was
about 9-1/2d. a day, or 5s. 6-1/2d. weekly. The 'savings price'
is the amount of money which a man received if he did not take
up his victuals, each article having a price attached to it for
that purpose. It may be interesting to know that the full allowance
was rarely, perhaps never, taken up, and that some part of the
savings was till the last, and for many years had been, almost
invariably paid.

[Footnote 69: See Mr. Hubert Hall's _Society_in_the_Elizabethan_
_Age_, and Thorold Rogers's _History_of_Agriculture_and_Prices_,
vols. v. and vi. Froude himself puts the ratio at six to one.]

[Footnote 70: It will be convenient to compare the two scales
in a footnote, observing that--as I hope will not be thought
impertinent--I draw on my own personal experience for the more
recent, which was in force for some years after I went to sea.


  |                  |             |    Early    |
  |                  | Elizabethan |  Victorian  |
  |                  |    scale    |    scale    |
  | Beef             |   8 lbs.    |   7 lbs.    |
  | Biscuit          |   7  "      |   7  "      |
  | Salted fish      |   9  "      |   none      |
  | Cheese           |  3/4 lb.    |     "       |
  | Butter           |     "       |     "       |
  | Beer             |  7 gallons  |     "       |
  | Vegetables       |    none     |  3-1/2 lbs. |
  | Spirits          |     "       |    7/8 pint |
  | Tea              |     "       |  1-3/4 oz.  |
  | Sugar            |     "       |    14   "   |
  | Cocoa            |     "       |     7   "   |

There is now a small allowance of oatmeal, pepper, mustard, and
vinegar, against which we may set the 'purser's necessaries' of
Elizabeth's day. In that day but little sugar was used, and tea
and cocoa were unknown even in palaces. It is just a question
if seven gallons of beer did not make up for the weekly allowance
of these and for the seven-eighths of a pint of spirits. Tea
was only allowed in 1850, and was not an additional article.
It replaced part of the spirits. The biscuit allowance is now
8-3/4 lbs. Weekly.

The Victorian dietary is more varied and wholesome than the
Elizabethan; but, as we have seen, it is less abundant and can be
obtained for much less money, even if we grant that the 'savings
price'--purposely kept low to avoid all suggestion that the men
are being bribed into stinting themselves--is less than the real
cost. The excess of this latter, however, is not likely to be
more than 30 per cent., so that Elizabeth's expenditure in this
department was more liberal than the present. Such defects as
were to be found in the Elizabethan naval dietary were common
to it with that of the English people generally. If there was
plenty, there was but little variety in the food of our ancestors
of all ranks three centuries ago. As far as was possible in the
conditions of the time, Elizabeth's Government did make provision
for victualling the fleet on a sufficient and even liberal scale;
and, notwithstanding slender pecuniary resources, repeatedly
increased the money assigned to it, on cause being shown. In
his eagerness to make Queen Elizabeth a monster of treacherous
rapacity, Froude has completely overreached himself, He says
that 'she permitted some miserable scoundrel to lay a plan before
her for saving expense, by cutting down the seamen's diet.' The
'miserable scoundrel' had submitted a proposal for diminishing
the expenses which the administration was certainly ill able
to bear, The candid reader will draw his own conclusions when
he finds that the Queen did not approve the plan submitted; and
yet that not one of her assailants has let this appear.[71]

[Footnote 71: It may be stated here that the word 'rations' is
unknown in the navy. The official term is 'victuals.' The term
in common use is 'provisions.']

It is, of course, possible to concede that adequate arrangements
had been made for the general victualling of the fleet; and still
to maintain that, after all, the sailors afloat actually did
run short of food. In his striking 'Introduction to the Armada
Despatches' published by the Navy Records Society, Professor Sir
John Laughton declares that: 'To anyone examining the evidence,
there can be no question as to victualling being conducted on
a fairly liberal scale, as far as the money was concerned. It
was in providing the victuals that the difficulty lay.... When
a fleet of unprecedented magnitude was collected, when a sudden
and unwonted demand was made on the victualling officers, it
would have been strange indeed if things had gone quite smoothly.'

There are plenty of naval officers who have had experience, and
within the last ten years of the nineteenth century, of the
difficulty, and sometimes of the impossibility, of getting sufficient
supplies for a large number of ships in rather out-of-the-way places.
In 1588 the comparative thinness of population and insufficiency
of communications and means of transport must have constituted
obstacles, far greater than any encountered in our own day, to
the collection of supplies locally and to their timely importation
from a distance. 'You would not believe,' says Lord Howard of
Effingham himself, 'what a wonderful thing it is to victual such
an army as this is in such a narrow corner of the earth, where
a man would think that neither victuals were to be had nor a cask
to put it in.' No more effective defence of Elizabeth and her
Ministers could well be advanced than that which Mr. Oppenheim puts
forward as a corroboration of the accusation against them. He says
that the victualling officials 'found no difficulty in arranging
for 13,000 men in 1596 and 9200 in 1597 after timely notice.' This
is really a high compliment, as it proves that the authorities
were quite ready to, and in fact did, learn from experience. Mr.
Oppenheim, however, is not an undiscriminating assailant of the
Queen; for he remarks, as has been already said, that, 'how far
Elizabeth was herself answerable is a moot point.' He tells us
that there 'is no direct evidence against her'; and the charge
levelled at her rests not on proof, but on 'strong probability.'
One would like to have another instance out of all history, of
probability, however strong, being deemed sufficient to convict
a person of unsurpassed treachery and stupidity combined, when
the direct evidence, which is not scanty, fails to support the
charge and indeed points the other way.

The Lord Admiral himself and other officers have been quoted to
show how badly off the fleet was for food. Yet at the close of
the active operations against the Armada, Sir J. Hawkins wrote:
'Here is victual sufficient, and I know not why any should be
provided after September, but for those which my Lord doth mean
to leave in the narrow seas.' On the same day Howard himself
wrote from Dover: 'I have caused all the remains of victuals
to be laid here and at Sandwich, for the maintaining of them
that shall remain in the Narrow Seas.' Any naval officer with
experience of command who reads Howard's representations on the
subject of the victuals will at once perceive that what the Admiral
was anxious about was not the quantity on board the ships, but
the stock in reserve. Howard thought that the latter ought to
be a supply for six weeks. The Council thought a month's stock
would be enough; and--as shown by the extracts from Howard's
and Hawkins's letters just given--the Council was right in its
estimate. Anyone who has had to write or to read official letters
about stocks of stores and provisions will find something especially
modern in Howard's representations.

Though the crews of the fleet did certainly come near the end of
their victuals afloat, there is no case of their having actually
run out of them. The complement of an ordinary man-of-war in the
latter part of the sixteenth century, judged by our modern standard,
was very large in proportion to her size. It was impossible for
her to carry provisions enough to last her men for a long time.
Any unexpected prolongation of a cruise threatened a reduction
to short commons. A great deal has been made of the fact that
Howard had to oblige six men to put up with the allowance of
four. 'When a large force,' says Mr. D. Hannay, 'was collected
for service during any length of time, it was the common rule to
divide four men's allowance among six.' There must be still many
officers and men to whom the plan would seem quite familiar. It is
indicated by a recognised form of words, 'six upon four.' I have
myself been 'six upon four' several times, mostly in the Pacific,
but also, on at least one occasion, in the East Indies. As far
as I could see, no one appeared to regard it as an intolerable
hardship. The Government, it should be known, made no profit
out of the process, because money was substituted for the food
not issued. Howard's recourse to it was not due to immediate
insufficiency. Speaking of the merchant vessels which came to
reinforce him, he says: 'We are fain to help them with victuals
to bring them thither. There is not any of them that hath one
day's victuals.' These merchant vessels were supplied by private
owners; and it is worth noting that, in the teeth of this statement
by Howard, Dr. Jessopp, in his eagerness to blacken Elizabeth,
says that they 'were, as a rule, far better furnished than the
Queen's ships.' The Lord Admiral on another occasion, before
the fight off Gravelines, said of the ships he hoped would join
him from Portsmouth: 'Though they have not two days' victuals,
let that not be the cause of their stay, for they shall have
victuals out of our fleet,' a conclusive proof that his ships
were not very short.

As to the accusation of deliberately issuing food of bad quality,
that is effectually disposed of by the explanation already given
of the method employed in victualling the navy. A sum was paid
for each man's daily allowance to a contractor, who was expressly
bound to furnish 'good and seasonable victuals.'[72] Professor
Laughton, whose competence in the matter is universally allowed,
informs us that complaints of bad provisions are by no means
confined to the Armada epoch, and were due, not to intentional
dishonesty and neglect, but to insufficient knowledge of the
way to preserve provisions for use on rather long cruises. Mr.
Hannay says that the fleet sent to the coast of Spain, in the
year after the defeat of the Armada, suffered much from want
of food and sickness. 'Yet it was organised, not by the Queen,
but by a committee of adventurers who had every motive to fit
it out well.' It is the fashion with English historians to paint
the condition of the navy in the time of the Commonwealth in
glowing colours, yet Mr. Oppenheim cites many occasions of
well-founded complaints of the victuals. He says: 'The quality of
the food supplied to the men and the honesty of the victualling
agents both steadily deteriorated during the Commonwealth.' Lord
Howard's principal difficulty was with the beer, which would
go sour. The beer was the most frequent subject of protest in
the Commonwealth times. Also, in 1759, Lord (then Sir Edward)
Hawke reported: 'Our daily employment is condemning the beer
from Plymouth.' The difficulty of brewing beer that would stand
a sea voyage seemed to be insuperable. The authorities, however,
did not soon abandon attempts to get the right article. Complaints
continued to pour in; but they went on with their brewing till
1835, and then gave it up as hopeless.

[Footnote 72: See 'The Mariners of England before the Armada,' by
Mr. H. Halliday Sparling, in the _English_Illustrated_Magazine_,
July 1, 1891.]

One must have had personal experience of the change to enable
one to recognise the advance that has been made in the art of
preserving articles of food within the last half-century. In
the first Drury Lane pantomime that I can remember--about a year
before I went to sea--a practical illustration of the quality
of some of the food supplied to the navy was offered during the
harlequinade by the clown, who satisfied his curiosity as to
the contents of a large tin of 'preserved meat' by pulling out
a dead cat. On joining the service I soon learned that, owing
to the badness of the 'preserved' food that had been supplied,
the idea of issuing tinned meat had been abandoned. It was not
resumed till some years later. It is often made a joke against
naval officers of a certain age that, before eating a biscuit,
they have a trick of rapping the table with it. We contracted
the habit as midshipmen when it was necessary to get rid of the
weevils in the biscuit before it could be eaten, and a fairly
long experience taught us that rapping the table with it was
an effectual plan for expelling them.

There is no more justification for accusing Queen Elizabeth of
failure to provide well-preserved food to her sailors than there
is for accusing her of not having sent supplies to Plymouth by
railway. Steam transport and efficient food preservation were
equally unknown in her reign and for long after. It has been
intimated above that, even had she wished to, she could not possibly
have made any money out of bad provisions. The victualling system
did not permit of her doing so. The austere republican virtue of
the Commonwealth authorities enabled them to do what was out of
Elizabeth's power. In 1653, 'beer and other provisions "decayed
and unfit for use" were licensed for export free of Customs.' Mr.
Oppenheim, who reports this fact, makes the remarkable comment
that this was done 'perhaps in the hope that such stores would
go to Holland,' with whose people we were at war. As the heavy
mortality in the navy had always been ascribed to the use of bad
provisions, we cannot refuse to give to the sturdy Republicans
who governed England in the seventeenth century the credit of
contemplating a more insidious and more effective method of damaging
their enemy than poisoning his wells. One would like to have it
from some jurist if the sale of poisonously bad food to your
enemy is disallowed by international law.

That there was much sickness in the fleet and that many seamen died
is, unfortunately, true. If Howard's evidence is to be accepted--as
it always is when it seems to tell against the Queen--it is
impossible to attribute this to the bad quality of the food then
supplied. The Lord Admiral's official report is 'that the ships
of themselves be so infectious and corrupted as it is thought to
be a very plague; and we find that the fresh men that we draw
into our ships are infected one day and die the next.' The least
restrained assertor of the 'poisonous' food theory does not contend
that it killed men within twenty-four hours. The Armada reached
the Channel on the 20th of July (30th, New Style). A month earlier
Howard had reported that 'several men have fallen sick and by
thousands fain to be discharged'; and, after the fighting was
over, he said of the _Elizabeth_Jonas_, she 'hath had a great
infection in her from the beginning.' Lord Henry Seymour, who
commanded the division of the fleet stationed in the Straits
of Dover, noted that the sickness was a repetition of that of
the year before, and attributed it not to bad food, but to the
weather. 'Our men,' he wrote, 'fall sick by reason of the cold
nights and cold mornings we find; and I fear me they will drop
away faster than they did last year with Sir Henry Palmer, which
was thick enough.'

'The sickness,' says Professor Laughton, 'was primarily and chiefly
due to infection from the shore and ignorance or neglect of what
we now know as sanitary laws.... Similar infections continued
occasionally to scourge our ships' companies, and still more
frequently French and Spanish ships' companies, till near the
close of the eighteenth century.' It is not likely that any evidence
would suffice to divert from their object writers eager to hurl
calumny at a great sovereign; but a little knowledge of naval
and of military history also would have saved their readers from
a belief in their accusations. In 1727 the fleet in the West
Indies commanded by Admiral Hosier, commemorated in Glover's
ballad, lost ten flag officers and captains, fifty lieutenants,
and 4000 seamen. In the Seven Years' war the total number belonging
to the fleet killed in action was 1512; whilst the number that
died of disease and were missing was 133,708. From 1778 to 1783,
out of 515,000 men voted by Parliament for the navy, 132,623 were
'sent sick.' In the summer, 1779, the French fleet cruising at
the mouth of the English Channel, after landing 500, had still
about 2000 men sick. At the beginning of autumn the number of
sick had become so great that many ships had not enough men to
work them. The _Ville_de_Paris_ had 560 sick, and lost 61. The
_Auguste_ had 500 sick, and lost 44. On board the _Intrépide_
70 died out of 529 sick. These were the worst cases; but other
ships also suffered heavily.

It is, perhaps, not generally remembered till what a very late
date armies and navies were more than decimated by disease. In
1810 the House of Commons affirmed by a resolution, concerning
the Walcheren Expedition: 'That on the 19th of August a malignant
disorder showed itself amongst H.M. troops; and that on the 8th
of September the number of sick amounted to upwards of 10,948
men. That of the army which embarked for service in the Scheldt
sixty officers and 3900 men, exclusive of those killed by the
enemy, had died before the 1st of February last.'

In a volume of 'Military, Medical, and Surgical Essays'[73] prepared
for the United States' Sanitary Commission, and edited by Dr.
Wm. A. Hammond, Surgeon-General of the U.S. Army, it is stated
that, in our Peninsular army, averaging a strength of 64,227
officers and men, the annual rate of mortality from the 25th
of December 1810 to the 25th of May 1813 was 10 per cent. of
the officers and 16 per cent. of the men. We may calculate from
this that some 25,000 officers and men died. There were 22-1/2
per cent., or over 14,000, 'constantly sick.' Out of 309,268
French soldiers sent to the Crimea in 1855-6, the number of killed
and those who died of wounds was 7500, the number who died of
disease was 61,700. At the same date navies also suffered. Dr.
Stilon Mends, in his life of his father,[74] Admiral Sir William
Mends, prints a letter in which the Admiral, speaking of the
cholera in the fleets at Varna, says: 'The mortality on board
the _Montebello_, _Ville_de_Paris_, _Valmy_ (French ships),
and _Britannia_ (British) has been terrible; the first lost 152
in three days, the second 120 in three days, the third 80 in ten
days, but the last lost 50 in one night and 10 the subsequent
day.' Kinglake tells us that in the end the _Britannia's_ loss
went up to 105. With the above facts before us, we are compelled
to adopt one of two alternatives. We must either maintain that
sanitary science made no advance between 1588 and 1855, or admit
that the mortality in Elizabeth's fleet became what it was owing to
ignorance of sanitary laws and not to intentional bad management.
As regards care of the sick, it is to be remembered that the
establishment of naval and military hospitals for the reception
of sick soldiers and sailors is of recent date. For instance,
the two great English military hospitals, Netley and the Herbert,
are only about sixty years old.

[Footnote 73: Philadelphia, 1864.]

[Footnote 74: London, 1899.]

So far from our fleet in 1588 having been ill-supplied with
ammunition, it was in reality astonishingly well equipped,
considering the age. We learn from Mr. Julian Corbett,[75] that
'during the few years immediately preceding the outbreak of the
war, the Queen's navy had been entirely re-armed with brass guns,
and in the process of re-armament a great advance in simplicity
had been secured.' Froude, without seeing where the admission
would land him, admits that our fleet was more plentifully supplied
than the Armada, in which, he says, 'the supply of cartridges
was singularly small. The King [Philip the Second] probably
considered that a single action would decide the struggle; and
it amounted to but fifty rounds for each gun.' Our own supply
therefore exceeded fifty rounds. In his life of Vice-Admiral
Lord Lyons,[76] Sir S. Eardley Wilmot tells us that the British
ships which attacked the Sebastopol forts in October 1854 'could
only afford to expend seventy rounds per gun.' At the close of
the nineteenth century, the regulated allowance for guns mounted
on the broadside was eighty-five rounds each. Consequently, the
Elizabethan allowance was nearly, if not quite, as much as that
which our authorities, after an experience of naval warfare during
three centuries, thought sufficient. 'The full explanation,' says
Professor Laughton, 'of the want [of ammunition] seems to lie
in the rapidity of fire which has already been mentioned. The
ships had the usual quantity on board; but the expenditure was
more, very many times more, than anyone could have conceived.'
Mr. Julian Corbett considers it doubtful if the ammunition, in
at least one division of the fleet, was nearly exhausted.

[Footnote 75: _The_Spanish_War_, 1585-87 (Navy Records Society),
1898, p. 323.]

[Footnote 76: London, 1898, p. 236.]

Exhaustion of the supply of ammunition in a single action is a
common naval occurrence. The not very decisive character of the
battle of Malaga between Sir George Rooke and the Count of Toulouse
in 1704 was attributed to insufficiency of ammunition, the supply
in our ships having been depleted by what 'Mediterranean' Byng,
afterwards Lord Torrington, calls the 'furious fire' opened on
Gibraltar. The Rev. Thomas Pocock, Chaplain of the _Ranelagh_,
Byng's flag-ship at Malaga, says:[77] 'Many of our ships went
out of the line for want of ammunition.' Byng's own opinion, as
stated by the compiler of his memoirs, was, that 'it may without
great vanity be said that the English had gained a greater victory
if they had been supplied with ammunition as they ought to have
been.' I myself heard the late Lord Alcester speak of the anxiety
that had been caused him by the state of his ships' magazines
after the attack on the Alexandria forts in 1882. At a still
later date, Admiral Dewey in Manila Bay interrupted his attack
on the Spanish squadron to ascertain how much ammunition his
ships had left. The carrying capacity of ships being limited,
rapid gun-fire in battle invariably brings with it the risk of
running short of ammunition. It did this in the nineteenth century
just as much as, probably even more than, it did in the sixteenth.

[Footnote 77: In his journal (p. 197), printed as an Appendix
to _Memoirs_relating_to_the_Lord_Torrington_, edited by
J. K. Laughton for the Camden Society, 1889.]

To charge Elizabeth with criminal parsimony because she insisted
on every shot being 'registered and accounted for' will be received
with ridicule by naval officers. Of course every shot, and for the
matter of that every other article expended, has to be accounted
for. One of the most important duties of the gunner of a man-of-war
is to keep a strict account of the expenditure of all gunnery
stores. This was more exactly done under Queen Victoria than it
was under Queen Elizabeth. Naval officers are more hostile to
'red tape' than most men, and they may lament the vast amount
of bookkeeping that modern auditors and committees of public
accounts insist upon, but they are convinced that a reasonable
check on expenditure of stores is indispensable to efficient
organisation. So far from blaming Elizabeth for demanding this,
they believe that both she and Burleigh, her Lord Treasurer,
were very much in advance of their age.

Another charge against her is that she defrauded her seamen of
their wages. The following is Froude's statement:--

'Want of the relief, which, if they had been paid their wages, they
might have provided for themselves had aggravated the tendencies to
disease, and a frightful mortality now set in through the entire
fleet.' The word 'now' is interesting, Froude having had before
him Howard's and Seymour's letters, already quoted, showing that
the appearance of the sickness was by no means recent. Elizabeth's
illiberality towards her seamen may be judged from the fact that
in her reign their pay was certainly increased once and perhaps
twice.[78] In 1585 the sailor's pay was raised from 6s. 8d. to
10s. a month. A rise of pay of 50 per cent. all at once is, I
venture to say, entirely without parallel in the navy since, and
cannot well be called illiberal. The Elizabethan 10s. would be
equal to £3 in our present accounts; and, as the naval month at
the earlier date was the lunar, a sailor's yearly wages would
be equal to £39 now. The year's pay of an A.B., 'non-continuous
service,' as Elizabeth's sailors were, is at the present time £24
6s. 8d. It is true that the sailor now can receive additional
pay for good-conduct badges, gunnery-training, &c., and also
can look forward to that immense boon--a pension--nearly, but
thanks to Sir J. Hawkins and Drake's establishment of the 'Chatham
Chest,' not quite unknown in the sixteenth century. Compared with
the rate of wages ruling on shore, Elizabeth's seamen were paid
highly. Mr. Hubert Hall states that for labourers 'the usual rate
was 2d. or 3d. a day.' Ploughmen received a shilling a week. In
these cases 'board' was also given. The sailor's pay was 5s. a
week with board. Even compared with skilled labour on shore the
sailor of the Armada epoch was well paid. Thorold Rogers gives,
for 1588, the wages, without board, of carpenters and masons at
10d. and 1s. a day. A plumber's wages varied from 10-1/2d. to
1s.; but there is one case of a plumber receiving as much as
1s. 4d., which was probably for a single day.

[Footnote 78: Mr. Halliday Sparling, in the article already referred
to (p. 651), says twice; but Mr. Oppenheim seems to think that
the first increase was before Elizabeth's accession.]

Delay in the payment of wages was not peculiar to the Elizabethan
system. It lasted very much longer, down to our own times in
fact. In 1588 the seamen of the fleet were kept without their
pay for several months. In the great majority of cases, and most
likely in all, the number of these months was less than six. Even
within the nineteenth century men-of-war's men had to wait for
their pay for years. Commander C. N. Robinson, in his 'British
Fleet,'[79] a book that ought to be in every Englishman's library,
remarks: 'All through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it
was the rule not to pay anybody until the end of the commission,
and to a certain degree the practice obtained until some fifty
years ago.' As to the nineteenth century, Lord Dundonald, speaking
in Parliament, may be quoted. He said that of the ships on the
East Indies station, the _Centurion's_ men had been unpaid for
eleven years; the _Rattlesnake's_ for fourteen; the _Fox's_ for
fifteen. The Elizabethan practice compared with this will look
almost precipitate instead of dilatory. To draw again on my personal
experience, I may say that I have been kept without pay for a
longer time than most of the people in Lord Howard's fleet, as,
for the first two years that I was at sea, young officers were
paid only once in six months; and then never in cash, but always
in bills. The reader may be left to imagine what happened when
a naval cadet tried to get a bill for some £7 or £8 cashed at
a small Spanish-American port.

[Footnote 79: London, 1894.]

A great deal has been made of the strict audit of the accounts
of Howard's fleet. The Queen, says Froude, 'would give no orders
for money till she had demanded the meaning of every penny that
she was charged.' Why she alone should be held up to obloquy
for this is not clear. Until a very recent period, well within
the last reign, no commanding officer, on a ship being paid off,
could receive the residue of his pay, or get any half-pay at
all, until his 'accounts had been passed.'[80] The same rule
applied to officers in charge of money or stores. It has been
made a further charge against Elizabeth that her officers had to
meet certain expenditure out of their own pockets. That certainly
is not a peculiarity of the sixteenth-century navy. Till less
than fifty years ago the captain of a British man-of-war had
to provide one of the three chronometers used in the navigation
of his ship. Even later than that the articles necessary for
cleaning the ship and everything required for decorating her
were paid for by the officers, almost invariably by the first
lieutenant, or second in command. There must be many officers
still serving who have spent sums, considerable in the aggregate,
of their own money on public objects. Though pressure in this
respect has been much relieved of late, there are doubtless many
who do so still. It is, in fact, a traditional practice in the
British Navy and is not in the least distinctly Elizabethan.

[Footnote 80: This happened to me in 1904.]

Some acquaintance with present conditions and accurate knowledge
of the naval methods prevailing in the great Queen's reign--a
knowledge which the publication of the original documents puts
within the reach of anyone who really cares to know the truth--will
convince the candid inquirer that Elizabeth's administration of the
navy compares favourably with that of any of her successors; and
that, for it, she deserves the admiration and unalloyed gratitude
of the nation.


[Footnote 81: Written in 1905. (_Cornhill_Magazine_.)]


[The following article was read as an address, in compliance
with the request of its Council, at the annual meeting of the
Navy Records Society in July 1905. It was, and indeed is still,
my opinion, as stated to the meeting in some prefatory remarks,
that the address would have come better from a professed historian,
several members of the Society being well known as entitled to that
designation. The Council, however, considered that, as Nelson's
tactical principles and achievements should be dealt with, it would
be better for the address to be delivered by a naval officer--one,
moreover, who had personal experience of the manoeuvres of fleets
under sail. Space would not suffice for treating of Nelson's
merits as a strategist, though they are as great as those which
he possessed as a tactician.]

Centenary commemorations are common enough; but the commemoration
of Nelson has a characteristic which distinguishes it from most,
if not from all, others. In these days we forget soon. What place
is still kept in our memories by even the most illustrious of
those who have but recently left us? It is not only that we do
not remember their wishes and injunctions; their existence has
almost faded from our recollection. It is not difficult to persuade
people to commemorate a departed worthy; but in most cases industry
has to take the place of enthusiasm, and moribund or extinct
remembrances have to be galvanised by assiduity into a semblance
of life. In the case of Nelson the conditions are very different.
He may have been misunderstood; even by his professional descendants
his acts and doctrines may have been misinterpreted; but he has
never been forgotten.

The time has now come when we can specially do honour to Nelson's
memory without wounding the feelings of other nations. There is no
need to exult over or even to expatiate on the defeats of others.
In recalling the past it is more dignified as regards ourselves,
and more considerate of the honour of our great admiral, to think
of the valour and self-devotion rather than the misfortunes of
those against whom he fought. We can do full justice to Nelson's
memory without reopening old wounds.

The first thing to be noted concerning him is that he is the
only man who has ever lived who by universal consent is without
a peer. This is said in full view of the new constellation rising
above the Eastern horizon; for that constellation, brilliant
as it is, has not yet reached the meridian. In every walk of
life, except that which Nelson chose as his own, you will find
several competitors for the first place, each one of whom will
have many supporters. Alexander of Macedon, Hannibal, Cæsar,
Marlborough, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon have been severally
put forward for the palm of generalship. To those who would acclaim
Richelieu as the first of statesmen, others would oppose Chatham,
or William Pitt, or Cavour, or Bismarck, or Marquis Ito. Who was
the first of sculptors? who the first of painters? who the first
of poets? In every case there is a great difference of opinion.
Ask, however, who was the first of admirals, and the unanimous
reply will still be--'Nelson,' tried as he was by many years of
high command in war. It is not only amongst his fellow-countrymen
that his preeminence is acknowledged. Foreigners admit it as
readily as we proclaim it ourselves.

We may consider what it was that gave Nelson this unique position
among men. The early conditions of his naval career were certainly
not favourable to him. It is true that he was promoted when young;
but so were many other officers. Nelson was made a commander only
a few months after the outbreak of war between Great Britain
and France, and was made a post-captain within a few days of the
declaration of war by Spain. An officer holding a rank qualifying
him for command at the outset of a great war might well have looked
forward confidently to exceptional opportunities of distinguishing
himself. Even in our own days, when some trifling campaign is
about to be carried on, the officers who are employed where they
can take no part in it vehemently lament their ill-fortune. How
much more disheartening must it have been to be excluded from
active participation in a great and long-continued conflict! This
was Nelson's case. As far as his hopes of gaining distinction
were concerned, fate seemed to persecute him pertinaciously. He
was a captain of more than four years' seniority when the treaty
of Versailles put an end to the war of American Independence. Yet,
with the exception of the brief Nicaragua expedition--which by
the side of the important occurrences of grand naval campaigns
must have seemed insignificant--his services during all those
years of hostilities were uneventful, and even humdrum. He seemed
to miss every important operation; and when the war ended--we may
almost say--he had never seen a ship fire a broadside in anger.

There then came what promised to be, and in fact turned out to
be, a long period of peace. With no distinguished war service
to point to, and with the prospect before him of only uneventful
employment, or no employment afloat at all, Nelson might well
have been disheartened to the verge of despondency. That he was
not disheartened, but, instead thereof, made a name for himself
in such unfavourable circumstances, must be accepted as one of
the most convincing proofs of his rare force of character. To
have attracted the notice, and to have secured the confidence,
of so great a sea-officer as Lord Hood constituted a distinction
which could have been won only by merit so considerable that
it could not long remain unrecognised. The war of American
Independence had still seven months to run when Lord Hood pointed
to Nelson as an officer to be consulted on 'questions relative
to naval tactics,' Professor Laughton tells us that at that time
Nelson had never served with a fleet. Lord Hood was one of the
last men in the world to go out of his way to pay to a youthful
subordinate an empty compliment, and we may confidently base our
estimate of an officer's merits on Lord Hood's belief in them.

He, no doubt, gave a Wide signification to the term 'tactics,' and
used it as embracing all that is included in the phrase 'conduct
of war.' He must have found out, from conversations with, and from
the remarks of, the young captain, whom he treated as intimately as
if he was his son, that the latter was already, what he continued
to be till the end, viz. a student of naval warfare. This point
deserves particular attention. The officers of the navy of the
present day, period of peace though it be, can imitate Nelson
at least in this. He had to wait a long time before he could
translate into brilliant action the result of his tactical studies.
Fourteen years after Lord Hood spoke of him as above related, by
a 'spontaneous and sudden act, for which he had no authority
by signal or otherwise, except his own judgment and quick
perceptions,' Nelson entirely defeated the movement of the enemy's
fleet, contributed to the winning of a great victory, and, as
Captain Mahan tells us, 'emerged from merely personal distinction
to national renown.' The justification of dwelling on this is
to be found in the necessity, even at this day, of preventing
the repetition of mistakes concerning Nelson's qualities and
disposition. His recent biographers, Captain Mahan and Professor
Laughton, feel constrained to tell us over and over again that
Nelson's predominant characteristic was not mere 'headlong valour
and instinct for fighting'; that he was not the man 'to run needless
and useless risks' in battle. 'The breadth and acuteness of Nelson's
intellect,' says Mahan, 'have been too much overlooked in the
admiration excited by his unusually grand moral endowments of
resolution, dash, and fearlessness of responsibility!'

In forming a true conception of what Nelson was, the publications
of the Navy Records Society will help us greatly. There is something
very remarkable in the way in which Mr. Gutteridge's volume[82]
not only confirms Captain Mahan's refutation of the aspersions
on Nelson's honour and humanity, but also establishes Professor
Laughton's conclusions, reached many years ago, that it was the
orders given to him, and not his amour, which detained him at
Naples at a well-known epoch. The last volume issued by the Society,
that of Mr. Julian Corbett,[83] is, I venture to affirm, the
most useful to naval officers that has yet appeared among the
Society's publications. It will provide them with an admirable
historical introduction to the study of tactics, and greatly
help them in ascertaining the importance of Nelson's achievements
as a tactician. For my own part, I may say with gratitude that
but for Mr. Corbett's valuable work I could not have completed
this appreciation.

[Footnote 82: _Nelson_and_the_Neapolitan_Jacobins_.]

[Footnote 83: _Fighting_Instructions_, 1530-1816.]

The most renowned of Nelson's achievements was that performed
in his final battle and victory. Strange as it may seem, that
celebrated performance has been the subject of much controversy,
and, brilliant as it was, the tactics adopted in it have been
freely, and indeed unfavourably, criticised. There is still much
difference of opinion as to the preliminary movements, and as
to the exact method by which Nelson's attack was made. It has
been often asserted that the method really followed was not that
which Nelson had expressly declared his intention of adopting.
The question raised concerning this is a difficult one, and,
until the appearance of Mr. Julian Corbett's recent work and
the interesting volume on Trafalgar lately published by Mr. H.
Newbolt, had not been fully discussed. The late Vice-Admiral
P. H. Colomb contributed to the _United_Service_Magazine_ of
September 1899 a very striking article on the subject of Nelson's
tactics in his last battle, and those who propose to study the
case should certainly peruse what he wrote.

The criticism of Nelson's procedure at Trafalgar in its strongest
form may be summarised as follows. It is affirmed that he drew
up and communicated to the officers under his orders a certain
plan of attack; that just before the battle he changed his plan
without warning; that he hurried on his attack unnecessarily;
that he exposed his fleet to excessive peril; and, because of
all this, that the British loss was much heavier and much less
evenly distributed among the ships of the fleet than it need have
been. The most formidable arraignment of the mode of Nelson's
last attack is, undoubtedly, to be found in the paper published
by Sir Charles Ekins in his book on 'Naval Battles,' and vouched
for by him as the work of an eye-witness--almost certainly, as
Mr. Julian Corbett holds, an officer on board the _Conqueror_ in
the battle. It is a remarkable document. Being critical rather
than instructive, it is not to be classed with the essay of Clerk
of Eldin; but it is one of the most important contributions to the
investigation of tactical questions ever published in the English
tongue. On it are based nearly, or quite, all the unfavourable
views expressed concerning the British tactics at Trafalgar. As
it contains a respectfully stated, but still sharp, criticism
of Nelson's action, it will not be thought presumptuous if we
criticise it in its turn.

Notwithstanding the fact that the author of the paper actually
took part in the battle, and that he was gifted with no mean
tactical insight, it is permissible to say that his remarks have
an academic tinge. In fact, they are very much of the kind that a
clever professor of tactics, who had not felt the responsibilities
inseparable from the command of a fleet, would put before a class
of students. Between a professor of tactics, however clever, and
a commanding genius like Nelson the difference is great indeed.
The writer of the paper in question perhaps expressed the more
general opinion of his day. He has certainly suggested opinions
to later generations of naval officers. The captains who shared
in Nelson's last great victory did not agree among themselves as
to the mode in which the attack was introduced. It was believed
by some of them, and, thanks largely to the _Conqueror_ officer's
paper, it is generally believed now, that, whereas Nelson had
announced his intention of advancing to the attack in lines-abreast
or lines-of-bearing, he really did so in lines-ahead. Following
up the path of investigation to which, in his article above
mentioned, Admiral Colomb had already pointed, we can, I think,
arrive only at the conclusion that the announced intention was
adhered to.

Before the reasons for this conclusion are given it will be
convenient to deal with the suggestions, or allegations, that
Nelson exposed his fleet at Trafalgar to unduly heavy loss, putting
it in the power of the enemy--to use the words of the _Conqueror's_
officer--to 'have annihilated the ships one after another in
detail'; and that 'the brunt of the action would have been more
equally felt' had a different mode of advance from that actually
chosen been adopted. Now, Trafalgar was a battle in which an
inferior fleet of twenty-six ships gained a victory over a superior
fleet of thirty-three. The victory was so decisive that more than
half of the enemy's capital ships were captured or destroyed
on the spot, and the remainder were so battered that some fell
an easy prey to the victor's side soon after the battle, the
rest having limped painfully to the shelter of a fortified port
near at hand. To gain such a victory over a superior force of
seamen justly celebrated for their spirit and gallantry, very
hard fighting was necessary. The only actions of the Napoleonic
period that can be compared with it are those of Camperdown, the
Nile, and Copenhagen. The proportionate loss at Trafalgar was the
least in all the four battles.[84] The allegation that, had Nelson
followed a different method at Trafalgar, the 'brunt of the action
would have been more equally felt' can be disposed of easily. In
nearly all sea-fights, whether Nelsonic in character or not,
half of the loss of the victors has fallen on considerably less
than half the fleet. That this has been the rule, whatever tactical
method may have been adopted, will appear from the following
statement. In Rodney's victory (12th April 1782) half the loss
fell upon nine ships out of thirty-six, or one-fourth; at 'The
First of June' it fell upon five ships out of twenty-five, or
one-fifth; at St. Vincent it fell upon three ships out of fifteen,
also one-fifth; at Trafalgar half the loss fell on five ships
out of twenty-seven, or very little less than an exact fifth.
It has, therefore, been conclusively shown that, faulty or not
faulty, long-announced or hastily adopted, the plan on which
the battle of Trafalgar was fought did not occasion excessive
loss to the victors or confine the loss, such as it was, to an
unduly small portion of their fleet. As bearing on this question
of the relative severity of the British loss at Trafalgar, it
may be remarked that in that battle there were several British
ships which had been in other great sea-fights. Their losses
in these latter were in nearly every case heavier than their
Trafalgar losses.[85] Authoritative and undisputed figures show
how baseless are the suggestions that Nelson's tactical procedure
at Trafalgar caused his fleet to suffer needlessly heavy loss.

[Footnote 84:
  Camperdown     825 loss out of  8,221: 10    per cent.
  The Nile       896   "    "     7,401: 12.1      "
  Copenhagen     941   "    "     6,892: 13.75     "
  _Trafalgar_  1,690   "    "    17,256:  9.73     "    ]

[Footnote 85:
|             |              |      |       |     |      Trafalgar     |
|    Ship     |   Action     |Killed|Wounded|Total|--------------------|
|             |              |      |       |     |Killed|Wounded|Total|
|_Ajax_       |  Rodney's    |   9  |   10  |  19 |   2  |    9  |  11 |
|             |(Ap. 12, 1782)|      |       |     |      |       |     |
|_Agamemnon_  |     "        |  15  |   22  |  37 |   2  |    8  |  10 |
|_Conqueror_  |     "        |   7  |   22  |  29 |   3  |    9  |  12 |
|_Defence_    | 1st June     |  17  |   36  |  53 |   7  |   29  |  36 |
|_Bellerophon_| The Nile     |  49  |  148  | 197 |  27  |  123  | 150 |
|_Swiftsure_  |     "        |   7  |   22  |  29 |   9  |    8  |  17 |
|_Defiance_   | Copenhagen   |  24  |   21  |  45 |  17  |   53  |  70 |
|_Polyphemus_ |     "        |   6  |   25  |  31 |   2  |    4  |   6 |

[In only one case was the Trafalgar total loss greater than the
total loss of the same ship in an earlier fight; and in this
case (the _Defiance_) the number of killed at Trafalgar was only
about two-thirds of the number killed in the other action.]

It is now necessary to investigate the statement that Nelson,
hastily and without warning, changed his plan for fighting the
battle. This investigation is much more difficult than that into
the losses of the British fleet, because, whilst the latter can
be settled by arithmetic, the former must proceed largely upon
conjecture. How desirable it is to make the investigation of
the statement mentioned will be manifest when we reflect on the
curious fact that the very completeness of Nelson's success at
Trafalgar checked, or, indeed, virtually destroyed, the study
of tactics in the British Navy for more than three-quarters of
a century. His action was so misunderstood, or, at any rate,
so variously represented, that it generally passed for gospel
in our service that Nelson's method consisted merely in rushing
at his enemy as soon as he saw him. Against this conception his
biographers, one after another, have protested in vain.

At the outset of this investigation it will be well to call to
mind two or three things, simple enough, but not always remembered.
One of these is that advancing to the attack and the attack itself
are not the same operations. Another is, that, in the order of
sailing in two or more columns, if the ships were 'by the wind'
or close-hauled--the column-leaders were not abeam of each other,
but bore from one another in the direction of the wind. Also, it
may be mentioned that by simple alterations of course a line-abreast
may be converted into a line-of-bearing and a line-of-bearing
into a line-ahead, and that the reverse can be effected by the
same operation. Again, adherence to a plan which presupposes
the enemy's fleet to be in a particular formation after he is
found to be in another is not to be expected of a consummate
tactician. This remark is introduced here with full knowledge
of the probability that it will be quoted as an admission that
Nelson did change his plan without warning. No admission of the
kind is intended. 'In all cases of anticipated battle,' says Mahan,
'Nelson was careful to put his subordinates in possession both of
his general plans and, as far as possible, of the underlying ideas.'
The same biographer tells us, what is well worth remembering, that
'No man was ever better served than Nelson by the inspiration
of the moment; no man ever counted on it less.'

The plan announced in the celebrated memorandum of 9th October
1805 indicated, for the attack from to windward, that the British
fleet, in what would be called on shore an echelon of two main
divisions and an 'advance squadron,' would move against an enemy
assumed to be in single line-ahead. The 'advance squadron,' it
should be noted, was not to be ahead of the two main divisions,
but in such a position that it could be moved to strengthen either.
The name seems to have been due to the mode in which the ships
composing the squadron were employed in, so to speak, 'feeling
for' the enemy. On 19th October six ships were ordered 'to go
ahead during the night'; and, besides the frigates, two more
ships were so stationed as to keep up the communication between
the six and the commander-in-chief's flag-ship. Thus eight ships
in effect composed an 'advance squadron,' and did not join either
of the main divisions at first.

When it was expected that the British fleet would comprise forty
sail-of-the-line and the enemy's fleet forty-six, each British
main division was to be made up of sixteen ships; and eight
two-deckers added to either division would increase the strength
of the latter to twenty-four ships. It is interesting to note that,
omitting the _Africa_, which ship came up late, each British main
division on the morning of 21st October 1805 had nine ships--a
number which, by the addition of the eight already mentioned
as distinct from the divisions, could have been increased to
seventeen, thus, except for a fraction, exactly maintaining the
original proportion as regards the hostile fleet, which was now
found to be composed of thirty-three ships.

During the night of 20th-21st October the Franco-Spanish fleet,
which had been sailing in three divisions and a 'squadron of
observation,' formed line and stood to the southward, heading a
little to the eastward of south. The 'squadron of observation'
was parallel to the main body and to windward (in this case to
the westward) of it, with the leading ships rather more advanced.

The British main divisions steered WSW. till 1 A.M. After that
they steered SW. till 4 A.M. There are great difficulties about
the time, as the notation of it[86] differed considerably in
different ships; but the above hours are taken from the _Victory's_
log. At 4 A.M. the British fleet, or rather its main divisions,
wore and stood N. by E. As the wind was about NW. by W., the
ships were close-hauled, and the leader of the 'lee-line,' i.e.
Collingwood's flag-ship, was when in station two points abaft
the _Victory's_ beam as soon as the 'order of sailing' in two
columns--which was to be the order of battle--had been formed.

[Footnote 86: Except the chronometers, which were instruments of
navigation so precious as always to be kept under lock and key,
there were no clocks in the navy till some years after I joined
it. Time on board ship was kept by half-hour sand-glasses.]

About 6 A.M. the enemy's fleet was sighted from the _Victory_,
and observed to bear from her E. by S. and be distant from her
ten or twelve miles. The distance is corroborated by observed
bearings from Collingwood's flag-ship.[87] Viewed from the British
ships, placed as they were relatively to it, the enemy's fleet
must have appeared as a long single line-ahead, perhaps not very
exactly formed. As soon as the hostile force was clearly made out,
the British divisions bore up and stood to the eastward, steering
by the _Victory's_ compass ENE. The position and formation of
the British main divisions were by this made exactly those in
which they are shown in the diagram usually attached to the
celebrated memorandum of 9th October 1805. The enemy must have
appeared to the British, who were ten or twelve miles to windward
of him, and on his beam, as if he were formed in line-ahead. He
therefore was also in the position and formation assigned to
him in that diagram.

[Footnote 87: It would necessitate the use of some technicalities
to explain it fully; but it may be said that the bearings of
the extremes of the enemy's line observed from his flag-ship
prove that Collingwood was in the station that he ought to have
occupied when the British fleet was in the Order of Sailing and
close to the wind.]

At a time which, because of the variety in the notations of it,
it is difficult to fix exactly, but somewhere between 7 and 8
A.M., the enemy's ships wore together and endeavoured to form
a line to the northward, which, owing to the direction of the
wind, must have been about N. by E. and S. by W., or NNE. and
SSW. The operation--not merely of wearing, but of both wearing
and reforming the line, such as it was--took more than an hour
to complete. The wind was light; there was a westerly swell;
the ships were under easy sail; consequently there must have
been a good deal of leeway, and the hostile or 'combined' fleet
headed in the direction of Cadiz, towards which, we are expressly
told by a high French authority--Chevalier--it advanced.

Nelson had to direct the course of his fleet so that its divisions,
when about to make the actual attack, would be just opposite the
points to which the respective hostile ships had advanced in
the meantime. In a light wind varying in force a direct course
to those points could not be settled once for all; but that first
chosen was very nearly right, and an alteration of a point, viz.
to E. by N., was for a considerable time all that was necessary.
Collingwood later made a signal to his division to alter course
one point to port, which brought them back to the earlier course,
which by the _Victory's_ compass had been ENE. The eight ships
of what has been referred to as the 'advance squadron' were
distributed between the two main British divisions, six being
assigned to Collingwood's and two to Nelson's. They did not all
join their divisions at the same time, some--probably owing to
the distance at which they had been employed from the rest of
the fleet and the feebleness of the breeze--not till several
hours after the combined fleet had been sighted.

Collingwood preserved in his division a line-of-bearing apparently
until the very moment when the individual ships pushed on to make
the actual attack. The enemy's fleet is usually represented as
forming a curve. It would probably be more correct to call it a
very obtuse re-entering angle. This must have been largely due to
Gravina's 'squadron of observation' keeping away in succession,
to get into the wake of the rest of the line, which was forming
towards the north. About the centre of the combined fleet there
was a gap of a mile. Ahead and astern of this the ships were not
all in each other's wake. Many were to leeward of their stations,
thus giving the enemy's formation the appearance of a double line,
or rather of a string of groups of ships. It is important to
remember this, because no possible mode of attack--the enemy's
fleet being formed as it was--could have prevented some British
ships from being 'doubled on' when they cut into the enemy's
force. On 'The First of June,' notwithstanding that the advance
to the attack was intended to be in line-abreast, several British
ships were 'doubled on,' and even 'trebled on,' as will be seen
in the experiences on that day of the _Brunswick_, _Marlborough_,
_Royal_Sovereign_, and _Queen_Charlotte_ herself.

Owing to the shape of the hostile 'line' at Trafalgar and the
formation in which he kept his division, Collingwood brought his
ships, up till the very moment when each proceeded to deliver her
attack, in the formation laid down in the oft-quoted memorandum. By
the terms of that document Nelson had specifically assigned to his
own division the work of seeing that the movements of Collingwood's
division should be interrupted as little as possible. It would,
of course, have been beyond his power to do this if the position
of his own division in the echelon formation prescribed in the
memorandum had been rigorously adhered to after Collingwood was
getting near his objective point. In execution, therefore, of
the service allotted to his division, Nelson made a feint at
the enemy's van. This necessitated an alteration of course to
port, so that his ships came into a 'line-of-bearing' so very
oblique that it may well have been loosely called a 'line-ahead.'
Sir Charles Ekins says that the two British lines '_afterwards_
fell into line-ahead, the ships in the wake of each other,' and
that this was in obedience to signal. Collingwood's line certainly
did not fall into line-ahead. At the most it was a rather oblique
line-of-bearing almost parallel to that part of the enemy's fleet
which he was about to attack. In Nelson's line there was more than
one alteration of course, as the _Victory's_ log expressly states
that she kept standing for the enemy's van, which we learn from
the French accounts was moving about N. by E. or NNE. In the light
wind prevailing the alterations of course must have rendered it,
towards the end of the forenoon, impossible to keep exact station,
even if the _Victory_ were to shorten sail, which we know she
did not. As Admiral Colomb pointed out, 'Several later signals
are recorded which were proper to make in lines-of-bearing, but
not in lines-ahead.' It is difficult to import into this fact
any other meaning but that of intention to preserve, however
obliquely, the line-of-bearing which undoubtedly had been formed
by the act of bearing-up as soon as the enemy's fleet had been

When Collingwood had moved near enough to the enemy to let his
ships deliver their attacks, it became unnecessary for Nelson's
division to provide against the other's being interrupted.
Accordingly, he headed for the point at which he meant to cut into
the enemy's fleet. Now came the moment, as regards his division,
for doing what Collingwood's had already begun to do, viz. engage
in a 'pell-mell battle,'[88] which surely may be interpreted
as meaning a battle in which rigorous station-keeping was no
longer expected, and in which 'no captain could do very wrong
if he placed his ship alongside that of the enemy.'

[Footnote 88: Nelson's own expression.]

In several diagrams of the battle as supposed to have been fought
the two British divisions just before the moment of impact are
represented as converging towards each other. The Spanish diagram,
lately reproduced by Mr. Newbolt, shows this, as well as the English
diagrams. We may take it, therefore, that there was towards the
end of the forenoon a convergence of the two columns, and that
this was due to Nelson's return from his feint at the hostile van
to the line from which he intended to let go his ships to deliver
the actual attack. Collingwood's small alteration of course of
one point to port slightly, but only slightly, accentuated this

Enough has been said here of Nelson's tactics at Trafalgar. To
discuss them fully would lead me too far for this occasion.

I can only express the hope that in the navy the subject will
receive fuller consideration hereafter. Nelson's last victory
was gained, be it remembered, in one afternoon, over a fleet more
than 20 per cent. his superior in numbers, and was so decisive
that more than half of the hostile ships were taken. This was the
crowning effort of seven years spent in virtually independent
command in time of war--seven years, too, illustrated by more
than one great victory.

The more closely we look into Nelson's tactical achievements,
the more effective and brilliant do they appear. It is the same
with his character and disposition. The more exact researches
and investigations of recent times have removed from his name
the obloquy which it pleased some to cast upon it. We can see
now that his 'childlike, delighted vanity'--to use the phrase
of his greatest biographer--was but a thin incrustation on noble
qualities. As in the material world valueless earthy substances
surround a vein of precious metal, so through Nelson's moral
nature there ran an opulent lode of character, unimpaired in
its priceless worth by adjacent frailties which, in the majority
of mankind, are present without any precious stuff beneath them.
It is with minds prepared to see this that we should commemorate
our great admiral.

Veneration of Nelson's memory cannot be confined to particular
objects or be limited by locality. His tomb is wider than the
space covered by dome or column, and his real monument is more
durable than any material construction. It is the unwritten and
spiritual memorial of him, firmly fixed in the hearts of his



[Footnote 89: Written in 1907. (_Naval_Annual_, 1908.)]

At the close of the Great War, which ended in the downfall of
Napoleon, the maritime position of the British Empire was not
only predominant--it also was, and long remained, beyond the
reach of challenge. After the stupendous events of the great
contest such successes as those at Algiers where we were helped
by the Dutch, at Navarino where we had two allies, and at Acre
were regarded as matters of course, and no very grave issue hung
upon any one of them. For more than half a century after Nelson's
death all the most brilliant achievements of British arms were
performed on shore, in India or in the Crimea. There were also many
small wars on land, and it may well have seemed to contemporaries
that the days of great naval contests were over and that force
of circumstances was converting us into a military from a naval
nation. The belief in the efficacy of naval defence was not extinct,
but it had ceased to operate actively. Even whilst the necessity
of that form of defence was far more urgent, inattention to or
ignorance of its true principles had occasionally allowed it to
grow weak, but the possibility of substituting something else for
it had not been pressed or even suggested. To this, however, we
had now come; and it was largely a consequence of the Crimean war.
In that war the British Army had nobly sustained its reputation
as a fighting machine. For the first time after a long interval
it had met in battle European troops, and had come out of the
conflict more renowned for bravery than ever. Nothing seemed
able to damp its heroism--not scantiness of food, not lack of
clothing amidst bitter cold, not miserable quarters, not superior
forces of a valiant enemy. It clung to its squalid abodes in the
positions which it was ordered to hold with a tenacious fortitude
that had never been surpassed in its glorious history, and that
defied all assaults. In combination with its brave allies it
brought to a triumphant conclusion a war of an altogether peculiar

The campaign in the Crimea was in reality the siege of a single
fortress. All the movements of the Western invaders were undertaken
to bring them within striking distance of the place, to keep
them within reach of it, or to capture it. Every battle that
occurred was fought with one of those objects. When the place
fell the war ended. The one general who, in the opinion of all
concerned, gained high distinction in the war was the general
who had prolonged the defence of Sebastopol by the skilful use
of earthworks. It was no wonder that the attack and defence of
fortified places assumed large importance in the eyes of the
British people. The command of the sea held by the allied powers
was so complete and all-pervading that no one stopped to think
what the course of hostilities would have been without it, any
more than men stop to think what the course of any particular
business would be if there were no atmosphere to breathe in.
Not a single allied soldier had been delayed on passage by the
hostile fleet; not a single merchant vessel belonging to the
allies had been captured by a hostile cruiser. Supplies and
reinforcements for the besieging armies were transported to them
without escort and with as little risk of interruption as if
the operations had been those of profound peace.

No sooner was the Crimean war over than another struggle took
place, viz. the war of the Indian Mutiny, and that also was waged
entirely on land. Here again the command of the sea was so complete
that no interruption of it, even temporary, called attention to
its existence. Troops and supplies were sent to India from the
United Kingdom and from Hong-Kong; horses for military purposes
from Australia and South Africa; and in every case without a
thought of naval escort. The experience of hostilities in India
seemed to confirm the experience of the Crimea. What we had just
done to a great European nation was assumed to be what unfriendly
European nations would wish to do and would be able to do to
us. It was also assumed that the only way of frustrating their
designs would be to do what had recently been done in the hope
of frustrating ours, but to do it better. We must--it was
said--depend on fortifications, but more perfect than those which
had failed to save Sebastopol.

The protection to be afforded by our fleet was deliberately declared
to be insufficient. It might, so it was held, be absent altogether,
and then there would be nothing but fortifications to stand between
us and the progress of an active enemy. In the result the policy
of constructing imposing passive defence-works on our coast was
adopted. The fortifications had to be multiplied. Dependence
on that class of defence inevitably leads to discovery after
discovery that some spot open to the kind of attack feared has
not been made secure. We began by fortifying the great dockyard
ports--on the sea side against a hostile fleet, on the land side
against hostile troops. Then it was perceived that to fortify
the dockyard ports in the mother country afforded very little
protection to the outlying portions of the empire. So their principal
ports also were given defence-works--sometimes of an elaborate
character. Again, it was found that commercial ports had been
left out and that they too must be fortified. When this was done
spots were observed at which an enemy might effect a landing
in force, to prevent which further forts or batteries must be
erected. The most striking thing in all this is the complete
omission to take note of the conditions involved in the command
of the sea.

Evidently it had not been understood that it was that very command
which alone had enabled the armies of western Europe to proceed,
not only without serious interruption, but also without encountering
an attempt at obstruction, to the field in the Crimea on which
their victories had been won, and that the same command would be
necessary before any hostile expedition, large enough to justify
the construction of the fortifications specially intended to
repel it, could cross the sea and get within striking distance
of our shores. It should be deeply interesting to the people
of those parts of the British Empire which lie beyond sea to
note that the defensive system comprised in the fortification
of the coast of the United Kingdom promised no security to them
in the event of war. Making all proper allowance for the superior
urgency of defending the heart of the empire, we must still admit
that no system of defence is adequate which does not provide for
the defence of other valuable parts of the great body politic
as well.

Again, the system of defence proved to be imperfect. Every part
of the empire depended for prosperity--some parts depended for
existence--on practically unrestricted traffic on the ocean.
This, which might be assailed at many points and on lines often
thousands of miles in length, could find little or no defence in
immovable fortifications. It could not be held that the existence
of these released the fleet from all duty but that of protecting
our ocean commerce, because, if any enemy's navy was able to
carry out an operation of such magnitude and difficulty as a
serious attack on our home territory, it would assuredly be able
to carry out the work of damaging our maritime trade. Power to
do the latter has always belonged to the navy which was in a
position to extend its activity persistently to the immediate
neighbourhood of its opponent's coast-line.

It is not to be supposed that there was no one to point this
out. Several persons did so, but being mostly sailors they were
not listened to. In actual practice the whole domain of imperial
strategy was withdrawn from the intervention of the naval officer,
as though it were something with which he could not have anything
to do. Several great wars had been waged in Europe in the meantime,
and all of them were land wars. Naval forces, if employed at all,
were employed only just enough to bring out how insignificant their
participation in them was. As was to have been expected, the habit
of attaching importance to the naval element of imperial defence
declined. The empire, nevertheless, continued to grow. Its territory
was extended; its population, notably its population of European
stock, increased, and its wealth and the subsequent operations
of exchanging its productions for those of other countries were
enormously expanded. At the same time the navy, to the strength
and efficiency of which it had to look for security, declined
absolutely, and still more relatively. Other navies were advancing:
some had, as it were, come into existence. At last the true
conditions were discerned, and the nation, almost with one voice,
demanded that the naval defences of the empire should be put
upon a proper footing.

Let no one dismiss the foregoing retrospect as merely ancient
history. On the contrary, let all those who desire to see the
British Empire follow the path of its natural development in
tranquillity study the recent past. By doing this we shall be
able to estimate aright the position of the fleet in the defence
of the empire. We must examine the circumstances in which we
are placed. For five-and-thirty years the nations of the world
have practically lived under the rule of force. The incessant
object of every great state has been to increase the strength
of its armed forces up to the point at which the cost becomes
intolerable. Countries separated from one another only by arbitrary
geographical lines add regiment to regiment and gun to gun, and
also devise continually fresh expedients for accelerating the
work of preparing their armies to take the field. The most
pacifically inclined nation must do in this respect as its neighbours
do, on pain of losing its independence and being mutilated in
its territory if it does not. This rivalry has spread to the
sea, and fleets are increased at a rate and at a cost in money
unknown to former times, even to those of war. The possession of
a powerful navy by some state which has no reason to apprehend
over-sea invasion and which has no maritime interests, however
intrinsically important they may be, commensurate with the strength
of its fleets, may not indicate a spirit of aggression; but it
at least indicates ability to become an aggressor. Consequently,
for the British fleet to fill its proper position in the defence
of the empire it must be strong. To be strong more than large
numbers will be required. It must have the right, that is the
best, material, the best organisation, the best discipline, the
best training, the best distribution. We shall ascertain the
position that it should hold, if we examine what it would have
to do when called upon for work more active than that of peace
time. With the exception of India and Canada no part of the empire
is liable to serious attack that does not come over-sea. Any
support that can be given to India or Canada by other parts of
the empire must be conveyed across the sea also. This at once
indicates the importance of ocean lines of communication.

War is the method adopted, when less violent means of persuasion
have failed, to force your enemy to comply with your demands.
There are three principal ways of effecting this--invasion of his
country, raids on his territory, destruction or serious damage
of his sea-borne commerce. Successful invasion must compel the
invaded to come to terms, or his national existence will be lost.
Raids upon his territory may possibly so distress him that he
would rather concede your terms than continue the struggle.[90]
Damage to his sea-borne commerce may be carried so far that he
will be ruined if he does not give in. So much for one side of
the account; we have to examine the other. Against invasion,
raids, or attempts at commerce-destruction there must be some
form of defence, and, as a matter of historical fact, defence
against each has been repeatedly successful. If we need instances
we have only to peruse the history of the British Empire.

[Footnote 90: Though raids rarely, if ever, decide a war, they
may cause inconvenience or local distress, and an enemy desiring
to make them should be obstructed as much as possible.]

How was it that--whilst we landed invading armies in many hostile
countries, seized many portions of hostile territory, and drove
more than one enemy's commerce from the sea--our own country has
been free from successful invasion for more than eight centuries,
few portions of our territory have been taken from us even
temporarily, and our commerce has increased throughout protracted
maritime wars? To this there can only be one answer, viz. that
the arrangements for defence were effectual. What, then, were
these arrangements? They were comprised in the provision of a
powerful, well-distributed, well-handled navy, and of a mobile
army of suitable strength. It is to be observed that each element
possessed the characteristic of mobility. We have to deal here
more especially with the naval element, and we must study the
manner in which it operates.

Naval war is sea-power in action; and sea-power, taken in the
narrow sense, has limitations. It may not, even when so taken,
cease to act at the enemy's coast-line, but its direct influence
extends only to the inner side of a narrow zone conforming to that
line. In a maritime contest each side tries to control the ocean
communications and to prevent the other from controlling them. If
either gains the control, something in addition to sea-power
strictly defined may begin to operate: the other side's territory
may be invaded or harassed by considerable raids, and its commerce
may be driven from the sea. It will be noticed that control of
ocean communications is the needful preliminary to these. It
is merely a variant of the often employed expression of the
necessity, in war, of obtaining command of the sea. In the case
of the most important portion of the British Empire, viz. the
United Kingdom, our loss of control of the ocean communications
would have a result which scarcely any foreign country would
experience. Other countries are dependent on importations for
some part of the food of their population and of the raw material
of their industry; but much of the importation is, and perhaps
all of it may be, effected by land. Here, we depend upon imports
from abroad for a very large part of the food of our people,
and of the raw material essential to the manufacture of the
commodities by the exchange of which we obtain necessary supplies;
and the whole of these imports come, and must come to us, by
sea. Also, if we had not freedom of exportation, our wealth and
the means of supporting a war would disappear. Probably all the
greater colonies and India could feed their inhabitants for a
moderately long time without sea-borne imports, but unless the
sea were open to them their prosperity would decline.

This teaches us the necessity to the British Empire of controlling
our maritime communications, and equally teaches those who may
one day be our enemies the advisability of preventing us from
doing so. The lesson in either case is driven farther home by
other considerations connected with communications. In war a
belligerent has two tasks before him. He has to defend himself
and hurt his enemy. The more he hurts his enemy, the less is
he likely to be hurt himself. This defines the great principle
of offensive defence. To act in accordance with this principle,
a belligerent should try, as the saying goes, to carry the war
into the enemy's country. He should try to make his opponents
fight where he wants them to fight, which will probably be as
far as possible from his own territory and as near as possible
to theirs. Unless he can do this, invasion and even serious raids
by him will be out of the question. More than that, his inability
to do it will virtually indicate that on its part the other side
can fix the scene of active hostilities unpleasantly close to
the points from which he desires to keep its forces away.

A line of ocean communications may be vulnerable throughout its
length; but it does not follow that an assailant can operate
against it with equal facility at every point, nor does it follow
that it is at every point equally worth assailing. Lines running
past hostile naval ports are especially open to assault in the
part near the ports; and lines formed by the confluence of two or
more other lines--like, for example, those which enter the English
Channel--will generally include a greater abundance of valuable
traffic than others. Consequently there are some parts at which
an enemy may be expected to be more active than elsewhere, and
it is from those very parts that it is most desirable to exclude
him. They are, as a rule, relatively near to the territory of the
state whose navy has to keep the lines open, that is to say,
prevent their being persistently beset by an enemy. The necessary
convergence of lines towards that state's ports shows that some
portion of them would have to be traversed, or their traversing
be attempted, by expeditions meant to carry out either invasion
or raids. If, therefore, the enemy can be excluded as above
mentioned, invasions, raids, and the more serious molestation of
sea-borne commerce by him will be prevented.

If we consider particular cases we shall find proof upon proof
of the validity of the rule. Three great lines--one from the
neighbourhood of the Cape of Good Hope, one from the Red Sea, and
a third from India and Ceylon--converge near the south-western
part of Australia and run as one line towards the territory of the
important states farther east. If an assailant can be excluded
from the latter or combined line he must either divide his force
or operate on only one of the confluents, leaving the rest free.
The farther he can be pushed back from the point of confluence
the more effectually will he be limited to a single line, because
the combining lines, traced backwards, trend more and more apart,
and it is, therefore, more and more difficult for him to keep
detachments of his force within supporting distance of each other
if they continue to act against two or more lines. The particular
case of the approaches to the territory of the United Kingdom
has the same features, and proves the rule with equal clearness.
This latter case is so often adduced without mention of others,
that there is some risk of its being believed to be a solitary
one. It stands, however, exactly on all fours with all the rest
as regards the principle of the rule.

A necessary consequence of an enemy's exclusion from the combined
line as it approaches the territory to be defended is--as already
suggested--that invasion of that territory and serious raids
upon it will be rendered impracticable. Indeed, if the exclusion
be absolutely complete and permanent, raids of every kind and
depredations on commerce in the neighbourhood will be prevented
altogether. It should be explained that though lines and
communications are spoken of, it is the area crossed by them
which is strategically important. A naval force, either guarding
or intending to assail a line, does not necessarily station itself
permanently upon it. All that it has to do is to remain, for the
proper length of time, within the strategic area across which the
defended or threatened line runs. The strategic area will be of
varying extent, its boundaries being determined by circumstances.
The object of the defence will be to make the area from which the
enemy's ships are excluded as extensive as possible. When the
enemy has been pushed back into his own waters and into his own
ports the exclusion is strategically complete. The sea is denied
to his invading and important raiding expeditions, and indeed to
most of his individual cruisers. At the same time it is free
to the other belligerent. To effect this a vigorous offensive
will be necessary.

The immediate theatre of operations, the critical strategic area,
need not be, and often ought not to be, near the territory defended
by our navy. It is necessary to dwell upon this, because no principle
of naval warfare has been more frequently or more seriously
misapprehended. Misapprehension of it has led to mischievous and
dangerous distribution of naval force and to the squandering of
immense sums of money on local defence vessels; that is, vessels
only capable of operating in the very waters from which every
effort should be made to exclude the enemy. Failure to exclude
him from them can only be regarded as, at the very least, yielding
to him an important point in the great game of war. If we succeed
in keeping him away, the local defence craft of every class are
useless, and the money spent on them has been worse than wasted,
because, if it had not been so spent, it might have been devoted
to strengthening the kind of force which must be used to keep
the enemy where he ought to be kept, viz. at a distance from
our own waters.

The demand that ships be so stationed that they will generally,
and except when actually cruising, be within sight of the
inhabitants, is common enough in the mother country, and perhaps
even more common in the over-sea parts of the British Empire.
Nothing justifies it but the honest ignorance of those who make
it; nothing explains compliance with it but the deplorable weakness
of authorities who yield to it. It was not by hanging about the
coast of England, when there was no enemy near it, with his fleet,
that Hawke or Nelson saved the country from invasion, nor was it
by remaining where they could be seen by the fellow-countrymen
of their crews that the French and English fleets shut up their
enemy in the Baltic and Black Sea, and thus gained and kept
undisputed command of the sea which enabled them, without
interruption, to invade their enemy's territory.

The condition insisted upon by the Australasian Governments in
the agreement formerly made with the Home Government, that a
certain number of ships, in return for an annual contribution
of money, should always remain in Australasian waters, was in
reality greatly against the interests of that part of the empire.
The Australasian taxpayer was, in fact, made to insist upon being
injured in return for his money. The proceeding would have been
exactly paralleled by a householder who might insist that a
fire-engine, maintained out of rates to which he contributes,
should always be kept within a few feet of his front door, and
not be allowed to proceed to the end of the street to extinguish
a fire threatening to extend eventually to the householder's own
dwelling. When still further localised naval defence--localised
defence, that is, of what may be called the smaller description--is
considered, the danger involved in adopting it will be quite as
apparent, and the waste of money will be more obvious. Localised
defence is a near relation of passive defence. It owes its origin
to the same sentiment, viz. a belief in the efficacy of staying
where you are instead of carrying the war into the enemy's country.

There may be cases in which no other kind of naval defence is
practicable. The immense costliness of modern navies puts it out
of the power of smaller states to maintain considerable sea-going
fleets. The historic maritime countries--Sweden, Denmark, the
Netherlands, and Portugal, the performances of whose seamen are
so justly celebrated--could not now send to sea a force equal in
number and fighting efficiency to a quarter of the force possessed
by anyone of the chief naval powers. The countries named, when
determined not to expose themselves unarmed to an assailant, can
provide themselves only with a kind of defence which, whatever
its detailed composition, must be of an intrinsically localised

In their case there is nothing else to be done; and in their
case defence of the character specified would be likely to prove
more efficacious than it could be expected to be elsewhere. War
is usually made in pursuit of an object valuable enough to justify
the risks inseparable from the attempt to gain it. Aggression by
any of the countries that have been mentioned is too improbable to
call for serious apprehension. Aggression against them is far more
likely. What they have to do is to make the danger of attacking them
so great that it will equal or outweigh any advantage that could
be gained by conquering them. Their wealth and resources, compared
with those of great aggressive states, are not large enough to
make up for much loss in war on the part of the latter engaging
in attempts to seize them. Therefore, what the small maritime
countries have to do is to make the form of naval defence to
which they are restricted efficacious enough to hurt an aggressor
so much that the victory which he may feel certain of gaining
will be quite barren. He will get no glory, even in these days
of self-advertisement, from the conquest of such relatively weak
antagonists; and the plunder will not suffice to repay him for
the damage received in effecting it.

The case of a member of the great body known as the British Empire
is altogether different. Its conquest would probably be enormously
valuable to a conqueror; its ruin immensely damaging to the body
as a whole. Either would justify an enemy in running considerable
risks, and would afford him practically sufficient compensation
for considerable losses incurred. We may expect that, in war,
any chance of accomplishing either purpose will not be neglected.
Provision must, therefore, be made against the eventuality. Let
us for the moment suppose that, like one of the smaller countries
whose case has been adduced, we are restricted to localised defence.
An enemy not so restricted would be able to get, without being
molested, as near to our territory--whether in the mother country
or elsewhere--as the outer edge of the comparatively narrow belt
of water that our localised defences could have any hope of
controlling effectively. We should have abandoned to him the whole
of the ocean except a relatively minute strip of coast-waters. That
would be equivalent to saying good-bye to the maritime commerce on
which our wealth wholly, and our existence largely, depends. No
thoughtful British subject would find this tolerable. Everyone
would demand the institution of a different defence system. A
change, therefore, to the more active system would be inevitable.
It would begin with the introduction of a cruising force in addition
to the localised force. The unvarying lesson of naval history
would be that the cruising division should gain continuously
on the localised. It is only in times of peace, when men have
forgotten, or cannot be made to understand, what war is, that
the opposite takes place.

If it be hoped that a localised force will render coast-wise
traffic safe from the enemy, a little knowledge of what has happened
in war and a sufficiently close investigation of conditions will
demonstrate how baseless the hope must be. Countries not yet
thickly populated would be in much the same condition as the
countries of western Europe a century ago, the similarity being
due to the relative scarcity of good land communications. A
part--probably not a very large part--of the articles required
by the people dwelling on and near the coast in one section would
be drawn from another similar section. These articles could be
most conveniently and cheaply transported by water. If it were
worth his while, an enemy disposing of an active cruising force
strong enough to make its way into the neighbourhood of the coast
waters concerned would interrupt the 'long-shore traffic' and defy
the efforts of a localised force to prevent him. The history of the
Great War at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning
of the nineteenth teems with instances of interruption by our
navy of the enemy's coast-wise trade when his ocean trade had
been destroyed. The history of the American War of 1812 supplies
other instances.

The localised defence could not attempt to drive off hostile
cruisers remaining far from the shore and meaning to infest the
great lines of maritime communication running towards it. If
those cruisers are to be driven off at all it can be done only
by cruising ships. Unless, therefore, we are to be content to
leave our ocean routes, where most crowded and therefore most
vulnerable, to the mercy of an enemy, we must have cruisers to
meet the hostile cruisers. If we still adhere to our localised
defence, we shall have two distinct kinds of force---one provided
merely for local, and consequently restricted, action; the other
able to act near the shore or far out at sea as circumstances
may demand. If we go to the expense of providing both kinds, we
shall have followed the example of the sage who cut a large hole
in his study door for the cat and a small one for the kitten.

Is local naval defence, then, of any use? Well, to tell the truth,
not much; and only in rare and exceptional circumstances. Even in
the case of the smaller maritime countries, to which reference
has been made above, defence of the character in question would
avail little if a powerful assailant were resolved to press home his
attack. That is to say, if only absolute belligerent considerations
were regarded. In war, however, qualifying considerations can
never be left out of sight. As the great Napoleon observed, you
can no more make war without incurring losses than you can make
omelettes without breaking eggs. The strategist--and the tactician
also, within his province--will always count the cost of a proposed
operation, even where they are nearly certain of success. The
occupation of a country, which would be of no great practical
value to you when you got it, would be a poor return for the
loss to which you would have been put in the process. That loss
might, and probably would, leave you at a great disadvantage
as regards enemies more nearly on an equality with yourself. It
would, therefore, not be the improbability of breaking down the
local naval defence of a minor maritime state, but the pressure
of qualifying and only indirectly belligerent considerations,
that would prevent its being attempted.

In a struggle between two antagonists of the first rank, the
circumstances would be different. Purely belligerent considerations
would have fuller play. Mistakes will be made, of course, for
war is full of mistakes; but it may be accepted that an attack
on any position, however defended, is in itself proof that the
assailant believed the result hoped for to be quite worth the
cost of obtaining it. Consequently, in a struggle as assumed,
every mode of defence would have to stand on its intrinsic merits,
nearly or quite unaided by the influence of considerations more
or less foreign to it. Every scrap of local defence would, in
proportion to its amount, be a diminution of the offensive defence.
Advocates of the former may be challenged to produce from naval
history any instance of local naval defence succeeding against the
assaults of an actively aggressive navy. In the late war between
Japan and Russia the Russian local defence failed completely.

In the last case, a class of vessel like that which had failed
in local defence was used successfully, because offensively,
by the Japanese. This and many another instance show that the
right way to use the kind of craft so often allocated to local
defence is to use them offensively. It is only thus that their
adoption by a great maritime power like the British Empire can
be justified. The origin and centre of our naval strength are
to be looked for in the United Kingdom. The shores of the latter
are near the shores of other great maritime powers. Its ports,
especially those at which its fleets are equipped and would be
likely to assemble on the imminence of war, are within reach of
more than one foreign place from which small swift craft to be used
offensively might be expected to issue. The method of frustrating
the efforts of these craft giving most promise of success is to
attack them as soon as possible after they issue from their own
port. To the acceptance of this principle we owe the origin of the
destroyer, devised to destroy hostile torpedo-boats before they
could reach a position from which they would be able to discharge
with effect their special weapon against our assembled ships.
It is true that the destroyer has been gradually converted into
a larger torpedo-boat. It is also true that when used as such
in local defence, as at Port Arthur, her failure was complete;
and just as true that she has never accomplished anything except
when used offensively.

When, therefore, a naval country's coast is so near the ports of
another naval country that the latter would be able with swift
small craft to attack the former's shipping, the provision of
craft of a similar kind is likely to prove advantageous. War
between great powers is a two-sided game, and what one side can
do the other will at least be likely to attempt. Nothing supports
the view that it is well--either above or beneath the surface of
the water--to stand on the defensive and await attack. Everything
points to the superiority of the plan of beating up the enemy's
quarters and attacking him before he can get far from them on his
way towards his objective. Consequently the only justification
of expending money on the localised vessels of which we have
been speaking, is the probability that an enemy would have some
of his bases within reach of those vessels' efforts. Where this
condition does not exist, the money expended is, from the belligerent
point of view, thrown away. Here comes in the greatest foe of
belligerent efficiency, viz. political expediency. In time of
peace it is thought better to conciliate voters than to prepare
to meet an enemy. If local defence is thought to be pleasing to
an inexpert electorate, it is only too likely to be provided,
no matter how ineffectual and how costly in reality it will turn
out to be.

Not only is the British Empire the first of naval powers, it
is also the first of colonial powers. One attribute is closely
connected with the other; neither, without the other, would be
applicable. The magnitude of our colonial domain, and especially
the imposing aspects of some of its greater components--the Dominion,
the Commonwealth, South Africa, New Zealand--are apt to blind
us to a feature of great strategical importance, and that is
the abundance and excellence of the naval bases that stud our
ocean lines of communication. In thinking of the great daughter
states we are liable to forget these; yet our possession of them
helps greatly to strengthen our naval position, because it
facilitates our assuming a far-reaching offensive. By themselves,
if not too numerous, they can afford valuable support to the
naval operations that are likely to prove most beneficial to
us. The fact that they are ours, and not an opponent's, also
constitutes for us an advantage of importance. Of course, they
have to be defended, or else they may fall into an opponent's
hands. Have we here a case in which highly localised or even
passive defences are desirable? No doubt we did act for a time
as though we believed that the question could only be answered
in the affirmative; but that was when we were under the influence
of the feelings engendered by observation of the long series of
land wars previously discussed.

Perhaps we have not yet quite shaken off the effects of that
influence; but we have at least got so far as to tolerate the
statement of the other side of the question. It would be a great
mistake to suppose that the places alluded to are meant to be
ports of refuge for our ships. Though they were to serve that
purpose occasionally in the case of isolated merchant vessels, it
would be but an accident, and not the essence, of their existence.
What they are meant for is to be utilised as positions where our
men-of-war can make reasonably sure of finding supplies and the
means of refit. This assurance will largely depend upon their
power of resistance if attacked. Before we can decide how to
impart that power to them we shall have to see the kind of attack
against which they would have to be prepared. If they are on a
continent, like, for example, Gibraltar, attack on them by a
land force, however improbable, is physically possible. Against
an attack of the kind a naval force could give little direct
help. Most of our outlying naval bases are really or virtually
insular, and are open to attack only by an expedition coming
across the sea. An essential characteristic of a naval base is
that it should be able to furnish supplies as wanted to the
men-of-war needing to replenish their stocks. Some, and very
often all, of these supplies are not of native production and
must be brought to the base by sea. If the enemy can stop their
conveyance to it, the place is useless as a base and the enemy is
really in control of its communications. If he is in control of its
communications he can send against it as great an expedition as he
likes, and the place will be captured or completely neutralised.
Similarly, if we control the communications, not only can supplies
be conveyed to it, but also no hostile expedition will be allowed
to reach it. Thus the primary defence of the outlying base is
the active, sea-going fleet. Moderate local defence, chiefly
of the human kind, in the shape of a garrison, will certainly be
needed. Though the enemy has not been able to obtain control
of the communications of the place, fitful raids on it will be
possible; and the place should be fortified enough and garrisoned
enough to hold out against the inconsiderable assaults comprised
in these till our own ships can drive the enemy's away.

Outlying naval bases, though but moderately fortified, that contain
depots of stores, docks, and other conveniences, have the vice
of all immobile establishments. When war does come, some of them
almost certainly, and all of them possibly, may not be in the
right place with regard to the critical area of operations. They
cannot, however, be moved. It will be necessary to do what has
been done over and over again in war, in the latest as well as
in earlier wars, and that is, establish temporary bases in more
convenient situations. Thus much, perhaps all, of the cost and
trouble of establishing and maintaining the permanent bases will
have been wasted. This inculcates the necessity of having not
as many bases as can be found, but as few as it is possible to
get on with.

The control of ocean communications, or the command of the sea,
being the end of naval warfare, and its acquisition being practicable
only by the assumption of a vigorous offensive, it follows as a
matter of course that we must have a strong and in all respects
efficient mobile navy. This is the fundamental condition on which
the continued existence of the British Empire depends. It is
thoroughly well known to every foreign Government, friendly or
unfriendly. The true objective in naval warfare is the enemy's
navy. That must be destroyed or decisively defeated, or intimidated
into remaining in its ports. Not one of these can be effected
without a mobile, that is a sea-going, fleet. The British Empire
may fall to pieces from causes as yet unknown or unsuspected: it
cannot be kept together if it loses the power of gaining command
of the sea. This is not a result of deliberate policy: it is
inherent in the nature of the empire, scattered as its parts are
throughout the world, with only the highway of the sea between

Such is the position of the fleet in the defence of the empire:
such are its duties towards it. Duties in the case are mutual, and
some are owed to the fleet as well as by it. It is incumbent on
every section of the empire, without neglecting its land forces,
to lend zealous help in keeping the fleet efficient. It is not
to be supposed that this can be done only by making pecuniary
contributions to its maintenance. It is, indeed, very doubtful
if any real good can be done by urging colonies to make them.
It seems certain that the objections to this are greater than
any benefit that it can confer. Badgering our fellow-subjects
beyond sea for money payments towards the cost of the navy is
undignified and impolitic. The greatest sum asked for by the
most exacting postulant would not equal a twentieth part of the
imperial naval expenditure, and would not save the taxpayer of
the mother country a farthing in the pound of his income. No one
has yet been able to establish the equity of a demand that would
take something from the inhabitants of one colony and nothing from
those of another. Adequate voluntary contribution is a different

There are other ways in which every trans-marine possession of
the Crown can lend a hand towards perfecting the efficiency of
the fleet--ways, too, which would leave each in complete and
unmenaced control of its own money. Sea-power does not consist
entirely of men-of-war. There must be docks, refitting
establishments, magazines, and depots of stores. Ports, which
men-of-war must visit at least occasionally in war for repair or
replenishment of supplies, will have to be made secure against
the assaults which it has been said that a hastily raiding enemy,
notwithstanding our general control of the communications, might
find a chance of making. Moderate fixed fortifications are all
the passive defence that would be needed; but good and active
troops must be available. If all these are not provided by the
part of the empire in which the necessary naval bases lie, they
will have to be provided by the mother country. If the former
provides them the latter will be spared the expense of doing
so, and spared expense with no loss of dignity, and with far
less risk of friction and inconvenience than if her taxpayers'
pockets had been nominally spared to the extent of a trifling
and reluctantly paid money contribution.

It has been pointed out on an earlier page that a country can be,
and most probably will be, more effectually defended in a maritime
war if its fleet operates at a distance from, rather than near,
its shores. Every subject of our King should long to see this
condition exist if ever the empire is involved in hostilities. It
may be--for who can tell what war will bring?--that the people
of some great trans-marine dependency will have to choose between
allowing a campaign to be conducted in their country or forcing
the enemy to tolerate it in his. If they choose the latter they
must be prepared to furnish part at least of the mobile force
that can give effect to their choice. That is to say, they must
be prepared to back up our sea-power in its efforts to keep off
the tide of war from the neighbourhood of their homes. History
shows how rarely, during the struggle between European nations
for predominance in North America, the more settled parts of
our former American Colonies were the theatre of war: but then
the colonists of those days, few comparatively as they were, sent
strong contingents to the armies that went campaigning, in the
territory of the various enemies. This was in every way better--the
sequel proved how much better--than a money contribution begged
or extorted would have been.

Helping in the manner first suggested need not result in dissociating
our fellow-subjects beyond the seas from participation in the work
of the active sea-going fleet. It is now, and still would be,
open to them as much as to any native or denizen of the mother
country. The time has fully come when the people of the greater
outlying parts of the empire should insist upon perfect equality
of treatment with their home fellow-subjects in this matter.
They should resent, as a now quite out-of-date and invidious
distinction, any difference in qualification for entry, locality
of service, or remuneration for any rank or rating. Self-respect
and a dignified confidence in their own qualities, the excellence
of which has been thoroughly tested, will prompt the King's colonial
subjects to ask for nothing but equal chances in a force on which
is laid so large a part of the duty of defending the empire. Why
should they cut themselves off from the promising career that
service in the Royal Navy opens to the capable, the zealous,
and the honourable aspirant of every grade? Some of the highest
posts in the navy are now, or lately have been, held by men who
not only happened to be born in British Colonies, but who also
belong to resident colonial families. Surely in this there is a
strong moral cement for binding and keeping the empire together.
It is unnecessary to expatiate on the contrast between the prospect
of such a career and that which is all that a small local service
could offer. It would soon be seen towards which the enterprising
and the energetic would instinctively gravitate.

In the defence of the British Empire the fleet holds a twofold
position. To its general belligerent efficiency, its strength
and activity, we must look if the plans of an enemy are to be
brought to nought. It, and it only, can secure for us the control
of the ocean communications, on the freedom of which from serious
interruptions the prosperity--indeed, the existence--of a scattered
body must depend. In time of peace it can be made a great
consolidating force, fostering every sentiment of worthy local
patriotism whilst obliterating all inclination to mischievous
narrow particularism, and tending to perfect the unity which gives
virtue to national grandeur and is the true secret of national
independence and strength.



[Footnote 91: Written in 1905. (Read at Institute of Naval

The subject on which I have been invited to read a paper, and
which is taken as the title of the latter, would require for
anything like full discussion a much longer time than you can be
expected to allot to it. To discuss it adequately, a volume of no
diminutive size would be necessary. It may, however, be possible
to indicate with the brevity appropriate to the occasion the main
outlines of the subject, and to suggest for your consideration
certain points which, over and above their historical interest,
may furnish us with valuable guidance at the present day.

In taking account of the conditions of the Trafalgar epoch we have
to note two distinct but, of course, closely related matters. These
are the strategic plan of the enemy and the strategic plan adopted
to meet it by the British. The former of these was described in
the House of Commons by William Pitt at the beginning of the
war in words which may be used without change at the present
time. On 16th May 1803 the war, which had been interrupted by the
unstable Peace of Amiens, was definitely resumed. The struggle
was now to be a war not so much between the United Kingdom and the
French nation as between the United Kingdom and the great Napoleon,
wielding more than the resources of France alone. Speaking a week
after the declaration of war, Pitt said that any expectation of
success which the enemy might have must be based on the supposition
that he could break the spirit or weaken the determination of
the country by harassing us with the perpetual apprehension of
descents on our coasts; or else that our resources could be impaired
and our credit undermined by the effects of an expensive and
protracted war. More briefly stated, the hostile plan was to
invade the United Kingdom, ruin our maritime trade, and expel
us from our over-sea possessions, especially in the East, from
which it was supposed our wealth was chiefly derived. The plan
was comprehensive, but not easily concealed. What we had to do
was to prevent the invasion of the United Kingdom and defend our
trade and our outlying territories. As not one of the hostile
objects could be attained except by making a maritime expedition
of some kind, that is to say, by an expedition which had to cross
more or less extensive areas of water, it necessarily followed
that our most effective method of defence was the keeping open
of our sea communications. It became necessary for us to make
such arrangements that the maritime paths by which a hostile
expedition could approach our home-coasts, or hostile cruisers
molest our sea-borne trade, or hostile squadrons move to the
attack of our trans-marine dependencies--that all these paths
should be so defended by our navy that either the enemy would
not venture to traverse them or, if he did, that he could be
driven off.

Short as it is, the time at my disposal permits me to give a
few details. It was fully recognised that defence of the United
Kingdom against invasion could not be secured by naval means
alone. As in the times of Queen Elizabeth, so in those of George
III, no seaman of reputation contended that a sufficient land
force could be dispensed with. Our ablest seamen always held
that small hostile expeditions could be prepared in secret and
might be able to slip through the most complete lines of naval
defence that we could hope to maintain. It was not discovered
or alleged till the twentieth century that the crew of a dinghy
could not land in this country in the face of the navy. Therefore
an essential feature of our defensive strategy was the provision
of land forces in such numbers that an invader would have no
chance of succeeding except he came in strength so great that
his preparations could not be concealed and his expedition could
not cross the water unseen.

As our mercantile marine was to be found in nearly every sea,
though in greater accumulation in some areas than in others, its
defence against the assaults of an enemy could only be ensured
by the virtual ubiquity of our cruising force. This, of course,
involved the necessity of employing a large number of cruisers,
and of arranging the distribution of them in accordance with the
relative amount and value of the traffic to be protected from
molestation in different parts of the ocean. It may be mentioned
here that the term 'cruiser,' at the time with which we are dealing,
was not limited to frigates and smaller classes of vessels. It
included also ships of the line, it being the old belief of the
British Navy, justified by the experience of many campaigns and
consecrated by the approval of our greatest admirals, that the
value of a ship of war was directly proportionate to her capacity
for cruising and keeping the sea.

If the ocean paths used by our merchant ships--the trade routes
or sea communications of the United Kingdom with friendly or
neutral markets and areas of production--could be kept open by
our navy, that is, made so secure that our trade could traverse
them with so little risk of molestation that it could continue to
be carried on, it resulted as a matter of course that no sustained
attack could be made on our outlying territory. Where this was
possible it was where we had failed to keep open the route or line
of communications, in which case the particular trade following
it was, at least temporarily, destroyed, and the territory to
which the route led was either cut off or seized. Naturally,
when this was perceived, efforts were made to re-open and keep
open the endangered or interrupted communication line.

Napoleon, notwithstanding his supereminent genius, made some
extraordinary mistakes about warfare on the sea. The explanation
of this has been given by a highly distinguished French admiral.
The Great Emperor, he says, was wanting in exact appreciation
of the difficulties of naval operations. He never understood
that the naval officer--alone of all men in the world--must be
master of two distinct professions. The naval officer must be
as completely a seaman as an officer in any mercantile marine;
and, in addition to this, he must be as accomplished in the use
of the material of war entrusted to his charge as the members of
any aimed force in the world. The Emperor's plan for the invasion
of the United Kingdom was conceived on a grand scale. A great
army, eventually 130,000 strong, was collected on the coast of
north-eastern France, with its headquarters at Boulogne. The
numerical strength of this army is worth attention. By far the
larger part of it was to have made the first descent on our
territory; the remainder was to be a reserve to follow as quickly
as possible. It has been doubted if Napoleon really meant to
invade this country, the suggestion being that his collection
of an army on the shores of the Straits of Dover and the English
Channel was merely a 'blind' to cover another intended movement.
The overwhelming weight of authoritative opinion is in favour
of the view that the project of invasion was real. It is highly
significant that he considered so large a number of troops necessary.
It could not have been governed by any estimate of the naval
obstruction to be encountered during the sea passage of the
expedition, but only by the amount of the land force likely to
be met if the disembarkation on our shores could be effected.
The numerical strength in troops which Napoleon thought necessary
compelled him to make preparations on so great a scale that
concealment became quite impossible. Consequently an important
part of his plan was disclosed to us betimes, and the threatened
locality indicated to us within comparatively narrow limits of

Notwithstanding his failure to appreciate all the difficulties of
naval warfare, the Great Emperor had grasped one of its leading
principles. Before the Peace of Amiens, indeed before his campaign
in Egypt, and even his imposing triumphs in Italy, he had seen
that the invasion of the United Kingdom was impracticable without
first obtaining the command of the sea. His strategic plan,
therefore, included arrangements to secure this. The details of
the plan were changed from time to time as conditions altered;
but the main object was adhered to until the final abandonment
of the whole scheme under pressure of circumstances as embodied
in Nelson and his victorious brothers-in-arms. The gunboats,
transport boats, and other small craft, which to the number of
many hundreds filled the ports of north-eastern France and the
Netherlands, were not the only naval components of the expedition.
Fleets of line-of-battle ships were essential parts of it, and
on their effective action the success of the scheme was largely
made to depend. This feature remained unaltered in principle when,
less than twelve months before Trafalgar, Spain took part in the
war as Napoleon's ally, and brought him a great reinforcement
of ships and important assistance in money.

We should not fail to notice that, before he considered himself
strong enough to undertake the invasion of the United Kingdom,
Napoleon found it necessary to have at his disposal the resources
of other countries besides France, notwithstanding that by herself
France had a population more than 60 per cent. greater than that
of England. By the alliance with Spain he had added largely to
the resources on which he could draw. Moreover, his strategic
position was geographically much improved. With the exception
of that of Portugal, the coast of western continental Europe,
from the Texel to Leghorn, and somewhat later to Taranto also,
was united in hostility to us. This complicated the strategic
problem which the British Navy had to solve, as it increased the
number of points to be watched; and it facilitated the junction
of Napoleon's Mediterranean naval forces with those assembled in
his Atlantic ports by supplying him with allied ports of refuge
and refit on Spanish territory--such as Cartagena or Cadiz--between
Toulon and the Bay of Biscay. Napoleon, therefore, enforced upon
us by the most convincing of all arguments the necessity of
maintaining the British Navy at the 'two-power standard' at least.
The lesson had been taught us long before by Philip II, who did
not venture on an attempt at invading this country till he was
master of the resources of the whole Iberian peninsula as well
as of those of the Spanish dominions in Italy, in the Burgundian
heritage, and in the distant regions across the Atlantic Ocean.

At several points on the long stretch of coast of which he was
now the master, Napoleon equipped fleets that were to unite and
win for him the command of the sea during a period long enough
to permit the unobstructed passage of his invading army across
the water which separated the starting points of his expedition
from the United Kingdom. Command of the sea to be won by a powerful
naval combination was thus an essential element in Napoleon's
strategy at the time of Trafalgar. It was not in deciding what
was essential that this soldier of stupendous ability erred:
it was in choosing the method of gaining the essential that he
went wrong. The British strategy adopted in opposition to that
of Napoleon was based on the acquisition and preservation of
the command of the sea. Formulated and carried into effect by
seamen, it differed in some important features from his. We may
leave out of sight for the moment the special arrangements made
in the English Channel to oppose the movements of Napoleon's
flotillas of gunboats, transport boats, and other small craft.
The British strategy at the time of Trafalgar, as far as it was
concerned with opposition to Napoleon's sea-going fleets, may be
succinctly described as stationing off each of the ports in which
the enemy's forces were lying a fleet or squadron of suitable
strength. Though some of our admirals, notably Nelson himself,
objected to the application of the term 'blockade' to their plans,
the hostile ships were to this extent blockaded, that if they
should come out they would find outside their port a British
force sufficient to drive them in again, or even to defeat them
thoroughly and destroy them. Beating them and thus having done
with them, and not simply shutting them up in harbour, was what
was desired by our admirals. This necessitated a close watch on
the hostile ports; and how consistently that was maintained let
the history of Cornwallis's command off Brest and of Nelson's
off Toulon suffice to tell us.

The junction of two or more of Napoleon's fleets would have ensured
over almost any single British fleet a numerical superiority that
would have rendered the defeat or retirement of the latter almost
certain. To meet this condition the British strategy contemplated
the falling back, if necessary, of one of our detachments on another,
which might be carried further and junction with a third detachment
be effected. By this step we should preserve, if not a numerical
superiority over the enemy, at least so near an equality of force
as to render his defeat probable and his serious maltreatment,
even if undefeated, a certainty. The strategic problem before our
navy was, however, not quite so easy as this might make it seem.
The enemy's concentration might be attempted either towards Brest
or towards Toulon. In the latter case, a superior force might
fall upon our Mediterranean fleet before our watching ships in
the Atlantic could discover the escape of the enemy's ships from
the Atlantic port or could follow and come up with them. Against
the probability of this was to be set the reluctance of Napoleon
to carry out an eccentric operation which a concentration off
Toulon would necessitate, when the essence of his scheme was
to concentrate in a position from which he could obtain naval
control of the English Channel.

After the addition of the Spanish Navy to his own, Napoleon to
some extent modified his strategic arrangements. The essential
feature of the scheme remained unaltered. It was to effect the
junction of the different parts of his naval force and thereupon
to dominate the situation, by evading the several British fleets
or detachments which were watching his. Before Spain joined him
in the war his intention was that his escaping fleets should
go out into the Atlantic, behind the backs, as it were, of the
British ships, and then make for the English Channel. When he
had the aid of Spain the point of junction was to be in the West

The remarkable thing about this was the evident belief that the
command of the sea might be won without fighting for it; won,
too, from the British Navy which was ready, and indeed wished,
to fight. We now see that Napoleon's naval strategy at the time
of Trafalgar, whilst it aimed at gaining command of the sea, was
based on what has been called evasion. The fundamental principle
of the British naval strategy of that time was quite different.
So far from thinking that the contest could be settled without
one or more battles, the British admirals, though nominally
blockading his ports, gave the enemy every facility for coming out
in order that they might be able to bring him to action. Napoleon,
on the contrary, declared that a battle would be useless, and
distinctly ordered his officers not to fight one. Could it be
that, when pitted against admirals whose accurate conception of
the conditions of naval warfare had been over and over again tested
during the hostilities ended by the Peace of Amiens, Napoleon still
trusted to the efficacy of methods which had proved so successful
when he was outmanoeuvring and intimidating the generals who
opposed him in North Italy? We can only explain his attitude
in the campaign of Trafalgar by attributing to him an expectation
that the British seamen of his day, tried as they had been in
the fire of many years of war, would succumb to his methods as
readily as the military formalists of central Europe.

Napoleon had at his disposal between seventy and eighty French,
Dutch, and Spanish ships of the line, of which some sixty-seven
were available at the beginning of the Trafalgar campaign. In
January 1805, besides other ships of the class in distant waters
or specially employed, we--on our side--had eighty ships of the
line in commission. A knowledge of this will enable us to form
some idea of the chances of success that would have attended
Napoleon's concentration if it had been effected. To protect the
passage of his invading expedition across the English Channel
he did not depend only on concentrating his more distant fleets.
In the Texel there were, besides smaller vessels, nine sail of
the line. Thus the Emperor did what we may be sure any future
intending invader will not fail to do, viz. he provided his
expedition with a respectable naval escort. The British naval
officers of the day, who knew what war was, made arrangements to
deal with this escort. Lord Keith, who commanded in the Downs,
had under him six sail of the line in addition to many frigates
and sloops; and there were five more line-of-battle ships ready
at Spithead if required.

There had been a demand in the country that the defence of our
shores against an invading expedition should be entrusted to
gunboats, and what may be called coastal small craft and boats.
This was resisted by the naval officers. Nelson had already said,
'Our first defence is close to the enemy's ports,' thus agreeing
with a long line of eminent British seamen in their view of our
strategy. Lord St. Vincent said that 'Our great reliance is on the
vigilance and activity of our cruisers at sea, any reduction in
the number of which by applying them to guard our ports, inlets,
and beaches would, in my judgment, tend to our destruction.'
These are memorable words, which we should do well to ponder
in these days. The Government of the day insisted on having the
coastal boats; but St. Vincent succeeded in postponing the
preparation of them till the cruising ships had been manned.
His plan of defence has been described by his biographer as 'a
triple line of barricade; 50-gun ships, frigates, sloops of war,
and gun-vessels upon the coast of the enemy; in the Downs opposite
France another squadron, but of powerful ships of the line,
continually disposable, to support the former or attack any force
of the enemy which, it might be imagined possible, might slip
through the squadron hanging over the coast; and a force on the
beach on all the shores of the English ports, to render assurance
doubly sure.' This last item was the one that St. Vincent had
been compelled to adopt, and he was careful that it should be in
addition to those measures of defence in the efficacy of which
he and his brother seamen believed. Concerning it his biographer
makes the following remark: 'It is to be noted that Lord St.
Vincent did not contemplate repelling an invasion of gunboats
by gunboats,' &c. He objected to the force of sea-fencibles, or
long-shore organisation, because he considered it more useful
to have the sea-going ships manned. Speaking of this coastal
defence scheme, he said: 'It would be a good bone for the officers
to pick, but a very dear one for the country.'

The defence of our ocean trade entered largely into the strategy
of the time. An important part was played by our fleets and groups
of line-of-battle ships which gave usually indirect, but sometimes
direct, protection to our own merchant vessels, and also to neutral
vessels carrying commodities to or from British ports. The strategy
of the time, the correctness of which was confirmed by long
belligerent experience, rejected the employment of a restricted
number of powerful cruisers, and relied upon the practical ubiquity
of the defending ships, which ubiquity was rendered possible by
the employment of very numerous craft of moderate size. This
can be seen in the lists of successive years. In January 1803
the number of cruising frigates in commission was 107, and of
sloops and smaller vessels 139, the total being 246. In 1804 the
numbers were: Frigates, 108; sloops, &c., 181; with a total of
289. In 1805 the figures had grown to 129 frigates, 416 sloops,
&c., the total being 545. Most of these were employed in defending
commerce. We all know how completely Napoleon's project of invading
the United Kingdom was frustrated. It is less well known that
the measures for defending our sea-borne trade, indicated by the
figures just given, were triumphantly successful. Our mercantile
marine increased during the war, a sure proof that it had been
effectually defended. Consequently we may accept it as established
beyond the possibility of refutation that that branch of our naval
strategy at the time of Trafalgar which was concerned with the
defence of our trade was rightly conceived and properly carried
into effect.

As has been stated already, the defence of our sea-borne trade,
being in practice the keeping open of our ocean lines of
communication, carried with it the protection, in part at any
rate, of our transmarine territories. Napoleon held pertinaciously
to the belief that British prosperity was chiefly due to our
position in India. We owe it to Captain Mahan that we now know
that the eminent American Fulton--a name of interest to the members
of this Institution--told Pitt of the belief held abroad that
'the fountains of British wealth are in India and China.' In the
great scheme of naval concentration which the Emperor devised,
seizure of British Colonies in the West Indies had a definite
place. We kept in that quarter, and varied as necessary, a force
capable of dealing with a naval raid as well as guarding the
neighbouring lines of communication. In 1803 we had four ships
of the line in the West Indian area. In 1804 we had six of the
same class; and in 1805, while the line-of-battle ships were
reduced to four, the number of frigates was increased from nine
to twenty-five. Whether our Government divined Napoleon's designs
on India or not, it took measures to protect our interests there.
In January 1804 we had on the Cape of Good Hope and the East Indies
stations, both together, six sail of the line, three smaller
two-deckers, six frigates, and six sloops, or twenty-one ships of
war in all. This would have been sufficient to repel a raiding
attack made in some strength. By the beginning of 1805 our East
Indies force had been increased; and in the year 1805 itself we
raised it to a strength of forty-one ships in all, of which nine
were of the line and seventeen were frigates. Had, therefore, any
of the hostile ships managed to get to the East Indies from the
Atlantic or the Mediterranean ports, in which they were being
watched by our navy, their chances of succeeding in their object
would have been small indeed.

When we enter the domain of tactics strictly so-called, that is
to say, when we discuss the proceedings of naval forces--whether
single ships, squadrons, or fleets--in hostile contact with one
another, we find the time of Trafalgar full of instructive episodes.
Even with the most recent experience of naval warfare vividly
present to our minds, we can still regard Nelson as the greatest
of tacticians. Naval tactics may be roughly divided into two great
classes or sections, viz. the tactics of groups of ships, that
is to say, fleet actions; and the tactics of what the historian
James calls 'single ship actions,' that is to say, fights between
two individual ships. In the former the achievements of Nelson
stand out with incomparable brilliancy. It would be impossible
to describe his method fully in such a paper as this. We may,
however, say that Nelson was an innovator, and that his tactical
principles and methods have been generally misunderstood down
to this very day. If ever there was an admiral who was opposed
to an unthinking, headlong rush at an enemy, it was he. Yet this
is the character that he still bears in the conception of many.
He was, in truth, an industrious and patient student of tactics,
having studied them, in what in these days we should call a
scientific spirit, at an early period, when there was but little
reason to expect that he would ever be in a position to put to a
practical test the knowledge that he had acquired and the ideas
that he had formed. He saw that the old battle formation in single
line-ahead was insufficient if you wanted--as he himself always
did--to gain an overwhelming victory. He also saw that, though
an improvement on the old formation, Lord Howe's method of the
single line-abreast was still a good deal short of tactical
perfection. Therefore, he devised what he called, with pardonable
elation, the 'Nelson touch,' the attack in successive lines so
directed as to overwhelm one part of the enemy's fleet, whilst
the other part was prevented from coming to the assistance of the
first, and was in its turn overwhelmed or broken up. His object
was to bring a larger number of his own ships against a smaller
number of the enemy's. He would by this method destroy the part
attacked, suffering in the process so little damage himself that
with his whole force he would be able to deal effectively with the
hostile remnant if it ventured to try conclusions with him. It
is of the utmost importance that we should thoroughly understand
Nelson's fundamental tactical principle, viz. the bringing of
a larger number of ships to fight against a smaller number of
the enemy's. There is not, I believe, in the whole of the records
of Nelson's opinions and actions a single expression tending to
show that tactical efficiency was considered by him to be due
to superiority in size of individual ships of the same class
or--as far as _matériel_ was concerned--to anything but superior
numbers, of course at the critical point. He did not require,
and did not have, more ships in his own fleet than the whole of
those in the fleet of the enemy. What he wanted was to bring to
the point of impact, when the fight began, a larger number of
ships than were to be found in that part of the enemy's line.

I believe that I am right in saying that, from the date of Salamis
downwards, history records no decisive naval victory in which the
victorious fleet has not succeeded in concentrating against a
relatively weak point in its enemy's formation a greater number
of its own ships. I know of nothing to show that this has not been
the rule throughout the ages of which detailed history furnishes
us with any memorial--no matter what the class of ship, what the
type of weapon, what the mode of propulsion. The rule certainly
prevailed in the battle of the 10th August 1904 off Port Arthur,
though it was not so overwhelmingly decisive as some others. We
may not even yet know enough of the sea fight in the Straits
of Tsushima to be able to describe it in detail; but we do know
that at least some of the Russian ships were defeated or destroyed
by a combination of Japanese ships against them.

Looking back at the tactics of the Trafalgar epoch, we may see
that the history of them confirms the experience of earlier wars,
viz. that victory does not necessarily fall to the side which
has the biggest ships. It is a well-known fact of naval history
that generally the French ships were larger and the Spanish much
larger than the British ships of corresponding classes. This
superiority in size certainly did not carry with it victory in
action. On the other hand, British ships were generally bigger
than the Dutch ships with which they fought; and it is of great
significance that at Camperdown the victory was due, not to
superiority in the size of individual ships, but, as shown by
the different lists of killed and wounded, to the act of bringing
a larger number against a smaller. All that we have been able to
learn of the occurrences in the battle of the japan Sea supports
instead of being opposed to this conclusion; and it may be said
that there is nothing tending to upset it in the previous history
of the present war in the Far East.

I do not know how far I am justified in expatiating on this point;
but, as it may help to bring the strategy and tactics of the
Trafalgar epoch into practical relation with the stately science of
which in our day this Institution is, as it were, the mother-shrine
and metropolitical temple, I may be allowed to dwell upon it a
little longer. The object aimed at by those who favour great size
of individual ships is not, of course, magnitude alone. It is to
turn out a ship which shall be more powerful than an individual
antagonist. All recent development of man-of-war construction has
taken the form of producing, or at any rate trying to produce,
a more powerful ship than those of earlier date, or belonging to
a rival navy. I know the issues that such statements are likely
to raise; and I ask you, as naval architects, to bear with me
patiently when I say what I am going to say. It is this: If you
devise for the ship so produced the tactical system for which
she is specially adapted you must, in order to be logical, base
your system on her power of defeating her particular antagonist.
Consequently, you must abandon the principle of concentration of
superior numbers against your enemy; and, what is more, must be
prepared to maintain that such concentration on his part against
yourself would be ineffectual. This will compel a reversion to
tactical methods which made a fleet action a series of duels
between pairs of combatants, and--a thing to be pondered on
seriously--never enabled anyone to win a decisive victory on the
sea. The position will not be made more logical if you demand both
superior size and also superior numbers, because if you adopt
the tactical system appropriate to one of the things demanded,
you will rule out the other. You cannot employ at the same time
two different and opposed tactical systems.

It is not necessary to the line of argument above indicated to
ignore the merits of the battleship class. Like their predecessors,
the ships of the line, it is really battleships which in a naval
war dominate the situation. We saw that it was so at the time
of Trafalgar, and we see that it has been so in the war between
Russia and Japan, at all events throughout the 1904 campaign.
The experience of naval war, down to the close of that in which
Trafalgar was the most impressive event, led to the virtual
abandonment of ships of the line[92] above and below a certain
class. The 64-gun ships and smaller two-deckers had greatly
diminished in number, and repetitions of them grew more and more
rare. It was the same with the three-deckers, which, as the late
Admiral Colomb pointed out, continued to be built, though in
reduced numbers, not so much for their tactical efficiency as
for the convenient manner in which they met the demands for the
accommodation required in flag-ships. The tactical condition
which the naval architects of the Trafalgar period had to meet
was the employment of an increased number of two-deckers of the
medium classes.

[Footnote 92: Experience of war, as regards increase in the number
of medium-sized men-of-war of the different classes, tended to the
same result in both the French Revolutionary war (1793 to 1801)
and the Napoleonic war which began in 1803. Taking both contests
down to the end of the Trafalgar year, the following table will
show how great was the development of the line-of-battle-ship
class below the three-decker and above the 64-gun ship. It will
also show that there was no development of, but a relative decline
in, the three-deckers and the 64's, the small additions, where
there were any, being generally due to captures from the enemy.
The two-deckers not 'fit to lie in a line' were at the end of the
Trafalgar year about half what they were when the first period
of the 'Great War' began. When we come to the frigate classes we
find the same result. In the earlier war 11 frigates of 44 and
40 guns were introduced into our navy. It is worth notice that
this number was not increased, and by the end of the Trafalgar
year had, on the contrary, declined to 10. The smallest frigates,
of 28 guns, were 27 in 1793, and 13 at the end of the Trafalgar
year. On the other hand, the increase in the medium frigate classes
(38, 36, and 32 guns) was very large. From 1793 to the end of the
Trafalgar year the 38-gun frigates increased from 8 to 50, and
the 36-gun frigates from 16 to 54.

|                     |                   | Napoleonic War to |
|                     |      French       |   the end of the  |
|                     | Revolutionary War |   Trafalgar year  |
|  Classes of Ships   |-------------------|-------------------|
|                     |Commence-|Commence-|Commence-|Commence-|
|                     | ment of | ment of | ment of | ment of |
|                     |   1793  |   1801  |   1803  |   1806  |
| 3-deckers           |    31   |    32   |    29   |    29   |
| 2-deckers of 74     |    76   |   111   |   105   |   123   |
|   guns, and above   |         |         |         |         |
| 64 and 60 gun ships |    46   |    47   |    38   |    38   |
| 2-deckers not 'fit  |    43   |    31   |    21   |    22   |
|   to lie in a line' |         |         |         |         |
| Frigates 44 guns    |     0   |     6   |     6   |     6   |
|     "    40  "      |     0   |     5   |     5   |     4   |
|     "    38  "      |     8   |    32   |    32   |    50   |
|     "    36  "      |    16   |    49   |    49   |    54   |
|     "    32  "      |    48   |    41   |    38   |    56   |
|     "    28  "      |    27   |    11   |    11   |    13   |

The liking for three-deckers, professed by some officers of Nelson's
time, seems to have been due to a belief, not in the merit of their
size as such, but in the value of the increased number of medium
guns carried on a 'middle' deck. There is, I believe, nothing to
show that the two-deckers _Gibraltar_ (2185 tons) and _Coesar_
(2003) were considered more formidable than the three-deckers
_Balfleur_ (1947), _Glory_ (1944), or _Queen_ (1876). All these
ships were in the same fleet, and fought in the same battle.]

A fleet of ships of the line as long as it could keep the sea,
that is, until it had to retreat into port before a stronger
fleet, controlled a certain area of water. Within that area smaller
men-of-war as well as friendly merchant ships were secure from
attack. As the fleet moved about, so the area moved with it.
Skilful disposition and manoeuvring added largely to the extent
of sea within which the maritime interests that the fleet was
meant to protect would be safe. It seems reasonable to expect that
it will be the same with modern fleets of suitable battleships.

The tactics of 'single ship actions' at the time of Trafalgar
were based upon pure seamanship backed up by good gunnery. The
better a captain handled his ship the more likely he was to beat
his antagonist. Superior speed, where it existed, was used to
'gain the weather gage,' not in order to get a suitable range
for the faster ship's guns, but to compel her enemy to fight.
Superior speed was also used to run away, capacity to do which
was not then, and ought not to be now, reckoned a merit in a ship
expressly constructed for fighting, not fleeing. It is sometimes
claimed in these days that superior speed will enable a modern
ship to keep at a distance from her opponent which will be the
best range for her own guns. It has not been explained why a range
which best suits her guns should not be equally favourable for the
guns of her opponent; unless, indeed, the latter is assumed to be
weakly armed, in which case the distance at which the faster ship
might engage her would be a matter of comparative indifference.
There is nothing in the tactics of the time of Trafalgar to make
it appear that--when a fight had once begun--superior speed,
of course within moderate limits, conferred any considerable
tactical advantage in 'single ship actions,' and still less in
general or fleet actions. Taking up a position ahead or astern of
a hostile ship so as to be able to rake her was not facilitated
by originally superior speed so much as by the more damaged state
of the ship to be raked--raking, as a rule, occurring rather
late in an action.

A remarkable result of long experience of war made itself clearly
apparent in the era of Trafalgar. I have already alluded to the
tendency to restrict the construction of line-of-battle ships
to those of the medium classes. The same thing may be noticed
in the case of the frigates.[93] Those of 44, 40, and 28 guns
relatively or absolutely diminished in number; whilst the number
of the 38-gun, 36-gun, and 32-gun frigates increased. The officers
who had personal experience of many campaigns were able to impress
on the naval architects of the day the necessity of recognising the
sharp distinction that really exists between what we should now
call the 'battleship' and what we should now call the 'cruiser.'
In the earlier time there were ships which were intermediate
between the ship of the line and the frigate. These were the
two-deckers of 56, 54, 50, 44, and even 40 guns. They had long
been regarded as not 'fit to lie in a line,' and they were never
counted in the frigate classes. They seemed to have held a
nondescript position, for no one knew exactly how to employ them
in war any more than we now know exactly how to employ our armoured
cruisers, as to which it is not settled whether they are fit
for general actions or should be confined to commerce defending
or other cruiser service. The two-deckers just mentioned were
looked upon by the date of Trafalgar as forming an unnecessary
class of fighting ships. Some were employed, chiefly because they
existed, on special service; but they were being replaced by true
battleships on one side and true frigates on the other.[94]

[Footnote 93: See footnote 92.]

[Footnote 94: See footnote 92.]

In conclusion, I would venture to say that the strategical and
tactical lessons taught by a long series of naval campaigns had
been mastered by our navy by the time of the Trafalgar campaign.
The effect of those lessons showed itself in our ship-building
policy, and has been placed on permanent record in the history
of maritime achievement and of the adaptation of material means
to belligerent ends.



[Footnote 95: Written in 1902. (Read at the Hong-Kong United Service

A problem which is not an attractive one, but which has to be
solved, is to arrange the proper method of supplying a fleet
and maintaining its communications. In time of peace as well as
in time of war there is a continuous consumption of the articles
of various kinds used on board ship, viz. naval stores, ordnance
stores, engineers' stores, victualling stores, coal, water, &c.
If we know the quantity of each description of stores that a
ship can carry, and if we estimate the progressive consumption,
we can compute, approximately but accurately enough for practical
purposes, the time at which replenishment would be necessary and
to what amount it should be made up. As a general rule ships
stow about three months' stores and provisions. The amount of
coal and engineers' stores, measured in time, depends on the
proceedings of the ship, and can only be calculated if we know
during what portion of any given period she will be under way.
Of course, this can be only roughly estimated. In peace time we
know nearly exactly what the expenditure of ammunition within a
given length of time--say, a quarter of a year--will be. For war
conditions we can only form an estimate based upon assumptions.

The consumption of provisions depends upon the numbers of officers
and men, and in war or peace would be much the same. The greater
activity to be expected in war would lead to more wear and tear,
and consequently to a larger expenditure of naval stores. In
peaceful times the quarterly expenditure of ammunition does not
vary materially. In case we were at war, a single action might
cause us to expend in a few hours as much as half a dozen quarterly
peace allowances. There is a certain average number of days that
a ship of a particular class is under way in a year, and the
difference between that number and 365 is, of course, the measure
of the length of time she is at anchor or in harbour. Expenditure
of coal and of some important articles of engineers' stores depends
on the relation between the time that she is stationary and the
time she is under way. It should be particularly noted that the
distinction is not between time at anchor and time at sea, but
between time at anchor and 'time under way.' If a ship leaves
her anchorage to run an engine-trial after refit, or to fire
at a target, or to adjust compasses, or to go into dock--she
burns more coal than if she remained stationary. These occasions
of movement may be counted in with the days in which the ship
is at sea, and the total taken as the number of days under way.
It may be assumed that altogether these will amount to six or
seven a month. In time of war the period under way would probably
be much longer, and the time spent in expectation of getting
under way in a hurry would almost certainly be considerable,
so that expenditure of coal and machinery lubricants would be
greatly increased.

The point to be made here is that--independently of strategic
conditions, which will be considered later--the difference in the
supply of a given naval force in war and in peace is principally
that in the former the requirements of nearly everything except
provisions will be greater; and consequently that the articles must
be forwarded in larger quantities or at shorter intervals than in
peace time. If, therefore, we have arranged a satisfactory system
of peace supply, that system--defence of the line of communications
being left out of consideration for the present--will merely
have to be expanded in time of war. In other words, practice in
the use of the system during peace will go a long way towards
preparing us for the duty of working it under war conditions.
That a regular system will be absolutely indispensable during
hostilities will not be doubted.

The general principles which I propose to indicate are applicable
to any station. We may allow for a squadron composed of--

   4 battleships,
   4 large cruisers,
   4 second-class cruisers,
  13 smaller vessels of various kinds, and
   3 destroyers,

being away from the principal base-port of the station for several
months of the year. The number of officers and men would be, in
round numbers, about 10,000.

In estimating the amounts of stores of different kinds required
by men-of-war, it is necessary--in order to allow for proper
means of conveyance--to convert tons of dead-weight into tons
by measurement, as the two are not always exactly equivalent. In
the following enumeration only estimated amounts are stated, and
the figures are to be considered as approximate and not precise.
It is likely that in each item an expert maybe able to discover
some variation from the rigorously exact; but the general result
will be sufficiently accurate for practical purposes, especially
as experience will suggest corrections.

A thousand men require about 3.1 tons of victualling stores,
packages included, daily, We may make this figure up to 3.5 tons
to allow for 'medical comforts' and canteen stores, Consequently
10,000 men require about 35 tons a day, and about 6300 tons for
six months. The assumed squadron, judging from experience, would
require in peace time about 600 tons of engineers' stores, about
400 tons of naval stores, and--if the ships started with only their
exact allowance on board and then carried out a full quarterly
practice twice--the quantity of ordnance stores and ammunition
required would be about 1140 tons, to meet the ordinary peace
rate of expenditure, We thus get for a full six months' supply
the following figures:--

  Victualling stores                 6,300 tons.
  Engineers' stores                    600  "
  Naval stores                         400  "
  Ordnance stores and ammunition     1,140  "
  Total                              8,440  "

Some allowance must be made for the needs of the 'auxiliaries,'[96]
the vessels that bring supplies and in other ways attend on the
fighting ships. This may be put at 7 per cent. The tonnage required
would accordingly amount in all to about 9000.

[Footnote 96: The 7 per cent. mentioned in the text would probably
cover nearly all the demands--except coal--of auxiliaries, which
would not require much or any ammunition. Coal is provided for

The squadron would burn in harbour or when stationary about 110
tons of coal a day, and when under way about 1050 tons a day. For
140 harbour-days the consumption would be about 15,400 tons; and
for 43 days under way about 45,150: so that for coal requirements
we should have the following:--

  Harbour consumption                  15,400 tons.
  Under-way consumption                45,150  "
    Total for fighting ships           60,550  "
    7 per cent. for auxiliaries (say)   4,250  "
                  Grand total          64,800  "

Some time ago (in 1902) a representation was made from the China
station that, engine-room oil being expended whenever coal is
expended, there must be some proportion between the quantities
of each. It was, therefore, suggested that every collier should
bring to the squadron which she was supplying a proportionate
quantity of oil. This has been approved, and it has been ordered
that the proportions will be 75 gallons of oil to every 100 tons
of coal.[97] It was also suggested that the oil should be carried
in casks of two sizes, for the convenience of both large and
small ships.

[Footnote 97: I was informed (on the 10th December 1902), some
time after the above was written, that the colliers supplying
the United States Navy are going to carry 100 gallons of oil
for every 100 tons of coal.]

There is another commodity, which ships have never been able to
do without, and which they need now in higher proportion than
ever. That commodity is fresh water. The squadron constituted
as assumed would require an average of about 160 tons of fresh
water a day, and nearly 30,000 tons in six months. Of this the
ships, without adding very inconveniently to their coal consumption,
might themselves distil about one-half; but the remaining 15,000
tons would have to be brought to them; and another thousand tons
would probably be wanted by the auxiliaries, making the full
six months' demand up to 16,000 tons.

The tonnage requirements of the squadron and its 'auxiliaries'
for a full six months' period would be about 74,000, without
fresh water. As, however, the ships would have started with full
store-rooms, holds, and bunkers, and might be expected to return
to the principal base-port of the station at the end of the period,
stores for four-and-a-half months', and coal to meet twenty weeks',
consumption would be sufficient. These would be about 6750 tons
of stores and ammunition and 46,000 tons of coal.[98]

[Footnote 98: To avoid complicating the question, the water or
distilling vessel, the hospital ship, and the repair vessel have
not been considered specially. Their coal and stores have been
allowed for.]

The stores, &c., would have to be replenished twice and--as it would
not be prudent to let the ships run right out of them--replenishment
should take place at the end of the second and at the end of the
fourth months. Two vessels carrying stores and ammunition, if
capable of transporting a cargo of nearly 1700 tons apiece, would
bring all that was wanted at each replenishment. To diminish risk
of losing all of one description of supplies, if carried by itself
in a separate vessel, it has been considered desirable that each
supply-carrier, when employed, is to contain some ammunition,
some stores, and some provisions. There are great advantages
in having supply-carriers, including, of course, colliers, of
moderate size. Many officers must have had experience of the
inconvenience and delay due to the employment of a single very
large vessel which could only coal one man-of-war at a time.
Several vessels, each carrying a moderate amount of cargo, would
permit much more rapid replenishment of the ships of a squadron.
The inconvenience that would be caused by the loss or breakdown
of a supply-carrier would be reduced by employing several vessels
of moderate cargo-capacity instead of only one or two of great

Each battleship and large cruiser of the assumed squadron may be
expected to burn about 1000 tons of coal in five weeks, so that
the quantity to be used in that time by all those ships would
be 8000 tons. The remaining ships, scattered between different
places as most of them would probably be, would require about
3500 tons. Therefore, every five weeks or so 11,500 tons of coal
would be required. Four replenishments would be necessary in the
whole period, making a total of 46,000 tons. Each replenishment
could be conveyed in five colliers with 2300 tons apiece.

Moderate dimensions in store- and coal-carriers would prove
convenient, not only because it would facilitate taking in stores
and coaling, if all the squadron were assembled at one place,
but also if part were at one place and part at another. Division
into several vessels, instead of concentration in a few, would
give great flexibility to the system of supply. A single very
capacious cargo-carrier might have to go first to one place and
supply the ships there, and then go to supply the remaining ships
lying at another anchorage. This would cause loss of time. The
same amount of cargo distributed amongst two or more vessels
would permit the ships at two or more places to be supplied

You may have noticed that I have been dealing with the question
as though stores and coal were to be transported direct to the
men-of-war wherever they might be and put straight on board them
from the carrying-vessels. There is, as you all know, another
method, which may be described as that of 'secondary bases.'
Speaking generally, each of our naval stations has a principal
base at which considerable or even extensive repairs of the ships
can be effected and at which stores are accumulated. Visits to
it for the sake of repair being necessary, the occasion may be
taken advantage of to replenish supplies, so that the maintenance
of a stock at the place makes for convenience, provided that
the stock is not too large. The so-called 'secondary base' is
a place at which it is intended to keep in store coal and other
articles in the hope that when war is in progress the supply of
our ships may be facilitated. It is a supply, and not a repairing

A comparison of the 'direct' system and 'secondary base' system
may be interesting. A navy being maintained for use in war, it
follows, as a matter of course, that the value of any part of
its equipment or organisation depends on its efficiency for war
purposes. The question to be answered is--Which of the two systems
promises to help us most during hostilities? This does not exclude
a regard for convenience and economy in time of peace, provided
that care is taken not to push economy too far and not to make
ordinary peace-time convenience impede arrangements essential
to the proper conduct of a naval campaign.

It is universally admitted that a secondary base at which stocks
of stores are kept should be properly defended. This necessitates
the provision of fortifications and a garrison. Nearly every
article of naval stores of all classes has to be brought to our
bases by sea, just as much as if it were brought direct to our
ships. Consequently the communications of the base have to be
defended. They would continue to need defending even if our ships
ceased to draw supplies from it, because the communications of
the garrison must be kept open. We know what happened twice over
at Minorca when the latter was not done.

The object of accumulating stores at a secondary base is to
facilitate the supply of fighting ships, it being rather confidently
assumed that the ships can go to it to replenish without being
obliged to absent themselves for long from the positions in which
they could best counteract the efforts of the enemy. When war is
going on it is not within the power of either side to arrange
its movements exactly as it pleases. Movements must, at all events
very often, conform to those of the enemy. It is not a bad rule
when going to war to give your enemy credit for a certain amount
of good sense. Our enemy's good sense is likely to lead him to
do exactly what we wish him not to do, and not to do that which
we wish him to do. We should, of course, like him to operate so
that our ships will not be employed at an inconvenient distance
from our base of supplies. If we have created permanent bases in
time of peace the enemy will know their whereabouts as well as
we do ourselves, and, unless he is a greater fool than it is safe
to think he is, he will try to make us derive as little benefit
from them as possible. He is likely to extend his operations to
localities at a distance from the places to which, if we have
the secondary base system of supply, he knows for certain that our
ships must resort. We shall have to do one of two things--either
let him carry on his operations undisturbed, or conform to his
movements. To this is due the common, if not invariable, experience
of naval warfare, that the fleet which assumes the offensive
has to establish what are sometimes called 'flying bases,' to
which it can resort at will. This explains why Nelson rarely
used Gibraltar as a base; why we occupied Balaclava in 1854; and
why the Americans used Guantanamo Bay in 1898. The flying base is
not fortified or garrisoned in advance. It is merely a convenient
anchorage, in a good position as regards the circumstances of
the war; and it can be abandoned for another, and resumed, if
desirable, as the conditions of the moment dictate.

It is often argued that maintenance of stocks of stores at a
secondary base gives a fleet a free hand and at least relieves
it from the obligation of defending the line of communications.
We ought to examine both contentions. It is not easy to discover
where the freedom comes in if you must always proceed to a certain
place for supplies, whether convenient or not. It may be, and
very likely will be, of the utmost importance in war for a ship
to remain on a particular station. If her coal is running short
and can only be replenished by going to a base, go to the base she
must, however unfortunate the consequences. It has been mentioned
already that nearly every item on our store list has to be brought
to a base by sea. Let us ascertain to what extent the accumulation
of a stock at a place removes the necessity of defending the
communication line. Coal is so much the greater item that
consideration of it will cover that of all the rest.

The squadron, as assumed, requires about 11,500 tons of coal
every five weeks in peace time. Some is commonly obtained from
contractors at foreign ports; but to avoid complicating the subject
we may leave contract issues out of consideration. If you keep
a stock of 10,000 tons at your permanent secondary base, you
will have enough to last your ships about four-and-a-half weeks.
Consequently you must have a stream of colliers running to the
place so as to arrive at intervals of not more than about thirty
days. Calculations founded on the experience of manoeuvres show
that in war time ships would require nearly three times the quantity
used in peace. It follows that, if you trebled your stock of
coal at the base and made it 30,000 tons, you would in war still
require colliers carrying that amount to arrive about every four
weeks. Picture the line of communications with the necessary
colliers on it, and see to what extent you are released from
the necessity of defending it. The bulk of other stores being
much less than that of coal, you could, no doubt, maintain a
sufficient stock of them to last through the probable duration
of the war; but, as you must keep your communications open to
ensure the arrival of your coal, it would be as easy for the
other stores to reach you as it would be for the coal itself.
Why oblige yourself to use articles kept long in store when much
fresher ones could be obtained? Therefore the maintenance of
store depots at a secondary base no more releases you from the
necessity of guarding your communications than it permits freedom
of movement to your ships.

The secondary base in time of war is conditioned as follows. If
the enemy's sphere of activity is distant from the base which
you have equipped with store-houses and fortifications, the place
cannot be of any use to you. It can, and probably will, be a
cause of additional anxiety to you, because the communications
of its garrison must still be kept open. If it is used, freedom
of movement for the ships must be given up, because they cannot
go so far from it as to be obliged to consume a considerable
fraction of their coal in reaching it and returning to their
station. The line along which your colliers proceed to it must
be effectively guarded.

Contrast this with the system of direct supply to the ships-of-war.
You choose for your flying base a position which will be as near
to the enemy's sphere of action as you choose to make it. You
can change its position in accordance with circumstances. If you
cease to use the position first chosen you need trouble yourself
no more about its special communications. You leave nothing at it
which will make it worth the enemy's while to try a dash at it.
The power of changing the flying base from one place to another
gives almost perfect freedom of movement to the fighting ships.
Moreover, the defence of the line communicating with the position
selected is not more difficult than that of the line to a fixed

The defence of a line of communication ought to be arranged on
the same plan as that adopted for the defence of a trade route,
viz. making unceasing efforts to attack the intending assailant.
Within the last few years a good deal has been written about
the employment of cruisers. The favourite idea seems to be that
peace-time preparation for the cruiser operations of war ought to
take the form of scouting and attendance on fleets. The history
of naval warfare does not corroborate this view. We need not forget
Nelson's complaint of paucity of frigates: but had the number
attached to his fleet been doubled, the general disposition of
vessels of the class then in commission would have been virtually
unaltered. At the beginning of 1805, the year of Trafalgar, we
had--besides other classes--232 frigates and sloops in commission;
at the beginning of 1806 we had 264. It is doubtful if forty of
these were attached to fleets.

It is sometimes contended that supply-carriers ought to be vessels
of great speed, apparently in order that they may always keep
up with the fighting ships when at sea. This, perhaps, is due
to a mistaken application of the conditions of a land force on
the march to those of a fleet or squadron making a voyage. In
practice a land army cannot separate itself--except for a very
short time--from its supplies. Its movements depend on those of
its supply-train. The corresponding 'supply-train' of a fleet
or squadron is in the holds and bunkers of its ships. As long as
these are fairly well furnished, the ships might be hampered,
and could not be assisted, by the presence of the carriers. All
that is necessary is that these carriers should be at the right
place at the right time, which is merely another way of saying
that proper provision should be made for 'the stream of supplies
and reinforcements which in terms of modern war is called
communications'--the phrase being Mahan's.

The efficiency of any arrangement used in war will depend largely
on the experience of its working gained in time of peace. Why do
we not work the direct system of supply whilst we are at peace
so as to familiarise ourselves with the operations it entails
before the stress of serious emergency is upon us? There are
two reasons. One is, because we have used the permanent base
method so long that, as usually happens in such cases, we find
it difficult to form a conception of any other. The other reason
is that the direct supply method is thought to be too costly.
The first reason need not detain us. It is not worthy of even
a few minutes' consideration. The second reason deserves full

We ought to be always alive to the necessity of economy. The only
limit to economy of money in any plan of naval organisation is
that we should not carry it so far that it will be likely to impair
efficiency. Those who are familiar with the correspondence of the
great sea-officers of former days will have noticed how careful
they were to prevent anything like extravagant expenditure. This
inclination towards a proper parsimony of naval funds became
traditional in our service. The tradition has, perhaps, been
rather weakened in these days of abundant wealth; but we should
do our best not to let it die out. Extravagance is a serious foe
to efficient organisation, because where it prevails there is
a temptation to try imperfectly thought-out experiments, in the
belief that, if they fail, there will still be plenty of money
to permit others to be tried. This, of course, encourages slovenly
want of system, which is destructive of good organisation.

We may assume, for the purposes of our investigation, that our
permanently equipped secondary base contains a stock of 10,000 tons
of coal. Any proportionate quantity, however, may be substituted
for this, as the general argument will remain unaffected. As
already intimated, coal is so much greater in bulk and aggregate
cost than any other class of stores that, if we arrange for its
supply, the provision of the rest is a comparatively small matter.
The squadron which we have had in view requires an estimated
amount of 46,000 tons of coal in six months' period specified,
and a further quantity of 4600 tons may be expected to suffice
for the ships employed in the neighbouring waters during the
remainder of the year. This latter amount would have to be brought
in smaller cargoes, say, five of 920 tons each. Allowing for
the colliers required during the six months whilst the whole
squadron has to be supplied an average cargo of 2300 tons, we
should want twenty arrivals with an aggregate of 46,000 tons,
and later on five arrivals of smaller colliers with an aggregate
of 4600 tons to complete the year.

The freight or cost of conveyance to the place need not be considered
here, as it would be the same in either system. If we keep a stock
of supplies at a place we must incur expenditure to provide for
the storage of the articles. There would be what may be called
the capital charges for sites, buildings, residences, jetties,
tram lines, &c., for which £20,000 would probably not be enough,
but we may put it at that so as to avoid the appearance of
exaggeration. A further charge would be due to the provision of
tugs or steam launches, and perhaps lighters. This would hardly
be less than £15,000. Interest on money sunk, cost of repairs,
and maintenance, would not be excessive if they amounted to £3500
a year. There must be some allowance for the coal used by the
tugs and steam launches. It is doubtful if £500 a year would
cover this; but we may put it at that. Salaries and wages of
staff, including persons employed in tugs and steam launches,
would reach quite £2500 a year. It is to be noted that the items
which these charges are assumed to cover cannot be dispensed
with. If depots are established at all, they must be so arranged
that the stores deposited in them can be securely kept and can
be utilised with proper expedition. The total of the charges
just enumerated is £6500 a year.

There are other charges that cannot be escaped. For example,
landing a ton of coal at Wei-hai-wei, putting it into the depot,
and taking it off again to the man-of-war requiring it, costs $1
20 cents, or at average official rate of exchange two shillings.
At Hong-Kong the cost is about 2s. 5d. a ton. The charge at 2s.
per ton on 50,600 tons would be £5060. I am assured by every
engineer officer to whom I have spoken on the subject that the
deterioration in coal due to the four different handlings which
it has to undergo if landed in lighters and taken off again to
ships from the coal-store cannot be put at less than 10 per cent.
Note that this is over and above such deterioration as would be
due to passing coal direct from the hold of a collier alongside
into a ship's bunkers. If anyone doubts this deterioration it would
be well for him to examine reports on coal and steam trials. He
will be unusually fortunate if he finds so small a deterioration as
10 per cent. The lowest that I can remember having seen reported
is 20 per cent.; reports of 30 and even 40 per cent. are quite
common. Some of it is for deterioration due to climate and length
of time in store. This, of course, is one of the inevitable
conditions of the secondary base system, the object of which is
to keep in stock a quantity of the article needed. Putting the
purchase price of the coal as low as 15s. a ton, a deterioration
due to repeated handling only of 10 per cent. on 50,600 tons
would amount to £3795.

There is nearly always some loss of coal due to moving it. I
say 'nearly always' because it seems that there are occasions
on which coal being moved increases in bulk. It occurs when
competitive coaling is being carried on in a fleet and ships
try to beat records. A collier in these circumstances gives out
more coal than she took in. We shall probably be right if we
regard the increase in this case as what the German philosophers
call 'subjective,' that is, rather existent in the mind than in
the external region of objective, palpable fact. It may be taken
as hardly disputable that there will be less loss the shorter
the distance and the fewer the times the coal is moved. Without
counting it we see that the annual expenses enumerated are--

  Establishment charges      £6,500
  Landing and re-shipping     5,060
  Deterioration               3,795

This £15,355 is to be compared with the cost of the direct supply
system. The quantity of coal required would, as said above, have
to be carried in twenty colliers--counting each trip as that of
a separate vessel--with, on the average, 2300 tons apiece, and
five smaller ones. It would take fully four days to unload 2300
tons at the secondary base, and even more if the labour supply
was uncertain or the labourers not well practised. Demurrage
for a vessel carrying the cargo mentioned, judging from actual
experience, would be about £32 a day; and probably about £16 a
day for the smaller vessels. If we admit an average delay, per
collier, of eighteen days, that is, fourteen days more than the
time necessary for removing the cargo into store, so as to allow
for colliers arriving when the ships to be coaled are absent, we
should get--

  20 X 14 X 32      £8,960
   5 X 14 X 16       1,120

as the cost of transferring the coal from the holds to the
men-of-war's bunkers on the direct supply system. An average
of eighteen days is probably much too long to allow for each
collier's stay till cleared: because, on some occasions, ships
requiring coal may be counted on as sure to be present. Even
as it is, the £10,080 is a smaller sum than the £11,560 which
the secondary base system costs over and above the amount due to
increased deterioration of coal. If a comparison were instituted
as regards other kinds of stores, the particular figures might
be different, but the general result would be the same.

The first thing that we have got to do is to rid our minds of
the belief that because we see a supply-carrier lying at anchor
for some days without being cleared, more money is being spent
than is spent on the maintenance of a shore depot. There may be
circumstances in which a secondary base is a necessity, but they
must be rare and exceptional. We saw that the establishment of one
does not help us in the matter of defending our communications.
We now see that, so far from being more economical than the
alternative method, the secondary base method is more costly. It
might have been demonstrated that it is really much more costly
than the figures given make it out to be, because ships obliged
to go to a base must expend coal in doing so, and coal costs
money. It is not surprising that consideration of the secondary
base system should evoke a recollection of the expression applied
by Dryden to the militia of his day:

  In peace a charge; in war a weak defence.

I have to say that I did not prepare this paper simply for the
pleasure of reading it, or in order to bring before you mere
sets of figures and estimates of expense. My object has been
to arouse in some of the officers who hear me a determination
to devote a portion of their leisure to the consideration of
those great problems which must be solved by us if we are to
wage war successfully. Many proofs reach me of the ability and
zeal with which details of material are investigated by officers
in these days. The details referred to are not unimportant in
themselves; but the importance of several of them if put together
would be incomparably less than that of the great question to
which I have tried to direct your attention.

The supply of a fleet is of high importance in both peace time
and time of war. Even in peace it sometimes causes an admiral to
pass a sleepless night. The arrangements which it necessitates
are often intricate, and success in completing them occasionally
seems far off. The work involved in devising suitable plans is
too much like drudgery to be welcome to those who undertake it.
All the same it has to be done: and surely no one will care to
deny that the fleet which has practised in quiet years the system
that must be followed in war will start with a great advantage on
its side when it is at last confronted with the stern realities
of naval warfare.


The question of 'Communications,' if fully dealt with in the
foregoing paper, would have made it so long that its hearers might
have been tired out before its end was reached. The following
summary of the points that might have been enlarged upon, had
time allowed, may interest many officers:--

In time of war we must keep open our lines of communication.

If we cannot, the war will have gone against us.

Open communications mean that we can prevent the enemy from carrying
out decisive and sustained operations against them and along
their line.

To keep communications open it is not necessary to secure every
friendly ship traversing the line against attacks by the enemy.
All that is necessary is to restrict the enemy's activity so
far that he can inflict only such a moderate percentage of loss
on the friendly vessels that, as a whole, they will not cease
to run.

Keeping communications open will not secure a friendly place
against every form of attack. It will, however, secure a place
against attacks with large forces sustained for a considerable
length of time. If he can make attacks of this latter kind, it
is clear that the enemy controls the communications and that
we have failed to keep them open.

If communications are open for the passage of vessels of the
friendly mercantile marine, it follows that the relatively much
smaller number of supply-vessels can traverse the line.

As regards supply-vessels, a percentage of loss caused by the
enemy must be allowed for. If we put this at 10 per cent.--which,
taken absolutely, is probably sufficient--it means that _on_the_
_average_ out of ten supply-vessels sent we expect nine to reach
their destination.

We cannot, however, arrange that an equal loss will fall on every
group of ten vessels. Two such groups may arrive intact, whilst
a third may lose three vessels. Yet the 10 per cent. average
would be maintained.

This condition has to be allowed for. Investigations some years
ago led to the conclusion that it would be prudent to send five
carriers for every four wanted.

The word 'group' has been used above only in a descriptive sense.
Supply-carriers will often be safer if they proceed to their
destination separately. This, however, depends on circumstances.


Adventure, voyages of
Agincourt, battle of
Alcester, Lord
Alexander the Great
Alexandria, bombardment of
American War of Independence; Sir Henry Maine on
---- War of Secession; raids in
---- War with Spain
Ammunition, supply of; alleged shortage at the defeat of the
Army co-operation
Athenian Navy; at the battle of Syracuse
Australian Fleet, localisation of
Austro-Prussian War

  Baehr, C. F
Balaclava, capture of
Bantry Bay, French invasion of
Battleships, merits of; coal consumption of
Beer, for the Navy
Benedek, General
Bounty for recruits
Brassey, Lord
Bright, Rev. J. F.
Brougham, Lord
Brunswick-Oels, Duke of
Burchett, quoted
Burleigh, Lord
Byng, Admiral (_see_under_ Torrington, Earl of).

Cadiz, Expedition
Camperdown, battle of
Camperdown, Lord
Cardigan Bay, French invasion of
Carnot, President
Carrying trade, of the colonies; of the world
Carthaginian Navy; fall of
Cawdor, Lord
Centralisation, evils of
Charles II, King
'Chatham Chest'
Chevalier, Captain; quoted
Chino-Japanese War
Chioggia, battle of
Coal, allowance of; bases for; cost of
Coast defence (_see_also_under_ Invasion)
Collingwood, Admiral, at Trafalgar
Colomb, Vice-Admiral P. H.; on the Chino-Japanese War; on the
  command of the sea; on Nelson's tactics at Trafalgar
Colonies, naval bases in the; contributions by the; and terms
  of service in the navy
Command of the sea; and the claim to a salute; in the Crimean
  War; local and temporary; and the French invasion; land
  fortification and; in war; and our food supply; essential
  to the Empire
Commerce, protection of naval; destruction of; at the time of
Communications, in war; control of; with naval bases; of a
Corbett, Mr. Julian; on Nelson
Cornwallis, Admiral
Crécy, battle of
Crimean War; command of the sea in; mortality in
Cromwell, Oliver
Cruisers, necessity for; their equivalent at Trafalgar; coal
  consumption of; duties of

Dacres, Rear-Admiral
De Burgh, Hubert
De Galles, Admiral Morard
De Grasse, Admiral
De la Gravière, Admiral
De Ruyter, Admiral
Defence, of naval commerce; against invasion; offensive;
  inefficiency of localised; against raids
Desbrière, Capt.
Destroyers, origin of
Dewey, Admiral
'Dictionary of National Biography'
Dockyards, fortification of
Dornberg, Colonel
Drake, Sir Francis
Drury Lane Pantomime
Dryden, quoted
Duncan, Lord; Life of; quoted
Dundonald, Lord
Duro, Captain
Dutch East India Co.
---- Navy
---- War

  Economy and Efficiency
Edward III, King
Egypt, French Expedition to
Ekins, Sir Charles
Elizabeth (Queen) and her seamen
Empire, the defence of; and control of ocean communications
English Channel, command of the
Exploration, voyages of

Fishguard, French invasion of
Fleet, positions in war for the; duties of the; and the defence
  of Empire; supply and communications of the
'Fleet in being'
Food supply and control of the sea
Foods, preservation of
Foreign seamen, in our merchant service; their exemption from
Franco-German War
Froude's History
Fulton, quoted

  Gardiner, Dr. S. R., quoted
Genoese Navy
German Navy, in the Baltic
Gibbon, quoted
Gibraltar; siege of
Gravelines, battle of
Greek Navy
Green, J. R., quoted
Grierson, Colonel B. H.
Grouchy, Admiral
Gutteridge, Mr.

  Hall, Mr. Hubert
Hammond, Dr. W. A.
'Handy man' evolution of the
Hannay, Mr. D.
Hawke, Lord
Hawkins, Sir J.
Herodotus, quoted
History, influence of naval campaigns on; of war
Hoche, General
Holm, Adolf
Hood, Lord; and Nelson
Hosier, Admiral
Howard of Effingham, Lord; quoted
Howe, Lord; at Gibraltar; his tactics
Hughes, Sir Edward
Humbert's Bxpedition

_Illustrious_ Training School
Impressment; exemption of foreigners from; inefficiency of;
  legalised forcible; popular misconceptions of; exemptions
  from (_see_also_under_ Press gang)
Indian Mutiny
International law, and the sea; and the sale of bad food
Invasion, prevention of; of British Isles; over sea and land
  raids; land defence against; as a means of war
Ireland, French invasion of

  Jamaica, seizure of
James, quoted
Japan and China war
Jena, battle of
Jessopp, Dr. A.
Joyeuse, Admiral Villaret

  Keith, Lord
Killigrew, Vice-Admiral
Kinglake, quoted

La Hogue, battle of
Laughton, Professor Sir J. K.; 'Defeat of the Armada,'; on
Lepanto, battle of
Lindsay, W. S.
Local defence, inefficiency of; of naval bases
Lyons, Admiral Lord

Mahan, Captain A. T.; on the Roman Navy; on sea commerce; on
  early naval warfare; on the naval 'calling'; on the American
  War of Independence; influence of his teaching; on the
  Spanish-American War; on control of the sea; on impressment;
  on Nelson at Trafalgar
Malaga, battle of
Marathon, battle of
Marines and impressment
Martin, Admiral Sir T. Byam
Medina-Sidonia, Duke of
Mediterranean, command of the
Mends, Dr. Stilon
---- Admiral Sir W.
Merchant Service, foreign seamen in our; historical relations
  of the navy with the; its exemption from impressment (_see_
  _also_under_ Commerce)
Mischenko, General
Mortality from disease in war
Motley, quoted
Mutiny at the Nore

Napoleon, Emperor; and the invasion of England; expedition
  to Egypt; on losses in War
Naval bases; defence of; cost of
Naval strategy; in the American War of Independence; the frontier
  in; and command of the sea; the fleet's position in War;
  compared with military; and the French Expedition to Egypt;
  in defence of Empire; for weak navies; at the time of Trafalgar
---- tactics, Nelson's achievements in; at Trafalgar; consideration
  of cost in
---- warfare, influence on history of; the true objective in
  (_see_also_under_ War)
Navies, costliness of; strength of foreign
Navigation Act (1651)
Navy, necessity for a strong; and Army co-operation; human
  element in the; changes in organisation; conditions of service
  in the; peace training of the; historical relations with the
  merchant service; impressment in the; records of the; Queen
  Elizabeth's; victualling the; pay in the; its mobility; and
  the two-power standard; question of size of ships for the;
  economy and efficiency in the
Navy Records Society
Nelson, Lord; on blockades; and the 'Nile'; his strategy; and
  Trafalgar; his tactics
Netley Hospital
Newbolt, Mr. H.
Nile, battle of the

  Oil, ship's allowance of
Oppenheim, Mr. M.
Oversea raids

Palmer, Six Henry
Peace training, and war; of the 'handy man'
Pepys, quoted
Pericles, quoted
Persian Navy
Peter the Great
Phillip, Rear-Admiral Arthur
Phoenician Navy
Pitt, William; quoted
Pocock, Rev. Thomas
Poitiers, battle of
Policing the sea
Port Arthur, battle off
Ports, fortification of
Portuguese Navy
Press gang; popular misconceptions of the; facts and fancies
  about the; in literature and art; operations of the
Price, Dr.

Quiberon Bay, battle of

  Raiding attacks; prevention of
Raids, oversea and on land
Raleigh, Sir Walter
Recruiting, from the merchant service; by the press gang
Recruits, bounty for
Rhodes Navy
Robinson, Commander
Rodney, Lord
Rogers, Thorold
Roman Navy
Rooke, Sir George
Roosevelt, Mr. Theodore, quoted
Russo-Japanese War
---- Turkish War

St. Vincent, Lord
Salamis, battle of
Salute, the claim to a
Saracen Navy
Schill, Colonel
Sea, International law and the
Sea Power, history and meaning of the term; defined; influence
  on history of naval campaigns; of the Phoenicians; of Greece
  and Persia; of Rome and Carthage; in the Middle Ages; of the
  Saracens; and the Crusades; of Venice, Pisa and Genoa; of the
  Turks; in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; of Portugal
  and Spain; rise in England of; and exploration and adventure;
  and military co-operation; of the Dutch; and naval strategy;
  in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; examples of
  its efficiency; in recent times; in Crimean War; in American
  War of Secession; in Russo-Turkish war; in Chino-Japanese War;
  in Spanish-American War
Sebastopol, siege of
Seeley, Sir J. R.
Seymour, Lord Henry
Ships for the navy, question of size of; for supply
Sismondi, quoted
Sluys, battle of
Smith, Sir Sydney
Spanish Armada, defeat of the; Records of; Queen Elizabeth and the
---- American War
Spanish Indies
---- Navy
Spartan Army
Stirling, Sir James
Stores, reserve of ship's
Strategy (_see_under_ Naval Strategy)
Stuart, General J. E. B.
Suffren, Admiral
Supply and communications of a fleet
Supply ships, sizes of
Syracuse, battle of

Tactics (_see_under_ Naval Tactics)
Tate, Colonel
Themistocles; and the Greek Navy
Thucydides, quoted
_Times_, quoted
Torpedo boats, defence against
Torrington, Earl of
Tourville, Admiral
Trafalgar, battle of; tactics of; British losses at; the attack;
  contemporary strategy and tactics
Training (_see_under_ Peace Training)
Turkish Navy

United States Navy

  Venetian Navy
Victualling allowances; and modern preserved foods

Walcheren Expedition, mortality in Wales, French invasion of

War, and its chief lessons; human element in; the unexpected
  in; under modern conditions; how to avoid surprise in;
  mortality from disease in; methods of making; command of the
  sea in; compensation for losses in; Napoleon on loss of life
  in; supplies in (_see_also_under_ Invasion, Naval Warfare,
  and Raids)
Washington, George
Water, ship's allowance of
Waterloo, battle of
Wellington, Duke of
William III, King
Wilmot, Sir S. Eardley

Xerxes; his highly trained Army


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