21 NOVEMBER 1908, Page 17


WE note with very great regret that efforts are already being made, efforts which unfortunately have the encouragement of the Westminster Gazette, to whittle away the meaning of Mr. Asquith's pledge in regard to the Navy. That pledge was so straightforward and so clear, adopting as it did without hesitation of any sort Mr. Lee's carefully worded definition, that one would have imagined it impossible for even the most perverse ingenuity to find grounds for ambiguity: Yet we are now told by the Westminster that Mr. Asquith meant his pledge in a Pickwickian sense, and that when he said that the Fleet must be stronger than the Fleets of any two Powers, he did not mean of "any two Powers," but something perfectly different,—namely, any two Powers on this side of the Atlantic. We are told, in effect, that we are not to reckon the Fleets either of the United States or of Japan, because they are both distant and friendly Powers. In the first place, we protest strongly against friendship having anything to do with the matter. We yield to none in our friendship for the Americans, but the aim of those who demand a standard for ship construction is not to select nations that are unfriendly, or with whom we expect collision, and to make ourselves stronger, but to maintain an absolute and abstract standard of invincible sea power as far as predominance in capital ships can give it.