The French Struggle for Naval and Colonial Power

IN comparison with our national misfortunes all beside seems trifling. Else nothing would so fasten our attention as the French invasion and conquest of Mexico. A dependency of France established at our door ! The most restless, ambitious, and warlike nation in Europe our neighbor ! Who shall tell what results, momentous and lasting, may follow in the train of such events ?

What is the explanation of this conquest ? Is it the freak of an ambitious despot ? Or is it only a stroke in the line of a settled policy ? one fact, which we see, amid a great number of facts which we do not see ?

This particular enterprise comes close to us. It affronts our pride and tramples upon our political traditions. It establishes, what we did not wish to see on this Western Continent, another foreign jurisdiction. But for more than twenty-five years France has been engaged in a series of like enterprises. In places not so near to us, by the same arbitrary methods, she has already achieved conquests as important. With soft-footed ambition, she has planted her flag and reared her strongholds on spots full of natural advantages. But the aim is the same everywhere : the reestablishment of her lost colonial and naval power. And the hope of France is, that in the race for mercantile and naval greatness she may yet challenge and vanquish the Sovereign of the Seas.

The peace of 1815 left France with her naval and colonial power broken apparently beyond hope. Even in the thirteen years preceding that peace England had taken or destroyed not less than six hundred of her war-ships. In the Mediterranean, on the Atlantic, amid the islands of the West Indies, in the far-off golden East, wherever contending, fleet against fleet, or ship with ship, everywhere she had been vanquished and driven from the sea. That boundless colonial empire, of which Dupleix in the East dreamed, and for whose establishment in the West Montcalm fought and died, had shrunk to a few fishing-ports off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a few sugar-islands in the West Indies, and some unarmed factories dotting the coasts of Africa and the shores of Hindostan, and existing by British grace and permission. To so low an estate had fallen that towering ambition which thought to exercise uncontrolled dominion over this continent, to rule with more than regal sway the rich islands and peninsulas of Asia, and to dictate peace to fallen England from the guns of her armadas. After five wars waged with no craven spirit in less than three-quarters of a century, after she had exhausted every resource and more than once banded against her island foe every naval power in Europe, she was forced to succumb to British perseverance and to the gallantry of British sailors. The peace, which came not a moment too soon, found her with a navy literally annihilated, and with little remaining of her colonial empire but the memory. When we compare this hopeless failure with the mercantile activity and naval force of Modern France,—when we call up, in imagination, her new colonies, the germs almost of empires, — we cannot admire too much the courage and energy which have called into existence such magnificent resources. To what are we to attribute this stupendous change ? What have been the methods of this growth ? By what steps has this grand progress from weakness to strength been achieved ?

In such a work of restoration, France had everything to create, — ships, armaments, machinery, and sailors even, to replace those who had fallen in the front of battle. To produce capacity of production was her first work,—to establish new ports or replenish old ones, to build docks, to rear workshops, to gather materials. This is what she has been doing. Silently and steadily she has been laying the foundations of maritime greatness. Her ports, in everything which contributes to naval efficiency, — in size, in mechanical appliances, in concentration upon one spot of all the trades and all the resources necessary for the construction and repair of war-ships,—excel all other naval depots in the world.

This is no exaggeration. There is the port of Cherbourg. Originally it was little more than an open bay, hollowed by the waters of the English Channel in the French coast, with a rocky shore exposed to every northern blast. But it was situated just where France needed a harbor, midway on her northern coast, facing England. Across this open bay, as a chord subtends its arc, a gigantic sea-wall has been stretched. Built in deep water more than a mile from the head of the bay, it extends almost from shore to shore. It is nearly three miles long. It is scarcely less than nine hundred feet wide at its base. Rising from the bed of the sea sixty-six feet, it is firm enough to bear up fortresses strong as human engineering can rear. This is the famous digue of Cherbourg. Its construction has been a seventy years’ battle with the elements. Many times the waves have destroyed the work of years. Once a furious tempest, swept away the whole superstructure, with its forts, armaments, barracks, and even garrison. But failure has only awakened fresh energy, and it stands now complete and rooted in the sea like a reef. At each end of the digue, between it and the main land, are broad ship-channels, affording a free passage at all tides to the largest ships. Thus science has called into existence a safe harbor, protected from the assaults of the sea by its granite barrier, — protected none the less from man’s assaults by the concentric, fire of more than six hundred guns.

This is but the exterior of Cherbourg. In the bosom of the rocky cliffs of its western shore three basins or docks have been hewn with gigantic toil. The first, finished in 1813, is 950 feet long, 768 feet wide, and 55 feet deep, and will hold securely fifteen ships of the line. The second, of somewhat smaller dimensions, was completed in 1829, and will float a dozen ships. The third, far larger than either, was opened with great ceremony in 1858: it is 1365 feet long, 650 feet wide, and 60 feet deep, and will contain eighteen or twenty ships of the largest size. On the sides of these basins are twelve building-slips and seven docks. And radiating from them, and in close contiguity, are arsenals, storehouses, timber-yards, rope walks, sail-lofts, bakeries, and machine-shops capable of turning out marine engines, anchors, cables, and indeed every piece of iron-work which enters into the construction of a ship. It is no vain boast that an army of a hundred thousand men can be embarked any fine morning at Cherbourg, and that the fleet necessary for its transport can be built and armed and equipped and protected to the hour of its departure in this fortified haven.

Yet Cherbourg is but one of five ports equally efficient, equally protected, and equally furnished with the products of mechanic and nautical invention. Brest, L’Orient, and Rochefort, on the west, have far greater natural and scarcely less acquired advantages ; while the old port of Toulon on the Mediterranean, old only in name, has been so enlarged and strengthened, that it can supply for the southern waters all and more than Cherbourg does for the northern. One fact will show to what an extent this power of naval production has been carried. In these five ports are some eighty building-slips or houses, and twenty-five docks, and, connected with them, all the materials, all the trades, all the laborsaving machines, all the mechanical forces, which the nineteenth century knows. If she wished, France could build at the same time forty ships of the line aud forty frigates, while twenty-five more were undergoing repairs. The result of all this activity is, that, in extent, in completeness, in concentration of forces upon the right spot, the naval ports and dockyards of France are absolutely unequalled. And the work goes on. To-day twenty-two thousand men are employed upon naval works. Within six months a wet dock has been completed at Toulon, and another at L’Orient, while at Brest great ranges of workshops are hastening to completion ; and it is whispered that at Cherbourg another basin is, like its predecessors, to be chiselled out of the solid rock.

Do we ask now what France has gained, in fleets and armaments, from this immense work of preparation ? Everything. Not to dwell upon sailing-ships, which the progress of invention has made of inferior worth, she has a steam-navy second to that of no power in Europe. Her present ruler has fully appreciated the importance of that new element in naval warfare, steam, — an element all the more important to France, that it tends to lower the value of mere seamanship, in which she has always been deficient, and to increase Ihe value of scientific knowledge and training, in which she has ever been with the foremost. For ten years her energy has been tasked to produce steamships of the greatest power and of the finest models. Since 1852 her ships of the line have increased from two to forty, and her frigates from twenty-one to forty-six. A fleet has thus been created which is numerically equal to that of England, and which, so far as these things depend upon the stanchness of the ships and the weight of the armaments, is perhaps in force and efficiency superior.

If we turn our attention to iron-clad ships, we shall see best displayed the sagacity, energy, and secretiveness of Louis Napoleon. In the Crimean War, three floating batteries covered with iron slabs, and each mounting eighteen fifty-pounders, silenced the Russian fort at Kinburn. This was a lesson it would seem that any one might learn. Louis Napoleon did not fail to learn it. If a ship can be made invulnerable, or nearly so, in every part, then of what avail is that strategy which secures choice of position, and which, of old, almost decided the battle ? Will not he come off victor who can produce guns from which the heaviest shot may be hurled at the highest velocity, and gunners who shall launch them on their errand of destruction with the greatest accuracy ? The French emperor has fairly overreached his island rivals. While they were experimenting, he laid the keels of two iron-clads of six thousand tons burden. In 1859 he ordered the construction of twenty steel-clad frigates and fifty gunboats. Lord Clarence Paget declared in debate last March, that, while England had, finished or constructing, only sixteen iron-clad frigates, France had thirty-one. And even this takes no account of floating-batteries and gunboats, wholly or in part protected, and of which, if we are to trust her papers, France has an almost fabulous number.

But who shall man this fleet ? Where are the skilful mariners to make eflieient these tremendous elements of naval power ? It was Lord Nelson, I think, who exclaimed, when he saw the stanch ships of Spain, “ Thank God, Spaniards cannot build men ! ” The recent changes in naval construction, decreasing perhaps the relative worth of mere seamanship, may have made the exclamation less pertinent than of old. But, after all, on the rude and stormy ocean, proverbially fickle and uncertain, nothing can take the place of sailors, — of brave and skilful men, trained by long struggle with wind and wave, calm in danger, apt in emergencies, finding the narrow path of safety where common eyes see only peril and ruin. France understands this. She knows how many of her past humiliations can be traced directly to defective seamanship. But where to seek the remedy ? How to find or make sailors fit to contend with those who were almost born and bred on the restless surge ? By what methods, with a slender commercial marine and a people reluctant to encounter the hardships and dangers of sea-life, to fill up the scanty roll of her able seamen ? That is the problem France had to solve; and she has done everything to solve it, —but remove impossibilities.

The first counsel of wisdom was to make the number of her sailors greater. France has, at the most liberal estimate, only one hundred and fifty thousand men at all conversant with the sea; while England has, including boatmen, fishermen, coasters, and sailors of long voyages, the enormous number of eight hundred thousand. Remove this disproportion and you settle the whole question. Unfortunately, this is a matter in which government can do but little, while national tastes and habits do everything. No despotism can make a commercial marine where no commercial spirit is. And no voice, charm it ever so wisely, can draw the peasant of France from his vine-clad hills and plains. The French rulers have done what they could. They have fostered, with a steady and liberal hand, the fisheries. Every spring, twenty thousand men have set sail to that best nursery of seamanship, — the Banks of Newfoundland. These men are paid a bounty by Government, and, in return, are subjected to a naval discipline, and, upon an emergency, are liable at a moment's notice to enter into the naval service. To quicken mercantile enterprise, by which alone mariners can be called into existence, enormous subsidies have been paid to the great lines of steamers to Brazil and the East. And the yearning for colonies, which in our day has led to almost simultaneous attempts to found settlements in both hemispheres and in all waters, has no doubt for a leading cause the desire to build up a mercantile marine, and with it a numerous body of expert seamen. It these efforts have not accomplished all that their projectors could wish, it is not because their plans lacked sagacity, but because it is hard to put the genius of the sea into the breasts of men who are essentially landsmen.

To increase the number of French sailors would unquestionably be the best possible method of adding to French naval power. But suppose that this cannot be done. Suppose that there is in the heart of the French people an invincible attachment to the soil, which makes them deaf to every siren of the sea. What is the next counsel of wisdom ? This, is it not ? To make what sailors you have efficient and available for naval emergencies. In this respect the French authorities have achieved an entire success. Every sailor, nay, every man whose employment savors at all of maritime life, though he be only a boatman plying the river, or a laborer in harbor or dock, is enrolled in what is called the marine inscription, — thenceforward in all times of need to be called into active service. This puts the whole seafaring population at the disposal of Government. Nor is this all. Regular drafts are made upon the seamen ; and it is computed that in every period of nine years all the sailors of France serve in their turn in the navy. They are trained in all that belongs to naval duty: in the use of ships’ guns, in the sailing of great ships, and in the evolutions of fleets. No matter how sudden the call, or from what direction the sailors are taken, no French fleet leaves or can leave port with a crew of green hands.

The training which is given to sailors actually in service is an equally important matter. The French Admiralty keeps no drones in its employ ; certainly it does not promote them to places of trust. Honors are won, not bought. Every step up, from midshipman to admiral, must be the result of honorable service, and actual proficiency both in the theory and practice of a sailor’s profession. The modern French naval officer is master of his business, fit to compete with the best skill of the best maritime races. Then the sailors themselves are trained. Even in time of peace, twenty-five thousand are kept in service. Gathered on board great experimental fleets, officers and men alike are schooled in all branches of nautical duty. In port or out of it, they are not idle. Every day a prescribed routine of exercise is rigidly enforced. Great have been the results. The French sailor of 1863 is not a reproduction of the sailor of 1800. In alertness, in knowledge, in silent obedience, he is a great improvement upon his predecessor. Actual experiment shows that a French crew will weigh anchor, spread and furl sail, replace spars or running-rigging, lower or raise topmasts, or perform any other duty pertaining to a ship, with as much celerity as the crew of any other nation. And no confusion, no babbling of many voices, such as the British writers of the last generations delighted to describe, mars the beauty of the evolutions. One mind directs, and one voice alone breaks the stillness. Since the Crimean War, the English speak with respect of French seamanship ; and though they do not believe that it is equal to their own, they do not scruple to allow that a naval battle would be disputed now with a fierceness hitherto unknown.

All that sagacity and experience would prompt has been attempted. All that training and discipline can do has already been accomplished. Yet there is one source of weakness for which there can be no remedy. France has no naval reserves. And if she war with England, she will need them. To put her marine on a war-basis would require all her available seamen. To fill the gaps of war, she has not, and she cannot have, until a truly commercial spirit grows up in the hearts of her people, the multitudes of reserved men, more familiar with the sea than the land, such as swarm in English portsYet, with every deduction, her capacity of naval production, her strong fleets, and her trained seamen make her a naval power whose might no one can estimate, and whose assault any nation may well shun by all means except the sacrifice of honor and rights.

If now we turn from the naval progress of France to her recent colonial enterprises, we shall find fresh evidence that she has resumed that contest which came to so disastrous a close fitly years ago. The old dream of colonial empire has come back again. This was inevitable. A great nation like France cannot always drink the Cup ot humiliation. With an ambition no less high and arrogant than that which pervades the British mind, she would plant far and wide French ideas and civilization. While England has colonies scattered in every part of the habitable globe, while Holland has almost monopolized the rich islands ol the Eastern Archipelago, and while even Spain has Manila in the East and Cuba in the West, it could hardly be expected that France, the equal of either, and in some respects the superior of all, should rest content with a virtual exclusion from everything but her narrow home-possessions.

And then, however disguised, there is in the heart of France an intense naval rivalry of England. Though the stern logic of events has been against her more than once, she does not accept the verdict. She means to revise it with a strong hand. But she must have a navy, and a navy cannot exhibit its highest vigor, unless it have a just foundation in an energetic, wide-ranging commerce. And such a commerce cannot exist except it have its depots and its agencies, its outlets and its markets, everywhere. Above all, we are to seek the source of this new colonial ambition in the character and purposes of that singular man who controls the destinies of France. Not even his enemies would now question his ability. The power he wields in Europe, the impression he has stamped upon its policy, the skill with which he has made even his foes minister to his greatness, all bear witness to it. But no one can study him in the light of the past and not see that his is no ordinary ambition. To be the ruler of one kingdom does not fill out its measure. To be the arbiter of the fortunes of states, the genius who shall change the current of affairs and shape the destiny of the future, — to exercise a power in every part of the globe, and to have a name familiar in every land and beneath every sun,—this is his ambition. No wonder that under such a ruler France has embarked in a career of colonial aggrandizement whose limit no one can foresee. The same hand which curbed the despot of the North, and made the fair vision of Italian unity a solid reality, may well think to place a puppet king on the throne of the Aztecs, or to carve rich provinces out of Farther India.

France made her first practical essay in colonization by her conquest of Algiers. A Dey once said to an English consul, “ The Algerines are a company of rogues, and I am their captain.” The definition cannot be improved. That such a power should have been permitted to exist and ravage is one of the anomalies of modern history. Yet within the memory of living men this hoard of pirates flaunted its barbarism in the face of the civilization of the nineteenth century, But in 1830 the Dey filled the cup of wrath to the brim. He inflicted upon the French consul, in full levee, the gross insult of a blow in the face. The expedition sent to revenge the insult showed upon what a hollow foundation this savage power rested. The army landed without opposition. In five days it swept before it in hopeless rout the wreck of the Algerine forces. In three weeks it breached and captured the corsair’s strongholds. The history of the French occupation of Algeria is a tale of unceasing martial exploits, by which France has extended her empire six hundred miles along the shores of the Mediterranean, and inland fifty miles,— two hundred miles, according, we had almost said, to the position of the last Arab or Kabyle raid and insurrection.

Whatever else Algeria may or may not have done for France, it certainly has furnished a field whereon to train soldiers. Here seventy-five thousand men, day and night, have watched and fought a wily foe. Here all the great soldiers of the Empire, Annual, Pelissier, Canrobert, Bosquet, have won their first laurels. Here, amid the exigencies of wild desert and mountain campaigning, has grown up that marvellous body of soldiers, the Zouaves: “picked men, short of stature, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, bull-necked,” agile as goats, tolerant of thirst and hunger, outmarching, outfighting, and outendurmg the Desert Arab; men who have never turned their backs upon a foe. Subtract from the army of Louis Napoleon the heroes of Algeria, and you leave behind a body out of which the fiery soul has fled.

The commercial results are not quite so satisfactory. The exports, indeed, have risen to fifteen millions of dollars, and the imports to twenty-five millions more; while some two hundred thousand Europeans have made their home in the Colony, and a few hundred square miles have been subjected to European culture. But as the yearly cost of the occupation is fifteen million of dollars, the net profit cannot be great. Algeria, however, is the safety-valve of France, giving active employment to the idle, the discontented, and the revolutionary ; and the Government, on that account, may consider that the money is well expended.

One consequence of the occupation of Algeria has generally been overlooked, — its naval result. Hitherto France had absolutely no good port, in the Mediterranean (if we except those of Corsica) but Toulon and Marseilles. It was absolutely less at home in its own sea than England. The new conquest gave it a strip of coast on tho southern border of the sea, but no port. The harbor of Algiers, with the exception of a little haven artificially protected and capable of holding insecurely a dozen vessels, was much like that of Cherbourg, an open bay, facing northward. The storms sweep it with such fury that not less than twenty vessels have been driven ashore in one gale. But the French genius seems to delight in such struggles for empire with the waves. Almost with the taking of the citadel the engineer began his work. Two jetties, as they are called, were pushed out from the land into deep water,—one from the mole on the north, half a mile long, and the other from Point Bab-Azoum on the south, a third of a mile long. In 1850 these were so tar complete as to inclose a safe harbor of two hundred acres. But not content, the French have already planned, and possibly ere now finished, still other works, by which the perilous roadstead outside this harbor shall be transformed into a secure anchorage of sixteen hundred acres. Past events warrant us in believing that these improvements will be pursued with no slack hand, until astonished Europe finds another Cherbourg, a safe harbor, ample means of repair, and frowning guns to repel all invaders. Imprudent Young France, indeed, whispers now that Algiers makes the Mediterranean a French lake. But that is a little premature. While Gibraltar and Malta hold safely their harbors, and England’s naval power is unbroken, no nation can truly make this boast.

The next enterprise of France was hardly so creditable to her as the Algerine conquest. Midway in the Pacific is the island of Tahita or Otaheite,— as fair a gem as the sun ever looked down upon. The soft and balmy air,—the undulating surface, rising to mountains and sinking into deep valleys, luxuriant with tropical verdure, — the distant girdle of coral reefs, which holds the island set in a circlet of tranquil blue waters,—the gentle and indolent temper of the natives,—have all conspired to throw an air of romance around the very name Otaheite. The Christian world is bound to it by another tie. For thither came Protestant missionaries, drawn by the reports of the tractable disposition of the islanders, and labored with such success that in 1817 the king and all his subjects espoused Christianity.

Into this island Eden discord came in the guise of a Roman catechist, who was sent thither for the express purpose of proselyting. As if aware of the nature of his ungracious task, he disguised his real character. But he was detected, and, together with a companion who had joined him, was dismissed from the island by Queen Pomare, who dreaded the sectarian strife his presence would awaken. This was her whole offence. Four years later, in 1838, when the whole transaction might well have been forgotten, Captain De Petit Thouars appeared in the French frigate Venus, and demanded and obtained satisfaction in the sum of two thousand piastres Spanish, and freedom for Catholic worship. In two subsequent visits, though no new offence had been given, he increased the severity of his demands, first putting the island under a protectorate, and finally, in 1843, taking full possession of it as a French colony. The helpless Queen appealed to Louis Philippe, who returned the island, but reaffirmed the protectorate.

This same French protectorate is a rare piece of ponderous irony. The French governor collects all export and import duties, writes all state-papers, assembles and dismisses the island legislature according to his good pleasure, doles out to the Queen a yearly allowance of a thousand pounds, puts her in duress in her own house, if her conduct displeases him, and will, not allow her to see strangers, except by his permission. Few will believe that zeal for the honor of the Catholic Church prompted Louis Philippe to inflict so disproportioned a punishment. That the island is the best victualling-station in the South Pacific is a far greater sin, and one for which there could be in covetous eyes no adequate punishment, except that seizure which is so modestly termed a protectorate.

Pass now from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. There is the little rocky island of St. Paul, situated in the same latitude as Cape Town and Melbourne ; and, planted with singular accuracy equidistant from the two, it is the only place of shelter in the long route between them. Its harbor, if harbor it may be called, is the most secure, the most secluded, and the most romantic, perhaps, in the whole world. St. Paul is of volcanic origin. It is, indeed, little more than an extinct crater with a narrow rim of land around it to separate it from the sea. Through this rim the waters of the great Indian Ocean have cut a channel. The crater has thus become a beautiful salt lake, a mile in diameter, clear, deep, almost circular, and from whose border, on every side, rise the old volcanic walls draped in verdure. The strait connecting it with the sea is but three hundred feet wide, and at high tide ten feet deep, — thus affording an easy passage for small vessels into this most delightful seclusion ; and no doubt the strait might be so deepened as to float the largest ships. St. Paul is not at present much frequented. But in a sea which is every year becoming more populous with the commerce of every nation, who shall tell what such a central station may become ? Its title was somewhat uncertain. England thought she held it as a, dependency of Mauritius. But in 1847 the governor of Bourbon, with a happy audacity, took possession of it, as an outpost of his own island, and planted a little French colony of fishermen. We have not heard that the assumption has been disputed.

No doubt, most of our readers may have observed in the daily prints occasional allusions to the French War in Cochin China. Probably few have understood the full meaning of the facts so quietly chronicled. Perhaps none have dreamed that they were reading the first notices of a new Eastern conquest, which, in extent and importance, may yet be second only to that which has already been achieved by the British in Hindostan. Yet so it is. The Cambodia is the largest river in Southern Asia, and, together with the smaller and parallel river of Saigon, drains a tract of not less than five hundred thousand square miles. The region for which the French have been contending includes the provinces which cluster around the months of these two rivers, and command them. No position could be happier. For while on the one hand it controls the outlet of a river stretching up into a rich and fertile country eighteen hundred miles, on the other it projects into the Chinese Sea at a point nearly midway between Singapore and Hong Kong, and so secures to its possessor a just influence in that commercial highway. The ostensible cause of the war in this region was the murder of a French missionary. If this was ever the real cause, it long since gave way to a settled purpose of conquest.

In the latter part of the year 1862 the Emperor of Cochin China was forced to cede to France the coveted provinces. Already new fortifications have arisen at Saigon, and dock-yards and coal-depots been established, and all steps taken for a permanent occupation of the territory. The following advertisement appeared in the London “Times” for January 23, 1863, — “ Contract for transportation from Glasgow to Saigon of a floating iron dock in pieces. Notice to ship-owners. The administration of the Imperial Navy of France have at Glasgow a floating iron dock in pieces, which they require to be transported from that port to Saigon, Cochin China. The said dock, with machinery, pumps, anchors, and instruments necessary to its working, will weigh from two thousand to twenty - five hundred tons. Ship-owners disposed to undertake the transport are requested to forward their tenders to the Minister of Marine and Colonies previous to the fifth of February next.” Now, if we consider that the news of the cession of these provinces did not reach France until the close of the year 1862, that this advertisement is dated January 23, 1863, and that a dock of the magnitude described could hardly be constructed short of many months, we shall be satisfied, that, long before any definite articles of peace bad been proposed, the Emperor had settled in his own mind just what region he would annex to his dominions.

We shall not need much argument to convince us that the subjugation of Mexico does not, either in character or methods, differ much from other acts of the French ruler. Nevertheless, the details are curious and instructive. It must be allowed that Mexico had given the Allies causes of offence. She left unpaid large sums due from her to foreign bond - holders. The subjects of the allied powers, temporarily resident in Mexico, were robbed by forced loans, and sometimes imprisoned, and even murdered. To redress these grievances, an expedition was fitted out by the combined powers of England, France, and Spain. The objects of the expedition were, first, to obtain satisfaction for past wrongs, and, second, some security against their recurrence in the future. It was expressly agreed by all parties, that the Mexicans should be left entirely free to choose for themselves their own form of government. Later events would seem to prove that England and Spain were sincere in their professions.

Everything went on smoothly until the capture of Vera Cruz. Then the French Emperor unfolded secret plans which were not contained in the original programme. They were these : To take advantage of the weakness of the United States to establish in Mexico a European influence ; to take possession of its capital city ; and thence to impose upon the Mexican people a government more agreeable than the present to the Allies. England and Spain retired from the expedition with scarcely concealed disgust, declaring, in almost so many words, that they did not come into Mexico to rob another people of their rights, but to gain redress and protection for their own subjects. Louis Napoleon does not even seek to conceal his intentions from us. “ We propose,” he says, “ to restore to the Latin race on the other side of the Atlantic all its strength and prestige. We have an interest, indeed, in the Republic of the United States being powerful and prosperous ; but not that she should take possession of the whole Gulf of Mexico, thence to command the Antilles as well as South America, and to be the only dispenser of the products of the New World.” This is plain enough. What will be the final form of settlement we do not even conjecture. It is probable that the Emperor does not himself know. With our fortunes so unsettled, and with so many European jealousies to conciliate, even his astute genius may well be puzzled as to the wisest policy. But it is of no consequence what particular government France may impose upon the conquered State, — monarchical, vice-regal, or republican,—Maximilian, a Bonaparte, or some one of the seditious Mexican chiefs. In either case, if the French plan succeeds, the broad country which Cortes won and Spain lost, will be virtually a dependency of France.

Even while we write, France has embarked in yet other schemes of colonial aggrandizement. She has just purchased the port of Oboch on the eastern coast of Africa, near the entrance of the Red Sea. The place is not laid down upon the maps; nor is its naval and commercial importance known ; but its proximity to Aden suggests that it may be intended as a checkmate to that English stronghold. In the great island of Madagascar she is founding mercantile establishments whose exact character have not as yet been divulged ; but experience teaches us that these enterprises are likely to be pursued with promptness and vigor.

Thus France is displaying in colonial affairs an aggressive activity which was scarcely to have been expected. To what extent she may perfect her plans no one can prophesy. That she will be able to girdle the earth with her possessions, and rear strongholds in every sea, is not probable. England has chosen almost at her leisure what spots of commercial advantage or military strength she will occupy; and the whole world hardly affords the material for another colonial system as wide and comprehensive.

There is one consideration which ought not to be overlooked. It is this ; the relations which Louis Napoleon has succeeded in maintaining between himself and that power which had the most interest in defeating his schemes, and the most ability to do it. Under the Bourbons, the whole policy of France was based upon a principle of settled and unchangeable enmity to England. As a result, war always broke out while French preparations were incomplete; and the concentrated English navy swept from the sea almost every vestige of an opposing force, The present French emperor has adopted an altogether different course, He has sought, the friendship of England. He has multiplied occasions of mutual action, He has sedulously avoided occasions of offence. Kinglake, in his “ Crimean War,” intimates that Louis Napoleon desired this alliance with England and her noble Queen to cover up the terrible wrongs by which he had obtained his authority. It is more likely far that he sought it in order that under its shadow he might build himself up to resistless power: just as an oak planted beneath the shade of other trees grows to strength and majesty only to cut down its benefactors.

This proposal for alliance was unquestionably received by the English people at first with feelings akin to disgust. The memory of the bad faith by which power had been won, of the wrongs and exile of the greatest statesmen and soldiers of France, and of the red carnage of the Boulevards, was too recent to make such a friendship attractive. Though acceptance of it might be good policy, yet it could not be yielded without profound reluctance. But soon this early sentiment gave way to something like pride. It was so satisfactory to think that the allied powers were wellnigh irresistible; that they had only to speak and it must he done; that they could dictate terms to the world ; that they could scourge back even the Russian despot, seeking to pour down his hordes from the icy North to more genial climes. It is hardly surprising, then, that men came to congratulate themselves upon so favorable an alliance, and concluded to overlook the defect in his title in consideration of the solid benefits which the occupant of the French throne conferred.

But this feeling could not last. When the people of England saw how inevitably Louis Napoleon reaped from every conflict some selfish advantage, how the Crimean War gave him all the prestige, and the Italian War the coveted province of Nice, they began to doubt his fair professions. And this jealousy is fast deepening into fear. The English people have an instinct of approaching danger. Any one can see that the “ entente cordiale ” is not quite what it once was. When a British Lord of Admiralty can rise in his place in Parliament, and, after alluding to the powerful and increasing naval force of France, add,— “I say that any Ministry who did not act upon that statement, and did not at once set about putting the country in the position she ought to occupy in respect to her navy, would deserve to be sent to the Tower or penitentiary,” — we may be sure that England has as much jealousy as trust, and perhaps quite as much alarm as either.

But we have only to look at her acts to know what England is thinking. For six years she has been engaged in an unceasing war with France, — not, indeed, with swords and bayonets, but as really with her workshops and dockyards. She has tasked these to their uttermost to maintain and increase her naval superiority. And this is not the only evidence we have of her true feeling. The building of new fortifications for her ports, and the enlargement and strengthening of the old defences, all tell the same story of profound distrust. “ Plymouth has been made secure. The mouth of the Thames is thought to be impregnable.” That is the way English papers write. Around Portsmouth and Gosport she has thrown an immense girdle of forts. We may think what we will of Cherbourg, England views it in the light of a perpetual menace. To the proud challenge she has sent back a sturdy defiance. Right opposite to it, on her nearest shore, she has reared a “ Gibraltar of the Channel.” If you take your map, you will perceive, facing Cherbourg, and projecting from the southern coast of England, the little island of Portland, which at low tide becomes a peninsula, and is connected with the main land by Chesil Bank, a low ridge of shingle ten miles long. On the extreme north of this island, looking down into Weymouth Bay, is a little cluster of rocky hills, rising sharply to a considerable height, and occupying, perhaps, a space of sixty acres. This is where the fortress, or Veme, as it is called, is built. On the northern side, the elitf lifts itself up from the waters of the bay ahnost in a perpendicular line, and is absolutely inaccessible. On all other sides the Veme has been isolated by a tremendous chasm, which makes the dry ditch of the fort. This chasm has been blasted into the solid rock, and is nowhere less than a hundred feet wide and eighty feet deep. At the angles of the fortress it widens to two hundred feet, and sinks beneath the batteries in a sheer perpendicular of one hundred and thirty feet. Two bastions jut from the main work into it, protecting it from approach by a terrible cross-fire. All the appointments are upon the same scale. The magazines, the storehouses, the water-tanks, are built to furnish supplies for a siege, not of months, but of years. On every side the rocky surface of the hills has been shaved down below the level of its guns ; so that there is not a spot seaward or landward that may not be swept by its tremendous batteries. Such is this remarkable stronghold which is rising to completion opposite Cherbourg. Yet it is but one of several strong forts which are to protect the single harbor of Weymouth Bay. Was this Titanic work reared in the spirit of trust ? Does it speak of England’s hope of abiding friendship with France? No; it tells us that beneath seeming amity a deadly struggle is going on,—that every dock hollowed, every ship launched, every colony seized, and every fortress reared, is but another step in a silent, but real, contest for supremacy.

When this hidden fire shall burst forth into a devouring flame, when this seeming alliance shall change into open enmity and bitter war, no one can prophesy. But no doubt sooner or later. For between nations, as well as in the bosom of communities, there are irrepressible conflicts, which no alliances, no compacts, and no motives of wisdom or interest can forever hold in check. And when it shall burst forth, uo one can foretell what its end shall be. That dread uncertainty, more than all things else, keeps the peace. We can but think that the naval preeminence of England has grown out of the real character of her people and of their pursuits, — and that the same causes which, in the long, perilous conflicts of the past, have enabled her to secure the sovereignty of the seas, will strengthen her to maintain that sovereignty in all the conflicts which in the future may await her. But, whatever may be the result, to whomsoever defeat may come, nothing can obliterate from the pages of history the record of the sagacity, perseverance, and courage with which the French people and their ruler have striven to overcome a maritime inferiority, whose origin, perhaps, is in the structure of their society and in the nature of their race.