Military service is long periods of boredom interupted by utter terror. For those boring times, this supplementary reading for my book This Side Toward Enemy might help fill the hours. For your further reading and research, I have placed Olive Drab links to more information or to Amazon.com where you can research or buy the source material.
The urgency with which peace was desired by the principal parties to the War of the Austrian Succession may perhaps be inferred from the neglect to settle definitely and conclusively many of the questions outstanding between them, and notably the very disputes about which the war between England and Spain began. It seems as though the powers feared to treat thoroughly matters that contained the germs of future quarrels, lest the discussion should prolong the war that then existed. England made peace because the fall of Holland was otherwise inevitable, not because she had enforced, or surrendered, her claims of 1739 against Spain. The right of uninterrupted navigation in West Indian seas, free from any search, was left undetermined, as were other kindred matters. Not only so, but the boundaries between the English and Freach colonies in the valley of the Ohio, toward Canada, and on the land side of the Nova Scotian peninsula, remained as vague as they had before been. It was plain that peace could not last; and by it, if she had saved Holland, England surrendered the control of the sea which she had won. The true character of the strife, shrouded for a moment by the continental war, was revealed by the so-called peace; though formally allayed, the contention continued in every part of the world.
In India, Dupleix, no longer able to attack the English openly, sought to undermine their power by the line of policy already described. Mingling adroitly in the quarrels of surrounding princes, and advancing his own power while so doing, he attained by rapid steps to the political control, in 1751, of the southern extremity of India, a country nearly as large as France. Given the title of Nabob, he now had a place among the princes of the land. “A merely commercial policy was in his eyes a delusion; there could be no middle course between conquest and abandonment.” In the course of the same year further grants extended the French power through extensive regions to the north and east, embracing all the coast of Orissa, and made Dupleix ruler of a third of India. To celebrate his triumphs, perhaps also in accordance with his policy of impressing the native mind, he now founded a town and put up a pillar setting forth his successes. But his doings caused the directors of the company only disquietude; instead of the reinforcements he asked for they sent him exhortations to peace; and at about this time Robert Clive, then but twenty-six years old, began to show his genius. The success of Dupleix and his allies became checkered with reverses; the English under Clive’s leadership supported the native opponents of the French. The company at home was but little interested in his political schemes, and was annoyed at the failure of dividends. Negotiations were opened at London for a settlement of difficulties, and Dupleix was summoned home; the English government, it is said, making his recall an absolute condition of continued peace. Two days after his departure, in 1754, his successor signed a treaty with the English governor, wholly abandoning his policy, stipulating that neither company should interfere in the internal politics of India, and that all possessions acquired during the war in the Carnatic should be given back to the Mogul. What France thus surrendered was in extent and population an empire, and the mortification of French historians has branded the concession as ignominious; but how could the country have been held, with the English navy cutting off the eagerly desired reinforcements?
In North America, the declaration of peace was followed by renewed agitation, which sprang from and betokened the deep feeling and keen sense of the situation had by the colonists and local authorities on either side. The Americans held to their points with the stubbornness of their race. “There is no repose for our thirteen colonies,” wrote Franklin, “so long as the French are masters of Canada.” The rival claims to the central unsettled region, which may accurately enough be called the valley of the Ohio, involved, if the English were successful, the military separation of Canada from Louisiana; while on the other hand, occupation by the French, linking the two extremes of their acknowledged possessions, would shut up the English colonists between the Alleghany Mountains and the sea. The issues were apparent enough to leading Americans of that day, though they were more far- reaching than the wisest of them could have foreseen; there is room for curious speculation as to the effect, not only upon America, but upon the whole world, if the French government had had the will, and the French people the genius, effectively to settle and hold the northern and western regions which they then claimed. But while Frenchmen upon the spot saw clearly enough the coming contest and the terrible disadvantage of unequal numbers and inferior navy under which Canada must labor, the home government was blind alike to the value of the colony and to the fact that it must be fought for; while the character and habits of the French settlers, lacking in political activity and unused to begin and carry through measures for the protection of their own interests, did not remedy the neglect of the mother-country. The paternal centralizing system of French rule had taught the colonists to look to the mother-country, and then failed to take care of them. The governors of Canada of that day acted as careful and able military men, doing what they could to supply defects and weaknesses; it is possible that their action was more consistent and well-planned than that of the English governors; but with the carelessness of both home governments, nothing in the end could take the place of the capacity of the English colonists to look out for themselves. It is odd and amusing to read the conflicting statements of English and French historians as to the purposes and aims of the opposing statesmen in these years when the first murmurings of the storm were heard; the simple truth seems to be that one of those conflicts familiarly known to us as irrepressible was at hand, and that both governments would gladly have avoided it. The boundaries might be undetermined; the English colonists were not.
The French governors established posts where they could on the debatable ground, and it was in the course of a dispute over one of these, in 1754, that the name of Washington first appears in history. Other troubles occurred in Nova Scotia, and both home governments then began to awake. In 1755 Braddock’s disastrous expedition was directed against Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburg, where Washington had surrendered the year before. Later in the year another collision between the English and French colonists happened near Lake George. Although Braddock’s expedition had been first to start, the French government was also moving. In May of the same year a large squadron of ships-of-war, mostly armed en flute,(1) sailed from Brest with three thousand troops, and a new governor, De Vaudreuil, for Canada. Admiral Boscawen had already preceded this fleet, and lay in wait for it off the mouth of the St. Lawrence. There was as yet no open war, and the French were certainly within their rights in sending a garrison to their own colonies; but Boscawen’s orders were to stop them. A fog which scattered the French squadron also covered its passage; but two of the ships were seen by the English fleet and captured, June 8, 1755. As soon as this news reached Europe, the French ambassador to London was recalled, but still no declaration of war followed. In July, Sir Edward Hawke was sent to sea with orders to cruise between Ushant and Cape Finisterre, and to seize any French ships-of-the-line he might see; to which were added in August further orders to take all French ships of every kind, men-of-war, privateers, and merchantmen, and to send them into English ports. Before the end of the year, three hundred trading vessels, valued at six million dollars, had been captured, and six thousand French seamen were imprisoned in England, - enough to man nearly ten ships-of-the-line. All this was done while nominal peace still existed. War was not declared until six months later.
1. That is, with the guns on board, but for the most part not mounted on their carriages in order to give increased accommodation for troops. When the troops were landed, the guns were mounted.
France still seemed to submit, but she was biding her time, and preparing warily a severe stroke for which she had now ample provocation. Small squadrons, or detachments of ships, continued to be sent to the West Indies and to Canada, while noisy preparations were made in the dock-yard of Brest, and troops assembled upon the shores of the Channel. England saw herself threatened with invasion, - a menace to which her people have been peculiarly susceptible. The government of the day, weak at best, was singularly unfit for waging war, and easily misled as to the real danger. Besides, England was embarrassed, as always at the beginning of a war, not only by the numerous points she had to protect in addition to her commerce, but also by the absence of a large number of her seamen in trading-vessels all over the world. The Mediterranean was therefore neglected; and the French, while making loud demonstrations on the Channel, quietly equipped at Toulon twelve ships-of-the- line, which sailed on the 10th of April, 1756, under Admiral la Galissoniere, convoying one hundred and fifty transports with fifteen thousand troops, commanded by the Duke of Richelieu. A week later the army was safely landed in Minorca, and Port Mahon invested, while the fleet established itself in blockade before the harbor.
Practically this was a complete surprise; for though the suspicions of the English government had been at last aroused, its action came too late. The garrison had not been reinforced, and numbered a scant three thousand men, from which thirty-five officers were absent on leave, among them the governor and the colonels of all the regiments. Admiral Byng sailed from Portsmouth with ten ships-of-the-line only three days before the French left Toulon. Six weeks later, when he reached the neighborhood of Port Mahon, his fleet had been increased to thirteen ships-of-the-line, and he had with him four thousand troops. It was already late; a practicable breach had been made in the fortress a week before. When the English fleet came in sight, La Galissoniere stood out to meet it and bar the entrance to the harbor.
The battle that followed owes its historical celebrity wholly to the singular and tragic event which arose from it. Unlike Matthews’s battle off Toulon, it does afford some tactical instruction, though mainly applicable to the obsolete conditions of warfare under sail; but it is especially linked to the earlier action through the effect produced upon the mind of the unfortunate Byng by the sentence of the court-martial upon Matthews. During the course of the engagement he repeatedly alluded to the censure upon that admiral for leaving the line, and seems to have accepted the judgment as justifying, if not determining, his own course. Briefly, it may be said that the two fleets, having sighted each other on the morning of the 20th of May, were found after a series of manoeuvres both on the port tack, with an easterly wind, heading southerly, the French to leeward, between the English and the harbor. Byng ran down in line ahead off the wind, the French remaining by it, so that when the former made the signal to engage, the fleets were not parallel, but formed an angle of from thirty to forty degrees. The attack which Byng by his own account meant to make, each ship against its opposite in the enemy’s line, difficult to carry out under any circumstances, was here further impeded by the distance between the two rears being much greater than that between the vans; so that his whole line could not come into action at the same moment. When the signal was made, the van ships kept away in obedience to it, and ran down for the French so nearly head-on as to sacrifice their artillery fire in great measure; they received three raking broadsides, and were seriously dismantled aloft. The sixth English ship, counting from the van, had her foretopmast shot away, flew up into the wind, and came aback, stopping and doubling up the rear of the line. Then undoubtedly was the time for Byng, having committed himself to the fight, to have set the example and borne down, just as Farragut did at Mobile when his line was confused by the stopping of the next ahead; but according to the testimony of the flag-captain, Matthews’s sentence deterred him. “You see, Captain Gardiner, that the signal for the line is out, and that I am ahead of the ships ‘Louisa’ and ‘Trident’ [which in the order should have been ahead of him]. You would not have me, as the admiral of the fleet, run down as if I were going to engage a single ship. It was Mr. Matthews’s misfortune to be prejudiced by not carrying down his force together, which I shall endeavor to avoid.” The affair thus became entirely indecisive; the English van was separated from the rear and got the brunt of the fight. One French authority blames Galissoniere for not tacking to windward of the enemy’s van and crushing it. Another says he ordered the movement, but that it could not be made from the damage to the rigging; but this seems improbable, as the only injury the French squadron underwent aloft was the loss of one topsail yard, whereas the English suffered very badly. The true reason is probably that given and approved by one of the French authorities on naval warfare. Galissoniere considered the support of the land attack on Mahon paramount to any destruction of the English fleet, if he thereby exposed his own. “The French navy has always preferred the glory of assuring or preserving a conquest to that more brilliant perhaps, but actually less real, of taking some ships, and therein has approached more nearly the true end that has been proposed in war.” (1) The justice of this conclusion depends upon the view that is taken of the true end of naval war. If it is merely to assure one or more positions ashore, the navy becomes simply a branch of the army for a particular occasion, and subordinates its action accordingly; but if the true end is to preponderate over the enemy’s navy and so control the sea, then the enemy’s ships and fleets are the true objects to be assailed on all occasions. A glimmer of this view seems to have been present to Morogues when he wrote that at sea there is no field of battle to be held, nor places to be won. If naval warfare is a war of posts, then the action of the fleets must be subordinate to the attack and defence of the posts; if its object is to break up the enemy’s power on the sea, cutting off his communications with the rest of his possessions, drying up the sources of his wealth in his commerce, and making possible a closure of his ports, then the object of attack must be his organized military forces afloat; in short, his navy. It is to the latter course, for whatever reason adopted, that England owed a control of the sea that forced the restitution of Minorca at the end of this war. It is to the former that France owed the lack of prestige in her navy. Take this very case of Minorca; had Galissoniere been beaten, Richelieu and his fifteen thousand troops must have been lost to France, cooped up in Minorca, as the Spaniards, in 1718, were confined to Sicily. The French navy therefore assured the capture of the island; but so slight was the impression on the ministry and the public, that a French naval officer tells us “Incredible as it may seem, the minister of marine, after the glorious affair off Mahon, instead of yielding to the zeal of an enlightened patriotism and profiting by the impulse which this victory gave to France to build up the navy, saw fit to sell the ships and rigging which we still had in our ports. We shall soon see the deplorable consequences of this cowardly conduct on the part of our statesmen.” (2) Neither the glory nor the victory is very apparent; but it is quite conceivable that had the French admiral thought less of Mahon and used the great advantage luck had given him to take, or sink, four or five of the enemy, the French people would have anticipated the outbreak of naval enthusiasm which appeared too late, in 1760. During the remainder of this war the French fleets, except in the East Indies, appear only as the pursued in a general chase.
1. Ramatuelle: Tactique Navale.
2. Lapeyrouse-Bonfils: Hist. de la Marine.
The action imposed upon the French fleets was, however, consistent with the general policy of the French government and John Clerk was probably right in saying that there is apparent in this action off Minorca a tactics too well defined to be merely accidental, - a tactics essentially defensive in its scope and aim.(1) In assuming the lee- gage the French admiral not only covered Mahon, but took a good defensive position, imposing upon his enemy the necessity of attacking with all the consequent risks. Clerk seems to bring evidence enough to prove that the leading French ships did, after roughly handling their assailants, astutely withdraw thus forcing the latter to attack again with like results. The same policy was repeatedly followed during the American war twenty years later, and with pretty uniform success; so much so that, although formal avowal of the policy is wanting, it may be concluded that circumspection, economy, defensive war, remained the fixed purpose of the French authorities, based doubtless upon the reasons given by Admiral Grivel, of that navy: -
“If two maritime powers are at strife, the one that has the fewest ships must always avoid doubtful engagements; it must run only those risks necessary for carrying out its missions, avoid action by manoeuvring, or at worst, if forced to engage, assure itself of favorable conditions. The attitude to be taken should depend radically upon the power of your opponent. Let us not tire of repeating, according as she has to do with an inferior or superior power, France has before her two distinct strategies, radically opposite both in means and ends, - Grand War and Cruising War.”
1. Clerk: Naval Tactics.
Such a formal utterance by an officer of rank must be received with respect, and the more so when it expresses a consistent policy followed by a great and warlike nation; yet it may be questioned whether a sea power worthy of the name can thus be secured. Logically, it follows from the position assumed, that combats between equal forces are to be discouraged, because the loss to you is greater than the loss to your opponent. “In fact,” says Ramatuelle, upholding the French policy, “of what consequence to the English would be the loss of a few ships?” But the next inevitable step in the argument is that it is better not to meet the enemy. As another Frenchman, (1) previously quoted, says, it was considered a mishap to their ships to fall in with a hostile force, and, if one was met, their duty was to avoid action if possible to do so honorably. They had ulterior objects of more importance than fighting the enemy’s navy. Such a course cannot be consistently followed for years without affecting the spirit and tone of the officers charged with it; and it led directly to as brave a man as ever commanded a fleet, the Comte de Grasse. failing to crush the English under Rodney when he had the chance, in 1782. On the 9th of April of that year, being chased by the English among the Windward Islands, it happened to him to have sixteen of their fleet under his lee while the main body was becalmed under Dominica. Though greatly superior to the separated ships, during the three hours that this state of things lasted, De Grasse left them undisturbed, except by a distant cannonade by his own van; and his action was justified by the court which tried him, in which were many officers of high rank and doubtless of distinction, as being “an act of prudence on the part of the admiral, dictated to him by the ulterior projects of the cruise.” Three days later he was signally beaten by the fleet he had failed to attack at disadvantage, and all the ulterior projects of the cruise went down with him.
1. Jurien de la Graviere: Guerres Maritimes.
To return to Minorca; after the action of the 20th, Byng called a council of war, which decided that nothing more could be done, and that the English fleet should go to Gibraltar and cover that place from an attack. At Gibraltar, Byng was relieved by Hawke and sent home to be tried. The court-martial, while expressly clearing him of cowardice or disaffection, found him guilty of not doing his utmost either to defeat the French fleet or to relieve the garrison at Mahon; and, as the article of war prescribed death with no alternative punishment for this offence, it felt compelled to sentence him to death. The king refused to pardon, and Byng was accordingly shot.
The expedition against Minorca was begun while nominal peace still lasted. On the 17th of May, three days before Byng’s battle, England declared war, and France replied on the 20th of June. On the 28th, Port Mahon surrendered, and Minorca passed into the hands of France.
The nature of the troubles between the two nations, and the scenes where they occurred, pointed out clearly enough the proper theatre of the strife, and we should by rights now be at the opening of a sea war, illustrated by great naval actions and attended with great modifications in the colonial and foreign possessions of the two powers. Of the two, England alone recognized the truth; France was again turned aside from the sea by causes which will shortly be given. Her fleets scarcely appeared; and losing the control of the sea, she surrendered one by one her colonies and all her hopes in India. Later in the struggle she drew in Spain as her ally, but it was only to involve that country in her own external ruin. England, on the other hand, defended and nourished by the sea, rode it everywhere in triumph. Secure and prosperous at home, she supported with her money the enemies of France. At the end of seven years the kingdom of Great Britain had become the British Empire.
It is far from certain that France could have successfully contended with England on the sea, without an ally. In 1756 the French navy had sixty-three ships-of-the-line, of which forty-five were in fair condition; but equipments and artillery were deficient. Spain had forty-six ships-of-the-line; but from the previous and subsequent performances of the Spanish navy, it may well be doubted if its worth were equal to its numbers. England at this the had one hundred and thirty ships-of-the-line; four years later she had one hundred and twenty actually in commission. Of course when a nation allows its inferiority, whether on land or sea, to become as great as that of France now was, it cannot hope for success.
Nevertheless, she obtained advantages at first. The con-quest of Minorca was followed in November of the same year by the acquisition of Corsica. The republic of Genoa surrendered to France all the fortified harbors of the island. With Toulon, Corsica, and Port Mahon, she now had a strong grip on the Mediterranean. In Canada, the operations of 1756, under Montcalm, were successful despite the inferiority of numbers. At the same the an attack by a native prince in India took from the English Calcutta, and gave an opportunity to the French.
Yet another incident offered a handle for French statesmanship to strengthen her position on the ocean. The Dutch had promised France not to renew their alliance with England, but to remain neutral. England retaliated by declaring “all the ports of France in a state of blockade, and all vessels bound to those ports liable to seizure as lawful prize.” Such a violation of the rights of neutrals can only be undertaken by a nation that feels it has nothing to fear from their rising against it. The aggressiveness, born of the sense of power, which characterized England might have been used by France to draw Spain and possibly other States into alliance against her.
Instead of concentrating against England, France began another continental war, this the with a new and extraordinary alliance. The Empress of Austria, working on the religious superstitions of the king and upon the anger of the king’s mistress, who was piqued at sarcasms uttered against her by Frederick the Great, drew France into an alliance with Austria against Prussia. This alliance was further joined by Russia, Sweden, and Poland. The empress urged that the two Roman Catholic powers should unite to take Silesia away from a Protestant king, and expressed her willingness to give to France a part of her possessions in the Netherlands, which France had always desired.
Frederick the Great, learning the combination against him, instead of waiting for it to develop, put his armies in motion and invaded Saxony, whose ruler was also King of Poland. This movement, in October, 1756, began the Seven Years’ War; which, like the War of the Austrian Succession, but not to the same extent, drew some of the contestants off from the original cause of difference. But while France, having already on hand one large quarrel with her neighbor across the Channel, was thus needlessly entering upon another struggle, with the avowed end of building up that Austrian empire which a wiser policy had long striven to humble, England this time saw clearly where her true interests lay. Making the continental war wholly subsidiary, she turned her efforts upon the sea and the colonies; at the same time supporting Frederick both with money and cordial sympathy in the war for the defence of his kingdom, which so seriously diverted and divided the efforts of France. England thus had really but one war on hand. In the same year the direction of the struggle was taken from the hands of a weak ministry and given into those of the bold and ardent William Pitt, who retained his office till 1761, by which time the ends of the war had practically been secured.
In the attack upon Canada there were two principal lines to be chosen, - that by the way of Lake Champlain, and that by the way of the St. Lawrence. The former was entirely inland, and as such does not concern our subject, beyond noting that not till after the fall of Quebec, in 1759, was it fairly opened to the English. In 1757 the attempt against Louisburg failed; the English admiral being unwilling to engage sixteen ships-of-the-line he found there, with the fifteen under his own command, which were also, he said, of inferior metal. Whether he was right in his decision or not, the indignation felt in England clearly show’s the difference of policy underlying the action of the French and English governments. The following year an admiral of a higher spirit, Boscawen, was sent out accompanied with twelve thousand troops, and, it must in fairness be said, found only five ships in the port. The troops were landed, while the fleet covered the siege from the only molestation it could fear, and cut off from the besieged the only line by which they could look for supplies. The island fell in 1758, opening the way by the St. Lawrence to the heart of Canada, and giving the English a new base both for the fleet and army.
The next year the expedition under Wolfe was sent against Quebec. All his operations were based upon the fleet, which not only carried his army to the spot, but moved up and down the river as the various feints required. The landing which led to the decisive action was made directly from the ships. Montcalm, whose skill and determination had blocked the attacks by way of Lake Champlain the two previous years, had written urgently for reinforcements; but they were refused by the minister of war, who replied that in addition to other reasons it was too probable that the English would intercept them on the way, and that the more France sent, the more England would be moved to send. In a word, the possession of Canada depended upon sea power.
Montcalm, therefore, in view of the certain attack upon Quebec by the river, was compelled to weaken his resistance on the Champlain route; nevertheless, the English did not get farther than the foot of the lake that year, and their operations, though creditable, had no effect upon the result at Quebec.
In 1760, the English, holding the course of the St. Lawrence, with Louisburg at one end and Quebec at the other, seemed firmly seated. Nevertheless, the French governor, De Vaudreuil, still held out at Montreal, and the colonists still hoped for help from France. The English garrison at Quebec, though inferior in numbers to the forces of the Canadians, was imprudent enough to leave the city and meet them in the open field. Defeated there, and pursued by the enemy, the latter nearly entered Quebec pell-mell with the English troops, and trenches were opened against the city. A few days later an English squadron came in sight, and the place was relieved. “Thus,” says the old English chronicler of the navy, “the enemy saw what it was to be inferior at sea; for, had a French squadron got the start of the English in sailing up the river, Quebec must have fallen.” Wholly cut off now, the little body of Frenchmen that remained in Montreal was surrounded by three English armies, which had come, one by way of Lake Champlain, the others from Oswego and from Quebec. The surrender of the city on the 8th of September, 1760, put an end forever to the French possession of Canada.
In all other quarters of the world, after the accession of Pitt to power, the same good fortune followed the English arms, checkered only at the first by some slight reverses. It was not so on the continent, where the heroism and skill of Frederick the Great maintained with difficulty his brilliant struggle against France, Austria, and Russia. The study of the difficulties of his position, of the military and political combinations attending it, do not belong to our subject. Sea power does not appear directly in its effects upon the struggle, but indirectly it was felt in two ways, - first, by the subsidies which the abundant wealth and credit of England enabled her to give Frederick, in whose thrifty and able hands they went far; and second, in the embarrassment caused to France by the attacks of England upon her colonies and her own sea-coast, in the destruction of her commerce, and in the money - all too little, it is true, and grudgingly given - which France was forced to bestow on her navy. Stung by the constant lashing of the Power of the sea, France, despite the blindness and unwillingness of the rulers, was driven to undertake something against it. With a navy much inferior, unable to cope in all quarters of the world, it was rightly decided to concentrate upon one object; and the object chosen was Great Britain itself, whose shores were to be invaded. This decision, soon apprehended by the fears of the English nation, caused the great naval operations to centre for some years around the coast of France and in the Channel. Before describing them, it will be well to sum up the general plan by which England was guided in the use of her overwhelming sea power.
Besides the operations on the North American continent already described, this plan was fourfold: -
1. The French Atlantic ports were watched in force, especially Brest, so as to keep the great fleets or small squadrons from getting out without fighting.
2. Attacks were made upon the Atlantic and Channel coasts with flying squadrons, followed at times by the descent of small bodies of troops. These attacks, the direction of which could not be foreseen by the enemy, were chiefly intended to compel him to keep on hand forces at many points, and so to diminish the army acting against the King of Prussia. While the tendency would certainly be that way, it may be doubted whether the actual diversion in favor of Frederick was of much consequence. No particular mention will be made of these operations, which had but little visible effect upon the general course of the war.
3. A fleet was kept in the Mediterranean and near Gibraltar to prevent the French Toulon fleet from getting round to the Atlantic. It does not appear that any attempt was seriously made to stop communications between France and Minorca. The action of the Mediterranean fleet, though an independent command, was subsidiary to that in the Atlantic.
4. Distant foreign expeditions were sent against the French colonies in the West India Islands and on the coast of Africa, and a squadron was maintained in the East Indies to secure the control of those seas, thereby supporting the English in the Peninsula, and cutting off the communications of the French. These operations in distant waters, never intermitted, assumed greater activity and larger proportions after the destruction of the French navy had relieved England from the fear of invasion, and when the ill-advised entrance of Spain into the war, in 1762, offered yet richer prizes to her enterprise.
The close blockade of the enemy’s fleet in Brest, which was first, systematically carried out during this war, may be considered rather a defensive than an offensive operation; for though the intention certainly was to fight if opportunity offered, the chief object was to neutralize an offensive weapon in the enemy’s hands; the destruction of the weapon was secondary. The truth of this remark is shown by the outburst of fear and anger which swept over England when an unavoidable absence of the blockading fleet in 1759 allowed the French to escape. The effect of the blockade in this and after wars was to keep the French in a state of constant inferiority in the practical handling of their ships, however fair-showing their outward appearance or equal their numerical force. The position of the port of Brest was such that a blockaded fleet could not get out during the heavy westerly gales that endangered the blockaders; the latter, therefore, had the habit of running away from them to Torbay or Plymouth, sure, with care, of getting back to their station with an east wind before a large and ill-handled fleet could get much start of them.
In the latter part of 1758, France, depressed by the sense of failure upon the continent, mortified and harassed by English descents upon her coasts, which had been particularly annoying that year, and seeing that it was not possible to carry on both the continental and sea wars with her money resources, determined to strike directly at England. Her commerce was annihilated while the enemy’s throve. It was the boast of London merchants that under Pitt commerce was united with and made to flourish by war; (1) and this thriving commerce was the soul also of the land struggle, by the money it lavished on the enemy of France.
1. Mahon: History of England.
At this time a new and active-minded minister, Choiseul, was called into power by Louis XV. From the beginning of 1759, preparations were made in the ocean and Channel ports. Flat-boats to transport troops were built at Havre, Dunkirk, Brest, and Rochefort. It was intended to embark as many as fifty thousand men for the invasion of England, while twelve thousand were to be directed upon Scotland. Two squadrons were fitted out, each of respectable strength, one at Toulon, the other at Brest. The junction of these two squadrons at Brest was the first step in the great enterprise.
It was just here that it broke down, through the possession of Gibraltar by the English, and their naval superiority. It seems incredible that even the stern and confident William Pitt should, as late as 1757, have offered to surrender to Spain the watch-tower from which England overlooks the road between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as the price of her help to recover Minorca. Happily for England, Spain refused. In 1759, Admiral Boscawen commanded the English Mediterranean fleet. In making an attack upon French frigates in Toulon roads, some of his ships were so damaged that he sailed with his whole squadron to Gibraltar to refit; taking the precaution, however, to station lookout frigates at intervals, and to arrange signals by guns to notify him betimes of the enemy’s approach. Taking advantage of his absence, and in obedience to orders, the French commodore, De la Clue, left Toulon with twelve ships-of-the-line on the 5th of August, and on the 17th found himself at the Straits of Gibraltar, with a brisk east wind carrying him out into the Atlantic. Everything seemed propitious, a thick haze and falling night concealing the French ships from the land, while not preventing their sight of each other, when an English frigate loomed up in the near distance. As soon as she saw the fleet, knowing they must be enemies, she hauled in for the land and began firing signal-guns. Pursuit was useless; flight alone remained. Hoping to elude the chase he knew must follow, the French commodore steered west-northwest for the open sea, putting out all lights; but either from carelessness or disaffection, - for the latter is hinted by one French naval officer, - five out of the twelve ships headed to the northward and put into Cadiz when on the following morning they could not see the commodore. The latter was dismayed when at daylight he saw his forces thus diminished. At eight o’clock some sails made their appearance, and for a few minutes he hoped they were the missing ships. Instead of that, they were the lookouts of Boscawen’s fleet, which, numbering fourteen ships-of-the-line, was in full pursuit. The French formed their order on one of the close-hauled lines, and fled; but of course their fleet-speed was less than that of the fastest English ships. The general rule for all chases where the pursuer is decidedly superior, namely, that order must be observed only so far as to keep the leading ships within reasonable supporting distance of the slower ones, so that they may not be singly overpowered before the latter can come up, was by this time well understood in the English navy, and that is certainly the fitting time for a melee. Boscawen acted accordingly. The rear ship of the French, on the other hand, nobly emulated the example of L’Etenduere when he saved his convoy. Overtaken at two o’clock by the leading English ship, and soon after surrounded by four others, her captain made for five hours a desperate resistance, from which he could hope, not to save himself, but to delay the enemies long enough for the better sailers to escape. He so far succeeded that - thanks to the injury done by him and their better speed - they did that day escape action at close quarters, which could only have ended in their capture. When he hauled down his flag, his three topmasts were gone, the mizzen-mast fell immediately after, and the hull was so full of water that the ship was with difficulty kept afloat. M. de Sabran - his name is worthy to be remembered - had received eleven wounds in this gallant resistance, by which he illustrated so signally the duty and service of a rearguard in retarding pursuit. That night two of the French ships hauled off to the westward, and so escaped. The other four continued their flight as before; but the next morning the commodore, despairing of escape, headed for the Portuguese coast, and ran them all ashore between Lagos and Cape St. Vincent. The English admiral followed and attacked them, taking two and burning the others, without regard to the neutrality of Portugal. For this insult no amend was made beyond a formal apology; Portugal was too dependent upon England to be seriously considered. Pitt, writing to the English minister to Portugal about the affair, told him that while soothing the susceptibilities of the Portuguese government he must not allow it to suppose that either the ships would be given up or the distinguished admiral censured. (1)
1. Mahon: History of England.
The destruction or dispersal of the Toulon fleet stopped the invasion of England, though the five ships that got into Cadiz remained a matter of anxiety to Sir Edward Hawke, who cruised before Brest. Choiseul, balked of his main object, still clung to the invasion of Scotland. The French fleet at Brest, under Marshal de Conflans, a sea officer despite his title, numbered twenty sail-of-the-line, besides frigates. The troops to be embarked are variously stated at fifteen to twenty thousand. The original purpose was to escort the transports with only five ships-of-the-line, besides smaller vessels. Conflans insisted that the whole fleet ought to go. The minister of the navy thought that the admiral was not a sufficiently skilful tactician to be able to check the advance of an enemy, and so insure the safe arrival of the convoy at its destination near the Clyde without risking a decisive encounter. Believing therefore that there would be a general action, he considered that it would be better to fight it before the troops sailed; for if disastrous, the convoy would not be sacrificed, and if decisively victorious, the road would then be clear. The transports were assembled, not at Brest, but in the ports to the southward as far as the mouth of the Loire. The French fleet therefore put to sea with the expectation and purpose of fighting the enemy; but it is not easy to reconcile its subsequent course with that purpose, nor with the elaborate fighting instructions (1) issued by the admiral before sailing.
1. For these, see Troude: Batailles Navales.
About the 5th or 6th of November there came on a tremendous westerly gale. After buffeting it for three days, Hawke bore up and ran into Torbay, where he waited for the wind to shift, keeping his fleet in readiness to sail at once. The same gale, while keeping back the French already in Brest, gave the chance to a small squadron under M. Bompart, which was expected from the West Indies, to slip in during Hawke’s absence. Conflans made his preparations with activity, distributed Bompart’s crews among his own ships, which were not very well manned, and got to sea with an easterly wind on the 14th. He stood at once to the southward, flattering himself that he had escaped Hawke. The latter, however, had sailed from Torbay on the 12th; and though again driven back, sailed a second time on the 14th, the same day that Conflans left Brest. He soon reached his station, learned that the enemy had been seen to the southward steering east, and easily concluding that they were bound to Quiberon Bay, shaped his own course for the same place under a press of sail. At eleven P.M. of the 19th the French admiral estimated his position to be seventy miles southwest by west from Belle Isle and the wind springing up fresh from the west-ward, he stood for it under short sail, the wind continuing to increase and hauling to west-northwest. At daybreak several ships were seen ahead, which proved to be the English squadron of Commodore Duff, blockading Quiberon. The signal was made to chase; and the English, taking flight, separated into two divisions, - one going off before the wind, the other hauling up to the southward. The greater part of the French fleet continued its course after the former division, that is, toward the coast; but one ship hauled up for the second. Immediately after, the rear French ships made signal of sails to windward, which were also visible from aloft on board the flag-ship. It must have been about the same moment that the lookout frigate in advance of the English fleet informed her admiral of sails to leeward. Hawke’s diligence had brought him up with Conflans, who, in his official reports, says he had considered it impossible that the enemy could have in that neighborhood forces superior or even equal to his own. Conflans now ordered his rear division to haul its wind in support of the ship chasing to the southward and eastward. In a few moments more it was discovered that the fleet to windward numbered twenty-three ships-of-the-line to the French twenty-one, and among them some three-deckers. Conflans then called in the chasing ships and got ready for action. It remained to settle his course under circumstances which he had not foreseen. It was now blowing hard from the west-northwest, with every appearance of heavy weather, the fleet not far from a lee shore, with an enemy considerably superior in numbers; for besides Hawke’s twenty-three of the line, Duff had four fifty-gun ships. Conflans therefore determined to run for it and lead his squadron into Quiberon Bay, trusting and believing that Hawke would not dare to follow, under the conditions of the weather, into a bay which French authorities describe as containing banks and shoals, and lined with reefs which the navigator rarely sees without fright and never passes without emotion. It was in the midst of these ghastly dangers that forty-four large ships were about to engage pell- mell; for the space was too contracted for fleet manoeuvres. Conflans flattered himself that he would get in first and be able to haul up close under the western shore of the bay, forcing the enemy, if he followed, to take position between him and the beach, six miles to leeward. None of his expectations were fulfilled. In the retreat he took the head of his fleet; a step not unjustifiable, since only by leading in person could he have shown just what he wanted to do, but unfortunate for his reputation with the public, as it placed the admiral foremost in the flight. Hawke was not in the least, nor for one moment, deterred by the dangers before him, whose full extent he, as a skilful seaman, entirely realized; but his was a calm and steadfast as well as a gallant temper, that weighed risks justly, neither dissembling nor exaggerating. He has not left us his reasoning, but he doubtless felt that the French, leading, would serve partially as pilots, and must take the ground before him; he believed the temper and experience of his officers, tried by the severe school of the blockade, to be superior to those of the French; and he knew that both the government and the country demanded that the enemy’s fleet should not reach another friendly port in safety. On the very day that he was thus following the French, amid dangers and under conditions that have made this one of the most dramatic of sea fights, he was being burnt in effigy in England for allowing them to escape. As Conflans, leading his fleet, was rounding the Cardinals, - as the southernmost rocks at the entrance of Quiberon Bay are called, - the leading English ships brought the French rear to action. It was another case of a general chase ending in a melee, but under conditions of exceptional interest and grandeur from the surrounding circumstances of the gale of wind, the heavy sea, the lee shore, the headlong speed, shortened canvas, and the great number of ships engaged. One French seventy-four, closely pressed and outnumbered, ventured to open her lower-deck ports; the sea sweeping in carried her down with all on board but twenty men. Another was sunk by the fire of Hawke’s flag-ship. Two others, one of which carried a commodore’s pennant, struck their colors. The remainder were dispersed. Seven fled to the northward and eastward, and anchored off the mouth of the little river Vilaine, into which they succeeded in entering at the top of high water in two tides, - a feat never before performed. Seven others took refuge to the southward and eastward in Rochefort. One, after being very badly injured, ran ashore and was lost near the mouth of the Loire. The flag-ship bearing the same name as that of Tourville burned at La Hougue, the “Royal Sun,” anchored at nightfall off Croisic, a little to the northward of the Loire, where she rode in safety during the night. The next morning the admiral found himself alone, and, somewhat precipitately it would seem, ran the ship ashore to keep her out of English hands. This step has been blamed by the French, but needlessly, as Hawke would never have let her get away. The great French fleet was annihilated; for the fourteen ships not taken or destroyed were divided into two parts, and those in the Vilaine only succeeded in escaping, two at a time, between fifteen months and two years later. The English lost two ships which ran upon a shoal, and were hopelessly wrecked; their losses in action were slight. At nightfall Hawke anchored his fleet and prizes in position.
All possibility of an invasion of England passed away with the destruction of the Brest fleet. The battle of November 20, 1759, was the Trafalgar of this war; and though a blockade was maintained over the fractions that were laid up in the Vilaine and at Rochefort, the English fleets were now free to act against the colonies of France, and later of Spain, on a grander scale than ever before. The same year that saw this great sea fight and the fall of Quebec witnessed also the capture of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, of Goree on the west coast of Africa, and the abandonment of the East Indian seas by the French flag after three indecisive actions between their commodore, D’Ache’, and Admiral Pocock, - an abandonment which necessarily led to the fall of the French power in India, never again to rise. In this year also the King of Spain died, and his brother succeeded, under the title of Charles III. This Charles had been King of Naples at the time when an English commodore had allowed one hour for the court to determine to withdraw the Neapolitan troops from the Spanish army. He had never forgotten this humiliation, and brought to his new throne a heart unfriendly to England. With such feelings on his part, France and Spain drew more readily together. Charles’s first step was to propose mediation, but Pitt was averse to it. Looking upon France as the chief enemy of England, and upon the sea and the colonies as the chief source of power and wealth, he wished, now that he had her down, to weaken her thoroughly for the future as well as the present, and to establish England’s greatness more firmly upon the wreck. Later on he offered certain conditions; but the influence of Louis’s mistress, attached to the Empress of Austria, prevailed to except Prussia from the negotiations, and England woald not allow the exception. Pitt, indeed, was not yet ready for peace. A year later, October 25, 1760, George II. died, and Pitt’s influence then began to wane, the new king being less bent on war. During these years, 1759 and 1760, Frederick the Great still continued the deadly and exhausting strife of his small kingdom against the great States joined against him. At one moment his case seemed so hopeless that he got ready to kill himself; but the continuance of the war diverted the efforts of France from England and the sea.
The hour was fast approaching for the great colonial expeditions, which made the last year of the war illustrious by the triumph of the sea power of England over France and Spain united. It is first necessary to tell the entirely kindred story of the effect of that sea power in the East Indian peninsula.
The recall of Dupleix and the entire abandonment of his policy, which resulted in placing the two East India companies on equal terms, have already been told. The treaty stipulations of 1754 had not, however, been fully carried out. The Marquis de Bussy, a brave and capable soldier who had been a second to Dupleix, and was wholly in accord with his policy and ambitions, remained in the Deccan, - a large region in the southern central part of the peninsula, over which Dupleix had once ruled. In 1756, troubles arose between the English and the native prince in Bengal. The nabob of that province had died, and his successor, a young man of nineteen, attacked Calcutta. The place fell, after a weak resistance, in June, and the surrender was followed by the famous tragedy known as that of the Black Hole of Calcutta. The news reached Madras in August, and Clive, whose name has already been mentioned, sailed with the fleet of Admiral Watson, after a long and vexatious delay. The fleet entered the river in December and appeared before Calcutta in January, when the place fell into English hands again as easily as it had been lost.
The nabob was very angry, and marched against the English; sending meanwhile an invitation to the French at Chandernagore to join him. Although it was now known that England and Prance were at war, the French company, despite the experience of 1744, weakly hoped that peace might be kept between it and the English. The native invitation was therefore refused, and offers of neutrality made to the other company. Clive marched out, met the Indian forces and defeated them, and the nabob at once asked for peace, and sought the English alliance, yielding all the claims on the strength of which he had first attacked Calcutta. After some demur his offers were accepted. Clive and Watson then turned upon Chandernagore and compelled the surrender of the French settlement.
The nabob, who had not meant to allow this, took umbrage, and entered into correspondence with Bussy in the Deccan. Clive had full knowledge of his various intrigues, which were carried on with the vacillation of a character as weak as it was treacherous; and seeing no hope of settled peace or trade under the rule of this man, entered into an extensive conspiracy for his dethronement, the details of which need not be given. The result was that war broke out again, and that Clive with three thousand men, one third of whom were English, met the nabob at the head of fifteen thousand horse and thirty- five thousand foot. The disproportion in artillery was nearly as great. Against these odds was fought and won the battle of Plassey, on the 23d of June, 1757, - the date from which, by common consent, the British empire in India is said to begin. The overthrow of the nabob was followed by placing in power one of the conspirators against him, a creature of the English, and dependent upon them for support. Bengal thus passed under their control, the first-fruits of India. “Clive,” says a French historian, “had understood and applied the system of Dupleix.”
This was true; yet even so it may be said that the foundation thus laid could never have been kept nor built upon, had the English nation not controlled the sea. The conditions of India were such that a few Europeans, headed by men of nerve and shrewdness, dividing that they might conquer, and advancing their fortunes by judicious alliances, were able to hold their own, and more too, amidst overwhelming numerical odds; but it was necessary that they should not be opposed by men of their own kind, a few of whom could turn the wavering balance the other way. At the very time that Clive was acting in Bengal, Bussy invaded Orissa, seized the English factories, and made himself master of much of the coast regions between Madras and Calcutta; while a French squadron of nine ships, most of which, however, belonged to the East India Company and were not first-rate men-of-war, was on its way to Pondicherry with twelve hundred regular troops, - an enormous European army for Indian operations of that day. The English naval force on the coast, though fewer in numbers, may be considered about equal to the approaching French squadron. It is scarcely too much to say that the future of India was still uncertain, and the first operations showed it.
The French division appeared off the Coromandel coast to the southward of Pondicherry on the 26th of April, 1758, and anchored on the 28th before the English station called Fort St. David. Two ships kept on to Pondicherry, having on board the new governor, Comte de Lally, who wished to go at once to his seat of government. Meanwhile, the English admiral, Pocock, having news of the enemy’s coming, and fearing specially for this post, was on his way to it, and appeared on the 29th of April, before the two ships with the governor were out of sight. The French at once got under way and stood out to sea on the starboard tack, heading to the northward and eastward, the wind being south- east, and signals were made to recall the ship and frigate escorting Lally; but they were disregarded by the latter’s order, an act which must have increased, if it did not originate, the ill-will between him and Commodore d’Ache’, through which the French campaign in India miscarried. The English, having formed to windward on the same tack as the French, made their attack in the then usual way, and with the usual results. The seven English ships were ordered to keep away together for the French eight, and the four leading ships, including the admiral’s, came into action handsomely; the last three, whether by their own fault or not, were late in doing so, but it will be remembered that this was almost always the case in such attacks. The French commodore, seeing this interval between the van and the rear, formed the plan of separating them, and made signal to wear together, but in his impatience did not wait for an answer. Putting his own helm up, he wore round, and was followed in succession by the rear ships, while the van stood on. The English admiral, who had good reason to know, gives D’Ache’ more credit than the French writers, for he describes this movement thus: -
“At half-past four P.M. the rear of the French line had drawn pretty close up to their flag-ship. Our three rear ships were signalled to engage closer. Soon after, M. d’Ache’ broke the line, and put before the wind; his second astern, who had kept on the ‘Yarmouth’s’ [English flag-ship] quarter most part of the action, then came up alongside, gave his fire, and then bore away; and a few minutes after, the enemy’s van bore away also.”
By this account, which is by no means irreconcilable with the French, the latter effected upon the principal English ship a movement of concentration by defiling past her. The French now stood down to their two separated ships, while the English vessels that had been engaged were too much crippled to follow. This battle prevented the English fleet from relieving Fort St. David, which surrendered on the 2d of June.
After the fall of this place, the two opposing squadrons having refitted at their respective ports and resumed their station, a second action was fought in August, under nearly the same conditions and in much the same fashion. The French flag-ship met with a series of untoward accidents, which determined the commodore to withdraw from action; but the statement of his further reasons is most suggestive of the necessary final overthrow of the French cause. “Prudence,” a writer of his own country says, “commanded him not to prolong a contest from which his ships could not but come out with injuries very difficult to repair in a region where it was impossible to supply the almost entire lack of spare stores.” This want of so absolute a requisite for naval efficiency shows in a strong light the fatal tendency of that economy which always characterized French operations at sea, and was at once significant and ominous.
Returning to Pondicherry, D’Ache’ found that, though the injuries to the masts and rigging could for this time be repaired, there was lack of provisions, and that the ships needed calking. Although his orders were to remain on the coast until October 15, he backed himself with the opinion of a council of war which decided that the ships could not remain there longer, because, in case of a third battle, there was neither rigging nor supplies remaining in Pondicherry and disregarding the protests of the governor, Lally, he sailed on the 2d of September for the Isle of France. The underlying motive of D’Ache’, it is known, was hostility to the governor, with whom he quarrelled continually. Lally, deprived of the help of the squadron, turned his arms inland instead of against Madras.
Upon arriving at the islands, D’Ache’ found a state of things which again singularly illustrates the impotence and short-sightedness characteristic of the general naval policy of the French at this time. His arrival there was as unwelcome as his departure from India had been to Lally. The islands were then in a state of the most complete destitution. The naval division, increased by the arrival of three ships-of-the-line from home, so exhausted them that its immediate departure was requested of the commodore. Repairs were pushed ahead rapidly, and in November several of the ships sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, then a Dutch colony, to seek provisions; but these were consumed soon after being received, and the pressure for the departure of the squadron was renewed. The situation of the ships was no less precarious than that of the colony; and accordingly the commodore replied by urging his entire lack of food and supplies. The condition was such that, a little later, it was necessary to make running rigging out of the cables, and to put some of the ships on the bottom, so as to give their materials to ethers. Before returning to India, D’Ache’ wrote to the minister of the navy that he “was about to leave, only to save the crews from dying of hunger, and that nothing need be expected from the squadron if supplies were not sent, for both men and things were in a deplorable state.”
Under these circumstances D’Ache’ sailed from the islands in July, 1759, and arrived off the Coromandel coast in September. During his year of absence Lally had besieged Madras for two months, during the northeast monsoon. Both squadrons were absent, that season being unfit for naval operations on this coast; but the English returned first, and are said by the French to have caused, by the English to have hastened, the raising of the siege. D’Ache’, upon his return, was much superior in both number and size of ships; but when the fleets met, Pocock did not hesitate to attack with nine against eleven. This action, fought September 10, 1759, was as indecisive as the two former; but D’Ache’ retreated, after a very bloody contest. Upon it Campbell, in his “Lives of the Admirals,” makes a droll, but seemingly serious, comment: “Pocock had reduced the French ships to a very shattered condition, and killed a great many of their men; but what shows the singular talents of both admirals, they had fought three pitched battles in eighteen months without the loss of a ship on either side.” The fruits of victory, however, were with the weaker fleet; for D’Ache’ returned to Pondicherry and thence sailed on the 1st of the next month for the islands, leaving India to its fate. From that time the result was certain. The English continued to receive reinforcements from home, while the French did not; the men opposed to Lally were superior in ability; place after place fell, and in January, 1761, Pondicherry itself surrendered, surrounded by land and cut off from the sea. This was the end of the French power in India; for though Pondicherry and other possessions were restored at the peace, the English tenure there was never again shaken, even under the attacks of the skilful and bold Suffren, who twenty years later met difficulties as great as D’Ache’s with a vigor and conduct which the latter at a more hopeful moment failed to show.
France having thus lost both Canada and India by the evident failure of her power to act at a distance by sea, it would seem scarcely possible that Spain, with her own weak navy and widely scattered possessions, would choose this moment for entering the war. Yet so it was. The maritime exhaustion of France was plain to all, and is abundantly testified to by her naval historians. “The resources of France were exhausted,” says one; “the year 1761 saw only a few single ships leave her ports, and all of them were captured. The alliance with Spain came too late. The occasional ships that went to sea in 1762 were taken, and the colonies still remaining to France could not be saved.” (1) Even as early as 1758, another Frenchman writes, “want of money, the depression of commerce given over to English cruisers, the lack of good ships, the lack of supplies, etc., compelled the French ministry, unable to raise large forces, to resort to stratagems, to replace the only rational system of war, Grand War, by the smallest of petty wars, - by a sort of game in which the great aim is not to be caught. Even then, the arrival of four ships-of-the-line at Louisburg, by avoiding the enemy, was looked on as a very fortunate event... In 1759 the lucky arrival of the West India convoy caused as much surprise as joy to the merchants. We see how rare had become such a chance in seas ploughed by the squadrons of England.” (2) This was before the disasters of La Clue and Conflans. The destruction of French commerce, beginning by the capture of its merchant-ships, was consummated by the reduction of the colonies. It can hardly, therefore, be conceded that the Family Compact now made between the two courts, containing, as it did, not only an agreement to support each other in any future war, but also a secret clause binding Spain to declare war against England within a year, if peace were not made, “was honorable to the wisdom of the two governments.” It is hard to pardon, not only the Spanish government, but even France for alluring a kindred people into such a bad bargain. It was hoped, however, to revive the French navy and to promote an alliance of neutral powers; many of which, besides Spain, had causes of complaint against England. “During the war with France,” confesses an English historian, “the Spanish flag had not always been respected by British cruisers.” (3) “During 1758,” says another, “not less than one hundred and seventy-six neutral vessels, laden with the rich produce of the French colonies or with military or naval stores, fell into the hands of the English.” (4) The causes were already at work which twenty years later gave rise to the “armed neutrality” of the Baltic powers, directed against the claims of England on the sea. The possession of unlimited power, as the sea power of England then really was, is seldom accompanied by a profound respect for the rights of others. Without a rival upon the ocean, it suited England to maintain that enemy’s property was liable to capture on board neutral ships, thus subjecting these nations not only to vexatious detentions, but to loss of valuable trade; just as it had suited her earlier in the war to establish a paper blockade of French ports. Neutrals of course chafed under these exactions; but the year 1761 was ill-chosen for an armed protest, and of all powers Spain risked most by a war. England had then one hundred and twenty ships-of-the-line in commission, besides those in reserve, manned by seventy thousand seamen trained and hardened by five years of constant warfare afloat, and flushed with victory. The navy of France, which numbered seventy-seven ships-of-the-line in 1758, lost as prizes to the English in 1759 twenty-seven, besides eight destroyed and many frigates lost; indeed, as has been seen, their own writers confess that the navy was ruined, root and branch. The Spanish navy contained about fifty ships; but the personnel, unless very different from the days before and after, must have been very inferior. The weakness of her empire, in the absence of an efficient navy, has before been pointed out. Neutrality, too, though at times outraged, had been of great advantage to her, permitting her to restore her finances and trade and to re- establish her internal resources; but she needed a still longer period of it. Nevertheless, the king, influenced by family feeling and resentment against England, allowed himself to be drawn on by the astute Choiseul, and the Family Compact between the two crowns was signed on the 15th of August, 1761. This compact, into which the King of Naples was also to enter, guaranteed their mutual possessions by the whole power of both kingdoms. This in itself was a weighty undertaking; but the secret clause further stipulated that Spain should declare war against England on the 1st of May, 1762, if peace with France had not then been made. Negotiations of this character could not be kept wholly secret, and Pitt learned enough to convince him that Spain was becoming hostile in intention. With his usual haughty resolve, he determined to forestall her by declaring war; but the influence against him in the councils of the new king was too strong. Failing to carry the ministry with him, he resigned on the 5th of October, 1761. His prevision was quickly justified; Spain had been eager in professing good-will until the treasure- ships from America should arrive laden with the specie so needed for carrying on war. On the 21st of September the Flota of galleons anchored safely in Cadiz; and on the 2d of November the British ambassador announced to his government that “two ships had safely arrived with very extraordinary rich cargoes from the West Indies, so that all the wealth that was expected from Spanish America is now safe in old Spain,” and in the same despatch reports a surprising change in the words of the Spanish minister, and the haughty language now used. (5) The grievances and claims of Spain were urged peremptorily, and the quarrel grew so fast that even the new English ministry, though ardently desiring peace, recalled their ambassador before the end of the year, and declared war on the 4th of January, 1762; thus adopting Pitt’s policy, but too late to reap the advantages at which he had aimed.
1. Troude Batailles Navales de la France. 2. Lapeyrouse-Bonfils. 3. Mahon: History of England. 4. Campbell: Lives of the Admirals. 5. Mahon: history of England.
However, no such delay on the part of England could alter the essential inequality, in strength and preparation, between; the two nations. The plans formned by Pitt were in the main adopted by his successor, and carried out with a speed which; the readiness of the English navy permitted. On the 5th of March, Pocock, who had returned from the East Indies, sailed from Portsmouth, convoying a fleet of transports to act against Havana; in the West Indies he was reinforced from the forces in that quarter, so that his command contained nineteen ships-of-the-line besides smaller vessels, and ten thousand soldiers.
In the previous January, the West India fleet, under the well-known Rodney, had acted with the land forces in the reduction of Martinique, the gem and tower of the French islands and the harbor of an extensive privateering system. It is said that fourteen hundred English merchantmen were taken during this war in the West Indian seas by cruisers whose principal port was Fort Royal in Martinique. With this necessary base fell also the privateering system resting upon it. Martinique was surrendered February 12, and the loss of this chief commercial and military centre was immediately followed by that of the smaller islands, Grenada, Sta. Lucia, St. Vincent. By these acquisitions the English colonies at Antigua, St. Kitts, and Nevis, as well as the ships trading to those islands, were secured against the enemy, the commerce of England received large additions, and all the Lesser Antilles, or Windward Islands, became British possessions.
Admiral Pocock was joined off Cape St. Nicholas by the West Indian reinforcement on the 27th of May, and as the season was so far advanced, he took his great fleet through the old Bahama channel instead of the usual route around the south side of Cuba. This was justly considered a great feat in those days of poor surveys, and was accomplished without an accident. Lookout and sounding vessels went first, frigates followed, and boats or sloops were anchored on shoals with carefully arranged signals for day or night. Having good weather, the fleet got through in a week and appeared before Havana. The operations will not be given in detail. After a forty days’ siege the Moro Castle was taken on the 30th of July, and the city surrendered on the 10th of August. The Spaniards lost not only the city and port, but twelve ships-of- the-line, besides 3,000,000 pounds in money and merchandise belonging to the Spanish king. The importance of Havana was not to be measured only by its own size, or its position as centre of a large and richly cultivated district; it was also the port commanding the only passage by which the treasure and other ships could sail from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe in those days. With Havana in an enemy’s hands it would be necessary to assemble them at Cartagena and from there beat up against the trade-winds, - an operation always difficult, and which would keep ships long in waters where they were exposed to capture by English; cruisers. Not even an attack upon the isthmus would have been so serious a blow to Spain. This important result could only be achieved by a nation confident of controlling the communications by its sea power, to which the happy issue must wholly be ascribed, and which had another signal illustration in the timely conveying of four thousand American troops to reinforce the English ranks, terribly wasted by battle and fever. It is said that only twenty-five hundred serviceable fighting men remained on foot when the city fell.
While the long reach and vigor of England’s sea power was thus felt in the West Indies, it was receiving further illustration in Portugal and in the far East. The allied crowns in the beginning had invited Portugal to join their alliance against those whom they had taken to calling the “tyrants of the seas,” reminding her how the English monopoly of her trade was draining the country of gold, and recalling the deliberate violation of her neutrality by the fleet under Boscawen. The Portuguese minister of the day well knew all this, and keenly felt it; but though the invitation was accompanied by the plain statement that Portugal would not be allowed to continue a neutrality she could not enforce, he judged rightly that the country had more to fear from England and her fleet than from the Spanish army. The allies declared war and invaded Portugal. They were for a time successful; but the “tyrants of the seas” answered Portugal’s call, sent a fleet and handed at Lisbon eight thousand soldiers, who drove the Spaniards over the frontiers, and even carried the war into Spain itself.
Simultaneous with these significant events, Manila was attacked. With so much already on hand, it was found impossible to spare troops or ships from England. The successes in India and the absolute security of the establishments there, with the control of the sea, allowed the Indian officials themselves to undertake this colonial expedition. It sailed in August, 1762, and reaching Malacca on the 19th, was supplied at that neutral port with all that was needed for the siege about to be undertaken; the Dutch, though jealous of the English advance, not venturing to refuse their demands. The expedition, which depended entirely upon the fleet, resulted in the whole group of Philippine Islands surrendering in October and paying a ransom of four million dollars. At about the same time the fleet captured the Acapulco galleon having three million dollars on board, and an English squadron in the Atlantic took a treasure-ship from Lima with four million dollars in silver for the Spanish government.
“Never had the colonial empire of Spain received such blows. Spain, whose opportune intervention might have modified the fate of the war, entered it too late to help France, but in time to share her misfortunes. There was reason to fear yet more. Panama and San Domingo were threatened, and the Anglo-Americans were preparing for the invasion of Florida and Louisiana.... The conquest of Havana had in great measure interrupted the communications between the wealthy American colonies of Spain and Europe. The reduction of the Philippine Islands now excluded her from Asia. The two together severed all the avenues of Spanish trade and cut off all intercourse between the parts of their vast but disconnected empire.” (1)
1. Martin: History of France.
The selection of the points of attack, due to the ministry of Pitt, was strategically good, cutting effectually the sinews of the enemy’s strength; and if his plans had been fully carried out and Panama also seized, the success would have been yet more decisive. England had lost also the advantage of the surprise he would have effected by anticipating Spain’s declaration of war; but her arms were triumphant during this short contest, through the rapidity with which her projects were carried into execution, due to the state of efficiency to which her naval forces and administration had been brought.
With the conquest of Manila ended the military operations of the war. Nine months, counting from the formal declaration by England in January, had been sufficient to shatter the last hope of France, and to bring Spain to a peace in which was conceded every point on which she had based her hostile attitude and demands. It seems scarcely necessary, after even the brief summary of events that has been given, to point out that the speed and thoroughness with which England’s work was done was due wholly to her sea power, which allowed her forces to act on distant points, widely apart as Cuba, Portugal, India, and the Philippines, without a fear of serious break in their communications.
Before giving the terms of peace which ought to summarize the results of the war, but do so imperfectly, owing to the weak eagerness of the English ministry to conclude it, it is necessary to trace in outline the effect of the war upon commerce, upon the foundations of sea power and national prosperity.
One prominent feature of this war may be more strongly impressed upon the mind by a startling, because paradoxical, statement that the prosperity of the English is shown by the magnitude of their losses.
“From 1756 to 1760,” states a French historian, “French privateers captured from the English more than twenty-five hundred merchantmen. In 1761, though France had not, so to speak, a single ship-of-the-line at sea, and though the English had taken two hundred and forty of our privateers, their comrades still took eight hundred and twelve English vessels. The explanation of the number of these prizes lies in the prodigious growth of the English shipping. In 1760 it is claimed that the English had at sea eight thousand sail; of these the French captured nearly one tenth, despite escorts and cruisers. In the four years from 1756 to 1760 the French lost only nine hundred and fifty vessels.” (1)
1. Martin: History of France.
But this discrepancy is justly attributed by an English writer “to the diminution of the French commerce and the dread of falling into the hands of the English, which kept many of their trading-vessels from going to sea;” and he goes on to point out that the capture of vessels was not the principal benefit resulting from the efficiency of England’s fleets. “Captures like Duquesne, Louisburg, Prince Edward’s Island, the reduction of Senegal, and later on of Guadeloupe and Martinique, were events no less destructive to French commerce and colonies than advantageous to those of England.” (1) The multiplication of French privateers was indeed a sad token to an instructed eye, showing behind them merchant shipping in enforced idleness, whose crews and whose owners were driven to speculative pillage in order to live. Nor was this risk wholly in vain. The same Englishman confesses that in 1759 the losses of merchantmen showed a worse balance than the ships-of-war. While the French were striving in vain to regain equality upon the sea and repair their losses, but to no purpose, for “in building and aiming vessels they laboured only for the English fleet,” yet, “notwithstanding the courage and vigilance of English cruisers, French privateers so swarmed that in this year they took two hundred and forty British vessels, chiefly coasters and small craft.” In 1760 the same authority gives the British loss in trading-vessels at over three hundred, and in 1761 at over eight hundred, three times that of the French; but he adds “It would not have been wonderful had they taken more and richer ships. While their commerce was nearly destroyed, and they had few merchant-ships at sea, the trading-fleets of England covered the seas. Every year her commerce was increasing; the money which the war carried out was returned by the produce of her industry. Eight thousand vessels were employed by the traders of Great Britain.” The extent of her losses is attributed to three causes, of which the first only was preventable: 1. The inattention of merchant-ships o the orders of the convoying vessels; 2. The immense number of English ships in all seas; 3. The enemy’s venturing the whole remains of his strength in privateering. During the same year, 1761, the navy lost one ship- of-the-line, which was retaken, and one cutter. At the same time, notwithstanding the various exchanges, the English still held twenty-five thousand French prisoners, while the English prisoners in France were but twelve hundred. These were the results of the sea war.
1. Campbell: Lives of the Admirals.
Finally, in summing up the commercial condition of the kingdom at the end of the war, after mentioning the enormous sums of specie taken from Spain, the writer says: -
“These strengthened trade and fostered industry. The remittances for foreign subsidies were in great part paid by bills on merchants settled abroad, who had the value of the drafts in British manufactures. The trade of England increased gradually every year, and such a scene of national prosperity while waging a long, costly, and bloody war, was never before shown by any people in the world.”
No wonder, with such results to her commerce and such unvarying success attending her arms, and seeing the practical annihilation of the French navy, that the union of France and Spain, which was then lowering on her future and had once excited the fears of all Europe, was now beheld by Great Britain alone without the smallest fear or despondency. Spain was by her constitution and the distribution of her empire peculiarly open to the attack of a great sea people; and whatever the views of the government of the day, Pitt and the nation saw that the hour had come, which had been hoped for in vain in 1739, because then years of peace and the obstinate bias of a great minister had relaxed the muscles of her fleet. Now she but reached forth her hand and seized what she wished; nor could there have been any limit to her prey, had not the ministry again been untrue to the interests of the country.
The position of Portugal with reference to Great Britain has been alluded to, but merits some special attention as instancing an element of sea power obtained not by colonies, but by alliance, whether necessary or prudential. The commercial connection before spoken of “was strengthened by the strongest political ties. The two kingdoms were so situated as to have little to fear from each other, while they might impart many mutual advantages. The harbors of Portugal gave shelter as well as supplies to the English fleet, while the latter defended the rich trade of Portugal with Brazil. The antipathy between Portugal and Spain made it necessary for the former to have an ally, strong yet distant. None is so advantageous in that way as England, which in her turn might, and always has, derived great advantages from Portugal in a war with any of the southern powers of Europe.”
This is an English view of a matter which to others looks somewhat like an alliance between a lion and a lamb. To call a country with a fleet like England’s “distant” from a small maritime nation like Portugal is an absurdity. England is, and yet more in those days was, wherever her fleet could go. The opposite view of the matter, showing equally the value of the alliance, was well set forth in the memorial by which, under the civil name of an invitation, the crowns of France and Spain ordered Portugal to declare against England.
The grounds of that memorial - namely, the unequal benefit to Portugal from the connection and the disregard of Portuguese neutrality - have already been given. The King of Portugal refused to abandon the alliance, for the professed reason that it was ancient and wholly defensive. To this the two crowns replied: -
“The defensive alliance is actually an offensive one by the situation of the Portuguese dominions and the nature of the English power. The English squadrons cannot in all seasons keep the sea, nor cruise on the principal coasts of France and Spain for cutting off the navigation of the two countries, without the ports and assistance of Portugal; and these islanders could not insult all maritime Europe, if the whole riches of Portugal did not pass through their hands, which furnishes them with the means to make war and renders the alliance truly and properly offensive.”
Between the two arguments the logic of situation and power prevailed. Portugal found England nearer and more dangerous than Spain, and remained for generations of trial true to the alliance. This relationship was as useful to England as any of her colonial possessions, depending of course upon the scene of the principal operations at any particular time. The preliminaries of peace were signed at Fontainebleau, November 3, 1762; the definitive treaty on the 10th of the following February, at Paris, whence the peace takes its name.
By its terms France renounced all claims to Canada, Nova Scotia, and all the islands of the St. Lawrence; along with Canada she ceded the valley of the Ohio and all her territory on the east side of the Mississippi, except the city of New Orleans. At the same time Spain, as an equivalent for Havana, which England restored, yielded Florida, under which name were comprised all her continental possessions east of the Mississippi. Thus England obtained a colonial empire embracing Canada, from Hudson’s Bay, and all of the present United States east of the Mississippi. The possibilities of this vast region were then only partially foreseen, and as yet there was no foreshadowing of the revolt of the thirteen colonies.
In the West Indies, England gave back to France the important islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The four so-called neutral islands of the Lesser Antilles were divided between the two powers; Sta. Lucia going to France, St. Vincent, Tobago, and Dominica to England, which also retained Grenada. Minorca was given back to England; and as the restoration of the island to Spain had been one of the conditions of the alliance with the latter, France, unable to fulfil her stipulation, ceded to Spain Louisiana west of the Mississippi.
In India, France recovered the possessions she had held before Dupleix began his schemes of aggrandizement; but she gave up the right of erecting fortifications or keeping troops in Bengal, and so left the station at Chandernagore defenceless. In a word, France resumed her facilities for trading, but practically abandoned her pretensions to political influence. It was tacitly understood that the English company would keep all its conquests.
The right of fishing upon the coasts of Newfoundland and in parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which France had previously enjoyed, was conceded to her by this treaty; but it was denied to Spain, who had claimed it for her fishermen. This concession was among those most attacked by the English opposition.
The nation at large and Pitt, the favorite of the nation: were bitterly opposed to the terms of the treaty. “France,” said Pitt, “is chiefly formidable to us as a maritime and commercial power. What we gain in this respect is valuable to us above all through the injury to her which results from it. You leave to France the possibility of reviving her navy.” In truth, from the point of view of sea power and of the national jealousies which the spirit of that age sanctioned, these words, though illiberal, were strictly justifiable. The restoration to France of her colonies in the West Indies and her stations in India, together with the valuable right of fishery in her former American possessions, put before her the possibility and the inducement to restore her shipping, her commerce, and her navy, and thus tended to recall her from the path of continental ambition which had been so fatal to her interests, and in the same proportion favorable to the unprecedented growth of England’s power upon the ocean. The opposition, and indeed some of the ministry, also thought that so commanding and important a position as Havana was poorly paid for by the cession of the yet desolate and unproductive region called Florida. Porto Rico was suggested, Florida accepted. There were other minor points of difference, into which it is unnecessary to enter. It could scarcely be denied that with the commanding military control of the sea held by England, grasping as she now did so many important positions, with her navy overwhelmingly superior in numbers, and her commerce and internal condition very thriving, more rigorous terms might easily have been exacted and would have been prudent. The ministry defended their eagerness and spirit of concession on the ground of the enormous growth of the debt, which then amounted to 122,000,000 pounds, a sum in every point of view much greater then than now; but while this draft upon the future was fully justified by the success of the war, it also imperatively demanded that the utmost advantages which the military situation made attainable should be exacted. This the ministry failed to do. As regards the debt, it is well observed by a French writer that “in this war, and for years afterward, England had in view nothing less than the conquest of America and the progress of her East India Company. By these two countries her manufactures and commerce acquired more than sufficient outlets, and repaid her for the numerous sacrifices she had made. Seeing the maritime decay of Europe, - its commerce annihilated, its manufactures so little advanced, - how could the English nation feel afraid of a future which offered so vast a perspective?” Unfortunately the nation needed an exponent in the government; and its chosen mouthpiece, the only man, perhaps, able to rise to the level of the great opportunity, was out of favor at court.
Nevertheless, the gains of England were very great, not only in territorial increase, nor yet in maritime preponderance, but in the prestige and position achieved in the eyes of the nations, now fully opened to her great resources and mighty power. To these results, won by the sea, the issue of the continental war offered a singular and suggestive contrast. France had ahready withdrawn, along with England, from all share in that strife, and peace between the other parties to it was signed five days after the Peace of Paris. The terms of the peace were simply the status quo ante bellum. By the estimate of the King of Prussia, one hundred and eighty thousand of his soldiers had fallen or died in this war, out of a kingdom of five million souls; while the losses of Russia, Austria, and France aggregated four hundred and sixty thousand men. The result was simply that things remained as they were. (1) To attribute this only to a difference between the possibilities of land and sea war is of course absurd. The genius of Frederick, backed by the money of England, had proved an equal match for the mismanaged and not always hearty efforts of a coalition numerically overwhelming. What does seem a fair conclusion is, that States having a good seaboard, or even ready access to the ocean by one or two outlets, will find it to their advantage to seek prosperity and extension by the way of the sea and of commerce, rather than in attempts to unsettle and modify existing political arrangements in countries where a more or less long possession of power has conferred acknowledged rights, and created national allegiance or political ties. Since the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the waste places of the world have been rapidly filled; witness our own continent, Australia, and even South America. A nominal and more or less clearly defined political possession now generally exists in the most forsaken regions, though to this statement there are some marked exceptions; but in many places this political possession is little more than nominal, and in others of a character so feeble that it cannot rely upon itself alone for support or protection. The familiar and notorious example of the Turkish Empire, kept erect only by the forces pressing upon it from opposing sides, by the mutual jealousies of powers that have no sympathy with it, is an instance of such weak political tenure; and though the question is wholly European, all know enough of it to be aware that the interest and control of the sea powers is among the chief, if not the first, of the elements that now fix the situation; and that they, if intelligently used, will direct the future inevitable changes. Upon the western continents the political condition of the Central American and tropical South American States is so unstable as to cause constant anxiety about the maintenance of internal order, and seriously to interfere with commerce and with the peaceful development of their resources. So long as - to use a familiar expression - they hurt no one but themselves, this may go on; but for a long time the citizens of more stable governmnents have been seeking to exploit their resources, and have borne the losses arising from their distracted condition. North America and Australia still offer large openings to immigration and enterprise; but they are filling up rapidly, and as the opportunities there diminish, the demand must arise for a more settled government in those disordered States, for security to life and for reasonable stability of institutions enabling merchants and others to count upon the future. There is certainly no present hope that such a demand can be fulfilled from the existing native materials; if the same be true when the demand arises, no theoretical positions, like the Monroe doctrine, will prevent interested nations from attempting to remedy the evil by some measure, which, whatever it may be called, will be a political interference. Such interferences must produce collisions, which may be at times settled by arbitration, but can scarcely fail at other times to cause war. Even for a peaceful solution, that nation will have the strongest arguments which has the strongest organized force. It need scarcely be said that the successful piercing of the Central American Isthmus at any point may precipitate the moment that is sure to come sooner or later. The profound modification of commercial routes expected from this enterprise, the political importance to the United States of such a channel of communication between her Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, are not, however, the whole nor even the principal part of the question. As far as can be seen, the time will come when stable governments for the American tropical States must be assured by the now existing powerful and stable States of America or Europe. The geographical position of those States, the climatic conditions, make it plain at once that sea power will there, even more than in the case of Turkey, determine what foreign State shall predominate, - if not by actual possession, by its influence over the native governments. The geographical position of the United States and her intrinsic power give her an undeniable advantage but that advantage will not avail if there is a great inferiority of organized brute- force, which still remains the last argument of republics as of kings. Herein lies to us the great and still living interest of the Seven Years’ War. In it we have seen and followed England, with an army small as compared with other States, as is still her case to-day, first successfully defending her own shores, then carrying her arms in every direction, spreading her rule and influence over remote regions, and not only binding them to her obedience, but making them tributary to her wealth, her strength, and her reputation. As she loosens the grasp and neutralizes the influence of France and Spain in regions beyond the sea, there is perhaps seen the prophecy of some other great nation in days yet to come, that will incline the balance of power in some future sea war, whose scope will be recognized afterward, if not by contemporaries, to have been the political future and the economical development of regions before lost to civilization; but that nation will not be the United States if the moment find her indifferent, as now, to the empire of the seas.
1. See Annual Register, 1762, p. 63.
The direction then given to England’s efforts, by the instinct of the nation and the fiery genius of Pitt, continued after the war, and has profoundly influenced her subsequent policy. Mistress now of North America, lording it in India, through the company whose territorial conquests had been ratified by native princes, over twenty millions of inhabitants, - a population larger than that of Great Britain and having a revenue respectable alongside of that of the home government, - England, with yet other rich possessions scattered far and wide over the globe, had ever before her eyes, as a salutary lesson, the severe chastisement which the weakness of Spain had allowed her to inflict upon that huge disjointed empire. The words of the English naval historian of that war, speaking about Spain, apply with slight modifications to England in our own day.
“Spain is precisely that power against which England can always contend with the fairest prospect of advantage and honor. That extensive monarchy is exhausted at heart, her resources lie at a great distance, and whatever power commands the sea, may command the wealth and commerce of Spain. The dominions from which she draws her resources, lying at an immense distance from the capital and from one another, make it more necessary for her than for any other State to temporize, until she can inspire with activity all parts of her enormous but disjointed empire.” (1)
1. Campbell: Lives of the Admirals.
It would be untrue to say that England is exhausted at heart; but her dependence upon the outside world is such as to give a certain suggestiveness to the phrase.
This analogy of positions was not overlooked by England. From that time forward up to our own day, the possessions won for her by her sea power have combined with that sea power itself to control her policy. The road to India - in the days of Clive a distant and perilous voyage on which she had not a stopping-place of her own - was reinforced as opportunity offered by the acquisition of St. Helena, of the Cape of Good Hope, of the Mauritius. When steam made the Red Sea and Mediterranean route practicable, she acquired Aden, and yet later has established herself at Socotra. Malta had already fallen into her hands during the wars of the French Revolution; and her commanding position, as the corner-stone upon which the coalitions against Napoleon rested, enabled her to claim it at the Peace of 1815. Being but a short thousand miles from Gibraltar, the circles of military command exercised by these two places intersect. The present day has seen the stretch from Malta to the Isthmus of Suez, formerly without a station, guarded by the cession to her of Cyprus. Egypt, despite the jealousy of France, has passed under English control. The importance of that position to India, understood by Napoleon and Nelson, led the latter at once to send an officer overland to Bombay with the news of the battle of the Nile and the downfall of Bonaparte’s hopes. Even now, the jealousy with which England views the advance of Russia in Central Asia is the result of those days in which her sea power and resources triumphed over the weakness of D’Ache’ and the genius of Suffren, and wrenched the peninsula of India from the ambition of the French.
“For the first time since the Middle Ages,” says M. Martin, speaking of the Seven Years’ War, “England had conquered France single-handed almost without allies, France having powerful auxiliaries. She had conquered solely by the superiority of her government.”
Yes! but by the superiority of her government using the tremendous weapon of her sea power. This made her rich, and in turn protected the trade by which she had her wealth. With her money she upheld her few auxiliaries, mainly Prussia and Hanover, in their desperate strife. Her power was everywhere that her ships could reach, and there was none to dispute the sea to her. Where she would she went, and with her went her guns and her troops. By this mobility her forces were multiplied, those of her enemies distracted. Ruler of the seas, she everywhere obstructed its highways. The enemies’ fleets could not join; no great fleet could get out, or if it did, it was only to meet at once, with uninured officers and crews, those who were veterans in gales and warfare. Save in the case of Minorca, she carefully held her own sea-bases and eagerly seized those of the enemy. What a lion in the path was Gibraltar to the French squadrons of Toulon and Brest! What hope for French succor to Canada, when the English fleet had Louisburg under its lee?
The one nation that gained in this war was that which used the sea in peace to earn its wealth, and ruled it in war by the extent of its navy, by the number of its subjects who lived on the sea or by the sea, and by its numerous bases of operations scattered over the globe. Yet it must be observed that these bases themselves would have lost their value if their communications remained obstructed. Therefore the French lost Louisburg, Martinique, Pondicherry; so England herself lost Minorca. The service between the bases and the mobile force between the ports and the fleets is mutual. (1) In this respect the navy is essentially a light corps; it keeps open the communications between its own ports, it obstructs those of the enemy; but it sweeps the sea for the service of the land, it controls the desert that man may live and thrive on the habitable globe.
1. These remarks, always true, are doubly so now since the introduction of steam. The renewal of coal is a want more frequent, more urgent, more peremptory, than any known to the sailing-ship. It is vain to look for energetic naval operations distant from coal stations. It is equally vain to acquire distant coaling stations without maintaining a powerful navy; they will but fall into the hands of the enemy. But the vainest of all delusions is the expectation of bringing down an enemy by commerce-destroying alone, with no coaling stations outside the national boundaries.