« PreviousContinue »
ART. II.-1. Rapport fait au nom de la Commission du
Budget chargée d'examiner le projet de Loi portant fication du Budget Général de l'Exercice, 1901. (Ministère de la Marine.) Par M. FLEURY RAVARIN. Paris : Motteroz,
1900. 2. Entwurf einer Novelle zum Gesetze, betreffend die deutsche
Flotte, vom 10. April 1898, &c. Die Steigerung der deutschen Seeinteressen von 1896 bis 1898. (Marine
Rundschau.) Berlin: E. S. Mittler & Sohn, 1900. 3. Sénat : Rapport, &c., loi relative à l'augmentation de la
Flotte. Par M. JULES GODIN. Séance du 22 Novembre,
1900. 4. Navy Estimates for the Year 1901–2. 5. Statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty explanatory
of the Navy Estimates, 1901–2. Presented to both
Houses by His Majesty's command. TT has been our good fortune—to be set off against recent 1 disappointments and humiliations—that we have been shown by actual experience the value and the necessity of a strong Navy. However little we may have been influenced hitherto by the teaching of maritime history, we have been forced at last to see, in the course of contemporary events, a warning and an example. The fear of our power and the jealousy of our national prosperity, probably long rankling in the minds of foreign nations, have been revealed to us under the outward and visible sign of intense animosity. Making full allowance for the malign dominion over public feeling in Continental Europe exercised by hired traducers in an easily corruptible Press, we still have to admit that the calumnious seed they scattered could not have borne such an abundant fruit of bitterness had it not fallen on a congenial soil. We have been warned-and, happily for us, in good time-of the sentiments, the hopes, and the ultimate intentions of large and far from uninfluential classes of people abroad. To weaken our power and undermine our prosperity are now their unconcealed aspirations. An indispensable preliminary to the satisfaction of these was instinctively felt to be the entanglement of the British Empire in a serious difficulty. An occasion was provided as soon as we were involved in the complications for they constitute more than a mere war-in South Africa. What was it that, at such a moment, permitted us to confront with calmness
o the the outillowance Europes,
so general an outburst of hostility ? What was it that reinforced the prudence of foreign Governments, and enabled them to hold in restraint the passions of their fellowcountrymen? It was a conviction of the relative impregnability of a position based upon the strength of the British Navy. It was, in fact, a fresh and striking example of the influence of sea-power.
With this example before us we can see how entirely justified have been the sacrifices, great as they undoubtedly were, made by the people of the United Kingdom during the last dozen years to bring our naval forces up to a proper standard. Let anyone count the cost of effecting this; let him compare it with that to which we have been already put by the present war; and let him then consider what we must have saved, in direct pecuniary expenditure alone, by securing ourselves against a war with a first-class Power, and, likely enough, with more than one. We have made great efforts, but these efforts have not been useless. On the contrary, they have been fruitful in advantages; and we have to inquire as to the necessity of continuing them.
Whilst it is generally understood that our naval position is always a relative and never an absolute one, and that it cannot be estimated correctly unless we take into account the proceedings of other naval States, it is not nearly so generally recognised that, as far as we are concerned, the relation is not by any means one of simple proportion. The common method of comparing British and foreign naval forces is to put the numerical statistics of one in juxtaposition to those of the other. bitions to those of the other Thonch thicon
Though this may tell the truth, it does not tell the whole truth. The conditions of the British Empire, pre-eminently maritime and colonial as it is, are so unlike those of other States that the numerical method of comparison-even when the figures are correctly given-cannot supply a satisfactory conclusion as to our position, though, with other things, it may help us to form one. We have to look not only at the statistics, but also at the policy and intentions of other Navies. We have also to take note of what we ourselves have been doing and have left undone.
No Navy, not even the most insignificant, can be a matter of indifference to us; because we have interests on every sea. Our first concern, however, is with the forces of the great Powers of the Northern Hemisphere. If these have displayed great activity in strengthening their fleets, it is incumbent on us to ascertain the extent to which this
be estimative and undersecessity of in adm useless, made
mated Com never stood that continuinta
genealoceedings of otherectly unlesssolute one, and Pensation
everyor of the not
will affect us, and to see that measures are taken to prevent our being placed at a disadvantage, either now or in the future, on that element to which we habitually entrust enormous and vital interests. There is nothing provocative in insisting on the maintenance of our naval pre-eminence. This is universally allowed amongst foreigners, even amongst those who have no special love for us. The conditions of our empire are thoroughly understood abroad. M. Jean de Bloch, in his well-known work on war-whilst dwelling upon the objections to, or even the absurdity of, Continental countries keeping up great Navies—especially calls attention to the necessity of a strong fleet to us. The following extracts from the French edition of his book * deserve to be read and remembered :
'Pour l'Angleterre, il y a un intérêt de premier ordre à rester maîtresse de la mer, partout et à l'égard de n'importe quel adversaire, pour protéger contre tout danger non seulement les Iles Britanniques, mais son commerce maritime, l'immense étendue de ses colonies dans toutes les parties du globe, et les communications par lesquelles s'effectue à son profit l'échange des richesses de l'Ancien et du Nouveau Monde, échange qui comme le flux et reflux est indispensable à l'entretien de son existence même. Maîtresse des mers, l’Angle. terre peut être tranquille pour elle-même et pour ses colonies. ... Un état composé d'îles, du moment où il a assuré la supériorité de sa flotte, est par là même pleinement en sécurité et, par conséquent, il lui faut tout sacrifier à la puissance de cette flotte.'
The case for a strong, indeed for a relatively overwhelmingly strong, British Navy could not well be more clearly or more forcibly stated. It should be borne in mind that the statement has been put forward only recently. It is sometimes said that our Navy is to us what their great land armies are to the military Powers of the Continent. The truth is that our Navy is to us that, and more also. It, to a great extent, represents with us both the immense mobile land forces of Continental States and the fixed fortifications erected for their defence. High as our naval expenditure has risen, we have not in ten years spent directly and indirectly on our naval defences more than France devoted to the material part of the defences of her Eastern frontier alone. In mentioning this we in no way under-estimate the importance, even to an insular State, of an efficient army. On this point we have already expressed ourselves so fully † that there is no need to labour it now.
* Section III., published in 1899.
for 2, financial pro The great infrards, ad
It does not affect the paramount importance of securing our naval position, as will be seen when we look at what foreign nations have been doing within the last two or three years.
The ease of Germany is especially notable. As recently as April 1893, it was decided that the German fleet should be raised to a strength of twenty battle-ships, eight coastdefence ships, twelve large and twenty-nine small cruisers. The expenditure for additional ships, and for new construction to replace those ceasing to be efficient, was to be rather more than twenty and a-half millions sterling, spread over a period finally fixed at six years. This great programme was, in a short time, declared to be insufficient. In the early part of 1900 a fresh and greatly extended one was laid before the Reichstag. The eight coast-defence vessels disappear in this new programme, and the German fleet is to be composed of thirty-four battle-ships—which absurd designation is replaced by 'Linienschiff' (ship of the line'), eight large and twenty-four small cruisers, and eighty torpedo craft. Building of additional ships and of substitutes for old will be completed by 1920, and perhaps even by 1917, financial provision being made for a series of years up to 1916 inclusive. The great increase of the feet will necessitate an extension of the dockyards, additional dry-dock accommodation, and various harbour improvements. To execute the ship-building programme will require the enormous sum of 64,000,0001. Allowing for a probable rise in cost of building and for armament, a sum of nearly five millions sterling will be required annually. What the increase of the German navy is really to be will, perhaps, appear more readily from a statement of the difference in the numbers of officers and men as they stood in 1900 and as they are to stand in 1920. The number for the former year is given as 22,578, whilst that for 1920 is to be 58,324. In other words, the German Navy is to be considerably more than doubled. It may be mentioned that the official estimate of the number of officers and men required to man the French fleet of 1901—'services à terre compris'-is 60,566. Thus in 1920 the German Navy will equal, perhaps will slightly gurpass, the sea-going French force of the current year.
It is illustrative of the difference between the political methods and national character of Germans and Englishmen that, whereas in England it was the nation that forced the Government to increase the fleet, in Germany it was the Government that induced the nation to consent to an increase. Both countries have Navy Leagues. The British
League is not regarded favourably by the authorities, whom it freely criticises and on whom it frequently brings pressure to bear. The German League, on the other hand, really owes its origin to official inspiration, and helps the Government to disseminate its views. It is not surprising, therefore, that we can discern a strong family likeness between the pronouncements of the German Navy League on naval policy and those which do not conceal their official character. The League journal · Ueberall’ recently contained the following comments on the determination of the English to retain the undisputed command of the sea':
This dominion of the sea affects all States that claim to be naval Powers. They must, therefore, strain every nerve to be in a position to deal with any possible encroachments, and for such an eventuality they prepare by increasing their feets.
This is an echo of the official view, which had been put thus: The German Empire requires peace on the sea. . For the German Empire of to-day the security of its 'economic developement, specially of its trade throughout
the world (Welthandel) is a vital question. For this object
the German Empire needs not only peace on land, but also 'peace on the sea-not, however, peace at any price, but
peace with honour, which takes account of its legitimate re•quirements. The official writer is fond of italics.
Says the German Navy League :
‘Years ago Treitshke wrote to Gustav Freytag: “The modern world will no longer tolerate that rotten state of affairs. . .. I still hope to see the downfall of English predominance on the sea, which obviously belongs to the last century.” The hopes of the celebrated savant were falsified. When such a break-down is to take place, or whether such an event will ever come about, remains uncertain. Our fleet will be for the preservation of peace; but should it ever be called upon to act in earnest, then it might be just as well to recall the fact that history abounds in instances where huge and powerful fleets were crushed by the smaller fleets of vigorous rising States—for example, the Persian feet was crushed by the Greek, and the Spanish by the English Navy.'
The official aspiration is not dissimilar, though more concisely stated. Under existing circumstances there is only one way of protecting Germany's maritime trade and colonies: Germany must have a fighting feet so strong that, even for the mightiest naval enemy, a war with her would endanger that enemy's own supremacy.'
It would be worse than absurd for us to feel annoyance at the clumsy cynicism of these open avowals of a desire to