Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ment with virulence and boldness, for the next nine years, no notice was taken, until in August 1891 the proprietor, editor, manager, printer and publisher of the Bangobasi (Calcutta newspaper) were prosecuted under Sections 124A and 500 of the Penal Code for sedition and defamation in certain articles in which statements were made against the Government, and attempts made to excite popular feeling and discontent and disaffection towards the Government among the people. The main object of the Government in instituting the prosecution was to ascertain and make known the exact state of the law. After a trial for several days before the Chief Justice, a majority of the jury, in the proportion of seven to two, were for conviction, but the Chief Justice declined to accept anything but a unanimous verdict; the jury were therefore discharged. The accused then expressed their contrition for having allowed the articles in question to appear, and threw themselves unreservedly on the Lieutenant Governor's mercy, promising never to repeat their offence. The Lieutenant Governor, with the concurrence of the Government of India, stopped further proceedings. In this case the meanings of the words disaffection’and disapprobation’ were much discussed, the Chief Justice laying it down that the meanings of the two portions of Section 124A were distinct, and that a man's 'disaffection' was totally different from 'disapprobation.' When Mr. Rand and Lieutenant Ayerst were murdered at Poona in June 1897, the Government ascribed the murders to inflammatory articles in the Vernacular Press (in connexion with antiplague measures). In 1897 Mr. Tilak was tried under Section 124A for attempting to excite feelings of disaffection to the British Government in certain articles in the Marathi paper, the Kesari, of which he was the editor and proprietor. The jury found him guilty by à majority of six to three. The judge accepted this verdict and sentenced the accused to eighteen months' rigorous imprisonment. In 1898 section 124A was amended and amplified.

The relations between Government and the Press have developed, as has been shown, since 1780 from a system of arbitrary, not to say despotic, treatment, through periods of Press censorship, restriction, liberty, temporary restraint, renewed freedom, a Vernacular Press Act for four years, legislation (twice) by amendments of the ordinary law against sedition, until in 1908, before Act VII. was enacted, the Press law was comprised, as will have appeared, in Act XXV. of 1867, in Sections 108A, 124A, 153A, and 505 of the Penal Code, and Sections 108 and 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, besides some provisions of the Customs and Post Office Acts. It has been officially explained that the new Act VII. of 1908 (incitements to offences) is directed, not against the liberty of the Press, nor against sedition, with which the existing criminal law would deal, but against a Press which incited men to murder, to armed revolt, and to secret diabolical schemes. It remains to be seen whether the combined effect of the previously

VOL. LXIV- No. 378

P

existing law and the new Act, all of which apply equally to the English and the Vernacular Presses, will suffice to control the utterances of the Press within reasonable limits, and to maintain peace and order, which is the ultimate object of all law. When other legislative attempts have failed it is difficult to be hopeful of complete success from the new law.

S. M. MITRA.

DREADNOUGHTS FOR SALE OR HIRE

The period of hesitation through which the Naval Powers of the world passed when the Dreadnought design was first revealed has given place to a period of nervousness, some manifestations of which approach the comic.

For instance, people have suddenly awakened to the fact that two large battleships are building at Elswick and Barrow respectively to the order of the Brazilian Government, and that a third is pro. jected and will be laid down at Elswick as soon as the first, the Minas Geraes, is in the water. Promptly, there arises something which approaches the indignity of a first-class naval scare. In the United States particularly, the New York Herald laments almost in the vein of the Psalmist that Brazil, their own familiar friend, hath laid great wait for the Yankees.

The simple fact of the matter is that when the model of the Minas Geraes appeared at the Franco-British Exhibition people at once began to ask, “What on earth can Brazil want with Dreadnoughts ?' And next, “How on earth can Brazil pay for Dreadnoughts ?' Thus the way was paved for a story of dark and dire complots of which the terrible little yellow man from the Far East was naturally made the hero. His relations with the guileless Yankee have recently been strained ; his fleet is to the American fleet but as four to five (in material that is, in war-worthiness it may be as Lombard Street to a China orange); therefore the perfidious one, without doubt, has conspired with the Government of Brazil to bring about a nefarious deal. So they argue in America.

Conjecture of this kind, is, of course, no evidence; and although the question, ‘What does Brazil want with Dreadnoughts ?' seemed unanswerable to the First Lord of the Admiralty, I do not think it necessarily is so. A modern fleet is not built in five or even ten years, and in ten years' time a certain European Power suspected of designs on the independence of South American States will be 80 strong at sea that it will be quite desirable (we will put it this way) for Brazil, the largest of the threatened communities, to be able to afford effective help in the maintenance of the Monroe doctrine to the United States. Again, when the Isthmus Canal is cut, Brazil

207

P 2

may quite possibly aspire to such aggrandisement at the expense of Columbia or Ecuador as would seat her on both oceans and give her the unquestioned hegemony of South America. Be it remembered that the Brazilian Navy League is strong and aggressive, and exercises real influence on public opinion. Brazilian naval officers are perfectly clear on the point that Brazil is in fact intending to build up a Navy for herself. One of them, a member of the Naval Commission, put it this way: 'This is not a new programme; the Government authorised it as long ago as 1904, and would have authorised it ten years earlier had money been available, and had not the Navy been imbued with anti-Republican sentiment. Since it was authorised, it has been further delayed by the coming of the Dreadnought. If we are to have a Navy at all—and there are plenty of good reasons why we should-it is wise to have the best of its size that can be built; so we are constructing Dreadnought battleships, swift cruisers, torpedoboat destroyers and submarines, exactly as every other Power which aspires to naval strength is doing. It is a fact that there is nothing to be called news in the information that these ships are being built to the order of Brazil. The officers of the Brazilian Naval Commission, which is superintending the building of the Minas Geraes, were very much to the fore when I was at Jarrow in the autumn of 1906 to witness the launch of the Lord Nelson. All the ordinary naval text-books, moreover, have included them, with details of greater or less inaccuracy, for the last two years. Nevertheless, the idea that the warships are intended for some Power other than Brazil is not so absurd as it may appear at first sight.

In the first place, it is apposite to remember that sales to some other Power of warships completed or completing by the South American State which gave the order are by no means uncommon. Taking ships still borne on the fighting strength of the world's navies only, we get the following list :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

It may be said with truth, in fact, that the ships South America has sold could wipe all the fleets South America possesses off the seas.

Since these things are so, it is not much to be wondered at that the intentions of Brazil are suspect, nor, seeing that of the seven ships named above Japan has bought five, while the other two were bought by Great Britain to prevent them passing into the hands of an enemy of Japan, is it marvellous that Japan should be pointed at

| To be struck off the effective list this year.

as the purchaser. Moreover, the ships have a remarkable likeness in general plan to those most newly designed for the Japanese Navy. In each class there are four turrets on the centre line, two raised 80 as to fire over the others ahead or astern respectively ; while there are also two amidships, placed, as in the Dreadnought, one on either beam. Now this arrangement, up to the present, is entirely and exclusively Japanese. In British ships, there is no intention of going beyond an armament of ten 12-inch guns, firing eight on either broadside, for technical reasons which it skills not to explain. The newest American design provides for ten 12-inch guns in five turrets, , all placed on the centre line, so that all the guns bear on either beam. The most striking resemblance to the Japanese design, however, is to be found in the mounting of the anti-torpedo armanent. The Brazilian ships are to carry twenty-two 4:7 inch guns, of which fourteen will be mounted in battery amidships, and the remaining eight in sponsoned casemates on the upper deck and on the superstructure. The Japanese ships will carry ten 6-inch guns, mounted in battery, and twelve 4:7 on the upper deck and superstructure. At the date of the design of these ships only the Japanese had begun to adopt large quick-firers mounted behind armour as the anti-torpedo armament.

For these and other reasons, I went to Elswick recently believing that the great battleships-equal, be it remembered, to the most powerful in the world until the British 'Super-Dreadnoughts' are built-were, in fact, to go to Japan under cover of the Brazilian order. By the time I left for Barrow-in-Furness, to interview the São Paulo, I was convinced that this view was mistaken. In the first place, there is no Japanese Naval Commission in either town; no Japanese naval officer even that I could hear of. It is true that numbers visit these great establishments, but I was informed that the Ordnance Works, rather than the shipbuilding yards, are most frequently the object of their visits. Now, I am very sure that, except under stress of circumstances, the Japanese would never consent to accept ships the material of which had only been tested by the easy-going methods of the Brazilians. When a contract for the Imperial Japanese Navy is placed, the watch kept by the naval officers of Japan is unsleeping. In the second place and this consideration is important-given time, Japan could build her warsbips to her own designs, in perfect secrecy—a secrecy to which Western nations vainly strive to attain--and at far less cost than that which a British firm would accept. The warships which she has bought at present she has bought in moments either of national anger or of national peril : the Idzumi (Esmeralda) on the conclusion of the Treaty of Shimonoseki ; the Iwate and Idzumo on the Russian occupation of Port Arthur; the Kasuga and Nisshin when the great struggle with Russia was seen to be inevitable. But these three Brazilian ships will not be ready to hoist the pendant until the

« AnteriorContinua »