Imatges de pÓgina

question as to whether or not the Government cannot do something to relieve the situation by (1) afforesting all still existing waste lands and also acquiring many of the lowest grade cultivated lands, which are the first to become affected by and the last to recover from the effects of drought, and (2) by endeavouring so to plant or sow them with any sort of trees, bushes, coarse grasses, or even desert plants as can possibly be made to grow there.

Thirty years ago the Secretary of State (despatch of the 10th of January 1878, par. 9) said: 'It is of still more essential importance to ascertain how far it is possible for Government, by its action, to diminish the severity of famines, or to place the people in a better condition for enduring them.' Never yet, however, has science been properly asked, except to a partial extent through Dr. Voelcker in 1892, to aid in ameliorating in such manner the lot of the patient agriculturist and of his dumb, helpless cattle. The Famine Commissions of 1898 and 1901 were enquiries by practical administrators, and only considered forests as the means of possibly providing edible roots and fruits, and grazing for cattle in time of scarcity. And the Indian Irrigation Commission of 1901-03 did not investigate the influence of forests on rainfall and water-storage. Nor is the Agricultural Department in a proper position to make the searching investigation and the authoritative recommendations that seem called for.

I would emphasise what Dr. Voelcker said in 1893 (op. cit. p. 159) :

It is very clear, from the instances I have given, that there is a good deal of land on which ‘fuel and fodder reserves' might be formed, and if only syste. matic enquiry be made it will result in showing . . . that there is very much more land available than has been stated. In almost every district (in the North-West Provinces) there are uncultivated spots among existing cultivation which would grow babul or similar wood perfectly well.

And, in addition to trees, bushes, and grasses indigenous to India, experiments should also be made with the flora of the drier tropical and sub-tropical parts of Africa, America, Australia. Here science can and should aid India, and it rests with Government to take the necessary steps to obtain such assistance. The results would, of course, not be of immediate benefit; but the necessities of future generations call for, the immediate commencement of experiments to try and ameliorate even to a small extent the existing precarious conditions.

Far be it from my intention to say anything that may be taken to imply that little or nothing has been done in the directions indicated by Dr. Voelcker (see p. 155); but I do urge that nothing adequate has yet been done, and that much has been left undone which might well find even its financial justification in the splendid and everincreasing annual revenue accruing from the work of the Indian Forest Department. Even now there are great possibilities of doing much good in this direction. The uncultivated areas are still in many

parts very extensive, and these waste lands receive little or no attention from Government. And although the Forest Department was considerably strengthened in 1907, yet it is still undermanned considering all the extra work it ought to be called upon to do in the interests of Indian agriculture, and of the patient, uncomplaining millions engaged in the toilsome and exceedingly precarious cultivation of the soil throughout by far the greater portion of our Indian Empire.

Even in Burma, the best wooded and one of the best watered of all the provinces, with its 75 per cent. of woodlands and its thin population, the results of disturbance of the water-supply have already been recently felt so strongly as to have necessitated active measures being taken to restrict and regulate hill clearances. And if that be the case there, then it is certain that the other parts of India need measures going very much further.

No Secretary of State for India could be more sympathetic than Lord Morley or more willing to consider informal representations made regarding matters concerning the welfare of Indian agriculture. After his famous first budget speech on the 20th of July 1906, in which he highly eulogised the work of the Forest Department, his attention was drawn to the fact that no proper reply had ever been given to the despatch of 1847, and that possibly such an enquiry as would now be necessary to probe this economic sore to the bottom may probably show that the afforestation and improvement of waste tracts for the partial amelioration of agricultural conditions in future might well be considered a fit object towards which to devote a fair share of the splendid surplus annually accruing to the provinicial and imperial treasures from the forests of India. Preliminary action has already been taken in so far that a circular has been issued by the Government of India calling upon the Provincial Governments to enquire

report upon the influence of woodlands and scrub-covered jungles on climate, soil-moisture, water-storage, and agriculture. And simultaneously therewith, in Notes on the Influence of Forests on the Storage and Regulation of the Water Supply (Forest Bulletin No. 9, August 1906), Mr. Eardley Wilmot, Inspector-General of Forests, has touched on this matter as regards some of the drier parts of India. But he could not possibly deal fully with the subject, and what is needed is a thorough scientific enquiry.

When these reports are published they will form the first full and com plete official answer to the question asked by the Court of Directors in 1847. But they will then only be merely a preliminary enquiry ; for it is not to administrative and executive officers, but to scientific specialists that Government must look for that particular kind of aid that Indian agriculture has long stood so much in need of.



VOL. LXIV-No. 377



THE man in the street, the man in his club, and the lady in her boudoir are asking what it is all about.

They want to know what is the meaning of all these leagues and associations which are being formed and supported by men of various shades of political opinion and in various walks of life; all purporting to have for their object the awakening of the country to a sense of its insecurity; and all prescribing their own special schemes for national defence; without which we are told that we are now—as a nation-dangerously insecure, and liable to some great national catastrophe which may costus untold miseries and humiliations, with the probable loss of our freedom and independence.

What does it all mean?

Are these men who support these leagues and associations all cranks and nervous alarmists ?

Or are they vulgar practical jokers, trying to get a rise out of their fellow-country-men and women (for the women have just as much interest in this matter as the men)? Or, finally, are they for the most part level-headed Englishmen, who, having given some thought to the course of the history which we are now 'making,' have reluctantly come to the conclusion that our ancient weapons of defence have become rusty and obsolete, and that it behoves us to adopt new ones, and that speedily, while the day of grace is still ours ?

We have the 'Navy League, in fact we have two navy leagues : the original one, and the revolted branch, which has assumed the title of the 'Imperial Maritime League.' Both of them working towards the same goal, though by different methods. Both of them strenuously urging their fellow-countrymen to maintain at all costs an indisputable naval supremacy over all our rivals, either singly or in any probable combination against us.

Then we have the National Defence Association,' containing, amongst others, such distinguished names on its committee as those of Lord Roberts, the Duke of Bedford, Sir Vincent Caillard, Lord Castlereagh, M.P., the Earl of Dundonald, the Earl of Erroll, the Right Honourable Walter Long, M.P., and many others.

This Association holds periodical meetings, and discusses such important national subjects as “The blue-water school,' ' The problem of invasion,'' The citizen's duty in defence,' • The state of the Navy,' The defence of India,' The county associations and their work,' &c., &c.

Then we have the National Service League,' headed by our veteran soldier Lord Roberts.

This association, which bears on its roll fifty-two admirals besides a very large number of generals and colonels, shows thereby that even professional seamen who have spent all the best years of their lives in the Royal Navy and might be expected to belong entirely to the blue-water school,' are yet so firmly convinced that the country cannot be defended by the Navy alone that they spend their time, their energies, and their money in striving to awaken their countrymen to the danger they incur by entrusting—as they do now—the defence of the British Empire entirely to the Navy, without an adequate Army to back it up.

It is probably known to most of our readers that the National Service League was formed a few years ago for the purpose of advocating the compulsory military training of all able-bodied young men in these islands, for the purpose of home defence. The general idea being that it would be very good for the young men themselves (irrespective of the feeling of security which it would produce in the country) if every British youth of sound physique and ordinary brainpower were put through a short course of military training and rifle shooting, as the logical complement of compulsory education in book-learning.' That it would be at least as good for the wealthy and so-called “idle' classes of the community as for the industrial and working classes. That, in short, it having already been proved in free and democratic Switzerland that universal military training for home defence is highly beneficial, both to the individual and to the country, there is no reason to suppose that it will not be equally beneficial in free and democratic England. And, further, that so far from universal military training being likely to produce a spirit of aggression and jingoism, exactly the opposite sentiments will probably be developed ; and when every family knows it may have to put one or more of its members into the fighting line, that knowledge will have a sobering effect upon the nation and prevent further exhibitions of that music-hall patriotism which has on more than one occasion detracted seriously from our reputation for dignified self-control and British coolness, showing us to our neighbours more in the guise of some of those Southern races whose demonstrative excitability we have always affected to despise.

The case was admirably put by Lord Roberts when he said :

I wish I could make it clear to my fellow-countrymen that the universal obligation to share in the national defence is the surest guarantee against a spirit of wanton aggression and that kind of irresponsible jingoism which shouts for war on the slightest provocation, the shouter knowing full well that he will not have to risk his own skin.

Those who are opposed to anything in the shape of compulsion for military training ask those who advocate it to show the necessity for it at this particular juncture in our national life. The request, at first sight, sounds reasonable, as it is not usual to make fundamental changes in long-established institutions without good cause shown for doing so. Yet in the present case it is not possible, and never will be possible, to show the ' necessity' for the change advocated until after some terrible national catastrophe has happened ; and then, of course, it will be too late. But it is submitted that even if we 'muddle through our next war with our present antiquated system of patriotism by proxy, it will not prove that we could not have done better and cheaper had the manhood of the nation been trained to arms; nor will it prove either that such universal training is not a

necessity' for the safety and independence of the country in the near future.

But although it may not be possible to demonstrate the necessity' beforehand in the same way that we prove a proposition in Euclid, it is surely reasonable and wise to deal with such an important subject as national security in accordance with the probabilities arising out of the international situation which we have to deal with.

Men insure their houses and their goods not only against what might be called the probabilities' of fire, but against the possibility of loss by such a catastrophe as the burning down of their houses or stores. Is not such a precaution equally incumbent upon a very rich and much-envied nation, or, rather, world-wide Empire ?

* True,' say our critics ; ' but we are insured : our all-powerful Navy is our insurance, and if that should suffer defeat, all the home armies of millions of trained men that we could possibly muster would not save the country, as we could be starved into submission in a few months; for our food supplies would be cut off directly our Navy was defeated.'

* True also,' replies the National Service League ; 'but your Empire can be destroyed without the defeat of the British Navy; and if during some future great European war you tie your Navy to the shores of these islands, and never allow the bulk of your battle squadrons to be more than forty-eight hours' sail from the North Sea (as certainly will be the case under approaching conditions), you will lose your Empire.

It is confidently submitted to the mature judgment of the readers of this Review that it is the duty of the manhood of the nation to be

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »