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than five days; and from Malta to the extreme eastern coast of the sea and back again hardly ten days' sail,
Take the grand highway of nations to India. England has her places of refreshment scattered all along it with almost as much regularity as depôts on a railroad. From England to Gibraltar is six days' sail ; thence to Sierra Leone twelve days; to Ascension six days; to St. Helena three days; to Cape Colony eight days ; to Mauritius not more; to Ceylon about the same; and thence to Calcutta three or four days. Going farther east, a few days' sail will bring you to Singapore, and a few more to Hong Kong, and then you are at the gates of Canton. Mark now that in this immense girdle of some twelve or fifteen thousand miles there is no distance which a well-appointed steamer may not easily accomplish with such store of coal as she can carry. She may not, indeed, stop at all these ports. It may be more convenient and economical to use sails a part of the distance, rather than steam. But, if an exigency required it, she could stop and find everywhere a safe harbour.
What is true of the East Indies is true of the West Indies. England has as much power as America to control the waters of the Western Atlantic and of the Gulf of Mexico. If America has Boston and New York and Pensacola and New Orleans and Key West, England has Halifax and the Bermudas and Balize and Jamaica and Nassau, and a score more of island-harbours stretching in an unbroken line from the Florida Reefs to the mouth of the Orinoco.
But it is not simply the number of the British colonies, or the evenness with which they are distributed, that challenges our highest admiration. The positions which these colonies occupy, and their natural military strength, are quite as important facts. There is not a sea or a gulf in the world, which has any real commercial importance, that England has not a stronghold in the throat of it. And wherever the continents trending southward come to points around which the commerce of nations must sweep, there, upon every one of them, is a British settlement, and the cross of St. George salutes you as you are wafted by. There is hardly a little desolate, rocky island or peninsula, formed apparently by Nature for a fortress, and formed for nothing else, but the British lion has it secure beneath his
paw. This is a literal fact. Take, for example, the great overland route from Europe to Asia. Despite its name, its real highway is on the waters of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It has three gates,—three alone. They are, the narrow strait of Gibraltar, fifteen miles wide ; that place where the Mediterranean narrows between Sicily and Africa to less than a hunded miles wide, and the strait of Bab-el-mandeb, seventeen miles wide. England holds the key to every one of these gates-Gibraltar, Malta, and at the mouth of the Red Sea, not one but many keys. There, midway in the narrow strait, is the black, bare rock of Perim, sterile, precipitous, a perfect counterpart of Gibraltar; and on either side, between it and the main-land, are the ship-channels which connect the Red Sea with the great Indian Ocean. This England seized in 1857. A little farther out is the peninsula of Aden, another Gibraltar, as rocky, as sterile, as precipitous, connected with the main land by a narrow strait, and having at its base a populous little town, a harbour safe in all winds, and a central coal depôt. This England bought in 1839. And to completo her security, she has purchased of some petty Sultan the neighbouring islands of Socotra and Kouri,
giving, as it were, a retaining-fee, that though she does not need them herself, no rival shall possess them.
As we sail a little farther on, we come to the Chinese Sea. What a beaten track of commerce is this! What wealth of comfort and luxury is wafted over it by every breeze ! The teas of China ! The silks of farther India! The spices of the East ! What ships of every clime and nation swarm on its waters! The stately barks of England, France, America, and Holland ! And mingled with them in picturesque confusion, the clumsy junk of the Chinaman, the Malay prahu, and the slender darting bangkong of the Sea Dyak! Has England neglected to secure on a permanent basis her mercantile interest in the Chinese Sea ? At the lower end of that sea, where it is narrow and bends into Malaccca Strait, she holds Singapore, a little island mostly covered with jungle and infested by tigers, which to this day destroy annually from two to three hundred lives,-a spot of no use to her whatever, except as a commercial depôt, but of inestimable value for that, and which under her fostering care, is growing up to take its place among the great emporiums of the world. Half-way up this sea is the island of Labuan, whose chief worth is this, that beneath its surface and that of the neighbouring mainland are hidden inexhaustible treasures of coal, which are likely soon to be developed, and to yield wealth and power to the hand that controls them. At the upper end of the sea is Hong Kong, a hot, unhealthy, and disagreeable island, but which gives her what she wants, a depôt and a base from which to control the neighbouring waters. Clearly the Chinese Sea, the artery of Oriental commerce, belongs far more to England than to the races which border it.
Even in the broad and as yet comparatively untracked Pacific she is making silent advances toward dominion. The continent of Australia, which she has monopolised, forms its south-western boundary. And pushed out from this, six hundred miles eastward, like a strong outpost, is our own New Zealand ; itself larger than Great Britain ; its shores so scooped and torn that it is a very paradise of commodious bays and safe havens for the mariner; and lifted up, as if to relieve it from its island tameness, are great mountains and dumb volcanoes, worthy of a continent, and which hide in their bosoms deep, broad lakes. Yet the soil of the lowlands is of extraordinary fertility, and the climate, though humid, deals kindly with the Anglo-Saxon constitution. Nor is this all ; for, advanced from it north and south, like picket-stations, are Norfolk islé and the Auckland group, which, if they had no other attractions, certainly have this great one, good harbours. And it requires no prophet's eye to see, that, when England needs posts farther eastward, she will find them among the innumerable green coral islets which stud the Pacific.
Turn now homeward, and pause a moment at the Bermudas, “the still vexed Lermoothes." Beautiful isles, with their fresh verdure, green gems in the ocean, with airs soft and balmy as Eden's were! They have their homely uses too. They furnish arrowroot for the sick, and ample supplies of vegetables earlier than sterner climates will grant. Is this all that can be said ? Reflect a little more deeply.
Here is a military and naval depôt, and here a splendid harbour, land-locked, amply fortified, difficulty of access to strangers,—and all this within three or four days' sail of any one of the Atlantic ports north or south. England keeps this, as a sort of half-way house on the road to her West
Indian possessions ; but should America go to war with her, she would use it none the less as a base of offensive operations, where she might gather and hurl upon any unprotected port all her gigantic naval power
We have asserted that England holds all the Southern points in which the continents of the world terminate. Examine this statement, and see how much it means. Take your map of the world, and you will find that the land-surface of the globe culminates at the south in five points, no more,
America, at Cape Horn,* Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope, Asia, in Ceylon and the Malayan peninsula, and Australia in the island of Tasmania. Is it not surprising that these wedges which cut into the steady flowing stream of commerce, these choice points of mercantile and naval advantage, are all in the hands of one single power ? Can this be of chance ? Or rather, is it not the result of a well ordered purpose, which, waiting its time, seizing every favourable opportunity, has finally achieved success.
The topic is not exhausted, but the facts already adduced prove clearly enough that somewhere in the English government there has been sagacity to plant colonies, not only at convenient distances, but also in such commanding positions that they do their part to confirm and perpetuate her maritime supremacy. Can any one fail to see how immeasurably this system increases naval force ? Of course such strong. holds, wherever placed, would be of no use to a power which had not ships. They could not be held by such a power. But, given a fleet as powerful as ever rode the waves, given seamen gallant and skilful as ever furled a sail or guided the helm, and these depôts and havens, scattered, but not blindly, over the earth, quadruple the efficiency of the power which they could not create.
The number of the English colonies, their happy distribution, and, above all, their commanding position, furnish subjects of exceeding interest. But the patience with which England has waited, the skill with which she has seized the proper moment for success, and especially the fixed determination with which she has held her prizes, are topics of equal or greater interest.
The history of the rock of Gibraltar, one of the earliest of these prizes, supplies a good illustration. This had many owners before it came under British rule. But none of them seemed to know its true value. All held it with a loose grasp. Its surprise and capture by the sailors from Admiral Rooke's fleet, creditable as it was to its captors, who swarmed up the steep cliffs, as they would have swarmed up the shrouds and yards of their own frigates, leaping from rock to rock with fearless activity, was equally discreditable to its defenders, who either did not appreciate the worth of their charge, or else had not courage to hold it. But when England closed her strong hand upon it, nothing could open it again, neither motives of profit nor motives of fear. In 1729 Spain offered no less than ten million dollars for its return. A great sum in those times, and offered to a people who had been impo
• It is not absolutely true that England holds Cape Horn ; for the region is unfit for the residence of civilized man. And were it not so, the perpetual storms leave no secure anchorage. But Great Britain does hold the nearest habitable land, the Falkland Islands, and notwithstanding the rudeness of the climate, Stanley, the principle settlement, does a considerable business in refitting and repairing ships bound round the Cape,
verished by long wars! But the descendants of those sea-kings, Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, who had carried England's flag and England's renown into every sea, would not part with the brightest jewel in her crown, and for a price. Three times, too, the besieger has appeared before Gibraltar, and vainly. From 1779 to 1782 France and Spain exhausted all their resources in a three-years' seige, which is one of the most remarkable episodes in military history. By sea and by land, by blockade, by bombardment, by assault, was it pressed. But the tenacity of England was more than a match for the fire and pride of France and Spain, and it was ended in signal and disastrous failure.
Glance for a moment at the history of the seizure of Malta. For generations the value of this citadel had been known. All the strong nations of Europe had looked with covetous eyes upon it. But it was a difficult thing to find any pretext of its capture. It was held by the Knights of St. John, the decrepit remnant of an order whose heroism had many times been the shield of Christendom against the Turk, and whose praise had once filled the whole earth. They were now as inoffensive as they were incapable. Their helplessness was their true defence,-and their good deeds. At last, in 1798, Napoleon on his way to Egypt, partly by force and partly by treaty, obtained possession of it. So strong were its fortresses, that he bimself acknowledged that the knights needed only to have shut their gates against him to have baffled him. Two years after, the English, watching their time, by blockade starved out the French garrison. Its new owners held it with their usual determination. Rather than surrender it, they deliberately entered upon a ten-years war with France. The indignation which Napoleon felt, and the language which he used, show that he knew the value of the prize for which he was struggling. “I would rather," said he, "see you in possession of Montmartre than in possession of Malta." “ Malta gives the dominion of the Mediterranean; I thus lose the most important sea in the world, and the respect of Europe. Let the English obtain a port to put into; to that I have no objection; but I am determined that they shall not have two Gibraltars in one sea, -one at the entrance, and one in the middle." Nevertheless he was forced to yield to destiny stronger than his own iron will. Eleven years more found him in sad exile, and the British flag still waving over Valetta.
Hong Kong furnishes another illustration. Most, no doubt, are familiar with the general outline of the first Chinese War: how Eng. land stormed, one after the other, the ill-constructed and worse defended Chinese forts, until the courage and insolence of the Lord of the Central Flowery Kingdom alike failed. Why, now, did not England retain military possession of Canton, or some other important commercial town? That would have given her much trouble and little advantage. She chose rather to retain only one sterile island of a few miles in diameter, whose possession would awaken nobody's jealousy, but which would furnish a sufficient base for operations in any future wars.
One more example. Until about the beginning of the present century, Ceylon and Cape Colony were Dutch possessions. This is the history of their loss. Soon after the French Revolution broke out, Holland, with the consent of a portion of her people, was incorporated, if not in name, yet in reality, into the French Empire. During the long wars of Napoleon, she shared the fortunes of her master, and when continual defeats broke the power of both on the sea, her colonies were left
defenceless. Ceylon and Cape Colony fell into the hands of the English ; but so, too, did Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Essequibo, Berbice, and indeed with but little exception, all her colonial possessions, East and West. At the peace of 1814, England restored to Holland the larger portion of this territory, though not without many remonstrances from her own merchants and statesmen. But Ceylon and Cape Colony she did not restore. These were more to her than rich islands. They were links to a grand chain of commercial connection. As Aden is the half-way station on the overland route, so Cape Colony is the half-way station on the ocean route; and Ceylon, while it rounds and completes the great peninsula of which it may be considered to be a part, furnished in Point de Galle, at the south, a most needed port of refuge, and on the east at Trincomalee, one of the finest of naval harbours, with dock-yards, machine shops, and arsenal complete. England could be generous to a fallen foe, whose enmity had been quite as much a matter of necessity as inclination. But by no mistimed clemency could she sacrifice such solid advantages as these.
This steady march towards the control of the commercial waters of the earth, some of whose footsteps we have now traced, reveals the existence of a steady purpose. This colonial empire, so wide, so consis. tent, and so well compacted, is not the work of dull men, or the result of a series of fortunate blunders. Behind its history, and creating its history, there must have been a clear, calm, persistent policy,-a policy which has always regarded appearances, but which has also managed to accomplish its purposes. And the end towards which this policy tends is always one and the same : to enlarge England's commercial resources, and to build up side by side with this peaceful strength a naval power which shall keep untarnished her proudest title, -" Mistress and sovereign of the seas.”
With justice England is called the mightest naval power in the world.
And well she may be. The waves which beat upon all her coasts train up a race of seamen as hardy, as skilful, as courageous as ever sailed the sea. In her bosom are hidden inexhaustable stores of iron, copper, and coal. Her Highland hills are covered with forests of oak and larch, growing while men sleep. Her borders are crowded with workshops, and her skies dark with the smoke of their chimneys, and the air rings with the sound of their hammers. Her docks are filled with ships, and her watchful guardians are on every
Her eyes are open to profit by every invention. And her strong colonies, overlooking all waters, give new vigour and a better distribution to her naval resources. A mighty naval power she is, and for good or evil, a mighty naval power she is likely to continue. The great revolutions in warfare, which in our day are proceeding with such wonderful rapidity, may for a time disturb this supremacy ; but in the end, the genius of England, essentially maritime, and as clear and strong on the sea as it is apt to be weak and confused upon the land, will enable her to stand on her own element, as she has stood for centuries, with no superior, and with scarcely a rival.
Vol. I.-No. 9.