Imatges de pÓgina

warlike nation) 'what an unspeakable blessing it would be for our country!'

The disciples of Confucius may still have to recognise, and act upon, that most profound and fundamental truth of history—that the warlike races inherit the earth.

The present position of Great Britain may be briefly summed up as follows: She has not had to fight for her life for more than a century (1805). The safety of these islands having been assured since that date by the maintenance of an all-powerful Navy, the warlike qualities of the British race—those qualities which made of us a Great Power and founded the Empire—have steadily deteriorated. A fair warning of this deterioration has been given to us by the disclosure of our military impotence during the Crimean and Boer wars. It is true that our small professional Army maintained its reputation for discipline, devotion to duty, and individual acts of personal valour, of which any army might well be proud; but the military impotence of the nation

as a nation-stood revealed to all the world. the conclusion of both those wars the martial power of Britain stood at a far lower level amongst the nations than it did at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars.

Riches, ease, inordinate luxury, and devotion to amusement and trivial gossip in one class ; the race to be rich, the absorbing devotion to commercialism and money-making in another class ; the jealousy, the discontent, the unrest and the struggle to secure for themselves, by fair means or foul, a larger share of the wealth produced by the combination of capital and labour in a third class ; and the misery, hopelessness, and consequent recklessness and despair of yet a fourth class of our population, have effectually undermined, if not destroyed, those warlike and heroic qualities of the Anglo-Saxon race which brought us into power, prosperity, and opulence.

This dauntless and heroic spirit—the foundation of all great nations, including America-appears to have passed on, for the present, to Germany and Japan; and our Teuton relations have calmly and confidently told us that it is now their turn, and that, in accordance with that indisputable law of the survival of the fittest, they intend to take our place in the world as the leading commercial and maritime Power of Europe. And Japan is obviously preparing herself on the same foundation—the foundation of military and naval power—to assume the commercial and maritime hegemony of Asia.

And what are we doing by way of preparation for holding our own in the world?

Well, we have just reduced our very small regular Army by 21,700 men. We have put our irregular Army (Militia and Volunteers) into the melting-pot, and it is not quite certain what will come out of it;

'It has been truly said that we fought for our lives at Trafalgar, and for the establishment of the peace of Europe at Waterloo. Napoleon gave up all idea of the invasion of England after the defeat of the combined fleets at Trafalgar.

though there are already rumours that large numbers of Volunteers are resigning, as they naturally decline to give more of their time and trouble towards acquiring increased military efficiency (as they are now being asked to do by Mr. Haldane) whilst they see ninetenths of their able-bodied comrades skulking and flatly refusing to do anything at all.

With regard to our Navy, we have virtually given up the twoPower standard, and the annual output of battleships which was quite recently announced by the Board of Admiralty as the irreducible minimum consistent with safety' has been reduced to less than half ; and yet the naval members of the Board have not resigned their offices. Party and place before consistency and national safety.

On the 2nd of March a motion was brought forward in the House of Commons for a still further reduction in our armaments, and, notwithstanding that it was rejected by a large majority, the speeches of Ministers were obviously in sympathy with it. Mr. Asquith told the House and the country that 'We on our side had no reason to view with suspicion or apprehension any naval expansion there [in Germany) or elsewhere, which should simply correspond to the economic needs of the country,' &c., &c.

But the so-called 'economic needs of the country' consist of a sustained national effort to take their place in the world as a leading maritime commercial Power; about which no secret is being made, but preliminary to which the astute Germans are perfectly well aware that it will be necessary for them to build a navy of such strength that, concentrated in the North Sea, as it will be, and supported by a numerous and well-equipped torpedo flotilla, it will be able to wait and watch for an opportunity of taking England at a disadvantage and of striking a swift and deadly blow at the heart of the Empire. This opportunity will, in all human probability, arrive long before the German Navy has acquired equality, or anything approaching to equality, with our Navy, as we have to watch and guard many seas beside the North Sea. In the meantime the Germans are rapidly gaining on us, and their ultimate object has become so obvious to all the world that some of their public men have begun to express alarm lest we should strike before they are ready; but there is not the slightest danger of this. We shall wait until they are quite ready and allow them to choose their own time.

In the same speech above alluded to the present Prime Minister told the country that We must safeguard it, not against imaginary dangers, not against bogeys and spectres and ghosts, but we must safeguard it against all contingencies which can reasonably enter into the calculations of statesmen.'

The proposition is indisputable, so far as the wording of it goes. No sane man wishes to guard against anything beyond reasonable contingencies; but a strong difference of opinion at once arises as to what are and are not reasonable contingencies'; and it would

[ocr errors]

certainly help to clear the air if Mr. Asquith were to explain what he means by bogeys, spectres, and ghosts. Invasion is constantly alluded to as a bogey, and in fact that school of optimistic thought to which Mr. Asquith belongs rarely, if ever, alludes to it otherwise. It will not be unfair, then, to assume that invasion is one of the numerous bogeys or ghosts which it is not necessary for us to guard against.

The national dangers to which a country may at any time be liable are always very largely a matter of opinion ; and the value of opinions must be assessed in accordance with the position, the knowledge, the experience, and the authority of those giving them.

The great Napoleon did not think the invasion of England impracticable at a time when the British Navy held a far greater superiority over that of France than it is likely to do over that of Germany in ten years' time.

The German General Staff of to-day do not think the invasion of England impracticable, as they have all the plans and the details made out for carrying it into effect, and they are kept well informed and up to date by an admirable system of spies in the shape of German soldiers now serving as waiters (as the Japanese did as barbers at Port Arthur) in all our principal hotels and restaurants.

Many of our leading soldiers, including Lord Roberts, do not look upon the invasion of England in the near future as either a bogey, a spectre, or a ghost; and they ought to know nearly as much about the subject as Mr. Asquith. One of Lord Roberts' latest public statements is as follows :

I am sure the most important point to bring before the public is the possibility of an invasion. Until they clearly understand that this may some day happen, nothing will induce them to listen to our appeals for a national army. I found this on every occasion I have spoken, and unfortunately none of our leaders nor the Press ever do anything to arouse the people to a sense of our danger from not having a sufficient and efficient land force.

Is Lord Roberts, V.C., with his glorious records of service to his country, to be regarded as a nervous alarmist, easily scared and frightened by bogeys, spectres, and ghosts?

Finally, the fact that fifty-two of our most thoughtful admirals have become members of the National Service League would appear to indicate that even the Navy itself does not believe the country can be defended by the Navy alone.

The “unrest of insecurity' will continue, and in all probability rapidly increase under approaching conditions, until England not only expects' but 'insists' that every man shall do his duty.



The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake

to return unaccepted MSS.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

As the country generally seems to be not in the least alive to the present unsatisfactory state of the Defence of our Home, I gladly avail myself of the opportunity afforded me of putting forward in this Review one aspect of the condition of that Defence as it appears to me to-day. That aspect is its precariousness. And in so doing I may at once warn sailors and soldiers that it is not they that I hope may give a few minutes to the perusal of what I am writing, for they know already quite as much, and perhaps more about the subject than I myself do. It is the civilian educated Englishman-aye, and what I may call the civilian educated Englishwoman—that I hope will give me a hearing. And I purposely include the latter, for all history tells us of the vast influence which womankind can exert even on great matters of state ; of the power womankind can bring to bear when the defence of hearths and homes comes before them, no longer as a theory, but as an actuality. The other day, in a somewhat southern county, a highly educated lady, the wife of a landowner, whilst speaking of Mr. Haldane's scheme, put to me the question ‘And what if our County Association

VOL. LXIV- No 378


does not really interest itself in the matter?' The reply seemed to me obvious, and I gave it at once : 'That is your look-out; you will suffer hereafter.' And possibly, afterwards, her husband may have discounted my views, though in this particular case I doubt that he did so, by pointing out to her that those views came from a soldier, or, rather, an ex-soldier, and that all men of that kind are alarmists. Both Viscount Wolseley, when giving evidence about the Channel Tunnel, and Earl Roberts, only very recently in the House of Lords, emphatically admitted that, with the country generally, the opinion of a soldier on military matters goes for little, simply from the fact that he is a soldier. It is not so with other professions. If a man, credited with knowledge of what he is talking about, calls public attention to the dangers to health and life arising from some insanitary or other conditions, or even from the hitherto unsuspected presence of a new microbe in an article of food, his warnings are accepted as having some foundation, at all events. And why? Because it is to self-interest of a personal and individual character that the warnings appeal, and it is the instinct of personal and individual self-preservation that insures their not being treated with utter indifference.

But, as has been pointed out over and over again, this personal self-interest is, in the earlier stages of civilisation, subordinate to, and merged in national self-interest, whilst in later stages, although the calls of national self-interest are still recognised as the first demands on national life, the recognition becomes somewhat nominal, the demands are apt to be ignored, and personal self-interest becomes the real and predominant factor in national life. I have admitted the fact of the recognition of the calls; it was shown in this neighbourhood and elsewhere by outdoor fétes and rejoicings on what is called 'Empire Day’; but in what way? By treating some hundreds of children to tea, gingerbeer, buns, and cakes. What practical effort was being made or shown by the manhood of the district to rise to Imperial calls, or what self-sacrifices it would make to meet those calls, would be difficult to discover. National self-preservation no longer really comes home to the individuals of this nation as a personal matter for each ; but it needs to be brought home, and I am trying here to bring it home.

And now, putting on one side the larger questions of defence of the Imperial kind, about which there is doubtless much legitimate difference of opinion, I will turn to that of Home Defence. At present there are, and for some years there will be, only two nations that could venture on the attempt of an attack on our Home; they are France and Germany. And the reasons are, firstly, that they, and they alone, are sufficiently near at hand; secondly, that they, and they alone, have always ready, at the briefest notice, the mass of troops sufficient for the land operations involved in the attempt. At present we are quite safe from the catastrophe; but how long that security may last, whether for years, or for months, or even only for weeks, no one can

« AnteriorContinua »