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to imagine that it will be the duty of the fleet to safeguard closely the coming and going of national ships at sea. I do not know whether the belief in convoys still prevails among business men, but I imagine they do expect that the principal trade routes will be specially policed in war time by men-of-war. Or without formulating any particular kind of action I rather suppose them to expect some form of defence other than that implied in the defeat and destruction of the enemy's sea forces.

I do not think that such views are entertained by naval men. The first business of a fleet is to put an end to the opposing fleet, and any power diverted from this main purpose imports weakness. In the beginning of a war at all events commerce on both sides would probably be left to shift for itself, that is, on the whole it would be left alone. What might happen when one of the two contending Powers has put the other out of action is another question. If we are to accept Captain Mahan as an authority, the policy of commerce-destroying is a delusion, especially when the object of it is a commerce so vast as that of Great Britain. Its very size constitutes its own protection, as the power needed for a deadly blow to it might, according to the principles just enumerated, be more advantageously employed otherwise. If commerce-destroying goes, there disappears along with it the notion of special protection to commerce. If I understand the true principle aright, neither of the contending fleets will have much strength to spare from the supreme task of destroying the other. Any attack on commerce will, on the theory of Captain Mahan, be a secondary and not a primary operation of The true defence of commerce would therefore


to lie in the possession of a navy strong enough to bear down any navy which, if successful in the main business of war, might resort to commerce destruction as a secondary operation.

The fear of immediate or ultimate danger to commerce will, however, continue to dominate the minds of men, and in our time and country will be aggravated by what is known or believed as to our dependence on food supplies imported from lands beyond the

And this brings me to the second question which I wish to suggest for consideration, which is this :- Is there any reason why commerce_i.e. private property-should continue to be endangered by warlike operations as it is now?

According to the prevailing practice of civilised nations, known as International Law, a ship of war in war time will not interfere with a private ship, the property of a private person, subject of a neutral Power, or with any of her cargo, no matter who may be the owner, unless such cargo be contraband of war. The definition of contraband is not so well settled as it ought to be, and its uncertainty with respect to food, for example, is an undoubted source of possible danger to commerce in time of war. But the settlement of such

the war.


doubt as remains on this head should be a work of no great difficulty.

A far larger question remains to which I can only devote a few sentences. Many writers and many statesmen have been in favour of exempting private property at sea from attack or capture altogether, whether it be the property of a belligerent or of a neutral. On grounds of mere humanity there can, I conceive, be no answer to this claim except from those who would make war more terrible in the hope of making it less frequent. There is no doubt about the lawfulness of capture. Legally or morally,' says one of our own most authoritative writers, only one conclusion is possible, that any State which chooses to adhere to the capture of private property at sea has every right to do so.' But he adds that opinion in favour of the contrary practice is sensibly growing, and that the majority of well-known international lawyers, other than English, undoubtedly hold that the principle of immunity ought to be adopted into International Law. Great Britain in the past has been the main upholder of the existing practice. The writer just cited, while maintaining its lawfulness, strongly challenges the wisdom of our attitude. I refer to the question only as one of naval policy. From that point of view I suggest that the time has come for the abandonment of our traditional attitude. The attack on commerce has been relegated by the authorities to a secondary place in the armoury of a great naval Power. Our social condition, especially with respect to the importation of food and the raw materials of our industries, makes us more vulnerable than we were in former days. If we adhere to the old rule we may be driven to new protective remedies. Naval policy seems no longer to require us to take this course. And if immunity were established as a principle of International Law the world would be relieved, if not from a portion at least of the burden of naval armaments, at all everts from some of the haunting fears which have hitherto forced mankind to accept the burden.

Now this is no longer a merely speculative question. It has been bronght suddenly within the region of practical politics by President Roosevelt's invitation to the Powers, already mentioned. If the omission of the capital question of disarmament has caused some disappointment, there is no room for complaint that this other topic has been neglected. Among the three subjects selected by the President as especially worthy of examination at the new Hague Conference, one is the inviolability of private property in naval warfare.

Mr. Hay's letter conveying the President's invitation sets forth the memorable Resolution of Congress, dated the 28th of April, 1904, that it is desirable in the interest of uniformity of action by the maritime States of the world that the President endeavour to bring about an understanding among the principal maritime Powers with a view of incorporating into the permanent law of civilised nations the principle of the exemption of all private property at sea, not contraband of war, from capture or destruction by belligerents.' President Roosevelt's invitation has, we all know, been accepted in general terms by His Majesty's present Government. There is every reason to hope and believe that other Powers will adhere to this principle, and that the assent of Great Britain will be sufficient to carry it into International Law. In our own interests that assent ought no longer to be withheld.


It is a relief to turn from these debatable points to one on which I have always thought the decision of the Admiralty must be conclusive. Some of my readers may remember the Mediterranean scare' of the summer of 1901. This agitation, promoted by the Navy League, against the scheme of distribution then in force, more particularly in the Mediterranean, did not survive a single day's debate in the House of Commons, but it had one good effect in establishing the sound doctrine that the Admiralty alone has at its command the knowledge necessary to a decision of such questions. In the other House the present First Lord stated the doctrine in unexceptionable terms.

The Admiralty she said) and the Admiralty alone know at a given moment not only what are the numbers but the exact state and condition of the ships of foreign Powers. The Admiralty alone has the whole information of the Foreign Office at its disposal; the Admiralty alone knows what the general calls of the Empire are on the Navy for its service. If either Parliament or the press of this country is going to undertake the distribution of the ships of the Navy, I for one decline to be responsible. In war the distribution of the fleet is necessarily governed by considerations of strategy alone. In peace also strategy is the main factor, but that main factor has constantly to be disturbed by other considerations connected with the general duties and responsibilities of empire.

Within the last few days the Admiralty has made public a new scheme of distribution. We are given to understand that this scheme is the natural outcome of the evolution of the fleet which has been proceeding steadily through so manỳ years. The change from wind power to steam power and the growth and position of foreign navies are stated to be the main factors governing the decision of the Admiralty. As in times past, the proper distribution of the fleet in time of peace is held to be that which would be its best strategical position in case of war. The cruiser squadrons, we are told, will be employed to show the flag in imposing force wherever it may be deemed to be politically or strategically advisable.' Most of us would have been quite ready to accept the new scheme of distribution without all this explanation in the full assurance that it represented the best judgment of the accomplished naval officers now

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at the Admiralty. The explanation does not really add much to our knowledge, and its vague and general terms may possibly lead to misapprehension, especially when they are read in connection with the Prime Minister's speech at the Foreign Office. Mr. Balfour says that the unhappy change which has taken place in the distribution of armaments throughout the world shows no signs of being of a less menacing character to the safety of the Empire in the future.' He refers to dangers menacing the unity and even the independence of portions of the Empire.' The cry of alarm has already been raised in Germany and France, and even in America. The German expansionist sees in the Admiralty memorandum 'the assertion of a claim to the command of all the seas,' and in the scheme of distribution a fresh factor which was not and could not have been taken into account in the present naval programme of Germany. In France M. de Lanessan declares that the British scheme is based on a transposition of the two-power into a three-power standard. The three Powers, it seems, are France, the United States, and Germany. We shall have more, no doubt, of this sort of speculation, the practical outcome of which will be a demand for further expansion in foreign Davies.

The scheme of redistribution has been placed before the public 80 recently that its points need not be recapitulated here. A rather ominous admission is made that the increase in the number, size, and horse-power of the ships in commission has more than swallowed up the increase in the personnel.' Manning lags behind construction, as it usually does in times of rapid expansion. It is part of the new scheme that vessels of inferior fighting efficiency, however useful in time of peace, are to be withdrawn as far as possible from peace commission. The period of all commissions is to be reduced to two years. The repairs of the newly named Atlantic Fleet are to be executed at Gibraltar, of the Mediterranean Fleet at Malta. The scheme as a whole will, in the opinion of the Admiralty, greatly increase the fighting efficiency of the fleet, and will also result in a very considerable economy on the Navy Estimates.' The first proposition may well be accepted without demur, but for the second the evidence is not very obvious. Perhaps we may take it for an assurance, too long delayed, that the Navy Estimates now in course of preparation will show a substantial reduction on the whole.

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The outbreak of war in the Far East has again brought into prominence the immense value of our incomparable Welsh smokeless steam coal, and the feverish anxiety of both combatants to augment their stocks of this indispensable combustible once more raises the question whether, as a nation, we are justified in parting, in everincreasing quantities, with a commodity which, under existing conditions, must prove of incalculable value and strength to our first line of defence in the event of our being engaged in a struggle with one or more of the first-class naval powers.

Russia, recognising the importance of checking the supplies of Welsh coal to her powerful naval antagonist, immediately issued a proclamation declaring coal contraband of war,' this policy conclusively proving, if further proof be necessary, the present value of smokeless steam coal to a country engaged in naval hostilities.

It must not be forgotten that Japan possesses very extensive coalfields of her own, not only capable of supplying the requirements of that country, but providing a surplus which enables her to engage in a large and increasing trade in exported coal; but unfortunately for Japan, her coal does not possess the important qualification known as 'smokeless,' and so long as the Russian fleet is an active force, we may expect Japan to purchase from South Wales large quantities of smokeless coal.

Bearing these facts in mind, no surprise can be felt at the agitation which is now so active in favour of the Government taking energetic action to limit the exports of Welsh smokeless steam coal with the object of conserving for future naval requirements so valuable an adjunct to naval warfare, of which this country presently possesses an undoubted monopoly.

Professor W. Boyd Dawkins and Sir Lees Knowles, M.P., who are the most energetic advocates of restriction, have certainly very strong material upon which to base their arguments, and moreover, being actuated by patriotic motives, they have already secured a considerable amount of public sympathy and support. It will there

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