POLITICAL AND COMMERCIAL AFFAIRS

The Lost Empire of England?

WALTER FREWEN LORD April 1 1909
POLITICAL AND COMMERCIAL AFFAIRS

The Lost Empire of England?

WALTER FREWEN LORD April 1 1909

The Lost Empire of England?

WALTER FREWEN LORD

From the Nineteenth Century

WE Englishmen should face the present situation with more dignity if we were not so ignorant of history. For many centuries our foes have been all to the south; so of course our ports and defences look southward. With the exception of one short period of rivalry with Holland we have had no foe to the eastward till the last fifteen years. Consequently we have no preparations. To provide the necessary ports and defences is not “unfriendly,” but only the most ordinary common sense.

Similarly, people continue to talk about German}'as if that mighty power were still the Prussia of the Convention of Olmutz. The best way to understand the question is tc talk it over in German with Germans; one does so to some advantage if one has known the country and the language for more than thirty' years. The following abstract is the ‘boiling down” of many a long talk with men of character and ambition and patriotism, who know what they are talking about :

“For us the conquest of England is a historical necessity. We are quite sure of our future; sooner or later we are certain to beat you by force of money-bags. We have a population already half as large again as yours. We increase more rapidly than you. Our vitality grows higher daily; yours is lower and lower every day. For this there are reasons. Your land is ruined by

Free Trade, and your rural population is scattered or has migrated to the towns. Every week your enterprising citizens leave the country, while their places are taken by the scum of our population. All that is a great source of weakness to you and of strength to us. We have composed all our internal differences; you have new differences growing more and more bitter every day.

“If you changed your financial policy you could deal us a serious blow, for we are growing rich on your spoils. But you will not dare to do that ; your Radicals will not allow it. We are in no hurry. You might still make yourselves strong by union with your colonies; but, there again, your Radicals will not allow that.

“We shall build and build against you until the burden is too heavy for you to bear, and then you will have to take our orders. There is one chance of a settlement with you at an early date; it is that we might catch you napping. If, at any time, we could strike with a clear majority of ships in our favor—owing to your fleet being scattered—that would do. For you have no army ; if you had one we should not dream of invading you. When once we are in the country the result is a foregone conclusion.”

So speak these manly, courteous, downright Germans; gallant friends to-day, gallant and most formidable foes to-morrow. How far short of this robust and intelligent tone do we fall in England! One day we are indignant at remarks which might “hurt the Germans’ feelings,” as if the Germans were neurotic imbeciles and not live men. Another day we grow violent over German “espionage”—as if espionage were not a perfectly legitimate preliminary to warfare. In fact, we indulge in every emotion except the sober intention to ascertain the facts and profit by our knowledge.

On the 25th of September, 1908, the distribution of the fleet was as follows: “Six battleships (Channel Fleet) were at Scarborough, eight were at the Home ports, viz. three at Chatham, three at Portsmouth, two at Devonport; four of these were ready for sea and four were refitting. At the same date nine (Home Fleet) were at Cromarty, two were in the neighborhood of the Nore, and one was at Devonport.” This was the disposition of the Home and Channel Fleets on the date named, as described by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the 4th of November, 1908. Interrogated as to whether such a thing was likely to occur again, the First Lord replied in the affirmative.

Thus we have it on the authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty that he has already on one occasion placed the Home and Channel Fleets in precisely the position in which my German friends would like to find them for greater convenience of destruction, and we also know that he intends to repeat that operation.

On the 25th of September eighteen German battleships were at Heligoland ; but the First Lord was officially unaware of the fact.

It is not necessary to understand the technicalities of naval warfare in order to appreciate the situation of the 25th of September, 1908; it suffices if one understands that six is a smaller number than eighteen. The Germans arc as cautious as they are brave, and have no intention of

running any risks. They know that many opportunities of attacking, with an overwhelming superiority, will be granted them, and they will choose that which is most convenient for themselves. In the meantime, they are not perfectly sure of their ships or of their crews; but they are continually practising for the great day; all honor to them; all shame to us if they succeed.

There are limits to their courtesy in discussing the invasion of England. You must not inquire why their High Sea Fleet never goes on the high seas; the answer being of course that it is not meant to go on the high seas, and is only built for one rush and for one campaign. Also, if they say that their fleet is built to protect their commerce, you must accept that explanation. Do not ask why it is always in Europe instead of suppressing piracy off Singapore; they do not jest about such matters.

With respect to this question of warfare, one of the greatest difficulties to be overcome is the jeer that Radicals always level at civilians who “pretend to understand warfare.” Technicalities we may not understand, but we can understand that it is no use throwing stones at a man who is armed with a rifle; you do not even annoy him; and he chooses his own time to shoot you down. This is the position to which we were nearly reduced on the 25th o'" September, 1908.

“No blood tax,” “No militarism,” “Universal brotherhood,” and so on. cry the Radicals; all of which sentimentalisms are synonyms for one ugly word—cowardice. Compare these catchwords—which always get a cheer from the audiences of this anaemic generation — with the phrases on the lips of Germans : “Deutschland über Alles,” “Alle fur Kaiser und Reich.” “Our future lies on the Sea,” “The trident must be in our grasp.” These are words befitting a great, proud, successful and ambitions people. While we cower and shiver at the thought of war, they prepare: exultingly noting the dementia of a great nation which has deliberately confided its interests to its unavowed but, none the less, most dire enemies.

Lord Roberts tells us that the advance-guard of invasion is already here, 80,000 strong. One would suppose that this would be conclusive. Cite that grave warning to Radicals and what do they say? Many things — all foolish—but the most ridiculous reply that I have encountered is the fatuous return question “Where are they?” Where do these mock innocents suppose they are? Do they expect to have them paraded in Hyde Park for their inspection? Of course it is the business of a secret agent to remain in secrecy. Anybody except one wilfully blind could see that.

We come to the condition of the people—a frightful spectacle. Too many Englishmen are living in conditions to which we would not condemn our pet animals. The infernal gosnel of cheapness, to which the Radicals are so devoted, is responsible for this. Here we may profitably consider another of Magee’s famous addresses. It was on the Ten Commandments. It is hard to be original about the Ten Commandments; but Magee performed this difficult task. At that date the ruin of English agriculture was rapidly drawing near, and with it the loss of our agricultural population—the most serious blow yet dealt at the strength of this country. The first wealth of a country, said Magee, is its manhood. The Ten Commandments are the basis of a well-ordered State, and dire was the punishment of misconduct enjoined by Moses. But, on the other hand, how handsomely was virtue rewarded ! How careful was Moses of the health of the chosen people, of their food, and their family life!

How was every man cherished and rewarded so long as he was a good citizen ! As for the “stranger within the gate”—he might have the leavings of the chosen people. Now, said Magee, remove the reward of virtue, and maintain the dire punishment for wrong-doing, and where is your well-ordered State? We have traveled far in thirty years; we have done exactly what Magee warned us not to do. We do not cherish our manhood. We only cherish our good-for-nothings ; they are the only class that the State encourages—the rest may go hang.

Ignorance is our enemy; it seems as if it would be our conqueror. How great that ignorance is may be realized from some remarks of the late Professor Huxley made twenty years ago. We were then just beginning to talk “Imperialism.” At that date Huxley did not like it. He thought that England would do better to renounce a policy which he thought “grasping,” and to subside, contentedly, into a second Holland, a country without dependencies, whose history was wound up. Even Huxley was really ignorant of the fact that Holland was possessed of the largest Colonial Empire in extent after our own. He was also unaware that England had conquer* d that Empire (much of it twice) and handed it back to the Dutch, which is hardly a “grasping” policy^ So I listened in respectful silence and mentally sketched the “Lost Empires of the modern world.” Lord Rosebery’s definition of the British Empire cannot be too clearly kept in mind: the “greatest secular

agency for good now existing in the world.’

Any suggestion for overcoming our ignorance must be made on the supposition that Germany grants us time. We are now existing on German sufiferance. If she chooses to strike she can write the “Lost Empire of England” at her leisure.