26 DECEMBER 1914, Page 9


IF people have not learned since the beginning of this war what sea power means, they are never likely to learn. They have had many opportunities not only of learn- ing what it is, but of sharpening the definition by learning what it is not. Sea power, or command of the sea, means for us ability to beat every hostile fleet, or combination of fleets,

that can be brought against us. If we can do this our Empire is united, not divided, by the seas. Sea power emphatically does not mean that we can bring to book any and every

member of a hostile fleet which strays off on an errand that may be annoying, and even expensive, to us, but cannot be

strategically important. Mahan expressed this truth excel- lently when he said :—

" The control of the sea, however real, does not imply that an enemy's single ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of port, cannot cross more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harass- ing descents upon unprotected points of a long coastline, enter blockaded harbours. On the contrary, history has shown that such evasions are always possible, to some extent, to the weaker party, however great the inequality of naval strength."

Sea power keeps us safe and normally in good health ; it can- not protect us from the minor illnesses that afflict perfectly strong and healthy persons. Without sea power Britain would die. She would consist of two small islands of starving people derelict in the northern seas. This is so obvious—depends so little upon ratiocination for its convincingness—that it may be said to be a matter of instinct rather than of demonstra- tion. And since it is a matter of instinct it is not surprising that the English poets and men of letters, and not the statesmen, historians, and strategists, were the first to insist upon the significance of sea power.

The first recognition of sea power in English literature is contained in a fifteenth-century poem, "The Libel of English Policy," which is really a pamphlet in verse. An introduc- tion says : "Here beginneth the Prologue of the process of the Libel of English policie, exhorting all England to keep the sea, and namely the narrow sea ; abewing what profits cometh thereof, and also what worship and salvation to England and to all Englishmen." The poem is not very easy to read, yet its good sense and high patriotism are

remarkable enough, as may be judged from the following verses :-

" For if this see bee kept in time of werre, Who can herre passe without danger and woe ? Who may escape, who may mischiofe differs ? What Marchandie may forby bee agoe? For needs him must take trewes every foe: Flanders and Spaine, and other, trust to mee, Or ellis kindred all for this Narrow see.

Therefore I cast mee by a little writing To show at eye this conclusion, For conscience and for mine acquitting Against God and ageyue abusion, And cowardice, and to our enemies confusion. For fours things our Noble sheweth to me, King, Ship, and Swerd, and power of the sea."

Much follows about commerce, but the author here and there returns to the foundation of all commerce—naval power. The following verse is an example:— "The ende of battaile is peace sikerly, And power causeth peace finally.

Keep then the sea about in spociall, Which of England is the towns wall.

As though England wore likened to a citie, And the wall environ were the see.

Keep then the sea that is the wall of England : And than is England kept by Geddes own hande."

In the Elizabethan age we have Bacon's thrice-famous passage on sea power. " To be Master of the Sea," be says, "is an Abridgement of a Monarchy,"—i.e., an epitome, or the essence, of a Monarchy. He quotes the opinion which Cicero attributed to Themistocles : " Qui mare teneat, eum necesse est rerum potiri." After mentioning ware in which land

battles were necessarily final, Bacon goes on :—

"But thus much is certain; That hee that Commands the Sea is at great liberty, and may take as much, and as little of the Warne, as he will. Whereas those, that be strongest by land, are many times neverthelesse in great Straights. Surely at this Day, with us of Europe, the Vantage of Strength at Sea (which is one of the Principall Dowries of this Kingdome of Great Brittaine) is Great : Both because, Most of the Kingdomes of Europe, are not merely Inland, but girt with the Sea, must part of their Compasse ; And because, the Wealth of both Indies, e eernes in great Part, but an Accessary, to the Command of the Bea..

The famous Sir Edward Coke, Bacon's great opponent in the dispute about the Royal Prerogative, the unbridled prose- cutor of Ralegb, but a man who loved and valiantly defended English liberty, was not at all behind Bacon himself in recognizing the significance of a strong Navy :— "The King's Navy exceeds all others in the world for three things, viz., beauty, strength, and safety. For beauty, they are so many palaces ; for strength (no part of the world having such iron and timber as England bath) so many moving castles and barbicans ; and for safety, they are the most defensive walls of the realm. Among the ships of other nations, they are like lions among silly beasts, or falcons amongst fearful fowl."

These words show that our musty old friend " Coke on Littleton" could take wings and soar up to lyrical heights when thoughts of ships and the sea made his blood course faster. The words we have quoted occur in the preface to the fourth part of the extremely technical Institutes. And of course Shakespeare knew the wonders of sea power even as he knew all the secrets of men. No one who did not take for granted the full meaning of the sea to England could have spoken of England as " bound in with the triumphant sea," or have written that marvellous passage in Richard H. where Gaunt says :—

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,. This other Eden, demi-paradise; This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war; This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,"

In the seventeenth century the politicians had learnt the lessons of the poets and the men of letters, and we find that greatest and most inspired of statesmen, Lord. Halifax, expressing with passionate earnestness his conviction that England's salvation " cometh by way of the sea." The passage on sea power in his pamphlet, A Rough Draught of a New Model at Sea, 1694, is doubtless well known to our readers, but we cannot resist the temptation of quoting it once more :—

" I will make no other Introduction to the following Discourse,

than that as the Importance of our being strong at Sea, was ever very great, so in our present Circumstances it is grown to be much greater ; because, as formerly our Force of Shipping contributed greatly to our Trade and Safety, so now it is become indispensibly necessary to our very Being. It may be said now to England, Martha, Martha, thou art busy about many things, but one thins is necessary. To the Question, What shall we do to be saved in this World? there is no other Answer but this, Look to your Moate. The first Article of an English-mans Political Creed insist be, That he believeth in the Sea, &o., without that there needetla no General Council to pronounce him incapable of Salvation. here. We are in an Island, confin'd to it by Goa Almighty, not as. a. Penalty but a Grace, and one of the greatest that can be given to Mankind. Happy Confinement, that bath made 11B Free, Rich, and Quiet ; a fair Portion in this World, and very well worth the- preserving ; a Figure that ever hath been envied, and could never be imitated by our Neighbours. Our Situation bath made Great- ness abroad by Land Conquests unnatural things to us. It is true, we have made Excursions, and glorious ones too, which make, our Names great in History, but they did not last. Admit the English to be Giants in Courage, yet they must not hope to succeed in making War against Heaven, which seemeth to have enjoyned. them to acquiesce in being happy within their own Circle. It in no Paradox to say, that England bath its Root in the Sea, and a. deep one too, from whence it sendeth its Branches into both the Indies. We may say further in our present Case, That if Allegiance. is due to Protection, ours to the Sea is due from that Rule, since• by that, and by that alone, we are to be protected; and if we have of late suffered Usurpation of other Methods, contrary to thee Homage we owe to that which must preserve us, it is time now to restore the Sea to its right; and as there is no Repentance effectual without Amendment, so there is not a moment to be lost in the going about it."

Another seventeenth-century writer who understood the meaning of sea power was Captain George St. Loe, a Com- missioner of the Navy after the Revolution. We have often quoted in these pages from the pamphlet in which he antici- pated the policy of Lord Roberts and the National Service League in the matter of universal military training and service. His naval pamphlets are quite as worthy of attention, but

unfortunately space will not allow us to cite examples from them here.

In the eighteenth century the great lawyer Blackstone, author of the Commentaries, was less lyrical but quite as sound as Coke when he called the Navy "the floating bulwark, of our island." To the eighteenth century also belongs' Rule Britannia," our national song of sea power, rescued from a mediocre opera because of the majesty of the tune and because. the instinct of the people told them that it contained a great truth even if it did not contain great poetry. Naturally the French Wars inspired many poems of sea. power. Campbell, supreme in ballads of the sea, had the heart of the matter ins him. He knew that no coast forts or Martello towers were a.

substitute for a Navy that conk' go anywhere and do any- thing. The greatest truth of naval strategy is implicit in

the swinging lines of " Ye Mariners of England":—

"Britannia needs no bulwarks, No towers along the steep ; Hor march is o'er the mountain waves.

Her home is on the deep.

With thunder from her native oak

She quells the flood below—

As they roar on the shore, When the stormy winds do blow; When the battle rages loud and long And the stormy winds do blow."

In our own day Tennyson was pre-eminent as the supporter and interpreter among poets of sea power.. At a time when. the British Government had allowed the Navy to lose its margin of safety Tennyson wrote:—

" You, you, if you shall fail to understand What England is, and what her all-in-all, On you will come the curse of all the land; Should this old England fall Which Nelson left so great.

• • Her dauntless army scattered, and so small Her island—myriads fed from alien lands— The fleet of England is her all-in-all; Her fleet is in your hands, And in her fleet her Fate."

Certainly these lines lack all the characteristic music of Tennyson, but they are at all events an extremely good

leading article. In another poem Tennyson wrote, like se many poets before him, of the narrow sea which. keeps England inviolate. The enemy in Tennyson's day- was, of course, France:—

God bless the narrow sea which keeps her off, And keeps our Britain, whole within herself, A. nation yet, the rulers and the ruled." " Give me the writing of the people's ballads, and I care not who snakes their laws," might have been said by Fletcher of Saltoun with peculiar point of sea songs. Mr. Kipling, Mr. Newbolt, and others keep alive the tradition that British sea power shall be celebrated and honoured in the heart of the nation by stirring verse. So may it always be ! It is conceivable that Venice would never have lost her independence had ballad- writers kept fresh for her the great truth that the sea was her element and her only strength. But her last great sea victories over the Turks in the seventeenth century were forgotten, and when Napoleon entered the city in 1796 he found rotting and leaky vessels worthy of the Turks themselves in the degenerate days of Abd-ul-Hamid.