The Christchurch Navy League Prize Essay
Christchurch Willis & Aiken, Limited, Printers, Cathedral Square. 1907.
Supremacy of British Sea-Power.
I.—The Problem Discussed.
- The World's Race for Sea-Power.
- The Struggle Still Going On.
- The Naval Strength of the Powers Compared.
- Increasing Naval Armaments.
- Foreign Alliances.
- The Pacific, and the Panama Canal.
- British Distrust of Germany.
II.—Solution of the Problem.
- Army and Navy.
- How to Preserve our Sea Sovereignty.
- Contributions of Colonies to Imperial Navy.
- The Australasian Squadron.
- Contributory Principle Should be Applied Generally.
- Advisory Council of Imperial Naval Defence.
- Defensive Alliances to be Made.
- General Peace of the World to be Maintained.
The Maintenance of the Supremacy of the British Empire at Sea.
I.—The Problem Discussed.
Since Trafalgar, Great Britain has had command of the sea, and her vital problem now is how the supremacy of her Empire at sea may be maintained. For a century British maritime predominance has been unchallenged. Both in regard to the extent of her mercantile marine, and the strength of the navy, Great Britain is the greatest sea-power the world has ever seen. The merchant steamships and sailing vessels of the world have a carrying capacity of some 36 million tons. Of this vast total the tonnage of British ships alone aggregates 17 million tons; while next, but after a long interval (counting sea-going ships only) come Germany with 3½ million, and the United States of America with 2½ million tons.
In her over-sea possessions, too, both in regard to their extent population, and natural resources, Great Britain shows a huge preponderance over all other nations. Her colonies and dependencies measure 12 million square miles in extent, supporting a population of nearly 400 million a—about one-fourth of the total population of the globe. France can show only 4 million square miles of over-sea territory, with a population of 57 millions; while Germany still lags far behind, with colonies one million square miles in extent, having a population of about 13 millions, of whom only 7000 belong to the Teutonic race.
These two sets of facts alone show, without unnecessary comment why it is necessary for Great Britain to maintain her supremacy at sea, if the Empire is to remain intact. The British Empire is world-wide, consisting of units large and small connected physically by the sea alone, yet linked together with the crimson thread of kinship. Take it all in all, it forms the richest and about the most populous portion of the earth's surface under one flag. It has greater possibilities of expansion than any other power. It is self-contained. It produces, or can produce, within its own boundaries, everything which it requires, or which can be obtained from any other part of the world. It is not necessarily dependent on the rest of the world for anything. The only thing necessary to preserve its greatness, to keep established its continuity and cohesion, to ensure its remaining the Empire it page 3 is that it should maintain the command of the sea; that it should have control of the great sea routes and ocean arteries of trade. How necessary, therefore, is it, that the Empire should strain every nerve to preserve the sea sovereignty it now enjoys!
The World's Race for Sea-Power.
seems only now to be beginning in real earnest. For twice a thousand years and more the struggle for sea-sovereignty has been going on; and perhaps it has not even yet reached its zenith. During the contest many nations have passed away, and others have taken their places. Phoenician traders once fearlessly ploughed the Mediterranean wave, penetrating even to Britain, then on the borders of the known world. Tyre and Sidon have passed away, and even the sites of these were prosperous cities are of doubtful location. Carthage was once the mistress of the tideless sea, but the fiat, "Carthago delenda est." went forth, and she bad perforce to give place to Rome. "Roma [unclear: t]"—ancient Rome, ruler of the world, mother of men and nations, has been, and is no more. Venice and Genoa, the world's sea-carriers until the discovery of America and the Cape route to India, have dwindled into insignificant Italian towns. The very causes that contributed to their fall raised Spain to a state of maritime pre-eminence, similar to that enjoyed by Britain to-day. The great discoveries extended the margin of the world; and the people of Spain were prompt to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. Down to the defeat of the Armada in 1588. as Mr. Froude points out, the sea-sovereignty of the world certainly belonged to the Spaniards. In less than a century they had planted their colonies over the greater portion of the two Americas. They had taken possession of the great West Indian Islands. They penetrated to the Indian Ocean, and colonised the Philippines. The defeat of the Armada, however, wrested from them the sea-sovereignty they had hitherto exclusively enjoyed; and the next two centuries exhibit an almost constant, and continuous struggle, on the part of the Spanish, Dutch, French, and British, for sea supremacy; from which the British finally emerged triumphant in 1805 by the victory of Trafalgar.
This Struggle for Sea-Power
has not ceased. It is still going on; silently as yet, but still in a deadly, intensified form. Each of the greater powers seems to be effective itself to the utmost to make its navy as strong as possible. In Nelson's time victory went with seamanship, where fire, to be effective, had to be at close range. The ships, therefore, that could manoeuvre the most skilfully, and that had the greatest weight of fire, had the greatest chance of success. Hence the palm of victory, at that time, went to the skilful and highly-trained British seamen. Nowadays, steam has reduced seamanship, as then understood, almost to a nullity. Most modern experts agree that naval success in the future will lie with the nation that holds the largest number of great page 4 ships, carrying the heaviest and most effective guns, and therefore the heaviest weight of fire. In this case manoeuvring (not necessarily seamanship) weight of fire, and markmanship at great distances, are essential to success. Thus it is that every now and again, at frequent intervals, we learn that some vaster, steel-armoured floating monster has been begun by one nation or another.
At present the British "Dreadnought," of 18,000 tons, just launched and put into commission, is certainly the most powerful battleship afloat; while two others of her class are being built for the Empire in British dockyards These vessels are to be armed with heavier guns than those of any other vessel at present afloat-huge monsters of 13.25 inches calibre, each weighing 86 tons. Germany is constructing, or is about to build, a squadron of "Dreadnoughts," as well as a number of turbine destroyers able to steam 30 [unclear: kno] Japan is projecting a still larger battleship—one of 21,000 tons, while France is about to launch a new fleet of submarines.
Naval Strength of the Powers.*
It may be as well, before going further, to make a rough comparison of the present and growing naval strength of the principal powers. Britain, of course, as yet occupies the pride of place, with warships of an aggregate measurement of 1,800,000 tons; represented principally by 66 battleships of all classes, 30 armoured cruisers, 87 protected cruisers, 258 torpedo boats and destroyers, and 51 submarines. These vessels may be taken to be in the highest state of efficiency, as they are always in commission, and generally at sea, or on active duty. Besides, this the prestige and traditions of the British navy help to make for increased efficiency.
France comes next, with some 630,000 tons of war-shipping, including 40 battleships, 25 armoured cruisers. 40 protected [unclear: cruise] 387 torpedo boats and destroyers, and 89 submarines. The French ships are considered by experts to be good ones, but their efficiency is questionable, as the ships, and of course the crews, are too often in harbour, and the vessels are not always in commission. It is some-what difficult, therefore, to form a fair estimate of their value as a fighting machine, as the French are not a sea-going nation.
Germany takes third place, with some 480,000 tons of war-vessels; including 31 battleships, 15 armoured cruisers, 13 protected cruisers, and 182 torpedo boats and destroyers. The German Navy's considered to he an extremely efficient one; and, as the Kaiser's building programme is being rapidly pushed on, its efficiency should page 5 be constantly increasing. Germany, however, has had little or no naval experience in actual warfare; and it is impossible, therefore, to forecast what the value of her navy as a fighting machine is likely to be.
Fourth on the list is the United States navy, with warships aggregating about 400,000 tons, principally made up of 28 battleships, 15 armoured cruisers, and 52 torpedo-boats and destroyers. The naval successes at Manilla and Santiago, gained by America in its recent war with Spain, would seem to show that the navy of the former power is thoroughly efficient and up-to date; although it must be confessed that the Spanish ships were ill-equipped, and out date.
America is at present, under the sagacious guidance of President Rooseevelt, entering upon a wider sphere of warship construction. Her latest effort is the building of a vessel of improved "Dreadnought" class, measuring 20,000 tons, and able to steam 21 knots an hour. The broadside fire of this leviathan will be 25 per cent, heavier than that of any other vessel at present afloat; and its estimated cost is £1,200,000.
Japan, with some 320,000 tons of war vessels, including 12 battleships, 27 armoured or protected cruisers, and 101 torpedo boats and destroyers, considering its size, probably possesses as nearly perfect a fighting machine as any that sails the waters. The crushing defeat inflicted by Admiral Togo upon the Baltic fleet in the great battle of Tsushima, tended to show that in fighting power, squadron for squadron, the Japanese Navy is not inferior to that of any other nation.
* Note—The figures quoted in this article have been compiled principally from "Hazell's Annual" of 1905-1906. They have, however, been corrected, as far as possible, by a comparison of the figures given in other publications. Some were obtained from an article on "The World's Race for Sea-Power," by Mr. P. B. Hobson, in Munsey's Magazine for November last. The number of warships given includes those in process of construction.
Increasing Naval Armaments.
I have given above as accurate a statement as the information at my disposal will allow, of the strength and conditions of the naval [unclear: ments] of the principal sea-powers of the world. It will be as well, however, to note again that these armaments are being regularly and persistently increased. Great Britain herself has 235,000 tons of new warhips in course of construction. France is building 180,000 tons. Germany has 120,000 tons building, but is pursuing a much more ambitious programme than even this, with a relentless, dogged pertinacity than seems to show that her fixed, unalterable resolution is to measure her strength against Britan's naval power, as soon as she finds herself in a position to do so. America, too, in spite of the Monroe doctrine, is awakening up from her long naval lethargy, and has 315,000 tons of war shipping in course of construction. Japan, fresh from the sweets of victory, has 110,000 tons in the course of actual construction, and has already formulated a much more ambitious programme than this. Lastly, Russia, even while in the throes of a ghastly revolution, and with the hour of crushing defeat black upon her, is building warships of an aggregate capacity of 130,000 tons.
Austria-Hungary and Italy, although not of themselves very important in regard to naval matters, become so when we take into consideration their alliance with Germany. This Triple Alliance makes the first mentioned powers of great importance from a naval point of view, particularly to the British. Their combined navies of 390,000 tons, together with the ships they are having built, which aggregate 95,000 tons more, when added to Germany's naval strength, give the alliance control of war vessels, actually built, having a capacity of 860,000 tons, and the future use of an additional 215,000 tons now in the course of construction.
Again the dual alliance between France and Russia gives these combined Powers war ships of a total capacity of 850,000 tons; while another 310,000 tons are already being built.
Of course the alliance between Great Britain and Japan, confirmed last year, gives these Powers a vast preponderance over any other probable or perhaps possible combination; but for all that it must be remembered that Germany is in deadly earnest, and is apparently taking her programme of naval expansion much more seriously than is any of the other Powers. It is Germany, moreover or a combination engineered by Germany, that Great Britain has more particularly to guard against.
The Pacific and the Panama Canal.
Before we proceed to use our data in discussing the best course to adopt to ensure the continuance of British Supremacy at sea, it will be as well to examine how the problem affects New Zealand and Australia as parts of the Empire. It is of moment, too, to remember that it has not been so much the aggressive obtrusion of Foreign Powers into the Pacific, that Australasia has hitherto had reason to fear, or suffer, as the supineness and sometimes apparently the utter indifference cf the British Government to the best interests of the Pacific colonies and of the Empire. The tale of neglect and indifference is a long one, reaching its culminating point, perhaps the New Hebrides Convention recently arranged between Great Britain and France, concerning which the great self-governing colonies were not even consulted.* Had it not been for this neglectful indifference to the best interests of the Empire, on the part of successive British Governments, the Union Jack would have floated over all, or nearly all the islands of the Pacific. Let it be remembered, too, that the British Government can offer no excuse for this neglect. It ignored, or neglected to properly consider, the requests and persistent protests of such prominent colonial statesmen as Sir George Grey, Sir Robert Stout, the Hon. R. J. Seddon, Sir Henry Parkes, Mr. Barton, Mr. Deakin, and other leading members of the Australasian Governments. To be sure that this statement is correct let us take a few facts.page 7
As far back as 1853 Sir George Grey urged upon the British Government the expediency of annexing New Caledonia, one of the largest islands in the Pacific. Downing Street neglected to do so, although the Island chiefs themselves desired annexation. France stepped in, with the result that this large and richly endowed island is now a French possession. The valuable Samoan Islands, on the direct trade route to San Francisco and the Panama Canal, stand in similar case. The king and islanders wished these islands to be made a dependency of New Zealand. Everything was ready to accomplish this result. The steamer with the official party was ready to leave, but the Little England Government again intervened. Samoa was lost to the Empire, and the greater part of it became an appendage of Germany; the remainder going to America. The Sandwich Islands, too, also on the trade route to the Great Western Continent, although their people desired British protection, were allowed to become American property. As Sir Robert Stout, and Sir Julius Vogel, had urged in the case of Samoa, Mr. Seddon again urged in the case of Hawaii. He entered a rigorous protest against American annexation. During one of his visits to the Mother Country he did all in his power to preserve these strategically important islands for the Empire, but without avail. No one knew better than our late lamented Premier that once the Islands became an American possession the coastwise laws of the United States would prevail, and New Zealand would be practically shut out from the Samoan trade. Before this annexation about one-third of the trading between San Francisco and New Zealand were owned by New Zealand merchants and traders. These trading vessel have now for the most part disappeared.
Why continue the tale? Samoa, New Caledonia, the greater part of the New Guinea group, and many others, have all permanently passed away from the aegis of the British flag; and to think that they might have remained Anglo-Keltic for all time, and have thus offered no barriers to the expansion and predominance of the British race in the Pacific!
Most of the islands mentioned form a set of stepping stones from our own Colony, and Australia, to the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal. Their loss to the Empire, as the late Mr. Seddon most strenuosly pointed out, is irreparable. Their occupation by foreign powers has rendered the condition of the Australasian colonies less secure. They will form the coaling stations, harbours of refuge, and ports of call for any hostile fleet that may invade the Pacific for the purpose of attacking British colonies there. Many of these islands of great strategical and commercial importance, and should have been made inalienable British territory, when the opportunity of making them so-was so utterly easy. Well might Mr. Seddon exclaim, in his own vigorous way, that it was a pity that such Little England statesmen as those who had lost us these valuable territories should page 8 ever have been entrusted with the destinies of Great Britain and the Empire.
It is of paramount importance, therefore, that no further encroachments of foreign powers in the Pacific should be permitted. Great Britain, and no other Power, should dominate this vast ocean. Within a very few years the Panama Canal will be open for traffic. The result will be a shifting of the centre of gravity of the whole world. The need of British imperialism, and true federation, will be emphasised. The Australasian colonies, and the Islands of the Pacific, will be brought nearer to Europe, nearer to the great heart of the Empire. Newer strategical, commercial, and sociological problems will arise, and will await and require solution. As Mr. Seddon cogently pointed out, "The future of the Pacific will be greatly changed by the opening of the Panama Canal from what it would have been under old conditions. The number of industries will be greatly affected. Unless British statesmen grasp the situation, and provide therefor, they will find in years to come the weak spot in the armour of the Empire. They will find that the most deadly blow the Empire can sustain will be dealt in the Pacific itself."
These are pregnant, sagacious, and perhaps prophetic words, that should not be disregarded by our people of the Southern Seas, and should show us the necessity of doing all in our power towards assisting the Mother Country to maintain the supremacy of her sea power. To do this they must, as the Navy League is doing, strive to keep the British Government on the alert to the necessity of keeping up and even increasing the naval strength of the Empire, and of making such defensive alliances with friendly naval powers as will ensure either peace or victory.
* A possible explanation of this alleged neglect is given on page 8 of this article.
British Distrust of Germany.
The Power that the British have reason to distrust most, and whose ambitious aims in the direction of its own imperial expansion they have undoubtedly to guard against, is Germany; particularly Germany under its present Kaiser. Ever since the Franco-German war, and the consequent unification of Germany through the confederation of the German States, the Teutonic Empire has progressed by leaps and bounds Not only has it increased in military and naval strength, but the growth of its manufactures, the expansion of its trade and commerce, the increase of its population and of its wealth and material resources, have been wonderful. Within the confines of the European portion of the German Empire lives a population of 60,000,000. This population is increasing rapidly. The German birth-rate is higher, and its death-rate lower, than those of Great Britain. Just across the border, in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, are another 16,000,000 Germans, one in blood, descent and speech, which a turn in the wheel of fortune may at any time place at the disposal of Germany. Besides these there are 25,000,000 Germans, or page 9 people of German descent, settled in the United States of America, so that scattered over the world there are some hundred million Germans, one in blood and speech—the great majority of them being under one flag. Leaving out the foreign and coloured elements of America, this number almost equals the Anglo-Keltic population of the globe.
Whether this is so or not, or whether it is of importance to us, or not, from an Imperial point of view, we cannot help noticing the following significant facts:—The population of Germany during the last fifteen years has increased by over thirty per cent, and it is still increasing in a similar ratio. Its present population of 60 millions is crushed into an area only two-thirds that of New South Wales, or twice that of New Zealand. This vast, and ever increasing population, if it is to go on growing, must find an outlet. Just as our English forefathers, through pressure of population, and stress of war were forced to leave their pleasant pastures in the heart of the peninsula that separates the Baltic from the northern seas, or to quit their black-timbered homesteads, and prim little townships, nestling near the purple patches of water at the mouths of the Weser and the Elbe, and betake themselves to the great waters, to become in time colonisers of other lands; so the modern Germans are looking out for other territories beyond the sea, vaster and more spacious lands, where their race and nationality may bourgeon, and blossom, and fructify, until the Teuton shall possess the earth, and all that is therein.
What wonder, then, that the Kaiser and his people cast envious eyes upon the prosperous and spacious over-sea colonies of Britain, and perhaps cherish the wish that these ready-made examples of successful colonization may some day soon drop into the rapacious German maw.
Germany's own over-sea colonies have not been a success. Like the colonies of old Rome, the pestilent, poisonous breath of militarism has breathed upon them, and prevented any true colonization, any genuine extension of the Fatherland. But for all that the Teutons have the example of history before them. Just as the great colonies of France fell before the prowess and organization of British soldiers and sailors, and became absorbed into the Empire of the Free; so, the Germans feel warranted in believing that a turn of fortune's wheel may bring about the annihilation of the British Navy as a fighting force, with the possible transference to their own government and control of the principal gems in the crown of the empire upon which the sun never sets.
The dream, too, is not impossible of realisation. Given supineness and continued indifference on the part of the British Government, sinful neglect in not guarding against the compassing of what are undoubtedly Germany's secret hopes and aspirations, or the failure to keep pace with every extension of the German navy; and the realisation of the dream is only too possible.page 10
And the dream is no idle one, either. Mark what strenuous efforts Germany is making to oapture the trade of the world, to find new markets for her produce, to obtain new territory for the settlement of her own over-crowded population—territory that will remain German, with a German people owning fealty to the German flag. Already her over-sea colonies, as we have seen, extend to a millon square miles in area. She has set her foot in the Pacific, and has apparently taken root there. She poses as the friend of the Mussulman, with the hope of obtaining concessions in trade or territory from Mahommedan countries. Fortunately her scheming bore no fruit in Morocco; but she is still persistently striving to obtain control of Persia and the Persian Gulf. She is seeking to establish great interests in Egypt and the Lower Nile, with the object of preventing the British from keeping possession of north-eastern Africa, without granting the Kaiser concessions elsewhere. She has even been coquetting with America as witness Prince Henry's visit to New York with a German fleet—but solely with the view of lulling Monroeism to sleep, while she devises some pretest or excuse to exercise some measure of military control over her large South American commercial interests, aud thus obtain a permanent footing in the great southern continent.
Spain, France, and Britain have, each in its turn, exercised an almost world-wide supremacy. Germany alone of the great Empires has not been a world-power; but she believes that her time coming, and desires it to come quickly. She is for ever scheming extend her power. Even the other day the cable news announced covert attempt on the part of Germany to obtain a footing in the New Hebrides, by the purchase of large estates there, before the new agreement between Great Britain and France in regard to a joint Protectorate over the islands was completed. The British Government, however, was for once on the alert, and the scheme for affording Germany an excuse for intervening has fallen through. The Convention between the two Powers directly interested was hastily signed, before the Commonwealth and New Zealand could be consulted in regard to the terms. This, at least, is the explanation offered, to account for the failure of the British Government to allow Australia and New Zealand an opportunity of considering the terms of the Convention before its final completion. It seems, therefore, that Germany's latest attempt to further increase her interest in the Pacific nas been signally defeated; but the episode serves to show how keen and alert she is in her attempts' to carry out her scheme of expansion.
II.—Solution of the Difficulty.
Nothing can be plainer than the fact that the Powers cannot continue indefinitely to increase their naval armaments on the scale that their proposed expenditure for the next few years indicates. The limit of the annual drain for naval purposes must be reached at last, and the time when it will be reached cannot be far off. In 1904 the United Kingdom spent £41,000,000 on the navy, and the administration of naval affairs. In the same year, and for similar purposes, France spent £ 13,000 000; Russia, £ 12,000,000; Germany, £11,000,000; and America, £20,000,000. Since then the naval expenditure of each country has been somewhat increased, and the contemplated future expenditure is greater still. Germany, in particular in spite of her heavy military expenditure, has formulated an ambitious scheme of naval expansion. As the population of the United Kingdom is only two-thirds that of Germany, while her naval expenditure is four times as great, it is very evident that Germany should be able, for some time to come, to spend annually considerably larger sums in improving her navy than Great Britain can probably afford to do.
The German army, too, although a much larger and more efficient fighting force than Britain possesses, costs very little more than the British army does. In 1905-1906 the total cost of the British army, of less than 300,000 men, was about £30,000,000. The cost of the German army for the previous year, with a strength upon mobilisation of upwards of 3,000,000 men, was only £32,000.000. Thus, Germany, spending as she does little move on her Army than Great Britain does on hers, and with a much larger population, should be able to spend much more on her navy than the latter Power.
It must be remembered, too, that the total cost of our navy and army falls almost exclusively on the British taxpayer; for the colonial contribution to the navy, in proportion to its total cost, is so infinitesimally small as to be almost a negligible quantity. This seems hardly fair to the British taxpayer, whose interest in maintaining the sea-power of the Empire is at least not greater than that of the colonial taxpayer.
The principle underlying British naval expenditure is the maintenance of a navy of sufficient strength to be equal to that of a possible combination of any two other Powers. If, say, Germany and Russia were to commence to increase their naval strength more rapidly than they have been doing, it might be difficult for Great Britain to maintain the two-Power standard of superiority. The strain on her resources might be too great. What, then, can be done.
To Preserve the Supremacy of British Sea-Power?
The answer has already been partially, if indirectly, indicated page 12 during the course of this article. But it will perhaps he better to indicate more definitely, and in greater detail, the lines on which the solution of the problem seems to depend.
In the first place, it seems evident that the Empire should be defended by the Empire. This apparent parados means that all parts of the Empire—Canada, the Commonwealth, New Zealand, South Africa, and all the other colonies and possessions, whether self-governing or not—should contribute according to their means to the support and maintenance of the Imperial navy.
In the second place, Great Britain should endeavour to form a strong defensive alliance with the United States of America, as well as with Japan. France is at present a friendly naval power, and might possibly be included in the proposed alliance. She is highly antagonistic to Germany, and has a strong naval force. It should be Great Britain's policy, however, to avoid, as far as possible, all chances of becoming involved or entangled in European continental complications; and an alliance with France might render such an entanglement unavoidable. America and Japan, on the other hand, like Great Britain, are isolated sea powers; and a strong defensive alliance with them would be less likely to produce frictional complications with other countries.
Let us first discuss the question of
Colonial Contributions to the Imperial Navy.
If all iiritish colonies were to contribute to the support of the Imperial navy in proportion to their means, the present naval supremacy of the Empire would be considerably strengthened, and would therefore be more likely to be maintained. The present population of the United Kingdom is about 48,000,000. The annual cost of the navy, as we have seen, is about £41,000.000, or nearly £1 per head of the population, and almost the whole of this cost is borne by the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland. We can take it, therefore that, in the meantime, this cost is not as yet too burdensome to the British taxpayer; although, as has already been pointed out, the burden, if it goes on increasing, will necessarily, sooner or later, reach straining, if not breaking point.
Any contributions made by the colonies towards the support of the navy, might very well, therefore, be either an addition to this sum, or a proportionate part of it, or of whatever larger sum might be required. A satisfactory scheme of voluntary contributions can no doubt be formulated. The total white population of the great self-governing colonies of the Empire is roughly about 15,000.000, so that it can be readily seen that even a small per capita contribution from these would materially lighten the burden of Imperial naval defence; while at the same time it might materially increase the strength and efficiency of the navy. In any case, the principle itself, page 13 that each unit of the Empire should contribute in proportion to its means to the general defence, is certainly a sound one. At present we have an example of how the principle has been already applied in the case of
The Australasian Squadron.
The agreement entered into in 1887 between the Mother Country, Australia, and New Zealand, in regard to the Australasian Squadron, seems to suggest a basis upon which colonial contributions to the Imperial Navy may possibly be satisfactorily arranged. If not an actual basis, it is, at all events, suggestive of a means of settlement.
This agreement, which has been confirmed by Statute by all the Australasian Parliaments, provides for the payment by New Zealand Australia of a proportionate part of the cost of establishing and maintaining an additional naval force, to be employed for the protection of the floating trade in Australasian waters. Under it the [unclear: t] consists of five fast cruisers and two torpedo gunboats. Three cruisers and one gunboat are to be always kept in commission. The remainder are to be held in reserve in Australasian ports, ready for common when the occasion arises. In time of peace two ships are to be stationed in New Zealand waters as their headquarters.
The first cost of the ships is paid out of Imperial funds, and vessels are fully equipped and manned. The agreement also provides that the colonies already mentioned shall pay to the Imperial Government interest on the first and principal cost at the rate of five per cent annually up to a certain amount, and shall also bear the actual charges of the vessels from year to year. At present New Zealand pays yearly some £40,000, and Australia £200,000; but these payments could if necessary, as the late Mr. Seddon suggested, be considerably increased without over-burdening the contributory states.
The squadron is to be wholly at the disposal of the Imperial Government in time of war.
An Extension of the Contributory Principle required.
The principle involved in the establishment and maintenance of the Australasian Squadron seems to be a sound one; and the experiment is one that might with advantage be made in regard to the other over sea colonies of the Empire. At all events it recognises the expedience of, and makes provision for, the payment of a definite contribution by the Commonwealth and New Zealand towards the naval defence of the Empire. This being done, the arrangement made is necessarily applicable to the other British colonies and dependencies, or can be made so. The proposal to make the principle applicable to the parts of the Empire seems to be one that should be of ready application. The position would be that the separate portions of the Empire would each voluntarily consent to pay to the British page 14 Government a certain annual sum, proportionate to their means, for definite concessions in regard to the navy. The arrangement could easily he continued until the time was ripe for the establishment, say, of an
Advisory Council of Imperial Naval Defence,
in which all parts of the Empire were represented. At present there is in existence a British Committee of Imperial Defence, which included, last year, the British Premier, as Chairman, Lord Roberts, and the chief officers of the Admiralty and the War Office. Its functions are to consider all questions of Imperial Defence from the point of view of the Navy, the Military forces, India, and the Colonies; to obtain and collate information in regard to defence matters; and to furnish the British Government with such advice as may be necessary. The Committee is purely an advisory one, and has no executive functions whatever. This Committee is regarded by the British Governments as merely the beginning of what in time may develop into a wider and more comprehensive scheme. To the Colonies, certainly, the institution under discussion, limited as it is in its membership to the officials of the Admiralty and War Office, seems too narrow in scope to be able to efficiently advise on the defence matters of a vast empire.
It is to be hoped, therefore, that this limited committee will soon develop into some such general body as a representative Defence Council of the Empire. Such a representative body as this should be speedily in a position to advise, efficiently and effectively, on the best methods to be followed in order to ensure the maintenance of British Supremacy at Sea. It could also, without difficulty, formulate some satisfactory scheme of both representation and contribution to the defence fund.
In the next place, there can be little question that, in order to preserve her sea-sovereignty, and thus keep her empire safe from attack, and possible dismemberment, Great Britain should form such
with foreign powers as would tend to preserve the peace of the world. For a long time her statesmen have pursued a policy of splendid isolation, but the time for that seems to have gone by. Indeed, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1905 indicates the termination of the policy of isolation, and renders it more probable that British statesmen will see the advisability of maintaining the cohesion and solidarity of the Empire by forming other and stronger alliances on similar lines.
|(a)||The consolidation and maintenance of the General Peace in the regions of Eastern Asia and of India.|
|(b)||The preservation of the commercial interests of all Powers in China by ensuring the independence and integrity of the Chinese page 15 Empire, and the principle of equal opportunities foe the commerce and industries of all nations in China,|
|(c)||The maintenance of the territorial rights of the High Contacting Parties in the regions of Eastern Asia, and of India, and the defence of their special interests in these regions.|
The articles of the treaty specify how the carrying out of these objects may be achieved, and under what conditions the one Power may, when necessary, come to the armed assistance of the other.
It should not be difficult for Great Britain and Japan to arrange a defensive alliance with the United States of America on somewhat similar lines. Such a treaty might well deal with the propection of the commerce and sea-trade of the three countries, and the general preservation of peace at sea. All three nations are isolated sea-powers to whom the internal complications of Europe are not of [unclear: treme] importance. In alliance, they would be too strong for any possible naval combination that could be formed against them. They would then have supreme control of the sea, without the slightest possibility of having that supremacy wrested from them. Great Britain, with her stronger navy, would be the dominant partner of the alliance, and would, therefore, as at present, still maintain her sea-sovereignty.
America should be the natural ally of Great Britain and her colonies. The two nations are practically one in blood and speech. Combined they represent a white population of nearly 150,000,000, of [unclear: dred] aims and interests. Their resources are almost unlimited; their power of expansion almost equally so. Their common aim is the preservation of the peace of the world.
Japan, too, should come into the alliance. There is no practical reason why she should not. The little pin-prick of colour feeling, that is temporarily irritating the people of Japan and America, will soon disappear, and will not be likely to retard the solution of the great problem of the preservation of the general peace. Japan would be an almost necessary factor of the alliance, in order to balance in the East the preponderance of Britain and America in the West. It would be of the utmost importance to the colonies of Australasia, and the other British possessions in the Pacific, that Japan should be a member of the suggested alliance. Indeed, it is greatly to be desired, in the interests of Australasia, that Japan, with her 50 millions of population, and her great and growing military and naval strength, and her comparative nearness to the Pacific colonies of the Empire, should remain a friendly power in alliance with Great Britain.
Great Britain, America, and Japan, as we have stated, are isolated sea-powers, whose common interests are, first, the preservation of peace at sea, and, second, the continuance of the general peace of the world. Neither of them has much interest in the frictional differences that may arise between any of the countries of Europe in regard to their page 16 European territories, except is so far as the establishment of the military and territorial predominance in Europe of any one Power, such as Germany, might prejudicially affect their own interests from naval or military point of view.
The chief obstacle in the way of the formation of a triple alliance between the Powers mentioned, will be found to be in the unwillingness of American statesmen to depart from the traditionary implications of the Monroe doctrine. But an alliance, such as the one suggested, need not in the slightest degree interfere with the principle underlying Monroism. It would rather strengthen the doctrine, than otherwise, and give it additional international weight and importance. If the main objects of the alliance were the preservation of the existing rights of each member, and there was a joint determination to resist any attempts on the part of any other nation to encroach upon these rights, then, the combined navies of the three Powers would be a guarantee of a prolonged and perhaps a general peace.
Already some leading Americans advocate the establishment of a defensive union between Great Britain and America; and no doubt, if the attempt were strenuously made, it might soon become an accomplished fact.
An Anglo American-Japanese alliance, or defence purposes would tend to secure a long, if not a permanent peace. The longer the general peace of the world is maintained, the more does trade and commerce increase and prosper; the kindlier is the feeling engendered amongst the people of the world; and the more will militarism languish and tend to die away. National prosperity, the world's progress, depends on the preservation of the peace of the world. Militarism feeds on war, and without war would die of inanation. While war is possible, however, armaments must be kept up as a guarantee of peace and justice. As a guarantee, too, of the preservation of her Empire, Great Britain must maintain her sea supremacy; and the most feasible method by which she can do this, is, as we have pointed out, for each part of the Empire to contribute, in proportion to its means, to a general scheme of naval defence; and, secondly, the Empire, to enter into a defensive alliance with such combined Powers as America and Japan.
Willis & Aiken Ltd., Printers and Publishers, 63 Cathedral Square, Chrishchurch