MR. GOSCHEN'S STATEMENT.
MR. GOSCHEN'S statement on Monday was of a kind to show how very elaborate an instrument a large Navy is, and how many preparations we must make in a considerable number of different directions before we can satisfy ourselves that a great commerce distributed widely over the whole globe can be satisfactorily protected. First, we must have a great supply of well-disciplined and well- taught men and boys, and that is no small matter, for it implies early training, naval class..s at the great schools, colleges on shore, and traininvii;ps at sea,—a considt r- able fund for paying the service, even when it is not a', work ; also similar arrangements for the engineers, with- out whom now the ships cannot be managed ; similar arrangements, too, even for the stokers, who are absolutely essential for providing our ships with motive-power, and who are a class of skilled, not of unskilled, workmen. Then, again, a large Navy means provisions all over the world for docking and repairing our ships. The new iron ships, says Mr. Goschen, require a good deal more docking than the old wooden ships. Hence we are not only making extensive and very expensive arrangements at Dover and Gibraltar for the docking of ships, but we are proposing to make them at the Cape and in the Mauritius, though all such arrangements involve a large amount of capital as well as a great expenditure in annual income. Then, again, if the new ships are to be of any use, there must be a new expenditure on storehouses as well as stores. We cannot have useful ships without guns nor useful guns without large reserves of shot and cartridges, and plenty of safe receptacles for them. Then, again, the great ships need great coaling- stations, and great coaling-stations widely distributed, for even the first-class battleships cannot come back to England whenever their coal is exhausted without wasting half their power. In one word, a great Navy such as England has now, means a most elaborate provision, in a vast number of different and widely scattered places, for supplying, restoring, and defending most delicate and elaborate machines of very different kinds, not only mechanical but electric, not only electric but chemical. If you begin to spend extra on ships, you have to spend in proportion on schools and training, as well as on pensions and provisions for hospitals. And it is no use spending on ships without spending in the same proportion on guns. "A new 12 in. wire-gun," said Mr. Goschen incidentally, "con- tains one hundred and eight miles of wire," and that is the kind of elaborate machine which must be provided with a certain munificence if the ships are to be effective. No one can read Mr. Goschen's speech without feeling quite a new sense of the extraordinary breadth of the logic of subsidiary preparation, as we may call it, that the extension of a navy involves. Every new provision entails other new expenses very difficult, sometimes impossible, to fore- see, without the help of a very strong and well-educated department. And this kind of wide preparation is all the more difficult to secure, because it must be distributed at such a great number of distant centres, with so little possibility of concentration. A great Navy means a light pressure at a vast number of scattered points, failure at any one of which might involve a great calamity. There is' not half the closeness of organisation in a navy that there. is in an army. It involves a greater number of separate centres of responsibility, with far less of mutual aid and encouragement than there is in an army. A commander goes out into space beyond the reach of help from any headquarters, and if then a great defect in the prepara- tions should be discovered, he may prove to be almost useless for the special work for which he was com- missioned. Hence to provide an effective navy is a work requiring the utmost foresight and the most microscopic attention, and yet a navy is far more of a defensive than of an offensive instrument. The chief use of our Navy is to, defend a worldwide commerce; and for purposes of attack, except on an equally widespread network of commerce, it, is comparatively helpless. It can attack isolated points, on a coast-line, and it can blockade a coast, but for anything like conquest, without an army, it is of little use. That is why Mr. Goschen was able to say with perfect honesty, that our great Navy is no challenge to the - world. It is a mighty instrument for defence but nothing like so mighty for attack. But perhaps for that very. reason it is all the easier for such a people as the English people to feel pride in the effort which has been made to extend and strengthen this powerful instrument for defence,.
to exult in the great docks which we are building at home and abroad, and in the hundred and five new ships and sixty-two torpedo-destroyers which we shall soon have ready, for use, and which have all been added to our Navy since- 1889.
And what is even more satisfactory, it is evident that this large Navy is administered by a singularly large amount of high individual capacity. The naval power of England could never, indeed, have reached its present point without an enormous stock of individual self-reliance in our com- manders and officers, almost all of whom seem to be ready and willing to take on themselves, at a moment'c. notice, that readiness to command as well as to obey; which is absolutely needful to make such an institu- tion as a Navy effective at all. It is especially cheer-- ing to gather from Mr. Goschen's statement that the" new ships are doing their work most satisfactorily and without any kind of hitch, and that they may be relied on even to bear a good deal of bard usage- without breaking down. One would think that se • delicate and elaborate a machine as a modern ship of war, might be rendered useless by the slightest mishap. But Mr. Goschen gives us good hope that thin. is very seldom the case, and illustrates his view by- the accident whit % occurred to the torpedo-destroyer 'Lightning.' whiLl when moving at the rate of fourteen knots an hour .:.ollided with another vessel and had AB bows all tom away, and subsequently grounded twice without material damage. Our own incidental experience, therefore, seems to confirm all the evidence we have gathered from the great naval engagements in the Chili. and the Japanese wars, that these elaborate machineft.
liable as they are to injuries which would seem to be of a, most fatal kind, are still not half so liable, as we should expect, to calamities like the loss of the 'Captain,' which shocked us all so much twenty-six years ago. In spito of the delicacy of their organisation, they seem to holt/ out, under plucky management, against injuries which we- might well expect to be final. Apparently, the very delicate character of the mechanical appliances to which. our naval constructors have recourse, should materially. reduce the value of that coolness and energy which have always made an English Navy so formidable. What we had chiefly dreaded was that coolness and energy might prove of little service in the midst of so much elaborate contrivance which no coolness and energy could restore if it were once put out of gear. But that apprehen- sion seems baseless. Even these delicate machines are•. generally only crippled, not often annihilated, by the- injuries to which they are necessarily exposed. The chief Radical objection likely to be taken to Mr: Goschen's naval policy,—putting out of account those which are aimed by the Irish party at Great Britain's naval powei because it is Gmat Britain's,—is likely to be irected against the great expenditure on nor docks, and especially the new docks at Gibraltar. We believe that in making these proposals Mr. Goschen has entitled himself to the aa ty support of all loyal subjects of the Crown. Say what we will, Malta alone is not enough for our Navy , in the Mediterranean when we consider that both at Toulon on the North, and now at Biserta on the South. France has naval stations which might well give her the command of the Mediterranean, if we had to send our crippled ships home to be repaired and renovated in English dockyards. At present Gibraltar is of little use to us as a naval port, for it has no efficient dock, and as it will take no inconsiderable time so to extend the mole as to make useful docks, there is no work of construction with which it is more necessary for us to proceed at once. In fact, as was said in the debate, it should have been com- menced long ago. If we are to keep our footing in the _Mediterranean in time of war, this is one of the first -conditions of success.
On the other hand, there seems to be an opinion of more importance than any Radical cavil at expense, that Mr. Goschen is not doing enough, that we want a greater impulse to the construction of battleships and to all that subsidiary work necessary for their armament and adequate manning, than the present Government is dis- posed to give. But that is clearly an opinion which only ex- perts have a right to maintain, and even though Sir Charles Dilke maintains it, it would be impossible to set his view against that of the Board of Admiralty, stimulated as it has been by the access to power of a Government which defeated its predecessor on the question of our prepared- ness for war. The whole of Mr. Goschen's speech was inspired by the most eager conviction that we ought to increase our naval power as rapidly and as effectually as we can, in order to secure our full command of the sea in case of a great war ; and we have no reason to believe that any preparation or precaution has been omitted which the most experienced of our naval advisers could suggest. It is said that we have one less battleship than the navies of Russia and France united. But in the first place that criticism takes no account of the difference between first- class and second-class battleships. We have seven more first-class battleships than Russia and France united, and it is only by counting the second-class battleship as equal to the first (which, as regards room for coal, it certainly is not) that our inferiority is estab- Cshed. And again, relative strength depends on many other considerations besides the number of battleships. Nay, is it even certain that, if we wished it, we could do more in the present year than we are doing without overcrowding the dockyards, and relying, more than it is prudent to rely, on outside contractors ? The Naval Defence Act added greatly to our naval strength ; Lord Spencer added to that addition ; and Mr. Goschen is now adding greatly to the total of those two great under- takings. If a Government which came in under a • direct pledge to provide against all possible war con- tingencies, is nevertheless doing too little, the English people have no means of convincing themselves of the inadequacy of its policy till they have actually gone to war and discovered that we are still too weak at sea. We do not believe that such a Government as the present, with such a. First Lord of the Admiralty, and such a, majority in the House of Commons, would deliberately propose an inadequate scheme of naval construction ; and even if it has done so, we know no test which the English people could apply that would show its inadequacy except the test of war itself. But even the alarmists would hardly propose to engage in a tentative war, merely in order to verify the efficiency or to demonstrate the .inefficiency of the Admiralty's measures.