WHAT are the considerations which properly enter into any just estimate of a people’s naval power ?
In the first place, this certainly is a vital question: Are the people themselves in any true sense naval in their tastes, habits, and training? Do they love the sea? Is it a home to them? Have they that fertility of resources and expedients which the emergencies of sealife make so essential, and which can come only from a long and fearless familiarity with old Ocean in all his aspects of beauty and all his aspects of terror? Or are they essentially landsmen, — landsmen just as much on the deck of a frigate as when marshalled on a battle-field ? This is a test question. For if a nation has not sailors, men who smack of the salt sea, then vain are proud fleets and strong armaments.
I am satisfied that the ordinary explanation of that naval superiority which England has generally maintained over France is the true explanation. Certainly never were there stouter ships than those which France sent forth to fight her battles at the Nile and Trafalgar. Never braver men trod the deck than there laid down their lives rather than abase their country’s flag. Yet they were beaten. The very nation which, on land, fighting against banded Europe, kept the balance for more than a generation at equipoise, on the water was beaten by the ships of one little isle of the sea. In the statement itself you have the explanation. The ships were from an isle of the sea. The men who manned them were born within sight of the ocean. In their childhood they sported with its waves. At twelve they were cabin-boys. At twenty, thorough seamen. Against the skill born of such an experience, of what avail was mere courage, however fiery ?
A similar train of remarks may with truth be made about our Northern and Southern States. No doubt, the Rebel Government may send to England and purchase swift steamers like the Alabama, and man them with the reckless outcasts of every nationality, and send them forth to prey like pirates upon defenceless commerce. No doubt, in their hate, the Rebels may build sea-monsters like the Merrimack, or the Arkansas, or those cotton-mailed steamers at Galveston, and make all stand aghast at some temporary disaster. These things are unpleasant, but they are unavoidable. Desperation has its own peculiar resources. But these things do not alter the law. The North is thoroughly maritime, and in the end must possess a solid and permanent supremacy on the sea. The men of Cape Cod, the fishermen of Cape Ann, and the hardy sailors who swarm from the hundred islands and bays of Maine, are not to be driven from their own element by the proud planters of the South. Naval habits and naval strength go hand in hand. And in estimating the resources of any power, the first question is, Has she sailors, — not men of the land, but men of the sea ?
There is a second question, equally important. What is a nation’s capacity for naval production ? What ship-yards has it ? What docks ? What machine-shops ? What stores of timber, iron, and hemp ? And what skilled workmen to make these resources available ? A nation is not strong simply because it has a hundred ships complete and armed floating on its waters. “ Iron and steel will bend and break,” runs the old nursery - tale. And practice shows that iron and steel wrought into ships have no better fortune, and that the stoutest barks will strand and founder, or else decay, and, amid the sharp exigencies of war, with wonderful rapidity. Not what a nation has, then, but how soon it can fill up these gaps of war, how great is its capacity to produce and reproduce, tells the story of its naval power.
When Louis Napoleon completed that triumph of skill and labor, the port of Cherbourg, England trembled more than if he had launched fifty frigates. And well she might. For what is Cherbourg ? Nothing less than an immense permanent addition to the French power of naval production. Here, protected from the sea by a breakwater miles in extent, and which might have been the work of the Titans, and girdled by almost impregnable fortifications, is more than a safe harbor for all the fleets of the world. For here are docks for the repairs I dare not say of how many vessels, and ship-houses for the construction of one knows not how many more, and work-shops and arsenals and stores of timber and iron wellnigh inexhaustible. This is to have more than a hundred slfips. This is to create productive capacity out of which may come many hundred ships, when they are wanted. The faith men have in the maritime greatness of England rests not simply on the fact that' she has afloat a few hundred frail ships, but rather on this more pregnant fact, that England, from Pentland Frith to Land’s End, is one gigantic work-shop, — and that, whether she turn her attention to the clothing of the world or the building of navies, there is no outmeasuring her mechanical activity. The world has called us a weak naval power. But the world has been mistaken. We are strong almost as the strongest, if not in fleets, then in the capacity to produce fleets. Three hundred armed vessels, extemporized in eighteen months, and maintaining what, considering the extent of coast to be watched, must be called a most efficient blockade, will stand as an impressive evidence that capacity to produce is one of the best of nautical gifts.
But passing from these questions, which relate to what may be called a nation’s innate character and capacity, we come to a third consideration, of perhaps even more immediate interest. One of the elements which help to make a nation’s power is certainly its available strength. An important question, then, is, not only, How many ships can a nation produce ? but, How many has it complete and ready for use ? In an emergency, what force could it send at a moment’s notice to the point of danger ? If we apply this consideration to European powers, we shall appreciate better how young we are, and how little of our latent strength has been organized into actual efficiency. In 1857 England had 300 steam ships-of-war, carrying some 7,000 guns, nearly as many more sailing ships, carrying 9,000 guns, an equal number of gun-boats and smaller craft, besides a respectable navy connected with her East Indian colonies: a grand sum-total of more than 900 vessels and not less than 20,000 guns. Here, then, is a fleet, built and ready for service, which is many times stronger than that which we have been able to gather after eighteen months of constant and strenuous effort.. And behind this array there is a community essentially mercantile, unsurpassed in mechanic skill and productiveness, and full of sailors of the best stamp. What tremendous elements of naval power are these ! One does not wonder that the remark often made is so nearly true, — that, if there is any trouble in the farthest port on the globe, in a few hours you will see a British bull-dog quietly steaming up the harbor, to ask what it is all about, and whether England can make anything out of the transaction.
There is another consideration which perhaps many would put foremost. Has the nation kept pace with the progress of science and mechanic arts ? Once her superior seamanship almost alone enabled England to keep the sea against all comers. But it is not quite So now. Naval warfare has undergone a complete revolution. The increasing weight of artillery, and the precision with which it ean be used, make it imperative that the means of defence should approximate at least in effectiveness to the means of offence. The question now is not, How many ships has England ? but, How many mail-clad ships ? how many that would be likely to resist a hundred-pound ball hurled from an Armstrong or Parrott gun ? And if it should turn out that in this race France had outrun England, and had twenty or thirty of these gladiators of the sea, most would begin to doubt whether the old dynasty could maintain its power. The interest and curiosity felt on this subject have almost created a new order of periodical literature. You open your “ Atlantic,” and the chances are ten to one that you skip over the stories and the dainty bits of poetry and criticism to see what Mr. Derby has to say about iron-clads. You receive your “ Harper ” and you feel aggrieved, if you do not find a picture of the Passaic, or of Timby’s revolving turret, or of something similar which will give you a little more light concerning these monsters which are threatening to turn the world upside down. Now all this intense curiosity shows how general and instinctive is the conviction of the importance of this new element in naval force.
The considerations to which we have alluded have already received a large share of the public attention. They have been examined and discussed from almost every possible point of view. Probably every one has some ideas, more or less correct, concerning them. But there is a consideration which is equally important, which has received very little attention in this country, which indeed seems to have been entirely overlooked. It is this : The degree to which naval efficiency is dependent upon a wise colonial system.
If the only work of a fleet were to defend one’s own harbors, then colonies, whatever might be their commercial importance, as an arm of naval strength, would be of but little value. If all the use England had for her navy were to defend London and Liverpool, she would do well to abandon many of her distant strongholds, which have been won at such cost, and which are kept with such care. If all our ships had to do were to keep the enemy out of Boston harbor and New York bay, it would not matter much, if every friendly port fifty miles from our own borders were closed against us. But the protection of our own ports is not by any means the chief work of fleets. The protection of commerce is as vital a duty. Commerce is the life-blood of a nation. Destroy that, and you destroy what makes and mans your fleets. Destroy that, and you destroy what supports the people and the government which is over the people. But if commerce is to be protected, war-ships must not hug timidly the shore. They must put boldly out to sea, and be wherever commerce is. They must range the stormy Atlantic. They must ply to and fro over that primitive home of commerce, the Mediterranean. Doubling the Cape, they must visit every part of the affluent East and of the broad Pacific. With restless energy they must plough every sea and explore every' water where the hope of honest gain may entice the busy merchantman.
See what new and trying conditions are imposed upon naval power. A ship, however stanch, has her points of positive weakness. She can carry' only a limited supply either of stores or of ammunition. She is liable, like everything else of human construction, to accidents of too serious a nature to be repaired on ship-board. If, now, from any reason, from disasters of storm or sea, or from deficient provisions, she is disabled, and no friendly port be near, — and in time of war no ports but our own are sure to be friendly, — then her efficiency is gone. And this difficulty increases almost in the ratio that modern science adds to her might. The old galley, which three thousand years ago, propelled by a hundred strong oarsmen, swept the waters of the Great Sea, was a poor thing indeed compared with a modern war-ship, in whose bosom beats a power as resistless as the elements. But its efficiency, such as it was, was not likely to be impaired. It had no furnace to feed, no machinery to. watch, only the rude wants of rude men to supply, and rough oars to replace. A sailing ship, dependent upon the uncertain breeze, liable to be driven from her course by storms or to be detained bycalms, gives no such impression of power as a steamship, mistress of her own movements, scorning the control of the elements, and keeping straight on to her destination in storm and calm alike. But in some respects the weak is strong. The ship is equal to most of the chances of a sea-experience. If the spar break, it can be replaced. If the storm rend the sails to ribbons, there are skilful hands which can find or make new ones. But the steamer has inexorable limitations. Break her machinery, and, if there be no friendly dock open to receive her, she is reduced at once to a sailing ship, and generally a poor one, too. Nor need you suppose accidents to cause this loss of efficiency. The mode of propulsion implies brevity of power. The galley depended upon the stalwart arms of its crew, and they were as likely to be strong to-morrow as to-day', and next month as to-morrow. The ship puts her trust in her white sails and in the free winds of heaven, which, however fickle they' may be, never absolutely fail. But the steamer mast carry in her own hold that upon which she feeds. You can reckon in weeks, yes, in days, the time when, unless her stock be renewed, her peculiar power will be lost.
What a tremendous limitation this is ! A passenger-boat, whose engines move with the utmost possible economy, having no cargo but the food of her inmates, will carry only coal enough for thirty-three or -four days’ consumption. This is the maximum. The majority cannot carry twenty-five days' supply. And when we add the armament and ammunition, and all that goes to make up a well-furnished ship, you cannot depend upon carrying twenty days’ supply. Put now, in time of war with a great maritime power, your ship where she would be most wanted, in the East Indies, and close against her the ports of the civilized world, and the sooner she takes out her propeller, and sends up her masts higher, and spreads her wings wider, the better for her. That is, under such circumstances, modern improvements would be worse than useless; a sailing ship would be the best possible ship. Or come nearer home. Here is the Alabama, swift as the wind, the dread of every loyal merchantman. How long would she remain a thing of terror, if she were shut out from all ports but her own, or if our ships were permitted to frequent British and French ports for her destruction, as she is permitted to frequent them for our destruction ? Or consider another case equally pertinent. We are told, and no doubt truly, that the loss of Norfolk, at the commencement of the war, was an incalculable injury to us. That is to say, the removal of our place of naval supply and repair only the few hundred miles which divide the Chesapeake from the. Hudson was an untold loss. Suppose it were removed as many thousand miles, what then ? One single fact, showing what, under the best of circumstances, is the difficulty and expense of modern warfare, is worth a thousand theories. In 185 7, then, it took two hundred thousand tons of coal to supply that part of the English fleet which was in the East, — two hundred thousand tons to be brought from somewhere in sailing ships. If ever a contest shall arise among great commercial powers, it will be seen that modern science has made new conditions, and that the first inexorable demand of modern warfare is coal depots, and docks and machine-shops, established in ports easy of access, and protected by natural and artificial strength, and scattered at easy distances all over the commercial world. In short, men will appreciate better than they do now, that the right arm of naval warfare is not mailclad steamers, but well-chosen colonies.
The sagacity of England was never more clearly shown than in the foresight with which she has provided against such an emergency. Let war come when it may, it will not find England in this respect unprepared. So thickly are her colonies scattered over the face of the earth, that her war-ships can go to every commercial centre on the globe without spreading so much as a foot of canvas to the breeze.
There is the Mediterranean Sea. A great centre of commerce. It was a great centre as long ago as when the Phoenician traversed it, and, passing through the Straits of Hercules, sped on his way to distant and then savage Britain. It was a great centre when Rome and Carthage wrestled in a death-grapple for its possession. But Fin gland is as much at home in the Mediterranean as if it were one of her own lakes. At Gibraltar, at its entrance, she has a magnificent hay, more than five miles in diameter, deep, safe from storms, protected from man’s assault by its more than adamantine rock. In the centre, at Malta, she has a harbor, land-locked, curiously indented, sleeping safely beneath the frowning guns of Valetta. But from Southampton to Gibraltar is for a steamship an easy six days’ sail; from Gibraltar to Malta not more than five days ; and from Malta to the extreme eastern coast of the sea and back again hardly ten days’ sail.
Take the grand highway of nations to India. England has her places of refreshment scattered all along it with almost as much regularity as depots on a railroad. From England to Gibraltar is six days’ sail; thence to Sierra Leone twelve days; to Ascension six days ; to St. Helena three days ; to Cape Colony eight days; to Mauritius not more ; to Ceylon about the same; and thence to Calcutta three or four days. Going farther east, a few days’ sail will bring you to Singapore, and a few more to Hong Kong, and then you are at the gates of Canton. Mark now that in this immense girdle of some twelve or fifteen thousand miles there is no distance which a wellappointed steamer may not easily accomplish with such store of coal as she can carry. She may not, indeed, stop at all these ports. It may be more convenient and economical to use sails a part of the distance, rather than steam. But, if an exigency required it, she could stop and find everywhere a safe harbor.
What is true of the East Indies is true of the West Indies. England has as much power as we have to control the waters of the Western Atlantic and of the Gulf of Mexico. If we have Boston and New York and Pensacola and New Orleans and Key West, she has Halifax and the Bermudas and Balize and Jamaica and Nassau and a score more of island-harbors stretching in an unbroken line from the Florida Reefs to the mouth of the Orinoco. And if our civil ivar were ended to-day, and we were in peaceable possession of all our ports, she could keep a strong fleet in the Gulf and along our coast quite as easily as we could.
But it is not simply the number of the British colonies, or the evenness with which they are distributed, that challenges our highest admiration. The positions which these colonies occupy, and their natural military strength, are quite as important facts. There is not a sea or a gulf in the world, which has any real commercial importance, that England has not a stronghold in the throat of it. And wherever the continents trending southward come to points around which the commerce of nations must sweep, there, upon every one of them, is a British settlement, and the cross of St. George salutes you as you are wafted by. There is hardly a little desolate, rocky island or peninsula, formed apparently by Nature for a fortress, and formed for nothing else, but the British lion has it secure beneath his paw.
This is literal fact. Take, for example, the great overland route from Europeto Asia. Despite its name, its real highway is on the waters of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It has three gates, — three alone. They are the narrow strait of Gibraltar, fifteen miles wide, that place where the Mediterranean narrows between Sicily and Africa to less than a hundred miles wide, and the strait of Bab-el-mandeb, seventeen miles wide. England holds the keys to every one of these gates. Count them,— Gibraltar, Malta, and at the mouth of the Red Sea, not one, but many keys. There, midway in the narrow strait, is the black, bare rock of Perim, sterile, precipitous, a perfect counterpart of Gibraltar; and on either side, between it and the main-land, are the ship-channels which connect the Red Sea with the great Indian Ocean. This England seized in 185 7. A little farther out is the peninsula of Aden, another Gibraltar, as rocky, as sterile, as precipitous, connected with the mainland by a narrow strait, and having at its base a populous little town, a harbor safe in all winds, and a central coaldepot. This England bought, after her fashion of buying, in 18.19. And to complete her security, we are now told that she has purchased of some petty Sultan the neighboring islands of Socotra and Kouri, giving, as it were, a retaining-fee, that, though she does not need them herself, no rival power shall ever possess them.
As we sail a little farther on, we come to the Chinese Sea. What a beaten track of commerce is this ! What wealth of comfort and luxury is wafted over it by every breeze ! The teas of China! The silks of farther India ! The spices of the East! What ships of every clime and nation swarm on its waters ! The stately barks of England, France, and Holland! Our own swift ships I And mingled with them, in picturesque confusion, the clumsy junk of the Chinaman, the Malay prahu and the slender, darting bangkong of the Sea Dyak ! Has England neglected to secure on a permanent basis her mercantile interests in the Chinese Sea ? At the lower end of that sea, where it narrows and bends into Malacca Strait, she holds Singapore, a little island, mostly covered with jungles and infested by tigers, which to this day destroy annually from two to three hundred lives, — a spot of no use to her whatever, except as a commercial depot, but of inestimable value for that, and which, under her fostering care, is growing up to take its place among the great emporiums of the world. Halfwav up this sea is the island of Labuan, whose chief worth is this, that beneath its surface and that of the neighboring mainland arc hidden inexhaustible treasures of coal, which are likely soon to be developed, and to yield wealth and power to the hand that, controls them. At the upper end of the sea is Hong Kong, a hot, unhealthy, and disagreeable island, but which gives her what she wants, a depot and a base from which to threaten and control the neighboring waters. Clearly the Chinese Sea, the artery of Oriental commerce, belongs far more to England than to the races which border it.
Even in the broad and as yet comparatively untracked Pacific she is making silent advances toward dominion. The continent of Australia, which she has monopolized, forms its southwestern boundary. And pushed out from this, six hundred miles eastward, like a strong outpost, is New Zealand; itself larger than Great Britain ; its shores so scooped and torn by the waves that it must be a very paradise of commodious bays and safe havens for the mariner; and lifted up, as if to relieve it from island tameness, arc great mountains and dumb volcanoes, worthy of a continent, and which hide in their bosoms deep, broad lakes. Yet the soil of the lowlands is of extraordinary fertility, and the climate, though humid, deals kindly with the Anglo-Saxon constitution. Nor is this all; for, advanced from it north and south, like picket-stations, are Norfolk isle and the Auckland group, which, if they have no other attractions, certainly have this great one, good harbors. And it requires no prophet’s eye to see, that, when England needs posts farther eastward, she will find them among the innumerable green coral islets which stud the Pacific.
Turn now your steps homeward, and pause a moment at the Bermudas, “ the still vexed Bermoothcs.” Beautiful isles, with their fresh verdure, green gems in the ocean, with airs soft and balmy as Eden’s were! They have their homely uses too. They furnish arrowroot for the sick, and ample supplies of vegetables earlier than sterner climates will grant. Is this all that can be said ? Reflect a little more deeply. Here is a military and naval depot, and here a splendid harbor, land-locked, amply fortified, difficult of access to strangers,—and all this as near to the whole Southern coast as Boston and New York are, all this within three or four days’ sail of any one of the Atlantic ports North or South. England keeps this, no doubt, as a sort of halfway house on the road to her West Indian possessions; but should we go to war with her, she would use it none the less as a base of offensive operations, where she might gather and hurl upon any unprotected port all her gigantic naval power.
We have asserted that England holds all the Southern points in which the continents of the world terminate. Examine this statement, and see how much it means. Take your map of the world, and you will find that the land-surface of the globe culminates at the south in five points, no more,—America at Cape Horn,1 Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, Asia in Ceylon and the Malayan peninsula, and Australia in the island of Tasmania. Is it not surprising that these wedges which cut into the steady flowing stream of commerce, these choice points of mercantile and naval advantage, are all in the hands of one single power ? Can it be of chance ? Or rather, is it not the result of a well-ordered purpose, which, waiting its time, seizing every favorable opportunity, has finally achieved success ?
The topic is not exhausted, but the facts already adduced prove clearly enough that somewhere in the English government there has been sagacity to plant colonies, not only at convenient distances, but also in such commanding positions that they do their part to confirm and perpetuate her maritime supremacy. Can any one fail to see how immeasurably this system increases naval force ? Of course such strongholds, wherever placed, would be of no use to a power which had not ships. They could not be held by such a power. But, given a fleet as powerful as ever rode the waves, given seamen gallant and skilful as ever furled a sail or guided the helm, and these depots and havens, scattered, but not blindly, over the earth, quadruple the efficiency of the power which they could not create.
The number of the English colonies, their happy distribution, and, above all, their commanding position, furnish subjects of exceeding interest. But the patience with which England has waited, the skill with which she has seized the proper moment for success, and especially the fixed determination with which she has held her prizes, are topics of equal or greater interest.
Tke history of the Bock of Gibraltar, one of the earliest of these prizes, supplies a good illustration. This had many owners before it came under British rule. But none of them seemed to know its true value. All held it with a loose grasp. Its surprise and capture by the sailors from Admiral Hooke’s fleet, creditable as it was to its captors, who swarmed up the steep cliffs as they would have swarmed up the shrouds and yards of their own frigates, leaping from rock to rock with fearless activity, was equally discreditable to its defenders, who either did not appreciate the worth of their charge or else had not the courage to hold it as such a trust should have been held. But when England closed her strong hand upon it, nothing could open it again, neither motives of profit nor motives of fear. In 1729 Spain offered no less than ten million dollars for its return. A great sum in those times, and to offer to a people who had been impoverished by long wars ! But the descendants of those sea-kings, Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, who had carried England’s flag and England’s renown into every sea, would not part with the brightest jewel in her crown, and for a price. Three times, too, the besieger has appeared before Gibraltar, and vainly. From 1779 to 1782 France and Spain exhausted all their resources in a three-years’ siege, which is one of the most remarkable episodes in military history. By sea and by land, by blockade, by bombardment, by assault, was it pressed. But the tenacity of England was more than a match for the fire and pride of France and Spain, and it ended in signal and disastrous failure.
Glance for a moment at the history of the seizure of Malta. For generations the value of this citadel had been known. All the strong nations of Europe had looked with covetous eyes upon it. But it was a difficult thing to find any pretext for its capture. It was held by the Knights of St. John, the decrepit remnant of an order whose heroism had many times been the shield of Christendom against the Turk, and whose praise had once filled the whole earth. They were now as inoffensive as they were incapable. Their helplessness was their true defence, —and the memory of their good deeds. At last, in 1798, Napoleon, on his way to Egypt, partly by force and partly by treaty, obtained possession of it. So strong were its fortresses, that he himself acknowledged that the knights needed only to have shut their gates against him to have baffled him. Two years after, the English, watching their time, by blockade, starved out the French garrison. Its new owners held it with their usual determination. Rather than surrender it, — though they had made treaty-stipulations to that effect, — they deliberately entered upon a ten-years’ war with France. The indignation which Napoleon felt, and the language which he used, show that he knew the value of the prize for which he was struggling. “ I would rather,” said he, “ see you in possession of Montmartre than in possession of Malta.” “ Malta gives the dominion of the Mediterranean ; I thus lose the most important sea in the world, and the respect of Europe. Let the English obtain a port to put into ; to that I have no objection ; but I am determined that they shall not have two Gibraltars in one sea, — one at the entrance, and one in the middle.” Nevertheless he was forced to yield to destiny stronger than his own iron will. Eleven years more found him in sad exile, and the British flag still waving over the Valetta.
Nothing better illustrates the firmness with which England holds her purpose than the fate of Aden. This is the halfway station between England and her East Indian possessions. It commands the Red Sea. It is the best spot for a coal - depot in the East. Properly defended, it is almost impregnable. The wide-roving eye of mercantile England had long ago searched out and in fancy possessed it. Hear what one of her own historians has said: — “Eager eyes had long been turned toward this spot.” To find an excuse, real or apparent, for its appropriation was the trouble. The Sultan of Lahidge, its owner, was indeed little better than a freebooter. But, though wild, lawless, and of piratical tendencies, he had for a long time the wisdom not to molest British traders. In 1839, however, whether from ignorance of its nationality, or from recklessness, is uncertain, he seized and pillaged a native Madras boat sailing under British colors. The East Indian government at once took advantage of the opportunity thus afforded. An ambassador was sent to demand remuneration, and this remuneration was — Aden. The Sultan was at first disposed to accede to this demand, but soon kindling into rage, be attempted to lay violent hands upon the ambassador. The reply was — a fleet and a military force, which first cannonaded and then stormed the stronghold at the point of the bayonet. So Aden passed into the hands which had been waiting for years to grasp it. It is said by some writers that a compensation has been made to the Sultan ; but the sum is not mentioned, nor the authority for so doubtful a statement given.
Hong Kong furnishes another illustration. Most, no doubt, are familiar with the general outlines of the first Chinese War: how England stormed, one after another, the ill - constructed and worsedefended Chinese forts, until the courage and insolence of the Lord of the Central Flowery Kingdom alike failed. Why, now, did not England retain militarypossession of Canton, or some other important commercial town ? That would have given her much trouble and little profit. She chose rather to retain only one sterile island of a few miles in diameter, whose possession would awaken nobody’s jealousy, but which would furnish a sufficient base for operations in anyfuture wars.
One more example. Until about the beginning of the present century, Ceylon and Cape Colony were Dutch possessions. This is the history of their loss. Soon after the French Revolution broke out, Holland, with the consent of a portion of her people, was incorporated, if not in name, yet in reality, into the French Empire. During the long wars of Napoleon, she shared the fortunes of her master, and when continual defeats broke the power of both on the sea, her colonies were left defenceless. Ceylon and Cape Colony fell into the hands of the English; but so, too, did Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Essequibo, Berbice, and, indeed, with but little exception, all her colonial possessions, East and West. At the peace of 1814, England restored to Holland the larger portion of this territory, though not without many remonstrances from her own merchants and statesmen. But Ceylon and Cape Colony she did not restore. These were more to her than rich islands. They were links in a grand chain of commercial connection. As Aden is the halfway station on the overland route, so Cape Colony is the half-way station on the ocean route ; and Ceylon, while it rounds out and completes the great peninsula of which it may be considered to be a part, furnishes in Point de Galle, at the south, a most needed port of refuge, and on the east, at Trincomalee, one of the finest of naval harbors, with dock-yards, machine-shops, and arsenal complete. Even England could be generous to a fallen foe, whose enmity had been quite as much a matter of necessity as inclination. But by no mistimed clemency could she sacrifice such solid advantages as these.
This steady march toward the control of the commercial waters of the earth, some of whose footsteps we have now traced, reveals the existence of as steady a purpose. This colonial empire, so wide, so consistent, and so well compacted, is not the work of dull men, or the result of a series of fortunate blunders. Back of its history, and creating its history, there must have been a clear, calm, persistent, ambitious policy,— a policy which has usually regarded appearances, but which has also managed to accomplish its cherished purposes. And the end towards which this policy' tends is always one and the same : to enlarge England’s commercial resources, and to build up side by side with this peaceful strength a naval power which shall keep untarnished her proudest title, — “ Mistress and sovereign of the seas.”
With justice England is called the mightiest naval power in the world. And well she may be. She has every element to make her mighty. The waves which beat upon all her coasts train up a race of seamen as hardy, as skilful, as courageous as ever sailed the sea. In her bosom are bidden inexhaustible stores of iron, copper, and coal. Her Highland hills are covered with forests of oak and larch, growing while men sleep. Her borders are crowded with workshops, and her skies are dark with the smoke of their chimneys, and the air rings with the sound of their hammers. Her docks are filled with ships, and her watchful guardians are on every sea. Her eyes are open to profit by every invention. And her strong colonies, overlooking all waters, give new vigor and a better distribution to her naval resources. A mighty naval power she is, and, for good or evil, a mighty naval power she is likely to continue. The great revolutions in warfare, which in our day are proceeding with such wonderful rapidity, may for a time disturb this supremacy ; but in the end, the genius of England, essentially maritime, and as clear and strong on the sea as it is apt to be weak and confused upon the land, will enable her to stand on her own element, as she has stood for centuries, with no superior, and with scarcely a rival.
- It is not absolutely true that England holds Cape Horn; for the region is unfit for the residence of civilized man. And were it not so, the perpetual storms leave no secure anchorage. But Great Britain does hold the nearest habitable land, the Falkland Islands,— and notwithstanding the rudeness of the climate, Stanley, the principal settlement, does a considerable business in refitting and repairing ships bound round the Cape.↩