DEFENCELESS STATE OF OSBORNE.
A RIMOtrit which we find in a local paper is in the position which journalists indicate by the words " wants confirmation." " Tho Master-General of the Ordnance," says the Kentish Mercury, " has desired that the Isle of Wight shall be put in a proper state of de- fence and strongly fortified." It is to be hoped that this statement is true. It is accompanied by the remark that " this undertaking will cost the country at least 60,0001." The want of it, however, might cost the country a great deal more. The country is about to pay pretty severely for permitting its national defences to fall into arrears, while the Lords of the Admiralty, the Horse Guards, and the Ordnance, have been continuing the routine of their depart- ments : 60,0001. spent on the Isle of Wight would be bestowed in a less thankless way than a mere paying-up of old arrears. It is not only useless, but it has at last become unfashionable, to overlook the fact that the coasts of England are undefended, be- fore a neighbour in whom the spirit of hostility is known to exist, in whom the desire to pull down the pride of England is almost a superstition, in whose dockyards are preparing vessels described by the licensed press of the capital as the means of invading Eng- land, and who may be said only to have left undone that declaration of war which is not so likely to precede as to follow the first blow. The actual launch of vessels in Cherbourg and L'Orient, of im- mense size, speed, and fighting-power, with the description of those vessels in the Times, almost places the public on an equality of knowledge with the official people, who have so long protested against the totally inadequate progress of this country in ar- ranging defences, as compared with the progress of our neigh- bour in constructing the apparatus of aggression. The correspondent of the Times describes four vessels of the new kind. One is 243 feet long ; it is a steam-vessel, with engines of 500 horse-power ; the engine works a screw-propeller, sufficiently submersed to be beyond the reach of injury by projectiles ; the speed assured is ten miles an hour, but fifteen miles an hour has actually been obtained. These vessels carry a hundred or more guns each. There are some differences. The Napoleon is rated at 950 horse-power, but is calculated as effective to the extent of 1300 horse-power. The Austerlitz, which was launched the other day, can carry a hundred and ten guns. The correspondent of the Times justly asks, what chance a ponderous and unmanageable sailing-vessel could have against a floating battery of such power and under such command ? It would not be a question of bravery, but altogether a question of instruments. The bravest man in the world, practically fixed almost to one position, could not coerce his equal in strength who is able to run round him. If Nelson himself were set, with the Victory, to encounter the Napoleon, the story of Trafalgar would have to be inverted ; and Nelson would have been buried, not in St. Paul's, but at the bottom of the sea— not a martyr to triumph, but a sacrifice for upholding the indomi- table English reputation of the past. .
- It hao been said, as an apology for the undefended state of our coast in regard to fortifications; and for the undefended state of the island generally in regard to an armed force, that the country might rely upon its Channel fleet : but here is a centre-bit to pierce the wooden walls of Old England. It is a question whether the men who have been engaged fourteen hours a day throughout the summer in cutting the unfinished Windsor Castle in half, to lengthen the vessel, to fit it with an auxiliary screw, and to make it into an effective screw fighting-ship, will turn out an instrument equal to coping with vessels like the Napoleon. It would be re- assuring to learn, therefore, on sufficient authority, that the coast and inland defences of the country had been put into a satis- factory condition.
Until that be done, it is more agreeable to know that Queen Victoria is residing in the fastnesses of the Scottish Highlands than on the outer edge of the Southern coast.
It is true that the abduction of royal hostages has gone out of fashion—since Napoleon the First abducted Pius the Seventh ; but, undoubtedly, Napoleon " the Third" is not the man to be bound by any shackles of usage or routine. It would he very scandalous to seize the first of English ladies and carry her off in duresse ; but is there any reason to suppose that the midnight invader of " the 2d December" would stick at a scandal if it offered him an
advantage ? An unscrupulous man himself, he has taken for his model the great modern type of unscrupulousness, and the manner of Napoleon has become the mannerism of Louis Napoleon. Like his prototype, he could work a question of the sort on the slate; setting the cost against the gain. It might cost him so many men and so much loss of character; but the gaoler of Victoria Queen of England, who had snatched her from her island home, would have gained so much success and so much power. The sum, thus worked, would show a profit ; and for what else has Louis Napo- leon traded? It is a question of grave and practical importance, which the responsible Ministers of the country will do well to consider, whether Queen Victoria can reside at Osborne safely.