13 JUNE 1908, Page 13



[To THE EDITOR Or THE " SPECTATOR"] Srs,—In your comments in the Spectator of June 8th on Sir William White's article in the Nineteenth Century— "The Cult of the Monster Warship "—you say that, though we may have been mistaken in introducing the Dread- nought' constrtiction policy, still, if all the world follows it, we may find it impossible to alter it. I respect- fully ask permission to say that to plain men who have studied this question, and others closely connected with it, this appears like an assertion that, if you once enter on a wrong road, you must continue to travel on it, no matter where it may take you, and for no other reason but that other people are also on a wrong road. It is not easy to accept this doctrine even when applied to matters of ordinary occurrence. When it has to be applied to a matter of such stupendous importance—to us—as the constitution of the British Navy, acceptance of it becomes immensely difficult. In naval matters, if in nothing else, the fact that other nations go wrong will not help us much, the conditions of such an Empire as the British being altogether different from those of any other modern State. Error may be inconvenient to other naval Powers; to us, if not corrected in time, it must be ruinous. Consequently, it can be absolutely no consolation for us when we make a mistake in naval policy to find that our neighbours also have made one. The man who lives by the sea may find himself obliged for the protection of his property to put up a sea-wall. If this is wrongly designed, learning that an acquaintance who lives beside Windermere has followed his erroneous design will not comfort or help him in the least. There is only one question to be asked by us concerning the " monster warship " policy,—viz., Is it right or wrong ? It cannot be denied that the question is of such gravity that full and deliberate inquiry should be made so as to enable us to reach the solution of it.—I am, Sir, &c.,


[Sir Cyprian Bridge has not quite understood our con- densed remarks. What we meant to suggest was that, owing to the impossibility of laying down absolute propositions in regard to naval affairs, it might be necessary for us, if other Powers build 'Dreadnoughts' in large numbers, to go on building Dreadnoughts' too, for fear that it might turn out after all that the 'Dreadnought' policy was right. In other words, the consequences of the Dreadnoughts' proving to be as potent as their advocates profess them to be would be so tremendous that we dare not face the possibility of haviwz a great inferiority of this type, but must make ourselves secure on either theory. Of course, if it can be established beyond all possibility of doubt that the Dreadnoughts ' are actually bad vessels, then clearly the more our rivals build of them, and the quicker we discard the type, the better. We do not, however, gather that Sir William White goes as far as this. In any case, there ought, as we have said again and again, to be a full and patient inquiry into the whole matter. The vital importance of the issues at stake makes this obvious. There may be a strong case for the 'Dread- noughts.' There is none for refusing the demand for inquiry.—En. Spectator.]